Jaguars 30 Seahawks 24: Winners and losers from a damaging defeat in Jacksonville

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To paraphrase the elder Jim Mora: First-round bye? First-round bye? Don’t talk about first-round bye. I just hope the Seattle Seahawks can make the playoffs!

Yes, we need to come to grips with the fact that the Seahawks, for much of this season, have not looked like an elite team. That loss to Washington, whose defense has been awful in recent weeks, is increasingly looking like the worst one in the Russell Wilson era. The injuries have only made things worse. That’s football for you.

Let’s get to the winners and losers from Sunday’s setback against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Winners

Mike Davis

Davis ran for 66 yards on 15 carries and could’ve had another big gain on a screen pass had Luke Joeckel not been illegally down the field. I don’t recall him returning to the game after his rib injury, even though he was listed as probable to return, but I assume that was the result of Seattle being in all-out pass mode. Hopefully this convinces Seahawks fans that Lacy and Rawls were a major part of the problem in the running game, and that the o-line can’t be blamed for everything.

Tedric Thompson

Hey! That’s two fumble recoveries on special teams for the backup safety. One of the few bright spots on special teams (who’ll get their lumps a little later).

Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson

They both spurred Seattle’s comeback with the longest catches of their respective careers (74 and 61 yards), and both went for touchdowns. Please re-sign Paul Richardson, Mr. John Schneider.

4th Quarter Russell Wilson

Wilson threw two touchdown passes in the final quarter, giving him a record-setting 17 in the 4th quarter. Even more importantly is they were quick strikes that gave the Seahawks enough time not to consider burning timeouts. Seattle would be blown out quit a few times if not for Wilson’s relentless push to claw his team to victory even when it looks bleak.

Losers

Defensive Line

The Seattle Seahawks only forced two tackles for a loss all game, and neither one of them came from anybody in the front four. Blake Bortles had clean pocket after clean pocket after clean pocket and had a great game. Seattle went on the road against two AFC South teams and managed zero sacks. The run defense was not very good and that was even before the injuries to Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Seattle’s defensive line was bullied and beaten at the point of attack repeatedly, and with the injuries in the secondary, they have to be better than this. By the way, this was probably a preview of what Dallas will do in a couple of weeks.

Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson

Quinton Jefferson was out of line and obviously deserved his ejection (which came before he nearly got into it with fans who were throwing things his way), but Bennett’s rolling up on Brandon Linder’s legs was appalling. Sheldon Richardson, who was largely invisible in this game, became very visible by punching a helmet-wearing Leonard Fournette. I wrote this bit Sunday evening so I don’t know what’s in store for Bennett, Richardson, or Jefferson, but this is another game in which the Seahawks lost their cool and the defense in particularly went out of control. The two standout players on the front four can’t be putting themselves in jeopardy of suspension.

Doug Baldwin

I can’t believe I’m putting him here, but going out of bounds a yard short of the sticks on Seattle’s final drive was ill-advised. Go for the first-down and surely Seattle would be fast enough to run another play before the two-minute warning. The downs meant more than the time, and the Seahawks shouldn’t have been too worried about the clock because they needed to leave as little time as possible for the Jaguars in case of a go-ahead touchdown. It was such an uncharacteristic decision from Baldwin, although Seattle could’ve made it moot by not giving up a sack on the next snap.

Jimmy Graham

Two targets and he had a drop (which Wilson could’ve thrown better) and didn’t fight for the ball on A.J. Bouye’s interception, instead fouling him for 15 yards. That was an invisible showing, and as much as he’s been a great red zone threat, I cannot think of five times this season he’s made a truly impressive catch. He sure as hell has had a lot of drops, though.

Germain Ifedi’s never-ending penalty parade

Let me preface this by saying that I believe Ifedi has actually been pass protecting quite well in recent weeks. That said, when are the penalties going to stop? He committed four on Sunday (two declined) and probably could’ve been flagged for a few more. Ifedi is literally averaging a penalty per game, and no one else in the league has more than 10. Seattle’s offense is terrible at overcoming long down-and-distance, so Ifedi’s penalty platter is a constant detriment to this team.

Special Teams

Seattle is somehow ranked 16th in special teams DVOA. This is probably a bottom-tier unit if not for the awesomeness of Neiko Thorpe. The punt return coverage was dismal, and Seattle is just horrifyingly bad at generating their own quality returns unless they’re playing the Falcons. Blair Walsh missed another short field goal. This team is neither healthy nor talented enough to overcome these mistakes, and Brian Schneider’s group is unacceptably bad.

1st-3rd Quarter Russell Wilson

Jacksonville’s defense is stupidly stacked with talent and they are no doubt elite. Russell Wilson torched them in the 4th quarter, and he was simultaneously a major reason the Seahawks were down 17 in the first place. That “drop” by Nick Vannett on what was a promising opening drive was catchable but an inaccurate throw from Wilson. He was unnecessarily and overly aggressive and testing a top-flight secondary with deep shots that were off-target and hanging in the air for way too long. Wilson didn’t have a bad game as a whole when you take into account the quality of that defense, he just made some critical mistakes that cost the team ten points the other way. His MVP hopes also are going to be hurting due to the repeated slow-starting nature of this offense, which I’m finding less and less justifiable as a positive thing.

Officiating

Gene Steratore and crew were in full #RefShow mode, alternating between flagging everything in sight and letting some blatant stuff go uncalled. This trip on Paul Richardson on the final Seahawks play is blatant and should’ve been called. It wasn’t.

You can only imagine the reaction if this was any Seahawks DB doing the same thing to an opposing receiver, only for it to go uncalled and the Seahawks win the game.

Having a comfortable feeling that the Seahawks will make the playoffs

Seattle is still most likely going to make the playoffs. The US Men’s National Team was also most likely going to make the 2018 FIFA World Cup heading into the final round of qualifying. Roughly 60% can become less than 30% with a loss against the Los Angeles Rams.

These are not the 2012-2014 Seahawks, so don’t expect identical results and methods of victory in perpetuity. I believe that Pete Carroll’s “Win Forever” mantra has effectively conditioned fans to believe that this would be the case. Your favorite “December Seahawks” are 4-3 in their last seven (I’ll count the January win over the 49ers last year). They are 4-13-1 when trailing at halftime since 2015. They were 13-8 from 2012-2014. Simply put, it’s hard to rekindle the same magic over and over again with rotating/aging talent and a different coaching staff.

This isn’t doom-and-gloom. The harsh reality is Seattle may very well not take part in the 2018 postseason. The Seahawks are still a good team with a franchise quarterback. They’re no longer the plucky, youthful up-and-comers who are bullying the league with a brand of defense-first, “establish the run” football that runs counter to today’s NFL. When the offseason arrives, probably without a Lombardi Trophy added to Seattle’s trophy case, there needs to be a long, hard look at the structure of the Seahawks roster, especially as the defense that’s been the backbone of the franchise’s most successful period is physically falling apart.

We’ve been spoiled as fans because they’ve made two Super Bowls and have won 10+ games per season for the whole of Russell Wilson’s career. Not everybody can be New England (no one ever will), but I think the frustration lies within fear of underachieving, descending into mediocrity with multiple future and potential Hall-of-Famers on the roster, or not doing more with said future and potential HOFers while they’re still with the team.

I’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to end this article, so I’ll just close by saying these three words:

Beat the Rams.

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