|Even closer than it felt|
I badly wanted Seattle to win today. Had they won, they would have posted their first non-losing season since 2007. Had they won, it would have put a nice 6-2 finish bow on a 2-6 start turd, which would have made for a cool offseason storyline.
In retrospect though, that mentality doomed me for disappointment. Even before the game, I should have realized that Seattle didn't stand a chance. Not because Arizona is a better team. But because since their previous showdown in week 3, the Cardinals have become masters of winning ugly, clutch games. Arizona had won five of their seven previous games, and in all five of those wins, they trailed in the second half. In four of those five wins, they trailed in the 4th quarter. Their biggest margin of victory in those games was six points (and that was in overtime). Clearly, the Cardinals had learned a thing or two about being clutch since the last meeting.
Whereas the Cardinals have been nearly immaculate in close games, the Seahawks have been the opposite, going 1-4 in games decided by a single score since beating the Cardinals 13-10 back in week 3. With the season over, they finished with a 2-5 record in games decided by six points or less. Does this surprise anybody? I didn't think so. I should have seen a 23-20 overtime loss coming.
It also greatly saddened me to see Marshawn Lynch's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown end today, even moreso because Lynch played yet another great game. His lack of scoring had nothing to do with his own failings and everything to do with an inept offensive gameplan and execution in the red zone.
I felt pretty down after this one. And then I realized something. Finishing 8-8 instead of 7-9... it doesn't actually matter. Marshawn Lynch extending his streak... also doesn't actually matter. It doesn't really impact the Seahawks in a tangible bad way at all. You know what actually does impact the Seahawks? The fact that they will pick 11th or 12th instead of 16th in the 2012 draft. The fact that they will play Carolina and Dallas instead of (last year's #1 seed) Atlanta and the (suddenly great again) Eagles. I would have happily traded those for a win today, but there is no reason to sulk over the meaningful consolation prize we've been gifted.
Despite a difference in how the seasons ended, I can't help but feel that the Seahawks 2011 season was 2002 revisited. The 2002 team started 0-3 before eventually having a franchise QB develop out of nowhere and finishing strong with the look of an elite offense. The 2011 team started 0-2 and eventually had a running game and potentially elite defense appear out of nowhere. Both teams finished with 7-9 records and enjoyed a notable hot stretch during the season. The next team that followed 2002 squad won 10 games and began a stretch of 5 straight playoff appearances, including a Superbowl appearance. With a few wise moves this offseason, the next five years for 2011's team could be equally as great.
- I've never been a particularly big fan of Matt Flynn, but watching him throw for six touchdowns and almost 500 yards today while watching Tarvaris Jackson struggle with deep accuracy, red zone throws, and a general inability to find consistency, it made a pretty damn compelling case for Flynn as a 2012 Seahawk.
- I mean this as no disrespect to Jackson. He's tough, he's a good person, he's a coachable player, and he's played well enough to win 7 of his 14 starts despite playing hurt in many of them. But if I had to lay the blame for today's loss on only one person, there is no doubt that I'd choose #7- and this wasn't even a particularly bad game for him really. Watching a mediocre quarterback like John Skelton improvise and make just enough plays to win was a bit of an eye opener. Seattle can find a quarterback better than Jackson, and it wouldn't even be that hard to do really. Don't just assume that Josh Portis or some late round quarterback this year is only a long term project. If John Skelton- a 5th round pick in only his 11th career start- can outplay Jackson, a lot of guys could.
- Larry Fitzgerald is freaking amazing. On a day where Richard Sherman did a terrific job in coverage, Fitzgerald just didn't seem to care as he racked up no less than four highlight worthy catches, the last of which essentially won the game. All those investigators checking Century Link Field for piped in noise should probably check Larry Fitzgerald's gloves for telekinetic technology borrowed from an advanced alien civilization.
- We probably just watched Justin Forsett's final game as a Seahawk. Its rather hard to believe that Forsett rushed for 5.4 yards per carry just two years ago. So much for the addition of BFF Marshawn Lynch making Forsett a better back. I hope Forsett, who is a free agent, lands on an NFL team next year. But after posting 3.2 yards per carry and only 145 total rushing yards in 2011, I sincerely doubt that team will be ours.
- KJ Wright is a nifty player, but a few times today I noticed that he isn't the hardest linebacker to block out of a running play. If its true that our linebacker corps is at fault for the team's slipping rush defense, Wright wouldn't be a bad place to start the investigation.
- Golden Tate made a couple of slightly dumb decisions with the rock in his hands today, but overall I really like the progress he's made in 2011. In particular, his hands have become far more reliable, and his blocking is no longer a joke.
- Max Unger was humiliated by Darnell Dockett for a sack early in the game. Unger has come so far, but he still has a ways to go before he can master nasty interior pass rushers like Dockett. Lemuel Jeanpierre also struggled rather notably on outside rush attempts, often getting blown into the backfield. Overall though, the line- particularly Gallery & Unger- once again did a terrific job collapsing the middle on rush attempts all day long.
- I don't mean this to pick on anyone, but it blows my mind that there are people out there who really think Marshawn Lynch is the same back now that he was in 2010, and that only the line has improved. On numerous occasions today, Lynch took a minimal hole to run through and produced 4-7 yard gains in impressive fashion. Leon Washington had a great touchdown run today, but I couldn't help but feel that Seattle's coaching staff made a big mistake allowing Jackson to throw 35 times compared to only 19 carries for Lynch on a day where Lynch was clearly bringing it. Its cheesy if not cliche to say a team should have "fed the rock" to its running back more, but at least today, that line of thinking was true. Its no coincidence that Seattle's offense clicked the most when Lynch was carrying up the middle the most. Seattle must make re-signing Lynch a very big priority. Outside of possibly Trent Richardson, I don't think they will find a better short term back in this draft.
- There were a lot of annoying things that happened in this game. Chris Clemons had a dumb offsides on 3rd and 8, which helped extend a drive that ultimately ended in a touchdown. Golden Tate failed to cut up field for the first on a critical 3rd down play in the 4th quarter. Red Bryant missed a heroic block on the game winning kick by six inches at most. Seattle scored six combined points on three redzone trips. But for all those annoyances, the ones that bugged me the most were the fraudulent late hit calls on Brandon Browner and later Richard Sherman. I don't have DVR on my PC, but if I did, I could freeze frame the moment Browner's target stepped out of bounds, and you'd see a paused Browner 2 inches shy of delivering his hit at that moment. Sherman's call was even worse, as the player wasn't even officially out of bounds yet when the hit was given. Its not that those calls had huge impacts on the game, but rather that those calls feel so obvious, at least on TV. Being able to sense a "bang/bang play" really shouldn't be that hard to do.
- I actually liked how our pass rush performed today. I have to give John Skelton a ton of credit for standing tall in collapsing pockets and escaping to make positive plays on numerous occasions. I certainly hope he loses his starting job to Kevin Kolb next preseason by merit of contract and investment.
- Leon Washington finally performed like a dynamic change of pace back, which included a LaMichael James-esque 48 yard score- the longest run of Washington's Seahawks tenure. To put that in perspective, his longest rush attempt last year was only 21 yards.
- Finally, a measure of redemption for Jay Feely, who easily nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including the game winner. Feely went 1-3 against Seattle earlier this year, including an inexplicable miss in the 4th quarter. And of course- he missed not one, not two, but three game winners in that epic 2005 Giants game when NFC supremacy itself was on the line. Its a shame Red Bryant just missed a devastating blocked kick on that game winner, but then again, I'd say Feely has suffered enough by this point. He finally gets the monkey off his back. Lord knows, its been there for a while.