Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Seahawks win by the skin of their teeth

Seahawks   14
Rams            9

Once again, Seattle showed that they have the resiliency to hang on and win sloppy games. They also proved that the current version of their offensive line couldn't stop a nose bleed.

Seattle's offensive line has been pushed around and manhandled all season long-- and it seems to be progressively getting worse. Granted, Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung and veteran right tackle Breno Giacomini will eventually return this season, but with the way things have been playing out, it'd be foolish to expect their returns to alleviate their protection woes.

Seattle only managed 135 yards of total offense, the lowest in a win since 2010, and Seattle had absolutely no idea how to stop the Rams pass rush, allowing 7 sacks on the night. Russell Wilson has been beat up over the past few games and until we start getting guys back from injury, that trend will continue.

Golden Tate was the offensive MVP of the night.  Tate accounted for almost 70% of Seattle's offense with 93 receiving yards and scored both touchdowns.  In a controversial moment, Tate made a big play on an 80 yard touchdown but en route to the end zone, Tate began to taunt the Ram's defensive back, obnoxiously waving bye-bye and making the chatterbox gesture. The defensive back gave Tate a shove as he crossed the goal line and Tate drew a 15 yard taunting penalty that was assessed on the kick off.

It seemed like everyone from John Gruden to Pete Carroll to every radio show host and caller took exception to the taunting-- but not me.

Was it immature?  Yes.  Did the penalty hurt the team? Of course.  Could it have cost them the game? Quite possibly.

Nevertheless, I loved it.

The offense needed a spark.  They had to get fired up to finish that game out strong.  They were getting stymied up to that point and it was a huge play.  Tate stepped up with his usual swagger and made plays to put the Seahawks over the top.

Earl Thomas was hands down the MVP of the defensive side of the ball.  Gruden went on to say, more than once in the course of the broadcast, that Thomas was far and away the top candidate for Defensive MVP of the year. While Richard Sherman and Bruce Irvin made the interceptions that changed the course of the game, it was Thomas' effort and leadership that kept the Seahawks in this game.

Seattle escaped to improve to 7-1 on the season and they have 3 winnable games ahead of them before their bye week. The trade deadline is mere hours away and rumor has it Seattle is going hard after Vikings defensive end, Jared Allen.  While the acquisition of Allen would improve our already insane defensive front, I don't understand why they're not terrified about the state of their offensive line.

If this team can't keep Wilson healthy, who cares if they make the playoffs at all?  If they can't get their offense clicking against the Saints or on the road against the 49ers, they won't win those games, let alone whoever they face in the playoffs.  Don't get me wrong, Arizona and St. Louis have impeccable defensive units, but teams like New Orleans and San Francisco possess offenses that won't be kept out of the end zone for four quarters.  We cannot continue to expect our defense to shut teams out or hold them to field goals.

Even when Okung and Giacomini return, McQuistan, Carpenter and Sweezy are still part of the plan and they have played awful to this point.  God forbid we sustain another injury to our line, too.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Seahawks Gearing up for Downhill Run

11 days between Seahawks games is killing me.  If you take a peak at the remaining games on their schedule-- you'd have to assume that the players are, too.

First off, let's talk personnel. Seattle has brought back two former players that were, in each's own way, fan favorites.  Fullback Michael Robinson was beloved for his work on field as special teams captain and resident hole-opener for Marshawn Lynch but he's perhaps most loved for his all-access web series "The Real Rob Report".   Having Robinson back is going to bring tremendous, vocal leadership to the offensive unit.

Another reunited former teammate is wide receiver, Ricardo Lockette.  Fans and team staff alike have been enamored with Lockette's big-play speed but he just hasn't been reliable on the field.  Lockette was scooped up by the 49ers last offseason but was later released.  It sounds as though Lockette will be tucked away on the practice squad but it makes you wonder why Seattle would add another wide out to the roster with Percy Harvin due back any game now.  Could the Seahawks be planning a trade at the deadline?  Sidney Rice, I'm looking in your direction...

The Seahawks have continued to find ways to win games on the road and at home despite key injuries and the good news is that we're going to start seeing those guys return to the lineup.  Harvin is practicing and could be back as soon as the Monday Night game. Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini aren't far from returning and Pete Carroll has said Bobby Wagner is making a remarkable recovery from his high ankle sprain.

The best news is that we don't really need to rush anyone back. Not only has the team been tremendously resilient through the first part of the season, the second half of this season keeps getting softer.

Seattle's next game is this coming Monday on the road against division rival St. Louis.  Not only have the Rams failed to live up to their preseason 'Dark Horse' expectations-- they've now lost Sam Bradford for the season.  Without two of their best players of the past 5 years (Bradford and Steven Jackson, now with Atlanta) the Rams do not stand a chance.

After that, Seattle returns home to face the hapless Buccaneers.  It sounds like their star player, running back Doug Martin, is lost for the season.  He's certain to miss the game against Seattle, even if his year isn't over. The Bucs abruptly dismissed their quarterback and started the rookie Mike Glennon, who infamously replaced  Russell Wilson at NC State. Again, no chance for the Bucs to win this one.

