Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Finding Ways To Lose-- Seahawks 31 Falcons 34

The reigning NFC Champions came in to Seattle for a prime time Monday Night showdown with major playoff implications on the line. Seattle was banged up and without two of their best defensive players, but the 12s had their back.  This game had all of the trappings for a great match up-- and if you didn't have a dog in the fight, it was a great one.

For Seahawks fans, it was rough.

The Falcons began the game by marching right down the field for a touchdown.  On the subsequent drive, Russell threw an absurd interception to local kid, Desmond Trufant.  Before you knew it, the Falcons were up two scores and things looked awfully bleak.

Wilson kept his team in the game throughout by making remarkable plays with his arm as well as his feet. This team will never be out of a game with #3 at the helm.  Additionally, I think we can say with confidence that this team has three legit receivers in Baldwin, Lockett and Richardson. Jimmy Graham might be the least physically dominant player in the NFL, but he's an athletic, rangy receiver who has evolved into a fantastic weapon for this team.

It's been disappointing how little production we've seen from rookie Amara Darboh. There hasn't been any evidence of marked improvement from him this season.  Tanner McEvoy, outside of a few special teams plays, has largely faded into obscurity.  This season, perhaps more than any other, we'll need to see the Seahawks receivers step up to make plays and win games. A specialty of former Seahawk Jermaine Kearse, someone will have to replace his production in big spots.

I had been screaming for Mike Davis to get called up for weeks.  He was off to a tremendous start in his first game as a Seahawk, only to hurt his groin and exit the game.  Unless Seattle is confident he will be able to return Sunday, they need to bring in some free agent running backs this week. McKissic has been pretty good and fun to watch, but we can't keep running him into the wall.  Similarly, I've had just about as much as I can stomach from Eddie Lacey.

I love trick plays.  I will typically defend all matters of unconventional play calling. The Seahawks ran a fake field goal wherein Jon Ryan flipped the ball to Luke Willson coming across the line.  Willson was devoured, almost immediately, by the Falcon's nose guard.

It was a stupid, stupid call.  Not because we were in field goal range. Not because we happened to lose by 3 points.  It was stupid because the Seahawks were out of time outs, it was 4th down and there were only 7 seconds off the clock. I might have been more supportive of the call had McKissic been the ball carrier, or if any of the circumstances were different, but I don't think there was any universe in which Luke runs by everyone for the score.

Seattle was already down its two best defensive backs going into this game. Just moments into the game, they lost their other starting corner, rookie Shaq Griffin.  The Seahawks played almost the entire game with a cornerback that joined them just days ago, and a corner they tried to trade away not two weeks ago. I thought both played admirably and gave their best effort.

You can chalk this loss up to coaching.  You can blame injuries. You can lay it on special teams.  You can call for Blair Walsh's head.  All of those things factored in to the loss, but far and away the biggest contributing factor to the Seahawks coming up short was excruciating penalties.

Sure, Wilson threw a stupid pick early that resulted in points and took a strip sack that was taken in for a touchdown.  But he brought you back and put you in position to take the game to overtime.  Yeah, the defense was banged up, but they largely kept the reigning MVP in check and made an important stop that set you up for a potential game winning/tying drive.

The team and coaches made mistakes, but for the most part, they overcame those mistakes.  But you cannot give up 100 yards in penalties every game and expect to win.

So, now the Seahawks find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.  They have to all but win out in hopes of getting a 1 or 2 seed, and that seems daunting with match ups against the Rams, Eagles, Cowboys and Jaguars ahead. Even a Wildcard birth might not be enough with the way this team has struggled on the road.

What can the Seahawks do to get right down the stretch?  Well, I think it starts with the offensive side of the ball.  I would like to see some free agent running backs brought in this week, especially if Davis can't go.  I think you have to bench Germaine Ifedi.  Even if it doesn't make you better right away, its the only way he'll ever learn to stop making stupid penalties. 

I'd love to see the line on Sunday go Brown, Pocic, Britt, Glowinski, Joeckel.  Bench, or better yet, cut Lacey.  Start passing to set up the run.  Bevell's play-calling has been its best these past couple games. 

