Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seahawks fall to 2-6, yet still 2nd place in NFC West Dystopia.

Not satisfied with a mere forced fumble, Sherman adds The People's Elbow
I think its remarkable how predictable and short sighted sports writers can be sometimes.  One talking point that is quickly gaining traction is that Pete Carroll doesn't look like he's having fun anymore, or that he's just a college coach.  And to be sure, the Seahawks played well below their capabilities today, and losing stings, especially for emotional types like Carroll.

But lost in this dialogue is that Seattle rushed for 162 yards today, only 1 yard less than Dallas, who has emerging phenom DeMarco Murray at running back.  Seattle finished with a highly respectable 381 yards of total offense, despite the fact that Tarvaris Jackson was clearly having an off day.  Believe it or not, Seattle actually finished with more yards today than they did in the Falcons' game.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I have to take a step back and be honest: this game didn't feel competitive.  I acknowledge that.  So for many fans reading this, I would understand if your reaction was "Bullshit! The Seahawks sucked today."  My counter would be that sometimes games are closer than they feel.  For example, The Cowboys game in 2004 when Seattle did nothing for the first 58 minutes yet still won thanks to a late scoring drive and a last second Babineaux interception to set up a Josh Brown 50 yard game winner.  I don't want to diminish the fact that the Cowboy's earned this victory, but this game might have been very different if not for a pair of controversial booth replays going against Seattle, or if Seattle hadn't blown coverage on Jason Witten for his easy touchdown.  Seattle's two biggest contributors (the defense and Jackson) both had off days, and yet Seattle could have maybe pulled out a cheap one if a few breaks had gone differently.  Or to put it differently, this defeat wasn't quite as emphatic as it felt.

Anyway, off to the bullet points!

  • At the halfway point of the season, the Seahawks are on pace for a 4-12 season, yet are amazingly still in 2nd place. Football outsiders advanced DVOA playoffs oddsmaking currently gives the San Francisco 49ers a 1 in 1000 chance of missing the postseason, and the season is only half over!  For a division so bad, you would think it would be more competitive.
  • This was the worst statistical performance of the season for Tarvaris Jackson, which is even more damning since his line did a better than expected job at protecting him, allowing just 1 sack and relatively few pressures.  Jackson has converted me into a defender of his with his recent performances, but games like this, even if only occasional, make doing so difficult.  Jackson's TD/INT ratio now sits at 6/9, and even since the Falcon's game when Jackson seemed to click in the offense, he's been running a 4/7 ratio since then.   
  • One of those interceptions was a massive fluke: an intentional incompletion attempt that somehow deflected off of two defensive linemen before being intercepted by a third. Another interception was an underthrown ball when Jackson was being chased out of the pocket.  His final interception was the controversial simultaneous catch that went to the defender.  Jackson had some excuses today, but this was still a poor performance.  Unlike last week, his receivers didn't drop a ton of passes and his line provided protection. 
  • Despite those mistakes, Jackson still managed a 7.4 YPA and was actually adept at moving the ball and engineering long drives.  Seattle averaged 6.2 yards per play which is one of their better numbers this season.  I think its encouraging that Seattle's quarterback played poorly, and yet the system was still able to shine through that.  It makes you wonder just how bad Charlie Whitehurst has really been.
  • The story of this game, from Seattle's perspective, was the great performance by Marshawn Lynch.  I almost wrote an article this week on Lynch, and now I'm kicking myself for not doing it.  I took a closer look at Lynch last week, and what I discovered is that Lynch's only real problem is his lack of decisiveness.  He's still a great athlete with about as much speed as he's ever had.  It helps that Seattle made his job easy today with some great run blocking, but in both the Giants game and today, we've seen that a decisive, aggressive Marshawn Lynch is still a good running back.  Lynch managed 5.9 yards per carry and was impressively consistent in going about it.
  • Despite TV commentators insisting that Dallas had trouble stopping the run this year, the Cowboys actually entered this game with the 10th ranked run defense in the NFL as measured by DVOA.  Seattle's offensive line, particularly Max Unger and Robert Gallery, had a terrific day getting inside push.  Unger is having a much better season than I expected.  Its shocking I know, but it turns out Tom Cable knows a bit more than I do about building an offensive line.  Unger's success after being atrocious in his rookie season is yet another reminder of why we should avoid freaking out about the struggles of John Moffitt and James Carpenter.
  • Russell Okung is quietly having another good season in 2011.  I'm glad that the Fox crew showered him and Miller with plenty of attention today for the job they did on Ware.
  • Miller may not be putting up huge yards, but he's a threat to on every play, and bringing the kind of blocking he does in combination with that threat makes him worth every penny.  Rice may not break 1000 yards this year, but similarly he's another guy that's outplaying whatever his statistics say.  Alan Branch has been Red Bryant moved inside, which is to say he's been valuable in an unusual manner.
  • Jason Witten scored an easy touchdown when two Seahawks defenders converged on him and both released, perhaps believing the other would take coverage.  I don't know who holds schematic responsibility on that play, but Hawthorne was in excellent position before he suddenly gave up.
  • Richard Sherman had another nice game, this time forcing a clutch fumble at the goal line to keep Seattle in the game.  I missed a good chunk of the first half, but Sherman seemed to play good coverage, and I love the physical presence, almost like that of a strong safety, that both he and Browner bring.
  • On the Jason Witten catch challenge and Doug Baldwin "simultaneous catch" reviews, it highlighted to me a certain fact.  That fact being that while instant replay helps reduce human error, it will never cease to exist.  
  • In the case of the Witten challenge and other blown replay reviews like it, I legitimately wonder if the video the refs are seeing in their replay booths is as extensive as the replays we see on television.  If its not, then I (not jokingly) believe that they should replace whatever replay their watching and just sub it for the broadcast feed.  Professional broadcasters have a knack for finding the perfect angle on plays like that, and my only explaination for the Witten decision was that the ref was not provided with some of the angles we saw on television.
  • In the case of the Baldwin decision, A: in isolation, it did not matter as the game was over anyway, and B: while I think the ref technically got the call wrong, I understand his reasoning.  Though technically a simultaneous catch, the ball was in the defender's body, not Baldwin's, and it also appeared that Baldwin arrived a split second after the defender had begun to secure the ball.  It "felt" like an interception that Baldwin was trying to get cute with, even if the facts suggest a reasonable case for a simultaneous catch, which always goes to the receiver.
  • Finally, I wouldn't be too upset about how the rush defense played today.  DeMarco Murray had 327 yards on only 33 carries in his previous two games: an average YPC nearing 10.  To say he's been sensational would be an understatement.  Today he averaged 6.3, which very well could end up below his season average.


