Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who Do We Blame for Aaron Curry?

LB Aaron Curry is in the midst of a slow-burn demotion. In a fall from grace that actually evokes my sympathy, Curry is now taking reps with the Seahawks' scout team as fourth-round pick KJ Wright assumes his starting position. Curry has taken a humble attitude in front of the reporters, and despite some angsty Twitter comments that people are reading way too far into, he seems to be taking it in stride.

Dave Boling, in an attempt to put the selection of Curry in perspective, tries to shift the responsibility for the Curry pick away from Curry. Indeed, it wasn't Curry's fault that he went #4, and that needs to be acknowledged. But then Boling turns around and picks the wrong scapegoat: Curry's coaches.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Seahawks win thanks to who else? Jay Feely.

Andrew Luck. I was an unabashed supporter of the "suck for Luck" campaign, as hinted at by the photos I used in the charts. But looking at the last several years of NFL draft history, the team picking #1 overall averages just barely over 1 win a season. In other words, winning just one game can seriously jeopardize picking #1, the same way that losing just one game seriously jeopardizes a college football team finishing national champions. In college football, you lose one game, and you pretty much know its over unless you get very lucky. Before today, I would have given Seattle a 25% chance to pick 1st overall. Now, I'd put those odds at almost 0%. Assuming the Seahawks stand a meager 40% chance of winning and therefore a 60% chance of defeat on average, that means the odds of finishing 1-15 are a miniscule 0.1%. Even an 80% chance of defeat average still gives the team only a 0.5% chance. And even if Seattle beat the odds and did go 1-15, what if another team manages 0-16? 1-15 might not be enough.

Long story short, now is a good time to get off the "suck for Luck" bandwagon. I hear Matt Barkley is pretty good. Robert Griffin III might force his way into the conversation too. Luck would be a match made in heaven for Seattle, but landing his services probably isn't going to be "do or die."

Now that that's out of the way, lets talk about some Seahawks football:

-Today hardly had a playoff atmosphere, and I know some might even call it a "snoozer." But I personally found the back and forth struggle compelling throughout. Neither team held a lead bigger than 7 points, and the team that held that watermark lead ended up losing the game. Because of the tight nature of the game, the crowd stayed energized and active throughout. There was a weird mix of positive and negative energy. "Charlie" chants were faintly audible on the television broadcast, and the 12th man booed on several occasions. But they cheered a lot too, including on Tarvaris Jackson's game winning TD scramble. It was a weird game in which the fans almost seemed like they didn't know what to do, and in the hearts of some, may not even have known which team they really wanted to win. It was weird.

-Aaron Curry may not have started, but every time I watched the linebackers to get looks at KJ Wright, Curry was there in the SAM spot instead. The whole drama about Curry losing his job seems to be overblown. He and Wright alternated throughout the game. Finally, some real competition being used by Pete Carroll.

-The Seahawks once again gave up 4 sacks. Unlike previous times, I actually blame the offensive line more than Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson is slowly showing sings of increased comfort feeling pressure and navigating the pocket. He still needs to be better, but I'd say he's halfway there. Also, he finally showed some willingness to run the ball today, and I generally found most of his rushes to be wise decisions.

-John Moffitt seems to blow a block that leads to a sack almost every game. That continued today. Moffitt hasn't been a disaster, but he's solidly below average. Or pretty much exactly where you would expect a rookie 3rd round guard to be in his effectiveness. On most snaps, he's adequate, but he eventually needs to stop making 1-2 big mistakes a game. I don't know why, but I feel optimistic about Moffitt growing into a solid right guard some day. I think its because a mistake here and there can be corrected. Consistently terrible play snap for snap cannot.

-Marshawn Lynch averaged less than 4 yards per carry today, but he looked great doing it. He misread a few runs which turned into tackles for loss, and in particular he relied too much on a pretty bad blocking fullback. But for the most part, it was easy to notice that Lynch was hitting the hole fast, running with a lot of energy and carrying defenders for extra yards. He was sitting around 5 yards per carry entering the 4th quarter before a rough final frame dropped his average. I still don't think Lynch is the right back for this running game, but games like today made holding that opinion harder than usual.

-The first 7 and a half minutes of today's game was preempted by bonus coverage of the Lions overtime victory over the tragic Vikings. At least in the Portland area, anyway. If you missed it, its worth watching a highlight package for today's game because 4 minutes into the 1st quarter, before it was on TV, Earl Thomas had a sensational interception, and during the return, Kam Chancellor laid out a monster hit on Todd Heap. The pick was called back because of a penalty, but it was still a great play by our two young safeties.

-The Seahawks had 3 sacks today and brought decent pressure on most snaps. I'd like to see better, but today it was enough to throw Kevin Kolb off his game, resulting in the first poor performance of his Arizona career. The run defense was rock solid as well, limiting Arizona to 3.2 yards per carry and was impenetrable on short yardage situations.

-The more I watch our defense, the more I think of it as a weird version of the 3-4 instead of a 4-3. Like a 3-4, it has three huge lineman up front with 3 linebackers and then a 4th guy who plays on the line but is built more like a rush linebacker. A lot of the criticism for Pete's defense is the lack of pressure from a 4 man rush, because in a 4-3, front 4 pressure is critical. But in a 3-4 defense, front line pressure isn't expected and the rush comes from blitzers who can attack from anywhere. Seattle's defense is technically a 4-3, but the way it delivers pressure and stops the run is much more like the way a 3-4 operates.

-In a game where the Cardinals outgained the Seahawks by 63 yards, it was their own ineptness finishing drives and scoring points which sealed their fate. This was no more evident than Jay Feely's 1 for 3 performance, including him falling inexplicably short on a clutch 4th quarter kick to tie game. As you may recall, he's the same kicker who missed 3 game winners against Seattle in 2005. The latter two of which, both in overtime, also fell short.

-Brandon Browner had a strong game today I thought, doing well to keep Larry Fitzgerald from dominating the game. Browner did allow the Cardinals only touchdown, but he was in excellent position and really, I think it was more of a gutty throw and great catch by Fitz than a busted coverage. Browner could have made a play on the ball if he had looked for it, and Earl Thomas came only a couple inches short of intercepting it himself.

