Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Prime Time Perfection-- Seahawks 21 Vikings 7

Of course, the NFL's narrative for this game just had to be the controversial blocked field goal. As if Seattle's defense hadn't just embarrassed the Vikings and their $83-million quarterback all game. 

I suppose the Vikings fired their offensive coordinator this morning because of that blocked kick, right?

Seahawks were donning the action green uniforms (more appropriately, 'electric mucus') but they were in throwback form for prime time.  Seattle's young and hungry defense hearkened to an earlier time when Pete Carroll's defensive stars were few of household names and eager to prove themselves on every down.

While Wilson's numbers were measly on the stat sheet, save for one arrant pass to end the half, he had a good game.  We all would've liked to see the team capitalize and finish drives, you have to give credit to a Minnesota defense that I predicted would carry them to a Super Bowl berth in the preseason.

While Minnesota's defense has been stout-- their offense has been abysmal despite a clear wealth of talent.

Kirk Cousins is good, but not exactly great. Coming out of Michigan State, I had championed the Seahawks drafting him.  He reminded me a lot of Matt Hasselbeck and would have been a great replacement for the recently departed offensive leader. To this day, I believe they were of a similar threshold.

They've surrounded Cousins with great pass catchers.  Thielen and Diggs are top-tier wide outs and Rudolph is one of the more well-rounded tight ends in the league.  Dalvin Cook had a promising rookie campaign before being lost to injury and hasn't really bounced back.  Latavius Murray performed admirably in his stead and has given them a great change of pace option.

Newly fired DiFillipo was the exciting young coordinator that was supposed to get that group to push them over the top, but it just didn't work out.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, have found their identity and ran with it.  They have an offense that perfectly complements their defense and vice versa. As with any season under Carroll-- they're hitting their stride just in time for the playoffs.

I do have one concern, however, and it strikes me as a glaring one.

I am not at all confident in our receiver group.  Don't get me wrong-- Tyler Lockett has emerged as a stud WR1, but beyond that we don't seem to have anything.

Baldwin is the offensive version of KJ Wright.  Huge leadership bump when they're in the lineup, but its becoming increasingly clearer that neither of them will be 100% this season. 

David Moore has flashed glimpses of greatness, but has been horribly inconsistent.  Moore was targeted 5 times on Monday night and didn't haul in a single reception.  He is effectively our #2 receiver when Baldwin is out and quite frankly-- those numbers are unacceptable.

At this point, I expect more contribution in the passing game from George Fant than I do either Ed Dickson or Nick Vannett.  We're simply not going to get much from our tight end group this year. 

Is the answer to the Seahawks receiver woes on this roster?  Probably not.  JD McKissic could get more involved down the stretch.  Keenan Reynolds may be called upon more if Baldwin can't stay healthy enough.  Jaron Brown and Malik Turner will likely earn their keep on special teams. 

Why not see what Kelvin Benjamin has left in the tank?

Benjamin was recently released by the Bills.  Still only 27 years old, his production has been declining since his rookie year, but at 6'5", he would give Seattle some much needed height and reach in the pass game.

I don't know what the answer is, but I'm hoping the Seahawks do.  Balance is integral to winning games in the playoffs.  Imagine if the Seahawks had found themselves down by multiple scores late in last night's game.  At a certain point, time becomes a factor and running isn't an option.  If Lockett is your only reasonable passing threat-- teams will adjust.

There is still plenty of time to sort that out, though.  Seattle can clinch the playoffs if they win their final road game of the regular season this weekend in San Francisco. 

With a few tweaks here and there, this Seahawks team could beat anyone in the playoffs, home or away. If the playoffs began today, Seattle would be taking on the Cowboys in Texas for the Wild Card round.  I like those odds.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Nine in a Row Against the Niners-- Seahawks 43 vs 49ers 16

The Seahawks effectively demolished their formal rival on Sunday.  In a game that showcased Seattle's upward trajectory in all phases of the game, there was one particular element that stuck out to me.

