Sunday, December 30, 2012

Seahawks Come Back to Earth in a Winning Way, 20-13

Michael Robinson denies the Rams an upbeat ending.

I usually like to go against the grain, but today I'm just gonna go along with the general narrative. It's fully true - Seattle needed this game. They needed a "humility check", in Tim Ryan's words, before heading into the playoffs. Not because they were cocky or arrogant, exactly, but because there's nothing like experience to undergird a truth. Seattle isn't invincible and they're not going to be scoring 40-burgers all the time.

The Seahawks needed this style of game, a knock-down, drag-it-all-out brawl of a 20-13 victory over another physical team. The Rams are good. A few years of drafting has brought them back to respectability, and they have the head coach to make them a threat in any venue on any weekend. Kudos to Jeff Fisher and the Rams for a solid test for these Seahawks. Given the youth of these two teams, this, rather than the 49ers, is the rivalry that will probably last the longest in this era of the NFC West.

Let's be honest here - the Cardinals, Bills, and 49ers were not that challenging for Wilson. Losing Justin Smith doesn't entirely excuse the 49ers defense, but Wilson doesn't need that big of a crack. Give him anything and he'll break a game wide open with his mobility and cool head, and if that's not enough, try overcoming the additional momentum of Red Bryant blocking stuff. The blowouts were fun and got the Seahawks some much-appreciated national respect, but today, the Rams gave Wilson nothing. It was the most that any team has demanded of him this year. It was the toughest game of December for them, a grind and a scheme-tester.

And the Seahawks pulled it out. They hung in there. Despite a well-executed defensive setup from St. Louis, despite the offensive mistakes of youth coming back to haunt them, despite every effort from Jeff Triplett's referee crew to stifle both teams (apparently they wanted another tie), despite that horrible sinking feeling that the Miami game was repeating itself, Seattle pulled it out. They maintained focus, they never lost their heads, and they stayed in to live another set of downs. Eventually, the big plays finally started rolling in without yellow flags attached, and the offense trotted into the history books abreast of Peyton Manning (Wilson's 26 passing touchdowns for a rookie) and Adrian Peterson (Marshawn Lynch with ten 100-yard games in a season).

That's fodder for some serious pride, and it's a sign of maturity on this team. In my humble opinion, it says more about the Seahawks than any game since Chicago. Bring on the playoffs.

Since we're thinking about reality checks, this game highlighted some personnel issues than Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have been covering up for weeks. Despite appearances that are understandably deceiving when your team is up by 20 points, Seattle's roster has some vulnerabilities heading into the postseason. If there is a playoff exit by this team, these seem like the likeliest avenues through which it will come.

It it comes. I give this team a legitimate chance to win it all.

Offense: Limited receiver separation

Give St. Louis their due for finally developing a strong plan for stopping Russell Wilson. The Rams D-line did a good job of containing the edges and keeping Wilson from slipping out into space. This left him pumping in the pocket looking for targets. Along with some well-timed stuffs of Lynch early on, the Rams were able to shut down an offense that had just scored 150 points in its last three games. Seattle's right-side O-line deserves some grace in light of the defensive line it faced, despite its horrid performance.

The Rams' plan in a nutshell: force Wilson to be Peyton Manning by stuffing the run, containing the edges, and requiring Wilson to beat the blitz through the air. In other words, a complete defensive effort. That's probably the closest thing to a blueprint for stopping this Seattle offense that exists at this point, though it required a very talented and well-coached defense to do it. (It's a little disappointing that Darell Bevell didn't try so much as a single screen or swing pass that I can offhand remember. A back-to-earth moment for him as well.)

How does an offense address this? If you look back over the last two months and watch Wilson's biggest plays with an objective eye, you'll notice that he's needing a lot of scrambling and improvisation to make it happen. He succeeds, so nobody questions them or looks for a cause. But it's an indicator that our wide receiving corps, now even more depleted than earlier, has nobody who gets quick separation or clears out zones consistently, leaving Wilson in the pocket tomahawking empty air with the football. He's not going to make a lot of risky throws (nor should he), so he needs that separation. And against defenses that can contain the edges, like St. Louis, that will leave him exposed, the O-line overburdened, and the offense jerky and stop-start like it was today.

Part of averting any sophomore slump for Wilson, in my opinion, lies with restacking our WR corps. They're obviously not going to leave the roster with four guys including Jermaine Kearse, so this is moot. But I'm looking forward to guys who can break off crisp routes and flash open quickly, and/or offer a deep threat to draw coverages away. Give Wilson even more options, hand Lynch a couple more yards up front, make defenses work even harder. Perhaps not in the first round, because Wilson's height will hide some of the shorter stuff anyway and thus can't fully justify a big WR investment. Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas has recently caught my eye as fitting the PC bill; I might write more about him soon.

Defense: Interior pass rush, slot cornerback

Seattle's pass rush was once again unaccounted for, negating the best coverage efforts of our secondary (even Marcus Trufant had a couple wily plays from the slot). Worse yet, today was the worst home performance we've seen from this unit all year. This will not do, either against Tony Romo or Robert Griffin III, to say nothing of who comes afterward. DT Jason Jones' move to IR has proven his value in retrospect, but even he may be too oft-injured to be the answer. An answer is needed, because despite Bruce Irvin's eight sacks this year, his impact has been spotty. Like Aldon Smith, he needs a lightning bear next to him to open up opportunities up the middle, and he needs experience, more pass-rush moves, and more discipline. As it is, he's still sorta the delayed-gratification pick he was in Week 1.

Earlier last week, CB Walter Thurmond tweeted that his season had come to an end. The Seahawks never confirmed that they had moved Thurmond to IR. Don't hold your breath expecting him to wind up there this week either, as neither Marcus Trufant nor Jeremy Lane performed particularly well in his absence. Lane has promise, but remains as raw as a rug burn. Pete Carroll has established a habit of making roster moves based on what other talent he has available on his roster. It says a lot about Thurmond's potential that Pete drafted him in the fourth round after a gruesome college injury and then hung onto him up until this point. He might still have a place on this team.

The linebacking corps is not a glaring need nor necessarily demands a first-round move, as few 4-3 defenses are known for their linebackers. Also, only a churl would complain about the linebackers on the #1 scoring defense. But you could say that OLB is perhaps not "competition-proof". Perhaps we should just settle for a stud defensive tackle and see what Malcolm Smith and KJ Wright become.


The Seahawks have defied my expectations. A young team with a bunch of rookies and sophomores, especially at vital positions - I figured 10-6, but with my projected wins concentrated in very different parts of the schedule.

Instead, the Seahawks have played tough, persevered through ups and downs and some undeserved criticism from fans and media alike. The result: the 3rd 11-win season of the franchise against incredibly touch competition, the #1 scoring defense, a rookie QB breaking records and vying for Offensive Rookie of the Year (who cares, go to the Super Bowl!), five Pro Bowlers and a gaggle of alternates including the best cornerback in the league, all the love that DVOA can muster, a playoff berth that was an agonizing Braylon Edwards drop away from being the #2 seed...

...and most importantly, validation. The Rams handed this team a knuckle sandwich today, and they spun around and jumped right back into the fray. They are alive in January with the experience, credibility, and self-confidence to be considered a legitimate NFC title contender. Imagine them after this upcoming draft, rich in all the missing pieces this team needs.

This could get really, really good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Were Here When the Butterfly Opened its Wings

150 points in 3 games.

For comparison, the 1992 squad scored 140 points in that entire season. Now, 100 consecutive points at home with no answering score from the whoever the hell was forced to endure a trip to Seattle. Annihilation, destruction, havoc and Jim Harbaugh's face left blank. It all adds up to the team nobody wants to play. Drop to your knees and thank the lord of schedule making, Indy, you get to keep living in your paper palace. Nobody knows what a fraud you are, because you don't have to face the Seahawks.

This was not expected by even the devoted. Not this. Until we saw it with our own eyes, this offense was an exercise in potential. There was no proof it was even possible, with 30 points being the most we had scored in a single game all season.

What happened? I was pretty vocal about the playcalling up to and after the Miami game, and I felt validated about those criticisms when Pete acknowledged they could have thrown it a bit more. Our offense was multiple, but there was a governor on the throttle, and that governor was a call sheet and Motorola mic in the hands of Darell Bevell. But it wasn't really. Pete was afraid of turnovers, and he had to learn just like everybody else to put his faith in Russell Wilson. Pete was the governor on our throttle.

Our offense has consisted of Run and Deep Shots, and if the safety is covering too, roll out and throw it away. We played that game for most of the season and 55 minutes in Chicago. Sure, there was the occasional changeup to the formula, but it felt like 55 minutes of dueling with wooden practice swords more than strategic playcalling. The governor was still in place, and a defense that had played great was looking like it would get the blame for giving up 14 measly points. Because we had 10. 

And with Seattle's backs against the wall, Pete finally removed the governor. He finally allowed Russell to be the player the other team has to worry about. He finally let the point guard decide when he drives and when he dishes. 

When that warrior had secured the victory, we could have gone back to the old way of doing things, but Seattle's defense really did blow it this time.

 And that was the best thing that could have happened to our team. Really.

Yes, allowing a team to drive the field in under 30 seconds and take a game to overtime was the best thing that could have happened to the Hawks, you heard me. Because Seattle kept the governor off the offense yet again, and yet again Russell proved he is to be trusted fully and completely to do the right thing.

The whole team needed those two drives. The explosion of takeaways that has resulted is from those drives. Our defense had slowly gone from aggressive to conservative in approach, knowing how much our game plan depended on them not making any mistakes. In every game, they had to choose to either attack or control the offense, and the result was a run defense that was not aggressive and what felt like a defense in slow decline because they had been carrying the rest of the team.