-Trufant's inteception was vintage stuff. Every now and then, Trufant shows glimpses of sub-elite ability. After Tru scared us with a horrible season in 2008, its good to see he's not slowing down as much as we thought he might.

-Overall, I thought the secondary played great today. Kolb was forced to check down quite a bit, and if not for a penalty, he would have been picked 3 times.

-Sidney Rice had a great debut, breaking 100 yards in his first game. He looked every bit as good as his stats indicated. Stay healthy dude.

-I know there are some who miss Matt Hasselbeck and wish that he were still here. You know who probably misses Hasselbeck the most? Mike Williams.

1-2 Chart


Courtesy of

Ten Quick Thoughts on ARI vs. SEA

1. Tarvaris Jackson has reportedly been getting urged to throw more trustingly, rather than waiting for 15-yard separation from a WR. Arizona's soft pass defense is ripe for a beating, so this game may make Jackson look better. Careful about being sucked in by one game against a bad defense.

2. The same goes for our run defense. The trend from last year - rolling along with inflated stats against bad rushing offenses and favorable game situations - is still there. The 94 yards and 2 TD's Seattle surrendered on 19 first-half Pittsburgh carries is probably a better picture of its true ability. Hate to be the bucket of cold water on that, but what are we more concerned about - its performance against the muck of the NFC West, or its performance against good teams of the kind we would face on the playoffs?

3. Chris Clemons is one to watch today. Cardinals LT Levi Brown had trouble with Clemons' quick first step last year, surrendering sacks even when whatever scrub Arizona was fielding at QB didn't hold onto the ball for the entire quarter. QB Kevin Kolb can neutralize this by getting the ball out quickly, which by all reports he'd been pretty solid at.

4. Have we gotten the obligatory "revenge factor" piece about Alan Branch playing against his former team yet? It'll probably be more like Colin Cole's "revenge" game against Green Bay, where he mentioned the motivation that "revenge" should give him and then went out and got crushed on the field. Alan Branch has been a non-factor on the Seahawks D-line so far but may get some action against Arizona's questionable O-line, like he did last year against Seattle. And then sink back into obscurity next week, which he did last year too. How many snaps did Clinton McDonald get in Pittsburgh?

5. Does anyone really expect Brandon Browner to accomplish anything against Larry Fitzgerald? Larry Fitzgerald? Come on. This won't be like last year, where Walter Thurmond looked good against him because he had Max Hall throwing the football.

6. Patrick Peterson could have his breakout day today.

7. Anyone else nervous about Sidney Rice trying to play through a torn labrum? One solid collision across the middle...

8. Zach Miller (and Seattle's microscopic passing game in general) could have a big day against gimpy Arizona linebackers Joey Porter and Daryl Washington.

9. Official prediction: Seattle scrapes by at home 26-20, prompting hope for Jackson and blowing the debate wide open again.

10. This game is a powder keg for Seattle's fan base. Should we lose, the fans will quickly distill into two extremist groups: the panic-depressive and the secretly relieved "Suck for Luck" crowd. The war will be long and arduous.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why Rumors of Carroll-Schneider's Demise are Probably Greatly Exaggerated

We pre-empt your regularly scheduled viewing of "Five Things Pete Carroll Still Needs to Prove" to bring you this breaking news bulletin: Pro Football Weekly is jumping to conclusions Evil Knievel-style. Again.

Hub Arkush and Eric Edholm of PFW reported yesterday morning that the collaborative relationship between VPFO/head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider "could be on rocky ground". The spate of offensive injuries and the subpar performance of the offensive line are reported to be a source of tension between the two, with each supposedly making personnel moves the other is displeased with.

This piece of substantiation is offered:

"I talked to one agent who had one of his free-agent clients shipped into Seattle, and when he got there, Pete Carroll said, 'What is he doing here? We don't need him for a football team.' That's just one example of personnel not matching up to what the coach wants to put on the field."

Some reasons why this report doesn't make sense:

1. That agent story is the only item of supporting information that's present in this whole thing. It's one piece, smacking of sensationalism to be quite honest, and the conclusions leaped to from that one exhibit are massive. This doesn't pass the basic strength-of-evidence test.

2. It doesn't offer a motive. Why would Pete Carroll, John Schneider, or anyone in their right mind be annoyed over the acquisition of Sidney Rice, Robert Gallery, or Zach Miller? Tarvaris Jackson I can see, but the other three are proven NFL veterans. We know Pete loves to niggle over his scheme, but that's not mentioned in enough detail here to provide any credibility.

3. It ignores the collaborative relationship in the VMAC. Carroll and Schneider, from all vantage points and by the claim of evey respectable journalist who's seen the process up close, are making decisions together. The PFW piece seems to operate under the assumption that the two are holed up in separate rooms doing their own thing.

4. It doesn't account for the participation of the coaching staff. Doug Farrar mentions that Carroll and Schneider chose to mine the past player connections of OC Darell Bevell and O-line coach Tom Cable in order to find some continuity to help the team after the lockout. Ergo, most of Seattle's offseason acquisitions on offense. James Carpenter and John Moffitt were also Cable picks. We can still debate the wisdom of those moves, but still, it's an easy alternative explanation to "Carroll and Schneider are just on different pages."

5. It's not as if Carroll and Schneider have always agreed on everything anyway. Charlie Whitehurst was largely Schneider's guy, having been on his radar for years before. Carroll supported the move all the way, but reading between the lines, one could easily conclude that it wasn't Carroll's idea. Which speaks to the strength of the collaboration, compromise, and united front that they're trying to build - all good signs of a strong relationship.

