Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Indiana Carroll and the Quarterback Crusade

For a while, the Seahawks' 2011 campaign was just one long draft discussion. Who are we getting at QB next year - that's all we cared about. Then the running game and defense suddenly emerged and started making a regular season out of it. That was fun, and hugely heartening. 2011 proved more informative and promising than we had expected.

But now, with the 49ers loss, we're swinging back into the holding pattern despite having a little football still left to play. And with that reversion, some shelved concerns are coming back with a vengeance.

A lot of us don't trust Pete Carroll to get our future quarterback right. I confess I don't.

And this despite Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider having done what most of us would have considered impossible: not only dump an entire roster whose financial footprint made it nigh undumpable, but replace most of that roster with talented high-ceiling starters - within two offseasons.

Wait...lockout...one and a half offseasons!

The rational sliver of my mind says, "What more do these guys need to prove to you?" They've validated themselves at virtually every position, spectacularly in some cases (Kam Chancellor! Doug Baldwin! ZOMG RICHARD SHERMAN!!!!!!!1!11). But when it comes to the cornerstone of quarterback, we're tetchy. Anxiously rehashing the debates. Wringing out the talking points without mercy. Flooding Rob Staton with page hits. All the signs of someone who needs a lot more reassurance.

DVR Run Analysis - San Francisco @ Seattle; 24-Dec-2011

Here's my DVR Run Analysis for the 49ers/Seahawks game...

Note: You can also read the run analysis of the Bears, Rams, Eagles, and Redskins games.

We lost. Dang! But our running game was amazingly good. We had zero plays for a loss. Only five of 25 plays were for less than three yards. We scored a running TD - the first against SF this year. Lynch ran for over 100 yards - the first 100 yard run game allowed by the Niners in the past 36 games. To run this well against the toughest run D in the league is a heck of an accomplishment. Though we lost the game and are eliminated from the playoffs, we've got something to build upon next year.

Overall, our planned runs earned 121 yards on 25 carries for a 4.8 YPC average. Lynch has scored a TD in eleven games in a row, extending his record. Beast Mode accounted for 107 yards on 21 carries for 5.1 YPC and one historic touchdown. This was quite the turnaround after our weak running game in Chicago. That we beat the Bears and lost to the Niners, however, shows that there is more to football than running...

* Q1 - We ran for 3, 3, 18, 5, and 4 yards. That adds up to 33 yards and 6.6 YPC. One first down. Unfortunately, I didn't see any of it as Fox showed the conclusion of the Giants-Jets game to the Portland market.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Seahawks lose most meaningful meaningless game ever

Before I start- Merry Christmas everyone!

I guess it would be incorrect to say this was a meaningless game, as Seattle still held incredibly slim and convoluted playoff hopes even after the Lions put the finishing touches on their playoff clinching beatdown of the Chargers.  For all intents and purposes though, after Detroit jumped out to a huge early lead, it became pretty clear that today's stakes were essentially symbolic.

I know I can't speak for every fan, but given my new found hatred for the 49ers, all I wanted was to see my team spoil the 49ers run at history.  They had not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, which has never been done before.  They also hadn't allowed a 100 yard rusher all year.  Both of those streaks came to an end today.  It doesn't make up for losing, but it came surprisingly close for me.  Thank goodness for that touchdown too, or else I might have gone mental over that goal line fiasco in the first half.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DVR Run Analysis - Seattle @ Chicago; 18-Dec-2011

Here's my DVR Run Analysis for the Seahawks/Bears game...

Note: You can also read the run analysis of the Rams, Eagles, and Redskins games.

* The Bears may have lost the game, but their run defense is tough. To gain yardage on the ground, we needed a hat on a hat - plus speed, strength, and leverage, if not luck. But credit the Seahawks for continuing to pound the ball. We were able to run the ball into the end zone, and the run game softened the Bear's pass defense.

* Overall, our planned runs earned 60 yards on 32 carries for a 1.9 YPC average. Lynch has now scored a TD in ten games in a row, a new record. He is the first Seahawk RB since Shaun Alexander to earn over 1,000 yards. On Sunday, Beast Mode accounted for 42 yards on 20 carries for 2.1 YPC and two touchdowns. A weak day on the ground, yet a dominant win.

* Q1 - We had only three good runs in nine tries. That added up to just 4 yards and 0.4 YPC. One TD. An additional failed run was negated by a holding call.

[13:57] 1st and 10. Two TEs on the right. Zone right with Morrah slashing left. Jeanpierre gets pushed back, but he turns his man to the outside. Miller and Giacomini combo block the DE. Giacomini releases but is too late to get the LB. Tate makes a nice block outside. Rather than cut back to the slash, Lynch goes right and is able to beat Giacomini's LB for four yards.
[13:17] 2nd and 6. Zone left. Unger and Miller get pushed back. Gallery chips to help Unger and goes forward. Lynch squeezes between Unger and Miller and beasts the pile forward with some help from the linemen. Four yard gain. Not a bad start.
[10:25] 1st and Goal at the 1. McQuistan and Gallery open a nice hole. Robinson leads to smother the LB. Unfortunately, Jackson pitches the ball to Washington who runs to the outside and is met by a wall of unblocked defenders. Should have taken it straight ahead. Loss of two.
[9:57] 2nd and Goal at the 3. Probably a zone right call. Jeanpierre steps too far right and loses the DT. McCoy is slow off the snap and is beaten badly by Peppers. Lynch has no chance. Loss of four.
[8:57] 1st and Goal at the 1. After a Bears' penalty on the field goal attempt, we run a power play with Jeanpierre pulling left. Unger takes his DT right. Morrah stonewalls Peppers. Gallery combos with McQuistan then releases to get in the way of two LBs. Lynch bursts through falling forward, surprised that he didn't get contact. In fact, Conte saved his own skin by jumping out of Lynch's way. TD!
[3:57] 1st and 10. Zone right. Lynch and McQuistan are slow off the snap. McQuistan is then tripped by Morrah. Robinson leads and smashes into Urlacher, but lacks the weight to drive him forward. Lynch gets one yard as he's stopped by McQuistan's man.
[3:05] 2nd and 9 on our own five yard line. Lynch slips and falls in the end zone. TJ keeps his head, keeps the ball, and keeps it out of the end zone, avoiding a safety. Loss of four. This sets up a sack fumble for a Bears TD on the next pass play.
[2:57] 1st and 10. Zone left. Gallery and McQuistan lack push, but are able to turn their men outside. Lynch cuts back right. Unger combos with Jeanpierre, then releases. There is a nice hole near RT, but the DE gets his arms extended on Miller. Lynch sees it and cuts further right, but there is an unblock safety on the prowl. Gain of one.
[1:57] 1st and 10. Zone left with push and a combo block on the right side. Robinson leads inside of RG. Lynch follows, but the Bears converge. Gain of two.
[:57] 2nd and 8. Zone left, but Jeanpierre loses his block badly and holds. Lynch forced left but can't get to the edge. No play.

Tied, 7-7.

* Q2 - Two good runs in six plays, plus a false start. 30 yards for 5 YPC and two first downs.

[15:00] 2nd and 18. False start, Giacomini.
[9:44] 1st and 10 on our one yard line. QB sneak straight ahead for two yards.
[9:11] 2nd and 8 on our three. Zone left with two TEs on the right side. Gallery goes forward for one backer, then turns right to get another. Robinson comes up to block the first backer after Unger and McQuistan open a huge hole. Lynch finds open space, makes the first tackler miss and gets an extra five yards on the second. A perfectly executed play, fifteen yards, and a first down.
[8:27] 1st and 10. Stretch left. Peppers gets push on LT McQuistan as Morrah takes his man outside and back. Lynch sees McQuistan losing ground and cuts left at the last moment. Lynch squeezes between McQuistan and Morrah, but by that time, Gallery had already lost engagement on Urlacher. Gain of two.
[7:47] 2nd and 8. Zone left with Miller slashing right. Gallery gets too tall as he and McQuistan get pushed back. Lynch doesn't cut back with the slash, which is good, because Urlacher stayed home. Lynch makes it through our pushed-back line for no gain
2nd and 10. Inside zone left as Miller takes the DE outside and Giacomini seals. Forsett gets through a clean seam, beats the strong safety, but is met head on by the free safety. Gain of nine.
[1:24] 3rd and 1. Zone left with flow, but little push. Jeanpierre gains a step, but loses his man to the left. Miller, on the right end, is a half step behind his man, flowing left. Forsett barely gets the first down as Miller's man gets his legs and Jeanpierre's man gets his chest. Gain of two from a very optimistic spot by the officials.