Defensively, you gotta hope Shead can come back soon.  If not, let's see someone else take over for Lane. Neiko Thorpe has earned an opportunity or bring in competition from the street.  Dion Jordan had been great the past two games, but he'll need to take on much more of a role down the stretch to help the depleted secondary.

Above all else, this team has to execute better.  Front office, coaching staff and all the way down.  You can afford to be aggressive and make a few mistakes when you're at your best. This team is far from it's best. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Good Enough? -- Seahawks 22 @ Cardinals 16

I can't remember the last time I felt this bad in the aftermath of a Seahawks victory.

They were able to win a road game against a bothersome divisional opponent.  Blair Walsh evidently snapped out of the curse that plagued him the week before.  Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson seemed to have overcome their redzone deficiencies.

Those were the positives.  Few and far between.

The worst news of the night didn't even wait for the game clock to expire before breaking.  Richard Sherman went down in pain with what was initially called a heel injury, however, sideline cameras were able to capture Sherman mouthing the words "I tore my Achilles" and in another intimate conversation with quarterback, Russell Wilson, it certainly looked like he said "I'm done for the year".

Make no mistake-- this is devastating news.

Richard Sherman is, without question, the best cornerback I've ever seen. I've seen the greats-- Deion Sanders, Darrell Green, Champ Bailey, Eric Allen, Darrell Revis, Ty Law, Rod Woodson, etc. I have seen some great cornerbacks in my nearly three decades of football fandom. None of them are nearly as complete as Sherman.

There have been a lot of playmaking corners in that time, but none of them could (or would) tackle like Sherm.  There have been great tackling, run-stopping corners-- none of them were flatly avoided by opposing QBs.  Richard Sherman has been a shutdown corner, a fierce tackler, a community leader and one of the guiding voices in the Seahawks locker room

And he hasn't missed a game in his career-- until next Monday when the Seahawks take on the Falcons.

It's a devastating blow to an already decimated Seahawks defense. It was strange and unsettling when, at one point late in the 4th quarter, the Seahawks were completely without the Legion of Boom.

But the defense is far from this team's greatest concern.

This offensive line is horrible.  But that's nothing new to the Pete Carroll-led Seahawks, right? What is different with this year's group is that they haven't shown a lick of progression from game to game this year.

Every game starts the same-- failed running plays, 3 and outs, Russell Wilson running for his dear life.  The defense is forced to shoulder the load and Wilson is forced to exhaust the defense and make miraculous plays that, more often than not, give the Seahawks an opportunity to win in the closing moments of a game.

Week in week out. Things change, but they never get better.

We've always given Tom Cable a pass, as I wrote last week.  He won us a Super Bowl with guys like Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan on the offensive line.  Slow starts were quickly forgiven because the offense always seemed to begin to gel about halfway into the season before gaining momentum heading into the playoffs.

However, since that Super Bowl run, the team has clearly made more resources available to Cable and his offensive line.  They went out and got free agents that Cable most assuredly had a hand in bringing here.  Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Duane Brown, Matt Tobin, Isaiah Battle on the offensive line and Eddie Lacy in the backfield. 

They've also used a number of their high draft selections on linemen. Germain Ifedi, Ethan Pocic and Justin Britt were all taken within the first 64 picks in their respective drafts. 

With all of that commitment to the offensive line and running game, the Seahawks find themselves somehow worse for the wear. You could make the argument that Seattle seemingly doesn't excel at identifying offensive talent, but you'd be wrong.

That argument is immediately dismantled when you see that the tenth best running back in the NFL right now is Seahawks castoff, Alex Collins. 

I don't think Collins registered a single, double-digit run in his tenure with the Seahawks.  He was clearly the odd man out in a seemingly crowded Seattle backfield. Yet, he gets scooped up by the Ravens, who themselves are struggling and riddled with injury, and has a career resurgence.