6. It doesn't jive with Carroll's history. It's implied that Carroll is upset over the injuries suffered by Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery. First of all, it would be pretty irrational of Pete to get frustrated over something as unpredictable as injuries, unless you think that Rice's torn labrum has something to do with the gimpy hip that sidelined him in Minnesota. They're kind of in different parts of the body. Second of all, even if there was injury history to point to, Carroll is hardly injury-shy. During the 2010 draft, he traded with the Jets for major player Leon Washington, sidelined by injury, shortly after drafting CB Walter Thurmond - a second-round talent knocked down a few rounds by injury - and pretty much cordoning off a starting spot for him, to the point of being willing to trade away the incumbent Josh Wilson. Both Washington and Thurmond had truly gruesome leg fractures to recover from, and Thurmond still isn't back. So Carroll doesn't exactly look afraid to gamble against injury, although it's true that Thurmond and Washington didn't cost that much either.

7. Too many other alternative explanations. This could be a frustrated Pete Carroll making frustrated comments that are being blown out of context. It could be a frustrated agent trying to dish on a front office who didn't sign his guy. It could be a couple of bored writers trying to dish on the worst team in the NFL. Teams like the Seahawks are always targets of rumor-mongering. Are these cynical and unsupported possibilities? Yes. But they're also consistent with the day-to-day NFL, and they prevent the "rocky ground" theory from sounding definitive.

In less fancy words, this sounds like bullcrap being made out of nothing. Near-pure speculation based on very little falsifiable information. Of course, that's certainly our hope, because the destruction of Carroll and Schneider's working relationship is hardly a good thing for an already-struggling franchise. So let's be aware of are bias. But still, I haven't seen anything that serves as a respectable red flag. The leap is just too big. So let's get back to our pasta. Nothing to see here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Five Things Pete Carroll Has Proven

So someone named UltimateSeahawk included 17 Power in a recent poll for Top 5 independent Seahawks blogs. How my incoherent vomit wound up in the same company as Seahawks Draft Blog and Fieldgulls I don't know, but one thing caught my attention: amongst the guy's criteria is that good blogs should be neither overly optimistic or excessively negative. "I want something to look forward to," he wrote. "There is enough negativity directed towards the Seahawks in the national media. I don’t need that from a blog."

Between that and a recent poster at (the source of much of my patronage) who said, "nobody both informs and depresses me about the Seahawk's current situation as well as Mr. Brandon Adams," I'm thinking it's high time for some positivity around here. What sports fan wants to wallow in pessimism all the time, however rational?

So, some good things about Pete Carroll. He's far from a sure thing in Seattle thus far, but it's not as if he's an unknown quantity or an abject failure yet either. There are things he's shown, encouraging things. Some of the credit here also belongs to GM John Schneider, but considering how prominent Pete is in the organization, you can't avoid crediting him as well.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seahawks lose game nobody really expected them to win anyway

There really isn't a lot to say after a game like this. In the first place, there typically isn't much to say about a 24-0 shutout anyway, since it wasn't a competitive game and didn't have any dramatic tension. This is doubly true for a game in which Seattle entered 14.5 point underdogs, the biggest point spread against them since, wait for it: 1992. Today was a milestone in that it was, if indirectly, the first time the 2011 team has been connected to the infamous 1992 squad. The first of many connections over the rest of the year, I'm sure.

The thing about this game was, it didn't sting. Seahawks fans will never forget or forgive what happened in Superbowl XL, and even though this was an opponent still with one third of that same XL roster and the same head official, Bill Leavy, I couldn't help but feel that this was just another game. After all, none of the coaches, none of the front office members, and only two members of the Seahawks Superbowl XL team were on the field today, Trufant and Hill. Even if Seattle had pulled a mighty upset today, it would have felt nice, but not nearly as nice as it would have felt in 2007, when a much better and much more 2005 connected Seahawks team lost 21-0. For all but two Seahawks, today probably felt like just another loss.

Seattle was outgained today 421 to 164. Outside of the first few minutes of the game, there wasn't much doubt who the better team was. Brandon just wrote a post calling this game a "wake-up call." I agree that there was a wake-up element to this game, in which I realized that Seattle really might just be the worst team in the NFL after all. The 49ers game left a lot of doubt in that regard, since Seattle dominated the 2nd half and pulled to within 2 points before Ted Ginn took our special teams back behind the woodshed. Today though, Ben Roethlisberger averaged almost 10 yards per pass attempt, and the Steelers moved the ball at will. The only reason the score wasn't higher was because the Steelers would grind so much of the clock on their drives (averaging nearly 4 minutes of game clock per drive, which is a lot more than it sounds like). In a game that was turnover free, the Steelers nearly doubled the Seahawks in time of possession. Seattle was inept on offense, and soft on defense.

And if we are honest about it, this kind of thing isn't new for the Seahawks. Last year had some big plays and a few big games, but it was also a season in which the offense finished bottom 10 and the defense finished bottom 5. This year's defense looks a lot like last year's, and the offense looks much worse. There may come a time this season where we might stop rooting for improvements and instead root for replacements. I think a lot of fans have already reached that stage with Tarvaris Jackson. The Seahawks home opener is a week away, but I can almost hear the "Charlie! Charlie!" chants beginning already. Marshawn Lynch could be next. There's no doubt that fans will look for scapegoat players, and the struggles of Jackson and Lynch will make them obvious targets, fair or not.

There wasn't much to talk about after this snoozer, but a few things I noticed over the course of the game:

  • Red Bryant nearly blocked a PAT, and by his reaction afterwards, you got the sense that he came even closer than it looked on TV. I don't know if the Red Bryant style of defense is a great idea, but its no knock on Red Bryant the player. Red Bryant has been a hell of a contributor and a big reason why Pete Carroll has stuck with the LEO defense.

  • Aaron Curry dropped what might have been a pick 6 early in the game. A game stoppage was called before the next play was run, so Curry had an extra minute to think about what happened. I don't have a screenshot handy, but on one of the broadcast reaction shots afterwards, it looked to me like Curry's eyes were a little watery. If nothing else, Aaron Curry is a really intense and emotional dude. If he ends up being labeled a "bust" here in Seattle, it certainly isn't for a lack of heart for the game.