Russell Wilson threw 4 touchdowns in this game.  He did so while only attempting 18 total passes, completing 11 of them and amassing a meager 185 yards through the air.

Anyone that watched this game could tell you that the Seahawks were dominant.  At no point in this contest was there ever any doubt that Seattle would win and win handily.

San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullins, on the other hand, went 30/48 for 414 yards, a pair of touchdowns and a single interception.

Looking at those numbers alone, you'd be fair in assuming that the kid had himself a hell of a game.

This is precisely my issue with the infatuation with passing yardage statistics.

Passing yardage is one of the most deceiving stat lines in football. While it can sometimes be
indicative of a team's success in a given game or a quarterback's success in a particular season-- it can also be the byproduct of lousy defense, lack of a run game, or simply the way the game plan happened to shake out that week.

Games like this are an enormous factor in Russell Wilson's national perception.  It's painfully evident that many national analysts do little more than review the box scores of Seahawks games without watching a single frame of game film.

Seattle could have won this game without attempting a single pass. They certainly could've won without Wilson throwing four touchdowns.

Wilson made the plays that he needed to and he executed them flawlessly, save for one pass that was just a tad out of reach for Doug Baldwin. Unfortunately, there is no quantifiable metric that accounts for Wilson's preparation and execution.

Russell Wilson may never get the true recognition he deserves because of his incredibly diverse skill set and unrelenting determination to win, but Seahawks fans better recognize.

Similarly, on the other side of the ball, Bobby Wagner continues to amaze on tape while coming up short in the recognition department.  Like his quarterback, Wagner's intangibles and immeasurables are difficult to quantify on a stat sheet.

The Seahawks have put themselves in position to be a playoff team and largely from the efforts of those two, ego-less men. Seattle can solidify their post-season potential with a win against Minnesota on Monday Night Football next week.

Here's hoping they show a national audience what Seahawks fans have known for a long time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cam's Kryptonite-- Seahawks 30 @ Panthers 27

Man, I hate when the Seahawks play Carolina.

I know, I know-- Sunday's victory puts Russell Wilson's record against Cam Newton and the Panthers at 6-1, with that lone loss coming in the playoffs of Newton's MVP campaign.  Seattle has certainly proven themselves to be the Kryptonite to Cam's Superman.

But every damn time these two teams meet, it's a slugfest that always goes to the wire.

Ron Rivera's team is similarly built to Pete Carroll's and their match ups always make for great games. Still, they always leave me biting my nails until the clock finally hits zero.

This game was no exception.

The Panthers started hot, stuffing Seattle's red hot rushing attack before sacking Wilson to force a 3
and out.  They proceeded to march down field before Seattle finally slowed them up in the red zone. Rivera, undoubtedly in an attempt to seize early momentum for his team and home crowd, opted to go for it on 4th, but were stuffed by Bobby Wagner and the Seahawks defense.

I'm sure coach Rivera is catching a ton of shit this week for that play call.  Yeah, it might have cost them the game, but when you consider the fact that Seattle's greatest strength is running the ball, and running when you're behind late in the game is impractical, it's easy to understand how an early touchdown in that spot could've put Carolina in the position to really step on the Seahawks throats early and never look back.

Unfortunately for them and to the Seahawks benefit, that turnover on downs gave the team a confidence boost that kept the fight alive.

The Panthers effectively shut down Seattle's league leading rushing attack.  Despite what national analysts seem to think, this team never has been one dimensional despite Carroll's commitment to running the ball. The Seahawks have an elite, top 5 quarterback in Russell Wilson and he carried his offense to victory.

Before this game started, I kept telling myself-- It's okay if we drop this game so long as we win out.  I was trying to be optimistic about our playoff chances, knowing that this game could easily go against our favor.

This team has fight.  It looks good having only one remaining road game left on the calendar-- and that one is against the lowly 49ers.  Tough games ahead in prime time against the Vikings, who are struggling mightily, and the Chiefs, who may very well be resting their starters for the playoffs by the time that game rolls around.

