|King Midas II|
Oh what a wonderful feeling. This must be what it feels like. Its certainly a new feeling for me, to be on the winning end of a game in which one of the teams made a complete embarrassment of themselves. Although the context is almost completely different, I can imagine a lot of Bears fans reacting to this game the same way the Seahawks fans did after any of their numerous ugly blowout losses to end 2009. This one in particular.
The Bears were a wounded team, and the Seahawks a hot team. Despite this being a 10 am game in December at Soldier field, I think most Seahawks fans expected a win today, and even most Bears fans weren't exactly optimistic. But to lose like this- getting outscored thirty one to nothing in the second half after handily outplaying Seattle in the first half... wow. The Bears could have improved to 8-6 today and could have very much stayed in the hunt for the wildcard. But beyond that, at some point teams just have to play for pride, and the Bears gave their home fans what I can only imagine was one of the most pathetic displays of football all season at the worst possible time. The sense of pained apathy on the fans faces in the second half was palpable. The only smiles in that crowd belonged to people wearing blue jerseys and holding skittles signs. Reading stuff like this after the game was delicious in a Scott Tenorman's tears kind of way.
Seattle had won four out of five entering this game. They did it by averaging over 120 yards rushing each game and rushing the ball close to 60% of their offensive snaps. I'm not a big fan of corny pregame "keys to the game" type analysis, but it was pretty obvious that Seattle's success would hinge on their ability to run the ball effectively. So when Chicago stonewalled Seattle's rushing attack and short passing game almost completely in the first half, it was worrisome. Seattle trailed 14-7 at halftime, and it almost felt like they should have trailed worse. The Bears had a significant edge in yardage and time of possession at halftime, and the only reason their lead wasn't bigger was due to Seattle winning the turnover battle two to one.
But just like every game this year since the Cardinals game, Seattle emerged from halftime empowered and prepared. Seattle received the first possession of the second half, and five plays later, the score was tied 14-14. After a first half in which Tarvaris Jackson seemed too scared to throw a pass further than 15 yards, he would have back to back completions totaling 76 yards on the 3rd and 4th plays, setting up an easy Marshawn Lynch touchdown from three yards out.
Caleb Hanie, who actually had a solid first half, responded by throwing a pick six to none other than Red Bryant on his very first pass of the second half. At the time, Seattle had a 21-14 lead and it still didn't feel like Seattle was a lock to win, but in retrospect, that Bryant pick was the turning point in the game. With 27 minutes still left to play, the Seahawks had already won, we just didn't know it yet.
Perhaps it was destined that the Seahawks win this game. It fits in well with a season long storyline of Seattle winning games everyone expected them to lose in August, and losing many of the games people expected them to win before the season. Wounded Bears team or not, winning at Soldier field at 10 am in December is never easy. And yet the Seahawks just won 38-14. The Bears had lost the previous three straight games, but would have won last week if not for the left hand of God working his miracle Jedi mind tricks on Marion Barber. Their average margin of defeat in those three games was by only five points. This was the Bears biggest defeat of the season, even eclipsing an early season 30-13 beatdown from the Saints. The Bears beat themselves as much as Seattle did, and yet its hard not to look at the defensive dominance and final score and not think "statement win." The Seahawks sure have been making a lot of them lately.
Remember that awesome Baltimore win? Since that time, the Seahawks have averaged 27 points a game, and their opponents have averaged 14.7. If not for a phantom block in the back call that unfairly negated a Leon Washington touchdown against the Browns and a blown coverage by Brandon Browner on 3rd and 19 against the Redskins, the Seahawks could be 9-5 right now. Seattle has lost a few close games, but their wins haven't been that close. That Seattle did this with the NFL's second youngest team and with one of the NFL's higher IR totals. And they did this with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback! Lets just say you'd need a pretty good pair of shades to gaze upon the Seahawks future outlook right now.
- I took a closer look at the Seahawks offensive line today. I'm not sure I can adequately convey how impressive Max Unger has been this year. Tim Ryan is quickly becoming one of my favorite color commentators, and he did an excellent job highlighting some of Unger's better blocks during the day. On one instance, Unger had to make what is perhaps the hardest block in football, reaching and turning a defender going against the grain to your outside shoulder. Or in other words, a player who has the angle on you. Unger did so masterfully, and it proved to be a key block on Lynch's longest run of the day, a 15 yard carry that was snapped from the two yard line on 3rd and 9.