In all games since, Seattles offense has found points quickly in the first quarter, and the defense has responded with formerly repressed aggression. All three phases of the game are working together as a single unit for the first time all year. Because of two drives on the road in Chicago.

Pete will always build around the run, so in a sense, that governor will always exist. But that is a very good thing; to attack through the air always is to sacrifice physicality for precision, and physicality has to be part of our identity. Physicality is play action, is the basis of run option, and is just plain vital to the attitude of our offensive line. The governor on the quarterback is gone though, and that is how the ugly little caterpillar has become something beautiful. Gone are notions of making the quarterback climb the pocket because the play calls for it. Gone are the notions that the West Coast Offense must have the quick slants that Russell will always struggle to complete. Gone are the notions of smoke screens as the best option to get the ball from quarterback to receiver.

Pete trusts Wilson. Now this is the NFL, and stuff happens, and Wilson will make more mistakes, maybe even some mistakes that cost us games. But Pete knows he won't make them from bad habits, won't make them from trying to make the impossible happen, and won't make them because the overall pressure of the game has gotten to him. I was afraid that in the future we would have to deal with a coach who struggled to give up control to his ever growing quarterback, and those fears have evaporated. That speaks volumes about Pete. For a "defensive" coach to give up control isn't easy, and Pete's near phobia of turnovers can't make it easy to surrender control. Pete preaches humble, and he walks it too, at least to the extent you can in that profession. I would compare what Pete is doing to a music teacher who realizes he has this one truly special student, and one day he realizes this student just doesn't need sheet music anymore.

The bandwagon is going to fill up fast. More casual fans than you, the reader of this too-long article, will now begin to annoy you as they make it harder and more expensive to get tickets. This board is going to be gaining fans who are more fans of players than the laundry they wear, and who enjoy success more than the process. Fans who are fickle when we lose, and just as quick to let a little adversity make them complain as they are to let a little success go to their heads. 

That's OK. You were here when the butterfly opened its wings.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

17 Things I Love About the Jets Win

In no particular order.

1. Darell Bevell getting quicker on the adjustment trigger. It used to be that we wouldn't see any offensive adjustments until halftime. On Sunday, once it became clear that Russell Wilson was struggling with the defensive looks the Jets were throwing at him (for which no rookie should ever be condemned), Bevell moved immediately. He went back to the run to give Wilson some space, hoping to pull the Jets back up into the box. Then he started calling some screens to neutralize the pass rush. These proved to be effective moves, generated some momentum. Nimbleness on play-calling - definitely a big improvement.

2. Screens. If I'd told you in September that the Seahawks would soon not only improve at screens but make them a centerpiece of the offense behind a consistent Golden Tate, you'd have laughed at me. (Of course, if I'd told you back then that I would actually write another blog post one day, you'd have laughe at me too.) Ironic - our offensive line was actually better at executing screens today than it was at ordinary pass protection.

3. Golden Tate's touchdown dance. I'm sorry, but that little guy's exultation after his first-quarter touchdown just put a big grin on my face. Such a happy thing.

4. Richard Sherman. This guy is changing games. If he doesn't make the Pro Bowl, there is no justice in the world.

5. Russell Wilson's deep-ball placement. Another item on the long laundry list of things that Wilson has fixed in a hurry this year. The guy just puts that ball right where it needs to go. Sidney Rice is rewarding him for it, averaging 14 yards per reception on the year.

6. The Beast. I'm not sure he's gotten the memo that his back is hurting. What are they putting in those Skittles? Congratulations on your second 1,000-yard rushing season in a row, Marshawn Lynch.

7. Russell Wilson's demeanor. Part of it is that he's just not a hugely expressive guy - his face is a pretty set one, fairly reserved even when hollering into the phone at his draft party while his wife pulled a Mummy mouth next to him. But I'll bet the Seahawks' offense feels pretty safe under his direction on the field. One cool customer - unflappable and short memory.

8. Pete Carroll's QB grooming program. If you examine Wilson's progress carefully, you see a very intentional pattern of playbook development and decision-making training for Wilson. It's borne fruit. The Seahawks have kept themselves in games by minimizing turnovers, at the expense of boring a few fans along the way, but are now finding identity, chemistry, and favorite plays on offense. This program has been drawn up and executed brilliantly.

9. Bobby Wagner. With KJ Wright off the field today, Seattle's candidate for DROY was presumably handling all the defensive calls. Forget the 81 tackles stat - high tackle numbers could just mean that QB's aren't afraid to throw at you. What I like is his speed, reactions, and discipline. The tape backs him up even better than his stats do. Speaking of which...

10. LB coach Ken Norton. This guy has done real magic with our linebacking corps, and it showed up today with our depth as Mike Morgan made some positive plays in relief of KJ Wright and never gave up anything big. Both he and Wagner could have picked a tougher opponent to prove themselves against, sure, but still.

11. Having a bye next week. Was pleasantly surprised to see how many nicked-up players made it back onto the field this week, but this team has been wearing down and could use the week off. Lots of offensive experience to build on with the whiteboards at the VMAC.

12. That flea-flicker in the second quarter. No, it didn't quite result in a touchdown. But given Seattle's expertise in running the ball, and how many resources our opponents are devoting to stop it, I'd have thought we'd be seeing flea-flickers sooner.

13. Skill-position chemistry. Russell Wilson's receivers are really getting a feel for each other. Coordinating on scrambling drills, coming back for the ball, trusting Wilson's ball placement enough to stick with their routes.  Great stuff.

14. The read option. It's leading to some awesome Wilson scrambles for first downs. Very effective wrinkle.

15. NOT taking a knee in the final two minutes of the half. Gosh I hate that.

16. Zach Miller catching five passes. Much of that contract that has some fans wringing their hands is given to him for his run-blocking, which makes sense for a run-first team. But you love to see the guy Beastmoding his way to the first down marker and providing a security blanket down the seam.

17. Our playoff chances. Detroit has been shoved further down the schedule, leaving only Tampa and Green Bay to duke it out for wild-card spots with us. Only two truly mammoth games remain on Seattle's schedule, one at home (SF). The rest are against floundering teams, starting with Miami, whose quarterback threw three picks against a bottom-five passing defense today. At home.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A positive outlook on the Rams loss

UPDATED to include third-down efficiency in the "Ugly" section. Completely escaped my mind when I wrote this.

Seahawks fans were writing this team's loss narrative before the team even got on the plane to St. Louis. Short week. Trap game. Distraction from the Packers win. These are the things that will get labeled as the culprits for the loss, but it won't be accurate. The real reasons are the same ones that have been plaguing the team from Week 1: penalties, WR gaffes, red-zone struggles, Wilson's usual a word, youth.

It's also important to acknowledge our assumptions that the Rams were still garbage and that Sam Bradford was still in his sophomore slump. That's the danger of carrying over assumptions from last year. It bites us all in the ass. The thinking was that we should have been sacking Bradford and picking his passes off all day, and that any failure to do so was an indictment of the Seahawks since, hey, Bradford's still a wreck. Instead, the Rams are good this year. Bradford is emerging, his chemistry with his receivers is showing up, and he finally has a veteran coach who gets him.

With the 49ers lambasting the Jets on the road today, the verdict is out: the NFC West is a tough, experienced, competitive division this year and might be that way for a long time.

All that said, this loss was the swallowable sort if we're looking purely at the game and not its playoff implications. We lost by six points and limited the Rams' touchdowns to a trick play. Those six points all came in a dome from a Rams kicker whose iron legs probably could have held up the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Against most teams, this game goes to overtime.

I actually saw quite a few improvements today from the Seahawks, signs of progress. They didn't lead to a win, but neither is this team a "train wreck" that has Pete Carroll on coaches' death row. We saw Seattle stick to its identity, play the run and underrated defense against a good game plan by the Rams, and in the end, lose because we couldn't deliver the final play. We might see a lot of that until our offense clicks.

Of course, I wasn't one of the ones thinking "Super Bowl Now", so my expectations - and thus my current state of mine - are different. If you wanted Seattle to contend this year, you might be frustrated. But this was a downer game for me too, because in all likelihood, Seattle lost the division today. It'll be hard to come back from a 0-2 division record.

I'm really starting to like the "optimism" thing, so I'mma start with the ugly.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Hypocrisy of Goldengate

Hawkblogger spoke some immortal words today during a podcast.
There is only one way out of this, and Seahawks fans better buckle up, because whether or not the Seahawks did anything wrong, we are public enemy #1. Every play that goes against us, (in the country's opinion) we deserve it. Every time we lose, we deserve it. The only way out of this hole is to win the Super Bowl. The last time that the nation laughed at us and pointed fingers and disrespected this franchise, we caused an earthquake. That is going to have to happen again for the rest of the season, every single game. Seahawks fans better bring it, Seahawks players better bring it, and we'd better bring it until we bring the championship home this year, next year, and the year after. Until they can talk all they want about that one play and it will be a distant memory.
I walked into work Tuesday morning having not been able to watch the Packers game. First thing before attacking my skyscraper of ungraded papers, I opened and checked the score. My mouth dropped open in astonished delight at the exact moment as one of my Algebra 2 students, a pack of five others right behind him, yanked open my door, leaned in, and without any greeting or preamble, hollered "" They know I'm a Twelve, and they wouldn't let go of the refrain all day: "The Seahawks? Seriously?" (Admittedly, this was mostly revenge from their being Cowboys fans.)

Every Twelve knows in his heart the phenomenon that Hawkblogger and I are describing here. The Seahawks are not the darlings of the NFL. We are not one of the media-market teams that bring ratings to the league's showcase games. We are not the team that the league would hold up as their paragon of talent and hardnosed professionalism. Our team is the red-headed stepchildren, and we share its status amongst fan circles.

