Thursday, December 1, 2011

Marshawn Lynch gives "Dream Team" future nightmares, Seahawks crush Eagles 31-14

Pete on the hot seat?  Don't make me laugh.
Has there been a season with more unexpected things than 2011?  A lot of fans looked at the schedule before the season began and saw games like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Washington as near certain wins.  The Falcons, Giants, Ravens and Eagles games were near certain losses.  Seattle very nearly completed a comeback against the heavily favored Falcons, but otherwise, six games- that's half the season folks- has gone exactly the opposite of preseason expectation.

And sure, the Eagles came into Seattle the NFL's biggest disappointment sporting a 4-7 record, but they also led the entire NFL in offense for much of the year, and even after losing Vick, they still hover just behind the #2 team, the New England Patriots. That's due in large part to LeSean McCoy.  As my fantasy oriented brother informed me before the game, McCoy has been the best fantasy running back in all of the NFL this year.  McCoy lived up to that repuation and then some, even earning some surprisingly well deserved comparisons to Barry Sanders.  Like Sanders, McCoy is the master into turning a minus four yard broken play into a big gain.

Seattle's run defense is big, mean and nasty.  And really good, obviously.  But its not terribly fast- something both LeSean McCoy and Vince Young capitalized on all night long.  Thankfully, the Seahawks really came to play tonight.  Marshawn Lynch, Tarvaris Jackson, and Seattle's secondary all played the best games of their young Seahawks careers.  If Seattle had played at the same level as they had in any of the previous games (yes, even the Raven's game), I'm not sure it would have been enough tonight.  McCoy was ballin', and though Young threw four picks, I'd actually put more credit on the Seahawks defense for making athletic plays on the ball rather than blame Young for making terrible decisions (except for the Hawthorne pick six).  The Eagles didn't rack up a ton of yards, but they did lead several sustained, efficient drives.  Seattle's ability to kill drives with interceptions proved to be crucial.

Seattle did more than enough when it was on offense, totaling 347 yards of offense despite running the ball twice as many times as they passed.  It didn't start that way though, very nearly beginning with a delay of game on the very first play, something I've never seen before.  Yet it very nearly did, as a bizarre miscommunication with Golden Tate regarding the raising of the 12th man flag caused Seattle to run up to the line mere seconds before time expired.  The rush to snap the ball (with zeros showing) resulted in an illegal shift penalty, a result of not allowing enough time for players to set positions before the snap. 

Tarvaris Jackson has made good progress this year regarding pocket presence and extending plays, but today he did a nasty backslide, taking multiple sacks a decent quarterback wouldn't during the first half.  Despite those hickups, Jackson finished with 13 completions on only 16 attempts for 190 yards:  good for a completion rate of 81% and a YPA of 11.9.  He also added a sensational touchdown pass to Golden Tate and avoided an interception for what feels like the first time in an eternity. 

It was only the third time all season that Jackson went without a pick, and only the fourth time all season that he finished with a positive TD/INT ratio.  His game passer rating was 137, more than 40 points higher than his previous Seahawks high.  Rather surprisingly, it was the best passer rating by any Seahawks quarterback going back all the way to the Titans in 2005.  I don't want to make too big a deal out of a performance which only had 16 passes, but writing this post, it occurs to me that Jackson played far better than I thought he did while watching the game.

The storyline of the game was the running backs.  McCoy is having a pro-bowl season, and he's averaging 94 yards per game this season.  Since week nine (Dallas), Lynch has been averaging 118 yards per game.  Not that you would expect Lynch to keep this up forever, but that level of production over a full season would equal 1891 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns.  That stat line seem familiar to anyone?   I've offered up a full Mea Culpa on Lynch which you can read here, if you haven't already.  Its crystal clear that Lynch isn't the same back he used to be.  A 4th and 5th for Lynch is beginning to look like one of the best trades in franchise history.

Finally, the secondary was incredible today.  Other than a coverage blip by Earl Thomas which helped setup the Eagles first touchdown, they gave Vince Young precious few easy targets, forcing him to dance around and buy time for what felt like forever on many plays.  Chancellor's interception was a thing of beauty.  Browner's first pick was a lucky repeat of his game sealing pick against the Giants, but his fourth quarter pick on a perfectly thrown deep ball was really a sight to behold.  I don't know if Browner could make up for last week's debacle with a single great performance, but I'd say he came pretty darn close tonight.  Its hard to believe he's the same guy who was getting us killed just four days ago.  David Hawthorne isn't part of the secondary, but he joined the fun with the slowest looking pick six I've seen in a good long while, due in large part to LeSean McCoy only jogging in pursuit, clearly demoralized into apathy by that point.  I'm sure he'll be getting an earful from Andy Reid next Monday.