Did the Seahawks merely underestimate Collins' ability? Unlikely.   Every week, the Seahawks offensive line makes their opponent's defensive front look like world-beaters.  Even if that's not at all the case.

So, where is the disconnect?  It can't be entirely linked to the absence of Marshawn Lynch.  That excuse may have worked last season, but they have now had two complete off seasons to address Lynch's departure.  Somehow, their efficiency is even worse in the second year after Lynch.

Tom Cable isn't doing his job.  Period.

It's one thing to have a talent deficit. That happens sometimes.  Guys retire, salary caps force roster moves and sometimes you simply strike out in the draft. 

Sometimes you have your salary cap resources allocated to other areas of the roster that force your hand.  In those instances, you have to play the hand you've been dealt.

There are even times when a rash of injuries spoil your plans.  There's nothing you can really do about that. That's where the 'next man up' philosophy comes from.

Even in those extreme situations, your job as a coach is to get the best out of the group of guys you have. Coach them up and help them get better week to week.

Cable has not done that at all this season.

Darrell Bevel has made adjustments, in games and throughout the season, that have helped this team win games and stay competitive each week. That hasn't always been the case in previous seasons, but he's been outstanding this year when it comes to doing the best with what he has.

Even the penalties are different from previous seasons.  I could live with the nasty, personal foul penalties we'd see from Giacomini and James Carpenter, but these false starts and holding calls are killing this team.  The bottom line is that this team will not win a playoff game if they can't sustain drives with the run.

I don't know enough about coaching or offensive line play to discern whether these struggles can be attributed to the complexity of Tom Cable's system or not, but I've watched enough football this season alone to see that this is far from a league-wide problem.

Even the teams that go up against the Seahawks phenomenal defense seem to start strong, regardless of injuries or personnel.  The Seahawks line starts bad and finishes just as poorly.  Bevell adjusts the play calling, they abandon the run and leave it all on Russell Wilson to scramble wildly and make plays. Everyone else on the team makes adjustments and, more often than not, gets better as the game goes on.

Maybe I'm mistaken, but I don't know who else should be responsible for the embarrassing shortcomings of the offensive line if not the man whose job it is to manage that group.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Outplayed, Outcoached, Outclassed -- Seahawks 14 Washington 17

This was far and away Seattle's worst performance of the season.  It's arguably the most undisciplined and dysfunctional performance of the Pete Carroll era.  When you have a mediocre opponent like Washington that was as banged up as they were-- you must find a way to get the victory.

The Seahawks did exactly the opposite of that.  They went above and beyond to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. With the lone exception of Niko Thorpe, the Seahawks special teams unit played like garbage. Jon Ryan didn't provide much in the field position battle and Blair Walsh choked on all three of his field goal attempts in the game. Add to that not one, but two missed 2-point conversion attempts and you have to wonder if Washington beat Seattle or did they simply beat themselves.

Russell Wilson had a bad game but not for lack of trying. He was just shy of 300 yards passing with a pair of touchdowns and 77 yards on the ground.

However, Wilson had two costly interceptions and the game-ending hailmary looked to me like it was picked off as well. Still, in spite of a lackluster performance, Russell Wilson is clearly not the problem with this offense.

It's high time we start laying more of the blame at the feet of this team's assistant head coach-- Tom Cable.

Coach Cable seems to evade criticism largely due to his reputation as a future head coach. To his credit, the run game has consistently ranked among the best in the league in his tenure here in Seattle, but has sharply declined since Marshawn Lynch left the team. He has seemed to coach up and make due with scrapheap guys-- but perhaps that was more to Lynch's credit than his own.

In today's game, Seattle came out with their newly aquired, All-Pro left tackle, Duane Brown.  Next to him at left guard was a second-round rookie, Ethan Pocic.  At center, we have another second-round draft pick and last year's Pro Bowl alternate, Justin Britt. The Seahawks signed free agent, Oday Aboushi, in the offseason and now he's your starting right guard. Starting at right tackle, you have second-year player and former first-round draft selection- Germain Ifedi.

That is a lot of  valuable resources provided to that group.  You can't begin to tell me that this team is neglecting it's offensive line.

