Week 9 Game Recap: SEA @ BUF
“I don’t recognize that game” voiced Pete Carroll in the post game press conference. Similar sentiment resounded among a majority of Seahawk fans and players alike. On an abnormally warm East coast afternoon, the now 6-2 Seahawk were overmatched against a now 7-2 Buffalo Bills team.
It took Josh Allen and the Bills just 3 plays to score the game’s opening touchdown; mostly thanks to a 60 yard return by Andre Roberts, who currently ranks 3rd in yards per kick return this season. From there, the Bills never looked back. Stalled drives and a red zone interception by the offense quickly turned this game ugly as the Bills jumped out to an impressive 17-0 lead in just 20 minutes.
Wilson and the high-powered offense had to unfortunately play catch up throughout the entirety of this game. Every instance where it felt like the Seahawks were clawing back into the game, the Bills silenced the ambition with a long and heart-wrenching touchdown drive or caused an uncharacteristic Wilson turnover.
Turnovers were the silent killer of the game for the Seahawks. An opening half fumble by Wilson led to a Bills field goal. Two drives later, an interception turned into a short Bills touchdown drive. Another fumble in the 4th quarter by Wilson ultimately put the nail in the coffin for the Seahawks.
Amassing a commanding 44-27 lead with 4:17 left to play, the ‘Hawks quietly put in a garbage time touchdown. After a failed onside kick attempt, the Bills ran the clock out finally putting this one to bed 44-34 giving the Seahawks their second loss of the season.
Praise, Frustration and Everything in Between
● On a once in a blue moon type of day, Wilson accounted for all 4 of the game's total turnovers on the field. His 2 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles against the Bills begins to cast shadows on Wilson’s MVP candidacy. Wilson has now thrown 6 interceptions when facing opponents currently with a winning record (1 vs. MIA, 3 vs. ARI, and 2 vs. BUF). Can Wilson rectify his “slump” and claim his first MVP award?
● On a positive note, Wilson had his most passing yards in a game this season with 390 yards. It’s astonishing that Wilson has been able to throw for 28 touchdowns without breaking 400 passing yards in a game once this season. Wilson also added a rushing touchdown to the stat line with his first ever successful QB sneak at the goal line.
● As disheartening as it was to watch the defense get torn to shreds all day, it showed some ambitious flashes of potential improvement. After an embarrassing and quite effective Bills game plan to go pass happy all day, Ken Noron threw everything but the kitchen sink at them, posting 7 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. However, the Seahawks defense inexplicably produced ZERO passes defended. In contrast, the oft-criticized Bills defense produced SIX passes defended. The difference in coverage on defense defined this game, as both teams were successful at generating pressure on the opposing QB.
● The timing of the pressure was, at times, a head scratcher. Blitzing heavy on two separate 3rd and longs proved to be utter failures, as Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll smelt them coming from a mile away. Effective screen plays on both key 3rd downs led the Bills to yet another set of downs.
● The strategy on beating this Seahawks team seems to be out and on full display for the entire league. Despite the team's early success in September and early October, the Cardinals proved to be the first team to figure out the recipe that could spell this team's disaster: Get in Wilson's face and go pass heavy against a frustratingly soft zone defense.
● In a game where Shaquill Griffin (who still leads the Seahawks in PDs) was listed as out due to last week's concussion, it was absurdly surprising to see Tre Flowers out play fellow free agent signing and veteran cornerback Quinton Dunbar. On numerous plays, Dunbar was seen getting, for lack of a better word, “toasted” by the opposing receivers. Despite an apparent knee injury, I can’t help but feel like Dunbar has regressed from his impressive 2019 season, where he was rated 87.6 by PFF in overall coverage (second best in the NFL). Dunbar doesn’t seem to be the suffocating corner he once was. We’ve seen veteran corners struggle in Pete Carroll’s defense before (specifically, the kick-step technique), but Dunbar was playing well opposite of Shaquill Griffin prior to this game. Lack of corner depth behind Dunbar likely forced him to stay on the field, despite playing at far less than 100%. Dunbar (79% of snaps) was eventually replaced by Linden Stephens (22% of snaps) later in the game.
● Getting to see Jamal get back out onto the field was a relief. He played an overall pretty good game in terms of run defense and getting to Allen but his ability to cover was spotty at best. Playing 100% of the game's defensive snaps, he seemed to be back at full strength. Unfortunately he seemingly re-aggravated his groin injury as he was on this week's injury report and did not practice Tuesday.
● Another SeaFlock Blog article title rings especially true this week, “Getting Moore for Less”. Moore found himself WIDE OPEN on a 55 yard beauty from a scrambling Russell Wilson after getting behind the defense. For the second week in a row, his new signature scoring celebration seems to be the almost-no-effort-backwards somersault. After a disappointing 2019 season, Moore is on pace to have his best season yet and is showing to be a great compliment to Metcalf and Lockett (though I can’t help but wonder if Gordon will ever return or if we’ll even need him).
● How about that Carlos Dunlap, huh? Earlier in the week, Carroll had noted that the veteran pass rusher’s transition had been somewhat “seamless”. That seamless transition helped Dunlap notch himself 1.5 sacks and 3 TFL’s in his first outing as a Seahawk. Dunlap has already produced more, statistically, in one game with the Seahawks than he did through 7 games with the Bengals, where he only produced 1 sack and 2 TFLs on a shrinking snap count. It seems his frustrations about being underutilized in Cincinnati ring true.
Next on Deck: Los Angeles Rams
It’s never fun writing a recap when the Seahawks lose. No one likes to relive such an ugly loss, let alone dive meticulously into WHY the Seahawks lost. It’s just not fun. However, we all must move forward and focus on our next opponent: NFCW rivals, the Los Angeles Rams.
Despite the ineffectiveness of our blitzing today, I do believe that this strategy may work against the Rams. Goff and Garappolo are both mediocre quarterbacks, who happen to be coached by offensive geniuses, and crumble under heavy pressure. We saw this game plan work TREMENDOUSLY against Jimmy G and I certainly hope that the abysmal defensive outing against the Bills does not deter Ken Norton or Pete Carroll from sending extra rushers against Jared Goff.
To be clear, I fully expect Sean McVay, the genius that he is, to anticipate a heavy dose of blitzing from the Seahawks and to make offensive adjustments to counter these blitzes, much like the Bills did. Despite that, I believe that the benefits of creating pressure on Goff will outweigh whatever counterpunches McVay might throw at the defense.