For years, this status has taken passive voice as "Southern Alaska" as the team has wallowed in the muck of mediocrity with nobody feeling the need to pile on. Before that, it was "bullies of the basement" as we dominated the weak NFC West. It reached a passive-aggressive crescendo as the Seahawks trotted out to "Bittersweet Symphony" in Super Bowl XL and promptly got handed a yellow-colored, not-so-subtle memo as to which team's storylines the league thought more of. And once Pete Carroll the Rebel arrived, the laughter only increased.

So now that Golden Tate, Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor and associates have finally taken a stand against the willful ignorance and literally body-slammed their way into the national spotlight, will the Seahawks ever be known as anything other than "The Ones Who Kept the Packers From Starting 2-1"?

I cannot believe the hypocrisy sweeping the nation over the Golden Tate touchdown. Forget the validity of the call for a moment. Where was this rending of garments and gnashing of teeth at the end of Super Bowl XL? I vividly remember the resounding snide dismissal from around the country: "If you wanted to win, there were plenty of dropped passes your team could have avoided. You deserved to lose. Deal with it."

Yet Aaron Rodgers, one of the league's best pressure-defeating, laser-accurate passers, so skilled that Matt Flynn (according to some Seahawks fans) has absorbed all his blitz-defeating ability by osmosis without even having to start more than twice - Rodgers is not given the same tough-love treatment. He's painted as a victim.

And he actually has a Super Bowl ring.

And you want me to believe that this is about the integrity of the game?


This is about a tough loss to one of the nation's popular "identity" teams. This is about "blue-collar quarterback" Aaron Rodgers and one of the league's precious, ratings-grabbing, high-flying passing offenses getting clobbered by good, plain, old-fashioned defense (by the way, folks, the Seahawks are pretty good at that now). It's about one of the NFL's night-game regulars getting whalloped, offensively brought down to the level of the 2006 Browns in front of the whole country, by an underdog that pundits keep in a glass-enclosed case labeled "Break in Case of Need for Punchline".

Where was all this indignation last year when the real referees blew a fourth-quarter call on a Leon Washington touchdown return? That call would have lifted the Seahawks to a victory over...oh, right. Cleveland. Nobody gives a damn about that team. Forget that it could have changed Seattle's season.

Where would the New Yorker's hand-wringing have been had Aaron Rodgers been the one throwing that "game-winning interception"? Pretty sure it would be relegated almost purely to the 12th Man.

Where would Herm Edwards' disgust towards Pete Carroll have been had Golden Gate scored against the Rams? Non-existent.

Where was Clay Matthews all of Monday night? Same mysterious pocket universe that DeMarcus Ware and all my pencils and old socks went to, I'm guessing.

Where were all the national media writers during their class on journalistic integrity? Asleep on their desks, as evidenced by their gall in subtly accusing the Seahawks of "robbing" millions of willing gamblers who were dumb enough to put down their money on a sports game that they have zero control over. That right there, like Hawkblogger said, is the giveaway. That betrays the bias for me. There's no backpedaling from that. The hand has been tipped. The media officially has zero perspective on the whole thing.

So don't come to me mourning over the death of football's integrity, treating it like some whitewashed lamb led to the slaughter by some punk wide receiver who merely did what every wide receiver does on a hail mary. Or whatever such melodramatic crap you're trying to pull.

Don't pretend that the touchdown was the only bad call that determined the game.

Don't pretend this is the first time a team has been defeated by the zebras.

Don't accuse the Seahawks of dishonest arrogance for not shuffling up to the microphone with lowered heads and admitting that they "cheated".

Don't act as if Aaron Rodgers deserved to win after being reduced to panicky checkdowns and sent scrambling for his life for an entire half by a fourth-round Eagles castoff before hunkering down behind his running game just to survive the night. (Credit where due: he still made many excellent throws.)

And this to the players and media especially: DON'T...DON'T...DON'T EVEN HINT that this is the first time you've noticed how bad the replacement referees are, or how much impact it has. Don't you dare. Nobody else needed this game to figure that out, you Dallas-loving pack of hypocrites. This isn't about the situation reaching "critical mass", highlighting the bad call to hasten Ed Hochuli's return. Your double standard is so transparent that birds fly right into it.

You'll notice I haven't even addressed the call itself. I don't plan to. I don't need to. The intensity of the self-righteous outcry from the league, the media, and some of the players themselves...that's indication enough of what's really going on here. This isn't about football's honor. It's about the challenge to its reigning oligarchy. The Seahawks weren't "given a gift" when the referee threw up his hands in the "touchdown" motion. They played a hell of a game, walked up to the Packers and punched them in the mouth for the four quarters before that play, representing the numerous teams who are demonstrating to these elite quarterbacks that balance, defense, discipline, and toughness still matter in this league.

In the end, though, all my words are naught. Football fans have never been a receptive bunch. Neither have mediots. The only thing Seattle can do to earn respect (albeit grudging) is win, and win lots. We've stepped over the line now, made a claim. And we all saw this tipping point coming last year once the Legion of Boom started throwing people around and crowing about it on Twitter. We knew people would notice. We quieted the critics for a while during the Beastquake, but last year it was taken to a whole new level. All it took was the proper platform to announce our arrival on the block. It's here now, and we'll have to back up our smack every week, every day, just like Richard Sherman.

I'm not sure I agree with Hawkblogger that Seattle will be a contender this year. But I do agree with this: boy, are we going to catch hell if they aren't. Fair or not.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Packers Game a Test for the Entire Seahawks Team

My Seahawks fandom doesn't require me to blindly predict wins. If any fan chooses to be realistic and call the game as he sees it, then that's his right, and nobody else has anything to say about it.

So I'm going to step out and say that the Seahawks face an uphill battle on Monday when the Packers swing by for their round in the Clink. There is, in fact, potential for a Green Bay blowout. That would be far more heartbreaking than a close loss, an implication that we've overestimated the defense's growth so far and provided a get-well game for Green Bay's aerial attack.

Then again, what point is there in being a fan if there's not at least a mustard seed of optimism in his heart? Some folks seem to enjoy going against the grain, worshiping "rationality" almost to the point that others are justified in wondering if they have a pulse. Appearances aside, I'm not one of those guys. Is not hope a component of fandom? And so it is that I can say the Seahawks are better-equipped and closer to the ability to stop a truly elite quarterback than they ever have before.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

17 Fistpumps: Seahawks Out-Team America's Team 27-7

* With Arizona proving its defensive chops against Tom Brady and his offense today, their 20-16 victory over the Seahawks last week is open to reinterpretation. It now looks less like an offensive turd on Seattle's part and more like a young team looking for its footing against an outstanding defense whose strengths matched up perfectly against our weaknesses. Take note: the NFC West is quickly becoming a defensive division.

* As Mike Sando eloquently put, this must-win victory game was stamped with Carroll's style. Physical running game, elite defense, special teams, efficient quarterbacking, turnovers from the opponent and only from them. Seattle's offense was listless until halftime, but the defense bucked up impressively on two long drives and outlasted Romo and an impressive array of receivers. Once Seattle finally re-committed to its running game, the ball started rolling and never stopped to give Romo more chances.

* We're definitely starting to see a "Good Russell Wilson" and "Bad Russell Wilson" emerge. Starting with the last major drive of the second quarter, the good half clicked in, started pulling down his passes and showing some poise and progressions. It was quite a noticeable difference. His collected demeanor after his touchdown to McCoy, and on the sidelines during the cruise to victory, were also striking. The guy is one cool customer. Lots of stuff to build on here.

* I hear some Cowboys fans weren't worried about the absence of NT Jay Ratliff, calling his replacement an upgrade. It didn't look like that today. Once the running game started coming online, Seattle's big boys were getting great push, including right guard JR Sweezy, last week's goat. John Moffitt, who rotated with Sweezy at RG, had a solid day as he helped FB Mike Robinson clear a lane on Marshawn Lynch's 36-yard run, then had a great pull block to seal the lane on his touchdown. I can't tell you how good it feels to see Seattle pushing D-lines back two yards again. Therapeutic after five long years of brick-wall impotence.

* Marshawn Lynch, for his part, doesn't appear to have lost a step. Here's hoping that he can stay in the business longer than most feature backs seem to these days. Robert Turbin is stepping right up beside him and also had a couple of nice checkdown receptions. I love the fact that we have two tough runners; it'll keep the offense's job easy if one of them suffers injury.

* It might have taken a little while, but TE Anthony McCoy is finally promising to join the long list of late-round picks that Seattle has turned into big contributors. The chemistry with Wilson is definitely there. Rob Staton at Seahawks Draft Blog was always calling McCoy a borderline first-round talent who dropped because of behavior concerns.

* Also hinting at emergence is Golden Tate, finally. He came up with a couple key plays, a big jailbreak catch for 20 yards and a sandlot reception in the red zone to set up Lynch's game-sealing touchdown jaunt. He might be a good match with a smart improvisor (is this a word?) like Wilson.

* Brandon Browner gave up a touchdown on his weekly whiff against a double-move. It's a frustrating tendency, but dang it, he just never stops coming up with interceptions to win us over again.

* The pass rush deserves more credit that it's getting. Yeah, we gave up a lot of scrambling, fourth-read conversions on third down, but Tony Romo is like that. Slippery and a brilliant artist on the run. Our guys were still all over him much of the time and had several very-near sacks. Result: Dallas scores one touchdown on blown coverage and never reaches the red zone.