14-7, Bears.

* First half totals: 34 yards on 15 runs for a 2.3 ypc average.

* Q3 - 7 yards on 7 carries for 1 YPC. Two good plays: one is a TD. Longest run: three yards.

[13:07] 1st and goal at the 3 yard line. Power. Jeanpierre is hit by a LB coming to the line with momentum. Jeanpierre gives a step, but turns him left. Gallery pulls right, is nearly impeded, but he is able to get outside RT as Giacomini and Miller make nice blocks to open the lane. Gallery helps Miller secure leverage, then goes for a backer. Lynch gets to the hole and powers by Urlacher for the TD.
[10:04] 1st and 10. Zone right. Unger is pushed back and the free safety comes on the right side. Robinson gets the FS, but he and Unger cause a clog. Lynch gets around Robinson. Jeanpierre and Giacomini had combo'd, but Giacomini was delayed too long to get the LB. The LB seals the edge and Lynch caught for a gain of one.
[8:17] 1st and 10. Three receivers in a tight formation. Zone left. Peppers beats McQuistan inside badly. Gallery doesn't offer help yet still can't get to the LB quickly enough. Unger is washed out to the left. Lynch gets to McQuistan, cuts outside, but has no chance. Loss of one.
[6:52] 3rd and 9. Forsett runs an inside zone left. Urlacher stayed home as the D outnumbers the play. No gain.
[4:02] 2nd and 6. Zone right. Unger and Jeanpierre don't team up well on the DT. Jeanpierre goes forward, but Unger can't make the block. Robinson has to block the DT instead, but that leaves an extra man up the field. Lynch makes it around Robinson's nice improv block, but is met by an unblocked safety. Gain of one.
[2:35] 1st and 10. We have two TEs, but Morrah lines up wide. Zone left with Gallery going forward, but Unger gets washed out back and left. McQuistan blocks Peppers left and outside, but Peppers gets his arms extended. Robinson leads to the hole, but Peppers sheds the block and squeezes Lynch with Unger's man. No gain.
[1:57] 2nd and 10. Zone left with Robinson leading left with a nice block. Jeanpierre releases as Unger and Giacomini string their men out. Lynch gets to Unger pushes the center and his man forward, then does the same for Giacomini. Gain of three.

24-14, Seahawks.

* Q4 - 19 yards on 10 carries for a 1.9 yard average. One first down. Only three of the nine plays were successful.

[13:18] 1st and goal at the 3. Zone right. Unger tries to go forward to Urlacher, but is pushed aside. Forsett cuts back along the seam, but meets Urlacher. Gain of one. Had Unger squared up the LB, it would have probably been a Forsett TD. No problem. Two plays later, Robinson receives a TD pass.
[10:24] 1st and 10. Zone left. Gallery unable to get the Will LB. McQuistan and Miller get no push. Robinson unable to cut right to the oncoming LB and goes outside to chop block McQuistan's man instead. (Should have been a penalty.) This just pins Lynch in. Loss of four.
[8:08] 2nd and 6. Chaos on a probable zone left. McQuistan whiffs a block as Robinson leads left. Lynch follows Robinson, sees McQuistan's man and makes a violent cut to the right. Giacomini makes a nice cut block, allowing Lynch to get through. Jeanpierre had gone forward and makes a nice block on the safety. It's not the way we drew it up, but it confuses the Bears' D. Gain of 12. First down.
[7:23] 1st and 10. Two receivers on the right. Lynch runs left. The assignments are poor, so Gallery pulls late to the outside, but fails to get to the defender. (That probably wasn't his responsibility.) The left side gets a small push, but the defender on the edge gets Lynch's legs. Gain of one.
[6:41] 2nd and 9. Zone right, but Unger and Giacomini are pushed back. Robinson makes a decent block, but the LB recovers. Unger's and Giocomini's men converge on Lynch for a loss of one.
[5:57] 3rd and 10. Three receiver set. Power with Gallery pulling past RT. Miller splits his man right to open the hole. Leon gets there quickly for a gain of three.
[4:14] 1st and 10. Zone right with a cutback. Gallery is pushed back a step. McQuistan goes forward but misses with his cut block. Forsett gets to Gallery's back and tries to push him forward, but it's no use. Forsett goes right and is swarmed for a gain of one.
[3:25] 2nd and 9. Zone right. Giacomini splits his man but Jeanpierre whiffs his block. Robinson is able to take up the slack. Unfortunately, Jeanpierre goes back, rather than looking forward and getting the safety. The safety hits Forsett for a loss of one.
[2:00] 4th and 8. Four receivers. Power, with Jeanpierre pulling past LT. Tate and Baldwin make nice blocks on the outside. Leon starts to go to the left edge, but cuts back to a nice hole as McQuistan seals and Jeanpierre pushes Urlacher away from the play.

* Second half totals: 26 yards on 17 runs for a 1.5 ypc average.

Seahawks win 38-14.

* Overall Blocking - The Bears made us look weak at times. Between the DTs, Peppers, Urlacher, and Briggs, these guys are strong, fast, and disciplined. Unger probably had the longest day as he was often outmuscled. Then again, it's hard to call out Unger alone as we rarely got push across the line and everybody had their weak plays. Giacomini might have had the cleanest game, except for his one false start. Then again, we ran left a bit more than to the right.

Probably the most important thing was that our guys kept playing hard and didn't get frustrated. We didn't give up on plays. We didn't lose our heads and had only a few missed assignments. We didn't get drawn into fights or stupid penalties. I also saw some good improvisation by Robinson and Gallery as things broke down around them.

* Play calling - We tended to go with lighter sets this game, rarely going down to a single receiver. We ran inside and out and didn't have much success with either. We ran slash plays with and without cutbacks and both were well defended. We even tried an end around. No matter what we did, the Bears usually had an answer. With the Bears playing hard against the run, this was a day when we needed to burn them with the pass, and TJ was able to do that in the second half. Yet, we never abandoned the run. Our lead and our defense gave us that luxury.

* Runners - Lynch made one or two questionable cuts, but that was about it. The Bears did a nice job of getting push, so Lynch couldn't get many signature extra yards falling forward. He rarely got momentum and leverage going. He also had a couple of slips in the backfield. On the other hand, he got two TDs and totalled 1,011 yards for the season along with a win, so it can't feel too bad. No fumbles (aside from TJ in the passing game.)

* Summary - The Bears are not the Rams. The previous week, we had the speed to run outside. This week, we didn't and the middle was plugged too. But we kept our heads and kept going to the well.

Note that the Bears are a 4-3 team and the Niners play 3-4. They're quick to the outside as well, so don't expect an easy day, but they won't be able to copy the Bears' playbook. To succeed, we will need to do a better job of getting a hat on a hat. Hopefully, we will get another step or two of push as we were consistently outmuscled on the inside in Chicago. Against the Niners, we will have one more day of rest than the competition. Best of all, we will have the 12th man feeding the team Skittles!

Go Hawks!

Monday, December 19, 2011

State of the Seahawks; Forecast, Clear Vision

At the time of Mr. Carroll's hire, the words "Clear Vision" were thrown around with sustained conviction by Pete and John, met with derision by the media, and met with skepticism by fans inured to front office promises.  The cheerleader from USC says anything, because he is so pumped and jacked, said the college coaches never make it in the NFL crowd.  He doesn't really want to coach in Seattle, he is just running from the Reggie Bush scandal, sniveled the pundits.  Pros do not buy into Rah Rah coaching at this level, said every damn talking head.  Seattle was accused of almost racism in the hiring process for a near violation of the Rooney rule, Pete was releasing a poorly timed book that touted his philosophy, and every player who ever played at USC was linked to the Hawks future by every reporter and blogger with a hunch.

