Monday, December 28, 2015

Mailing it in -- Seahawks 17 Rams 23

The Seahawks completed their series with the Rams with a loss at home on Sunday, giving St. Louis the series sweep this season. Michael Bennett said it best in his post game comments-- "The Rams, they play good football against us. They just don’t play good football against everybody else."

The Seahawks began this season with an opening game loss to the Rams in St. Louis where Seattle was unable to establish any semblance of a run game and a defense that would bend and inevitably break down the stretch of that game.

Yesterday's game looked eerily similar to that first loss of the season.

After hearing local media wag their finger at those of us who criticized Darrell Bevell for weeks after the Seahawks were able to rattle off a string of victories that featured a high-powered offense-- I'm curious to see how they're going to spin this one.

Quite frankly, I'm sick to death of hearing this nonsense about being a run-first team.  It's performances like yesterday's that lead me to think that this coaching staff would sooner maintain their 'identity' than do whatever it takes to win football games.

Yesterday, more so that any other game this season, our run game was completely shut down and
rendered ineffective. That was made painfully obvious right from the start of this game.

I'm sorry-- but when you're facing a premier run defense with a group of running backs that literally were signed off the street-- you have to know when to admit defeat and find another way to win.

And like so many other losses this year where our run game wasn't where the team wanted it to be, Seattle briefly adapted by spreading out the offense and mixing in quick, short passes as a substitute for the run game.  But, as soon as that was working, they shifted right back to the ineffective run game. In the cold rain of yesterday's game, this only lead to more turn overs.

I'm angrier than any of the previous losses because we were just coming off a record-setting string of games for Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin.  They've shown that, when called upon, they can throw their way to victory.  Yet the stubborn play calling of Darrell Bevell was insistent upon establishing the run.

The offensive line is certainly deserving of their share of the blame and criticism.  They couldn't stop a nosebleed yesterday.  While the defense did a decent job of containing Todd Gurley, the continued theme of not being opportunistic continued as Seattle had several opportunities for turnovers but failed to win that battle.

It was a strange weekend altogether for the NFL.  Carolina is no longer undefeated, Arizona handed the Packers their worst loss of the Aaron Rodgers era and Minnesota looked like the dominant team they were before Seattle brought them back to earth by beating them handily in their own home.

Seattle may have slipped down to the #6 seed, but that isn't the issue they should be concerned with.  While we have no real idea when and if Marshawn Lynch will be ready, Seattle needs to find a way to win games with or without a dominant run game.

There's a possibility we might never see Lynch in a Seahawks uniform again.  We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  This team needs to learn to lean on it's highly-paid quarterback to win games when the run game just isn't there.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Playoff Bound-- Seahawks 30 Browns 13

The Seahawks clinched a playoff berth for the 4th consecutive year after a tumultuous start to the season. The way Russell Wilson has been playing these past 5 games makes those early season struggles feel like a distant memory.

Wilson's spectacular, record-setting play in the second half of the season has masked uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball, concerns with the offensive line and what has become a revolving door at running back. He's got his team in position for an entirely probable 3rd consecutive Super Bowl appearance.

It's not just Wilson who's come into form down the late season stretch.  Doug Baldwin has been playing at a Pro Bowl level.  Reserve players like Kelcie McCray, DeShawn Shead, Frank Clark and

Everyone seems to be playing their role and doing their job.

Marcus Burley have stepped up and grown as the season wears on. Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet have risen to the occasion in the absence of Jimmy Graham.

If everything continues on this track, Seattle will most likely be traveling to Washington to play the NFC East Champions in the first set of Wildcard games.  This is an extremely favorable match up for Seattle. While Washington does seem to be the most consistent of the NFC East teams, they have a shaky run game and a quarterback in Kirk Cousins that has more grit than experience.

While the playoffs are guaranteed for the Seahawks, that hardly means their done with the regular season. Seattle must continue to see more out of young players and get healthier going into January. 

Seattle was able to amass 182 yards rushing in a game that featured a backfield of players that were not on this roster just a week ago. Christine Michael displayed a renewed sense of hunger.  Bryce Brown showed us that he's plenty capable of shouldering his share of the load.  Even Derek Coleman showed promise as a short-yardage back.

Ultimately, we'll be counting down the days until Marshawn Lynch returns to the starting lineup, but at least we can take some comfort in knowing that our season isn't completely dependent on Lynch's return. I would be perfectly content on not seeing Lynch until pregame warm ups for the Washington playoff meeting.