Couple with that the fact that you came out publicly earlier in the week and expressed a profound commitment to feeding the ball to Eddie Lacy.  Lacy-- the same player you paid five and a half million dollars this offseason to take the lion's share of the touches for your offense.

You got your guys, you got home field advantage and you got an opponent that is without one of it's starting defensive ends. Take your quarterback out of the equation and your rushing offense only got you 71 yards today.

That is not acceptable if this team has any notions on predicating themselves as a running team.

So why haven't more fingers been pointed in Cable's direction when it comes to this team's offensive bouts of ineptitude? Darrell Bevell has taken a beating from the media and the fanbase-- and most certainly from me.  Still, Tom Cable is celebrated as an offensive mastermind.

I'll admit, I am guilty of overlooking Cable's shortcomings this season-- and maybe that is because of his past accomplishments. Now we have to get ready to play the Cardinals on a short week Thursday as we've given first place in the division to the Rams.  The Seahawks need to figure themselves out and do it quickly.

Cable definitely needs to be called out on 'Tell the Truth Monday', but he's definitely not the only one.  Since Chris Carson went down, Seattle only has one person on the team that hits the hole running full speed.  Sadly, he's not on the 53-man roster at present.  No, Mike Davis is still on the practice squad while every Sunday we act surprised to find CJ Prosise, once again, inactive.

Maybe it's time the Seahawks took a cue from the Colts and just admit that Prosise, like Andrew Luck, evidently needs the whole year to get his body right to play football.

McKissic is the most effective back on the team, but he can't take the full workload.  Meanwhile, Prosise occupies an extremely valuable roster spot that could be used by Davis to solidify our abysmal rushing attack.

Seattle is heading into a tough stretch of games in which they'll need to execute better in hopes of reclaiming the division lead.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Shootout in Seattle-- Seahawks 41 Texans 38

What a remarkable game.

It was back and forth.  I was confident we'd win and I was certain we had blown it.  It was an emotional roller coaster where we saw Seattle's best players step up when we needed them most.

Russell Wilson made his case for MVP today. Wilson finished with 4 touchdowns for over 450 yards but threw a lone interception that appeared to have sealed the victory for Houston in the final moments of the game. Seattle's defense held on as Richard Sherman made his second interception of the game to put the nail in the Texans' coffin.

I have to give credit where it's due-- and it's due in a lot of places where we typically dish out harsh criticism after the game.  Coach Bevell called a great game.  Blair Walsh had me like-- "Hauschka who?" The offensive line played perhaps its best game against a beastly Texans front.  Don't let the failures of the running backs fool you.

'O Quah Tangin Wann' -- Riley Martin
Wilson broke the franchise's single-game passing record in today's victory.  I'd love to see the Seahawks adjust their playbook to look more like the Saints back when they had Graham.  Russell can sling it, we have a lot of shifty pass catchers and the best running back that is currently on the roster is JD McKissic-- a speedy playmaker that is best served getting the ball in space.

While I don't expect Seattle to overhaul their gameplan in the middle of the season, I do expect them to continue trimming and tailoring their playbook to accommodate their strengths.

I thought Rees Odhiambo played well considering his assignment.  Jadeveon Clowney is a phenomenally gifted athlete that has terrorized opposing quarterbacks when healthy.  He got the better of Rees a couple of times, but Rees had is number on a few critical plays.

The run game has become a problem.  Thomas Rawls seems to be in his own head while Eddie Lacey is just too goddamned slow to account for our run blocking deficiencies. McKissic is clearly the best option, but can't handle more than 10 carries between the tackles in a given game.

I think it's time to put CJ Prosise on IR and give Mike Davis a call up from the practice squad.  Like the old NFL adage goes, the best thing you can be in football is available-- and Prosise has been all but completely unavailable.