Vision is a funny word that must confuse the hell out of people just learning English.  Rhymes with fission, while breaking phonetic rules.  I have good vision.  Awesome.  My vision needs correction.  Coke bottle correction, or contacts?  I just had a vision.  Kook.  Pete and John share a vision.  Bull.

Those were dark days for many Hawk fans. Foggy days.  Rainy days with low visibility.  Pete's vision was only clear to a few people.  His corrective lenses were of a prescription available to few of us.  Binocular in one eye, Telescope in the other.

I freely admit to not having a clue about Seattle's direction after Pete was hired.  I knew I was glad the Keystone Cops, aka Ruskell and Mora, were gone, but hope is not vision.  Sometimes, hope is less transparent than pure misery.

Fast forward to Week 16, 2011.  Seattle still could finish with a losing record.  Seattle is assured of at least the same record as last year, and if they do finish that way, the superficial will have their say.  Pete will be a .500 career coach in their eyes.

Do you care, or will statements like that just be your new filter for separating the ignorant from the informed?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tyrannical Seahawks torment and terrify adorable baby Bears quarterback, win 38-14

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.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Bears Defense and the Uselessness of the YPG Stat

In trying to get a bead on tomorrow's matchup against the Chicago Bears, you might stumble across the fact that Chicago's defense is giving up 358.2 yards per game, ranking them 20th in the league in that particular stat. Which might encourage one to anticipate an easy game tomorrow.

This is why simple cumulative stats like YPG are rather empty. They never tell the whole story. You might say, "Well, surely it at least hints at the reality, right?" No, in this case it pretty much flies in the face of it. And not just because of our lingering awareness that the Bears have talent on their defense.

Did you know that the Bears are the most passed-against defense in the league? They've faced 529 attempts, 40.7 per game. In contrast, only four teams have been rushed on less (303 attempts, 23.3 per game). By nature, pass-heavy offenses average more yardage than rush-heavy offenses, so right away I'm thinking "inflated passing totals".

The reasons vary. This season, Chicago has faced Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford twice, Josh Freeman, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers, and Carson Palmer. Chicago's strength-of-schedule is currently tied for 7th hardest in the league. Those QB's may not all be leading impressive playoff-bound teams, but they are capable of putting up good passing totals regardless. For example, Newton, Freeman, and Palmer all posted good mileage (374, 264, and 301 yards respectively) in competitive games against the Bears.

You can also thank Chicago's own pre-Caleb Hanie scoring ability (on both sides of the ball) for this inflation, as they had Atlanta, Minnesota, Detroit, and San Diego buried and frantically passing to catch up in the second half.

And finally, the offenses of Green Bay, New Orleans, and Carolina really just kinda don't bother running much. Except in the fourth quarter. Then they run. To kill the clock and preserve their enormous lead.

Yet despite being burdened with more passing defense than any other team, the Bears have allowed only 16 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, a Yards Per Attempt (YPA) of 6.7, a 31% 1st-down percentage, 77.3 opposing QB rating, and 19.6 points per game. They're top ten in the league in all those categories.

YPG stats will tell you none of this. They don't take into account the effects of game situation (opposing teams rushing more to kill the clock or passing more to beat it) or opponent quality (beating the league's worst QB's in 2007 didn't make the Ruskell Seahawks defense good). For a more comprehensive stat, try Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which has Chicago as the #7 pass defense (and the #3 run defense).

So...YPG, pretty much telling you the opposite of reality. The Bears can stop the pass better than the two teams we faced last, against whom Tarvaris Jackson was able to game-manage.

Tomorrow's game should be a messy defensive slugfest along the lines of the Browns game, except interesting (and with bigger ramifications). Lynch has already broken 100 yards against an even better run defense than Chicago (that'd be the Ravens), and he has an offensive scheme that has exceeded expectations in opening lanes for him while still protecting the passing game. But factor in the mounting injuries on this O-line and the harshness of Soldier Field in December, and this remains a tough matchup.

The Seahawks' key to victory is really our secondary, who should be on the lookout for any wild passes on the part of Caleb Hanie.

A defeat at Chicago's hands all but washes away our playoff hopes. I'm not sure we'll be eliminated mathematically (head-to-head tiebreakers aren't considered in a three-way Wild Card tie), but the Seahawks' control of their own destiny will shift almost entirely to other teams' hands.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DVR Run Analysis - St Louis @ Seattle; 12-Dec-2011

Note: You can also read the run analysis of the Eagles and Redskins games.

Here's my DVR Run Analysis for the Rams/Seahawks game...

* The first play of the game was great, but for most of the first half, the blocking was tentative. No surprise as this is McQuistan's first game at LT. It's also Jeanpierre's first start at RG and his first game playing next to Giacomini. In the second half, the line gained confidence, speed, and more yards per carry.

* Overall, our planned runs earned 140 yards on 26 carries for a 5.4 YPC average - the same average as last week. Lynch topped 100 yards for the fifth time in six weeks. Beast Mode accounted for 119 yards on 22 carries for 5.0 YPC and one touchdown. He really came alive in the second half with 5.6 YPC.

* Q1 - We had one bad play in six tries, netting 29 yards for 4.8 YPC. Two first downs.

[14:50] 1st and 10. Perfect blocking on a stretch left play. Gallery and Morrah go for LBs. Morrah nicked the DL to help McQuistan gain leverage. Robinson goes to the safety on the edge. Tate rides his CB downfield. Lynch follows Robinson, reads his block, and cuts inside for a gain of 13 and a 1st down. Beauty in action.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mario Williams and Other Good Free Agents for Seattle

Is it wrong to be dreaming of improving the roster with 3 games still left to play?  If it is, why does it feel so right?  Is that why it is called rosterbating?  Moral dilemmas aside,  let's dig into the Hawks' defensive roster needs in free agency. There is one player that is obviously the focus of this article, but while on the subject, why don't we look at a few other names for just a moment. (Your moment, not mine. This stuff takes way longer to type than to read.)

First off, in two free agent periods, Mr. Pete Carroll and Mr. John Schneider have established that they are not as free-agent phobic as Schneider's roots in Green Bay, and even his words during his first offseason, may have suggested.  I expect that John and Pete are also not going to make as many free agent acquisitions in the future as they did in the truncated 2011 free agency period. However, they have cap space, and they have chutzpah, so I do expect to hear some names. Maybe just from rumor-mongers like Incarcerated Bob, but heard nonetheless.  Keep in mind that so far, they only break the bank for youngish free agents.

Such as...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cloudy with a chance of Skittles

Even when running Marshawn Lynch is celebrating his next touchdown

The Seahawks avoided the unthinkable Monday night.  Its not very often fans of a 5-7 team feel that victory is all but guaranteed, but these 2011 Rams are a special case.  For the season they are averaging just over 11 points a game.  Its stunning to me that essentially the same group of personnel very nearly won the NFC West last year.  Perhaps even more mind-blowing is that one of their two wins this year was by 10 points over the currently 10-3 New Orleans Saints, who have scored nearly triple as many points for the season.  That was 6 weeks ago.  The Saints haven't lost since. 

If the Saints could do the unthinkable, so could Seattle.  And through the first two quarters, Seattle may have held a 10-3 lead, but they were actually losing in terms of yardage and time of possession despite the fact that Sam Bradford was having an incredibly bad night.  To the Rams credit, I thought their defense did an excellent job taking away any outside plays, whether run or pass. For whatever reason, Seattle kept dialing up plays outside, despite having two backups at the tackle spots, and the Rams kept dominating on them.

That changed in the 2nd half, when the Seahawks suddenly remembered that Robert Gallery and Max Unger still existed and were, you know, pretty good at run blocking.  For what seems like almost every game since Dallas in week nine, Seattle once again won the battle of the interior, which is extra nice since Lynch is pretty much the very definition of a north/south runner anyway.  Lynch dominated the second half, which caused the Rams to dial back the pass rush, which in turn helped Tarvaris Jackson to overcome a terrible first half and finish with a good 96.4 passer rating, a good 65.6% completion rate and a solid 7.0 yards per attempt.  While its easy to be negative about Jackson, one can only imagine the excitement that a high first round quarterback would generate with numbers like those in a 30-13 win.  Of course, all of that production was made possible by an effective 2nd half running game.  Normally in the NFL, its the pass that sets up the run, but for a team with a mediocre quarterback at the helm, things are reversed.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you have the most consistent rushing attack in the league.

