MMQB: Colts 34, Seahawks 17

The Seattle Seahawks were trampled by Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, extending their losing streak to three games and putting themselves further behind San Francisco in the NFC West.

Indianapolis Colts 34, Seattle Seahawks 17
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Lucas Oil Stadium
Indianapolis, IN

Play of the Day: On 3rd-and-3 from the Indianapolis 48-yard line midway through the second quarter, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning stood in the pocket and delivered a 24-yard strike to second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had beat Ken Lucas before being run out of bounds 11 yards later by Jordan Babineaux for a total of 35 yards on the play. Though the score was only 7-0 at the time, it was a sign that the Seahawks were in for a very long day.

Handouts to the Standouts

T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught eight balls for a season-high 103 yards, bringing his 2009 season total to 22 receptions for 248 yards. Houshmandzadeh is still seeking his first touchdown as a Seahawk.

Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (11 tackles, 1 pass defended) played well in his first full game of the season, and first-round linebacker Aaron Curry (7 tackles, 1 quarterback hit) had another solid outing, as did defensive end Lawrence Jackson.

A tip of the cap to the Colts' organization and their fans for the classy video message honoring current Seahawks running back Edgerrin James, as well as the warm reception they gave James whenever he touched the football on Sunday.

Things That Made Me Go "Blech!"

Allowing a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the Colts' opening possession was a terrible way to start, but the day would get even worse for Gus Bradley. His defense would go on to allow three touchdowns on successive drives of 90, 78, and 80 yards between the second and third quarters, putting the game out of reach. Of the 30 plays Indianapolis ran to score those 21 points, fourteen went for 10+ yards, an alarmingly high number of big plays for any defense to give up.  

Meanwhile, Seattle's offense had ten 10+ yard plays of their own, with half coming in the 4th quarter while the Colts were in a prevent defense. A few more big plays by the Seahawks offense were negated by crucial penalties.  

A holding call on Ray Willis negated a 16-yard pass play to John Carlson that would've put the ball just outside the Colts' red-zone, and a few plays later, Wallace's illegal forward pass thwarted a scoring drive. Another holding penalty on Willis turned a 3rd-and-Goal from the Colts' 2-yard line to 2nd-and-Goal from the 19. Guard Mansfield Wrotto, filling in for an injured Rob Sims, was flagged for a holding call on Seattle's first offensive play of the second half, which erased an 11-yard run by Julius Jones.

Offense

Statistically-speaking, Seneca Wallace had the kind of day any team would be thrilled to get from their back-up quarterback: 33-of-45 (73%) for 257 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 0 interceptions, and a passer rating of 94.4, along with a 7-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter.

While Wallace's overall numbers were good, most of his production, and both of his touchdowns, came after the game was already decided. Statistics don't always tell the whole story, and that's true when it comes to assessing Wallace's day, which may also serve a microcosm for how he's played the last two seasons.

Seattle's patchwork offensive line had Wallace scrambling all day. Even when Seattle kept both tight ends in to block to give Wallace extra time, he was still sacked or flushed from the pocket.

Wallace sacked himself on one such play, which is inexcusable as he simply could've thrown the ball away. He also had an opportunity to run for a first down on Seattle's second offensive series, but was hesitant and, thanks to a generous spot by the official, was lucky to pick up the first down.

On Wallace's illegal forward pass penalty, he had a lot of real estate in front of him, but he hesitated once again and threw the ball after crossing the line of scrimmage. Even if he didn't pick up the 7 yards needed for a first down, he could've picked up some yardage for Mare to try a field goal or for the ‘Hawks to possibly go for it on fourth down. Instead, they were penalized, which put them outside of Mare's field goal range and were forced to punt.

When Wallace was stripped from behind by Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, he could've tucked the ball and ran for a first down. Instead, he cocked his arm and gave Mathis an easy target to reach for.

So when Wallace tucked and ran for a 7-yard score late in the 4th quarter, many Seahawks's fans had to be wondering where that Seneca Wallace has been the last two years.

Seattle's running backs didn't provide Wallace with much help, gaining just 41 yards on 15 carries. Julius Jones (11 carries, 25 yards) struggled to get anything going, while an energized James was the more efficient back (4 carries, 16 yards). Falling behind 28-3 before touching the ball in the second half prompted Greg Knapp to shelve the running game, calling just three running plays after the break.

