Back at home with Kam in the fold, all was well in the Seahawks universe. The hapless Bears were routed in their first shutout since 2002 and Jimmy Graham was actually featured in a prominent role. In fact, every single Chicago drive yesterday ended in a punt.
So, why do I still feel unsettled?
Seahawks did everything they were supposed to do, right? Zero turnovers, running game established, defense on point-- all is well, right?
I hate to nitpick after we finally found our way into the win column, but my mind is always focused on the big picture. When I look at the big picture in terms of winning the division and sustaining a playoff run, I see a ton of challenges that lie ahead.
For the first time this season, the Seahawks managed to produce a 100-yard rusher. That's a good thing, but what troubles me is that it wasn't our star running back. Undrafted rookie free agent Thomas Rawls managed 104 yards on 16 carries in place of Marshawn Lynch who saw limited action after being unable to get loose in time for kickoff.
Rawls ran with the brutal intensity that we have come to expect from Lynch, showing that the coaches were correct in their assumption that he was the more promising of the trio that included Christine Michael and Robert Turbin. What concerns me is that the offensive line didn't just suddenly figure out what they had been doing wrong the previous two games-- Rawls excelled in spite of Seahawks pitiful offensive line.
This makes me question if we might be seeing the decline of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has always made a bad offensive line look good, but it's entirely possible age and abuse is starting to catch up to him. Now, our terrible offensive line is beginning to make Lynch look human.
We know that it's not merely Lynch declining on his own. The offensive line is clearly the bearers of the bulk of the blame. The Bears defense which had failed to record a sack through their first two games managed to notch four of them on the road against Seattle's pitiful pass protection.
I continue to have issues with the play calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Every season, it seems to take Bevell 10-12 games to find his sweet spot. The team struggles in spite of its rich depth of talent through the first two thirds of the season before hitting its stride down the stretch. In previous campaigns, we've been good enough to overcome this problem, but I fear that we will need to reign in these concerns much quicker than in previous seasons if we have any hopes to return to the Super Bowl.
Our division rival Cardinals are off to another hot start and appear to be much healthier than last year. The only thing that stopped them last year was their lack of depth being exposed by a wave of injuries at key positions. We can't bank on history repeating itself there.
On a much more positive note, it certainly appears as though the Seahawks struck gold with their 3rd round selection of Tyler Lockett. The rookie phenom ran the second half kick off back 105 yards for a touchdown-- his second touchdown return in 3 games. Sherman also pulled off a misdirection return for a huge gain-- just like the Rams pulled on us a couple years back and as the Utes did to Oregon one evening prior.
The Seahawks will next face the winless Lions in Seattle for Monday Night Football. This is another game that Seattle must not only win-- but win convincingly. Here is what Seattle needs to do to come away with a victory and position themselves to get back to Super Bowl 50.
Create Turnovers-- it's not enough for the Seahawks to simply limit mistakes and prevent turning the ball over. They must create turnovers on defense and special teams. Matt Stafford threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble last night against Denver. Seattle needs to be able to lean on their defense like they have in the past two seasons.
Score on all Phases-- Along with creating more turnovers, we need our defense to put some points on the board. The Seahawks have been at or near the top in scoring defenses the past few seasons and getting back to that form would go a long ways in taking pressure off of the offense. Another Lockett touchdown would be icing on the cake.
Sling the ball around-- Over these first three games, we've seen that Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Jimmy Graham are capable of handing a heavy receiving load with great success. Instead of waiting until the second half before turning our pass game loose, I want to see Seattle come out, guns blazing. The Lions have shown that they can't effectively shutdown a run since losing Suh to Miami, but you better believe they're going to try. Why not soften them up first by taking the top off of the defense? Run Graham up the seam, stretch the field with Kearse and Lockett(e) and tear up the middle with Baldwin and Matthews.
Use more Read Option-- Once you have the defense on their toes, let Russell do his thing. Nothing keeps a defense guessing like the threat of Wilson's legs. Again, Bevell, don't wait to mix things up. There's no reason we have to punt on every opening drive.
Run up the score-- Don't be content with the victory. Step on their throats. After this game against Detroit, Seattle heads back on the road to face a red hot Bengals team. For a team that has appeared in the past two Super Bowls, retained a tremendous portion of its talent base from those teams, improved through the draft, made the splashiest free agent acquisition of the offseason that's also coming off of a shut out-- this team is shockingly not garnering any fear.
Everyone is talking about the Packers, Patriots, Cardinals and Broncos but no one seems to be concerned with Seattle. For now, that's a good thing. This team will feed off of that. But we need to reestablish the dominance that this team is capable of. After this game against the Lions, the Seahawks play their next two games against teams that are currently undefeated. Winning these next three games will put us at 4-2 before a road trip against two teams in a nosedive and our mid season bye week.
As I said last week, there is no reason to panic. At the same time, we cannot have the team or the fan base getting complacent. We've still got a lot of work to do, but this Monday sure feels a lot better than the previous two.