Seattle did play an ugly first half, but the second half was nothing short of dominant, at least on offense.  Stop me if you've heard this before: the Seahawks played better in the second half than in the first half.  I've been watching the Seahawks for 21 years, and I'm not sure I've ever looked forward to halftime as much as I have watching the 2011 team.

As always, here are some of my random observations from the game:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Ignored Seahawks

What gesture is he really making?
Alright, this is just getting ridiculous.

I've never been a huge fan of FOXSports' Adam Schein, and this week he has joined the chorus of national writers who are incapable of interpreting a Seahawks' win (over the Eagles, in this case) as anything but the opposition throwing the game:

I took the time to do a video rant on Cosmic SCHEIN this week on FOXSports.com to explain why the Eagles shouldn’t fire Reid. And then his team travels cross country and loses to the Seattle Seahawks. Actually, they didn’t lose. They got manhandled for three quarters by a relative bunch of clowns. Forget the 31-14 score. The effort and execution were pathetic all game.

That's the way this cookie always crumbles for the national media. The Seahawks never win, the other team just loses. No Seahawks victory contains any element of the Seahawks doing anything to actually earn or deserve it. It's always the fault of whatever team went into a Seahawks game cocky and came out clocked. To the national media, the Seahawks are an inert, faceless element with no sentient qualities or nameworthy players except their sucky QB, which other teams just seem to trip over because they weren't looking.

I'm usually one to try and put the shoe on the other foot. I try to see all sides and not let my fandom color things, and sometimes it makes others question that fandom. Let's get the perspective out of the way: The Eagles really did play like they didn't want it. They played like the Seahawks did for Charlie Whitehurst. They were missing three crucial starters, five once Mike Williams was done falling on people's heads, and were playing on the road (big-time) after a short week. Vince Young is just not an NFL quarterback, and three of his four interceptions came on awful throws/decisions. Their LB corps sucks in almost every facet. All things being equal, the Eagles really did make enough independent mistakes to lose the game.

If only things were equal to the pundits. Enough is enough.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DVR Run Analysis - Philadelphia @ Seattle; 1-Dec-2011

Note: Click here to find Jon's previous DVR Analysis of the Redskins game.

Here's my DVR Run Analysis for the Eagles/Seahawks game...

* This was the week of the breakaway run. We lost some consistency this week as we had five runs for loses and twelve of thirty planned runs with gains of less than three yards. Half of our runs were for less than four. I attribute this more to an over-aggressive defense than inconsistent play from the offense. Yeah, they stopped us at times, but they also got burned - badly.

* Overall, we got 162 yards on 30 planned carries for a 5.4 YPC average. Marshawn Lynch topped 100 yards for the fourth time in five weeks. Beast Mode accounted for 148 yards on 22 carries for 6.7 YPC and two touchdowns. Yeah, the Eagles got burned.

* Q1 - After an Illegal shift penalty due to WR Golden Tate watching a late 12th Man ceremony, we had only one bad play in eight runs. We got 51 yards for 6.4 YPC, including a first down and one of the sweetest TDs you'll ever see.

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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DVR Run Analysis - Washington @ Seattle; 27-Nov-2011

Here's my weekly DVR Run Analysis for the Redskins/Seahawks game...

* The good news is that the consistency was back in the running game. The bad news is that the defense, a weak passing game, and penalties let this game slip through our fingers.

* Overall, we got 121 yards on 29 carries for a 4.2 YPC average. Marshawn Lynch got 100+ yards for the third time in four weeks. Regarding consistency, we were never tackled for a loss and were held to no gain on a single running play. 18 of Lynch's 24 runs (75%) were for three or more yards. (14 were for four or more.)

* Q1 - The quarter was weak, but not due to the running game. 20 yards on three runs and a first down. 6.7 YPC.

[7:05] 1st and 10. Power run, splitting the D at the center. Center Max Unger gets the NT, releases to go upstream, and FB Mike Robinson cuts the NT down. Lynch hits a free ILB for a gain of five.
[6:35] 2nd and 5. Slash right (the line goes right while the TE, Anthony McCoy, pulls to split the left side.) TE Zach Miller and LT Russell Okung seal perfectly. Lynch hits the hole and makes a LB miss, getting ten yards and a 1st down.
[:39] 1st and 10. With 2 backs and 1 TEs, the D loads the box. Zone right. Excellent push by Unger, RG Paul McQuistan, and RT Breno Giacomini. Robinson leads Lynch to the RG but is too late to get the LB at the next level. Lynch gets five and could have had a few more had Robinson made that block, but there was just too much ground for Mike Rob to cover.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Deadly secret agent Brandon Browner strikes, kills Seahawks season

I'll keep this write-up short.  This game kind of sucked to watch, and I know if you're like me, you probably aren't exactly digging for Seahawks reading material after a loss like this.

Its not accurate to boil this game down to one player.  Rex Grossman had his token interceptions, but other than those two passes, he was killing it today.  Grossman is not a good quarterback, but when he's having an "on" day, he's scary good, and today was one of those rare occasions.  He extended plays by moving in the pocket.  He executed screens and short passes to perfection.  He was very accurate on his throws, completing a whopping 74% of his passes for a highly impressive 9.0 yards per attempt.  Roy Helu also had a terrific game, totaling 162 yards from scrimmage and a highlight reel touchdown that sparked Washington's impressive comeback.

But I'm guessing people won't remember that.  They'll remember Browner for his drive extending hold (which later resulted in a touchdown instead of a punt), his blown coverage/PI that resulted in a game winning hail mary touchdown on 3rd and 19, and last but not least, a boneheaded 15 yard penalty in the game's final minute when Seattle could absolutely not afford it.  Its so much self-destruction that I wouldn't blame you if you had forgotten that Browner also had a terrific interception earlier on.

So, Seattle lost.  In the end, Washington beat Seattle soundly on the stat page in just about every category.  They deserved to win, even if it almost felt like they didn't.  Washington is not even close to being as bad a team as people think nationally (just like the Seahawks).  They are far and away better than teams like the Cardinals or Rams.  They have the best pass rush in the NFL, a very good new running back, and a quarterback who may not be good, but can still be dangerous.

Mike Shanahan drew up the perfect passing attack before the game, finding soft spots in our coverage on almost every snap right from the get-go.  By the 3rd drive, Pete Carroll made coverage adjustments which in part helped keep the Redskins scoreless for two full quarters.  But in the fourth quarter, Shanahan made a new set of counter adjustments and Grossman became unstoppable once again.  The game might have been a brutal snoozer, but its not often you see a chess match like that.

