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.