Now the Seahawks find themselves with a slim lead in their division and will host a banged up Washington team next week.  This team is poised to hit their stride right when they usually do-- the cold months of November and December running into the playoffs.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Making Due with What You Have-- Seahawks 24 @ Giants 7

The Seahawks featured 4 different running backs on their first 4 plays of the game.  While it is nerve-wracking and aggravating that we find ourselves 7 weeks into the season with no idea who this team's leading back might be-- I love that they seem to be going with a committee moving forward.

CJ Prosise managed to once again hurt himself on his first play back.  At this point, I'm ready to shut him down for the season and call up Mike Davis from the practice squad.  Sadly, that's not my decision to make, so we will likely spend the next few weeks hearing Pete Carroll tell us how close Procise is.

Neither Rawls, Lacey or McKissic have come close to matching the consistency we were getting out of Chris Carson, but each of those backs have their own special skill set that could work well together when used as a committee.  

I have been surprisingly pleased with coach Bevell and the offensive play calling the past couple of games.  It usually isn't until late November and on into December before this team comes to grips with their identity and begins to click together. 

That's not to say the offense hasn't continued to struggle.  Seahawks receivers were dropping passes like they came straight from the oven.  Particularly Jimmy Graham, who inexplicably choked two potential scoring plays away in the game.

The offensive line had arguably their best performance of the season against a tough Giants defense on the road.  Unfortunately, Justin Britt may have sustained an injury that might linger through the year.  There were two scoops of good news that came from his injury-- he was able to return to the game and rookie utility lineman Ethan Pocic was able to get some experience at both guard and center in the game. 

I have a strong feeling Russell Wilson is going to quietly work his way into the MVP discussion by the end of the year.  He's thrown 11 touchdowns to 3 interceptions so far this season and seems to be getting hotter by the week.  

He owes a great deal of credit for his success to Doug Baldwin, who has been extraordinary this season.  He's been the team's most reliable playmaker, Wilson's security blanket and a quiet leader on and off the field.  Baldwin will probably never get the credit he deserves, but if this team can earn another championship while he's here-- it could be difficult to exclude him from the halls of Canton.

Still, this team is predicated on defense.  A remarkable defense that impresses so often, it becomes ordinary.  Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Jaran Reed were outstanding on Sunday.  Then again, so was KJ Wright, Justin Coleman, Shaq Griffin and more.  It's insane how great this defense is and how they've been able to sustain greatness so long.

The Seahawks have the Texans coming to town with a red hot rookie QB of their own. There has been considerable talk about the Seahawks doing a trade with Houston to acquire their left tackle, Duane Brown, who had been holding out all season.  The belief is that Seattle would be willing to part with Jeremy Lane, given their depth in the defensive backfield with the emergence of Griffin and Coleman along with the eventual return of DeShawn Shead from injury. 

Brown ended his holdout on Tuesday and could potentially start his first game of the season against the Seahawks this week. I'm glad the deal didn't go through, because Brown only has 2 years left on his deal at almost $10 million per season.  He might be a 3 time Pro Bowler, but Seattle can't allocate that much cap space to him with so many contracts coming up at the end of this season.

Byron Maxwell was recently released, so I would not be surprised at all if Seattle does find a trade partner for Jeremy Lane that brings back an offensive or defensive lineman.  Dwight Freeny was brought in for a physical as a potential pass rush rotatory. Halloween is the trade deadline-- hopefully something ghoulish transpires between now and then. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Resilience in LA-- Seahawks 16 @ Rams 10

The Rams came into this game as the #1 rated offense, coming off a big win against the Cowboys in Dallas.  New coach Sean McVay seems to have his team poised to be a factor in the NFC this year. Despite the new coach, one thing that never changes about this rivalry is the physicality-- and this game was no different.

Earl Thomas had a remarkable performance that may single-handedly have punched his ticket to Canton. After the Rams ran at-will in the opening drive, Todd Gurley was once again denied via the Earl Thomas karate chop.

Seattle tried some trickery early-- a lateral to Tanner McEvoy that was bombed out to JD McKissic.  I loved everything about it, except that it didn't work. I hope this doesn't deter coach Bevell from drawing from that well again.  I think that's a play that catches defenses off guard more often than not.  The Rams defensive back made an outstanding play on the ball.