  • Brandon Browner was penalized pretty unfairly against the 49ers, but he earned his penalties today. The long pass interference call at the start of the game was one of the most blatant and easy PI calls I've seen. In a way though, I don't blame Browner for making the penalty. He was beat, and the penalty prevented a sure touchdown. Seattle went on to make a successful goal line stand 4 plays later. Pass interference in the endzone is a devastating penalty. But sometimes, its the right thing to do. Now he just needs to improve his coverage so penalties like those won't be necessary.

  • On said goal line stand, Seattle pushed the Steelers all the way back to the 8 yard line following an Atari Bigby sack. On third and goal from the 8, Big Ben bought time, couldn't find an open receiver, then attempted to run for it, and very nearly scored, colliding with defenders with the ball coming mere centimeters from the goal line. Watching it live, I actually thought he did score, it was that close. It was an eery parallel to Roethlisberger's infamous phantom TD in XL (which also occurred on 3rd and goal in a similar game situation). It was called a TD in that game and somehow upheld by instant replay. This time it wasn't. Something tells me that Bill Leavy and his crew were going to give Seattle the benefit of the doubt on this one. This time, they got it right.

  • Brandon Browner wasn't just penalized, but in a worrisome development, he struggled with his press responsibilities and was frequently burned. Hopefully this is just an off day for Browner. Richard Sherman has been impressive in spurts, but I wouldn't feel great about him pushing Browner for the 2nd CB job this early in Sherman's development. There's Walter Thurmond, but he's a little dicey as well.

  • While the pass defense did indeed suck today, the run defense did its job, holding Rashard Mendenhall to 66 yards on 19 carries and holding the Steelers as a team to 3.54 yards per carry, despite being on the field most of the game and despite 35 rush attempts against. They also looked strong in short yardage and goal line situations.

  • Its easy to get upset about how bad the Seahawks defense looks. To be sure, it hardly looks elite, and it hasn't changed much from last year, when it was pretty bad. But if instead of focusing on the Steelers game, we focused on the season at large, we get a different picture. Seattle has played one bad QB and one near elite one. They faced two good running games. And they played on the road without the benefit of the 12th man, and Seattle has always played better defense at home. The defense has allowed 315 yards a game (good enough for 10th place in 2010). They've allowed just 21.5 points per game (good for 16th in 2010). Their red zone efficiency has been more good than bad. This defense has some serious issues, but its not a disaster. Elite QBs will carve it up, but that's what elite QBs do. I'm not trying to make excuses for the defense, but considering that this is still a unit made up of scraps and spare parts, I'll take it for now.

  • One of the few bright spots today was the improvement by James Carpenter at right tackle. For just today, he arguably outplayed Okung, who again struggled with false start penalties. There was a night and day difference with Carpenter's stoutness against the bullrush, and he was able to string edge rushers far enough upfield to give Jackson a chance to step up to avoid them.

  • In fact, the line as a whole provided better pass protection than the 5 sacks would indicate. All of the sacks came on blitzes, which is to be expected against a 3-4. Only once did I see a lineman blow a block which lead to a sack, and that was when John Moffitt looked to his right and didn't notice an inside blitzer until it was too late. Most of the sacks were just good defensive play calls, and a few of them were on Tarvaris himself. For a guy so mobile, he gives up on avoiding sacks really easily. His eyes go down, and if a defender comes within a couple yards, Jackson is already on his way to the ground to avoid a hit. Whoever Seattle's QB of the future is, its important that he do better at avoiding pressure than Jackson has. Jackson's inability to manage a pass rush is as big a reason for the shutout as the lack of running game was.

  • The running game was its usual self. Little push with Lynch pounding for 1-2 yard gains. The line may own more blame than Lynch, but the line at least gets the benefit of being young and new. Is it really so crazy to suggest giving Forsett and Washington more reps? Zone blocking rush offenses are built around the search for a running back who clicks with the system, and right now, that isn't Lynch.

0-2 Chart


Courtesy of

Since Superbowl XL, Seattle has played in 88 games (including the playoffs). They have played the Steelers twice in that time frame. Seattle has also been shut out only two times during those 88 games. Both shutouts came against the Steelers.

State of the Seahawks: The Pete Carroll Wake-Up Call

Today's 24-0 loss to the Steelers was painful, but it may have been the healthiest thing for Seahawks fans to see. It's kind of like the cocky 16-year-old with the new drivers' license, who totals his new car while speeding down farm roads and walks away, but is shaken to learn that he's not indestructible. No lasting harm, but his eyes are opened to the reality of life and how lucky he's been so far. That kind of healthy.

Because we need to be reminded of what Pete Carroll's legacy actually is in Seattle. We saw it today: getting shellacked and completely dominated in every phase of the game by healthy contenders. His legacy is not last year's San Diego win, which people think was won by grit and tenacity. It's not the Bears win, which some hailed as the breaking of some vaguely defined "road curse". It's not the Rams win, which fans attribute to Carroll's savvy choice of Charlie Whitehurst. And it's not the playoff win against the Saints, which belongs to Matt Hasselbeck having an improbably good day against an injury-depleted Saints secondary.

So far, Carroll's only real accomplishment in Seattle - when all lucky bounces, useless stats, and misinterpreted contexts are swept aside - is winning a historically weak division by the margin of a pair of lucky Leon Washington kick returns against an awful San Diego special-teams unit and a series of easy dropped passes by Rams receivers who would be #4's on most teams. His legacy is the nine blowout losses that occurred between those tough wins and exposed them as unsustainable exceptions, fatal in any normal division.

That's his legacy so far. Why he's getting so much unquestioning goodwill from this fan base is beyond me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Seahawks offense arrives to Candlestick 90 minutes late, makes up for it by subbing in for special teams.

I know people will look at the Seahawks season in different ways. For some, 2011 represents a chance to repeat as division champions and establish Pete Carroll's "win forever" mantra. For others, its about developing future talent and worrying more about performances than wins. And for a few, this season is a thinly veiled "race to the bottom" for a franchise savior in Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley.

Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley, should they declare as expected, would be two of the most hyped quarterback prospects we've seen in several years. They were coached by Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, two college coaches who recently bolted for the NFL. As it turns out, those coaches coached against each other in a game today. Wouldn't you know it, this was that game!

