Monday, September 25, 2017

Waiting for the cue to panic-- Seahawks 27 @ Titans 33

What a bizarre game.  It was almost as if all of our strengths became our weaknesses and our weaknesses became our strengths. Seattle both played really well and uncharacteristically poorly throughout this game. 

The Titans played like the young, talented & hungry team we were told they are.  They played to their strengths and made minor adjustments as the game went on.  If only the Seahawks would do this-- they might be 3-0 today.

Instead, Seattle looks like a team with a major identity crisis. 

They want to be a run-first team, but the current personnel simply does not allow for that.  They seem to want to win every game 3-0 on the strength of their defense-- but that's simply not sustainable over the course of 16 regular season games and the playoffs.

It's not that the Seahawks lack for talent, that couldn't be further from the truth. It's just that the talent on their roster is not conducive to the identity they seem determined to uphold.

The defense started the game spectacularly but slowly fell apart as the game progressed, partially due to 100 degree temperatures with 97% humidity, but perhaps also due to how much they were on the field the previous two games. Conversely, the offense started the game flat but got rolling midway through, too little too late.

I want to give some credit to Darrell Bevell for the adjustments he made in game.  It took him long enough, but he finally started calling plays that keyed in on the offenses strengths. Most people credit the uptempo pace of the offense for these bouts of success, but I don't think that's the contributing factor.

When they play uptempo, they tend to be in 4 wide sets.  I feel like this opens up the field, which really helps the struggling offensive line and buys time for Russell Wilson. The offensive line played much better today and some of that can be attributed to these formations.

It's not time to panic, I get that.  We're not even through the first quarter of the season yet. However we're well beyond the time to face the hard facts that we are talent deficient across the offensive line. It is extremely unlikely that will change in this season.  It's insane to not accept that at this point considering it's been an issue for for the better part of three seasons now.

We have to spread out and throw the ball to open up the run game.  The run game needs to include Wilson, Chris Carson, CJ Prosise and even Thomas Rawls.  At this point, I might consider trying to covert Eddie Lacy into a fullback. 

I still believe that the defense will be and needs to be the cornerstone of this team-- but you can't expect them to do EVERYTHING.  Especially not when you're paying your quarterback a small fortune.  If this team can avoid waiting until halftime to make the adjustments that play in to their strengths, there will be considerably less pressure put on their defense.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ugly Football-- Seahawks 12 49ers 9

The Seahawks won their home opener against San Francisco on Sunday, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.  I didn't want to write about it until I had sat with it a while.

Monday morning I still wasn't ready to dissect the game-- so I opted to listen to Howard Stern over Brock and Salk.

Around mid day, I was ready to break it down, so I queued up the Brock and Salk podcast. It didn't take long for Mike Salk to piss me off.

I like Salk.  We share a great deal of similarities.  Like me, his only real experience in playing the game was brief and didn't make it beyond the high school competitive level, but he applies logic to his years of being a die-hard sports fan to come up with terrific analysis with a fresh viewpoint from what you typically get from former players as talking heads.

Unlike myself, Salk is an avid contrarian.  He often takes the less favorable position, most likely as an effort to fabricate 'great radio'. That desired effect never works on me.

Salk is at his best when he firmly believes in the side he's taking.  Only when he has examined a situation from every angle and taken into consideration the comments from the opposition does he formulate his stance on a subject.  He's much smarter than I am and far more articulate.  When he's right, no one drives the point home quite like he can.

For some reason, perhaps in anticipation of the flood of calls and texts he would inevitably receive on the show that day about how abysmal the Seahawks offense looked, he decided to spice things up by trying to convince the nation of 12s (or twelfths, as Sam Rosen continually used to reference our fans on the game broadcast) that what we all witnessed on Sunday was pure brilliance.

He started the show by professing his love for 'Ugly Football'.  Now, in my book, ugly football is when two teams, often in inclement weather, are so well-matched that it's difficult for either team to get an advantage.  Big plays are few and far between and a lot of good defense is being played.  That was not at all what we saw on Sunday.

He went all-in on his contrarian stance by suggesting that Russell Wilson's performance earned the grade of a B+.  Brock Huard seemed privy to what Salk was trying to do and did his best to make a lane for Salk's madness.  Huard tried his damnedest not to challenge these absurd ideas from Salk, but couldn't bring himself to agree with any of the nonsense.

I'd love to be mad at Salk, but I know he's too bright to actually believe any of the comments he made yesterday.  His argument hinged on the fact that the defense was stout and that Russell Wilson was able to lead the team on a successful, game-winning drive in the fourth.  While both valid points, Salk was forced to severely oversell those points in order to ultimately tie them into his argument.

The defense played really well.  As they should-- they're responsible for the bulk of this team's salary cap.  They were also at home, which would give any team at least a 3 point advantage, but has been more of a 7 point advantage in Seattle.  They were playing a bad team with a new coach, new system and the most rookies of any NFL roster.

