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Monday metatarsal musings
Whether Sunday’s should-have-won-it loss to the Browns in Cleveland will come back to haunt the Seahawks remains to be seen. But the haunting aspects of the events that transpired at Cleveland Browns Stadium were at a Halloween-week high following the 6-3 setback.
Losing the way the Seahawks lost this game will do that.
The list of plays the Seahawks didn’t make, and allowed the Browns to make, could be turned into a miniseries.
Those plays were the difference between being 3-3 and riding the emotional wave that would have come with winning three of their past four games, and being 2-4 and wondering how to right everything that went wrong on Sunday.
The defense obviously played well enough to win, but still suffered through the reoccurring nightmare that is being unable to get off the field on third downs. It’s not just that the Browns converted 12 of 24 third-down situations; it’s that 44 percent of their 298 offensive yards came on those dozen plays.
The special teams obviously played well enough to win, with Red Bryant blocking a club-record two field goals and Leon Washington breaking an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. But a questionable block-in-the-back penalty on Kennard Cox dashed Washington’s scoring return and the Browns’ Phil Dawson got off 52- and 53-yarders that Bryant didn’t get one of his huge hands on.
Then there was the offense, which was playing without quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, center Max Under and tight end Zach Miller, and the lost leading rusher Marshawn Lynch in pregame warm-ups to back spasms.
You think the Seahawks could have used Lynch when they had a first-and-goal from the Browns’ 2-yard line, but has to settle for a field goal?
Oops. Wasn’t going to go there, with all the what-ifs and could-have-beens. But it was that kind of game, and that kind of loss.
“It was a hard-fought, really close game,” coach Pete Carroll said. “The margin of error became a factor that amplified every call and amplified every play because the game was so close.
“Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get enough done to get a win.”
With that said, here’s a look at three things that worked against the Browns, as well as three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at CenturyLink Field:
The run defense – Yes, Montario Hardesty came the closest any back has this season to surpassing 100 yards against the Seahawks. But it took him 33 carries to get 95 yards, which was a 2.9-yard average. Yes, the Browns rushed for more yards (141) against the Seahawks than any opponent this season. But it took them 44 rushes, which made for a 3.2-yard average.
The bottom line: The Seahawks still have the best per-carry average allowed in the NFL (3.2), and it wasn’t the Browns’ running game that made the biggest difference in this game.
Bryant and Chris Clemons – Relentless. Determined. Disruptive. Productive. Even possessed. All these terms describe the way the Seahawks’ defensive ends played against the Browns – and have been playing the entire season.
Sunday, they combined for eight tackles, 2½ sacks, four hits on Browns QB Colt McCoy and countless plays where they chased a ball carrier into a tackle or sack by a teammate.
Then there was Bryant as a special-teams standout, with the first two-field goal block game in franchise history.
“Those were incredible plays,” Carroll said. “They were team plays, because everyone is working to get the guy through. You have a plan in mind and thought he had a chance and he came through beautifully. Those were two huge plays in the game and plays that really gave us a chance to win.”
David Hawthorne – Look who’s leading the team in tackles. Again. Hawthorne did it two years ago at middle linebacker, after stepping in for an injured Lofa Tatupu. Hawthorne did it again last season, when he moved to the weakside. This season, he’s back in the middle after the late-July release of Tatupu.
Hawthorne had a game-high 11 tackles against the Browns, and now leads the team with 40 – despite missing the season opener. He also had his first sack and first interception of the season on Sunday.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The offense – It seemed this unit had turned a corner, but they stumbled into another dead-end effort against the Browns. The Seahawks were able to hold onto the ball for only 17 minutes, compiled just 137 yards and scored those three points.
How much a difference would Jackson, Lynch, Unger and Miller have made? We’ll never know, but you’ve got to believe they would have been good for at least three more points.
Third-down defense – As we said, 130 of the Browns’ 298 offensive yards came on the 12 third-down situations they converted. They picked up first downs on third-and-14, third-and-11 and three-and-8, three times.
This was not a one-game aberration, either. The Steelers converted 53 percent on third downs (8 of 15) in the Week 2 loss at Pittsburgh and the Falcons were successful 56 percent of the time (9 of 16) in the Week 4 loss at CenturyLink Field.
Penalties – Again. This time, the Seahawks’ season-long bugaboo wasn’t so much that they committed them (eight for 68 yards), but when. Cox’s block erased what would have been the only touchdown of the game. Bryant’s ejection came on a third-down sack that would have given the offense the ball. Doug Baldwin pushed off on a fourth-and-5 completion that would have given the Seahawks a first down on their final possession. Malcolm Smith lined up in the neutral zone on a Browns punt, providing a first down on a drive that ended with Dawson’s first field goal.
The officials didn’t help the situation. But as Baldwin pointed out, the Seahawks should have helped themselves.
“It was nothing to do with the officiating. It’s all about us,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what penalties are called, we have control over that. We have control over holding, false starting, pushing off on routes.”