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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 4 August, 2020

The Seahawks and Ravens coached themselves out of the playoffs

Poor coaching was punished on Wild Card weekend, writes Steve O’Rourke.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer virtually ignored QB Russell Wilson in defeat to the Cowboys.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer virtually ignored QB Russell Wilson in defeat to the Cowboys.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE PLAYOFFS USUALLY start around week 16 of the NFL.

That was very much the case this year with the Eagles playing their way in and the Ravens and Steelers battling it out over the final couple of weeks of the regular season for the fourth seed in the AFC.

Thanks to wins over the Chargers and Browns, Baltimore won that particular tussle and their reward was a chance to host LA in the Wild Card round.

This was good news for fans of the Ravens as, since John Harbaugh arrived in Baltimore in 2008, his side has won 74% of their home games. Compare that to their road success rate of 44% and you have the largest disparity in the NFL.

In that week 16 win, the Ravens ran all over the Chargers on their way to a 22-10 win; they gained 159 yards on 35 carries and Harbaugh and his coaching staff went into this weekend clearly thinking, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

But while Lamar Jackson’s unique skill set has befuddled NFL defences so far — he averaged 4.7 yards per attempt on nine carries per game in the regular season — on Sunday night LA became the first team to get a second look at the rookie QB.

And Anthony Lynn and his colleagues completely outcoached the Ravens’ staff.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens John Harbaugh questions a call late in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The Chargers already play more downs in their various dime packages — when more than just the regular four defensive backs are on the field — than most teams in the NFL but, on Sunday night, they played three safeties at middle linebacker.

In doing to so, they increased their speed to the ball and completely nullified the Baltimore ground attack limiting Jackson, Gus Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon to 90 yards on 23 attempts, with the quarterback the only one of the trio to average more than three yards per carry.

Now, there’s no doubt Jackson had a poor game. His propensity to fumble the football is worrying, but he’s a young quarterback — he only turns 22 today — and showed what he can do when, in the fourth quarter, he made some astonishingly good throws on the way to 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Before that rally, Jackson was booed by Ravens fans who wanted Joe Flacco in the game — a player who completed 61.2% of his throws for just 12 touchdowns and six picks in his nine games this season.

But, the people they should have booed was Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, and the rest of the offensive coaching staff whose failure to adapt and change cost them a spot in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Likewise, if Seattle fans are looking for somebody to blame for exiting the playoffs earlier than they might have expected, they need look no further than Pete Carroll and his offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Despite it being patently obvious their run game wasn’t working — Chris Carson had 20 yards on 13 attempts — the Seahawks virtually ignored their superstar quarterback, and Russell Wilson finished the game with just 27 passing attempts for 233 yards.

It was, to get the last possible Christmas reference out of my system, like Santa deciding Dasher should lead his sleigh despite the fog.

Even as a neutral it was infuriating, so I can’t image how Seattle fans felt after the game, especially as the Seahawks clinched their spot in the postseason with a 38-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in week 16.

Seahawks Cowboys Football Pete Carroll congratulates his Cowboys counterpart Jason Garrett. Source: Michael Ainsworth

In that game Wilson threw for three touchdowns while going toe-to-toe with the likely regular season MVP Patrick Mahomes.

He found Tyler Lockett four times that day — on five targets — for 99 yards. In fact, during the regular season Wilson had a perfect passer rating when targeting the receiver, so you’d be forgiven for assuming he would play a big role against Dallas.

He did not.

While Lockett did turn his four catches into 120 yards it was — along with the remarkable stat that Wilson was asked to throw the ball further than 15 yards just seven times (completing five for 166 yards) — clear evidence of how Seattle could have beaten Dallas.

And, just like Baltimore, the coaching staff now have eight months to dwell on what might have been if they had trusted the quarterbacks who got them to the postseason to keep them in it.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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