  • I don't know if teams give out game balls after a loss, but if they did, it should probably go to Marshawn Lynch.  Washington entered this game with a slightly above average rushing defense (14th in DVOA) and a top 10 defense overall.  Seattle once again had outstanding run blocking, but unlike the previous two weeks, Lynch brought his A-game and wasted no time hitting the holes and maximizing yardage.  Sure, his longest run of the day was only 12 yards, but he had multiple runs near 10 yards this time.  The result: a much more impressive 4.65 yards per carry.  If this is the Marshawn Lynch that shows up every week, Seattle is set at running back.  I never thought I'd say this, but fantasy football teams might want to give Marshawn a look on their waiver wires for the rest of this season.
  • No one is talking about it, but Golden Tate has quietly made huge strides this season.  He runs much prettier routes and his hands seem to have improved.  In just a couple months, he's gone from, frankly, a terrible player who many wanted to cut during the preseason to a quality #4 who is still trending upward.
  • Red Bryant has now blocked an incredible four kicks on the season.  I could be wrong, but if I recall correctly, Jim Mora was present in the broadcast booth for all four of them.
  • Speaking of which, I have no fondness for Jim Mora, but he's turned into a surprisingly good commentary man.  He was right on top of everything today, including the play in the endzone where he noticed the hat on the chalk.
  • I'm guessing the laundry guy for visiting NFL teams can't be too happy about the blue endzones coming back.  Those things stain white road jerseys like crazy.
  • Seattle was once again killed by penalties, but so was Washington.
  • Its hard to judge Jackson's performance.  He suffered at least 5 drops by my count in only 30 pass attempts.  On the other hand, he also had about 4-5 terrible throws.  But then again, he was playing with a very sore throwing arm which is certain to have an impact there.  My initial feeling is that Jackson played like usual today, but the drops and the rusty arm caused a lot of noise which made the performance look much worse than it really should have.  Regardless, its very hard to watch today's game and somehow still imagine the Seahawks leaving the 2012 draft without a talented quarterback somehow.  I can stomach another year of T-Jack just fine, but only if its clear that a sane long-term plan is in place.
  • If Hawthorne's injury is even semi-serious, might we see the return of Lofa Tatupu?  He's still out there, and Seattle does not have any depth at linebacker.
  • Regarding the secondary, it didn't feel like they had a down performance today, Browner exempted.  Further DVR study could prove otherwise, but watching the game, it just felt like Shanahan had an outstanding game plan, and both Grossman and Helu played terrific games.  Another huge factor was that despite pre-game reports, Trent Williams was able to play and his presence had a massive impact on Chris Clemons and Seattle's ability to finish the job on its pass rush.  Had Sean Locklear started instead, I doubt Washington wins this game.
  • I've said before that I'm no longer rooting for draft position, and I've made several arguments, including an essay recently at Seahawks Draft Blog, that winning could actually have some hidden benefits come draft day.  Losing today, which probably cut our slim playoff chances in half, doesn't change that.  However, its worth noting that if Seattle had to lose to a single team in our final six games, Washington would have been the best team to lose to.  Unlike the other five teams, Washington is desperate for a quarterback, and is looking for a somewhat similar mold of quarterback as we are.  This could very well be a loss that we'll look back on in 5 months and say "thank God we lost to the Redskins."  Losing gave us a game up in the draft standings against a prime competitor (meaning we are now "tied" with the Redskins).  Idiots note:  Please do not construe this comment as me rooting for draft position.  I would have much rather won and be on a 3 game winning streak heading into a nationally televised game against the Eagles.  The draft position is nothing more than a silver lining to a dark cloud.  Its just something to make us feel a little less crappy about a suffering a painful fourth quarter comeback.

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    The DVR Run Analyst Joins 17 Power

    Since 2007, I've been reviewing almost every Seahawks run play in slow motion on my DVR over at the Northwest Sports Talk Forum under the alias, CamasMan. (I just posted my analysis of the Rams Game there.) Brandon invited me to join this blog and I immediately accepted. Is there a better title than 17 Power for a blog analyzing the Seahawks' running game?

    Here some background. I'm the height and weight of a wide receiver, have the hands of a linebacker, the speed of a nose tackle, the tactical savvy of a long snapper, and the toughness of a place kicker. So, in organized sports, I'm a breaststroker. I was never meant to play football.

    I first became an obsessed fan back when Bill Walsh first became the 49er's head coach. My best friend's dad had been Walsh's roommate at San Jose State. So here we were, a bunch of young guys in LA, rooting for San Francisco. Hey, timing is everything. A few years later, my young family moved to Grass Valley in Northern California, and the ride continued. In '96, we moved up here to Camas, and watched more High School ball than the pros. I happened to catch Game 5 of Seattle's 2005 season, and quickly became hooked. Again, timing is everything. Screw the '9ers!

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011

    Winning by Reputation vs. Just Beating Bad Gameplans

    It's being said that the Seahawks' defense is now shutting down teams by mere reputation.

    In the last two weeks, Seattle has beaten two teams - Baltimore and St. Louis - who abandoned the run very early on after a token showing, then turned around and placed the game on the shoulders of their QB. Word is that their offensive coordinators, aware of Seattle's ability against the run, were planning a pass-heavy attack for that reason even before the game began. If opponents are smart enough to throw out entire facets of the offense before the game even begins, then hey, we must be pretty good.

    There's a massive assumption in there: that relying on the passing game made sense for those teams. It's a faulty assumption. It actually made even less sense than trying to run against the brick wall of Seattle's defensive line. If you're going to kill the run, not only do you have to be craftier about it then giving Ray Rice only five carries, but you had better have a quarterback who can carry the team. Otherwise, the results write themselves.

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    Seahawks smack hapless Rams, win 24-7

    I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

    Well that was interesting.

    Okay, not really.  But as Bryce Fisher once said, an ugly win is "like an ugly baby- you never see one."  I've seen my fair share of both, but his words are wise in spirit.  Seattle did not prove they were a great team today, but they did prove that regardless of what their record says, they are easily a cut above the worst teams in the league.  This game was a long overdue reminder that the Seattle Seahawks do indeed still play in the NFC West.  Its easy to forget, given that Seattle only played NFC West opponents twice in the first nine games, which non-coincidentally resulted in the Seahawks boasting the toughest strength of schedule ranking in the NFL up to that point (.598 opponent win %).  

    So it should come as no surprise that today the Seahawks dominated the Rams.  Or did they?  Honestly I'm not sure.  I mean, did they really finish with 5 sacks?  Is that a typo?  That seems unbelievable given how absent the pass rush felt in the first 3 quarters.  The Seahawks had a highly impressive 95 yard touchdown drive in this game, yet only finished with 289 yards of total offense.  And the Seahawks averaged 4.2 yards per play!  For comparison's sake, they had 3.5 yards per play in a shutout performance at Pittsburgh in week 2.  Taken out of context, that number looks pretty pathetic.  Put into context, it looks even worse, as the Rams defense (as measured by yards) ranked in the mid-twenties before this game.

    But even that seems pretty kick ass compared to the Rams, who had 3.0 yards per play today.  And though I'd like to compliment the Seahawks defense here, I think a lot of that was just the Rams being the Rams.  It wasn't hard to find insightful analysts who predicted that Sam Bradford would have a sophomore slump while Josh McDaniels installed his notoriously high learning curve offense, but it seems they still stopped well short as doomsayers.  Sam Bradford only rarely attempted passes beyond 15 yards, despite having a ton of time to throw for the first three quarters.  His performance was lethargic if not pitiful, sort of like Matt Hasselbeck for most of the last 3 years, if Matt actually had time to throw for most of the game.

    In fact, it donned on me late in the 4th quarter that we've all seen this game before.  We saw it last year, with the 2011 Rams playing the role of the 2010 Seahawks, and the 2011 Seahawks playing the role of the 2010 Raiders.  For those who haven't purged the ugly memories of that game, Seattle hung with a tough Oakland Raiders team through the first half, but at some point in the 3rd quarter, something snapped (Red Bryant's knee) and then the Raiders delivered a straight up Chuck Norris ass-kicking the rest of the way.  They didn't just crush Seattle on the scoreboard or on the stat page, but on the injury report as well.  It was a brutal loss that would have singlehandedly sabotaged Seattle's playoff outlook if not for the fact that they played in the maybe the weakest division in NFL history that year.

    The Rams didn't suffer many injuries, but they took their fare share of big shots, particularly from Kam Chancellor and David Hawthorne.  I think it says it all that the game ended in the "victory" formation, and I use quotation marks because it wasn't the victorious team doing the kneeling.  As Sam Bradford took that final knee, you could just sense that the Rams offense simply wanted nothing more to do with the Seahawks defense.  I'm not going to pretend that the Seahawks have an elite defense, or even a true top 10 defense.  But a top 5 "nastiest" defense?  Yeah, I think its safe to say that.

    Its not a perfect analogy statistically, but in terms of personality, the Seahawks have already become the NFC's Raiders en route to becoming the NFC's Ravens.  The Raiders haven't won a lot of games lately, but they've been consistently competitive, they dominate in a weak division, and they are not a fun team to play against.  They also rack up an unbelievable amount of penalties- somehow even more than the Seahawks have. 

    Today the Seahawks were the bullies in an elementary school playground who ran across a 3rd grade Stuart Smalley to pick on.  That's nothing to brag about, but it all counts in the standings just the same.

