Carroll's mind made up on Whitehurst. Coach Pete Carroll anointed Tarvaris Jackson the starting quarterback before the season largely because the coaching staff thought Jackson would benefit from its full confidence following a rough run with Minnesota. The team's lack of confidence in Charlie Whitehurst enabled the decision. That lack of confidence was obvious when Carroll gave Whitehurst only seven pass attempts before switching to Jackson despite Jackson's injury. Leashes don't come much shorter than that one, particularly without turnovers.
Blitzing from the slot did not work. Quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals were prepared when Seattle sent cornerback Roy Lewis as a blitzer from the slot. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was waiting for Lewis on Cincinnati's first third-down play of the game. Dalton quickly threw to the man Lewis had been defending. The ball arrived before middle linebacker David Hawthorne could cover. The Bengals had more people in protection than the Seahawks had rushing. Seattle blitzed Lewis from the slot on the other side of the field early in the fourth quarter. Again, Dalton was wise to it and got the ball out.
The QB change hurt before it helped. The spacing between Jackson and running back Marshawn Lynch wasn't right on their first play together. They nearly collided during the handoff, and Lynch fumbled shortly thereafter, with the Bengals recovering. The passing game improved greatly before long, but Seattle missed out on the initial jolt a team sometimes gets by making a switch at the position. Later in the game, Lynch played a key role in a third-and-11 completion to Doug Baldwin. He initially helped left tackle Russell Okung in protection, but with free safety Reggie Nelson coming free on a blitz, Lynch peeled back alertly and shielded Jackson from what could have been a big hit.
Richard Sherman detested A.J. Green. Sherman, making his first start at cornerback, gave the Bengals' promising rookie trouble. It was obvious something about Green did not sit well with Sherman. We realized this after the game when Sherman called Green overrated and a sloppy route runner. Re-watching the game, I noticed Sherman running over to Green, who was on the ground, and taunting him demonstrably following teammate Kam Chancellor's interception. Sherman had set up the interception with tight coverage and a deflection. He was so intent upon rubbing it in Green's face that he failed to realize the play remained live. Too bad Sherman and Green won't see each other much over their careers.
Offensive line blew this one. Seattle's offensive line suffered through a rough game, with rookie right tackle James Carpenter's struggles standing out. Though the final score suggested a blowout, Seattle trailed only 20-12 when it took possession with 4:45 left in the game. First down: Right guard John Moffitt got beat, leading to pressure that forced a bad throw for an incomplete pass. Second down: A screen to Baldwin went nowhere because Okung could not reach defensive end Michael Johnson, left guard Robert Gallery could not reach safety Chris Crocker and center Max Unger could not release cleanly. Third down: Carpenter gave up a sack rather quickly even though the Bengals rushed only three on the play.
Looking ahead: The schedule is not cooperating with Seattle's efforts to improve its ground game. Matchups with Dallas, Baltimore, Chicago and San Francisco present challenges.