There's no real way of sugarcoating the reality that the Seattle Seahawks are 2-4 after their first six games of the 2021 season.
After falling behind 14-0 at halftime, the Seahawks did their best to rally and force overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. But for the second week in a row, an ill-timed turnover on Seattle's final possession of the game from Geno Smith ultimately sunk the team's chances in a 23-20 defeat.
Alex Collins helped fuel Seattle's rally in becoming the first Seahawks player to rush for over 100 yards since Dec. 2019. Smith led a game-tying drive at the end of regulation to force the extra period and keep the team's chances alive. However, a strip-sack of Smith by T.J. Watt was recovered by Devin Bush deep in Seattle territory and Chris Boswell's 37-yard field goal sent the Seahawks home with a loss.
It was the first game started by a quarterback that wasn't Russell Wilson since Tarvaris Jackson in the final week of the 2011 season. Wilson has started every game for Seattle since he was drafted in the spring of 2012 until he was forced to have surgery last week after injuring his right middle finger against the Los Angeles Rams. Smith did what you would hope a backup quarterback can do. He helped keep Seattle in the game, didn't make any egregious errors, and made some big throws when he had to in order for the Seahawks to have a chance to win.
But midnight struck for Smith and the Seahawks in overtime with Watt's strip-sack.
Much like the Seahawks found themselves in a large hole at half of Sunday night's loss, they also find themselves in a large hole for the rest of the season. They are already four games back of the division leading Arizona Cardinals, who are the lone remaining unbeaten team in the NFL at 6-0, and three games back of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West alone. The Seahawks were 2-4 through six games in 2015 following Kam Chancellor's holdout the first two weeks of the season. However, this Seahawks team and the quality of the division around them feel very different than that season.
"The hard part is we lose and I can't help these guys with that one," head coach Pete Carroll said. "All the effort, all the plays, all the come through and the heart and all that kind of stuff, OK, but we didn't win. That's the game."
Here are the takeaways from Seattle's overtime loss to the Steelers:
-- Seahawks may timely pivot to running game to keep them in the contest.
The first half showed all of the same offensive warts the Seahawks have had all season even when Russell Wilson was starting at quarterback.
Seattle was unable to hold sustain drives and keep possession of the ball. They entered Sunday's game as the worst team in the NFL in both time of possession and total offensive plays run. The first half held to the status quo with Seattle holding the ball for just nine minutes and running just 21 offensive plays, which included a kneel down to the end the half.
The game play completely shifted at halftime with Carroll and the Seahawks committing to the running game and Alex Collins.
Seattle marched straight down the field and scored their first touchdown of the night, driving 75 yards on 10 plays before Collins scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. Nine of the 10 plays on the drive were running plays as Collins and the Seahawks gashed the Steelers defense.
The success in the running game ultimately freed up the passing game a bit more for Geno Smith as well. The second touchdown drive featured a solid mix of both run and pass with a 41-yard completion from Smith to Gerald Everett sparking the drive.
Collins was unavailable late in the game due to hits taken to his hip and glute, per Carroll. That left DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer handling the duties late with both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny on injured reserve. Collins became the first 100-yard rusher for the team since Carson had 133 yards against the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 15, 2019. The 144 rushing yards were the most the team has had all season.
-- Geno Smith does solid job in place of Russell Wilson.
The fumble in overtime is going to leave a sour taste on the performance of Smith and the offense in the second half.
Smith completed 23 of 32 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown for the Seahawks on Sunday night. He posted a passer rating of 99.6 for the team in his first start for the franchise in his three years with the team. It wasn't a brilliant performance by Smith, but it was far from a disaster. The negatives of the outing will be the lost fumble, the five sacks he took on the night and the four passes he had batted down at the line of scrimmage.
But Smith was plenty good enough in the second half to get Seattle back into the game. He was 15 of 18 for 154 yards in the second half and overtime combined and led the team on a 50-yard drive over the final 90 seconds of regulation that led to a game-tying field goal as the clock expired.
"I thought he managed the game well. He gave us a chance to win the football game. Unfortunately he gets the ball knocked out on that last play. ... It kills him. This is an extraordinary opportunity for him and he wants to come through and he wants to show that he can do it and play and all that and it kills him that he wasn't able to finish. But I thought he played tough as hell and I thought he was clear and calm and poised, exactly like you'd hope he'd be."
Smith stepped up and owned his mistakes and put it on himself to get the team across the finish line.
"We can't keep coming up short. I can't keep coming up short. I'll put that on myself," Smith said. "Back-to-back weeks, our defense gives us a chance to go out there and score, give me the ball and we don't get it done. That's solely on me and I vow to be better."
-- Defensive line is just not doing nearly enough.
The Seahawks got just one hit on Ben Roethlisberger all night in Pittsburgh. They hit Matthew Stafford just three times last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Darrell Taylor is the only player on the team with more than one sack through six weeks. Carlos Dunlap didn't record a single defensive statistic for the third time in six games.
Seattle has allowed over 100 yards rushing in all six games this season despite deploying a five-man defensive line front frequently.
While cornerback play has been problematic, and Jordyn Brooks and Jamal Adams have had issues as well, the lack of production from the line of scrimmage defensively has been an ongoing problem for Seattle.
-- Darrell Taylor traveling home with team after scary injury late in fourth quarter.
The best news of the night for Seattle is that defensive end Darrell Taylor is able to return home with the team tonight after being taken to the hospital for evaluation after an injury late in the fourth quarter.
Taylor, the team's leading sack producer, was injured with just over three minutes left to play when he appeared to have his head compressed by colliding with teammate Al Woods while attempting to make a tackle on Najee Harris.
Taylor remained down on the field for several minutes and medical personnel attended to him. He was fully stabilized and put on a backboard before being taken off the field on a cart. Players from both teams surrounded Taylor on the field as he was being worked on before leaving the stadium for further evaluation at a local hospital in Pittsburgh.
“The CT scans were clear," Carroll said. "So that’s a really good preliminary report for you. There’s more tests to be done and stuff like that. So we’re thrilled about that news.
"He was so mad about having to be taken off the field like that. He wanted to get up. They just wouldn’t let him do it because they had to do all of the secure methods to take care of him and all that. Man, he didn’t want any part of that."
A team spokesman told reporters in Pittsburgh that Taylor was returning home with the team tonight after being checked out.
-- Rookie cornerback Tre Brown makes several plays in debut outing.
If Taylor's health was the best news of the night, the play of rookie cornerback Tre Brown may be the second best.
Brown injured his right knee on a punt return in the preseason, hyperextending his knee and straining his ACL in the process.
Brown had three tackles for Seattle in his debut outing for the team after missing the first five weeks of the season due to a knee injury. Brown came up with a huge tackle in overtime as well to force a punt, stopping Ray Ray McCloud short on a third down play on Pittsburgh's first possession of overtime.
Brown also appeared to be fairly sticky in coverage as well given his limited chances on the night.
"I was looking forward to this for a while," Brown said. "They called my name and I was like 'man, I've got to go out there and make plays.' Seeing Ben Roethlisberger out there, trying not to be star struck or anything because he's a Hall of Fame player and just seeing all these guys and just being out there for the first time, like I said it was just a wonderful feeling to be out there."
Brown saw more time at cornerback when Sidney Jones left the game with a chest injury.
Photo Credit: PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 17: Najee Harris #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rushes with the ball ahead of Jordyn Brooks #56 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at Heinz Field on October 17, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)