Seahawks enter the final stretch without Tyler Lockett or margin for error


The Seahawks were already facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs before they learned receiver Tyler Lockett would need surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand. Now the task of winning at least two of their final three regular-season games to sneak into an NFC wild-card spot is even tougher.

“You don’t replace him. He’s such an extraordinary player that we’re not going to ask guys to do the same thing and hope they do it just like Tyler does,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Friday afternoon. “We’re going to use our guys to their strengths. That’s how we’ll do that. Marquise (Goodwin) has played really well and really helped us in a number of ways, and leaning on him is a good idea. Our tight ends are ready to help us at anytime, as well. We’ll see as we get back at it.”

Lockett suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter of Seattle’s 21-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night, which dropped the Seahawks to 7-7. After starting the season 6-3, the Seahawks have dropped four of their last five games and occupy the eighth spot in the NFC.

Lockett will travel to have hand surgery and the early indication is he has a chance to play again before the end of the regular season, Carroll said.

“Very optimistic review this morning from the docs that he’s got a chance to get back quickly, and we’ll see if it can happen,” Carroll said. “If there’s any way possible, he’ll do it, he’ll figure it out. We’ve had good success with this (doctor) in the past, and he’s been really an expert at it. Can maybe pull off something that’ll surprise us a little bit here, so we’ll see. I know that’s what Tyler is wanting to do.”

Lockett hasn’t just been the best receiver on the Seahawks, he’s been one of the best in the league. He came into the San Francisco game holding the following ranks among wide receivers: 11th in catches (71), 10th in receiving yards (896), fourth in receiving touchdowns (eight) and 10th in first-down catches (44). He has since improved his rank in nearly all those categories, though he also has played at least one more game than everyone else. Regardless, there’s no denying Lockett has been among the best pass catchers in football this season.

Lockett’s ability to move the chains and find the end zone is what Seattle will miss most in his absence. He leads the team in touchdown catches and receptions for first downs (47). Lockett picks up a first down on 60.3 percent of his receptions, which is around league average among receivers who have run at least 100 routes (all stats provided by TruMedia unless noted otherwise). DK Metcalf is second on the Seahawks with six touchdowns and 43 chain-moving catches. He catches a pass for a first down 54.4 percent of the time, slightly below the league average (60.4).

These numbers matter because Seattle hasn’t been able to produce first downs on the ground during this ugly five-game stretch. Since Week 10, the Seahawks generate a first down on just 18.9 percent of their designed runs, which is 28th in the league; the league average in that span is 24.9 percent. They’ve rushed for just 14 first downs over the last five games. For some perspective, the Seahawks just allowed Carolina to rush for 14 first downs in their loss to the Panthers on Sunday.



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Teams that can’t consistently move the chains struggle to score. Struggle to score, struggle to win. Seattle can’t afford to do anything but win over these next three weeks, whether Lockett is in the lineup or not. There is no margin for error without their second-best offensive player.

Lockett’s absence will put pressure on Metcalf, who is having a decent season. He’s on pace for about 95 receptions, more than 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns. With Lockett out, Metcalf, at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds with 4.3 speed, is the only player on Seattle’s roster capable of consistently drawing multiple defenders his direction. He’ll need to work even harder to get open and can’t afford anything other than victory in the rare moments he sees one-on-one coverage.

Beyond Metcalf, there is no one Seahawk capable of supplementing Lockett’s production, but Noah Fant will need to step up, as well. Among tight ends who have run at least 75 routes this year, Fant ranks 15th in yards per route (1.48) and receptions (42), 13th in yards (414) and 10th in touchdown catches (three). He has produced a first down on 50 percent of his catches, which is below league average (52.9) and less frequent than teammates Colby Parkinson (60 percent) and Will Dissly (57.6 percent). Fant has been Seattle’s No. 3 pass catcher this season and he’ll be bumped up to No. 2 while Lockett is out.

There will also obviously be more on the shoulders of Goodwin, who has 27 catches for 387 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games this year. Seattle’s other receivers are Penny Hart (two catches, 18 yards) and seventh-round rookie Dareke Young (zero catches). Laquon Treadwell (one catch, 1 yard) is on the practice squad, though he’s been active three times this season.

Dee Eskridge, Seattle’s top pick in the 2021 draft, is on injured reserve with a broken hand sustained in Week 10, but he’s eligible to return next week. Eskridge has appeared in 10 games and has only seven catches for 58 yards.

“From what I heard late this week, (Eskridge) is coming back around and might have a shot to help us out,” Carroll said Sunday.

Realistically, the real key to dealing with two or three must-win games without Lockett is running the ball. Seattle had 48 dropbacks against just 13 designed runs in the loss to San Francisco. Those runs gained just 52 yards and produced only two first downs. Running back Ken Walker III, returning to the lineup after missing Week 14 with an ankle injury, had 47 yards on 12 carries. Travis Homer ran the ball one time and picked up 5 yards.

Since Week 10, Seattle ranks last in designed rushing yards per game (44.8).

“I’m disappointed in having to talk about that, too,” Carroll said when asked about the run struggles. “It just hasn’t happened for us. We haven’t been able to find the rhythm of it, and we’ve lost at the line of scrimmage at times in games and probably got knocked off course in the plan and how we like to go with it.”



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Seattle is also last in designed rushing attempts per game (14.8) since Week 10.

“We just need to stay with it more,” Carroll said. “Shane (Waldron) and I keep talking about it. We have to stay with it and just keep pounding away and the plays will happen. Three and four (yards gained) need to be OK because you know you are going to bust something — in particular with Ken, the ball is going to break out and you just have to keep pounding until it happens.”

According to The Athletic’s NFL betting model, created by Austin Mock, Seattle has 42.9 percent odds of making the playoffs. After traveling to Kansas City on Dec. 24, the Seahawks return home for games against the Jets and Rams to close the regular season.

“We have an opportunity to be playing at the end of the year,” Carroll said, “but it means nothing unless we get after this game (against the Chiefs), and we need to nail this one and nail some games here to have a chance.”

(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)


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