    • My eyes were focused today on McQuistan and Giacomini, the two replacements for Seattle's injured rookies on the right side.  I mean this as no slight, but McQuistan and Giacomini are pretty much the definition of "replacement level."  Replacement level means a level of play you associate with a street free agent.  Both Giacomini and McQuistan were free agents of the unwanted variety when Seattle signed them.  Given how those two performed today, I think its safe to say that Moffitt and Carpenter were both roughly replacement level players in their rookie seasons.  Perhaps a little less.  Which by the way, is exactly the level of performance I'd expect.  Its not exactly a well kept secret: rookie lineman are usually pretty terrible, but tend to get much better later.  We need look no further than Max Unger to see that.

    • So how did they play?  McQuistan had a few penalties against him, but otherwise I thought he was surprisingly non-terrible.  His run blocking was adequate and his pass protection fell short of a disaster (unlike his previous outings).  You could say he was kind of like a jittery version of Mike Gibson (whom, it should be noted, isn't here anymore).  Giacomini missed a few blocks and has shown himself to be a disappointingly limited athlete at times despite having the look of a rather athletic right tackle.  It was probably a step above what Carpenter was giving us, but Carpenter was one of the worst right tackles in the league.  I think of Giacomini as being a reverse Polumbus, where Polumbus was an acceptable pass blocker but a poor run blocker.  The Seahawks have invested in building a run block oriented line, and even their backups tend to fit that philosophy.

    • Marshawn Lynch had yet another mixed day.  In the last 2 games, Seattle's run blocking has ranged from solid to outstanding, and yet in that span Lynch has only averaged 3.36 yards per carry despite getting a tremendous workload in those games.  Those games helped me realize why Marshawn Lynch's yards per carry is low... really why its always been low even in his pro-bowl season.  Lynch is a good athlete, but he tends to slow almost to a stop when waiting for blocks, he doesn't explode out of his cuts, he often misses out on huge cutback areas and on the rare occasion he goes untouched through the first level, his top gear isn't very fast, so he can't really take much advantage of it.  In the last two games, Lynch has carried the ball 59 times and his longest among them was 12 yards.  His second longest was 8 yards.  Justin Forsett is hardly a home run threat, nor is he having a very good season, but even he had a 22 yard touchdown today.  In other words, Lynch is missing big plays, and leaving yards on the field.  Its the absence of the big play that dogs Lynch's average, and even a huge improvement in his run blocking hasn't changed that.

    • Which isn't to say that Lynch was bad today.  He fought for some tough yards and for the second straight week felt reliable.  The only thing that separates Lynch from the good backs of the league is that he doesn't have those 20-30 yarders on occasion to pull up his average the rest of the game.  Most of the time, Lynch really is a solid back, and today that was true as well.  Ultimately though, the conspicuous absence of the big play is making its presence felt.  I know some people will want to compare Lynch to late-career Shaun Alexander, but they were fundamentally different in one way.  Even crappy-version Shaun Alexander still had big plays, but was stuffed on everything else.  Lynch is pretty consistent at gaining 1-3 yards, but lacks the big runs to pull up his average, as any franchise running back would.

    • Robert Gallery and Max Unger couldn't quite match the ground game dominance they had flashed in the previous two games, but they were still pretty good once again.  You really have to like the left side of Seattle's line right now, especially if they can cut down on the penalties a bit.

    • Sidney Rice throws a great deep ball.

    • I ragged on Seattle's offense for sucking, but in fairness, a lot of that was from an atrocious dry spell to open the game.  The Seahawks very first play went for 55 yards, but the remainder of their first five drives totaled -4 yards of total offense and two interceptions (on the first two passes Jackson threw).  After those picks, Jackson finished the rest of the game with a 64% completion rate, a 6.72 YPA and a touchdown.  Not a great performance, but after a terrible start, he settled down to be acceptably mediocre.  Seattle didn't move the ball like a well oiled machine, but they did do an admirable job from the 6th drive on at converting first downs and grinding out the clock with a lead.

    • There was at least one area though that you won't find me making excuses for Jackson.  While Jackson did flash some good ability to keep plays alive today, he also took several monster sacks.  Losing 3 or 4 yards on a sack is bad enough.  But multiple times in this game, Jackson took sacks in excess of 10 yard losses, which set up down and distances such as 3rd and 25 and 3rd and 32.  When its that bad, you might as well surprise them with a quarterback pooch punt on 3rd down.  

      • Fox broadcast color commentator Tim Ryan has a beard imported straight from 1985.  Seriously, look at this magnificent thing.  Given that he just arrived here going 88 miles per hour in his DeLorean, he must be rather disappointed that we still don't have flying cars.

      • Chris Clemons finished with 3 sacks and two forced fumbles.  I think its safe to say that Roger Saffold's absence has been felt.  Its hard to believe, but thanks to this game Clemons is now only three sacks short of matching the eleven sacks he had last season, with six games left to go, and with a second Rams game among them.

        • Fans of baseball are probably familiar with pitcher's face.  Its the phenomena that occurs to a pitchers face during the considerable full body strain of throwing a major league pitch.  For the uninitiated, here's an example.  Today we got to see Sam Bradford's pitching face, except instead of being contorted from throwing a pitch, its contorted from getting slammed in the pocket by a surging pass rusher.  Quite frankly, I don't know if a more beautiful picture of Sam Bradford has ever been taken.

        • In what might very well be my favorite play of the 2011 season, Red Bryant recorded his first career interception on a pass tipped by Brandon Mebane, who then lumbered up the field, switched the ball to his left arm, then proceeded to stiff arm the daylights out of an unsuspecting Austin Pettis.  After the play ended, you could hear Red Bryant screaming with excitement, on the bottom of a pile consisting of most of Seattle's defense.  If a bible software company is ever looking for a sound effect for the story of Jesus casting a legion of demons into a herd of swine, this wouldn't be a bad place to start. 

          Saturday, November 19, 2011

          On the Possible Re-Signing of Marshawn Lynch

          TNT reported this week that reps for RB Marshawn Lynch have reached out to the Seahawks for discussions over a multi-year contract. Lynch has accrued enough playing time this year to trigger a contract provision voiding the final year of his contract, making him a free-agent after this season.

          So why are we feeling hesitant about this re-signing?

          It's been a while since the phrases "Seattle Seahawks", "new contract negotiations", and "running back" were all mentioned in the same sentence. The last time they were, the result wasn't pretty. Shaun Alexander took the money and didn't run. Are we gun-shy over running backs from this?

          The debate over the reasons for Alexander's dropoff is irrelevant and tired. It happened. In fact, it may be more instructive to leave that discussion open, because it highlights the fact that player decline can occur for a variety of reasons. Loss of surrounding talent, injury, wearing down, coaching changes, being too happy-go-lucky, New Contract Syndrome - everything under the sun has been named as a cause of Alexander's sputtering out, and every one of them has a legitimate place in the discussion.

          When the 2011 season opened, Marshawn Lynch was undoubtedly one of the most popular Seahawks on the roster, courtesy of this. He was also one of the most likely-to-disappoint Seahawks. He was entering 2011 behind a straight-out-of-the-box offensive line, a new coach, and a fresh offensive philosophy that was going to demand a lot from him. Despite his physical, unrelenting, passionate running style, Lynch hadn't shown enough raw production in 2010 to make anyone think he'd transcend the line's growing pains and lack of offseason preparation. The QB situation certainly wasn't going to help. It wasn't a formula for success. Despite "The Run", many saw another frustrating season ahead for Lynch.

          Sunday, November 13, 2011

          Seahawks out-raven Ravens, win shocker

          The face of a man burned by false praise turned true.

          I'm not a big dating expert, but one thing even I've heard is that its best to "just be yourself" when you go on a big date.  Well the Seahawks were themselves today in all their goofy, awkward glory, and still scored big.  They couldn't finish drives.  They had many "almost" touchdowns that weren't.  They were penalized.  Often. Oh man, so often that it almost certainly will vault them into the #1 spot in the league.  They moved the ball well, yet nearly had as many penalties as first downs.  

