Despite 3-0 Start, Bobby Wagner and Shaquill Griffin Frustrated by Seahawks' Defensive Woes
SEATTLE, WA - For a second straight week, a struggling Seahawks defense found a way to overcome mental miscues, inconsistent execution, and numerous injuries to come up with a clutch stop inside a minute to play, this time intercepting Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to seal a 38-31 victory and improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2013.
But based on the somber post-game reactions of linebacker Bobby Wagner and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, if you hadn't actually watched the game or seen the score, you would have thought Seattle dropped its first game of the season.
"Those moments are cool to be on the field and be able to stop a team from scoring and doing that is winning the game. They're fun," Wagner said. "But we shouldn't have been in that situation."
Having starred for some of the best defenses in NFL history during his career, Wagner isn't too enthused about how the Seahawks have performed during the first three weeks of the season. And why should he be?
As a five-time First-Team All-Pro, Wagner holds himself to lofty standards. More importantly, he expects much better than what he's seen thus far from a defense that ranks among the league's worst in numerous categories.
After giving up 831 passing yards through the first two weeks - the second-most by an NFL team in the first two games in NFL history - the Seahawks allowed Prescott to throw for 461 yards and five different receivers recorded at least one reception of 28 yards or longer. This included Cedrick Wilson, who scored 40 and 42-yard touchdowns after posting zero receptions in the first two weeks of the season.
On two different drives, Dallas found the end zone in just three plays, including traveling 94 yards in under 40 seconds midway through the third quarter, capping the drive off with Wilson's second touchdown as he left Griffin in the dust on a crossing route and raced down the sideline into the end zone.
As a key component of Seattle's revamped secondary, though he recorded his first interception of the season to set his team up for a touchdown late in the first half, Griffin acknowledged he has to step up his own game to be part of the solution to what ails the team. Prescott picked on him often on Sunday, torching him on that same drive for a 52-yard completion to Michael Gallup on a vertical route.
"I made a good play for myself, but there are some things I have to continue to work on. Giving up that deep ball isn't something I do, so I have to continue to be locked in," Griffin said, "I have to do better on my part of being consistent and just being in tune with the game each and every play, so that's something I'm going to work on on my behalf. I've gotta do a lot better. I have to."
Surrendering such explosive plays has become far too frequent for Griffin and a defense that once prided itself on being one of the stingiest in the NFL, playing a huge role in allowing 16 unanswered points by the Cowboys. And the issues unfortunately don't stop there.
Along with giving up too many pass plays of the 20-plus yard variety, the Seahawks have struggled to get off the field, in part due to a dormant pass rush allowing quarterbacks like Prescott ample time to find open receivers. Last week, the Patriots converted seven third down opportunities on 12 attempts against them and the Cowboys followed up with seven third down conversions and two fourth down conversions on Sunday.
"It's not something I'm accustomed to," Wagner stated bluntly. "It's not something I'm going to become accustomed to. We'll make the changes. We just need to get off the field, we need to make our plays."
Injuries have certainly been a factor, as Seattle lost safety Jamal Adams in the fourth quarter with a groin injury and rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks with a strained knee just one week after Bruce Irvin and Marquise Blair suffered season-ending torn ACLs. Luckily, players such as Shaquem Griffin, Alton Robinson, and Ryan Neal rose to the occasion late by making key plays to prevent Dallas from tying the game at the end of regulation.
Though they managed to survive each of the past two weeks, Wagner knows such problems will eventually come back to bite the Seahawks if corrections aren't made. Even with Russell Wilson throwing touchdowns at will on the other side and playing like an MVP front-runner, the defense must play substantially better for the team to reach its goals of winning a brutal NFC West division or returning to the Super Bowl.
Griffin agrees, understanding that while the Seahawks found a way to win by the narrowest of margins the past two weeks, consistently putting themselves in such positions will eventually backfire. Starting with him, communication on the back half must be sharpened up and players must do a better job of holding each other accountable for executing their responsibilities.
But having now been in Carroll's program for four years, he also knows it's still early and if prior years are any indication, there's plenty of time for the unit to right the ship. After creating three turnovers on Sunday, there's also been enough positives amid all of the obvious red flags to believe the group will figure things out.
"The one thing about it is that we always elevate our game going through each week, always get better. So that's something we'll continue to improve on and we're just going to get better at it."