Monday, November 17, 2014

Something's Missing-- Seahawks 20 @ Chiefs 24

Between my Seahawks and my UW Huskies, this was an incredibly disappointing football weekend for me. Two games, lost by a combined total of 5 points, riddled with missed opportunities and bad breaks. Both games left me questioning what the future holds for these teams and whether or not they're on the right track.

The Seahawks lost on the road to a really good Kansas City team that seemed to be custom-built to beat them.  Alex Smith played his patented brand of mistake-free (and typically excitement-free) football as they hammered us with a mulch-faceted run game that Seattle wishes they had.

While there were plenty of disappointments from the Seahawks offense-- they really didn't have that terrible of a game.  Ultimately, they had opportunities to put the game away, but three times they went for it on 4th down and failed late in the game.

The Seahawks offense never turned the ball over, Russell Wilson threw a pair of touchdowns and they rushed for over 200 yards on a notoriously stingy run defense. That's usually more than enough to secure a victory when your team is predicated on it's ferocious defense.

But it wasn't.  And as close as this game looked by the box score-- it felt like the Seahawks never really had a chance.

The Seahawks defense had no answers for the rushing attack of Jamal Charles, Knile Davis and De'Anthony Thomas. They managed to take away the ball twice on fumbles, but it wasn't enough to offset how poorly they played upfront.

This team, as expected, sorely misses Brandon Mebane.  They still miss Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, for that matter.  The front line depth, on both sides of the ball, that carried this team to a Super Bowl just last year is simply not there anymore. 

I haven't been very critical of Pete Carroll and John Schneider because of the success they established so quickly, but this year has given me reason to be critical.  They have gotten too carried away with running this team like a college football program. The 'next man up' philosophy is a great premise, but it absolutely has its limits.

It's hard not to think about what this team's record might be today if they held on to just a few of the players that departed last season. The offensive line is clearly struggling without Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini.  The defensive line would love to have Clinton McDonald and/or Red Bryant right now. Chris Maragos would've been tremendously helpful in the games we were without Kam Chancellor.  Hell, even Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond would be nice to have as we prepare to take on the NFL's best team in the 9-1 Cardinals.

Something is missing.  Maybe it's a lot of things.  The Seahawks aren't out of it, but it's definitely getting dangerously close to panic mode. The Seahawks are currently tied with the 49ers for 2nd place in the NFC West-- three games behind the Cardinals.  If the season ended today (I hate that phrase, but still) Seattle would miss the playoffs altogether.

Every game for the rest of the season is going to be a challenge.  This is where the Seahawks need to figure out how to get the best out of what they have and find a way to make it work. The big question going into this season was how they were going to keep the nucleus of players from the Championship team in tact down the stretch-- but now that question needs to be who deserves to be in that nucleus of players.

The Marshawn Lynch rumors will only get louder with each loss and heartbreakers like yesterday's game will only intensify the emotions behind those rumors. NFL.com's Michael Silver interviewed Lynch after the loss to the Chiefs and his piece only fanned the flames of the situation.

My advice to the Seahawks front office is to take it easy on running this team like a college program. If there is any truth to the Silver column in the sense that Carroll and the Seahawks brass is feeding these stories to the media-- you're only putting your team in a bad spot by doing so.  If they sincerely feel that paying Lynch would inhibit them from getting extensions done with players like Wilson, Wagner, Wright and Maxwell-- they need to watch some extra film this week.

Anyone can see the problems that have arisen from the departures on the front lines and how that has created a domino effect of problems for the other position groups.  The lack of offensive line depth has created problems in both the pass and rush attacks just as the lack of defensive line depth has exposed weaknesses in the linebacking group and in the secondary.

With that in mind-- could you imagine the difficulties that would come from not having Lynch in the stable for next season?  It would put incredible pressure on Wilson to carry the team as a passer, which we have neither the receivers, tight ends or linemen depth to accommodate. Furthermore, it would likely force the team to rely on its defense just like they did in the Super Bowl season-- which we're proving we cannot do today, much less next season.