* Seattle's coverage rarely surrendered easy receptions and often forced Romo to extend plays, giving our pass rush time. Yeah, Romo was up to the challenge and Jason Witten made a glaring easy drop late in the second, but that's Pete's defensive formula - coverage helping pass rush as well as vice versa. (Saw a Cowboys fan call Witten "the new TO". Tee hee.) To wit: Alan Branch, Bobby Wagner, Chris Clemons, Jason Jones, Bruce Irvin, and Chris Maragos combined for 6 QB hits. And between Clemons, KJ Wright (awesome day), Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman (almost his second pick), and Brandon Browner (his first pick), Seattle defensed seven passes (though they're probably closing in on the NFL record for dropped interceptions). Thanks to Adam Wright for those bits.

* Even so, a lot of these good things seem to wait until we blitz. Once Bradley backed off the aggression in the second quarter, Romo seemed happier, at least to a degree. Three-man rushes weren't a good answer for that strong a receiving group.

* Replacement refs suck wastewater, no matter whom you're rooting for.

* The offensive line remains very touchy with the penalties. Is this the sign of a young, raw team, or a byproduct of Cable's nasty physicality that will be hard to overcome?

* I'm having a hard time shaking the feeling that this team is very slow to start. Pete preaches finishing well, but that's not always feasible in this league and certainly won't be in Green Bay. If Pete wants to keep the running game in his toolbox at all times, this team had better improve in the first half.

* Props to Frank Omiyale. Didn't look like the pinball flag we expected against DeMarcus Ware. Maybe Tom Cable does know what he's doing!

* Stifling a playmaker like DeMarco Murray is a big credit to our linebacking corps.

* At this rate, by the time Pete Carroll is done as head coach, there will be enough .GIFs of devastating pancake-blocks by Seahawks on both sides of the ball to fill up the Internet.

On to Green Bay!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Alternative Theories to "Darell Bevell Is An Idiot"

When it comes to football, there's usually more than one interpretation for almost everything. On Sunday against Arizona, Seahawks fans saw offensive struggles that are being popularly chalked up to poor planning. Offensive coordinator Darell Bevell is getting a lot of flak for this (and a generous sprinkling of insults), but that's pretty easy. Good game plans can look bad when executed poorly. Whether Bevell cooked up an inadequate game plan is difficult to tell, because the lurking factor is Seattle's roughshod execution in every facet of the offense except the running game.

The general belief is that Seattle didn't do enough to counteract Arizona's pass rush, that Bevell failed to utilize common pressure-neutralizing plays like screens, slants, outlets, and more emphasis on the tight end. The conclusion is that Bevell was just clueless, despite the fact that we've seen such features from him before.

The unspoken assumption that you might not have realized you're carrying: that all of Seattle's offensive players can handle those plays. That a bunch of rookies and new signings were perfectly trained, healthy, in sync, and ready to execute every facet of Seattle's playbook, just waiting on the sidelines for the call, while an oblivious Bevell merrily skipped along waving a gameplan that made the game as hard on Wilson and the interior line as possible.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 1 Reaction: No Apocalypse Now

Someone at Fieldgulls said it best:

Week 1 Commandment #1:

Neither shalt thou get over-excited over a win or overly disappointed by a loss. Week 1 is the most anomaly filled day in all of sports. (King James emphasis mine, because I can.)

Today is a comedown day for Seahawks fans. I had almost forgotten just how nasty and vitriolic we football fans can be after a loss. And I'd forgotten it because the 12th Man just wasn't very nasty last year. Not like this. My memory of 2011 was of muted, resigned, relatively tranquil reactions when the Seahawks lost, not the sarcastic poo-flinging that we're seeing right now.

Why the difference? My fellow bloggers have already nailed it - expectations. Your therapist will tell you that your emotions are dependent mostly on your goals. In 2011, people stopped hoping as soon as Tarvaris Jackson signed. Hence, muted reactions. It was a development season, a punted year.

This year, Russell Wilson's preseason polish had folks thinking they could see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel. He faced a talented starting Kansas City defense that did not play the degree of sandlot football that some claim, and showed far more veteran polish that the typical preseason-disaster-in-waiting who just stares from the pocket like a rock and sidearms to wide-open guys. There was some real promise there. So the Arizona game was supposed to be the beginning of the get-well process - I myself mistakenly dubbed it "Week 5 of the preseason".

Here's what happened - Seattle started the season against a tougher defense than Kansas City, assured itself a heavy dose of blitzing by starting a rookie QB(!!!!!) against a well-respected NFL defensive coordinator, struggled in its very first game(!!!!!) on the road(!!!!!), and was still a Braylon Edwards drop(!!!!!) from winning.

Yes, that's what happened. Go back and look at the score. It was 20-16, not 120-16. You wouldn't know that from the current meltdown. The exclamation marks indicate things that aren't supposed to shock you.

Some will go "a loss is still a loss". Well, no, it's not. Not for this fan. I barely care about this season. I've never seen 2012 as a contention year, haven't since Pete Carroll arrived. Maybe I'll be surprised, but my expectations were limited from the outset. That puts me in the minority, but there it is. Championships take time to build. Pass rushes and star quarterbacks are the biggest examples of this, and we only just got those (maybe). And I'm not part of the camp that believes that teams can win Super Bowls with running and defense against a league dominated by Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. In my opinion, this team's Super Bowl window absolutely does not open until 2013 at the very earliest.

For me, the stakes on Sunday were still developmental. I wanted to see Russell Wilson play like a rookie Peyton Manning instead of a rookie David Greene (there's a difference); he did. He threw several winning touchdowns that got dropped, bought at least two first downs with his feet that I remember, and never once folded or lost composure. His ball placement was erratic but (FAINT PRAISE ALERT) remains a world improved from Tarvaris Jackson. Yeah, he "played like a rookie", but that current popular phrase could mean a million different things. Wilson looked nowhere near as primitive as that blunt instrument that's starting in Miami.

And no, I'm not convinced that Matt Flynn would have done any better. Despite his reputation for handling blitzes well in Green Bay, Flynn looked slow with his reads and downright sack-prone in a full game's worth of preseason snaps. It's not hard to provide a reason why - adjustment to much worse receivers on a differently-called offense. My guess: Flynn would have been destroyed behind that O-line.

I wanted to see our running game pick up from 2011 without missing a beat; it did. I wanted to see our defense blanket Larry Fitzgerald and stymie our QB into sacks; it did, when instructed to. I wanted to see our pass rush tearing out the interior of Arizona's line and burying John Skelton in three hundred pounds of sweaty man.

Okay, so that last part blew chunks. That's really what worried me most. While everyone else was salivating and over-prognosticating Wilson's rookie season, I was excited about our defense growing into the ability to bring OTHER quarterbacks down to Wilson's level. I really hoped that this year's pass rush would find its way.

That clearly hasn't happened yet. No surprise - Game 1. Irvin is getting no better results than a lighter Lawrence Jackson, and actually reminds me of said now-Lion in his reliance on an ineffective bullrush. Chris Clemons was not his usual self against an Arizona tackle situation that had deteriorated to Kyle Williams territory, although much of that was down to better pass scheming on Arizona's part. Alan Branch still isn't showing me the promise he apparently showed everyone else last season, and Jason Jones isn't yet an improvement.

But it's only Week 1. I get the distinct feeling that despite our hopes, Pete Carroll was still treating Week 1 as a preseason game. There was a bit of an experimental feel to it, given the narrow play-calling and tendencies (either that, or Darell Bevell really is an oaf). I don't agree with the experimental approach, but Pete has always shown an element of "growing into the season" in Seattle. No doubt there are elements of this going on, whether we like it or not.

We have a few players waiting in the wings, yet to emerge. John Moffitt will hopefully be back soon, and behind him, James Carpenter. Golden Tate will also return, to the delight of those who think another two-catches-a-game WR will change things. If the Jones experiment doesn't work out, we have another promising project in Jaye Howard. Doug Baldwin has yet to return to full strength.

As far as Wilson, I'm going to take great comfort in the fact that he was one dropped pass from winning. Pete Carroll has never been ignorant of the risk of starting a rookie. Is he willing to trade a few losses for the sake of more quickly building the experience of the QB with more upside? Are fans willing to watch this?

Besides, let's be honest: if Braylon Edwards makes that TD catch, the tone around here would be much different and we all know it. It'd be about how Wilson "did enough to win an ugly game", and you wouldn't see nearly the intensity of the criticism. The ultimate setter of tone, the emotional filter through which we critique, is always whether we win or lose. There'd be the few isolated worriers and naysayers, but they'd get drowned out.

This reaction isn't about where the team is. It's about where we are. This is about losing. We don't like to lose. We shouldn't. But progress is happening, folks. It may not come on our schedule, but it is coming.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Russell Wilson: A Safe Choice for Seattle

So...who's NOT happy to have the competition over at last? Put your hand down, you in the back. You weren't enjoying this either.

The mantle has just been handed to Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll has named QB Russell Wilson, a third-round rookie out of Wisconsin, as the Seahawks' starting quarterback for 2012. He will open Seattle's 2012 campaign against Arizona, a team in such disarray that they might as well be Week 5 of the preseason.

This is's being said in some corners that Pete Carroll had "no choice" but to start Wilson after his impressive preseason start against Kansas City. That's a cynical view of the situation and feels like an extension of the popular doubt that's followed the whole competition. Allow me to phrase this another way: Russell Wilson forced the issue like a true starter should. He made a statement, made himself stand out. As Mike Sando put it (in one of the strongest opinions I've ever seen from him), picking Wilson was the only logical way to end a true competition, because he went with the guy who won the competition. Did you want it any other way?

Get it through your head, America: When Pete Carroll says "earn everything", it's not rah-rah.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Seattle's QB Competition is Really, Truly, Honestly, Completely Open

This is a long one. Bring a lunch.

