The time for the Seattle Seahawks to rationalize that their remade, porous — and just plain poor — offensive line is “a work in progress” has ended.
That’s not merely the opinion of most onlookers who watched Russell Wilson get sacked six more times while Seattle managed just one touchdown against the NFL’s 27th-ranked defense and only winless team Monday night.
It’s coach Pete Carroll’s, too.
“I’m not going to keep talking about this work-in-progress stuff. Let’s drop that phrase. We’ve got just to get better,” Carroll said Tuesday on Seattle’s 710-AM radio, the morning after the 13-10 victory over Detroit that Kam Chancellor saved by forcing a Lions fumble at the goal line inside the final two minutes. “We have to improve in some areas, and we are going to keep working at it.
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“We are working diligently,” Carroll added, stressing that word, “night and day, fingers to the bone, everything you can want. We are going to take it as far as we can.”
For the first time the team’s chief personnel man publicly considered making switches to the five starting blockers before Sunday’s test at Cincinnati (4-0).
“If we have to make some decisions, you know, we will make some decisions. But we are trying to figure it out.” said Carroll, who didn’t meet with the media at large.
“The real thing is that they are young and they are learning and they are growing, and we will see how far we can take it.”
This also the real:
The Seahawks (2-2) have just five offensive touchdowns in 42 drives through four games. San Francisco (1-3) is by far the lowest-scoring team in the league with 48 points through four weeks. But even those struggling 49ers have scored five touchdowns, tied with Seattle for the NFL’s fewest on offense.
Wilson was sacked six times, escaped at least six more sacks with his own speed, elusiveness, guile — or was it desperation? — against a winless Lions team that was 24th in the league in sacks entering the game. He also lost two fumbles, the last of which Detroit scooped up and returned for its only touchdown that made it a 13-10 stress test.
Yes, at times he held on to the ball too long. At other, very rare times, he looked spooked when he actually had time to throw.
No wonder. Wilson has been sacked 18 times in 145 dropbacks while Seattle has spent half its early season having to throw because of deficits against at St. Louis and Green Bay. By comparison, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been sacked just twice in 118 passing attempts. That’s why Cincinnati will bring the league’s No. 4 passing game into Sunday’s 10 a.m. game.
Marshawn Lynch was out for only the second time in six Seahawks seasons, with a bad hamstring. But he ran well in pregame warm-ups Monday. Carroll said Lynch’s absence was a preservation move toward the hope the league’s rushing leader since 2011 can play against the Bengals.
His replacement, Thomas Rawls, mostly ran into Lions at the line while gaining 9 yards on his first eight carries. Usual third-down back Fred Jackson was actually on the field for 10 of Seattle’s first 19 offensive plays, but then he sprained his ankle when a 305-pound defensive tackle fell on it early in the third quarter. Carroll said initial signs are Jackson, 34, has a high-ankle sprain. That could mean he misses multiple games.
Other than that, the Seahawks’ offense was just hummin’ in Monday night’s escape.
“We overcame a lot,” Carroll said.
Specifically, themselves. Again.
This is how bad it got one week after slogging through a 6-0 first half and managing just a single touchdown against another winless team, Chicago: After first-and-goal from the 9 on Monday the Seahawks had to settle for 51-yard field goal.
Wilson got sacked for a 9-yard loss. Center Drew Nowak, a college defensive tackle playing in his fourth NFL game, moved the ball prematurely for a snap-infraction foul of 5 yards. Jackson gained a mere yard on a run up the middle with no holes. On third and goal from the 22, Wilson got sacked for 11 more yards the wrong way.
That’s how a first-and-goal became fourth down from the 33.
It was another equal-opportunity failing: Left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Justin Britt, Nowak, right guard J.R. Sweezy and right tackle Garry Gilliam all were guilty.
“We’ve got to get a lot more clean,” Okung said. “Physically, I definitely believe in our group. Right now, we are struggling. But we can get better.”
There are few options for change on the current roster. Rookie guard Mark Glowinski was active for the first time this season Monday. Then it’s Alvin Bailey as a backup tackle and deposed, part-time 2014 starter Patrick Lewis as the other current option at center.
Thing is, the Seahawks have made the Super Bowl in each of the previous two seasons largely in spite of — not because of — their offensive line.
Last week the Bears entered the game without a sack this season. They sacked Wilson four times. The fact the 27-17 loss at Green Bay remains the line’s high point this season is concerning. Galling, even.
But Wilson keeps on escaping and making wild, improvisational runs and throws for first downs when the Seahawks need it most. Such as on their final, clinching drive Monday night, on third and 2 while leading by three points. Wilson scrambled yet again. Jermaine Kearse made a stop move on his initial route, then broke off into a spontaneous crossing into the wide-open middle. Wilson stopped and threw for 50 yards with 1:23 left to seal the win.
If Wilson hadn’t fumbled twice on Monday, the Seahawks would have beaten the Lions comfortably.
Yet, somehow, when he has had almost no time to throw, Wilson has been his most accurate.
Last season Wilson escaped by unofficial count eight more sacks in the November home game against Arizona. Wilson got sacked seven times, yet the Seahawks still won 19-3 because of their defense.
In the opener, the Rams sacked him seven times — yet Wilson completed 78 percent of his passes, the second-highest rate of his career. While harassed so much by Detroit, Wilson completed 20 of 26 throws (77 percent).
Asked Monday night what his options are along the offensive line or whether he will just stay with the same five starters, Carroll said: “We’ll just go back and figure it out. Right now we’re just trying to build these guys and get the most out of them that we can, and get them to fit together and feel one another. It’s all upside for us.”
True. No one around the team wants to consider the possibility it can get any worse.