|The face of a man burned by false praise turned true.|
I'm not a big dating expert, but one thing even I've heard is that its best to "just be yourself" when you go on a big date. Well the Seahawks were themselves today in all their goofy, awkward glory, and still scored big. They couldn't finish drives. They had many "almost" touchdowns that weren't. They were penalized. Often. Oh man, so often that it almost certainly will vault them into the #1 spot in the league. They moved the ball well, yet nearly had as many penalties as first downs.
But they won. More importantly, the Hawks actually earned this win. They never trailed today in a season in which they had never previously led at halftime. Seattle won with an emerging run blocking offensive line, a strong run defense, a steadfast if unspectacular quarterback, and a special young secondary. Seattle won despite having almost zero pass rush, and despite killing drives, and extending others, with inexplicable penalties. They beat a 6-2 team, a 6-2 team that most likely would have been in the AFC championship last year if not for some shady officiating. They outplayed a good team, but interestingly enough, they outplayed the very team for which the Seahawks model most closely resembles.
I wrote this article about the Seahawks-Ravens just after the 2011 draft over at Seahawks Draft Blog. Seattle has invested two firsts, a third, traded late round picks for two players, and signed a high profile free agent all on just the offensive line alone in only two years. They have built an elite rush defense out of spare parts, and while they have invested less in the defense than the Ravens did, the almost over-the-top investment in the line is remarkably similar. So what did the Ravens do after that? They traded for a former 1st round running back drafted by the Bills (sound familiar?), then drafted a "reach" quarterback in the middle first, and drafted a 2nd round running back who'd become one of the most productive backs in the NFL. Everyone fretting about the long term quarterback or running back situation, don't be worried. Help is coming.
I did not think Seattle would successfully adopt the Ravens blueprint this quickly. Seattle's interior run blocking has been on a tear for the second game in a row, and Seattle's secondary, particularly Richard Sherman, is possessed. Seattle flat out kicked the Raven's asses today at smash mouth football. Not many teams can do that.
- Harbaugh called Marshawn Lynch one of the three best backs in the NFL before the game. Harbaugh is a brilliant coach, but a statement like that can only be one of three things: a ridiculously exaggerated compliment typically used for psychological purposes, a sincere/moronic evaluation, or a subtle-sarcastic dig at a running back who has struggled for most of the past three years. Whatever his intentions were, Seattle's running game strove to make his statement look timely. Was he being sincere? I don't know. I'm betting its sincere now.
- Maybe the toughest thing about switching to the NFC is that I only get a maximum of two games a year called by the announcing crews over at CBS. Greg Gumble is a long tenured, quality professional. Dan Dierdorf is a rare dual Hall of Famer: in the Hall as an offensive lineman, and in the Hall for his work behind the mic. He's intelligent enough to avoid cliches and even provide quality insights. When Heath Farwell appeared to do the disastrous by touching the football surrounded by Ravens players, and almost everyone in the building had no idea what was going on, Dierdorf didn't miss a beat, pointing out that a batted ball is no longer live, even if a returning team touches it.
- But perhaps Dierdorf's best insight came early, when he pointed out that young teams tend to have especially erratic performances. One of the hallmarks of insightful thinking is that it can point out the unspoken things that should be obvious. And it turned out to be pretty prophetic, as Seattle gave Baltimore a lot more than they thought they'd be getting when they were catching their flight to SeaTac. Last week, Seattle lost by two scores, but they made Dallas (an emerging team) work for every bit of it. Afterwards, Tony Romo publicly breathed a sigh of relief and credited the Seahawks for being a far tougher opponent than the general public thinks. Seahawks opponents have won 6 games in 9 tries, but they have not been an easy win very often. And now two of the Seahawks three victories this year have come against teams that currently have winning records.
- The 12th man is the perfect mascot for the Seahawks, and really, the Pacific Northwest as a whole. In relative terms, we are an isolated, shut in, um, unique people who don't get the attention we crave and deserve. We have the dorkiest mascot, and some of the most awesomely dorky fans who are loud and proud. Today I saw a man wearing an that strange 80's bird/rocker get up painted in the colors of the American Flag. Earlier in the year I saw another fan dressed up like Elton John, just because hey, who doesn't like Elton John right? But today took the cake. Easily, the greatest NFL "cosplay" of all time. Predator-Seahawks fan, if you are reading this, thank you. Seahawks logos in the eyeballs? You have my eternal gratitude.
- Marshawn Lynch had a mixed performance, but it was far better than his 3.4 yards per carry stat would indicate. Sure- twice he single-handedly lost yards with terrible running decisions, and on a few occasions he missed gaping wide cutback lanes. But those mistakes were exceptions in a day when he was mostly decisive, and with a line that was consistently getting good interior push, he was getting 3-4 yards a crack on the majority of his runs. That isn't sexy, but that's what the zone blocking scheme is meant to do. He also added 58 yards on 5 receptions. It was a very Steven Jackson type of performance. I still think Seattle can do better. But I think we are finally beginning to see the Marshawn Lynch Seattle thought they were trading for. He's not a star, but he can be a useful player when he plays decisively.
- My gameball goes to Seattle's interior line. Unger and Gallery were constantly found four yards downfield and even John Moffitt made a few nice plays before leaving with injury. His replacement, Jeanpierre, seemed to do an admirable job under the circumstances, and Seattle's interior push resumed without missing a beat when Moffitt left the game.
- Richard Sherman has now had three strong games in the three starts. He has ball skills. He can cover. He can hit. A home run for a 5th round pick.
- I hope Kam Chancellor is alright after decapitating himself. Chancellor is my new favorite Seahawk, but he must learn to lead with the shoulder consistently. Not because of ethical reasons. Not because of penalties. But for his own health and career. Hopefully his injury does not linger and color the rest of his playing days, but this needs to be a learning experience.
- The penalties became ridiculous near the end, and it was fascinating to watch the 12th man slowly turn on their own team as the infractions became more and more incomprehensible. On one hand, Seattle is a young team that plays with an attitude. Its part of what makes Seattle an exciting team to watch. Curbing those penalties would be great, but they are a bi-product of the things that help make this team exciting. Can Carroll reduce the penalties with having his team lose its aggressive edge? It might be the biggest challenge he'll face with the current roster.