What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall of Pete Carroll's cranial cavity. I know, ewww, but it'd be nice to get some clarity amidst our bias and preconception. We've all got the quarterback candidates pigeonholed pretty well for ourselves by now. Tarvaris Jackson represents strength, toughness, experience, and incumbency. Matt Flynn represents the poise, mental acuity, technical skill, and the "Rodgers Factor" of developing over time. And Russell Wilson represents the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. It's not surprising to see the fan base divided so sharply into camps depending on what they value.

Problem is, Pete may actually mean it when he says he doesn't have any more clarity than we do. I don't think people want to believe that right now. Some are worried about the declining returns of dividing camp snaps, some honestly can't imagine Flynn NOT currently being the best of the bunch so why wait, and some people aren't reading for any words except "Tarvaris Jackson cut". There's an edge of worry that's starting to seep into our opinions the longer this goes on, especially now that T-Jack is still getting significant time with the first team in camp. This stymies some people, since it's popularly assumed that Jackson is the worst QB on the roster.

This is forcing people into a tough quandary: Either Pete's full of it, or he knows something we don't. Most people assume the former, that Pete is just way too enamored with his "competition" mantra, needs to quit grandstanding and just hand the job to Flynn already. Because he won the job the moment he was signed, right? Problem is, this requires rationalization and speculation that's almost on the level of conspiracy theory. Pete's just pushing the QB's, he's trying to bump up Jackson's miniscule trade value, all his comments to the media are to be ignored, etc. And I don't want to go that route. I've learned to trust Pete. Isn't it possible that he's simply got different yardsticks for the competition than we do? And isn't it possible that Flynn might not be all that he was advertised?

It's funny that Flynn is so often compared to Matt Hasselbeck, because I think a hint to better understanding this competition might lie in revisiting Hasselbeck's final seasons in Seattle (Hawkblogger's breakdowns of Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson also demand a read).

Friday, July 13, 2012

17 Sentences on Whether Chris Clemons is Really Underrated

Pro Football Weekly saluted Seattle DE Chris Clemons as the NFL's most underrated player today, continuing a trend of grudging but increasing respect from the national media as they slowly realize that Pete Carroll is NOT, in fact, just signing every USC alumi he can find.

I'm usually one of those annoying posers who dismisses production that doesn't appear to be sustainable, and indeed the Clemons' label as "NFL's most underrated" has a few people cocking their heads. Clemons gets a lot of his sacks on blitzes and on specific but seemingly random third downs (and against the Rams), gets shut down a lot on double teams, and has a rather limited toolbox (quick first step, great closing speed amongst them) that doesn't remind one of a complete DE. He also rarely does anything besides rush the passer, which might lead to inflated results and the question of whether Clemons is a true talent or merely benefiting from Seattle's defensive scheme.

But this is where I keep ending up with that question: who cares? At some point, arguing with results becomes churlish. Clemons has produced 11 sacks for each of the last two seasons since being traded from Philly for peanuts. He's accomplished this as the team's sole dedicated pass rusher. The horrifying gash people predicted in our run defense's left side due to Clemons' middling weight, has never really materialized. Getting double teamed isn't a failure for a DE - it's a success that opens up blitzing lanes and opportunities for the interior rushers. He's either talented enough to overcome his limits and create value, or he's being enabled by the one-on-one matchups the scheme affords him, which isn't necessarily a red alert.

Now, insert another dedicated pass rusher in Bruce Irvin (and some grease for the wheels of Clemons' new contract) and see what happens.

If you want a vote for most OVERRATED player on the Seahawks, I'd have to go with Ricardo Lockette. It says great things about this team that its most overrated player is only a backup WR, but it's mind-boggling the goodwill that Lockette has gotten by catching 2 passes on go routes. Most UDFA fliers could probably do that in two NFL games, and what it says about that WR is not significantly different from nothing. Add that Hawk Blogger has hinted that he's still dropping too many passes to assure a roster spot, and I'm astonished that people are (already) projecting him as an NFL starter. John Schneider must be pretty confident with someone in this group.

Six Possible QB Depth Charts

Recently, a "math" friend and I have been playing with probability questions that go against intuition. Probably the most famous is the Monty Hall Problem, based on the Let's Make a Deal TV show with doors numbered one, two, and three...

Let's say one of the three doors is a winner and the other two are "zonks". You pick a door at random, say door number three. Now the host reveals that one of the unpicked doors, say door number one, is a zonk and he offers you the chance to switch to the remaining door, door number two. Should you switch?

Most people feel that the odds are the same, or even better, sticking with door number three. Bzzt. Wrong answer. The odds when you picked door number three were 1 in 3. That doesn't change when the host reveals that door number one is a zonk. That means that the odds of door number two having the winner is now 2 in 3, given that a closed set of probabilities always add up to 1. So given the choice, always switch!

It doesn't make intuitive sense, but the math proves it out. They even tested it on Myth Busters, and practice matches theory. Hey, if Myth Busters proved it, it has to be true!

So that brings us to the Seahawk's quarterback situation. Who is behind doors number one, two, and three? More importantly, what does the organization do after they announce the starter?

So... there are six possible combinations. Using "F" as shorthand for Flynn, "J" for Jackson, and "W" for Wilson, we have FJW, FWJ, JFW, JWF, WFJ, and WJF. We can guess that FJW is the most likely: Flynn makes the most money and has experience behind the league's best QB, Jackson has the most experience but a limited ceiling, and Wilson doesn't just lack height; he lacks experience too. But the fact of the matter is that we fans have no idea. We haven't seen all three in meeting rooms, on the practice field, or in game situations with this offense. It's virtually even-steven, so I'm not going to put odds on who starts.

The more interesting thing is to look at who ends up in third place. That's what will determine the organizational moves.

Let's say it's FJW or JFW. Wilson is in last place. The (unbiased) odds are 1 in 3. If so, Flynn/Jackson end up as the starter and backup combo. According to Schneider, Wilson was a "must get" in the draft. That leaves Portis as the odd man out. He's either cut or put on the practice squad from which he will likely get snatched up by another team. Wilson is kept on the 53 man roster to keep him from being lost and to develop as a future starter/backup.

So far, Portis has a 1 in 3 chance of not being a Seahawk.

Next, lets assume that Jackson ends up in last place with FWJ or WFJ. If that happens, TJack gets cut. He would have no future. Portis is put on the 53 to protect him, since Portis would have more future upside than dead-end Jackson.

Now we can add a 1 in 3 chance that Jackson is gone.

Finally, we have Flynn tanking with JWF or WJF. This is a tough call. The team must either cut Flynn or lose Portis. With Portis as the #4 and all that guaranteed money to Flynn, I think Portis is gone and Flynn stays on the 53 as we try to improve his game. If Flynn doesn't improve, he could get cut the next year. If Flynn is on the bottom of the totem pole this year, I say there's a 50/50 chance he gets cut the following year.

So, given unbiased odds, I've got a 2 of 3 chance that Portis walks, and a 1 in 3 chance that Jackson is gone this year. We also have something like a 1 in 6 chance that Flynn is cut the following year.

The interesting thing is that I don't have any scenario where Wilson is cut in the near future. He's the only guy with job security. Portis, on the other hand, shouldn't buy a new house in Seattle and might think about a pre-move yard sale. His only chance to stay is if TJack fails.

The thing is, when Carroll announces the starter, he will be mum on who "placed" and who "showed." The way we will figure out the order of the number two and three spots will be based on contract moves from Schneider's office.

If there's a moral to the story, it's this: When you want to be the prize on Let's Make a Deal, don't stand behind door number four. Also, when you have the most experience, don't dare come in third place.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Defending the Bruce Irvin Pick

After coolly trading down to snatch up extra late-round picks (a mid-4th and a mid-6th), the Seattle Seahawks have sent the league into an incredulous tizzy by selecting DE Bruce Irvin out of West Virginia - a guy that, in defiance of the talking-head community, was projected as a Top 15 pick by at least seven teams, according to a PFT source.

Though I haven't done any scouting of the guy myself (although Kip Earlywine has, even if he didn't anticipate first-round interest - but who did?), I've been as able as anyone to pick up on the basic motifs of why people think this is an enormous reach:

1. He's not Melvin Ingram.

2. He's a pure pass rusher, and won't play three downs.

3. He's not Quinton Coples.

4. His production dropped off last year.

5. He's not Courtney Upshaw.

6. He's got off-the-field issues.

If your response is an odd number, please slap yourself in the face with a large trout. Fair discussion involves Irvin on his own merit, not why you didn't get your guy.

The most sensical worry for me is #2. Some have called Bruce Irvin "the best pure pass rusher in the draft", and that title carries both excitement and doubt. The paradigm for the first round is to look for complete players, guys who can rush the passer without sacrificing rush stoutness. Bruce Irvin is not such a three-down player. Pete has already tagged him a Leo. His role is to bring down quarterbacks, plain and simple.

However, if you're calling this a reach because Irvin is a pure pass rusher, you're ignoring recent draft history. Paradigms change and the NFL has become a pass-happy glut of passing passfests, with unprepared QB's going in the top 12 picks and pass rushers gaining more and more value. Jason Pierre-Paul and Aldon Smith, both guys that relied on athleticism and were tagged as pure pass rushers (or sure busts), also went higher than draftniks expected.

Neither team is regretting their picks right now. Their teams schemed them into success, found ways to get them into the backfield. The result has been double-digit sacks and a balancing of power in their respective divisions. A move like Irvin is surprising, but not without recent precedent. As the league shifts toward the pass, expect defensive priorities to shift with it.

Another team that's shown savvy with scheming pass rushers is the Seahawks, who in 2010 traded a more complete defensive end in Darryl Tapp in order to pick up Chris Clemons. The latter has been immensely productive for Seattle over two years despite being the line's only major source of pass rush. He has not compromised the defense by being terrible against the run, nor has he struggled by being somewhat underweight (both red flags against Irvin, who produced in college despite similar size). That speaks to Seattle's scheming on the defensive line.