Seattle is now 5-7.  Which isn't a great record exactly.  The 2009 Seahawks were 5-7 at one point.  But its at least respectable, and with two very winnable games remaining on the schedule, Seattle has a real chance to finish 7-9 or better.  That's a big accomplishment considering that Seattle's schedule is much harder this time around.  Seattle is probably out of the playoff hunt, but this season was never really about the playoffs.  It was about building a foundation for the future, namely the running game and the defense.  That kind of outlook makes a win like tonight's that much more exciting.  Seattle has claimed its third "statement win" of the season, and Jackson's performance tonight showed that Seattle is a very good team when the quarterback position produces its share.

  • Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock called a great game.  If Nessler's voice seems familiar, its because he covers a lot of college football games, particularly in the SEC.  Its a very good combo and I look forward to seeing them cover more Seahawks games in the future.

  • Marshawn Lynch against the NFC East in 2011:  492 yards rushing on 81 carries.  6.1 yards per carry.  5 total touchdowns.  That's a good way of getting national attention, I'd say.

  • I wouldn't fret too much about the Eagles carving up our defense for most of the second half.  Seattle was protecting a big lead, and was playing its corners far off the ball to keep DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper from burning them deep.  Seattle's corners are big and relatively fast, but they gain a considerable advantage from getting a shove at the line of scrimmage.  Seattle played it safe, but in doing so gave up this considerable advantage which helps corners, especially Brandon Browner, play up to their coverage potential.

  • I really appreciate the classy gesture by Pete when he opted to kneel the ball inside the one yard line.  Going for the extra score might make Lynch and the fans happy, but it would be a very bitter ending which would stick in the Eagle's memory for a long time.  Seattle may very well face the Eagles in a pivotal game in the next couple seasons, perhaps even the playoffs.  I'd hate for the Eagles to have that extra chip on their shoulder if that happened.

  • You really have to feel for Vince Young.  This game wasn't just a game for him, it was an audition for the rest of the NFL on national television.  Young made a few poor throws, but he was dealing with a very under-rated coverage group in Seattle and did a very impressive job extending plays.  In the end, he wound up with 4 interceptions which doesn't do his performance any justice at all.  After his Heater pick six, Young was visibly fighting back tears as he realized where his NFL career is heading.  After his fourth pick (on a great throw no less), I just felt terrible for the guy.  Here's hoping he works things out down the road. 

  • Golden Tate continues his impressive progress at receiver.  He needs to work on his touchdown dance though.

  • Today's win was not cheap- Russell Okung left the game late in the 4th quarter with a pectoral injury of all things.  Pete Carroll said the injury "doesn't look good," and with only four games remaining, there is a very real chance that Okung could be on the IR tomorrow.  If that happens, that would mean 3/5 of our line hit IR this year.  In a move which looked stupid at the time and looks even worse in retrospect, the team released Tyler Polumbus a few weeks ago, and he's now a member of the Redskins.  Seattle has no real depth at left tackle, so it should be interesting to see how they handle this situation.


  1. Great write up!

    I hope Okung isn't too badly injured. He simply owned the LB across the field, then the LB turned, grabbed Okung and threw him over his hip to the ground, in a judo-type move.

    Jeanpierre (also our backup center) finished the game. I expect Okung to go on IR. Jeanpierre played great against the Ravens, so I believe that we will continue to run strong.

  2. I do feel for Vince. Sensitive competitors are easy to bash on, but he knows what he has to prove and he fell badly short. He's not getting much help from his team right now either, beyond McCoy.

    Great piece as usual, Kip.

  3. Excellent summary of last night's events. This whole fight with everything you got with a young team has its drawbacks- penalties and injuries. But I think we saw what a "give up when the going gets tough" attitude looks like in the Eagles. It's been frustrating this year to see all the mishaps, but I think we can all agree that we are in a better position than the Eagles. I'd hate to be in that locker room on Monday.

  4. Great write-up as always, Kip. Marshawn Lynch completely owned the Eagles defense this game, and it would have been even more amazing had he not been battling a stomach issue. Seems like they held him back a lot in the second half of the game.

  5. I agree David. I don't blame Andy Reid for it, but its very true that too many players on the Eagles have played with less than full effort this year. Even McCoy, who had a great game, gave up on the Heater TD. He could have easily chased down Hawthorne by the 30 yard line had he decided to try.

    And that's just not something you will see any time soon from a Pete Carroll team. Seattle hasn't yet finished a season with a winning record under his watch, and yet his players always give 110% and bleed for their team. I mean this as no slight to Andy Reid- the Eagles just aren't used to losing and I think that's where the lack of effort comes from- but Pete Carroll does a very under-rated job of keeping his players up even after an ugly three game losing streak earlier this season.

    Jeanpierre looked surprisingly solid the last time we saw him. McQuistan has also improved dramatically since we first saw him too. That said, if Seattle starts McQ or Gia at left tackle next week, that's just insane. Its time to hit the waver wire after slapping themselves silly for releasing Polumbus. Not one of their finer moments, TBH.