Based on popular national opinion, Seattle has been a hot tip to be in the hunt for the #1 pick next April. If there was such a thing as an AP poll for draft position, Seattle would be in the top 5 right now. That doesn't mean it will happen that way of course, but I'm just saying that's the prism the media will view our season through, especially if Seattle struggles early.

While its never fun losing, there is a certain rush to being in a sweepstakes of sorts. As a Mariner fan, I'll never forget the M's blowing a 1.5 game "lead" in the Strasburg sweepstakes in the final 3 game series. They drafted a guy named Dustin Ackley instead. Ackley has already become a very good hitter at a premium defensive position on a terrible hitting team. I say this with no disrespect to Strasburg's bright future, but 2 years later, I don't think Seattle would take that pick back even if they could. Its funny sometimes how things work out, and that's why it generally isn't a great idea to get too caught up in the draft position stuff.

This was a game between two division rivals, a game that could very well decide the division at the bitter end. A game that, unfortunately, the Seahawks lost. And yet, before the game and during it, I couldn't help but muse: "wouldn't it be something if Luck landed in San Francisco and Barkley in Seattle (or vice versa)?" Watching the game didn't alleviate those thoughts much, as both teams looked like top 10 locks in the 2012 draft. Its improbable, especially with the 49ers making a mild investment with Colin Kaepernick, but its fun to think about anyway.

As far as the game itself, I took copious notes by quarter. Since I've already shamelessly ripped off Lookoutlanding with their win chart idea and zany title, I might as well use bullet points too. This is by no means a "tale of the tape", but a quick collection of some random observations during the game:

  • First of all: Dick Stockton. It feels like he's called at least half of the Seahawks games I've watched since 2009. Probably more. I actually like Stockton. I enjoyed his fumbling with pronunciations like "Olindo Mah-rey." Which is technically correct, if comically drawn out (To his credit, he did well correctly pronouncing fellow Italian Breno Giacomini today). Anyway, it can't be easy covering Seahawks games so often. Joe Buck barely cares enough to cover the Eagles, Packers, and Saints. If he had to cover a Seahawk game more than once in a blue moon, he'd probably fall asleep and never wake up. Especially if he was working the first half of this game. Excluding first downs by penalty, there were 3 total first downs in the first half by both teams combined. Three! There were more first half first downs by penalty (4) than otherwise. Dick Stockton deserves a medal.
  • I played both offensive tackle spots in high school and college, and after games, we'd have film reviews just like any team would, so I'd get a chance to see what kind of things I could work on. Watching Breno Giacomini today, it felt like watching a much better NFL version of myself. I could never play in the NFL even for an instant or anything, but on a level, I can relate to the guy. Giacomini isn't just a warrior, he's a bloodthirsty berserker. He plays angry and aggressive. A few times, I caught him doing run blocks on pass blocking plays to establish dominance, which was a favorite "cheat" of mine as well. Giacomini does not have great pass blocking technique, but still, he was able to keep pressure to a relative minimum today, and for just today, that's a win. Despite all his tenacity and seeming competence, he left a little something to be desired as a run blocker. On two different instances, he overextended and lost his block, which directly led to a tackle for loss on 3rd and short. He has his faults, but in at least the short term, he looks capable enough to man the right tackle spot until Carpenter is ready.
  • I failed to notice John Moffitt and Max Unger all game long, which is probably more of a good thing than a bad thing.
  • James Carpenter started only his 2nd game ever at left guard today, with the other being in the Senior Bowl. Carpenter is left handed, which caused some, including Pete Carroll, to speculate that he might just be more cut out for the left side in general. Unquestionably, Carpenter looked much better at left guard than he ever looked at right tackle during the preseason. He still gets walked back into the pocket by a bullrush a lot more than I'd like, but the outside edge rush that plagued him at tackle wasn't an issue today, and he flashed some surprising pulling ability too.
  • Russell Okung had a pretty rough game. He allowed a sack on 3rd and 2 in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, he had a false start. And on the final play of the first half, he had a holding penalty that the 49ers declined. Of course, he stayed healthy for more than 5 snaps, so its feels hard to complain about the final result. Okung had 3 mistakes out of 64 total snaps. Being a lineman is hard.
  • Aaron Curry didn't finish with great statistics, but he was a strong presence against the run all game long and, if memory serves, actually managed to avoid a big mistake. He was particularly strong on the 49ers opening drive, registering two tackles and forcing a quick 3 and out. Curry will never justify the price Seattle paid for him, but he's improving, and it wouldn't totally shock me if he was one of the Seahawks 5 or 6 best defenders by the end of the season.
  • A 1st quarter punt whizzed by a bedazzled Leon Washington, and from one camera angle, the ball did appear to lightly brush Washington's left shoulder pad. The officials made the right call not overturning it, as the bulk of evidence just wasn't good enough. Only God knows if that ball actually touched a few fibers on Leon's jersey, but I couldn't help but feel Seattle caught a big break there.
  • The best move of the offseason wasn't signing Rice, Gallery, or Miller. It was re-signing Brandon Mebane to a reasonable deal and then putting him back where he belongs, plugging the middle. Mebane repaid the Seahawks generously for their wise decision today. Time after time, especially on 3rd and short, he was blowing lineman into Frank Gore and killing the run game dead. There are times I just cannot express how awesome Brandon Mebane is. The 49ers game today was one of those times.
  • Seattle had 47 yards of total offense at halftime, and that's not even counting a declined holding penalty on the final play. The team had also had been penalized 38 yards. Had it been possible for that last holding penalty to be accepted and the yardage marked off, Seattle would have had more penalty yards than total offense going into halftime. It was far from the worst half of football I've ever seen, but it might have been the most impotent.
  • Earl Thomas fires off like a rocket and hits like a missile. Its part of what makes him a good player, but looking at his size and body type, should I be the only person worried about his future health? Lofa Tatupu was another small guy that laid the lumber, and we all know what happened to him after just 3 seasons.
  • The boneheaded play of the game award goes to Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane for trying to draw a false start on 4th and 1 when a tight end went in motion. That's stupid on any play, but 10 times more so on 4th and 1. In fairness, it was just about the only thing Mebane did wrong all day.
  • A great return by Leon Washington was nullified by a hold/block in the back, called on #21. You might recall that #21 is Kelly Jennings' old number, and that Kelly Jennings is no longer a Seahawk, nor has his jersey number been given to anyone else. That's right, one of the most critical penalties in the game was literally called on the ghost of Kelly Jennings.
  • I'm pretty sure the refs actually meant either #31 Kam Chancellor (who had a great game) or #39 Brandon Browner, the latter of whom has a massive "flag me" sign on his back. His block that sprung Washington was a good one, with much more shoulder contact than back. A chippy call at best, a possible game changing blown call at worst.
  • Browner was victimized by touchy officiating all game. Smith's critical touchdown to take a 16-0 lead seconds before halftime was after a questionable pass interference call on Browner, who to me, looked like he was just playing good defense and made minimal contact with the WR. Later on, Browner would be a victim of a crucial roughing the kicker penalty in which its doubtful he made any contact at all.
  • Seattle's defense had a stellar game, or at least a much better game than a 33-17 final score would indicate. As bad as Seattle's offense was on the whole, they actually outgained San Francisco 219 to 209. San Francisco only had one scoring drive (a field goal) that began in their own territory. They ran the ball 31 times and averaged 2.75 yards per carry. According to's official statistics, the 49ers were somehow an impossible sounding 1 of 12 on 3rd downs. Excluding the final kneel down, the 49ers had ten possessions today, and six of those were 3 and outs. This is a team that won a game today. By 16 points.
  • After Ted Ginn's 2nd return touchdown, the broadcast fixed their cameras on Seahawks special teams coach Brian Schneider. Schneider was standing on the sideline, silently scratching his throat and blankly looking off into space, completely unaware he was on television. It kind of made me wonder. It was one of those moments where you ask yourself "what were they expecting him to do?"
  • Marshawn Lynch had a tough game, but I appreciated that he seemed to run with added urgency in the 2nd half. He had 27 yards on 6 carries in the 2nd half compared to a paltry 6 yards on 7 carries in the 1st half. Lynch's progress in the Seahawks running game is, to me, one of the bigger stories of the 2011 season looking forward. If he struggles as much this year as he did last year, its very possible the front office could move in a new direction at running back.
  • Finally, I can't end these random notes without talking about Doug Baldwin. I was an outspoken critic of Baldwin's early in the preseason. Today, I think he proved me wrong in just about every way possible. Its a lesson in the folly of making judgments too hastily. Baldwin entered today's game as a rookie, 6th on Seattle's WR depth chart. And yet no other Seahawks reciever was targeted as often, caught more balls, posted as many yards, or scored more touchdowns. Think about that. Baldwin's 55 yard 4th quarter touchdown was a revelation. He probably isn't going to be the next Marques Colston, but its abundantly clear that he isn't a fringe NFL WR.