Now, if Seattle can coax around 20 sacks from a late-20s defensive end without elite speed, what could they coax from a rookie who ran a 4.4 at the Combine?

Pete and John are throwing around some pretty distinguished names in comparison to Irvin. They've talked about his uniqueness, compared his speed to Jevon Kearse, evoked the burst of Von Miller, and announced a desire to deploy Irvin like Clay Matthews. Those are easy things to say from a podium, but they give us a framework and a hint of (surprise, surprise) an evil plan. They also don't have the same definitions for "3-down player" that you or I do, and for good reason. With defense rapidly becoming a mental game of chess against quarterbacks, pre-snap motion and confusing looks are becoming the name of the game. Mike Mayock rightly called our defense an "amoeba", similar to how Rex Ryan twists his defense. Count on Pete to find ways to get Irvin involved in all phases of the defense, including 1st and 2nd down. And with Clemons getting up there in age and likely to leave the lineup sooner rather than later, Irvin will find his playing time.

Irvin also deserves recognition for his upside. For those pointing out his lack of 2011 production, from what I've read, his relatively quiet 2011 has been placed on the shoulders of his coaching and scheming. Like Brandon Mebane or Jason Jones, Irvin was used last year in ways that don't fit his gifts, such as 3-4 defensive end. He hasn't been infused with a wide variety of pass-rush moves, and that's something that can be improved at the pro level. I've seen it argued that his coaches treated him as an instinctive player who would end up thinking too much if his game got too complicated - maybe. I don't know. But I certainly don't see a polished, finished product with only two years of decent football ahead of him, a la Tim Ruskell's picks.

It sounds for all the world like Bruce Irvin perfectly fits Seattle's vision for pass rush, and would very likely be at least a second-rounder if not for the off-the-field red flags. Pete Carroll coveted him for USC, knows him well, and we know he's not dogmatically put off by off-the-field concerns (therefore dealing with motif #6). Also, frankly, I'm relieved to see him NOT wringing his hands over run defense for once - plenty of talent in that area already on this defense. We didn't need our first-round pick to be complete; we needed our defense to be complete. Irvin might do that. The NFL is becoming a specialist's game, and in his singular role, Irvin could excel.

For those who were fine with taking Irvin in a later round - you have to remember that we aren't privy to teams' big boards. Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network has said that Irvin wasn't going to get past San Francisco's first round pick, and they know a thing or two about defense. There was the PFT source saying that at least seven teams were expecting Irvin to go in the Top 15. Teams rate players differently than draftniks - James Carpenter was bound to be taken within three picks of where Seattle got him - and that's a big factor in how teams decide their picks. Seattle got their guy when he was available, and even had the cool-headedness to slip down the board a bit and pile on the late-round picks while waiting.

And once again, in this day and age of football, being able to consistently get to the QB has a tendency to boost your draft stock almost automatically, regardless of what else you can do. This pick has to be viewed through that filter.

Besides...if this front office can coax Pro Bowlers out of 5th rounders and CFL imports, is anyone really THAT worried?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Class, Competition, and the Change That Might Not Be: Part 1

So, we've signed a starting quarterback with two starts under his belt who doesn't fit Pete's "mobile point guard" profile all that well, and NOW it's a good offseason?


It's nice when your thoughts organize themselves into convenient categories. My reaction to Seattle's signing of Matt Flynn is threefold. In brief: He's far from a bust-in-waiting. Still, it's a little surprising...and a little much excitement has been generated in Seattle by a 7th-round QB who has flashed success in very limited starting experience in the NFL's most efficient offense. Harsh way to put it? Sure. But not untrue, and not irrelevant.

I'll elaborate on Flynn later. First I want to talk about how his arrival affects our incumbent quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson.

I'm the last person to suggest that our QB situation last year was ideal. I know exactly what we have in Tarvaris Jackson: a "bridge QB" with glaring holes in his game who will probably never survive in the playoffs. And towards the end of the year as Jackson experienced a solid stretch as a "game manager", a lot of folks seemed content with that and gave Jackson credit for what he had accomplished. It's a rebuild, we said. We'll get there.

Then free agency came around, and the scent of new possibilities seemed to trigger all kinds of panting amongst the fan base.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lukewarm on the Red Bryant Re-Signing

DE Red Bryant is a favorite son of Seahawks fans. He's an exciting comeback story, an opportunistic playmaker in the mold of Carroll's perpetually overachieving "dirty defense", and certainly has a role in Seattle's lopsided scheme.

Today he finally signed an offer Seattle had on the table for a while, 5 years for $35 million. That was bigger than I was expecting. It was 40% bigger than Brandon Mebane's contract last year. I feel a bit like a stormtrooper in the midst of the celebration over Emperor Palpatine's death, but I have a few nagging reservations about this.

- First, it complicates efforts to sign DE Mario Williams. But this doesn't qualify as the foremost reason, because Williams to Seattle was never a certainty and perhaps never even a likelihood. I don't recall reading anything that really convinces me of drooling interest on Seattle's part. (While I was typing, Mike Sando confirmed this.) Outbidding four other teams to give him the largest DE contract in NFL history wouldn't exactly fit Carroll/Schneider's style. I'd qualify that by saying that Carroll/Schneider's style is to win at the end of the day, and Mario Williams would certainly service that. He'd have been a young, scheme-fitting, all-around superstar at a position of desperate need. But disappointment with Bryant over a free-agent signing that may never even have happened wouldn't be fair to our favorite relative of Jacob Green.

- Secondly, it takes the "Bryant experiment" and turns it into a long-term fixture. Red has a reputation of making life complicated for opponents' run games, but after two years I'm still not convinced that his impact is all that. What he did in 2010 was too circumstantial to trust, lambasting bad running teams in his first six games and happening to get hurt (along with the rest of the line) right as Seattle reached the worst part of its schedule. He stayed healthy in 2011, but Seattle's run defense didn't. It was declining towards the latter half of the season as speedier backs like Demarco Murray and Roy Helu found traction against them.

Something else that continues to decline is our pass rush. Everyone agrees that this is an issue, and while Bryant isn't an active part of the problem, he doesn't do much to help (and isn't intended to). He's a big guy with unusual quickness, but not enough agility or closing speed to harass quarterbacks, especially scrambling ones. This leaves our front pass rush up to one individual, which weakens it right away, as one of the elements of a successful pass rush is unpredictable origin. Carroll seemingly has plans to compensate with one hell of a blitzing linebacker corps, but that's not a requires blitzing lanes and still leaves coverage holes.

With due respect to wrinkles, if there are four players on the line when the ball is snapped, it's a 4-3, and a 4-3 mandates pressure from the 4. That isn't going to be Red, and any pass-rush specialist that spells him to get it will have to be cheap. That, even more than the cap hit, means no Mario - or anyone expensive, for that matter. You don't spend $22+ million annually on one position being shared by two players. Mario couldn't even displace Chris Clemons, because that would preserve the original problem - front QB pressure coming from only one place, a strategic disadvantage. To really blow this thing open, pass-rush reinforcements would need to go right where Red has just been entrenched, and not just on third down. "Hey look, Red's coming off the field, they must be gunning for Brady!"

Bryant's contract, however, signals Carroll's approval of a system that overemphasizes run-stopping ability in a passing league, keeps what pass rush we have constricted to LDE, and also tends to telegraph our intentions at the line by whomever appears at RDE. Reading similar complaints from me a year ago makes me cringe as to how simplistic they were, but Pete's habit last year of swapping Red out with pass-rush specialist(ishs) on 3rd down makes me think he agrees. Which leads me thirdly to...

- ...the statement that Red is worth $10 million more than Brandon Mebane. A lot of folks already disagree with this. 5Y/$35M is not insane for a DE, but it's awkward to justify for one who usually plays two downs, generates no QB pressure, doesn't take well to kicking inside, and should rightfully be playing in a 3-4. It's being said that Bryant's influence in the locker room explains the added value, as does the market - New England was supposed to be interested at one point, and possibly drove the price up.

This certainly isn't a fatal signing or anywhere near a dangerous one. There are plenty of options, as some have theorized - an enterprising schemesmith like Carroll is no doubt still at his whiteboard right now. We are looking at pass-rushing linebacker types in the draft, as well as Jason Jones in free agency (a 3-tech at last! Yay!)

Let's call this what it is - somewhat overpaying for a one-dimensional specialist who's crucial to the team identity but whose usage paints the pass rush into a corner and potentially blocks any big draft investment in defensive end. It's silly to conclude that this front office is financially naive - they were willing to let this heavily valued player test the market rather than eat up (har har) the franchise tag - but some heads around Seattle are cocked.

I suppose we'll see where this goes. I do look forward to blocked field goals all year long. And while I wouldn't expect any pricey defensive ends to appear on Seattle's roster in the near future, money has never been an obstacle to Carroll finding talent. After all we've seen so far, Pete gets the benefit of a doubt from this blogger.

As if the title "blogger" made me any sort of authority on this stuff. Haha.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Forward Pass Can Bite Me

I have reached a new phase of fandom, one that concerns me greatly, and makes me wish bad juju on anyone who talks about quarterbacks right now*.  I am a thirsty man, parched to the extreme as I trundle the Quarterback Desert, and everybody is talking about water.  Cool, refreshing water, the kind that condenses on the outside of a beer bottle on a hot humid day, then runs down the arm of curvaceous bikini bomb as she holds her beverage high, and y'all are making me hate water!  I don't want to hate water.

*I'm not talking about quarterbacks.

I'm talking about not talking about quarterbacks.

More commonly known as bitching.

