Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seahawks offense arrives to Candlestick 90 minutes late, makes up for it by subbing in for special teams.

I know people will look at the Seahawks season in different ways. For some, 2011 represents a chance to repeat as division champions and establish Pete Carroll's "win forever" mantra. For others, its about developing future talent and worrying more about performances than wins. And for a few, this season is a thinly veiled "race to the bottom" for a franchise savior in Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley.

Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, should they declare as expected, would be two of the most hyped quarterback prospects we've seen in several years. They were coached by Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, two college coaches who recently bolted for the NFL. As it turns out, those coaches coached against each other in a game today. Wouldn't you know it, this was that game!

Based on popular national opinion, Seattle has been a hot tip to be in the hunt for the #1 pick next April. If there was such a thing as an AP poll for draft position, Seattle would be in the top 5 right now. That doesn't mean it will happen that way of course, but I'm just saying that's the prism the media will view our season through, especially if Seattle struggles early.

While its never fun losing, there is a certain rush to being in a sweepstakes of sorts. As a Mariner fan, I'll never forget the M's blowing a 1.5 game "lead" in the Strasburg sweepstakes in the final 3 game series. They drafted a guy named Dustin Ackley instead. Ackley has already become a very good hitter at a premium defensive position on a terrible hitting team. I say this with no disrespect to Strasburg's bright future, but 2 years later, I don't think Seattle would take that pick back even if they could. Its funny sometimes how things work out, and that's why it generally isn't a great idea to get too caught up in the draft position stuff.

This was a game between two division rivals, a game that could very well decide the division at the bitter end. A game that, unfortunately, the Seahawks lost. And yet, before the game and during it, I couldn't help but muse: "wouldn't it be something if Luck landed in San Francisco and Barkley in Seattle (or vice versa)?" Watching the game didn't alleviate those thoughts much, as both teams looked like top 10 locks in the 2012 draft. Its improbable, especially with the 49ers making a mild investment with Colin Kaepernick, but its fun to think about anyway.

As far as the game itself, I took copious notes by quarter. Since I've already shamelessly ripped off Lookoutlanding with their win chart idea and zany title, I might as well use bullet points too. This is by no means a "tale of the tape", but a quick collection of some random observations during the game:

  • First of all: Dick Stockton. It feels like he's called at least half of the Seahawks games I've watched since 2009. Probably more. I actually like Stockton. I enjoyed his fumbling with pronunciations like "Olindo Mah-rey." Which is technically correct, if comically drawn out (To his credit, he did well correctly pronouncing fellow Italian Breno Giacomini today). Anyway, it can't be easy covering Seahawks games so often. Joe Buck barely cares enough to cover the Eagles, Packers, and Saints. If he had to cover a Seahawk game more than once in a blue moon, he'd probably fall asleep and never wake up. Especially if he was working the first half of this game. Excluding first downs by penalty, there were 3 total first downs in the first half by both teams combined. Three! There were more first half first downs by penalty (4) than otherwise. Dick Stockton deserves a medal.
  • I played both offensive tackle spots in high school and college, and after games, we'd have film reviews just like any team would, so I'd get a chance to see what kind of things I could work on. Watching Breno Giacomini today, it felt like watching a much better NFL version of myself. I could never play in the NFL even for an instant or anything, but on a level, I can relate to the guy. Giacomini isn't just a warrior, he's a bloodthirsty berserker. He plays angry and aggressive. A few times, I caught him doing run blocks on pass blocking plays to establish dominance, which was a favorite "cheat" of mine as well. Giacomini does not have great pass blocking technique, but still, he was able to keep pressure to a relative minimum today, and for just today, that's a win. Despite all his tenacity and seeming competence, he left a little something to be desired as a run blocker. On two different instances, he overextended and lost his block, which directly led to a tackle for loss on 3rd and short. He has his faults, but in at least the short term, he looks capable enough to man the right tackle spot until Carpenter is ready.
  • I failed to notice John Moffitt and Max Unger all game long, which is probably more of a good thing than a bad thing.
  • James Carpenter started only his 2nd game ever at left guard today, with the other being in the Senior Bowl. Carpenter is left handed, which caused some, including Pete Carroll, to speculate that he might just be more cut out for the left side in general. Unquestionably, Carpenter looked much better at left guard than he ever looked at right tackle during the preseason. He still gets walked back into the pocket by a bullrush a lot more than I'd like, but the outside edge rush that plagued him at tackle wasn't an issue today, and he flashed some surprising pulling ability too.
  • Russell Okung had a pretty rough game. He allowed a sack on 3rd and 2 in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, he had a false start. And on the final play of the first half, he had a holding penalty that the 49ers declined. Of course, he stayed healthy for more than 5 snaps, so its feels hard to complain about the final result. Okung had 3 mistakes out of 64 total snaps. Being a lineman is hard.
  • Aaron Curry didn't finish with great statistics, but he was a strong presence against the run all game long and, if memory serves, actually managed to avoid a big mistake. He was particularly strong on the 49ers opening drive, registering two tackles and forcing a quick 3 and out. Curry will never justify the price Seattle paid for him, but he's improving, and it wouldn't totally shock me if he was one of the Seahawks 5 or 6 best defenders by the end of the season.
  • A 1st quarter punt whizzed by a bedazzled Leon Washington, and from one camera angle, the ball did appear to lightly brush Washington's left shoulder pad. The officials made the right call not overturning it, as the bulk of evidence just wasn't good enough. Only God knows if that ball actually touched a few fibers on Leon's jersey, but I couldn't help but feel Seattle caught a big break there.
  • The best move of the offseason wasn't signing Rice, Gallery, or Miller. It was re-signing Brandon Mebane to a reasonable deal and then putting him back where he belongs, plugging the middle. Mebane repaid the Seahawks generously for their wise decision today. Time after time, especially on 3rd and short, he was blowing lineman into Frank Gore and killing the run game dead. There are times I just cannot express how awesome Brandon Mebane is. The 49ers game today was one of those times.
  • Seattle had 47 yards of total offense at halftime, and that's not even counting a declined holding penalty on the final play. The team had also had been penalized 38 yards. Had it been possible for that last holding penalty to be accepted and the yardage marked off, Seattle would have had more penalty yards than total offense going into halftime. It was far from the worst half of football I've ever seen, but it might have been the most impotent.
  • Earl Thomas fires off like a rocket and hits like a missile. Its part of what makes him a good player, but looking at his size and body type, should I be the only person worried about his future health? Lofa Tatupu was another small guy that laid the lumber, and we all know what happened to him after just 3 seasons.
  • The boneheaded play of the game award goes to Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane for trying to draw a false start on 4th and 1 when a tight end went in motion. That's stupid on any play, but 10 times more so on 4th and 1. In fairness, it was just about the only thing Mebane did wrong all day.
  • A great return by Leon Washington was nullified by a hold/block in the back, called on #21. You might recall that #21 is Kelly Jennings' old number, and that Kelly Jennings is no longer a Seahawk, nor has his jersey number been given to anyone else. That's right, one of the most critical penalties in the game was literally called on the ghost of Kelly Jennings.
  • I'm pretty sure the refs actually meant either #31 Kam Chancellor (who had a great game) or #39 Brandon Browner, the latter of whom has a massive "flag me" sign on his back. His block that sprung Washington was a good one, with much more shoulder contact than back. A chippy call at best, a possible game changing blown call at worst.
  • Browner was victimized by touchy officiating all game. Smith's critical touchdown to take a 16-0 lead seconds before halftime was after a questionable pass interference call on Browner, who to me, looked like he was just playing good defense and made minimal contact with the WR. Later on, Browner would be a victim of a crucial roughing the kicker penalty in which its doubtful he made any contact at all.
  • Seattle's defense had a stellar game, or at least a much better game than a 33-17 final score would indicate. As bad as Seattle's offense was on the whole, they actually outgained San Francisco 219 to 209. San Francisco only had one scoring drive (a field goal) that began in their own territory. They ran the ball 31 times and averaged 2.75 yards per carry. According to's official statistics, the 49ers were somehow an impossible sounding 1 of 12 on 3rd downs. Excluding the final kneel down, the 49ers had ten possessions today, and six of those were 3 and outs. This is a team that won a game today. By 16 points.
  • After Ted Ginn's 2nd return touchdown, the broadcast fixed their cameras on Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider. Schneider was standing on the sideline, silently scratching his throat and blankly looking off into space, completely unaware he was on television. It kind of made me wonder. It was one of those moments where you ask yourself "what were they expecting him to do?"
  • Marshawn Lynch had a tough game, but I appreciated that he seemed to run with added urgency in the 2nd half. He had 27 yards on 6 carries in the 2nd half compared to a paltry 6 yards on 7 carries in the 1st half. Lynch's progress in the Seahawks running game is, to me, one of the bigger stories of the 2011 season looking forward. If he struggles as much this year as he did last year, its very possible the front office could move in a new direction at running back.
  • Finally, I can't end these random notes without talking about Doug Baldwin. I was an outspoken critic of Baldwin's early in the preseason. Today, I think he proved me wrong in just about every way possible. Its a lesson in the folly of making judgments too hastily. Baldwin entered today's game as a rookie, 6th on Seattle's WR depth chart. And yet no other Seahawks reciever was targeted as often, caught more balls, posted as many yards, or scored more touchdowns. Think about that. Baldwin's 55 yard 4th quarter touchdown was a revelation. He probably isn't going to be the next Marques Colston, but its abundantly clear that he isn't a fringe NFL WR.


  1. Horrible commentary. Did you even watch the game? Also the pretending you played football is funny.

  2. Must be a niner fan. Didn't point out any reasons why your commentary was not to his liking nor could he even post his name.