- I didn't pay terribly close attention to Robert Gallery, but it didn't seem like he was having an off game.
- RG Lemuel Jeanpierre has been doing a very solid job for the Seahawks, and had a nice game today. That said, he did have a few screw ups, including an embarrassing whiffed block that immediately resulted in a three yard loss for Lynch. Jeanpierre has fewer screw ups per game than Moffitt, but I might have been a little hasty in singing his praises. He basically looks like an average right guard. Not that average is a bad thing.
- Further DVR analysis could reveal more than I can currently provide, but RT Breno Giacomini displayed several quality blocks today. For a guy that has obvious limitations with lateral agility in pass protection, Giacomini actually moves pretty darn well in a straight line and can clear out a running lane in a hurry. On Lynch's second touchdown, Giacomini blocked down . You can see the play for yourself here. While I don't expect that either Jeanpierre or Giacomini will win jobs as long term starters, its very comforting to know that we have average level starters as backups on the offensive line.
- Maybe the biggest surprise of the day was the job Paul McQuistan did at left tackle against Julius Peppers. Even Pepper's strip sack fumble TD was really not McQuistan's fault, but Jackson's for holding onto the ball too long in the endzone. McQuistan had less help blocking than I would have expected, and while I would rate his run blocking on stretch stuff as consistently below average (in fairness, those aren't easy blocks to make), he's far outplaying my expectations as a left tackle.
- Despite what might sound like a positive review for the line, in reality they were outplayed all game by a very stout Bears run defense. As supported by Brandon's timely post on why the Bears defense is better than its statistics, they were the first team really since the Bengals way back in week 8 that didn't get pushed around by the Seahawks. Seattle averaged 1.8 yards per carry despite rushing 33 times. And unlike some previous instances, it wasn't because of an indecisive Marshawn Lynch. Lynch played a hell of a game, even making some players miss. The Seahawks offensive line seemed to be making good blocks. But for whatever reason, the Bears easily overcame Seattle's apparent excellence and shut down the run in a big way. Not only that, but they shut down screen passes and short routes. It wasn't until Seattle started attacking middle and deep that they were able to muster any kind of offense at all.
- In a way, its fitting that Lynch would hit the 1000 yard mark in a struggling manner. Lynch hadn't posted a 1000 yard season since his pro-bowl 2008 season, in fact he'd only posted 1187 yards in his previous two seasons combined. The Seahawks hadn't posted a 1000 yard rusher since Shaun Alexander won the NFL MVP while helping them to the Superbowl. Its also fitting that on this same day Lynch would break Shaun Alexander's franchise record with 10 consecutive games scoring a touchdown. If you had told me before the season that Lynch would be assaulting any of Shaun Alexander's records, I would have assumed you were on crack.
- Unfortunately, the Seahawks playoff odds are on life support. Detroit overcame a 13 point 4th quarter deficit to win by one point, including a 98 yard game winning drive that ended with 37 seconds remaining. Both the Falcons and the Lions are 9-5, meaning that one of those teams would have to lose out and Seattle would of course have to win out with another team also reaching 9-7 in the event that Atlanta is the team that helps us out (they beat us head to head, but would lose the tiebreaker if tied with 3 or more teams. Only the Giants, Bears, and theoretically, the Cowboys, could help us in that regard, so root hard for the Chargers next week). While I think its exceedingly unlikely that Seattle will make the playoffs at this point, I do think its worth rooting for week 17 relevance. A win next week plus a loss by either Detroit or Atlanta would probably ensure that. The Lions host the Chargers and the Falcons travel to the Superdome to face the red hot Saints.
- Meanwhile, the Seahawks host the 49ers for what will be the most symbolically relevant Seahawks game in many years. Next week is a chance for the Seahawks to make a statement about the future of the division. I do not confidently expect a Seahawks victory, but regardless, its a game I can't wait to see. It should be a good litmus test for how far the Seahawks have come since week one.