The remaining pair of games for this regular season gives Seattle a shot at exacting vengeance on two division rivals that got the better of them in the initial contests.  The Seahawks will take on the Rams at home this coming Sunday before closing out the season in Glendale against the Cardinals.  My hope is that Seattle only rests the players that are recovering from injuries over those next two games. Going into the playoffs with an 11-5 record and the momentum of a 7-game win streak would go a long way in the Seahawks efforts to return to the Super Bowl.

Monday, December 14, 2015

MV3 -- Seahawks 35 Ravens 6

Seattle finished it's final multi-game road trip of the season winning four games in a row and looks primed to lock up the 5th seed in the NFC.  The celebration was bittersweet, as we got word after the game that the injury sustained by Thomas Rawls on the first drive of the game would ultimately end the undrafted rookie's season.

This leaves Seattle with 3 games remaining in the season without the best running back in franchise history (Marshawn Lynch) and the guy who replaced him without missing a beat in Rawls. Ordinarily, this type of scenario would send a team into a frenzied panic-- but, somehow, this team feels like it will be just fine.

First off, Lynch is expected back at some point.  Whether that's before the playoffs or not remains to be seen, but from all we've heard, Lynch has not yet played his last game as a Seahawk. The loss of Rawls hurts, but we can pretty much expect him back next season when it's more than likely that Seattle parts ways with Lynch to create much-needed cap space.

Perhaps more comforting is the fact that Russell Wilson is putting up MVP statistics.  Through the first half of the season, it was a forgone conclusion that Tom Brady would repeat as MVP given the Patriots then-undefeated record despite losing a remarkable amount of starters to injury.  The Pats hit a two game skid and Brady became less involved in that discussion.

Naturally, the focus shifted to Panthers QB, Cam Newton, who also is piloting an undefeated team that has faced some injury setbacks. However, if you look at the numbers in the graphic to your right, Wilson is edging Newton out in almost every significant category.

Along with Wilson, the offensive line, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett are playing at a level we've never seen before.  The offense is winning games convincingly no matter who is in the backfield.

Once again, I have to give our offensive coordinator credit where its due-- especially given how many shots I've taken at this guy.  He called a brilliant game yesterday, given the circumstances.  Despite losing Rawls early, Bevell didn't deviate from the run game, nor did he belabor it.

Defensively, the team is clicking.  Any credit they get will come with the caveat that they've gone against lower-tier quarterbacks.  We can't control that-- all they can do is beat their opponent.  The only remaining, reputable quarterback on the schedule is a rematch with Carson Palmer, which may come at a point after both the Cardinals and Seahawks have solidified their place in the playoffs.

Seattle will need to find another running back until we have more clarity on the Marshawn Lynch situation.  Fred Jackson can no longer act as a featured back and no one was impressed with what they saw from DuJuan Harris.  All indication points to Seattle bringing Bryce Brown back into the fold, which should suffice until number 24 is back in action.

The Seahawks have always played best when they have a chip on their shoulder, especially late in the season.  Well, the stars have aligned for us-- the Seahawks are playing their best football, they've been saddled with some adversity and despite Wilson's spectacular stretch of games over the past month-- people are still doubting this team.

Monday, December 7, 2015

An open letter to Justin & Gee

Justin Meyers and Gee Scott haven't been on the 710 AM airwaves for long, but they wasted little time building a loyal fan base of which I am included. They bring a youthful energy to the mid-morning sports talk world that has been sorely lacking. It's great to be able to lean on former players and sports insiders for analysis-- but too often program directors forget that these shows need to be entertaining above all else.

The Justin & Gee Show never fails to deliver the entertainment.

However, as I was listening to their show in the wake of what might be the most dominant statement game the Seahawks have given us in sometime, both Justin and Gee-- in a rare moment of agreement-- came down hard on those of us who have been critical of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

When I say they came down hard-- I mean they came down HARD.

Had I not been driving through pouring rain, I would've fired away at the Text Toy to express my profound disagreement. Had they let it go after making their initial statement-- I may have let it go myself and refrained from typing this post.

Alas, they did not let it go.

Both Meyers and Scott droned on at how absurd it was for anyone to hold Bevell accountable for Seattle's shortcomings through these first 12 games.  They pointed out how little criticism is being hurled at the embattled coordinator following these last three victories.

Now, I'll admit that Bevell deserves praise when and where its due.  But to completely absolve him from any criticism is beyond ridiculous.

First of all, I praised Bevell for (finally) adjusting to their circumstances and putting together a great game plan against San Francisco. The following week against the Steelers, I was again critical of his play calling as I felt that he was reverting back to the same ol' stuff that hadn't been successful all season, but he did make adjustments at the half that were indeed worthy of commendation. This week in Minnesota was perhaps his best-called game of the season.

