A week after defeating the Lions in a thriller in Detroit, Geno Smith and the Seahawks couldn’t pull the same magic in New Orleans, dropping a closely contested 39-32 game against the Saints to fall to 2- 3 on the season.
Throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, Smith was once again a masterful drive for Seattle, but he took a 14-yard sack on third down on game-ending possession and the defense couldn’t get away. stopping to give returns the ball to him at the end of regulation. Boosting a defense that allowed 440 total yards, rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen intercepted Andy Dalton and also recovered a fumble, giving him four turnovers in the past three games.
Here are five takeaways from a demoralizing defeat at Caesars Superdome:
1. Even with supporting cast occasionally letting him down, Smith continued to roll and deal under center.
Coming off his second career Player of the Week honor after a sensational performance against the Lions, Smith came out firing on all cylinders in New Orleans. Right off the bat, on only his second pass attempt, he stepped into the pocket to escape the pressure and fired a strike at DK Metcalf, who did the rest going 50 yards for a score giving the Seahawks a lead. of 7-0. Later in the half, as the clock neared triple zeros, he dropped a penny to Tyler Lockett for a 35-yard touchdown with three defensemen in coverage to regain a 19-17 lead at the break. After two quarters, the veteran flagger was averaging over 20 yards per completion and nearly 13 yards per attempt.
In the third quarter, Smith didn’t get much help, as Metcalf lost a controversial fumble in Seattle’s third-quarter opener. Later in the quarter, tight end Will Dissly dropped a first pitch, which contributed to a three out and another blocked possession. But with the Seahawks trailing 31-19, he hit Lockett again, dropping a 40-yard touchdown into the bucket with two defenders draped over the receiver to cut the deficit to six points. As he took a critical third sack on the team’s last possession, he again put on a dynamic performance leading Shane Waldron’s offense and gave Seattle every chance to win on the road.
2. With Rashaad Penny injured, Ken Walker III picks the perfect time for his Seattle release party.
Picking up where he left off last week, Penny snatched a 32-yard rush in the first half and had 48 yards on his first seven carries heading into the second half. Unfortunately, the oft-injured running back went out on a cart after sustaining what appeared to be a significant injury to his left ankle and did not return, forcing Walker III back into the cowbell role. Taking advantage of his first opportunity to be a star running back, the defending Doak Walker Award winner backed against the tide and raced through a huge crease on 2nd and 1st, accelerating past Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Harris Jr. for a 69-yard touchdown to push the Seahawks ahead 32-31. The scintillating run ended up being useless after Taysom Hill responded with his own 60-yard touchdown a few plays later, but with Penny likely out for an extended stretch, the rookie looks set for an expanded role in the future.
3. Ball safety and poor performance on third down ultimately doomed the Seahawks in a tight game.
Ultimately, one more stop on defense would have helped the Seahawks emerge victorious over New Orleans. But in addition to the play of Smith and his teammates, a few missed chances stood out in attack that could have been the difference in the final stretch. Facing 3rd and 8th from the Saints 13-yard line with less than two minutes left in the second quarter, Smith stood ready in the pocket and fired a missile from behind the end zone towards Metcalf on a breaking route, only for the pass to bounce off the normally reliable receiver’s hands. Unable to get a second touchdown take, Seattle had to settle for a short Jason Myers field goal rather than tie the game at 17 apiece. Dissly’s first drop in the third quarter was also significant, as it set the team up with a long 3rd rather than having less than four yards to gain to convert and the team eventually kicked.
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As exemplified by Metcalf’s downfall, the Seahawks returned to 2021 form on third down, managing to convert on just one of nine attempts on Sunday. Smith took a pair of long sacks on two of those missed chances, but he also lost a 32-yard touchdown to Metcalf in the third quarter when left tackle Charles Cross was flagged for holding to go with the aforementioned drop. With the penalty moving them out of basket reach and setting up a 3rd-and-18, they kicked off two plays later on a drive that could have ended with six points. Considering just these two games, the visitors left up to 11 points on the scoreboard.
4. Far from turnovers, Seattle’s defense continues to be inexplicably plagued by shoddy defense and explosives.
At this point, writing about the Seahawks’ woes on the defensive side of football has become a broken record. Early on, they were able to get a few saves, forcing a pair of punts on the Saints’ first four drives and helping set up Smith’s first pitch to Lockett with Ryan Neal forcing a fumble on Alvin Kamara at the end of the first half. They were also placed in an impossible situation after Michael Dickson fumbled while appearing to try to execute a rugby-style punt in the second quarter, setting up Hill’s second grounding touchdown of the half with Nova Scotia. Orleans starting inside Seattle’s 20-yard line. But after half-time, with the exception of an interception by Tariq Woolen, the same issues that have plagued coach Pete Carroll’s side all season resurfaced.
With no answers for Hill, the dual-threat gimmick quarterback rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries against a beleaguered Seahawks defense, including sliding through a Quandre Diggs tackle at 3rd and 1st and going for 60 yards to help the Saints regain the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Adding to Hill’s success as a wildcat specialist, Kamara continued his career-long dominance against Seattle, rushing for 103 yards and adding a 54-yard catch on a screen that set up a touchdown pass. 22 yards for Hill. To put into perspective how well Carroll’s defense stopped the run, it was the first time in franchise history the Seahawks allowed two different players to eclipse 100 yards. Regardless of the quality of the offense, wins will be hard to come by with the defense continuing to be charitable, abandoning run plays and struggling to execute adjustments.
5. From punt to kick, special teams play was abysmal at every level.
In a one-score game, special teams often prove to be the big equalizer and Sunday’s loss was no different for the Seahawks. As Carroll noted after the game, Dickson was not trying to get the ball on a fake punt deep in his own territory in the second quarter and was meant to do so after rolling to his right. However, he thought there was room to run ahead of him and mistakenly decided to take off, getting blasted by Curtis Granderson and fumbling. The ill-advised decision led to Hill’s second touchdown without being hit by left tackle on a quarterback break, pushing the Saints ahead 17-10. Later in the half, kicker Jason Myers missed his first extra point of the season after Lockett’s touchdown, preventing the Seahawks from entering the half with a three-point advantage.
While there were no other game-changing errors on the Seahawks’ special teams in the second half, errors by Dickson and Myers resulted in a net margin difference of eight points. Losing by seven on the scoreboard, if those mishaps didn’t happen, the visitors would likely win this game. On top of that, they had two special teams penalties in the second half, including an illegal block below the waist on cornerback Isaiah Dunn. It won’t be fun for coach Larry Izzo to see again, with all the breakdowns in the third phase of the game being decisive in a narrow defeat.
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