I went to the gym on Super Bowl Sunday when the Hype Machine was churning out ol' number Forty Six, and not because I knew the place would be empty and I wouldn't have to wipe down a single piece of equipment.   (It wasn't.  It was full of football widows, and having one myself I know the pure power of their dirty looks, so I did clean up.  They are awful friendly this time of year to fellas they think don't like football.  Judge if you want to.)  I put the game to the minion that is my DVR, and kept my buds in my ears just so I could get home without knowing the score. 

All so I could fast forward, not through the commercials, but the between-snap commentary.  The sound of lips being planted on the respective Brady/Manning posteriors was just too much for my blue and green desert-burnt ears.  I spent the whole two weeks avoiding all news football like it was a case of the clap, and I wasn't going to be subjected to more slurping sounds from the NBC crew.

I know most of you are right about the team's need for a franchise tosser.  I just didn't need to hear Al Michaels talk about Ely Mandy's inseam to know you are right. Amazingly, the nimble-lipped trifecta NBC had calling the game were adept enough to keep their lips planted on the elite duo's glutei maximi even during plays.  (My English teacher just cried a little.)   "Effusive in their praise" doesn't even begin to cover the collective drool pool that just had to be humidifying the broadcast booth.

It isn't NBC's fault.  They are just doing what Hype Machines do, churning out what the inmates chow on.  I found myself cringing every time I mistimed the play button, lest I hear the bobble heads talk tirelessly.  And you know what?  It was nice.  Not as nice as if Super Bowls were played by 19th century rules, but nice nonetheless.  The final score was downright Seahawkish, not at all reflective of the more than 10,000 yards of regular season passing on the field.  I found myself smiling at the thought that Vegas was going to clean up on all the people who think franchise quarterbacks equal copious touchdowns.  Take that, you now penniless paupers!

I am just so sick of hearing about how much the Seahawks need one of these guys.  Even though it is pretty much true. Add to that the feeling I am getting that Seattle will not be real players at the QB position on draft day or in free agency, and you begin to understand what a hopeless haze I am in right now.

I'm lost in the desert, peoples.  I'm in a bad place.  Try to point me to some water, and I'll sit down and mutter mirage.  Try to recommend some rookie you fancy, and I will watch him make one simple mistake, hiss out "he reminds me of Tarvaris Jackson", and then my inside voice will chime in with "he is a guaranteed Hall of Famer if he goes anywhere but here."  The desert sucks.

I don't want to be this way, folks.  I don't want to feel like if my team is behind with 5 minutes left, I might as well get an early jump on kicking the kittens.  I don't like wondering if my front office is staffed by idiot savants whose one gift is building teams at 21 starting positions but don't seem to be aware that current rules have made getting very good quarterbacks a vital part of sustained success.  I know, deep down that they have not made any huge mistakes at that position, but that knowledge isn't making the desert any wetter.

Help me Pete.  Give me some water.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

17 Blurbs on Peyton Manning and the Seahawks

Jason La Canfora of has recently opined that the Seattle Seahawks are probably on the short list of suitors for Peyton Manning's post-Colts services.

Imagine the VMAC.
Amongst La Canfora's arguments:

- The regime change in Indianapolis ensures a quarterback change as surely as it did in Carolina a year ago. The availability of Andrew Luck makes it easy for the Colts to move on, and Manning's recent comments, his medical condition, and the team's cap issues only seem to strengthen this likelihood.

- Manning's pay-me-or-cut-me roster bonus is due for a decision before the official start of free agency, effectively eliminating Indy's ability to trade him.

- Peyton has "earned the right to be picky" and will probably be looking for a quieter, lower-pressure division and a young, rising, team with a stable locker room and enough talent to where he won't have to pull his usual elevating-an-entire-team act. That narrows the list of candidates considerably, with Seattle and Arizona standing out.

17 quick blurbs from me on this possibility:

17.     La Canfora's article is mere speculation. Sensible, articulate, and exciting speculation, but nonetheless there's no element of Manning's actual intentions in there. For all we know, the anonymous "general managers and executives" that La Canfora cites could refer to Tim Ruskell and Dan Snyder.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alex Smith and the Real Wolf

People have been hailing Alex Smith's "arrival" for seven years, every time he posts the rare impressive win. It's never stuck. Smith "growing up" as a quarterback is such a common occurrence that I've come to ignore it when I hear it. How long will it be until his next choke? I wonder as I roll my eyes.

Last week's playoff gauntlet was a comforting reaffirmation of the value of defense, but that doesn't take away the influence of clutch QB play. A post by football analyst Greg Cosell highlights three fourth-quarter throws that Smith made to lift the 49ers to the NFC Championship.

Through Cosell's lens, the passes are not just timely, they're outstanding on their own merit. It's funny how everyone's default analysis is to credit the receiver for the big play, because the mechanics and subtleties of QB play are so rarely understood. To many fans, they're usually just the one tossing the ball, the receivers the ones going to get it. Cosell's breakdown reveals just how demanding these passes were and how small the margin of error was.

This redefines "game manager". As Cosell aptly put, every team that wants a Lombardi will eventually require the quarterback to adapt and overcome. Whether that's on the occasional inevitable third-down-and-long, or the fourth quarter with the game on the line, this moment will come. The 49ers have built their scheme around minimizing these moments for Smith, essentially making him a game manager. When he beat the Saints, did he make himself worthy of these moments? Did he rephrase "game manager" to include epic throws, or did he transcend the phrase on his way to a new plateau of play?

Whatever the context, Smith was no doubt enabled by an awesome defense. Without that, Drew Brees is probably up by three touchdowns by the time Smith's epic fourth quarter rolls around. Last weekend demonstrated, with its surprising upset of two high-powered passing attacks, that defense is a necessary element in prolonged playoff runs. Seattle, by searching for a "game manager", is not stating a willingness to settle or succeed cheap at any cost. They're looking to protect their quarterback from playing on such an island as Drew Brees is, and this weekend goes a long ways toward validating their concern.

As a Seahawks fan, I'm continuing to induce vomiting amidst the 12th Man by complimenting Alex Smith. But elite throws deserve recognition, and they solicit thought on what Seattle should be looking for in a quarterback. Do we hold out for the all-time elite QB whose origins remain a seeming mystery, or do we seek, as a baseline, a QB who can come through in the clutch and work from there?

As of today, I'm considerably more comfortable with the latter option. Now on to seeing if these defenses can stop Tom Brady.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why 2011 Isn't Over for the Seahawks...and Why We Might Cheer for the 49ers

If you're a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, you should be deeply engrossed in this year's playoffs. The 'Hawks themselves may not be in contention anymore, but the contests between the remaining teams have a lot to say about the current state of the NFL and the vision that Pete Carroll has for this team. Even if the Seahawks aren't auditioning for a Lombardi, the model upon which Carroll is building them is.

So the 12th Man should be paying attention.

More specifically, that blueprint is auditioning in the body of teams that share it, like San Francisco and Baltimore. These are teams built around rock-solid defense, smashmouth running games, and a limited quarterback, much like the direction Seattle is heading. There's obviously talent here; the question is how it's deployed, to what goals. And, of course, whether those teams have the ability to stop or out-race the juggernaut passing offenses of the reigning Super Bowl kings: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.

In a way, the NFL playoffs is a showdown, not just between teams, but between team-building philosophies.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

17 Blurbs: Wild-Card Round

Do ALL my posts have to be carefully constructed, heavily researched essays on a single subject? Why, they don't. Yay for random and disjointed! Much faster, much more fun.

17. This weekend was dominated by poor tackling. Detroit looked just as blase on defense as they did against Matt Flynn.

16. Shame, because Matt Stafford looks better every game.

15. That Atlanta-based model that Pete Carroll has in mind for his team? It still isn't getting anywhere in the postseason.

14. Saints analysts: when your team has a pass-run ratio of 65%-35%, passes on first down just as often as they run, and rarely blinks on 3rd-and-long, "balanced offense" is not the phrase that comes to mind.

13. Anyone wanna bet that Josh McDaniels will suddenly become relevant again now that he's coming home to Brady-boy?

12. The rumblings have started: people are starting to tire of the NFL's bias toward the pass.

11. Wow, Ike Taylor. I haven't seen a single defender hand a win to a team so blatantly since...oh wait, a year ago when Roman Harper handed one to the Seahawks.

10. Speaking of which, don't be surprised if this year's divisional round for the Broncos' echoes last year's for the Seahawks. Tebow doesn't do well when the other team has an offense.

9. The Texans and Seahawks are brethren in the circle of ignored teams. Houston moving on to the next round makes me feel good, kinda like seeing the Lions doing well.

8. Still think Andy Dalton is way overrated, already very close to his ceiling, and looks like someone dipped Spock headfirst into a vat of tomato juice.

7. Not excited about the idea of Jeff Fisher coming to St. Louis. He's an underrated coach who will immediately make Sam Bradford better.

6. James Harrison is a disgusting player. So content to watch him struggle with Denver's option scheme. That whole defense, in fact, looks over the hill.

5. There's always been a "Manning to Manningham" joke within me somewhere, but I've never been able to find it.

4. A reminder: the phrases "arm strength" and "deep ball" don't refer to sky-high pretty-pretty rainbow passes that hang up there forever and beg to be picked off by safeties. They refer to this.

3. New England and Green Bay actually look a bit unstable going into the playoffs. They need more defense.

2. Speaking of defense, I hope the 49ers beat New Orleans. Yep, I said it. I'll feel dirty, but at least it will prove that passing offense isn't all that matters.

1. From the 12th Man to Tim Tebow: Thank you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Is Matt Flynn An Upgrade?

The short answer is, it all depends on what you want out of a QB.

That was my attempt at being mysterious.  I am all about the longer answer anyway, so here goes.