    I thought it was a great, detailed breakdown that I appreciated. Keep it coming!

  3. "Also the pretending you played football is funny. "

    Well, I did. lol.

  4. It felt like Tarvaris was running for his life the entire day. The O-Line looked terrible in both the pass and the run IMO.

  5. As commendable as our D was, I surprised to see that we didn't get a sack or a lot of pressure on Alex Smith especially given the Niners young o-line that also struggled during preseason. That could have made an even bigger difference as Smith has been known to play especially rattled after taking hits early on. Where was Chris Clemmons (I recall only one good hit from Clemmons actually) and Raheem Brock to bring the outside pressure?

  6. I was surprised after the game when I realized they didn't finish with a sack. The pressure was there, forcing Smith into constant checkdowns.

    I think the reason Seattle's defense did so well today was because San Francisco had a lot of 3rd and short plays, and short yardage run plays play to Seattle's biggest strength. And its not like their OL is much better than ours either.

  7. Either Doug Baldwin is much quicker than he has ever shown in a timed workout, or the 49ers secondary is excrutiatingly slow. Having endured the woeful England-Argentina rugby world cup game on Sat, and suffered "1992 Seahawks" flashbacks in the first half of this, I was wondering why the gods of sport suddenly hated me. But by the end, there was at least a decent defensive effort, and the odd moment of offensive encouragement to give hope

  8. Really good read Kip. You guys run a pretty damn good blog over here. Bastards. :)


  9. Yah, great write-up,thanks.

    I watched Carpenter a bit yesterday and he seemed overmatched by bull rushing DT's. It looks to me like a strength issue.

    How much is that correctable with experience and coaching and how much is simply his floor?

  10. The lockout says that a great degree of Carpenter's struggles COULD be inexperience and lack of preparation. I don't see how the lockout so obviously kept him off of the treadmill, though.

  11. As far as Carpenter and Bullrushing, I don't know. I wrote a detailed scouting report on Carpenter earlier this year at Seahawks draft blog after scouting him in 4 games, mostly against very tough competition.

    He wasn't as bullrush-proof as Okung looked coming out of Oklahoma State, but the bullrush wasn't a problem in college. Unfortunately, this could be a case of a guy having just enough to get it done at the college level but comes up a little short in the pros.

    That said, its only natural that Carpenter will improve. He's a rookie, and most rookie lineman struggle. Some badly, before becoming good later. I'm in wait and see mode with Carpenter. If I had to bet money, I'd wager that he WON'T be having bullrush issues in his 3rd/4th years in the league. His height and weight fits in the prototypical area for both guard and tackle, so I don't think its a leverage/bulk issue. Probably just an experience issue.

  12. Great write-up! Looking forward to more. I was actually really pleased with the defense; hopefully more teams will take as conservative approach against us. I thought the first half was really sabotaged by predictable play calling. SF keyed against the run on 1st and 2nd down which put us in 3rd and long blitzing situations. Exactly what Tavaris didn't need.

  13. @tzane Someone noted elsewhere that the lack of sacks could partially be explained by SF playing a conservative offense with lots of extra protection on passes. They also predicted we'd see a lot of this as teams feel they don't need to score much to beat us so they'll play it safe. I haven't seen any tape so I can't confirm or deny this whatsoever, but it sounded logical!

    The PI and roughing the kicker on Browner riled me up greatly. Yes, he was committing a penalty on the pass, but as a reaction to the WR trying to take off his shoulder pads. Way too much contact to not be offensive PI. And he was nowhere near touching the kicker. I'm guessing that's not a reviewable penalty? Dear NFL, thanks for distorting every "improvement" to the game into a travesty.

  14. I wonder if the league refs were so concerned about Browner's CFL reputation that they deliberately called tough on him in order to make a statement for his start in the pros. Just a wild flight of fancy.

  15. I left the game with a feeling of hope for this team.That "D" is fierce. Earl is an asassin and that hit that McCoy laid on Gore on first and goal had me yelling like an idiot. I didn't care if they scored, Gore got his bell RUNG and that was sooo sweet. Good writeup. But Dick Stockton is an Idiot!

  16. @ZachJ Good point. The Niners did load up their line with blocking TEs. That being said, I still recall Brock and Clemmons last year doing a great job with QB pressure even in the bandit defense with just 3 DLs. I'm just hoping those two have another monster year.

    Those couple penalties against Browner we're also killing me, but I have to keep reminding myself that PIs from him is still a more preferable outcome as opposed to giving up big plays a la Kelly Jennings.

  17. Of the QBS who completed ten passes or more in week one, two averaged similar yards per completion to Alex Smith and only Matt Cassel was lower. That does suggest the 49ers played ultra cautious in their passing game.

  18. I hope the Seahawks beat the Steelers today. The Ravens stomped them last week