The playoffs are in sight for our Seahawks who have already won 2 more games than the 'experts' projected them to have this season.  Below are two plays that, if you haven't seen, you absolutely must check them out.

The first is the remarkable flip that Chris Carson pulled off early in the game.  Had he managed to break free for a touchdown-- this would've replaced Beastquake as the single most impressive play I've ever witnessed.

Next, is this touchdown reception from Wilson to David Moore.  I have both complained about Moore's lack of aggressiveness on contested passes and marveled at his ability to sell the defender with his eyes while letting the pass fall into his hands effortlessly. 

File this one under the latter-- but don't forget that this happened on 4th & 3 with the game on the line. 3 yards keeps the game alive, a turnover, on downs or by interception, almost certainly seals the game for Carolina.

Russell went for it all.

While we await Richard Sherman's return to CenturyLink Field this weekend, make sure you vote for the Seahawks to make the Pro Bowl!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Do or Die-- Seahawks 27 Packers 24

The talk leading up to last night's prime time match up was all about two teams fighting for their playoff lives. 

A pair of elite quarterbacks,  post season regulars, trying to stabilize their respective franchises as they endure a retooling phase. The winner would remain in the Wild Card hunt while the loser would very much be on the outside looking in.

The game could not have gotten off to a worse start.

Chris Carson, returning from injury having sat out the previous match up against the Rams, coughed up the football on the very first play of the game.  The Packers inherited possession in prime field position, wasting no time in scoring the game's first touchdown.

If there are two things that are sure to give an opponent the edge over the Seahawks, it's forcing them to play from behind and taking the 12s out of the game.

The game was a little more than a minute old and Green Bay had already accomplished both of those things.

I love the Seahawks run-first philosophy-- it just doesn't work when you're playing from behind with a struggling, young defense.

Beyond that initial hiccup, Seattle's offensive struggles continued throughout most of the first half.  The difference was that the team never let the game get away from them. The defense kept it close as the offense gained momentum.

This was a huge game for many reasons beyond the playoff implications.  They beat a team with an elite quarterback. They closed out the game by asserting physical dominance with their offensive line-- a huge confidence builder.

Seahawks find themselves with a .500 record and largely in control of their playoff destiny. Four of their 6 remaining games are here in Seattle.  Three of those games (@Carolina, Minnesota, Kansas City) are against teams in playoff contention.

Next week's road game against the Panthers will be a statement game.  Seattle has the opportunity to bury Carolina as they come off 10 days rest.  A win at Bank of America Stadium would give Seattle a tie-breaker over a potential Wild Card contender.

Seattle will have to face the Vikings who are hoping to win the NFC North, but either them or the Bears will likely be vying for one of the Wild Card spots.  We've already conceded a tie-breaker to Chicago with our week 2 loss to them, so Seattle cannot give up any more ground to the NFC North.

My hope is that Kansas City will have long since clinched the AFC West before they come here.  It would be ideal to find the Chiefs resting key starters for the playoffs ahead of this match up.

Things look good for our Seahawks down the stretch. The young players are coming into their own and the team is gelling in November, as usual.  A loss last night would have been devastating as we would likely have had to watch and hope for other teams to lose for any hope of a Seahawk postseason.

Monday, November 12, 2018

WANTED: Playmakers-- Seahawks 31 @ Rams 36

I don't know how many more of these heartbreaking losses I can take.

I never bought into the nonsense that Seattle was somehow going to completely fall apart after losing a bevy of stalwarts from the team's supposed glory years.  Can anyone point to a single, former Seahawk that is playing at a high level on a new team?  Exactly.

Still, perhaps I was too optimistic in my assumptions as to where this team was at for the 2018 season.

The Seahawks past two performances along with the previous match up with these Rams have made one point painfully evident-- this team is sorely lacking play makers.

See the source imageClosing out games in the 4th quarter was once a specialty of the Wilson-led Seahawks.  Now, it appears to be their greatest deficit. In back to back losses, not only was the ball in Wilson's hands with the game on the line-- he committed costly turnovers to seal the team's fate.