If you're not going to, at the very least, let Marshawn play out the last year of his contract next season, you're going to have to spend a draft pick on a running back.  If not to start, then at best they'll have to fill the spot on the running back chart vacated by Lynch.  You'd also have to spend a high pick on a playmaking wide receiver, because without the threat of a violent rushing attack, you'll be leaning on Wilson to make big plays down field.  As much as I love Baldwin and Kearse, we'd be asking them to step outside of their current roles that they are excelling at.

You'd have to then expect to invest in at least two offensive line draft choices.  I can't imagine Carpenter will be brought back after an inconsistent career riddled with injury.  Plus, you've gotta rebuild the depth. Factor in Zach Miller's situation with injuries and a high salary and you have to assume he's not long for this team.  I'd argue that you need to draft a blocking tight end to compensate for not having Lynch. That's 5 mandatory picks before you even begin to address the defense!

I hate to be focusing on next year when its clearly far too early to give up on this year, but apparently the Seahawks have been looking to the future ever since they hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.  Whatever the end game for this season might be, the Seahawks better look long and hard at what happened this season before they make any drastic moves in/for the future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Seahawks Run Wild-- Seahawks 38 Giants 17

Who needs Percy-- or any receivers for that matter!

In Seattle's 38-17 victory over the Giants at CenturyLink on Sunday, they amassed 350 yards on the ground-- a franchise record.  Marshawn Lynch led the way with 140 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns. Russell Wilson added another 107 and a touchdown, Christine Michael had another 71 yards and Robert Turbin piled on an additional 32 yards.

Wilson didn't start off sharp. He threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.  Seattle is still struggling to find their offensive rhythm, but the difference in this game was how they leaned heavily on their greatest strength-- their dynamic rushing attack.

The defense was perhaps it's most crisp on Sunday.  The depth players are getting some valuable experience that will lend itself tremendously to having success through the playoffs and having guys like Byron Maxwell back-- who had an incredible pass defensed late in the game.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks were dealt a devastating blow in yesterday's game when they lost standout defensive tackle Brandon Mebane to a season-ending hamstring tear.

The Seahawks are in a great position to defend their Super Bowl title-- but it's not going to be easy. The final 7 games of this season can be won just as easily as they could be lost. Seattle must go on the road to the loudest stadium in the NFL to take on the Chiefs, who are built almost identically.

They then must return home to take on the league's best team (by record) in division rival Arizona, then 4 days later play the 49ers in Santa Clara, then head to Philadelphia to take on the red hot Eagles before returning home again to face the 49ers in Seattle. They wrap up the season with games against the Cardinals (on the road) and Rams (at home) in games that could have powerful playoff implications.

Since every game counts and you can't control the health of your players, Seattle will have to continue to build their game plan around the strengths of their roster. Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette must get more involved with the offense as they continue to slowly acclimate Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood.

Additionally, it might be wise to try to add another young tight end to the practice squad to get him familiar with the season in case we suffer more losses to the already thin tight end group.  Perhaps their might even be a big body available to shore up the defensive line in Mebane's absence.

It would've been nice to see San Francisco get eliminated in Sunday's game where they won despite doing everything they could to blow that game against the Saints, but now we have to hope that the Giants can get right after losing in Seattle to finish them off for us.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thank Your Stars for Lynch-- Seahawks 30 Raiders 24

I have to admit-- there's a part of me that wants to see Marshawn Lynch miss a game or two this year.

Not because I want to see more of what we have in Robert Turbin and Christine Michael-- but to have a full display for everyone to see just how much Lynch means to the success of this team.

Think about it:  There was a point in yesterday's victory over Oakland where Seattle was without it's starting Pro Bowl Left Tackle, their starting Left Guard, their starting Pro Bowl Center and left with only their converted defensive lineman at Right Guard and a rookie Right Tackle.

That's enough of an excuse for any team to lose a game-- but not a team that has Marshawn Lynch.

