Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 1 Reaction: No Apocalypse Now

Someone at Fieldgulls said it best:

Week 1 Commandment #1:

Neither shalt thou get over-excited over a win or overly disappointed by a loss. Week 1 is the most anomaly filled day in all of sports. (King James emphasis mine, because I can.)

Today is a comedown day for Seahawks fans. I had almost forgotten just how nasty and vitriolic we football fans can be after a loss. And I'd forgotten it because the 12th Man just wasn't very nasty last year. Not like this. My memory of 2011 was of muted, resigned, relatively tranquil reactions when the Seahawks lost, not the sarcastic poo-flinging that we're seeing right now.

Why the difference? My fellow bloggers have already nailed it - expectations. Your therapist will tell you that your emotions are dependent mostly on your goals. In 2011, people stopped hoping as soon as Tarvaris Jackson signed. Hence, muted reactions. It was a development season, a punted year.

This year, Russell Wilson's preseason polish had folks thinking they could see the light at the end of the rebuild tunnel. He faced a talented starting Kansas City defense that did not play the degree of sandlot football that some claim, and showed far more veteran polish that the typical preseason-disaster-in-waiting who just stares from the pocket like a rock and sidearms to wide-open guys. There was some real promise there. So the Arizona game was supposed to be the beginning of the get-well process - I myself mistakenly dubbed it "Week 5 of the preseason".

Here's what happened - Seattle started the season against a tougher defense than Kansas City, assured itself a heavy dose of blitzing by starting a rookie QB(!!!!!) against a well-respected NFL defensive coordinator, struggled in its very first game(!!!!!) on the road(!!!!!), and was still a Braylon Edwards drop(!!!!!) from winning.

Yes, that's what happened. Go back and look at the score. It was 20-16, not 120-16. You wouldn't know that from the current meltdown. The exclamation marks indicate things that aren't supposed to shock you.

Some will go "a loss is still a loss". Well, no, it's not. Not for this fan. I barely care about this season. I've never seen 2012 as a contention year, haven't since Pete Carroll arrived. Maybe I'll be surprised, but my expectations were limited from the outset. That puts me in the minority, but there it is. Championships take time to build. Pass rushes and star quarterbacks are the biggest examples of this, and we only just got those (maybe). And I'm not part of the camp that believes that teams can win Super Bowls with running and defense against a league dominated by Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees. In my opinion, this team's Super Bowl window absolutely does not open until 2013 at the very earliest.

For me, the stakes on Sunday were still developmental. I wanted to see Russell Wilson play like a rookie Peyton Manning instead of a rookie David Greene (there's a difference); he did. He threw several winning touchdowns that got dropped, bought at least two first downs with his feet that I remember, and never once folded or lost composure. His ball placement was erratic but (FAINT PRAISE ALERT) remains a world improved from Tarvaris Jackson. Yeah, he "played like a rookie", but that current popular phrase could mean a million different things. Wilson looked nowhere near as primitive as that blunt instrument that's starting in Miami.

And no, I'm not convinced that Matt Flynn would have done any better. Despite his reputation for handling blitzes well in Green Bay, Flynn looked slow with his reads and downright sack-prone in a full game's worth of preseason snaps. It's not hard to provide a reason why - adjustment to much worse receivers on a differently-called offense. My guess: Flynn would have been destroyed behind that O-line.

I wanted to see our running game pick up from 2011 without missing a beat; it did. I wanted to see our defense blanket Larry Fitzgerald and stymie our QB into sacks; it did, when instructed to. I wanted to see our pass rush tearing out the interior of Arizona's line and burying John Skelton in three hundred pounds of sweaty man.

Okay, so that last part blew chunks. That's really what worried me most. While everyone else was salivating and over-prognosticating Wilson's rookie season, I was excited about our defense growing into the ability to bring OTHER quarterbacks down to Wilson's level. I really hoped that this year's pass rush would find its way.

That clearly hasn't happened yet. No surprise - Game 1. Irvin is getting no better results than a lighter Lawrence Jackson, and actually reminds me of said now-Lion in his reliance on an ineffective bullrush. Chris Clemons was not his usual self against an Arizona tackle situation that had deteriorated to Kyle Williams territory, although much of that was down to better pass scheming on Arizona's part. Alan Branch still isn't showing me the promise he apparently showed everyone else last season, and Jason Jones isn't yet an improvement.

But it's only Week 1. I get the distinct feeling that despite our hopes, Pete Carroll was still treating Week 1 as a preseason game. There was a bit of an experimental feel to it, given the narrow play-calling and tendencies (either that, or Darell Bevell really is an oaf). I don't agree with the experimental approach, but Pete has always shown an element of "growing into the season" in Seattle. No doubt there are elements of this going on, whether we like it or not.

We have a few players waiting in the wings, yet to emerge. John Moffitt will hopefully be back soon, and behind him, James Carpenter. Golden Tate will also return, to the delight of those who think another two-catches-a-game WR will change things. If the Jones experiment doesn't work out, we have another promising project in Jaye Howard. Doug Baldwin has yet to return to full strength.

As far as Wilson, I'm going to take great comfort in the fact that he was one dropped pass from winning. Pete Carroll has never been ignorant of the risk of starting a rookie. Is he willing to trade a few losses for the sake of more quickly building the experience of the QB with more upside? Are fans willing to watch this?

Besides, let's be honest: if Braylon Edwards makes that TD catch, the tone around here would be much different and we all know it. It'd be about how Wilson "did enough to win an ugly game", and you wouldn't see nearly the intensity of the criticism. The ultimate setter of tone, the emotional filter through which we critique, is always whether we win or lose. There'd be the few isolated worriers and naysayers, but they'd get drowned out.

