Take the bad with the good, that's an order

You wanted a more explosive offense for Russell Wilson, right? Well, that volatility cuts both ways as we saw Sunday!

So do I need a note from my doctor about why your newsletter wasn’t in your in-box on Monday morning?

Should I have my wife explain that we were in Vermont staying next to a creek in the Green Mountain National Forest in a cabin that had neither a TV nor Internet access? OK, OK, OK. How about the fact that my dog ate a frog? Or maybe it was a salamander. It was something he shouldn’t have eaten and he frothed at the mouth for a good 5 minutes on Sunday. Oh wait. I wasn’t actually assigned to cover the game on Sunday. Well, I’m all caught up now. Enjoy, you feisty jackals!

Double-digit halftime leads ain’t what they used to be.

At least not when you change your offense in the way that Seattle has. By giving quarterback Russell Wilson chances to be aggressive earlier in games, Seattle has a better chance at jumping out to bigger leads. That volatility cuts both ways, though, as Seattle found out Sunday against Tennessee. Because if that offense sputters — and it sure did — a lead can evaporate awfully quick. And it did.

This is not an indictment of Seattle’s direction on offense. Quite the contrary. I think there’s an awful lot that’s very encouraging. You saw it Sunday when Seattle scored three touchdowns in the final 7 minutes of the second quarter. But there is a tradeoff to that because that more aggressive passing game is NOT going to help you salt away games, and when it short-circuits — or you can’t turn on the run game like a light bulb— it leaves you vulnerable. Seattle failed to gain so much as a single first down on three of their final four possessions, allowing the Titans to score 17 consecutive points and win the game in overtime.

That doesn’t excuse losing a game in which Seattle led by 15 at halftime, but it should provide a little context for those who might be tempted to get yourself all riled up about the loss. Because you can stomp around and utter tough-sounding indictments about how unacceptable this is or you can be an adult and accept that this is part of the bargain with the way this team is playing.

Here’s what I mean by that: There was a stat bouncing around in March 2020, pointing out that the Seahawks were 56-0 when holding a halftime lead of four or more points. Jake Heaps, who I was fortunate to work with at 710 ESPN Seattle, used that as evidence that Seattle should be more willing to go for the jugular earlier in games, especially with the passing game.

Now I love Jake, but he is dead wrong about this one. Not his argument, but his conclusion. Seattle’s halftime leads were so impenetrable because of two factors: 1) First and foremost, Seattle’s defense was significantly better over that time than the current iteration; 2) Seattle’s more ground-bound style could be maddening in the drip-drip-drip start to so many games, but it made things really difficult for an opponent if it had to play catch-up.

Seattle is not using the same approach that produced those 56 wins when it led by four or more at halftime. This is a good thing because the Seahawks have taken an approach that suits the personnel that they have. Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and I think D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are among the top 15 receivers. Seattle is playing to that strength in the passing game. Wilson has three touchdown passes of more than 60 yards after two games. He is averaging more than 11 yards per attempt and completing more than 75 percent of his passes. These are great signs.

Does it stink that the offense shorted out for the final three possessions? Yeah. It does. I tend to think that Sunday’s loss is going to be an outlier, and we won’t see the Seahawks blow another double-digit halftime lead this season. But those leads aren’t going to be as impenetrable as they once were for Seattle. That’s just a reality unless you want the offense to go back to what it was before 2020.

Danny O’Neil Index

After wins, we have the “Distribution of Credit.” After losses: “The Assignment of Blame.” Remember, these are expertly calculated by the finely calibrated instruments utilizing our proprietary technology, and are certainly not drawn from thin air. So here are your measurements:

Offense: 28 percent (Passing game, 1.8%, Running game, 26.2%). You really want to complain about a couple incompletions in overtime? Man, Russell Wilson has completed better than 75 percent of his throws this year, has thrown six scoring passes this season and has yet to be picked off. Find someone else to get all riled up about. Like the run game. If you’re looking for why Seattle lost a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter? Probably got more than a little bit to do with the fact that Chris Carson carried four times that period for 10 yards.

Defense: 70.2 percent (Run defense: 66%, Pass offense, 4.2%). Derrick Henry gained 237 yards from scrimmage, 182 rushing and 55 passing so for all the question marks about the secondary, it was a much more basic shortcoming on Sunday.

Special teams: 1.8 percent. How much did that missed extra point come back to bite the Seahawks? Well, if Jason Myers makes it, the Seahawks would have had a (slightly) better than 50 percent chance they wouldn’t even need overtime. Well, kind. If Myers made it, Seattle’s lead would have been 15 points. The Titans would have needed a two-point conversion after one of their final two touchdowns. Over 2018 and 2019, NFL teams converted 49.4 percent of their 2-point attempts. So yeah, it was a big deal, though if we’re being completely honest about it, the Titans might have opted for a field goal from the Seattle 29 with 5:52 left in the game. Instead, Tennessee went for it on fourth-and-2 and turned it over on downs.

Flag football

Lots of hand-wringing about unnecessary penalties on Seattle, and the Seahawks were flagged 10 times and docked 100 yards. Pete Carroll made a significant point about the self-inflicted damage, which sounds nice and everything, but there are two things that are worth noting.

1) The Titans did not score on the drive where cornerback D.J. Reed was penalized for taunting. They did not score on the drive where safety Jamal Adams was flagged for roughing the passer.

2) The Seahawks have been among the most penalized teams in the league several times under Carroll. I don’t think that’s because Carroll tells them to go and get flagged all they want, but I do think it’s because he wants his team playing with an edge and with emotion and that can mean pushing the limit.

So while limiting penalties might sound nice in theory, I’m going to classify it as one of those things that sounds good when you’re saying it, but doesn’t mean much in the overall scheme of things.

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