Despite the injury woes and the Percy Harvin blowback, Lynch finished the game with 143 all-purpose yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns.  Don't get me started on how much more impressive his stats could have been if the offense could've shown an iota of restraint and execution.  Lynch had gains of 43, 20 and 11 yards wiped out by dumb penalties yesterday and many other such examples throughout this season.

Richard Sherman is the mouth of the organization that brings the swagger the defense is predicated on.  Russell Wilson is the face of the franchise that embodies excellence, hard work and competition. Marshawn Lynch is the best player on this team. Period.

At this point, Seattle would be foolish to not make an effort to ensure that Lynch finishes his career here.  Perhaps his cap number doesn't fit for next season-- but I assure you, he's not yet done being an elite back.  It's unlikely Michael or Turbin will ever come close to Lynch's level of production and reliability based on what we've seen.  That's not to say they won't be good franchise running backs-- we certainly haven't seen enough of them to make any concrete judgments.  Lynch is simply extraordinary.

Now that I have that rant out of my system, let me explain why I feel Seattle is in a great position to not only make the playoffs, but win the division.

I know what you're thinking:  Seattle barely defeated the lowly Raiders!  How can we possibly be getting that far ahead of ourselves to talk about winning the division?

Let's start with the Cardinals, who are an impressive 7-1.   They've suffered some tremendous setbacks with injuries-- but they've also caught a lot of breaks. They have a favorable schedule and squeaked out some wins that they might not have if not for a few plays.  It remains to be seen whether the Cards have the depth to make a serious push.  It's only a matter of time before the wheels come off, if you ask me. Bruce Arians is a helluva coach, though, and once he gets a few seasons to build his roster-- we'll need to be on high alert.  As for this season, I'm not sweating the Cardinals.

The 49ers are sitting at .500 right now.  That's right-- the 49ers are MEDIOCRE.  I love that!  Best of all, they're not in nearly the same injury predicament that the rest of the NFC West teams are. They're just plain choking right now and on pace to miss the playoffs. Unfortunately, after this weekend's game against the Saints, they've got a pretty weak schedule outside of the divisional games.

Still, Seattle is going to be in the driver's seat.  They'll start getting key players back from injury as soon as this weekend.  It's going to be on Pete Carroll and his staff to make the best of what they have while playing to the strengths of the players available.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coach says "We're Fine"-- Seahawks 13 @ Panthers 9

In his post game press conference, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll assured the media that all is well in the team's locker room. He went on to say that he cautioned the team heading into this season that there would be distractions of this kind and that they were prepared to handle them going forward.

Hopefully this tough road victory will squash the majority of these stories so the team can continue to work on the actual issues they continue to struggle with on the field.

The Seahawks went into Carolina for the 3rd consecutive year to face a talented-but-struggling young team.  Just like the previous two match ups-- Seattle squeaked out a victory.

The Seahawks continue to struggle with capitalizing on turnover opportunities. Tharold Simon dropped an easy interception and the first punt of the game was muffed, but recovered by the Panthers.

Kelvin Benjamin, who Seattle could've drafted had they not acquired Percy Harvin, had an
outstanding game against Seattle's defense.  Richard Sherman did an excellent job covering him, but Benjamin made a few plays in spite of the great coverage. You could tell there was a mutual respect between the two given the lack of any obvious trash talking.

The key difference in this game was Seattle's pass rush coming to life.  Seattle was much more aggressive in this game than they had been.  Bruce Irvin came up with 2 of Seattle's 3 sacks on crucial drives while Brandon Mebane added another.  Marcus Burley had a key interception as well.

Carolina has a great run defense-- which may have skewed the numbers Seattle's rushing attack was able to put up yesterday.  The Seahawks offense was able to generate enough of a run game to open up the pass.  Unlike almost every other game this season, Seattle took some shots down field which kept Carolina on its toes.

It was nice to see our backup tight ends step up in Zach Miller's absence and to see our two rookie receivers get involved in the pass game.  Both Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet should've had touchdown receptions yesterday, but the pass to Helfet was admittedly poorly thrown by Wilson and missed its mark. Willson had a go ahead TD in the 4th quarter of the game.