Seahawks at 49ers win probability chart


(This is a chart that shows the odds of winning the game as it happened, based on similar situations over the history of the NFL.)

NFL football is back!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Personnel Matchups, Week 1

How does Seattle Seattle stack up player to player and group to group? Can they win enough individual match ups to win this game? What might be the match ups that swing this game?

First up, Seattle's offense.


If Rice is playing, Seattle has a distinct advantage when matching up the receivers against the cornerbacks. Mike Williams would likely draw coverage from Carlos Rodgers, and the 5 inch height advantage, plus about 40 pounds, gives Mike a distinct advantage. Carlos lacks ball skills, a la Kelly Jennings, so Big Mike could have a real good day. Similarly, Rice would have a huge advantage on Tarell Brown, being 5 inches taller. In the slot, where Seattle will likely feature Golden Tate, San Francisco counters with the oft-maligned Shawntae Spencer or the rookie Chris Culliver. If Tate can't take advantage, it won't be because the match up is too difficult. Advantage: Seattle.

Zach Miller is likely to draw a variety of defenders, from a safety to even MLB Patrick Willis. OLB Ahmad Brooks picked off Matt Schaub for a touchdown in the pre season, and has gone from a rotational player to first string. Niner fans are high on his sack ability, which is actually not bad, but expect him to be tested if covering Zach Miller. Parys Haralson is keeping a spot warm for first rounder Aldon Smith, who will only see the field as a pass rusher because his coverage skills are dreadful as of now. I think Seattle can really take advantage of San Francisco with their tight end match ups in this game. Advantage: Seattle.

It is pretty difficult to draw up personnel matchups with the running backs, but if you match them up as a group, San Francisco has a big advantage here with Donte Whitner at strong safety and Patrick Willis at MLB. Together they could approach 300 tackles for this season, and could make it difficult for Forsett or Lynch to get on track. I don't expect a lot of broken tackles. More on this when we get to the offensive line, but in stopping the run, advantage: San Francisco. In backfield passing game, advantage: Seattle.

Offensive line. Center Max Unger will need constant help with nose tackle Sopoaga. Justin Smith is equally difficult to stop, and will do more to collapse the pocket whether lined up over John Moffitt or Robert Gallery, if Gallery even plays. Expect the Niners to exploit the fact that the Sopaga/Smith tandem will need 3 blockers most of the time. If Brent Giacomini is at RT and Moffitt at RG, San Fran really doesn't counter with a scary pass rush on the right. Parys Haralson is not great at getting to the quarterback and may be logically viewed as only keeping the seat warm until Aldon Smith takes it, and McDonald has never been a full time starter until now. Aldon could see some snaps in this game, and the 2.5 sacks he posted in the final preseason game have Niner fans hopeful. Aldon Smith is not a good 3-4 outside linebacker, not yet. If you see him on the field, expect Seattle to test the rookie. On the Seattle offensive line, the edge goes to the Niners, and the advantage grows if Gallery is out.