  1. Good read, but to say the Hawks weren't competitive at all is not exactly accurate. The Hawks were very competitive during the first half. Did they give some big plays? Yes, but they recovered and held the Boys to 2 field goals. Bend but don't break I think is what that was called. Our D keeps us in games and the sooner our whole Offense can show up to games the sooner we will win.

    It definitely looked like Marshawn and the O-line showed up, but TJack looked awful, although I understand he is still injured. He consistently was under throwing passes. Nobody seems to talk about how the pass was under thrown that was intercepted that Baldwin tried to make look like it was a simultaneous catch. He also consistently overlooks any other receiver on the field other than Rice. He tends to lock on Rice and ignore anyone else. The games where he plays best is games where he spreads the ball around.

  2. 8 different players caught passes for the Hawks. Nobody had more than 3 receptions. TJ spread it around.

    To me, the only truly bad pick was the second one.

  3. Yup, and Mike Williams actually had a pretty active day by 2011 standards.

  4. How many times did Tjack target Rice, despite him being double teamed? He targets Rice considerably more. Receptions don't tell the whole story. Those are just half the story. I saw quite a few times in the game where TJack didn't even look at any other receivers, despite them being wide open. I'm not a Tjack hater or supporter and I thought he has been getting better, till yesterday. I was hoping he would prove everyone wrong that hated him, but he clearly hasn't, at least not yet anyway. He has proved that he is better than CW and he is tough so I give him props for that.

  5. Its surprising how hard it is to find information on targets for specific games. I finally found some at

    Rice: 8
    Baldwin: 6
    Williams: 4
    Obo: 2
    McCoy: 2

    Williams and McCoy had the best performances per target. I agree with Nick that Rice is probably still being targeted a little too often. Though in fairness, he is our #1 WR afterall.

  6. Yes, he is our number one receiver. My point was that he should not be thrown to when he is covered and another of our receivers is wide the heck open.

    I am fine with Tjack this year, mainly because I know there is nothing else we can do at this point. Hopefully, we will be able to get a qbotf next year.

    This year I am much happier with the way our team is playing despite having a worse record. Last year we were not very competitive and should have lost some of the games that we won.

    This year we look like more of a complete team and we look like we have some really good young players. We actually look like we are competing more and actually playing football.

    We'll start winning more, we just have to have patience and maybe if we get a couple of the key missing parts next offseason we'll be contenders.

  7. It was certainly an off game for Jackson, even if he continued to show incremental improvements in some areas. I don't think we saw the "real" Tarvaris Jackson "exposed" here, but more of a case where the new Tarvaris Jackson just didn't have his best stuff. I guess the next few weeks will tell us more.