Seattle stands to make up ground within the division as Arizona travels to Dallas and the 49ers face off against the Rams.  The Seahawks will need to continue to build upon the improvements we saw yesterday when they face off against Oakland this Sunday in Seattle.  This should be a statement game for the Seahawks where they hang 40+ points on the lowly Raiders to remind the world of their championship status.

We're also coming up on the trade deadline and their are rumors of Seattle attempting to obtain a veteran wide receiver-- specifically Andre Johnson of the Texans or Vincent Jackson of the Buccaneers. Personally, I don't think that the Wide Receiver group is where we need to be concerned.  Seattle needs to be most concerned with defensive depth-- specifically linebacker and defensive backs -- along with offensive line depth and maybe another pass rusher to stir up some competition.

I suppose of the two, I'd be most satisfied with seeing Johnson join the Seahawks.  He's been one of the most solid, productive receivers of the last decade.  Jackson has been great-- when he's healthy, which seems rare.

I'm sincerely worried about the defensive depth down the stretch of the season.  Is Brandon Browner being used in New England? I wouldn't be opposed to bringing him back given our DB woes.  Perhaps we could add a versatile veteran linebacker to patch up things while Wagner rehabs? We're a KJ Wright injury away from being in deep trouble.

I'm curious as to the feeling internally about the offensive line depth going forward.  Our starters haven't played well for much of this season and they're struggling to stay healthy as it is. Do we have the depth to make a big playoff run as we are or do we need help?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time to panic? Seahawks 26 @ Rams 28

Just days before the game, word came out that Percy Harvin was being shipped to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick. At the time, it seemed shocking to most Seahawks fans that they would part ways with a dynamic player that they'd given up so much just to acquire-- only to receive so little in return. In the few days since the move was announced, it became more clear as to why the team was so anxious to admit their mistakes and move on from the Percy Harvin era in Seattle before he had a full season with the team.

There are numerous reports citing people close to the situation claiming that, in short, Percy Harvin was a real asshole.  Dating as far back as his high school days, Harvin was not well thought of with regard to his locker room demeanor. He fought with teammates and coaches alike, including a story that says he body slammed Golden Tate before the Super Bowl, giving him a black eye that is visible in post-game pictures.

It seems like the first few games of the season were spent kissing up to Harvin in an attempt to pacify him at the expense of the team. With Harvin out, hopefully the locker room will find peace, but getting rid of that headache doesn't begin solve the myriad of issues the Seahawks seem to have this season.

For starters, the team absolutely has a target on it's back.  Not just from every opponent they encounter that can't wait to get the best of the defending champs, but also from every official as well. This Rams game was a perfect example.

My opinion with officiating is pretty simple-- either let the teams play or call every possible penalty.  All I ask is that you be fair about it.  Calling every miniscule infraction slows the game down and kills momentum, which is detrimental to both players and fans. Letting the teams go at it is great unless it starts to get ugly. Whatever you do, just be consistent.

The officials yesterday were anything but consistent.  The Seahawks offensive line has been sloppy all year and clearly misses Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini, but there were some awful calls against them on Sunday.  The Rams had similar penalties, as well as more flagrant examples, that went unpenalized. 

The game ended with another horrible exhibition of poor officiating that rivaled the incompetence of what we see regularly in the PAC12.  Rams running back Tre Mason clearly fumbled the ball before going to the ground and from what we could see in the replay, Richard Sherman recovered it.



The officials moved the ball to the spot of the fumble and returned possession back to the Rams.  The Seahawks had no time outs and the refs refused to review the play.  The Rams quickly took a knee and ended the game.

Still, even if the poor officiating was removed, the issues with the Seahawks would continue to persist.

This team simply doesn't have the depth of talent it had on its Super Bowl run.  Because of that, we seem to be lacking the swagger displayed last season and we cannot seem to overcome key injuries.  Furthermore, we seem to have lost or forgotten our identity.

