The Seahawks' defense continues to stifle the team's momentum – Seattle Seahawks Blog- ESPN – ESPN

NEW ORLEANS — The Seattle Seahawks are in an all-too familiar situation five weeks into the season, back in the throes of another miserable start on defense. It continued Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, when the usual culprits — missed tackles that led to explosive plays, penalties and an inability to get off the field on third down — led to a 39-32 loss, despite more brilliance from Geno Smith and the offense.
Safety Ryan Neal, who had just made his first start of the season after taking over for Josh Jones as the replacement for the injured Jamal Adams, refused to excuse it as the product of new players and a new scheme, noting how they’re more than a quarter into the season. He called it “unacceptable” that New Orleans ran the ball at will to the tune of 235 rushing yards.
Then he evoked the Legion of Boom.
“From my end, it’s disappointing because I feel like I’m letting down a group of dudes that really set the standard,” said Neal, whose time in Seattle overlapped with Legion of Boom stars Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. “Even being here with guys before like K.J. or Bobby and stuff like that, there’s a standard that you’ve got to live up to and that’s just something that we have to do. For me, this is just a call to the defense — what are we going to do now? Like, what are you going to do? Because it’s on us. In my mind, it’s on us, period.”

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The Seahawks’ not-too-distant glory days on defense seem like an eternity ago now that they’re a mess out of the gates for the third straight season. This might be the worst of their slow starts when you consider that they’re allowing more points per game (30.8, 31st in the NFL), more yards per play (6.55, 32nd in NFL), more yards per rush (5.04, 32nd in NFL) and more yards per pass (8.91, 32nd in NFL) than they did through the first five games of 2020 and 2021.
The 84 combined points they allowed to New Orleans and the Detroit Lions are the franchise’s most in a two-game stretch since 1983, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And both offenses were missing some of their best players. Detroit didn’t have its top running back (D’Andre Swift) or its top receiver (Amon-Ra St. Brown). New Orleans was without Jameis Winston and two of his top receivers in Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry. Another, Chris Olave, missed most of the second half after entering concussion protocol.
While Winston’s backup Andy Dalton didn’t hurt the Seahawks, wildcat quarterback Taysom Hill certainly did. He rushed for 112 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries while throwing for another score. Running back Alvin Kamara (194 scrimmage yards on 29 touches) also gashed Seattle.
Neal said the Seahawks “absolutely” expected Hill to be as big a part of the Saints’ game-plan as he was.
“When you’ve got Mike Thomas out, Jarvis Landry out and a couple others, we already knew what the game plan was going to be around,” Neal said. “It was going to be around [Kamara], [tight end Juwan Johnson], [Hill]. And that’s just what they came and did, ran it down our throat. That’s something that’s unacceptable.”
The Seahawks have sorely missed Adams’ impact as a pass-rusher and run defender since he went down in the opener with a knee injury that required surgery. Neal looks like an upgrade over Jones at safety, but the Seahawks will need much more than that.
“We just have to make our moves and get our best guys in the right spots doing the right things as soon as possible,” Carroll said. “We’re working at it. I don’t know why it’s like that. I have no idea why we would start slow. We’re dealing with it again, and we know that we are going to come out of it.”
There are no obvious signs that they will, though. And there’s been an absence of bright spots other than cornerback Tariq Woolen and outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. Woolen, a rookie fifth-round pick, looks like a star in the making with an interception in three straight games to go along with a blocked field goal that Seattle returned for a touchdown in Week 2. Nwosu looks like a nice free-agent addition with a standout performance in Seattle’s season-opening win and a No. 11 ranking in ESPN’s pass rush win rate.
But both have also contributed to one of the Seahawks’ primary issues. Seattle leads the NFL with 18 accepted defensive penalties. Woolen has a team-high four while Nwosu has three, including a neutral zone infraction on third-and-5 that gave the Saints a fresh set of downs on a second-quarter drive that ended in a touchdown.
Not even their defensive captain and Pro Bowl safety, Quandre Diggs, has been immune to one of their other big problems. Diggs whiffed on Hill’s go-ahead, 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter Sunday. The Seahawks are allowing the third-most yards after contact per rush (2.39), which reflect how shoddy their tackling has been. They’ve allowed 18 plays of at least 25 yards, tied for most in the NFL.
“There’s just no more excuses, no more playing around,” Neal said. “We’ve got to go to work and we’ve got to iron it out, and if guys don’t want to get it done, they’ll find somebody else to do it. It’s just at that point now. It’s like, ‘hey, no more excuses.’ We’ve got to go to practice, we’ve got to get this s— right and we’ve got to fix it because we can’t go a season doing that. You’ve seen it happen. Two years back, we was giving up points and we ended up ironing it out and fixing it and we ended up being one of the top defenses in the league. It’s just got to be a turnaround now.
“No excuses.”

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