Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wraps up his team’s loss to the Chargers and previews Sunday’s rematch with the 8-1 Rams.
The Seahawks piled up 373 total yards, 190 rushing yards and 31 points in their first meeting with the Los Angeles Rams last month.
But it wasn’t enough for a win.
Can Seattle’s offense add to those numbers inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this weekend? Here’s what first-year Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had to say on Thursday.
The Seahawks managed just 17 points while punting six times last week, with many of those drives ending by way of self-inflicted penalties.
In all, the Seahawks committed 10 penalties for 83 yards in the 25-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Many of those flags could and should have been avoided, Schottenheimer said.
“We have to continue to emphasize it,” Schottenheimer said. “I have to do a better job of explaining why penalties cost you games. In this league, a lot of times teams lose games. They don’t win games. We’ve talked a lot about that this week.
“With the veteran group that we have in some regards and youth in other regards, it is (some lack of focus). And these guys play tremendously hard. They give this everything that they have, but they need to play smarter in terms of not shooting ourselves in the foot. They know that.
“It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of holding them accountable.”
But what, exactly, does “holding them accountable” really mean?
“If you go back to training camp one of the things that we were doing is we were running for every false start penalty,” Schottenheimer said. “We were running for those things. I think you get through the course of the season and practice gets shorter and you don’t do as much of that.
“So we as a staff — it starts with me — we need to do a better job of making sure those guys are doing that. Sometimes it falls through the cracks. This week we’re trying to do a better job of staying on top of those guys.
“Because it does (matter). Really no offense is made to play from first-and-20, or second-and-15. Those are hard. Those are hard to overcome those situations, and then you end up with five third downs of 12 yards or more.”
Which leads us to our next topic …
A questionable play call?
You might call Schottenheimer overly conservative in some situations.
And the veteran offensive coordinator might not even argue.
“I told the guys this week, ‘At third-and-19 or 20, I’ve called plays long enough in this league that I’m probably going to be a little bit conservative and play smart, play field position and things like that,” Schottenheimer said.
Like it or hate it, that may explain to some degree Schottenheimer’s decision to run the ball on second-and-24 while trailing the Chargers 19-10 in the fourth quarter last week.
“You’re monitoring everything,” Schottenheimer explained. “You’re up there saying, ‘OK, hey. Second-and-24. We’re backed up. The defense is playing really good.’ I thought the defense played great in that second half.
“So I was like, ‘Hey, let’s just kind of be smart here.’ And it’s not like we don’t think the calls are going to work. We hope the calls work. We just don’t have a lot of plays that say, ‘OK, this is third-and-21. We love this call. This looks great.’ ‘Oh, second-and-24? Sweet. Where’s that on my (card)?’
“So you’re calling plays and you think, ‘OK, we can chip away at this thing.’ But you really don’t have one (when you’re backed up that far) where you say, ‘Hey guys, get ready to watch this one.’ You just don’t have those.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw his second pick-six of the season on an out-route intended for wide receiver David Moore along the sideline last Sunday.
Schottenheimer confirmed on Thursday that the ball should never have been thrown.
“He saw the nickel going out there and he said, ‘Hey, I thought I could get it in there,’” Schottenheimer said. “But in reality he should have seen that he was pushing up underneath (the route) and come off of it.”
Instead, the Chargers extended their lead in the fourth quarter.
But despite the mistake, Schottenheimer was impressed by his quarterback’s response. The Seahawks scored a touchdown on their following drive and then nearly repeated that feat to tie the game, gaining 126 yards with nine first downs in their final two drives.
“He was obviously disappointed, but I’ve been around other great quarterbacks that are going to the Hall of Fame that were probably more dejected and more upset with themselves in terms of, ‘Oh man, what just happened?’” Schottenheimer said. “He was like, ‘I’m OK. I’m good.’ He kind of walked it off, and that’s a testament to him and his belief in himself.
“I think what he was able to do along with the rest of the guys after that, you don’t see that all the time. So, again, we came up a little short but he certainly brought us back.”
Two of the Seahawks’ most essential contributors in the running game — hulking right guard D.J. Fluker and starting running back Chris Carson — are questionable to play in Sunday’s game with injuries.
And in Fluker’s case, specifically, the hardest thing to replace might not be his production.
“We’ll see how that plays out. I don’t know,” Schottenheimer said. “But obviously the best thing Fluke does for us is just the energy that he brings. He’s a terrific competitor. We love listening to him before the game.
“So we’ll figure that out, but this is a business where there’s always a chance of guys not being able to play. If he’s not ready to go then the next guy will stand up and play. But hopefully he can make it out there and be good to go.”
Carson has had a steady stream of injury issues in his fewer than two seasons in Seattle, going down with a broken leg in 2017 before missing the Arizona game this season with a hip issue. He also sat out last weekend’s loss to the Chargers with an unrelated hip injury.
So, considering Carson’s bruising running style and injury history, would Schottenheimer and Co. consider limiting his snaps or rethinking the way he’s utilized?
“No, I don’t think so,” Schottenheimer said. “If he’s out there we’re going to use him the way we want to use him. Chris is a very, very up-front, honest young man. He’s going to tell us, ‘Hey, I don’t feel great right now.’ ‘Hey, I’m not 100 percent.’
“I actually appreciate that. Some guys don’t like that. I appreciate that, because then you know. Because we have a nice stable of backs that we can use. Again, Chris is a really, really good player, but one of the things we pride ourselves on is being able to do the things we want to do regardless of who’s in the game.”
Fant’s tight end evolution
When George Fant is in the game, his teammates and opponents certainly know it.
“He’s a big, powerful guy. He is very athletic,” Schottenheimer said of the offensive tackle-turned tight end. “He just makes us more physical.
“He hasn’t caught a pass but we do enjoy releasing him on passes. He can catch, that’s for sure. But he’s done an awesome job with it. The guys like when he’s in there because he’s a confident young man. They know he plays with a lot of passion. So it’s been fun.
“Again, we’re always looking for ways to develop that package and continue. It’s certainly grown over the past four, five weeks since we started doing it.”
Fant is certainly no stranger to rapid changes. The former basketball player at Western Kentucky turned himself into an offensive lineman in the NFL, and has since shifted into a hybrid tight end position.
It’s a credit to Fant’s versatility, Schottenheimer said, that his previous incarnations aren’t more evident on the field.
“Having coached some other former basketball players, you wouldn’t know (he played basketball),” Schottenheimer said. “I remember Antonio Gates, the first time he ever got in a stance, we were like, ‘What is that?’ He hadn’t done it for a long time. But for George, he’s so athletic. He’s so big and (athletic) that you would never guess that.”