Once again, I'm left scratching my head as I walk my mind back through the team's preseason decision making that got us here.  Instead of the problem being with the running back group, as it has been the past 3 seasons, Seattle's biggest problem is with their pass catchers.

You could say their problem is with pass rushers, and you wouldn't be incorrect in that assumption, but I'm willing to concede that those are the unicorns of the NFL-- hard to find and typically come with a heavy price tag.

The receiver market wasn't much better.  Seattle's outgoing Paul Richardson was one of the top free agents.  They could've improved through the draft, though the only productive receivers this season from the incoming draft class were all selected just a handful of picks after we took Penny.  Improving the run game was a priority, so it's hard to argue there.

I guess the thing that I find most maddening is that, after adding Ed Dickson and Jaron Brown in free agency, through week 10 this team's three leading receivers are Tyler Lockett, a banged up Doug Baldwin and backup running back, Mike Davis.

While Nick Vannett has contributed more than ever before, he doesn't appear to be transforming into the red zone threat we had hoped.  Will Dissley would undoubtedly have made that list had he stayed healthy. If 'ifs' were fifths, we'd all be drunk.

I love the Seahawks commitment to the run, but the NFL has a way of exposing one-dimensional teams. Committing to the run shouldn't mean abandoning the passing game, but it certainly feels like there is no grey area with this group.  They're either running the ball or making Russell scramble for his life, looking for someone down field.

Seattle needs to find their way back to the middle.  Just as the run can open up the play action pass, the short pass and screen game can open things up for the run as well as shots downfield.

I had assumed, incorrectly evidently, that the Seahawks decision to sign Jaron Brown was made as somewhat of a poor-man's replacement of Paul Richardson.  A guy who could stretch the field and take the top off of defenses.  So far, we haven't seen that from him.

It's refreshing to see that Seattle can get 100 yards from whoever they place in the backfield, regardless of the opponent.  It's nice to see that our defense, in spite of youth and inexperience, can keep this team within one score of seemingly any ballgame.  It's incredibly frustrating that nobody, not even Tyler Lockett, can come up with a big play late in the game to put this team over the top.

Four of Seattle's seven remaining games, including a match up with the Packers just 4 days from now, are against team's that will be in the playoff or are otherwise vying with Seattle for a Wild Card spot.  The other 3 are against lowly division rivals that are sure to play us harder than their record indicates.

In all reality, the Seahawks will need to win almost all of these games if they have any hopes of backing into the playoffs.  It's not going to be easy, but the way this team fights, it should be feasible.

We've seen it just about every year of Pete Carroll's tenure-- who will step up in the latter half of the season and emerge as the next star of this team?  They're going to need playmakers if they want to play in the postseason.

By the way-- Seattle leads the league in rushing.  You know you're doing something right if you're frustrating the NFL's best defender to this point.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Gross-- Seattle 17 Chargers 25

Only one of the teams on CenturyLink Field this Sunday appeared to have playoff swagger.

It wasn't the Seahawks.

This game was ugly.  The officiating was abysmal, but Seattle didn't perform well enough in any phase of the game for this loss to be laid at the feet of the refs. After Chris Carson's hot start, he quickly left the game with the hip and groin injuries that had been plaguing him all week.  Seattle's offense didn't get their act together again until the final drive of the game.

That, I suppose, would be the silver lining to take away from a game where Seattle appeared to take a huge step backward.  They took a playoff team down to the goal line with an opportunity to score, go for two, and take the game into overtime.

I knew Phillip Rivers was going to be a major challenge for this young defense, but Seattle had absolutely no answers for Ken Wisenhunt's offense.  Seattle didn't register a single turnover and they allowed for both a 100+ yard rusher and 100+ yard receiver.  Nothing was working.

For the first time this season, I'm going to criticize Brian Schottenheimer's play calling.  Once Carson left, the Chargers seemed to figure out Seattle's rushing attack-- but that didn't stop Seattle from insisting upon going to it.