The Rams got the ball back and displayed why their offense is so highly touted. Jared Goff is markedly improved from last season.  He seems much more confident than his rookie campaign, but that could be due to the offensive additions provided to him this offseason. Gurley seems to be having a bounce back from his sophomore slump, but it was a carry from Tavon Austin that put the Rams on the board first.

Fortunately, Austin gave the ball right back to the Seahawks on a muffed punt.

In spite of the great field position, Seattle couldn't score.  Wilson threw an ill-advised pass that was damn near pick-sixed, if not for the speed of Wilson and McKissic to chase the defensive back down. The defense held the Rams to a field goal, but the Seahawks found themselves down 10 on the road.

The Seahawks had some fight in them for this one.

Russell and Jimmy rekindled their chemistry, connecting on the teams only touchdown of the day.  The offense adapted to what the Rams were giving them and managed to have a decent day against a really good defense. 

The Seahawks defense were the stars of this game.  Earl Thomas had a clutch interception to go with his touchdown-saving chop.  Sheldon Richardson had an outstanding game, notching an interception and recovering Frank Clark's strip sack of Goff and rumbling 20 yards up-field with it.

I always complain when the schedule comes out and I find the Seahawks with an early Bye Week, but more often than not, it seems to help the team get right in the second half of the season. This year is no different in that regard. 

Luke Joeckel is having a knee procedure, Baldwin and Sherman have been banged up-- and I'm not entirely convinced Russell hasn't been a little less that 100% healthy.  The team comes out of this bye with a relatively soft landing against a hapless Giants group that might have a worse offensive line than we do.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Getting in the Groove-- Seahawks 46 Colts 18

Despite a slow start, the Seahawks managed to overcome adversity and seemed to find themselves in the process. There are few teams as downtrodden as the Indianapolis Colts, giving this game all of the trappings for a Seahawks field day, but the Colts did not intend to be the Seahawks punching bag.

Seattle drew first blood with a field goal, but gave back two points when Russell Wilson held the ball too long and surrendered a safety. Justin Coleman came up with a pick six and gave the lead back to the Seahawks, but Jacoby Brissett marched the Colts right back down the field and Robert Turbin punched in a touchdown.

Russell Wilson had a pair of interceptions, both on passes to Jimmy Graham.  It could easily be argued that both picks were more Graham's fault than Wilson's-- but Russell has shown bouts of inaccuracy this year and I worry that it might stem from a lack of trust with his linemen.

My mouth was agape in dismay when the whistle blew for halftime and the scoreboard had the hometown Seahawks trailing by a five spot.  Jacoby Brissett was in the Patriots' quarterback meetings just two weeks prior. The Colts main running backs are a former Seahawk castoff and graybeard Frank Gore. What is going on here?

The second half of this game was vastly different. Seattle's defense gave up just 3 points in the second half and the Colts looked more like the team-in-flux that they are.

Wilson got his act together with an electric 23-yard touchdown scamper. He started to sling the ball around and make plays with his feet and it paid off big.  Wilson finished with 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks starting running back is now lost for the season.

Chris Carson suffered an apparent broken leg late in the game that most likely put an end to what has been a tremendous rookie campaign.  Carson had been the only member of the Seahawks backfield that was reliably consistent.

It looks like it will now fall to either Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy to run the ball on early downs.

On the bright side, JD McKissic had breakout performance.  We had been hearing hype for a long time now about what a terrific playmaker this kid is-- well, put to rest any doubt about McKissic. He show's a unique versatility that leads me to think that the Seahawks could use him like Kansas City does with Tyreek Hill.

McKissic's debut was stellar, but that doesn't mean we've filled to hole left by Carson's injury. JD simply doesn't have the frame to sustain him running between the tackles 20 times a game.  He's going to be a guy we want to get out in space.

The offense showed signs of life, although it came against an unimpressive opponent. I'm going to focus on the improvements we saw, particularly in-game.  This team always starts slow.  We need to look for progress being made week-to-week and I believe we did.