Seattle finally tried to get back to running the football, but injuries to Derrick Coleman and Max Unger affected that.  Add in the penalties and absence of swagger and you basically have Marshawn Lynch out there alone.  Lynch finished with 18 carries for 53 yards.  At times, the offense moved swiftly and efficiently at times, but something always caused them to stray.  Wilson ran too much and opened himself up to far too much unnecessary harm.

Special teams was absolutely horrendous yesterday.  Ultimately, they blew it for the team. For the second time in two years, Jeff Fischer burned us on a fake punt.  Now, I am not an X's and O's type guy, but I'd like to think that it wouldn't hurt your return coverage that much to keep someone in the middle to spy specifically for a fake. Same goes with the punt returned for a touchdown-- how do you not discuss in the huddle which corner you plan to kick the ball to before the play? That was embarrassing.

Our defense, which is supposed to be the heart and soul of this team, looks a shadow of its former self. Sherman looks like the only reliable cornerback on the roster, Cliff Avril has been a complete non factor, our linebackers cant cover and aren't pass rushing either. Injuries have been a factor, but not enough to be an excuse.

Seahawks have another tough road game against Carolina next week before they get two winnable home games against the Raiders and Giants.  In order to right the ship, this team needs to have a serious Tell The Truth Monday today.  They need to remind themselves that it's once again, them against the world.  They gotta get scrappy.  Defensively, they must pressure the quarterback early.  Offensively, they need to go back to what has always worked best for them-- keep the defense guessing.

Seattle was never more dominant than when opponents weren't sure what they were going to do.  Are they going to pick you apart with short passes to Baldwin and Kearse?  Are they gonna stretch the field with Harvin?  Are they going to run Lynch right at you or is Russell going to keep it and go the other way? 

Seattle excelled when they mixed it up and moved quickly.  They need to get back to that and before they find themselves playing for a Wildcard instead of repeating as Division Champions. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tell the Truth Monday: Seahawks 23 Cowboys 30

I was particularly excited about this game against the Cowboys.  I had the good fortune of being given a pair of club tickets right on the 50-yard line.  I took my girlfriend, an Oregon Ducks alum who had never been to an NFL game before.  I had told her that, while I was sure the crowds at Autzen Stadium were impressive, nothing could match the atmosphere of CenturyLink Field.

To tell the truth this Monday morning-- the Seahawks performance yesterday wasn't the only thing that disappointing me.

It had been a while since I'd made it out to a Seahawks game. As I said in an earlier post, because it's a pretty pricey experience, it's usually a once-a-year special event for me. The last game I had attended in person was Seahawks against the Patriots in 2012.  To let you know how long ago that was-- Earl Thomas still had dreads.

To tell the truth, 12s-- your performance yesterday was sub par.

I was incredibly disappointed with the lack of noise. I thought that maybe time had clouded my memory of what the 12s can bring to the CLink, but the fact that the Cowboys didn't have a single false start backs up my claim.

I know that its silly to fault the fans for a loss-- that's not at all the claim I'm making.  Perhaps it could've helped. Ultimately, Seattle's game plan was what lost this game for them.

Doug Baldwin complained after the game that there was too much talent on this team for them not to advance the ball better. While I agree, I have felt that the coaching staff, particularly Darrell Bevel, have been misusing their talent and putting them in unfavorable situations because of it.

Dallas did exactly what they have done all season.  Dennis Green would argue "They are who we thought they were!" They pounded the football on the ground to open up the passing game.  Why Seattle doesn't implement more of that in their offense is beyond me.

Instead, we've continued to run Percy Harvin up the middle with extremely limited results.  In fact, I can't think of a single play where we've ran Harvin inside that has resulted in more than maybe 6 yards.  Not only is it markedly ineffective, it subjects one of our highest paid, most talented players to unnecessary potential harm.


While 3 carries for -1 yards doesn't seem like much to attribute to a loss, Marshawn Lynch's 10 touches is grossly insufficient. It's as if Bevel has somehow forgotten how much Lynch's bruising run style had opened up their play action pass game over the past 3 seasons.