The Seahawks then hit the road again for a game that I thought would be one of our toughest match ups before the season started. 7 games in, Seattle's return to Atlanta for a playoff rematch now seems like a prime opportunity for Seattle to get revenge on the team that ended their season last year.  The Falcons are 2-4 and have a pair of road games against physical defenses before getting the Seahawks to come to them. The Falcons have been extremely underwhelming this season and have themselves been hit pretty hard by the injury bug.

Following that game, the Seahawks should be 9-1 coming home to play a Vikings team with no idea who their quarterback might be for that game.  Adrian Peterson is always a nightmare for defenses, but as the Giants showed last night, even an awful defense can shut him down if there's no threat of a passing game. Minnesota was a better team when they came in to the CLink last year and they still lost-- this year will only be worse for them.

Seattle should be 10-1 entering their bye week gearing up for their final 5 regular season games. This is when things get difficult.  They come off the bye hosting the Saints, who could very well have the same record, for potential NFC supremacy on Monday Night Football. After that, it's right back to the road for Seattle's toughest challenge of the season, taking on the 49ers in their house.

After that, we should know right about where Seattle's playoff seeding will be.  They get to preview the stadium that will host their first Super Bowl victory against the Giants and then come home for the final two games of the season to beat up on the Rams and Cardinals.

Absolute worst case scenario, it feels like the Seahawks will finish 13-3, but to me, it feels a lot more like we could see this team 15-1 with home field advantage in the playoffs.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Seahawks Dominate in the Desert

Seahawks    34
Cardinals     22

Traditionally, the Seahawks haven't played well on the road.  They had lost 6 of their last 7 games in Arizona. Historically, Seahawks fans do not travel well.  Seattle is usually the destination people transplant to, not the other way around. Then again, Seattle has never been 6-1 before.

I think it's safe to say we're in the midst of a new era of Seahawk football.

Seattle came off the short week and punched Arizona in the mouth. They put up points in every quarter against an impressive Cardinals defense.  Sure, Arizona hasn't shown to be up to the level people expected them to be at this season, but they have definitely improved from last season.

If I had to nit pick something about the Seahawks performance, there's still plenty to be fed up with regarding the Seahawks offensive line.  Seattle continues to struggle in pass blocking week to week.  I get it-- we've played some of the best defenses in the league and we're playing with a lot of key players injured.  Still, it's not crazy to expect to see improvement from week to week and we're just not getting that.

On the first of his three touchdowns of the game, Russell Wilson rolled out to escape pressure and made an incredible down field throw to Sidney Rice.  It was a brilliant throw from the second year quarterback and a great catch by the receiver.  However, if you watch the replay, you'll notice that with the exception of Max Unger, the entire offensive line were beaten like rented mules. The only thing consistent about this offensive line is that you can expect them to get beaten like this several times a game.

Seattle also continued their streak of fumbling the ball. Seattle has now fumbled an uncharacteristic 9 times in the last 2 games. Wilson had 3 fumbles, 2 of them lost, and each one was entirely on him.  At this point, he has to realize that he will have little to know time to make each play and he needs to calibrate that internal clock of his to compensate for the ineptitude of the offensive line.  Tuck & run or roll out, Russ. You can't just pat the ball in the pocket and hope the protection will hold up.  It won't.

Unlike the offense, Seattle's defense continues to grow with each performance.  Carson Palmer was picked off twice and sacked seven times.  Chris Clemons had two of those sacks despite being a game time decision with a hyper-extended elbow.  Malcom Smith played well in the absence of Bobby Wagner and my dude Clinton McDonald continues to be the most underrated player on this defense.

But I have to shine the light on Brandon Browner this week. He's taken a lot of grief for his performance in the past few games where his lack of speed has been exploited, but he really stepped it up last night.  Browner had 4 tackles and an interception that he almost took to the house but inexplicably collapsed inside the 5 yard line. It almost looked like his foot fell asleep right before he got to the endzone. Either way, Browner had a helluva night.

Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson were essentially non factors last night.  We'd heard so much noise about how spectacular those two were and last night, I just didn't see it.  Seattle held Arizona to a measly 30 yards rushing in the Cardinals house. All in all, I think we saw enough improvement in this tough road win to feel really good about our Seahawks going down the stretch.

The Seahawks have 11 days before they head to St. Louis for Monday Night Football. They're 6-1 and are showing the improvement necessary to go deep in the playoffs. The next 4 games before their bye week are incredibly winnable and could very well be 10-1 when they host the Saints at the CLink for another Monday Night game in December.  Over the next few weeks, Percy Harvin, Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini and Bobby Wagner will be returning to the team and we can only expect them to be better.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Seahawks beat Titans in spite of themselves

Seahawks     20
Titans           13

Seattle improves to 5-1, tied for best in the NFC, but they continue to look like a team loaded with talent struggling to find it's rhythm. They could very easily be undefeated through this point in the season but they could just as well be .500 or worse if not for a few timely plays.

We know Seattle has talent.  It comes in flashes from every area but it's rarely consistent.  We have yet to see a performance like we did down the stretch of last season where Seattle truly imposes it's will on an opponent.