With all that said, Bevell is certainly trending in the right direction and appears to be handling the loss of two major pieces of his offense with Lynch and Graham out of the picture.

However-- let's not have short-term memory loss, here.

We began this season with an offense that was vastly improved from last season.  Sure, the offensive line wasn't worked out the way we were told it would be-- but those were the guys this team wanted in place to start the season.  Maybe a great deal of that blame can be laid at the feet of Tom Cable, but it was the hand the Bevell was dealt.

I'd imagine that most coaches play with some degree of stubborn arrogance to them.  Perhaps you have to in this game. But through the first half of the season, I saw an offensive coordinator that was so hell bent on being a run-first team that he was willing to lose games rather than admit that they don't have the personnel properly prepared to play the type of football that they want.

We have had Doug Baldwin with us for a few years now. Same with Kearse and Russell Wilson.  We've seen what those guys can do when called upon.  We've seen Luke Willson develop into a diverse tight end that can spring a block or make a great catch.  We're watching Tyler Lockett become the playmaker Percy Harvin never turned out to be.

It didn't take long for the offensive line to show that the Seahawks brass rolled out a group of 'not ready for prime-time players'.  I think we established that 2 games into the season. Yet, it took several more games and the loss of two of our best offensive weapons before Bevell finally opened up the playbook for his quarterback.

There's a big difference between playing the brand of football that you want and doing the best you can with what you have in an effort to win games.  In previous seasons, I could at least make sense of why you wouldn't want to pile more work onto your young quarterback, but this year should've been different.  He's won a Super Bowl and been to two. You've paid him a boatload to carry this team.  He's shown you, multiple times, that he's capable of handling the pressure.

I love your show, Justin & Gee.  I'll continue listening as long as you continue to brighten my mid-days.  I just had to fire back on this one, bruh.  There's no question that this team has had this talent level and capability all season.  Sure, the line is playing better and the defense is coming into form-- but I contest that, had Bevell been a little less stubborn earlier on, we'd be in a much better place today.

Full Speed Ahead-- Seahawks 38 Vikings 7

The Seahawks are clicking in all phases of the game.  The Pittsburgh game last week was no fluke-- Seattle has now beaten consecutive playoff-caliber teams convincingly.  After starting the season off on shaky ground, this team is back to playing Seahawks football.

You don't have to look any further than the play of Russell Wilson over the past 3 games.  Had it not been for the erratic play that began this season, Wilson would not only be in the discussion for MVP-- he might very well be the front runner.

The offensive line is playing with confidence. We're spreading the ball around to the many playmakers on offense.  Thomas Rawls has filled in remarkably for Marshawn Lynch. Even Darrell Bevell's play calling has come into form. 

Don't let the score fool you-- this Vikings team is a good one.  They have a top defense that was

Thomas Rawls rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on the day.  Russell Wilson's 51 yards on the ground was more than NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson and the entire Vikings offense were able to produce-- and that doesn't include a 51-yard scramble for a touchdown that was nullified by a holding penalty.

The Vikings are a good team, but they are the exact type of team that our Seahawks are designed to beat.  Give us the best rushing team in the league with an inexperience/unproven quarterback any day and we'll shut them down.  The Seahawks defense finished the game with 4 sacks (two from rookie Frank Clark) an interception and a forced fumble.
playing without a handful of its best players and a run offense that is statistically better than ours.  The Seahawks are just finally showing that they are one of the top to bottom most talented teams in the league.

Seattle should have no problem running the table en route to the playoffs.  They have 4 games remaining and 3 of them are against hapless opponents with the final game being against the Cardinals in Arizona-- a game where Arizona is likely to have already clinched the division and could possibly be resting players for the playoffs.

On another note, I will be shocked if the NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year award isn't given to a Seahawks player.  Thomas Rawls and Tyler Lockett have both improved every week and have become integral pieces to this Seahawks offense.  Rawls is neck and neck with #10 overall pick, running back Todd Gurley.  I fully expect Rawls to surpass Gurley down the stretch of these final four games, but even if they're a pick 'em-- don't you have to give it to the guy that was passed on by all 32 teams in the draft?

As far as yearly awards go, this team's defensive MVP has to be KJ Wright.  Number 50 completely manhandled future Hall of Famer, Adrian Peterson,  in yesterday's game.  He's done that all year.  His contributions in both run and pass defense are unparalleled.

If the Seahawks can keep this pace up and stay relatively healthy, there's no question they will be the playoff's dark horse.  I can't think of one team in the league that scares me when the Seahawks are playing like they have over the past three weeks.