Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Were Here When the Butterfly Opened its Wings

150 points in 3 games.

For comparison, the 1992 squad scored 140 points in that entire season. Now, 100 consecutive points at home with no answering score from the whoever the hell was forced to endure a trip to Seattle. Annihilation, destruction, havoc and Jim Harbaugh's face left blank. It all adds up to the team nobody wants to play. Drop to your knees and thank the lord of schedule making, Indy, you get to keep living in your paper palace. Nobody knows what a fraud you are, because you don't have to face the Seahawks.

This was not expected by even the devoted. Not this. Until we saw it with our own eyes, this offense was an exercise in potential. There was no proof it was even possible, with 30 points being the most we had scored in a single game all season.

What happened? I was pretty vocal about the playcalling up to and after the Miami game, and I felt validated about those criticisms when Pete acknowledged they could have thrown it a bit more. Our offense was multiple, but there was a governor on the throttle, and that governor was a call sheet and Motorola mic in the hands of Darell Bevell. But it wasn't really. Pete was afraid of turnovers, and he had to learn just like everybody else to put his faith in Russell Wilson. Pete was the governor on our throttle.

Our offense has consisted of Run and Deep Shots, and if the safety is covering too, roll out and throw it away. We played that game for most of the season and 55 minutes in Chicago. Sure, there was the occasional changeup to the formula, but it felt like 55 minutes of dueling with wooden practice swords more than strategic playcalling. The governor was still in place, and a defense that had played great was looking like it would get the blame for giving up 14 measly points. Because we had 10. 

And with Seattle's backs against the wall, Pete finally removed the governor. He finally allowed Russell to be the player the other team has to worry about. He finally let the point guard decide when he drives and when he dishes. 

When that warrior had secured the victory, we could have gone back to the old way of doing things, but Seattle's defense really did blow it this time.

 And that was the best thing that could have happened to our team. Really.

Yes, allowing a team to drive the field in under 30 seconds and take a game to overtime was the best thing that could have happened to the Hawks, you heard me. Because Seattle kept the governor off the offense yet again, and yet again Russell proved he is to be trusted fully and completely to do the right thing.

The whole team needed those two drives. The explosion of takeaways that has resulted is from those drives. Our defense had slowly gone from aggressive to conservative in approach, knowing how much our game plan depended on them not making any mistakes. In every game, they had to choose to either attack or control the offense, and the result was a run defense that was not aggressive and what felt like a defense in slow decline because they had been carrying the rest of the team.

In all games since, Seattles offense has found points quickly in the first quarter, and the defense has responded with formerly repressed aggression. All three phases of the game are working together as a single unit for the first time all year. Because of two drives on the road in Chicago.

Pete will always build around the run, so in a sense, that governor will always exist. But that is a very good thing; to attack through the air always is to sacrifice physicality for precision, and physicality has to be part of our identity. Physicality is play action, is the basis of run option, and is just plain vital to the attitude of our offensive line. The governor on the quarterback is gone though, and that is how the ugly little caterpillar has become something beautiful. Gone are notions of making the quarterback climb the pocket because the play calls for it. Gone are the notions that the West Coast Offense must have the quick slants that Russell will always struggle to complete. Gone are the notions of smoke screens as the best option to get the ball from quarterback to receiver.

Pete trusts Wilson. Now this is the NFL, and stuff happens, and Wilson will make more mistakes, maybe even some mistakes that cost us games. But Pete knows he won't make them from bad habits, won't make them from trying to make the impossible happen, and won't make them because the overall pressure of the game has gotten to him. I was afraid that in the future we would have to deal with a coach who struggled to give up control to his ever growing quarterback, and those fears have evaporated. That speaks volumes about Pete. For a "defensive" coach to give up control isn't easy, and Pete's near phobia of turnovers can't make it easy to surrender control. Pete preaches humble, and he walks it too, at least to the extent you can in that profession. I would compare what Pete is doing to a music teacher who realizes he has this one truly special student, and one day he realizes this student just doesn't need sheet music anymore.

The bandwagon is going to fill up fast. More casual fans than you, the reader of this too-long article, will now begin to annoy you as they make it harder and more expensive to get tickets. This board is going to be gaining fans who are more fans of players than the laundry they wear, and who enjoy success more than the process. Fans who are fickle when we lose, and just as quick to let a little adversity make them complain as they are to let a little success go to their heads. 

That's OK. You were here when the butterfly opened its wings.


  1. Superb post. I especially love the insight into how the changing dynamics of one element of team play affects all others, e.g. the seeming decline of the defense halfway through the season. You explain well the narrative of how we got here from games our razor-thin games of the first chunk of the season and why (with good health to all players) this dominant kind of 'Hawks play can be the new norm, not an aberration.

  2. Welcome back, Brandon. I check your blog weekly, hoping for new posts.

    I'll welcome the bandwagon. Last time that really happened was the mid-80s, and it shut quickly. In the mid-00s I think the bandwagon consisted of people who drafted Shaun Alexander in fantasy football.

    This is something new for me, as a Seahawks fan since 1980 (the first year I was conscious of the NFL). I'll take it, as a natural high that just doesn't go away.

  3. Quick note: this was fellow writer Scott Williams' article, not mine. But I do have one planned for Monday or Tuesday.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Scott that the Bears game was a moment of truth for this team.

  4. Great insight. A now-potent offense allowed the defense to take risks again. Just look at the Cards game. Our defense and special teams just demolished them. And with the defense frustrating the opposition, our offense thrives.

    Pete writes about one USC game where the light went on and the roll continued for nearly a decade. I'm not sure that can happen in the NFL, but after three college-type scorecards, Chicago might have just been the unleashing of a dynasty.

    But first let's give the Rams a beat-down.

    One hundred yards. One game at a time.

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