Sunday's game should have been a get-right beat down of an inferior team on the Seahawks home turf.  With all due respect to Tennessee, they simply don't stack up against Seattle's roster.  Throw in the 12th Man advantage and you have the ingredients for bouncing back from a heartbreaking road loss the week prior.

Yet, once again,  Seattle could not stop themselves from making stupid mistakes.  Penalties and turnovers continue to plague this team in every game.  With the exception of the loss to the Colts last week, Seattle has always found a way to overcome these mental errors. Sidney Rice, Marshawn Lynch and Derrick Coleman all had fumbles on Sunday but it was Chris Margos who had the costliest of turnovers.

When Steven Hauschka was temporarily taken out of the game after receiving a devastating hit from the Titans Darius Reynaud, Jon Ryan was called on to cover all kicking duties.  Seeing as how Ryan is the teams placeholder on field goals and point afters, Seattle needed to call in a backup holder.

For some reason, rather than have a quarterback handle these duties, Pete Carroll called upon backup safety and special team standout, Chris Maragos to handle the snaps. Before heading into the half, Seattle had failed to find their way into the endzone and found themselves in a 3rd & Goal on the Tennessee 4 yard line with a mere 2 seconds remaining on the clock. With Hauschka being examined in the locker room, Seattle sent its Frankenstein Special Teams unit out to attempt to pad their lead.

What ensued can best be described as a comedy of errors.

Maragos mishandled the snap, but rather than fall on the ball to go into the half leading 7-3, he opted to attempt a heroic pass to the endzone.

Instead, Maragos was swallowed up by Tennessee's defensive front and his heroic pass ended up being a feeble lateral that was scooped up by Jason McCourty and taken 77 yards the opposite direction in a ten point swing.

Anyone watching the game could tell Seattle was the more talented team, but the Titans were capitalizing on our mistakes and had the lead 10-7 going into the half.  I think we all knew that Seattle would persevere, they almost always have, but I can't be the only one thinking that it's high time the Seahawks got their act together.

Seattle's game this Thursday in Arizona will be the seventh match up of the season.  We're almost to the halfway point and Seattle hasn't yet taken that next step. I still firmly believe that the Super Bowl is Seattle's for the taking-- they have the talent and perseverance.  The key will be if the Seahawks are able to get healthy and start clicking to build momentum heading into the playoffs.

They have some pivotal games ahead that could very well shape the playoff landscape and it begins with these next two divisional road games. The NFC West remains tight and Seattle needs to run the table to make sure they have enough space between them and the 49ers.  The Monday Night game against New Orleans could also be integral in Seattle's playoff seeding.  It's extremely important that the playoffs run through Seattle.

I know we're continuing to win games in spite of the overall health of the team but the offensive line needs to figure itself out and fast.  I want to see week to week improvement regardless of who is out there.  Hell, the backups have had a handful of games together now, it's time they show some cohesion. The simple fact is that improved pass protection will open up everything for this team and allow the Seahawks to fire on all cylinders.  If that aspect of their game continues to struggle, the burden falls on all the other areas, but when they get their job done, that allows for the other units to shine like they did down the stretch and into the playoffs last season.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Seahawks squander opportunity to stay perfect

Colts   34
Seahawks 28

It's 'Tell the Truth Monday' and the truth is that Seattle snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Sunday.  With all due respect to Colts team that will more than likely be in the playoffs, Seattle should have never even trailed in this game.

The truth is, Seattle did get some bad calls that worked against them Sunday.  There was an absurd offensive pass interference call on Golden Tate and an early blocked punt was ruled a safety when it was fairly evident that it should've been a touchdown. The truth is, those poorly officiated calls should not have decided the outcome of the game.

But, to tell you the truth, I hope this loss serves as a wake up call.

Seattle's next four opponents appear to make up the softest portion of their schedule.  The four games after that might be their most challenging of the season. Heading into these next eight games having been shown that we're human after all might be the best thing for the Seahawks.

Whether you believe it or not, momentum seems to be a powerful factor, especially heading into the playoffs.  If Seattle can make a statement next Sunday at home against the Locker-less Titans and carry that momentum on the road against Arizona and St. Louis, they will find themselves coming home to play the scandal-consumed Buccaneers at 7-1 through the first half of the season.

Getting hot heading into the playoffs won't just give Seattle much needed momentum-- it might mean the difference between the playoffs running through the CLink or not.

The Seahawks will have to return to the scene of their final game last season to play the Falcons on the road, take on the red-hot Saints on Monday Night Football and go up against the 49ers on their turf before the season ends. These 3 games alone could have tremendous impact on playoff seeding in the NFC.

Andrew Luck is a fantastic quarterback.  I still believe Russell Wilson outplayed him on Sunday. I think the Legion of Boom looked lethargic out there-- even Earl Thomas, which is extremely rare.  Bruce Irvin looked pretty good in his first game back from suspension. Jermain Kearse needs his playing time doubled. Seattle should take some cues from the Huskies offense and play a little more uptempo.

There. I told the truth and put that heatbreaker behind me.