This reaction isn't about where the team is. It's about where we are. This is about losing. We don't like to lose. We shouldn't. But progress is happening, folks. It may not come on our schedule, but it is coming.


  1. Thank you. I am feeling the same way. I honestly feel sorry for the folks who live and die at every game. I love my Seahawks, but the winning or losing of the game is not going to make me the emotional equivalent of a 13 year old girl at a school dance. Calm down folks, this season has only just begun.

  2. Thanks for the cold, dispassionate and REALISTIC assessment Brandon. It's hard to remember after such a disappointing loss, but a win on the road is never easy, and it was a mistake for anyone to discount the Cards, especially their D. It really looks on a par with our own.

    We're still a young team, which means unpredictability. At least now, in that closing 2 minutes, I no longer have that feeling of resignation, of inevitability that came seeing T-Jack on the field when we needed that go-ahead touchdown (that sure was a helpless feeling!).

    C'mon Hawk fans. Strap in tight, we're in for a hellova ride this year, and I DO believe we will see a steady improvement over the arc of the year.

    Now we wait to see if Pete is capable of reigning in the penalties. Is he capable of accomplishing that?

  3. Couldn't disagree more with such a simplistic evaluation. Blaming Edwards is the easiest way of removing blame from Wilson. He had a short field several times only to score a TD once. He had 109 yards passing deep into the 4th quarter. He may have played better than other rookies but those other rookies played better defenses and may have even less offensive talent around them. The defense held the Cardinals the entire second half except for one drive. This should have gave Wilson ample chances to put points up. The extra timeout makes Edwards drop moot because that play shouldn't have happened. His fade throw to Martin was awful as the ball hung way too long. But keep telling yourself its just one game because the schedule only gets harder.

    1. I couldn't disagree with this Anonymous guy more! I agree that our expectations were a little high, our oline, with a starting right guard really got destroyed this game, and we're going to blame it on Wilson? Are you kidding me? I do blame receivers for their drops that would have won the game, I do blame the oline for not protecting better, I blame the pass rush for not pass rushing until the second half and I blame the team as a whole for the penalties. The Tardinal Defense is a little better than most people realize, simply because everybody is so focused on their QB situation, Wilson will grow. The fact that he was drafted behind Weeden and Tannehil, and still did better than them is pretty good. We'll be fine, i'm not over-reacting after week 1. Our season isn't over. We can still win out at home and go .500 on the road and be fine...Go Hawks!!

    2. I think you're underrating the Arizona defense. It may be one of the best in the league this year. For Wilson's very first NFL game, I don't think he did poorly at all.

  4. I agree Anonymous, no matter how many coats of paint you try to put on a car with two flat tires it still isn't going anywhere. While Wilson apologists try the old 'well I am not convinced that Flynn would have done any better", I am not convinced that he would not have won that game. He has had loads more opportunity to study and learn how to dissect a blitz and looked very capable of putting that knowledge on the field.

    And this game was not lost in the last couple of minutes. There were 60 minutes of sporadic play. There were times that I thought I was watching Seneca Wallace. Yes, better that TJ, but was Wilson the Hawks best opportunity to win? I doubt it. I think Carroll has his rebellion against the established order and will do everything he can to do things HIS way, even to the detriment of the team. I love most of what he has done, but this QB debacle that he has created his whole time here is getting ridiculously old.

    1. On his touchdown, Wilson had protection and made three reads. How often have we seen that from either Tarvaris Jackson or Seneca Wallace? Wilson is more polished in almost every phase of the art of quarterbacking; his troubles Sunday can be attributed to nerves and an outstanding defense.

      As for Flynn, who was given an entire game's worth of preseason snaps to advertise himself, he looked a beat slow with his reads and at times downright sack-prone. Behind this line, you can't tell me that he was the better choice to start against that Arizona pass rush. He was also, as everyone keeps forgetting, injured.

      You're appealing to intangibles almost everywhere..."Flynn is a good study, Carroll is a rebel"...and I'd like to stick to stuff that can actually be seen and proven.

    2. For the sake of humility, I'm not saying Wilson played perfect. It's been pointed out by Thomas Beekers and Hawkblogger that Wilson had some erratic, conservative ball placement that didn't help his receivers out. That wasn't the whole story...his receivers weren't showing much separation (or hustle) themselves. On the all, the whole offense had a bad day.

    3. Flynn's elbow is still problematic; Wilson was the only option for week 1.

      The offensive play calling was clearly designed to be conservative, "dont lose the game" approach. Hopefully they will let Russell play to win when Dallas comes to town.

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  6. Love your blog Brandon. Probably my favorite seahawks blog to read despite it not being updated as frequently as others.

    Pretty sure the Arizona defense was ranked higher than ours in most categories for the second half of last season. Really hope we can find a disruptive 3-tech someday.

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  8. Agree it is not time to panic and am encouraged by some of Wilson's play and knowledge/moxie. What I havent seen mentioned is that on his touchdown, he tried to get up to the line and snap the ball and get it to an uncovered receiver who by at time became covered. He still had the composure not to throw it and make his reads, hitting rice. It was a bit high and hard, much like many of his misses on the day. However, it is disappointing that ST and the defense basically handed him all of his points and the one drive he owned, fell short. Not to mention much of that drive moved via penalty which also happened in preseason several times. I'm more disappointed in the D for giving up that drive to Kolb. Seems like the old hawks wrestling defeat from the jaws of victory(sidebar...not too disappointed in D as they played pretty well, but seem to give up a crucial drive late too often....lack of pass rush???)

  9. Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the good

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