          But they won.  More importantly, the Hawks actually earned this win.  They never trailed today in a season in which they had never previously led at halftime.  Seattle won with an emerging run blocking offensive line, a strong run defense, a steadfast if unspectacular quarterback, and a special young secondary.  Seattle won despite having almost zero pass rush, and despite killing drives, and extending others, with inexplicable penalties.  They beat a 6-2 team, a 6-2 team that most likely would have been in the AFC championship last year if not for some shady officiating.  They outplayed a good team, but interestingly enough, they outplayed the very team for which the Seahawks model most closely resembles.

          I wrote this article about the Seahawks-Ravens just after the 2011 draft over at Seahawks Draft Blog.  Seattle has invested two firsts, a third, traded late round picks for two players, and signed a high profile free agent all on just the offensive line alone in only two years.  They have built an elite rush defense out of spare parts, and while they have invested less in the defense than the Ravens did, the almost over-the-top investment in the line is remarkably similar.  So what did the Ravens do after that?  They traded for a former 1st round running back drafted by the Bills (sound familiar?), then drafted a "reach" quarterback in the middle first, and drafted a 2nd round running back who'd become one of the most productive backs in the NFL.  Everyone fretting about the long term quarterback or running back situation, don't be worried.  Help is coming.

          I did not think Seattle would successfully adopt the Ravens blueprint this quickly.  Seattle's interior run blocking has been on a tear for the second game in a row, and Seattle's secondary, particularly Richard Sherman, is possessed.  Seattle flat out kicked the Raven's asses today at smash mouth football.  Not many teams can do that.

          • Harbaugh called Marshawn Lynch one of the three best backs in the NFL before the game.  Harbaugh is a brilliant coach, but a statement like that can only be one of three things: a ridiculously exaggerated compliment typically used for psychological purposes, a sincere/moronic evaluation, or a subtle-sarcastic dig at a running back who has struggled for most of the past three years.  Whatever his intentions were, Seattle's running game strove to make his statement look timely.  Was he being sincere?  I don't know.  I'm betting its sincere now.
          • Maybe the toughest thing about switching to the NFC is that I only get a maximum of two games a year called by the announcing crews over at CBS.  Greg Gumble is a long tenured, quality professional.  Dan Dierdorf is a rare dual Hall of Famer:  in the Hall as an offensive lineman, and in the Hall for his work behind the mic.  He's intelligent enough to avoid cliches and even provide quality insights.  When Heath Farwell appeared to do the disastrous by touching the football surrounded by Ravens players, and almost everyone in the building had no idea what was going on, Dierdorf didn't miss a beat, pointing out that a batted ball is no longer live, even if a returning team touches it.
          • But perhaps Dierdorf's best insight came early, when he pointed out that young teams tend to have especially erratic performances.  One of the hallmarks of insightful thinking is that it can point out the unspoken things that should be obvious.  And it turned out to be pretty prophetic, as Seattle gave Baltimore a lot more than they thought they'd be getting when they were catching their flight to SeaTac.  Last week, Seattle lost by two scores, but they made Dallas (an emerging team) work for every bit of it.  Afterwards, Tony Romo publicly breathed a sigh of relief and credited the Seahawks for being a far tougher opponent than the general public thinks.  Seahawks opponents have won 6 games in 9 tries, but they have not been an easy win very often.  And now two of the Seahawks three victories this year have come against teams that currently have winning records.
          • The 12th man is the perfect mascot for the Seahawks, and really, the Pacific Northwest as a whole.  In relative terms, we are an isolated, shut in, um, unique people who don't get the attention we crave and deserve.  We have the dorkiest mascot, and some of the most awesomely dorky fans who are loud and proud.  Today I saw a man wearing an that strange 80's bird/rocker get up painted in the colors of the American Flag. Earlier in the year I saw another fan dressed up like Elton John, just because hey, who doesn't like Elton John right?  But today took the cake.  Easily, the greatest NFL "cosplay" of all time.  Predator-Seahawks fan, if you are reading this, thank you.  Seahawks logos in the eyeballs?  You have my eternal gratitude.
          • Marshawn Lynch had a mixed performance, but it was far better than his 3.4 yards per carry stat would indicate.  Sure- twice he single-handedly lost yards with terrible running decisions, and on a few occasions he missed gaping wide cutback lanes.  But those mistakes were exceptions in a day when he was mostly decisive, and with a line that was consistently getting good interior push, he was getting 3-4 yards a crack on the majority of his runs.  That isn't sexy, but that's what the zone blocking scheme is meant to do.  He also added 58 yards on 5 receptions.  It was a very Steven Jackson type of performance.  I still think Seattle can do better.  But I think we are finally beginning to see the Marshawn Lynch Seattle thought they were trading for.  He's not a star, but he can be a useful player when he plays decisively.
          • My gameball goes to Seattle's interior line.  Unger and Gallery were constantly found four yards downfield and even John Moffitt made a few nice plays before leaving with injury.  His replacement, Jeanpierre, seemed to do an admirable job under the circumstances, and Seattle's interior push resumed without missing a beat when Moffitt left the game.
          • Richard Sherman has now had three strong games in the three starts.  He has ball skills.  He can cover.  He can hit.  A home run for a 5th round pick.
          • I hope Kam Chancellor is alright after decapitating himself.  Chancellor is my new favorite Seahawk, but he must learn to lead with the shoulder consistently.  Not because of ethical reasons.  Not because of penalties.  But for his own health and career.  Hopefully his injury does not linger and color the rest of his playing days, but this needs to be a learning experience.
          • The penalties became ridiculous near the end, and it was fascinating to watch the 12th man slowly turn on their own team as the infractions became more and more incomprehensible.  On one hand, Seattle is a young team that plays with an attitude.  Its part of what makes Seattle an exciting team to watch.  Curbing those penalties would be great, but they are a bi-product of the things that help make this team exciting.  Can Carroll reduce the penalties with having his team lose its aggressive edge?  It might be the biggest challenge he'll face with the current roster.

          Friday, November 11, 2011

          Is the worst "player" on Seattle's offense Darrell Bevell?

          When it comes to NFL playcallers, perception rarely matches reality. Fans are not the only ones bothered by offensive coordinators' tendencies and proclivities; perhaps no other coaching position is as prone to staff turnover as offensive signal caller. Mr. Jeremy Bates to the white courtesy phone...

          From the well-publicized snafus in Washington DC when Zorn had his playcalling duties stripped and was effectively both neutered, spayed, and publicly pantsed as a coach, to the well-publicized annual changing of the offensive coordinator that many blame for Alex Smith's woes, to the still-strong hatred of Greg Knapp in all places Seahawk, second-guessing signal callers is a wonderful pastime seemingly enjoyed by all - except of course, signal callers. Mike Holmgren often was praised for his play calling genius, but 3rd and long draw plays still make Seattle fans far and wide reflexively wince while invoking the Walrus' name in vain. Being a play caller ain't no joke.

          Offensively, Seattle is struggling. The 'Hawks have wasted two consecutive defensive performances worthy of a win, and Seattle played well enough defensively against the Cowboys to win that game as well. It felt early on that Seattle was dodging bullets Matrix style, but the run defense cleaned up its act well enough to make sure the 'Boys didn't scamper away. 23 points shouldn't feel insurmountable, but it did. There is simply no confidence in an offense that has no trouble racking yards, but seemingly goes cross-eyed nearly every time it nears the opponents 30. The popular theory has been the offensive line, but they had an above average performance on Sunday, and it didn't change much.

          Does any, or even most, of the failure hang on Darrell Bevell?

          Thursday, November 10, 2011

          Props for Seahawks O-line, Running Game

          The insightful Ben Muth of Football Outsiders has some praise for the Seahawks offensive line. At least, I think it's praise for the Seahawks O-line. I can't be sure. It's been so long since I've seen it, I've forgotten what it looks like.

          Additionally, a member of the NWSportsTalk forum recently broke down our running plays against the Cowboys specifically and pointed out some encouraging trends - better zone-blocking coordination, more decisiveness from Lynch, less negative plays, consistent yardage instead of one big run boosting an otherwise bland YPC.