After leading the league in 3rd down efficiency the past few weeks, Seattle finished this game with a disgusting 26% on third downs.

It did seem that Seattle was gearing up for a 4th quarter rally, but that was essentially thwarted when Wilson, the only player not allowed to make mistakes, gave up a costly pick six.

Seattle is by no means out of playoff contention, they're most certainly vying for a Wild Card spot, but they must find a way to consistently improve and not give away games when they're in position to win.

I'm so frustrated with this game, I want to forget about it.  We have the Rams next week in LA. Find a way to get it done.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Back in Business-- Seahawks 28 @ Lions 14

I've grown rather fond of the mid-season bye week over the years.  Seattle had been dealt some early byes the last few years and I've blamed those premature sabbaticals for late season attrition. Perhaps unfairly, but it was a scapegoat nevertheless.

This time around, I had my concerns. Will this break kill the momentum this team has going? Not only are they getting their break after winning 3 of the last 4 games, they'll be coming off a road trip to London and reembarking on another trip to Motor City-- where the Seahawks first Super Bowl dreams had died.

Turns out it was business as usual.

Russell Wilson had a perfect game, slinging 3 touchdowns and no interceptions with a perfect QBR.  Honestly, he should have had a fourth touchdown, but Doug Baldwin forgot how to drag his feet and Nick Vannett got called for going out of bounds, but I never saw it.

Chris Carson beat up Matt Patricia's defense, gashing them for 105 yards rushing and a touchdown.  Paired with Mike Davis and a little sprinkling of rushes from Wilson and Tyler Lockett, Seattle has become one of the best ground threats in the NFL.

It's not just the mauling run game that's coming together-- the Seahawks pass catching group is really emerging.  Ed Dickson had his coming out party, snatching two balls, his first one for a Seahawks touchdown. David Moore posted a 4-97-1 line as his star continues to rise.  Wilson's trust in his receiver group is visibly improving with every game.

Tyler Lockett is swiftly becoming a superstar.  There were a lot of us that were concerned when he
signed his extension that he was being paid to be a type of player he had never been before.  An explosive returner and occasional playmaker ordinarily wouldn't be a priority resigning, especially with a disgruntled Earl Thomas campaigning for a new deal and guys like Frank Clark and Justin Coleman that are free agents at the end of this season.  The coaches saw what Tyler could be and decided to bet on that with his new contract-- and he's done nothing but live up to and exceed expectations.

Don't look now, but Seattle's defense is one of the league's finest.  No Kam, no Earl, no Sherm, no Avril, no Maxwell, no Sheldon-- no problem.  Seattle's defense is 4th in scoring and is gaining experience with every week. Far from the potential liability we expected this group to be, they were a big reason this team has won 4 of it's last 5, covering up for the offense's slow start.

With all of the great things that came out of yesterday's victory, perhaps none was more cool than seeing our rookie punter go rogue and get his first rushing first down.

Late in the game, the Seahawks found themselves pinned back against their endzone.  There was just over 2 minutes left to play. From what I understand, Michael Dickson was told to try to run the clock down to the two minute warning, taking a safety if necessary.  A safety would've resulted in the Lions getting only two points and then receiving a punt from Seattle that would be kicked from the 20 yard-line.

Even with the safety, the Lions would've found themselves still down by two scores, but with only a single timeout and no two minute warning. It would've been the safest bet to ensure the road victory.

In a post-game interview, Dickson recalled something Coach Carroll had said to him while in London.  He asked the Aussie "When are you gonna run one?" 

Dickson said at the time, he thought the comment was made in jest.  It must have permeated into his subconscious, because as you'll see in the clip below, Dickson saw some daylight and he went for it.  A ballsy play that could've been disastrous, but instead sealed the game for Seattle.

Next week brings on a whole new set of challenges as the Seahawks prepare for their former divisional foes, the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers.  The good news for the Seahawks-- six of their final nine games are at home.