Legion of doomed: Can Seattle save its season?

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By HUNTER KOSSODO
College Contributor Network

For the superstitious, there are a couple of factors that can be blamed for the Seattle Seahawks' 3-3 start to the season.

It could be that they have the Super Bowl hangover. Only eight teams have pulled off back-to-back Super Bowl winning seasons since the first Super Bowl was played in 1967 and the last team to accomplish it was the Patriots a decade ago.

Or maybe it's the dreaded Madden Curse. When Richard Sherman was picked to be the cover athlete of Madden '15, he joined a hexed fraternity in which a disappointing individual or team season follows more often than not.

For people that want actual on-field explanations for the lackluster start, there are a few of those too.

Last season, the Seahawks featured a defense that was tops in the league in yards allowed, points allowed and turnovers forced. In the eight regular season and postseason games that followed their bye week they held every opponent to under 20 points, the cherry on top being limiting Peyton Manning and the Broncos' offense to eight points in the Super Bowl.

Seattle rewarded its defensive stars with massive contracts, but other teams around the NFL were just as giddy to snatch whoever they could.

The defensive line took a big hit. Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, two starting edge rushers, went to Jacksonville and Clinton McDonald, who started a game for them in 2013, signed with Tampa Bay.

The run defense remains stout despite the offseason losses, though DeMarco Murray having a field day with the Seahawks in Week 6 certainly was a blemish.

The pass rush has left a little to be desired. After sacking Aaron Rodgers three times in their season debut, the Seahawks have come up with just four sacks in the five games since.

The secondary also developed gaping holes in free agency, as cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond made homes elsewhere. Seattle hoped to replace their production with Byron Maxwell and second-year player Marcus Burley.

The result has been that, while solid, the Seahawks' defense isn't the nightmare fuel it once was for opposing quarterbacks. Seattle is below-average in terms of allowing passing yards and has given up 12 touchdowns through the air against just two interceptions through six games.

The worst showing so far for the Seahawks' pass coverage was in the Week 7 matchup against the Rams. Rams quarterback Austin Davis went 18 for 21 with two touchdowns and no interceptions as Maxwell sat out the game with a strained calf.

Even with Sherman lurking and the intimidating presence of safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, opposing quarterbacks have been able to expose the secondary. The Cowboys had three separate 80-yard touchdown drives, none of which took more than 10 plays.

The Seahawks have given up 30 points to an opponent three times this season, something that only happened to them once all of last season. And it's harder for the Seahawks to match those 30 points because they've suffered losses on offense as well.

The big storyline with regards to changes in Seattle's offense is the trade of Percy Harvin to the Jets. While it's certainly perplexing why they would trade a weapon like Harvin in the first place, it's even more confusing given that they lost Golden Tate in the offseason.

Russell Wilson is supremely gifted, he can do a lot with a little, but the Seahawks are really pushing that theory. Wilson's top target is Doug Baldwin, a steady receiver but without the resume of a player that could be the best receiver on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Baldwin had a good start to the post-Harvin era, as he hauled in 123 yards and his first touchdown of the season against the Rams -- his previous yardage high this season was 56 against Denver.

Seattle will need Baldwin to emerge as a legitimate number one option, because the receiver corps is thin. Jermaine Kearse, the starter opposite Baldwin, had 346 yards in 15 games with the team last season. Rookie second-rounder Paul Richardson and fourth-rounder Kevin Norwood will also have to play meaningful minutes with Harvin gone.

But the Seahawks are a running team, that's their identity. Marshawn Lynch is still running as well as ever, and Wilson continues to show that he's dangerous on his feet.

However, a running game is only as good as its offensive line. A big reason that Murray has rushed for over 100 yards in seven straight games is that the Cowboys have an excellent line blocking for him.

The Seahawks' line isn't perfect, but it's been held up by Pro-Bowlers Max Unger and Russell Okung. With the departure of starting right tackle Breno Giacomini in the offseason and a foot injury that has caused Unger to miss the last two games, the line is starting to look a little patchwork.

While Wilson was still able to scramble for over 100 yards against the Rams, he was sacked three times by a defense that had just one sack on the season going into the game. Lynch couldn't get anything going when he followed his blockers, rushing for just 53 yards on 18 carries.

With injuries piling up and the rotation looking thinner each week it's easy to panic on this team, but the Seahawks are still a solid team with Super Bowl aspirations. They faced Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning in three straight weeks and came out of it 2-1 while not allowing more than 21 points in any one game.

The wins need to start coming though, and fast. Seattle will need to make the most out of its next four games against the Panthers, Raiders, Giants and Chiefs, because from Week 12 onward the schedule is brutal.

Five division games will come in those six weeks; two against the 49ers and Cardinals and one against the Rams, the team that just beat Seattle. The one non-divisional game is a date with the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Harvin is the big story with the Seahawks as they prepare for Week 8, but if they want to make the playoffs it starts with the secondary and defense getting back on track.


Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo
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