When you consider all of that, which I think you must-- the defense played good, not great.

They flashed a stat graphic earlier in the game that showed that only 4 running backs have had 100 yard games against the Seahawks at home since 2012 (I believe).  Not only was Carlos Hyde one of those four, but he did it again in that game.  That's unacceptable to me. Not when you have the defensive talent of the Seahawks and you know full well that Brian Hoyer isn't going to beat anyone with his arm.

As for the offense, we did have some bright spots but let's not act like this performance assured us a spot in the NFC title game.  The offensive line took a small step forward.  Considering that the 49ers front seven is their greatest group-- that's worth celebrating.  Our line still has a very long way to go before they even reach the middle of the pack, but seeing any progress at this point is reassuring.

It also appears as though this team has found it's number one back in Chris Carson.  Eddie Lacey was a healthy scratch from the lineup, Thomas Rawls was a non-factor in his return from injury, and CJ Prosise failed miserably as a pass-catching, 3rd down back.  In a perfect scenario, the offensive line will continue to grow together and Carson's success will motivate the other backs to make the best of their opportunities.

Wilson did not have a good game-- but that is no reason to panic.  Brock put it best when defending his C grade on Wilson's performance by calling it 'uncharacteristic'.  He wasn't himself with regard to accuracy, but his receivers certainly deserve some blame for their drops.

A win is a win, I suppose.  It certainly could have been a lot worse. Still, this is a team with Super Bowl aspirations and a performance like what we saw on Sunday is not acceptable for a championship team.  For Salk to suggest otherwise is not only disingenuous, but borders on offensive to anyone that considers themselves a fan of the Seahawks and the Brock and Salk show.

Good teams will be criticized.  Great teams can handle the criticism.  We have every right to expect more from this team.  We should also expect that they will sort these issues out at some point in the season-- or at the very least, find a workaround for their problems.  They've done it for the past 5 seasons and this season should be know different.

However, we should all know by now that every game counts and we cannot afford to lose winnable games. Too many off seasons had us saying "If only they would've won that game earlier in the season, they might have had home field advantage in the playoffs."

There will be learning curves throughout the season, but this team needs to maintain a championship pace.  The next four opponents-- Titans, Colts, Rams and Giants -- are one of the softer pockets in the Seahawks schedule.  3-1 would qualify as 'championship pace' during that stretch that includes a division road game and two long trips to the Big Apple and Music City.  Anything less than that will put tremendous pressure on the second half of the season that includes match ups with the defending NFC Champs and playoff contenders like the Cowboys and Eagles.

It's crucial for Seattle to come away with a win next week in Tennessee.  A loss here would put this team on its heels and put an awful lot of pressure on the development of some of this team's less experienced players.  We need to once again rely on the strength of the defensive unit while asking our high-priced, veteran offensive players to take it upon themselves to put this game away early.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Dreadful Debut-- Seahawks 9 @ Packers 17

I woke up this morning fired up for Seahawks football.

A fresh new season filled with equal parts hype and promise.  Coming off of an undefeated preseason, restocked with talent and just about everybody healthy-- what's not to be excited about?

That was this morning. A lifetime ago. Now, it's about a quarter after 5 o'clock pacific time and I am absolutely fuming.

How could so much have changed in so little time?

The defense lived up to the almost unrealistic expectations that were put upon them.  Rookie Nazair Jones made a spectacular pick six that was called back on a pair of ludicrously inaccurate penalties called against the Seahawks defense during the return.  The aftermath lead to Jeremy Lane getting ejected from the game for throwing a punch that all of the broadcasting equipment failed to capture.

Shaq Griffin played admirably in Lane's place and the defense held Rogers scoreless for the rest of the first half, sacking him four times along the way.

However, just like last year, the astonishing display of offensive incompetence left them exhausted and unable to secure the victory against one of the best players in the league, in one of the most hostile road environments there are. That is a recipe for failure.

The offense was flat out putrid.  Embarrassing.  Painful to watch.

If I were Pete Carroll, I would insist that the offensive players buy dinner for the defensive staff every day next week.  They cost their team the win and jeopardized the health of the defensive players by subjecting them to almost double the amount of time on field as the Seahawks offense.

It was a game rife with missed opportunities. Russell Wilson missed on a few big throws that should have resulted in points, if not at least first and goal opportunities. Tyler Lockett looks to be at full health, but not yet on the same page with his quarterback. Jimmy Graham was off his game, as well-- though the officials certainly didn't do him any favors.

The Packers have to be feeling great right now. Not just because they won a hard fought competition against a perennial playoff team in the Seahawks-- they have to be rejoicing in the fact that they didn't make the grievous error of resigning Eddie Lacy.

