Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Too Close for Comfort-- Seahawks 12 Dolphins 10

The Seahawks were able to escape week one with a victory in a game that was ugly, to say the least. Perhaps nothing captures the essence of what transpired on Sunday than the changes to the NFL Week Two power rankings.  Despite winning, the Seahawks dropped two spots in the rankings.  Conversely, in the wake of the loss, the Dolphins jumped up a spot from their previous rank.

Before I shell out criticism, I must first complement Seattle's defense. As a whole, this defense played up to their pedigree.  DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane were absolutely spectacular.   Seattle's corner back group is far and away the best in the NFL. Meanwhile, Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark proved to be the foundation of Seattle's second wave of future superstars. Additionally, Jarran Reed was impressive in his rookie debut. Earl Thomas certainly didn't play up to his own impossible standards, but that shouldn't be a tremendous concern going forward.  I expect him to bounce back next week against the Rams.

The offense, to me, was supremely disappointing. I'm sick and tired of waiting until mid-season for the offensive line to get it's shit together.  Perhaps it's just the consequence of using the entirety of your cap space on a superstar-laden defense and a franchise quarterback-- maybe it's just a bizarre tactic to insure that Tom Cable isn't snatched up for a head coaching job elsewhere.  No matter what the excuse-- it's become the norm here in Seattle.

The only difference between this opener and previous years is that Seattle seemed to expect substandard line play more this game.  They knew they would be without Marshawn Lynch and they were well aware of the talent Miami has across their defensive front. They even seemingly game planned for it. 

Coach Bevell favored the short pass in lieu of the run, going against the team's self-described philosophy of being a run first team. My guess is that this was a decision made from equal parts fear and necessity. Despite this strategy yielding no points-- it did seem to be working in conjunction with spectacular defensive play.

That is, until Ndamukong Suh came down hard on Russell Wilson's right ankle.

Wilson never missed a snap, but he was clearly in pain.  He returned the following series with both of his feet heavily taped and went on to throw the game winning touchdown-- but he clearly was not his usual, mobile self.

Seattle held on and came away with the win but it was hard for fans to feel good about the game.  The Seahawks were favored to win by two touchdowns, but you never would've guessed that from watching their performance.  Maybe the Dolphins are better than anticipated, but its more likely that we're in for another rocky start for our team's offense.

Then again, it could have been worse-- the Rams were expected to be one of the nastiest defenses in the league, but they were shut out by a 49ers team with little expectations of their own.

All indications are that there is no doubt as to Wilson's availability for the showdown with Los Angeles next Sunday. Still, no one is convinced that number 3 isn't at least somewhat injured. Seattle will need to dramatically alter their game plan in week two if they expect to get the win while preventing any further injury to their franchise quarterback.

The 49ers gave us the blue print for defeating the Rams.  They effectively took LA's star running back, Todd Gurley, out of the game by loading the box and sent the heat whenever Case Keenum dropped back to throw. The Rams simply lack the offensive weapons to overcome a powerful defense.  If San Francisco was able to shut them out and put up 4 touchdowns with Blaine Gabbert-- a one-legged Russell Wilson should be able to match that while blindfolded.

Seattle is going to have to revert back to being a run-first team and trust in their line to create lanes for both Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael.  We saw flashes on Sunday of this, but Seattle didn't commit to their run as much as they're going to have to in LA next weekend.

Keeping Russell out of harms way will be integral over these next few games and Trevone Boykin needs to be ready to be thrown to the fire. For the first time perhaps ever, I am grateful that Seattle has an early bye week.  Unfortunately, they'll be seeing some of the league's toughest defenses leading up to that bye. This is certainly a season where this team can ill afford another slow start from the offensive unit. 

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