And on to the swing position on Seattle's offense, quarterback. First the good news. Tarvaris sports better statistics on the road than at home in his small sample size career so far, and San Francisco's league-average ability to provide pressure can only help him. San Fran's 3-4 defense seems custom-made to take advantage of on the edges, so expect a steady diet of passes to the backs and a smattering of screens. Patrick Willis and Donte Whitner will probably blitz a few times, and so far Tarvaris has at least shown the ability to avoid that first big hit. The continuity of the offensive line will likely be a problem for Jackson. If Gallery isn't playing, expect the middle of the line to provide a couple of electric moments for Jackson. If Jackson looks settled in the first half, I will be surprised. Advantage here: San Francisco, but not by a huge margin.

Overall, San Francisco wins this battle, despite Seattle's huge offensive advantage against the secondary. Without Gallery on the field, which sounds more and more likely, Seattle is a very inexperienced line, and I expect Justin Smith to have a very good day chasing Tarvaris around and to prevent him from having the time to exploit the receiver advantage. But Seattle has definite big play potential to the WR position if there is time to pass.


The Niners feature Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree at WR, and the Edwards match up is one they could exploit. Edwards is strong enough to get off of press, and he gets to the deep zones very well. His strength is the sidelines, with outs to set up the go routes being a particular strength. Seattle's press tries to force the out pattern, as the more difficult throw, so I expect Edwards to take advantage. Crabtree thus far has been more of a paper lion; expect the lack of continuity that plagued him and Smith last year to continue. I don't expect him to respond well to press coverage mentally, though he is physically capable of dealing with either of Seattle's starting corners. Browner matches up best with Crabtree, and Trufant would be better on Edwards.

Tedd Ginn, Kyle Williams, and Josh Morgan round out the WR corps for the Niners, and they present some specific issues for Seattle's largish secondary, Ginn in particular. Ginn and Edwards tend to drop a ball or two per game, and Ginn's game does not seem particularly suited to Alex Smith's talents. Advantage: this one is a push. Seattle lacks experience, and is pretty much an unknown quantity outside of Trufant, but San Fran doesn't seem well suited to pick them apart either.

At tight end, the Niners feature known quantity Vernon Davis. Seattle does not feature a single linebacker who has the proven ability to cover him in space. When possible, expect Seattle to line a player like SS Atari Bigby or Browner up on Davis. Delainie Walker averaged a couple of receptions a game last season, but no touchdowns, but of course Davis is the headache for Seattle in this group. If the Niners want to go deep down the middle of the field, expect Vernon to be the target. Earl Thomas should be able to control that area, but Davis might have a very good day in the underneath zone. Advantage: San Francisco.

At running back, San Francisco features a man Seattle fans have come to dread, since there is about a 50 percent chance he has a really good day. Frank Gore has feasted on Seattle several times in his career, having the two best days of his career at Seattle's expense, both efforts that gained over 200 yards. You know that prospect has him salivating for this match up. With all that said, Gore is coming off of a bad injury, and the miles could be taking their toll. And, he just got PAID. In the week one match up last year, he was very ineffectual against the debut of the Red Bryant run defense. He has a mixed bag of run blockers, led by Mike Iupati at LG. Expect any short yardage or goal line runs to be primarily behind Iupati, who can effectively pull. Gore is backed by Anthony Dixon, who could carry in short yardage, and Kendall Hunter who is capable of some big plays.
Advantage: San Francisco, but just barely.

Offensive line: I have already mentioned Iupati, who should be able to stall Mebane effectively. Staley mans the LT position, and he isn't bad, but has had his fair share of troubles with a Chris Clemons-type player in pass blocking. He got manhandled by Connor Barwin of the Texans in preseason this year, and Clemons is quicker than Barwin. Anthony Davis mans the right side, and he is big worry for Niner fans. In obvious passing situations he may struggle to contain Raheem Brock. Center and right guard are positions in flux for the Niners right now, but Branch has not yet shown Seattle that he can get much push at the 3 technique, so that spot is a push. Red Bryant is simply going to cause Anthony Davis to have nightmares.
Offensive line rush blocking: Push. Offensive line pass blocking: big advantage for Seattle.

Quarterback. Alex Smith is back, much to the delight of Seattle fans. The defensive line Seattle will be showing in week one is much more like the line that made Alex look bad in week one of last year than the one that made Alex Smith look All Pro later in the season. Expect Alex to get some early hits on him, which experience tells us rattles him. Alex has some pretty good accuracy to the sidelines, so watch to see if he takes advantage of Seattle's press at the edges of the field. Alex has always been more comfortable from the gun. He does not always look off safeties, so the chances that Earl Thomas gets his hands on a ball should increase. The offensive line in front of him will not be likely to give him any confidence either.

Advantage: Seattle.


This is one of those games that has the potential for lots of early season sloppiness. There has been so much turnover on both squads, and both teams feature quarterbacks who average about an interception per start. If Seattle can get an early lead, Smith is a quarterback who plays poorly from behind. No matter who wins, it will probably feel like the losing squad gave the game away somehow. If Gallery misses this game, I expect that to have a big impact. Is Okung really healthy? Is Rice at anything close to 100%? Can Tarvaris take advantage of a hugely disadvantaged San Francisco secondary? Have Harbaugh or Carroll figured out what the other guy's deal is yet?

In a game of mistakes, I expect Seattle on the road to make one they shouldn't. Don't worry, San Francisco will counter with two mistakes they should not make. In a game so filled with mistakes and mental errors that both coaches will feel like they lost, Seattle wins 23-16.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Forecasting the Seahawks 53

My foolish stab at a 53-man roster that will no doubt be written in pencil anyway, considering Carroll's proclivity toward roster-tinkering.

Quarterback (3)

Locks: Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis

Pete Carroll is adamant that Tarvaris Jackson is the starter, and I agree. This isn't Carroll going back on his "competition" philosophy, it's Carroll adjusting to the reality of the NFL. I always thought Carroll was naive to think that he could spend precious practice reps just to decide on a QB, rather than giving a QB the extra work, support, and emphasis he needs. A good front office will eventually just need to make a good guess as to who is deserving. I'm glad to see Pete can be flexible. Besides, naming T-Jack the starter doesn't really kill competition at all; Whitehurst will always be breathing down Jackson's neck.