There is some buzz right now that Seattle is interested in Mr. Matt Flynn.  Why wouldn't they be?  To a front office committed to turning over every rock, and committed to always getting more picks, the idea of getting a free agent QB from Green Bay who upgrades the team has to be attractive.  This is one rock that definitely will be turned over.

First off, Flynn should be free to sign as a free agent.  The Packers have free agents to retain this year who could absorb the franchise tag, primarily Finley. The new CBA supposedly has some rules to prevent teams from tagging players they don't actually intend to retain, a la Matt Cassel, and the Packers, while not against the cap, are not way below it either.  That doesn't mean that Ted Thompson won't test those rules. If Finley is signed during the team's exclusive negotiating window, it would leave Flynn free for that.

Flynn will be a hot commodity.  His last performance is still echoing around the league; when you set a team record for touchdown passes in a game, there will be echoes.  A closer examination of his passing in that game shows that three of those passes for touchdowns were pretty much all YAC, but the passes that set them up were decent.  Watch every pass in that game and it is hard to think of all 480 yards as having been earned the hard way, as Detroit's secondary looked almost disinterested in tackling or covering, but it was accomplished in wind and light snow, which is a scouting consideration.  Potentially, Seattle could play critical future playoff games in places like Green Bay, Chicago, and New York, and a quarterback who doesn't shrivel in the winter is important.

Flynn is a fit Seattle's offense in most respects.  He fits the bill as a point guard quarterback.  Athletic enough and mobile enough, Flynn did an above average job against Detroit of identifying and then exploiting match ups.  He is not a laser armed surgeon, and expecting him to dissect a defense by fitting the ball into tight spaces 30 yards down field would be a disaster, but Seattle's offense does not do that much anyway.  In fact, in watching Flynn against Detroit, a lot of the playcalls were eerily similar to Seattle OC Darell Bevell's - everything just looked better.  Maybe because his targets are better players. 

Here are some of the things Flynn does better than Tarvaris Jackson:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Larry Fitzgerald returns home to Krypton after helping the Cards narrowly defeat Seahawks

Even closer than it felt

I badly wanted Seattle to win today.  Had they won, they would have posted their first non-losing season since 2007.  Had they won, it would have put a nice 6-2 finish bow on a 2-6 start turd, which would have made for a cool offseason storyline.

In retrospect though, that mentality doomed me for disappointment.  Even before the game, I should have realized that Seattle didn't stand a chance.  Not because Arizona is a better team.  But because since their previous showdown in week 3, the Cardinals have become masters of winning ugly, clutch games.  Arizona had won five of their seven previous games, and in all five of those wins, they trailed in the second half.  In four of those five wins, they trailed in the 4th quarter.  Their biggest margin of victory in those games was six points (and that was in overtime).  Clearly, the Cardinals had learned a thing or two about being clutch since the last meeting.

Whereas the Cardinals have been nearly immaculate in close games, the Seahawks have been the opposite, going 1-4 in games decided by a single score since beating the Cardinals 13-10 back in week 3.  With the season over, they finished with a 2-5 record in games decided by six points or less.  Does this surprise anybody?  I didn't think so. I should have seen a 23-20 overtime loss coming.

It also greatly saddened me to see Marshawn Lynch's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown end today, even moreso because Lynch played yet another great game.  His lack of scoring had nothing to do with his own failings and everything to do with an inept offensive gameplan and execution in the red zone.

I felt pretty down after this one.  And then I realized something.  Finishing 8-8 instead of 7-9... it doesn't actually matter.  Marshawn Lynch extending his streak... also doesn't actually matter.  It doesn't really impact the Seahawks in a tangible bad way at all.  You know what actually does impact the Seahawks?  The fact that they will pick 11th or 12th instead of 16th in the 2012 draft.  The fact that they will play Carolina and Dallas instead of (last year's #1 seed) Atlanta and the (suddenly great again) Eagles.  I would have happily traded those for a win today, but there is no reason to sulk over the meaningful consolation prize we've been gifted.

Despite a difference in how the seasons ended, I can't help but feel that the Seahawks 2011 season was 2002 revisited.  The 2002 team started 0-3 before eventually having a franchise QB develop out of nowhere and finishing strong with the look of an elite offense.  The 2011 team started 0-2 and eventually had a running game and potentially elite defense appear out of nowhere.  Both teams finished with 7-9 records and enjoyed a notable hot stretch during the season.  The next team that followed 2002 squad won 10 games and began a stretch of 5 straight playoff appearances, including a Superbowl appearance.  With a few wise moves this offseason, the next five years for 2011's team could be equally as great. 

  • I've never been a particularly big fan of Matt Flynn, but watching him throw for six touchdowns and almost 500 yards today while watching Tarvaris Jackson struggle with deep accuracy, red zone throws, and a general inability to find consistency, it made a pretty damn compelling case for Flynn as a 2012 Seahawk.  

  • I mean this as no disrespect to Jackson.  He's tough, he's a good person, he's a coachable player, and he's played well enough to win 7 of his 14 starts despite playing hurt in many of them.  But if I had to lay the blame for today's loss on only one person, there is no doubt that I'd choose #7- and this wasn't even a particularly bad game for him really.  Watching a mediocre quarterback like John Skelton improvise and make just enough plays to win was a bit of an eye opener.  Seattle can find a quarterback better than Jackson, and it wouldn't even be that hard to do really.  Don't just assume that Josh Portis or some late round quarterback this year is only a long term project.  If John Skelton- a 5th round pick in only his 11th career start- can outplay Jackson, a lot of guys could.

  • Larry Fitzgerald is freaking amazing.  On a day where Richard Sherman did a terrific job in coverage, Fitzgerald just didn't seem to care as he racked up no less than four highlight worthy catches, the last of which essentially won the game.  All those investigators checking Century Link Field for piped in noise should probably check Larry Fitzgerald's gloves for telekinetic technology borrowed from an advanced alien civilization.  

  • We probably just watched Justin Forsett's final game as a Seahawk.  Its rather hard to believe that Forsett rushed for 5.4 yards per carry just two years ago.  So much for the addition of BFF Marshawn Lynch making Forsett a better back.  I hope Forsett, who is a free agent, lands on an NFL team next year.  But after posting 3.2 yards per carry and only 145 total rushing yards in 2011, I sincerely doubt that team will be ours.  

  • KJ Wright is a nifty player, but a few times today I noticed that he isn't the hardest linebacker to block out of a running play.  If its true that our linebacker corps is at fault for the team's slipping rush defense, Wright wouldn't be a bad place to start the investigation.

  • Golden Tate made a couple of slightly dumb decisions with the rock in his hands today, but overall I really like the progress he's made in 2011.  In particular, his hands have become far more reliable, and his blocking is no longer a joke.
  • Max Unger was humiliated by Darnell Dockett for a sack early in the game.  Unger has come so far, but he still has a ways to go before he can master nasty interior pass rushers like Dockett.  Lemuel Jeanpierre also struggled rather notably on outside rush attempts, often getting blown into the backfield.  Overall though, the line- particularly Gallery & Unger- once again did a terrific job collapsing the middle on rush attempts all day long.

  • I don't mean this to pick on anyone, but it blows my mind that there are people out there who really think Marshawn Lynch is the same back now that he was in 2010, and that only the line has improved.  On numerous occasions today, Lynch took a minimal hole to run through and produced 4-7 yard gains in impressive fashion.  Leon Washington had a great touchdown run today, but I couldn't help but feel that Seattle's coaching staff made a big mistake allowing Jackson to throw 35 times compared to only 19 carries for Lynch on a day where Lynch was clearly bringing it.  Its cheesy if not cliche to say a team should have "fed the rock" to its running back more, but at least today, that line of thinking was true.  Its no coincidence that Seattle's offense clicked the most when Lynch was carrying up the middle the most.  Seattle must make re-signing Lynch a very big priority.  Outside of possibly Trent Richardson, I don't think they will find a better short term back in this draft.

  • There were a lot of annoying things that happened in this game.  Chris Clemons had a dumb offsides on 3rd and 8, which helped extend a drive that ultimately ended in a touchdown.  Golden Tate failed to cut up field for the first on a critical 3rd down play in the 4th quarter.  Red Bryant missed a heroic block on the game winning kick by six inches at most.  Seattle scored six combined points on three redzone trips.  But for all those annoyances, the ones that bugged me the most were the fraudulent late hit calls on Brandon Browner and later Richard Sherman.  I don't have DVR on my PC, but if I did, I could freeze frame the moment Browner's target stepped out of bounds, and you'd see a paused Browner 2 inches shy of delivering his hit at that moment.  Sherman's call was even worse, as the player wasn't even officially out of bounds yet when the hit was given.  Its not that those calls had huge impacts on the game, but rather that those calls feel so obvious, at least on TV.  Being able to sense a "bang/bang play" really shouldn't be that hard to do.

  • I actually liked how our pass rush performed today.  I have to give John Skelton a ton of credit for standing tall in collapsing pockets and escaping to make positive plays on numerous occasions.  I certainly hope he loses his starting job to Kevin Kolb next preseason by merit of contract and investment.

  • Leon Washington finally performed like a dynamic change of pace back, which included a LaMichael James-esque 48 yard score- the longest run of Washington's Seahawks tenure.  To put that in perspective, his longest rush attempt last year was only 21 yards.
  • Finally, a measure of redemption for Jay Feely, who easily nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including the game winner.  Feely went 1-3 against Seattle earlier this year, including an inexplicable miss in the 4th quarter.  And of course- he missed not one, not two, but three game winners in that epic 2005 Giants game when NFC supremacy itself was on the line.  Its a shame Red Bryant just missed a devastating blocked kick on that game winner, but then again, I'd say Feely has suffered enough by this point.  He finally gets the monkey off his back.  Lord knows, its been there for a while.