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Seahawks Embrace Chaos in Wild NFL Season

The Doug Baldwin-Tom Cable incident ignited Seattle’s struggling offense and could propel this 4-2 team, with its typically stout defense, to even greater heights

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Midway through the second quarter last Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Pete Carroll asked the Seahawks entire offense to gather on the sidelines for a quick meeting. The offense had just run nine plays from inside the 10-yard line on the Giants, and had come away with zero points, and Carroll could sense that people were frustrated. He instructed Tom Cable, the Seahawks assistant head coach and offensive line coach, to address everyone. But when Cable stepped in to start talking, quarterback Russell Wilson was already in the middle of a speech and Doug Baldwin, the veteran receiver, gave Cable a push and told the coach to let Wilson finish.

CBS cameras captured the incident and the video quickly spread around the internet. Doug Baldwin shoves assistant coach on the sideline. It was immediately taken as a sign that the Seahawks offense was dysfunctional and tensions were boiling over. Well, the Seahawks responded by scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half to finish off a 24-7 win. Then afterward, they painted the scene on the sideline as a positive, as a sign of Baldwin’s passion, as a moment that helped bind them and propel them to victory.

With the Seahawks now 4-2, perhaps we should take notice. Look around the NFC: the Packers are missing Aaron Rodgers, the Falcons seem dysfunctional, the Eagles’ stars are young. In a year when the NFL seems to be devolving into chaos, when star players are getting injured left and right, when there seems to be no clear best team in football, it’s worth betting on the Seahawks, a team that plays better than any amid chaos.

After that incident on the sideline, the Seahawks entered halftime trailing 7-3 against the Giants, a team that entered the game 1-5. Jimmy Graham had made two critical drops. Thomas Rawls had a fumble that had set up a Giants touchdown. Then there was that sequence deep in the red zone, where they ran nine plays and came away with zero points.   

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have won three straight games despite ranking no higher than 11th in any major offensive category.

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have won three straight games despite ranking no higher than 11th in any major offensive category.

The Seahawks offense has been prone to stretches like that this season. They only scored nine points against the Packers, 12 against the 49ers, and 16 on the Rams. Baldwin says it’s because “we’ve got so many young guys. They haven’t really felt what it feels like to be a Seattle Seahawks offense yet.” He defines a Seattle Seahawks offense as one that starts by pounding the ball in the running game and then mixes in explosive passing plays. The issue seems to be that the Seahawks offensive line remains leaky, and they have yet to find a consistent lead running back. Rookie Chris Carson seemed as if he could fill that role, after he ran for 93 yards against the 49ers in Week 2. But then he broke his leg and was lost for the season. “Emotionally, that kind of set us back,” Baldwin says. “[We’re] finding our rhythm again, finding our identity as an offense. It takes time, with the young guys.”

At halftime then, Baldwin addressed his teammates “in a less antagonistic” way, as he put it. “The basic sentiment was: what are we doing?” Baldwin recalled. “We have all the talent in the world, we have everything we need right here. It’s not the play calling, it’s not the Xs and Os, it’s not the other team. It’s us. All we have to do is settle down and play our game. We’ve been here before. I’m just trying to instill in the young guys that this is the process. Don’t get too excited. Don’t think that you have to make that block. Just make your block.”

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The Seahawks defense is already familiar with having those discussions challenging each other, and those heated confrontations on the sideline. “On defense, we have a bunch of wolves,” Richard Sherman says. “We don’t have soft skin,” adds Earl Thomas, the All-Pro safety. “We’ve been around each other, we know each other. We’re like brothers, brothers fight all the time. When it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty, we stay together.”

If that means picking up the offense now and then, so be it. Through seven games, the Seahawks have allowed just 15.7 points per game — tied for No. 1 in the league. “You can’t worry about [the state of the offense],” Thomas says. You just have to hold [the other] team down. They can’t score points. Fourteen points should be good enough for us.”    

Now, the Seahawks offense has nine more games to “find their identity.” Expect more spirited sideline conversations before they do. “You need a little energy,” Carroll says. “You need a little juice. You need to get cranked up. We’re in this thing together. … We’ve spent a ton of time opening up the lines of communication so that we can compete together, where we know we can go the furthest and do the best. This is a very tight, connected group.”  

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