Coming out flat from the outset by giving up a 60-yard kick return on the first play of the game, the Seahawks quickly found themselves behind 17 points midway through the first quarter and couldn’t finish off a second half comeback attempt, dropping their second game of the season in a 44-34 loss to the Bills.
On an afternoon where he was under constant pressure, Russell Wilson completed 27 of 39 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns, while DK Metcalf finished with 108 receiving yards and a touchdown on six receptions. But he was out-dueled by Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who threw for over 280 yards before halftime and finished a near-perfect 31 for 38 with 415 passing yards and four total touchdowns.
Here are five takeaways from the Seahawks ugly defeat in Orchard Park.
Buffalo set the tone with an aggressive, blitzing mindset defensively.
Typically, the Seahawks have found themselves on the plus-side of the turnover margin this season. But Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier came in with an excellent game plan, sending blitzers from all the levels of the defense to punish Wilson early and often, hitting the star quarterback 16 times while forcing him into a few bad decisions. In the first quarter, facing a 4th and 1 situation, Wilson rolled out to his right under pressure with no receiver open and was picked off in the end zone by Jordan Poyer. Then coming out of the half while trailing by 10 points, Wilson was strip sacked by defensive end Jerry Hughes, setting the Bills up for a field goal. On two different occasions in the fourth quarter while trailing by 14 with the game still somewhat in reach, he was picked off by cornerback Tre’Davious White and lost his second fumble on a sack by A.J. Klein deep in Seattle territory, setting Buffalo up for 10 additional points to ice the game.
After excelling all season, Seattle’s offensive line laid a bit of an egg in pass protection.
All year long, the Seahawks have done a fantastic job protecting Wilson. But while Frazier deserves credit for his game plan, Mike Solari’s group struggled with communication against blitzes and stunts all afternoon, leaving Wilson hanging out to dry for five sacks and absorbing the most quarterback hits for any player this season. On one particular play when Klein blew up Wilson and force a fumble in the fourth quarter, right tackle Brandon Shell appeared to miss his assignment, allowing the linebacker to come through untouched off the edge and Wilson had no idea he was coming. There were several other instances where there seemed to be mass confusion about who to pick up in protection. It’s one game and shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of things to come, but it certainly was an off day for Duane Brown and company.
In his first game as a Seahawk, Carlos Dunlap already showed he can be a game changer off the edge.
Not much went right for Seattle defensively while giving up 41 points, but Ken Norton Jr.’s unit produced their best day rushing the passer and Dunlap was at the center of the success. On the first play from scrimmage, he registered his first quarterback hit on Allen and he remained disruptive throughout the game while playing extensive snaps at the LEO defensive end spot. Making his first clutch play as a Seahawk shortly after Wilson fumbled early in the third quarter deep in their own territory, Dunlap bull rushed his way into the backfield and wrapped up Allen around his shoulder pads to bring him down for a sack, eventually forcing the Bills to settle for a field goal. He later would show up his run stuffing skills, blowing up Zach Moss in the backfield for a six-yard loss. Overall, Seattle produced a season-high 7.0 sacks, with Jarran Reed leading the way with 2.5 sacks and safety Jamal Adams adding 1.5 sacks in his return to action.
As the saying goes, the Seahawks lived by the blitz and ultimately died by the blitz.
Last weekend, Seattle blitzed more than they have in any other game under coach Pete Carroll and found great success, particularly sending linebacker Bobby Wagner after 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. To an extent, that carried over into Sunday’s game, as the Seahawks were able to rack up a few of their sacks by bringing extra pressure blitzing Adams, Wagner, and K.J. Wright. However, Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll did a stellar job scheming against Seattle’s aggressiveness in the second half with several timely screen calls. The most critical came in the fourth quarter with Buffalo up seven points with 12 minutes left to play. Facing a 3rd and 16 from the Seahawks 35-yard line, Seattle sent the house after Allen, including blitzing Adams and Wagner. But Daboll dialed up a bubble screen to John Brown, who caught the pass and turned upfield with tons of room to operate, accelerating past the marker and nearly finding the end zone on a 33-yard backbreaking reception. Two plays later, Moss punched it in from a yard out and Buffalo extended the lead back to 14 points. Due to their struggles generating pressure with their front four, the Seahawks will have to continue blitzing frequently, but today showed the downside that comes with such aggression.
At the heart of Seattle’s secondary woes, they should be concerned about Quinton Dunbar’s health moving forward.
Allowing over 280 passing yards in the first half alone, the Seahawks once again struggled to slow down an opposing aerial attack with a competent, healthy quarterback. But it appears there’s more to it than simply not executing, as a lack of depth has become a real problem at cornerback. Throughout the game, Dunbar seemed to be laboring and moving slow in and out of his brakes, suggesting he’s not anywhere close to 100 percent healthy. Taking notice, Allen picked on him frequently as a result. But even when Carroll admitted after the game that the veteran cornerback was gutting it out with a sore knee, the Seahawks didn’t have anyone else to step in for him until they were forced to sub Linden Stephens in during the fourth quarter. If Shaquill Griffin can make it back next week after sitting out two games with a hamstring injury and concussion, it’s worth wondering if Seattle will consider shutting Dunbar down for a week or two again to see if he can get healthy. But given the fact he has been on the injury report since Week 2 with knee issues, the organization has to be concerned about his status long-term.