The Seahawks have got problems.
Sure, it's only three weeks into the 2021 NFL season. However, consecutive losses to the Tennessee Titans and the Minnesota Vikings have exposed some potentially significant flaws that could be extremely problematic to the team's playoff aspirations.
Seattle's defense was carved up by all aspects of the Minnesota Vikings offense. Even without Dalvin Cook in the lineup, Alexander Mattison accounted for 171 yards of total offense at running back. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Tyler Conklin all saw little resistance from Seattle's defense with each target catching a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins, who threw for 323 yards and three scores in the game.
Jason Myers even saw his consecutive made field goals streak come to a halt at 37 after missing a 44-yard attempt wide left.
While last week's loss to the Titans felt like there was equal blame to go around between the offense and defense, the loss in Minnesota squarely falls on the defensive side of the ball. The Seahawks were able to fix defensive issues a season ago that helped them still win the NFC West. The division appears to be much more formidable this year and Seattle is now potentially in a two-game hole to every other team in the division (pending the San Francisco 49ers game tonight against the Green Bay Packers).
Here are the takeaways from Sunday's loss to the Vikings:
-- Cornerback appears to be a real big problem for Seattle.
I'll admit to being wrong about the state of the Seahawks cornerback situation in training camp.
In looking at the group they had, it didn't appear as though Seattle had any standout stars at the position, but it also didn't seem as though the group's floor was so low as to be significantly concerning.
That thought began to shift when the Seahawks overhauled the position themselves in the leadup to the start of the regular season, trading for Sidney Jones and John Reid, claiming Nigel Warrior off waivers and trading Ahkello Witherspoon to the Pittsburgh Steelers. If they felt so shaky about the position as to make that many moves on the eve of the start of the season, that didn't seem like a great show of confidence in the group they had. It's only logical, right? If you felt good about what you had, you wouldn't add three guys from outside the team in the two weeks leading up to the start of the year.
While the Indianapolis Colts were incapable of exposing any flaws in the group Week 1, the Titans and Vikings sure have. Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed both seemed like minor inconveniences for the Vikings offense. Jefferson and Thielen were getting open and making catches with very little resistance. Throw in a critical defensive holding penalty on slot cornerback Ugo Amadi as well that allowed a Viking drive to go from a would-be punt and end in a touchdown instead.
It would be one thing if they were tough, contested catches. But so many of the plays made by the Vikings came with several yards of cushion to the nearest defender.
This performance doesn't fall on the cornerback play alone. The linebackers and safeties had issues in coverage too. But Cousins and the Vikings sure were not afraid in the slightest of going after Flowers and Reed.
Tre Brown and Nigel Warrior are eligible to come off injured reserve next week if they are healthy enough to do so. Jones and Reid lay in wait as possible options if the team feels the need to make a change to the starting lineup. Carroll noted that there's not much keeping Jones from playing at this point, so changes appear to be on the table should the quality of play at the position not improve quickly.
"We'll look at everything. We've got to get better," head coach Pete Carroll said after the game.
-- Defensive problems are directly impacting the potential of the offense.
The defensive problems for the Seahawks are also directly hindering the ability of its offense to succeed as well.
The Seattle offense hasn't run more than 53 plays in any of the first three games of the season. Through the afternoon slate of games on Sunday, there have been just 19 games this season where teams have run 55 plays or fewer. The Seahawks have three of those games already. They are losing the time of possession battle by an average of 14.6 minutes per game as well.
The Seahawks offense has looked reasonably potent. They came out firing again this week against the Vikings in building a 17-7 lead in the second quarter with Chris Carson and DK Metcalf off to impressive starts. Seattle held a four-minute (16:47-13:13) time of possession advantage at halftime and lost the time of possession battle for the game by nearly 12 minutes (35:53-24:07). Think about that. The Vikings won the time of possession battle by 16 minutes in the second half. Seattle possessed the ball for just seven minutes of action in the second half in its entirety.
"I do know that we haven't played well enough on the other side of the ball to get off the field and give them more chances," Carroll said.
Seattle had amassed 244 yards of offense on their first four possessions of the game. They would gain just 145 yards the rest of the day with 54 of those yards coming on a cheap drive at the end of the first half.
While the drives themselves had some issues for the offenses with some injuries mounting and some offensive line cracks allowing increased pressure, the sheer tidal wave of time the Vikings were able to control the football just neutered Seattle's offense as well.
-- Seahawks extremely lucky Tyler Lockett injury doesn't appear serious.
It briefly appeared as though the Seahawks may have lost their top offensive weapon to a significant injury early in the fourth quarter.
Lockett was awkwardly bent over backward after making a 6-yard reception against Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland. As Breeland was making the tackle, Lockett's left foot got stuck in the turf as he got bent over to the ground. Lockett dropped the ball immediately and reached toward his lower leg as he remained down on the field for a few minutes.
It was the type of injury that looked as though it could have been either a knee or ankle injury of real concern. But after getting tended to on the field, Lockett managed to get on his feet and walk off the field under his own power. After getting checked out of the sidelines, Lockett was even able to return to the game in the closing minutes.
"He was OK," Carroll said. "It was such an unusual situation. He got twisted and he just wanted to make sure... he was so close to getting hurt. He wanted to make sure he was all right, which he seemed to be. It was really an awkward position that he was in and his foot released just when it had to to save him."
Lockett is such an important piece of Seattle's offense. He's off to a fantastic start to this season already and remains Russell Wilson's favorite target in the passing attack.
The Seahawks also don't appear super deep at wide receiver at the moment either. Losing Lockett for any significant amount of time would be a real blow to their hopes as they begin NFC West play against the San Francisco 49ers next week.
It seems as though they got lucky and Lockett is OK.
Photo Credit: MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - SEPTEMBER 26: Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings dives passed Tre Flowers #21 and D.J. Reid #2 of the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter in the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)