The Seahawks signed Lacy to a one year, $5.5 million contract in the offseason while the Packers figured they were better off using a converted receiver to spearhead their run game. That former wide out, Ty Montgomery, had 39 yards receiving and 54 rushing yards with a touchdown. Lacy's 3 yards on 5 carries wouldn't even run him out of my living room.

Chris Carson is irrefutably the best running back on this team.  CJ Prosise has big-play ability, for sure, but lacks the consistency necessary to be a sustainable, full-time back. Carson runs with authority and is shifty enough to make defenders miss.  Lacy just doesn't have the explosiveness needed to compensate for the complete lack of run blocking from the offensive line.

I thought Germain Ifedi played pretty well.  The offensive highlights were few and far between, but there were flashes of promise.  Check out this play where Russell connects with Paul Richardson for 28 yards.  It was one of Seattle's biggest offensive plays of the day.

Go back and watch it closely, singling out a different offensive lineman with each viewing.  Justin Britt and Ifedi were the only linemen that executed their blocks.  Luke Joeckel, Rees Odhiambo and Mark Glowinski were merely turnstiles, only a minor inconvenience for Green Bay's pass rush.

The play was successful for two simple reasons: Russell got the ball out of his hand quickly and Paul Richardson is a tremendous athlete.

That is why I am infuriated.

Darrell Bevell's play calling is mind boggling to me. He seems to deliberately play to the offenses weaknesses.  It's almost as if he scripts the play calls for the entire game in advance, then refuses to deviate from it regardless of circumstance.

The argument could be made that we did not see enough of the starters, on both sides of the ball, in the exhibition games this preseason. The defense fought through dehydration and cramping that was suggestively brought on by the 'zero-to-sixty' intensity jump from limited preseason work to today's battle.

The offense looked totally out of sorts.  It's almost as if the coaches had their minds made up on some of those guys before we saw them truly battle tested. Tre Madden was a liability at fullback and the offensive line actually regressed from last season.

Chris Carson has to be the starting running back for next week's home opener against San Francisco--I can't stress that enough. If there is any credibility in the 'Always Compete' mantra, you have to give the guy the job. Sprinkle in some Prosise and even Lacy, but give Carson to bulk of the load.

I'm a firm believer in teams benefiting from early-season adversity.  The Seahawks get a soft landing at home next week and will undoubtedly bounce back, but we can ill-afford another season where the Seahawks take too long in the season to find themselves. We know we have a mobile quarterback with a great arm.  We have a litany of speedy, athletic, offensive playmakers to distribute the ball to.

Play uptempo, spread out the offense and wear the opposing defenses out while relying on the league's best defense to close out the game with the lead.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Ready for the Real Thing-- Seahawks 17 @ Raiders 13

Generally speaking, the final preseason game is pretty meaningless and insignificant. Traditionally, teams rest most of their starters in preparation for the season opener and this game was used to determine which of the 75 remaining players would make the 53 man roster.

This year was different.

Instead of incrementally cutting the rosters from 90 down to 75 after the penultimate preseason game, rules were changed that eliminated that initial cut.  This gave teams an extra preseason game to evaluate an additional 15 players that otherwise would've been cut before deciding the 53 men that would represent the team in the coming season.

For those who suggest that the preseason is meaningless-- this changed everything.

Granted, my eyes are trained precisely on the happenings of our beloved Seahawks and not so much elsewhere in the league.  From what we all saw, we can definitively say that this rule change was an improvement. Certainly in the Seahawks case.

What we saw in Oakland clearly wasn't the polished product the NFL was known for, but there was no question that this game was significant in how the Seahawks roster cuts ended up shaking out.

Ultimately, it was a story of two quarterbacks vying to be the backup to Russell Wilson.  There were
some less obvious battles in both the running back and receiving areas of the depth chart, but the most evident competition was between Trevone Boykin and Austin Davis.

The Seahawks wanted Boykin to win the job, but they weren't going to give it to him.  He had to take it from Davis.  Boykin fits the mold of Russell Wilson-- an undersized, yet tremendously athletic scrambler with a knack for making plays out of thin air. Unlike Wilson, Boykin doesn't have it all between the ears and doesn't have the same dedication in film study.

Davis, on the other hand, is the quintessential 'game manager' teams seek out to be their back up. Should the starter miss a handful of games, the hope is he'll win you half of them, but he won't necessarily lose the game.  They'll shy away from attempting the big play in favor of ball security.

This game essentially spelled out what both quarterback's collective bodies of work have already told us-- Boykin is erratic and often reckless with the ball, but can occasionally strike gold with improvisation while Davis is merely the safest bet.

That's precisely how it went down.  Boykin threw a pair of costly picks while Davis slowly and cautiously led the team on the game winning drive. Davis earned the backup job and Boykin went unclaimed through waivers and found himself back on the Seahawks practice squad.  The hope is, he will continue to develop his skills within the team's system and eventually get his job as the backup back.