The aforementioned Houshmandzadeh had a big day, catching 8 of the 11 passes thrown to him for 103 yards. Deion Branch was the team's second-leading receiver, catching six passes for 49 yards, though why Knapp call Branch's number on wide receiver screens instead of Nate Burleson, who is the more dynamic play-maker after the catch, is puzzling. Burleson had a quiet day, catching just 4 passes for 31 yards. Carlson added five receptions for 39 yards and fullback Owen Schmitt caught his 1st NFL touchdown pass.

Left tackle Brandon Frye struggled mightily, but it's hard to point the finger at him, since he's only been in Seattle a month. He injured his groin during last week's loss to Chicago and missed a lot of practice time during the week so he could rehab his injury. Even if he were completely healthy, he'd be no match for Pro Bowlers like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Frye is a band-aid at the left tackle position and there simply isn't a better option available in the team's medicine cabinet.

The trouble with the Seahawks' offensive line isn't the guy signed off the street in early September, it's that the guy signed off the street in early September is even playing.

Defense

The return of Lofa Tatupu wasn't enough to keep Peyton Manning (31-of-41 for 353 yards, 2 touchdowns) from toying with the Seahawks' defense.

The three-time MVP knew where the weaknesses in Seattle's pass coverages were and exploited them early and often, completing 17-of-20 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half. He would crash back to Earth in the second half, though, throwing what I'm led to believe is called an "interception" to Ken Lucas that caused his passer rating to plummet to 107.7.

After giving up a second 80+ yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley ripped into Tatupu and the entire defense on the sidelines. The Seahawks defense responded by allowing touchdown drives of 78 and 80 yards on the next two series.

Seattle's run defense did hold the Colts to 3.5 yards per carry, but didn't make any plays in the Colts' backfield and gave up several runs of 10+ yards, including an easy 12-yard touchdown run right up the middle by Joseph Addai in the 3rd quarter that served as the final nail in the ‘Hawks coffin.

Lucas' interception aside, nobody on defense stepped up to make a big play today. Better defenses have had similar misfortune against Peyton Manning, but considering the staggering amount of high draft picks and expensive free agent additions the Seahawks have made to improve the defense, this current trend of unspectacular play is more than a little concerning.

Special Teams

Unless all the time spent answering questions about throwing the kicker under the bus after the Chicago game distracted Jim Mora from preparing for this game, Olindo Mare is blame-free in this loss. Mare was 1-for-1 on field goal tries, hit both of his extra points, had two touchbacks on kickoffs and delivered on an on-side kick, which was recovered by Jordan Babineaux.

Jon Ryan was busy, punting five times with a net average of 36.0 yards. A keystone cop approach to punt coverage, where nine players were on one side of the field, led to Ryan needing to make a touchdown-saving tackle on Colts return man T.J. Rushing after a 22-yard return spoiled his 51-yard punt.

Justin Forsett had a 37-yard kick return in the 1st quarter, boosting his average to 26.0 yards on 3 returns, while Ben Obomanu added a special teams tackle and a 23-yard kick return in the 4th quarter.

Summary

The Seahawks weren't expected to leave Indianapolis better than 1-3, which is a problem in of itself, but this loss had an unexpected amount of embarrassment to it that could indicate just how far away the franchise may actually be from being a legitimate playoff contender.

Four games into the 2009 regular season and the Seahawks find themselves three games behind the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West.

The optimistic view is that the Seahawks have back-to-back home games in front of them and could get back to .500 before the bye week. After which they're expected to get their starting quarterback, one, perhaps two of their two starting tackles, as well as their Pro Bowl cornerback and starting weak-side linebacker back for the final 10 games of the season.

That's all well and good, and with 12 games remaining, the Seahawks do have an opportunity to turn this season around.

But the window is rapidly closing and they don't have the luxury of waiting for everyone to get healthy before they start winning some football games. If they can't right the ship, and do so quickly, the season will pass them by.

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog and writes for FalconInsider.com on the Scout network. If you'd like to e-mail Brian, you may do so by clicking here.

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