Josh Portis has shown enough promise to where he might not stick on the practice squad.

Running Back (4)

Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Justin Forsett, Michael Robinson
Waived: Thomas Clayton
Practice Squad: Tai Vaua
Cut: Dorson Boyce

This will be one of the tougher spots for front office and fans alike to swallow. Thomas Clayton and Tai Vaua were flashy in the preseason, but were most likely just cannon fodder to spare Seattle's prize backs from injury. I'm not clear on whether Clayton is eligible for the practice squad, but even if he is, some other team will try to snatch him.

Lynch remains the workhorse back, Washington will increase his value with more snaps this year, and Forsett's performance last night (similar to Clayton's, but against better competition) reminded us what we love about the guy. Robinson is an improving blocker (had a nice goal-line block for Clayton last night) and special-teams ace.

Wide Receiver (5)

Locks: Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Golden Tate, Kris Durham
PUP: Deon Butler
Waived: Doug Baldwin
Practice Squad: Ricardo Lockette, Pat Williams
Cut: Chris Carter, Owen Spencer, Isaiah Stanback

Golden Tate waited until the day before final cuts to show signs of pro competence. That's a heck of a timing, but Seattle entrained its game plan around him and he rose to the challenge. So did Kris Durham, who used his height and aggressiveness to good effect last night. We can only hope that Rice, Williams, and Obomanu return from their nagging injuries soon.

Doug Baldwin may well find a solid NFL career with some team, but that team doesn't need to be the Seahawks. This unit already features a great mix of talent, accomplishment, and potential, and there are greater needs elsewhere. Baldwin honestly hasn't shown all that much against first-stringers, and his special-teams prowess is also replaceable. In my first of two against-the-grain-just-because-I-can predictions, Seattle will probably try to stash Baldwin on the practice squad and lose him to another, needier team.

Tight End (3)

Locks: Zach Miller, Anthony McCoy, Dominique Byrd
PUP: Cameron Morrah
IR: John Carlson (doesn't count vs 53)

Carlson's labrum tear makes this position much clearer (unfortunately). With Miller the entrenched starter, McCoy has emerged this preseason as a reliable receiving option and should get plenty of looks in the offense's 2-TE packages. Keep in mind that his talent level was seen by some as borderline first-round before he plunged in the 2010 draft because of character issues. Byrd provides a solid deep option, having apparently been shaken out of a self-admitted laziness by Carroll in a story similar to Mike Williams'.

Offensive Line (10)

Locks: Russell Okung, Robert Gallery, Max Unger, John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Tyler Polumbus, Paul McQuistan, Mike Gibson, Paul Fanaika, Breno Giacomini
Cut: Lemuel Jeanpierre, Will Robinson

No way this O-line goes without a backup for each and every position. Not in this town. You know what the injury bug is like here. Gallery's unwelcome knee sprain against Oakland only makes this likelier.

Carpenter looked better last night against a relatively quiet Oakland pass defense. OL coach Tom Cable kept him in for almost the whole game, which could both bolster his confidence and test his conditioning. His backup, Breno Giacomini, was awful in Green Bay. He showed some of that Tom Cable nasty in one particularly vicious block, but that same vitroil could well have gotten him a penalty. He needs to be careful.

I was hoping that Andre Gurode would come in and supplant Max Unger, but no such luck apparently. I just don't think Unger has the strength to play offensive line in the NFL.

Moffitt is quietly improving, Okung will be a breath of fresh air if he ever stays healthy, and the other backups have shown enough to keep the starters on their toes. Give them time to develop.

Defensive Line (10)

Locks: Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, Red Bryant, Raheem Brock, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, Pep Levingston, Jimmy Wilkerson
Bubble: Pierre Allen, Clinton McDonald 
PUP: Colin Cole
Practice Squad: Maurice Fountain
Cut: Jameson Konz, A.J. Schable, David Howard

Seattle's defensive line seems to be pretty set with their roles, and DC Gus Bradley likes to rotate, so expect a nice deep corps here.

Levingston has had a good preseason and could rush the passer from the inside. Pierre Allen and Clinton McDonald (recently acquired from the Bengals in exchange for CB Kelly Jennings) could be fighting for the final spot on the roster. Either one could play inside, but that seems to be McDonald's forte, so I'd lean towards him if he'd had more time to play and hadn't been so invisible against Oakland. It's hard to say as it is. Both of them, or one of them and Davis, could find a spot if Jimmy Wilkerson's knee sprain turns out to be severe.

Linebackers (6)

Locks: Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne, Leroy Hill, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith
Bubble: Matt McCoy, David Vobora
Practice Squad: Mike Morgan
Cut: Michael Johnson

Seattle carried six linebackers last year, so it's not unreasonable to expect that in 2011. Curry quietly had a solid game against the Raiders, Hill is going to be a welcome presence in pursuit and awareness, and Wright and Smith had impressive preseasons, Wright as a starter twice.

The final spot, backup MLB, comes down to two decent special-teams guys, McCoy and Vobora. Toss-up  to me. Although I will say that Vobora's body of work in St. Louis stands out more.

Cornerback (5)

Locks: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell
Cut: Kennard Cox
PUP: Roy Lewis

Sherman and Maxwell made their cases late in the preseason. Both are looking like great role-players, with Maxwell contributing on special teams. The team has gone to great lengths to preserve a starting spot for Thurmond, but although his PI penalty against Oakland was smart given the circumstances (didn't buy the play fake, took a penalty rather than give up the long TD), he has looked mostly lost on the field. With Lewis on his way back and Browner/Sherman hanging around, Thurmond needs to develop.

Safety (4)

Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Atari Bigby, Jeron Johnson
Practice Squad: Mark Legree, Josh Pinkard

My second off-the-wall prediction: Johnson hasn't played too much against starting defenses, but his instincts and tackling secure him ahead of Legree and Pinkard, who haven't gotten enough done in August. Bigby has looked kinda sluggish for a veteran, and if not for Carroll announcing him as a starter, I'd dismiss him. But he'll probably make it.

Specialists (3)

Locks: Jeff Reed, Jon Ryan, Clint Gresham