But today was different. Yes, I wanted the Seahawks to lose, but when Steven Hauschka's hilariously impossible kick attempt fell well short and well off the mark, I couldn't help but feel the heavy burden of a guilty conscience. And I don't just mean that because King Felix was in attendance sporting an awesome custom #34 Seahawks jersey.
It was because something clearly awoke within Tarvaris Jackson in the 2nd half. I don't want to crown the guy prematurely. I've already made enough of an ass out of myself with the first paragraph. But for the first time all season, Jackson finally had the look of a real point guard quarterback. And unsurprisingly, the offense clicked in a big way once Jackson "got" what being a ball distribution quarterback is all about.
Which isn't to say that Jackson was bad in the first half. He once again seemed to key on Sidney Rice, including this gorgeous 52 yard bomb for the team's first score. Jackson looked more confident and more polished than usual, but the offense was still the same predictable unit it had been previously. The run game was going nowhere, and Jackson wasn't tapping into the full breadth of his impressive collection of receiving talent.
Atlanta kicked a field goal early in the 3rd quarter to stretch their lead to 27-7. From that point forward, Jackson was 5 for 6 on 3rd downs, with that lone miss coming at the very end of the game. He started targeting Mike Williams, including this touchdown pass. He found Obomanu open on a blown coverage for a touchdown. He took advantage of Doug Baldwin's precocious slot receiver skills. Baldwin finished with a team high 5 receptions for 84 yards. This next stat might be the stat of the game though: Sidney Rice finished with 3 catches, but six other Seahawks finished with at least that many.
Jackson has been accused of only scanning one side of the field, but today, I regularly observed him checking multiple reads and scanning the entire defense. He also showed increased boldness with running the ball, and always at intelligent times. His two interceptions were not the usual variety. His first was a great defensive play and a lucky bounce. His second was a great defensive play and a lucky bounce in the endzone. Jackson very easily could have ran a 4/0 TD/INT ratio today. This was a huge step forward for #7, in just about every way possible.
Is it conceivable that just maybe, Pete Carroll might be able to duplicate Steve Sarkisian's surprise success with Keith Price, using Jackson as his medium? I'll freely admit that snap judgements are a fault of mine. It's tempting though. Lets give Pete some credit, he knows a thing or two about molding quarterbacks. Probably a lot more than Brad Childress did.
As far as the rest of the game...
- The Seahawks once again played stout against the run, allowing 121 net yards on 36 carries (3.4 average). Consistently, all day long, the Seahawks kept a good running back in Michael Turner in check. Well, except for this play anyway. Turner ran 21 yards untouched into the endzone simply running off the left end. Chris Clemons was taken out by the blocking fullback, which, okay, you would expect that. My question is, why would the rest of the run be so easy? Where are the linebackers? Well as it turns out, there was just one linebacker with responsibility for that area, and he was lost in his own world while pass covering a tight end. It would be wrong to crucify Aaron Curry for this play, but is it too much to ask for him to simply notice it was a run play before Turner is 15 yards downfield?
- John Lynch and his announcer partner repeatedly lavished praise on the Falcons offensive line for protecting Matt Ryan so well after being so attrocious at it before this game. Not to diminish their accomplishment, but to me, that probably says more about the quality of Seattle's pass rush than anything else.
- Any dreams that Brandon Browner might end up an NFL #1 corner have long since abated. In a way, he's kind of a bizzaro Kelly Jennings, back in 2006 and 2007 when Jennings was actually good. He doesn't go for interceptions, but he consistently plays tight coverage which somewhat discourages targets. He does need to learn to make plays on the ball though. If teams feel no fear of a Browner pick, they'll thread the needle on him into oblivion, and plays like Julio Jones' long sideline catch will become a mainstay. Browner is getting the job done for now, and he's physical in a way that Jennings could never be, but if Browner doesn't improve just a little bit more, he may eventually become a real liability.
- I took a break from watching the offensive line again today, but I couldn't help but notice that Russell Okung had a strong game, and James Carpenter once again managed to look dignified out there. Any game which helps Okung's ankle issues feel like an old memory is a good thing.
- Finally, the game ended after Pete Carroll trusted Steven Hauschka with a game winning kick of 61 yards. Never mind that Hauschka is a young kicker with only 26 real field goal attempts in his pro career prior to that moment. Asking him to kick a 40 yarder to decide a win or a loss is tough enough, with the pressure of 67,000 onlookers. But as if that wasn't enough that it was a game winning kick, it was a virtually impossible 61 yard attempt, which has only been done a handful of times ever in the NFL outside of Mile-High stadium.
- Its moments like this that I genuinely wonder if Pete Carroll is secretly just like me, hoping for a great performance but ultimately a loss to help in his quest for finding a quarterback. With 13 seconds left, a 4th and 8 situation (with a quarterback playing in the zone), and a timeout remaining, going for 4th and 8 was clearly the smarter option. Attempting a field goal in a situation like that... its almost like something a coach would do in the preseason just for kicks. Not that I'm complaining, given what I said in the first paragraph. Still, if the Seahawks become a 10 to 13 win caliber team while Pete Carroll is still here, I hope he chooses a different route in future meaningful games.