          In the wake of what could be a breakthrough performance for this line against Dallas - which is something O-line coach Tom Cable apparently insisted upon, to the point of affecting the game plan - some national recognition for this line is in order. Two rookies, two sophomores, and a 30-year-old all thrown into the same system without a full offseason is not a recipe for success, but Cable has made strides with this line.

          Russell Okung's slow start has given way to steadiness and a decent stonewalling of DeMarcus Ware. Robert Gallery, though now jumped upon for one bad play where he was tossed about like a rag doll, contributed heavily to Marshawn Lynch's strong day and gets some technical kudos from Muth for his usage of his hands and feet. Max Unger, while still possessing some lingering strength issues, has shown definite improvement from his awful rookis year - at the very least, he's no longer living in his own backfield. Muth's criticisms of him seem related to his decision-making. John Moffitt is developing. James Carpenter - well, he's a rookie. Seattle is continuing to keep our tight ends home to help block, which would normally be considered a hamstring to our passing game. But with Tarvaris Jackson needing every extra pocket second he can get in order to overthrow people, the current TE policy evens out.

          I find it interesting that almost our entire offensive line seems assembled for the run. Unger is much better at moving around and landing blocks than he is holding back the tide on the line. Moffitt comes from a powerhouse running game at Wisconsin. Carpenter, also mainly a road-grader specimen. It means that Carroll isn't kidding when he says he's determined to make the run game a prominent feature of this offense. But if Unger was able to develop from an entirely overmatched rookie to a solid sophomore, Carpenter could pull it off as well.

          Enjoy the link. We could use every ounce of positive development news we can get.

          Sunday, November 6, 2011

          Seahawks fall to 2-6, yet still 2nd place in NFC West Dystopia.

          Not satisfied with a mere forced fumble, Sherman adds The People's Elbow
          I think its remarkable how predictable and short sighted sports writers can be sometimes.  One talking point that is quickly gaining traction is that Pete Carroll doesn't look like he's having fun anymore, or that he's just a college coach.  And to be sure, the Seahawks played well below their capabilities today, and losing stings, especially for emotional types like Carroll.

          But lost in this dialogue is that Seattle rushed for 162 yards today, only 1 yard less than Dallas, who has emerging phenom DeMarco Murray at running back.  Seattle finished with a highly respectable 381 yards of total offense, despite the fact that Tarvaris Jackson was clearly having an off day.  Believe it or not, Seattle actually finished with more yards today than they did in the Falcons' game.

          Before I get too far ahead of myself, I have to take a step back and be honest: this game didn't feel competitive.  I acknowledge that.  So for many fans reading this, I would understand if your reaction was "Bullshit! The Seahawks sucked today."  My counter would be that sometimes games are closer than they feel.  For example, The Cowboys game in 2004 when Seattle did nothing for the first 58 minutes yet still won thanks to a late scoring drive and a last second Babineaux interception to set up a Josh Brown 50 yard game winner.  I don't want to diminish the fact that the Cowboy's earned this victory, but this game might have been very different if not for a pair of controversial booth replays going against Seattle, or if Seattle hadn't blown coverage on Jason Witten for his easy touchdown.  Seattle's two biggest contributors (the defense and Jackson) both had off days, and yet Seattle could have maybe pulled out a cheap one if a few breaks had gone differently.  Or to put it differently, this defeat wasn't quite as emphatic as it felt.

          Anyway, off to the bullet points!

          • At the halfway point of the season, the Seahawks are on pace for a 4-12 season, yet are amazingly still in 2nd place. Football outsiders advanced DVOA playoffs oddsmaking currently gives the San Francisco 49ers a 1 in 1000 chance of missing the postseason, and the season is only half over!  For a division so bad, you would think it would be more competitive.
          • This was the worst statistical performance of the season for Tarvaris Jackson, which is even more damning since his line did a better than expected job at protecting him, allowing just 1 sack and relatively few pressures.  Jackson has converted me into a defender of his with his recent performances, but games like this, even if only occasional, make doing so difficult.  Jackson's TD/INT ratio now sits at 6/9, and even since the Falcon's game when Jackson seemed to click in the offense, he's been running a 4/7 ratio since then.   
          • One of those interceptions was a massive fluke: an intentional incompletion attempt that somehow deflected off of two defensive linemen before being intercepted by a third. Another interception was an underthrown ball when Jackson was being chased out of the pocket.  His final interception was the controversial simultaneous catch that went to the defender.  Jackson had some excuses today, but this was still a poor performance.  Unlike last week, his receivers didn't drop a ton of passes and his line provided protection. 
          • Despite those mistakes, Jackson still managed a 7.4 YPA and was actually adept at moving the ball and engineering long drives.  Seattle averaged 6.2 yards per play which is one of their better numbers this season.  I think its encouraging that Seattle's quarterback played poorly, and yet the system was still able to shine through that.  It makes you wonder just how bad Charlie Whitehurst has really been.
          • The story of this game, from Seattle's perspective, was the great performance by Marshawn Lynch.  I almost wrote an article this week on Lynch, and now I'm kicking myself for not doing it.  I took a closer look at Lynch last week, and what I discovered is that Lynch's only real problem is his lack of decisiveness.  He's still a great athlete with about as much speed as he's ever had.  It helps that Seattle made his job easy today with some great run blocking, but in both the Giants game and today, we've seen that a decisive, aggressive Marshawn Lynch is still a good running back.  Lynch managed 5.9 yards per carry and was impressively consistent in going about it.
          • Despite TV commentators insisting that Dallas had trouble stopping the run this year, the Cowboys actually entered this game with the 10th ranked run defense in the NFL as measured by DVOA.  Seattle's offensive line, particularly Max Unger and Robert Gallery, had a terrific day getting inside push.  Unger is having a much better season than I expected.  Its shocking I know, but it turns out Tom Cable knows a bit more than I do about building an offensive line.  Unger's success after being atrocious in his rookie season is yet another reminder of why we should avoid freaking out about the struggles of John Moffitt and James Carpenter.
          • Russell Okung is quietly having another good season in 2011.  I'm glad that the Fox crew showered him and Miller with plenty of attention today for the job they did on Ware.
          • Miller may not be putting up huge yards, but he's a threat to on every play, and bringing the kind of blocking he does in combination with that threat makes him worth every penny.  Rice may not break 1000 yards this year, but similarly he's another guy that's outplaying whatever his statistics say.  Alan Branch has been Red Bryant moved inside, which is to say he's been valuable in an unusual manner.
          • Jason Witten scored an easy touchdown when two Seahawks defenders converged on him and both released, perhaps believing the other would take coverage.  I don't know who holds schematic responsibility on that play, but Hawthorne was in excellent position before he suddenly gave up.
          • Richard Sherman had another nice game, this time forcing a clutch fumble at the goal line to keep Seattle in the game.  I missed a good chunk of the first half, but Sherman seemed to play good coverage, and I love the physical presence, almost like that of a strong safety, that both he and Browner bring.
          • On the Jason Witten catch challenge and Doug Baldwin "simultaneous catch" reviews, it highlighted to me a certain fact.  That fact being that while instant replay helps reduce human error, it will never cease to exist.  
          • In the case of the Witten challenge and other blown replay reviews like it, I legitimately wonder if the video the refs are seeing in their replay booths is as extensive as the replays we see on television.  If its not, then I (not jokingly) believe that they should replace whatever replay their watching and just sub it for the broadcast feed.  Professional broadcasters have a knack for finding the perfect angle on plays like that, and my only explaination for the Witten decision was that the ref was not provided with some of the angles we saw on television.
          • In the case of the Baldwin decision, A: in isolation, it did not matter as the game was over anyway, and B: while I think the ref technically got the call wrong, I understand his reasoning.  Though technically a simultaneous catch, the ball was in the defender's body, not Baldwin's, and it also appeared that Baldwin arrived a split second after the defender had begun to secure the ball.  It "felt" like an interception that Baldwin was trying to get cute with, even if the facts suggest a reasonable case for a simultaneous catch, which always goes to the receiver.
          • Finally, I wouldn't be too upset about how the rush defense played today.  DeMarco Murray had 327 yards on only 33 carries in his previous two games: an average YPC nearing 10.  To say he's been sensational would be an understatement.  Today he averaged 6.3, which very well could end up below his season average.