Monday, December 24, 2018

Seahawks on Santa's 'Nice' List-- Seahawks 38 Chiefs 31

What a splendid way to get the holiday season underway.  In a prime time game that held tremendous significance to both teams, the world bore witness to a Seahawks team that looked every bit the part of a legitimate playoff contender.

Chris Carson surpassed the 1,000 yard mark on the season in this game.  He was the first Seahawk to achieve this since Marshawn Lynch.  He punished would be tacklers all night long with stablemate Mike Davis as the Seahawks put up 200 plus yards on Kansas City.

To everyone besides Cris Collinsworth and Al Michael, Russell Wilson out shined MVP favorite, Patrick Mahomes. Making plays with his feet, dropping dimes to Baldwin and Lockett, finding his
tight ends for touchdowns-- Wilson did it all.

Seattle's defense has been as fun to watch as they are nerve-wracking.  They're an energetic young unit with a high ceiling but not much experience.  They're just as likely to make a big play as they are to miss an assignment, it seems. 

For the most part, Mahomes was held in check.  Akeem King did a marvelous job locking down the formidable Travis Kelce.  Flowers and Griffin kept tabs on the shifty Tyreek Hill.  Clark, Reed, Jordan and the gang applied consistent pressure on the young MVP prospect throughout the night.

The alarming stat was seeing Chiefs 4th string running back, Damien Williams, rush for over a hundred yards.  Now, that could be a byproduct of the Seahawks game plan, which seemed to be eliminating the big play threat, but it's still concerning.

Nevertheless, Seattle has clinched a playoff appearance despite the majority of analysis predicting a major setback this season.  Tremendous credit to Pete Carroll and John Schneider for pulling off 9 wins and a potential 10th while majorly overhauling the roster and replacing both offensive and defensive coordinators.

I can't imagine anyone wanting to face these Seahawks in the playoffs.  They've shown that they can hang with and beat some of the best teams in the league.  It's shaping up to look like Seattle will be heading to Dallas in the Wild Card round, which sounds great to me.

The final week of the regular season is this coming Sunday.  The Seahawks have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, so this game is a mere formality, really.  I hope anyone with a nagging injury gets the week off-- Fluker, Baldwin, MacDougald, and KJ Wright, unless he feels he needs the reps. 

Let Bo Scarborough and McKissic handle running back duties.  Let Brett Hundley get in some live rounds. Have Joey Hunt take over for Britt.  Let's get some experience for the kids that need it and some well deserved rest for the guys that could use it.

I'm fired up for the playoffs.  To put it into a seasonal colloquial term-- I'm like a kid on Christmas!  Speaking of Christmas, enjoy this holiday song I made years ago when my band was still active.

Have a great holiday season and an even better playoff season!

 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Sloppy as the Field they Played upon-- Seahawks 23 @ 49ers 26

I'm sure I am not alone in saying that this game ruined my weekend.

In the grand scheme of things, this loss will not have much of an effect on Seattle's playoff hopes in general. Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill, but this one hit me hard.

Seattle need only to win this game against the 49ers and they would've found themselves clinching the playoffs, a feat nobody expected given the turnover from the team that missed the playoffs last year. 

They also would've taken the record for most consecutive wins over an opponent-- a record that fell just minutes before kickoff, when the Browns beat the Broncos for the first time since 1990.

Still, Seattle's playoff hopes are very much alive and who cares about meaningless records, right?

I'm an ardent believer in the psychology of the game of football. I think momentum means something.  I think that intimidation means something. The intangible part of the game that cannot be measured, but the effects are nevertheless still felt by many who play, watch and study the game.

While I'm in no way suggesting that the Seahawks 'didn't come to play', I firmly believe that San Francisco wanted this victory just a little bit more.

San Francisco is on the right track.  They've found a good coach, their defense has some talent that they will undoubtedly build upon and, evidently, they have two viable options for quarterback this team next year.

But this season-- they're no where near Seattle's level. The score of the previous match up this season is indicative of that alone. 

Seattle started this game on script.  A stout defensive stand resulting in a punt that would give the offense tremendous field position.  The offense responded in kind with an opening drive touchdown.  Everything was going as plan.

Then Janikowski missed an extra point.

Everything went downhill from there.

Levi's Stadium has been an embarrassment to the game of football since it's inception.  There are high school fields throughout the nation with field turf that puts their's to shame.

Why this hasn't been figured out in the four years since it's opening is beyond all logic.  Furthermore, why the Seahawks didn't account for this is even more maddening.

The broadcast noted several of the players making equipment adjustments mid-game.  They even showed footage of Janikowski landing on his backside while attempting a kick.  Why on earth did they wait until the game was underway to make these changes?

After botching the kick, the 49ers ran the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown.  Janikowski's attempt to subdue the returner will no doubt find it's way to the follies archive at NFL Films.  Special teams had it's worst showing of the season on Sunday.

Seattle's offense played well.  Baldwin came back to form, catching two touchdowns from Wilson.  Carson ran for 100+ and scored a late touchdown. They continued their struggles of converting drives into points, but otherwise had an admirable road showing.

The defense was sloppy.  Missed tackles, guys being caught out of position, and generally making Nick Mullens look like Joe Montana.  The game was confusing, in the sense that there were many outstanding individual performances on the Seahawks defense, but there were far too many mistakes to negate those efforts. 

The officiating was the worst I have seen in a while.

Seahawks were penalized 148 yards, most in franchise history. Some were deserved, but there were a handful, particularly in the games final moments, that were mindbogglingly unnecessary. 

Referees should always throw their flags with caution in the final moments of a game.  Nobody feels good about winning on a technicality.  I know-- a win is a win-- but don't tell me you feel the same way about the "Fail Mary" game as you do with other close victories.

Peter Morelli, the head official from yesterday's game, looked like someone who would have rather been anywhere else on the planet than at that game.  He is only two months younger than Pete Carroll, but looks every bit of 67 compared to Pete. 

Pete's the oldest coach in the league.  He's also one of the most energetic and passionate.  The same cannot possibly be said of Morelli.  I'm trying my damnedest to not have this come off as ageist in any way-- but, for the love of God, can we get some younger officials?

Two pass interference calls that had a marked impact on the games outcome, were simply non existent.  The one called on Delano Hill was absolutely a pushing off penalty against San Francisco, but somehow was levied against Seattle. 

The officiating played a huge roll in this loss, but Seattle's sloppiness on defense and special teams meltdown were much to blame, as well. 

Seattle can clinch this Sunday, but instead of playing an opponent that was vying for the first overall pick in next year's draft, they'll be facing one of the best teams in the AFC with an MVP candidate at quarterback instead of a free agent walk on.

If they can right the ship and win these final two home games, Seattle can still roll into the playoffs with a full head of steam.  It's unfortunate they didn't take the easy path, but maybe this is the wake up call they needed to remind them that they'll have to bring their best every week once the playoffs are underway.

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.