Dallas  possessed the ball an entire quarter of the game longer than Seattle.  To suggest that this had no impact on the outcome, as Baldwin did in the post game, is disingenuous. Had Seattle controlled the clock behind a steady Marshawn Lynch rushing attack and short, quick passes to his athletic receivers, they would've not only kept the game firmly in their control, but they could've opened up the playbook for more shots downfield and worked in some Harvin runs with success.

It wasn't just the Seahawks offense that looked overwhelmed Sunday.  Seattle's defense looked like they had no relation to the unit that led them to the Super Bowl the year before. Injuries definitely had an impact. Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas all shied away from the type of hits that have become their identity.

While I feel that there were tons of holding calls that were overlooked in the Cowboys favor, Seattle appears to sorely miss the production of Chris Clemons and the run stuffing of Red Bryant.  Even still, the defensive play calling had me pulling out my hair.  Whenever a running back would peel off his block and catch a pass in the flats, there was never a linebacker spying him.

Seattle must find away to get the best from the guys they have and put them in position to succeed. With the bye week behind them, Seattle must lean on its ground attack to take some of the pressure off its ailing defense.

Quick 3-and-outs are going to keep your defense on the field. If you're not getting any pass rush, your inexperienced and injured secondary will quickly be exposed. When that happens, you find yourself behind late in games, forcing you to throw the ball.  When defenses know you have to throw the ball, the can blitz at will.  When your most talented veteran offensive linemen are the ones drawing the bulk of the penalties, its hard to expect your line to play cohesively.

Seattle better rethink its strategy before they head to St. Louis next week or they will find themselves playing from behind in the division.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

MNF: Seahawks 27 @ Washington 17

After the game, Trent Dilfer referred to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as 'Magical'. He's been constantly referred to as 'special', 'gifted' and 'unique' by all factions of the media. Lots of creative adjectives have been used in an attempt to describe the play of number three, but there is one word constantly left off that list.

Elite.

After last night's performance, wherein Wilson set the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback on Monday Night Football, you're going to have a difficult time accurately describing the game without that word.

Russell was simply spectacular last night.  He threw for 201 yards with a pair of touchdowns while rushing for 122 yards and adding another TD with his feet. Seattle's offense played unusually sloppy while the officials appeared to be on loan from the PAC12.

Percy Harvin had not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns called back due to penalties.  Seattle's Pro Bowl linemen, Max Unger and Russell Okung, were spotlighted all night and not because of their usual dominance at the line of scrimmage. False starts and holding penalties plagued the Seahawks all game. Unger left temporarily with an injury but returned to finish out the game.

Richard Sherman exchanged pleasantries with Washington receiver, Pierre Garcon  throughout the match. He said to reporters after the game, "Pierre doesn't matter in this league." When asked to clarify his statement, Sherman added "I mean exactly what I said."

Normally, this would be filed under Richard-being-Richard, but I think the Seahawks defense needed this.  Despite solid play through the first 5 weeks, they do seem to be a little Swag-deficient.


The play of the night for most people would likely be the miraculous, direction-changing scramble by Wilson where he floated a ball to Marshawn Lynch for a victory-solidifying first down. That was a spectacular play, but you got to save a game ball for Seahawks punter, Jon Ryan. Not only did Ryan continuously pin Washington back in their own territory, he had an electrifying fake field goal run that kept the Seahawks late drive alive.

Seattle returns home on the short week to take on the seemingly red hot Dallas Cowboys.  I, for one, am not the least bit sold on the Cowboys this season.  The Seahawks will have their way with them at CenturyLink, putting an end to DeMarco Murray's streak of 100yard rushing games and sending the Cowboys promptly back on track to the 8-8ish record they always own.

I know its really early, but I wanted to put this out there.  Despite the suspensions of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and the injuries to Jamal Charles and Arian Foster early on, I'm still not confident that Marshawn Lynch will capture the rushing title this season-- simply based on how he's used in this system. 

BUT-- Mark my words -- Lynch will be in the consideration for league MVP when all is said and done.