Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri November 1, 2013

What 7-1 Seahawks Need to Do to Avoid 'Circling the Drain'

The Seahawks are 7 and 1 at the midpoint of the season as they prepare to host the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers at CenturyLink Field Sunday afternoon.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says despite their record, the Seahawks have some big problems they need to fix.  

'Not Super Bowl Material' Right Now

Art says Seahawks fans are having trouble navigating this "weird world" of success because they're not used to it. 

“The Seahawks have a good team but they aren’t great right now. They don’t look like Super Bowl material but no one is Super Bowl material right now," he said. 

Art says fans are expecting greatness every game and that can't happen, especially with the problems the team is having protecting one of its biggest assets, quarterback Russell Wilson.

Monday Night Mediocrity

The Seahawks only had 135 yards of total offense in their 14-9 win over the Rams in St. Louis on Monday Night Football, in what Art called “a dreary and kind of awkward, clumsy game." The offensive line allowed a season-worst seven sacks against the Rams.

"The problem in the game is the one that they've had all season long and that is protecting Russell Wilson," Art said. "And if they don't do a better job the season is going to circle the drain."

The Problem—And How To Fix It

Right now, Wilson is the most-sacked quarterback in the National Football League.

"Not only is he getting sacked a lot, he's getting hit at other times and he's running the ball a lot," Art said. "He's the Seahawks' second-leading rusher. The defenses are putting a lot of pressure on him and the Seahawks' offensive scheme is putting a lot of pressure on him because they're asking him to do too much."

The Seahawks are missing their two starting tackles, who are key to quarterback protection. Art said the injured Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini won't be back until the middle of November at the earliest. "And that leaves these backups to try to help save Russell, and they're not doing a very good job," he said. "It's the best they can do but it's just really a talent deficit."

Art said until they resolve that issue the Seahawks have to commit to less-risky play calling, shorter passes and using running back Marshawn Lynch more.

"If they master that then they can probably get through what it is, I think, a very precarious situation," he said.

Sidney Rice Out for Season

Adding to the Seahawks troubles is the fact that wide receiver Sidney Rice is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. He suffered the knee injury Monday night against the Rams. "That was a blow," Art said. "He was their biggest deep threat because he's their only big receiver (at 6'4''). The other guys are pretty small by NFL standards."

The Seahawks don't have a ready replacement for Rice, according to Art. Percy Harvin, the wide receiver they got from Minnesota in the off-season, has missed the entire season up until now recovering from hip surgery Aug. 1. "He's practicing but he's not ready to take hits yet," Art said. "Fans shouldn't expect Harvin to make a one-for-one replacement of Rice - not for a couple of weeks anyway."

Easy Start to Second Half

Art said there is some good news as the Seahawks start the second half of the season.

"The next three opponents are a combined 3-18. So if the Seahawks need to tinker, this is the period in which they can do it," he said. "They should win all of these games handily and then set up for the only two winning teams left on their schedule - New Orleans and San Francisco. If they can get ready for those games then I think the hand-wringing will end."

Art said that doesn't mean the team can get complacent and coast. But he added, "If complacency is your biggest problem, then you're probably in pretty good shape."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.