2015 Seahawks Re-Watch, Week 10: The Tale of Two Halves
For the second time in 2015, the Seahawks were .500—but .500 at 2-2 and .500 at 4-4 were different animals. The season half over, nothing short of two victories against the division leading Arizona Cardinals would allow the Hawks an opportunity at the NFC West crown and a home playoff game. The Cardinals were 6-2, propelled by the MVP-caliber play of quarterback Carson Palmer, who was experiencing a career resurgence with the Cardinals. Not long ago, few would have considered Palmer a challenge for the Legion of Boom, but the LoB had been hot and cold. Against quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen and Matt Cassel, they were impenetrable. Against quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, they were solid, at times great, but vulnerable on third down.
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For two quarters, a lackluster D allowed an astonishing 52 snaps, and a frustrated Legion of Boom had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. On 3rd and 14, Sherman guessed Palmer would go underneath. Instead Palmer went deep to Malcolm Floyd, who brought in a touchdown. Only minutes later, Palmer exploited Cary Williams, hitting Floyd for a second touchdown. The offense did no better. For one series, Wilson was under so much duress that, as he threw the ball away, it appeared to be a safety, a fate the offense narrowly avoided; however, minutes later, more confusion led to a fumble that Wilson recovered in the end zone.
At halftime, the Cardinals held a 22-7 lead.
It was impossible to love football during those thirty minutes. It was equally impossible to imagine a victory. Yet, the Hawks not only wrote a different story, they gave birth to a new team. The offense occasionally used a peculiar formation where wide-outs were stacked on either sideline. Traditionally, the receivers were used for run blocking, or, if it was a short pass, one acted as lead blocker for the other. This time, Wilson finished his drop, and in rhythm, launched one down field. Doug Baldwin used his speed and his feet to take a murderously deep, off-stride in-step before breaking upfield, faking out defender Jerraud Powers. Running toward the pylon, Baldwin caught the ball uncontested for a 32 yard touchdown.
Known for being a stunt offense, often propelled by Wilson extending plays, this type of throw/catch represented what execution could bring to the offense’s repertoire.
The defense also stepped up—led by KJ Wright. On 3rd and 6, Cliff Avril crashed into the backfield, grabbing onto Palmer’s shoulders. Palmer failed to secure the ball, and Wright recovered it in the end zone. During the next drive, on 3rd and 4, Wright penetrated inside, stripping Palmer of the ball. Linebacker Bobby Wagner recovered the fumble, running unopposed to the end zone.
With 13 minutes left, the Hawks had the lead, 29-25—but the big question was, could they hold onto it?
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“What is a catch?”
A question many asked during the 2015 season, as certain elements of the process—the largest being the notion of “control,” followed by if the receiver maintained it through the ground, and if the receiver became a “runner”—had become so nuanced that great disagreement occurred over what were ordinary plays. Doug Baldwin once said, “I’ve heard so many different rules that it is hard to define [a catch] myself. You can’t completely define it. There is a little subjectivity.” For the Seahawks, the “little subjectivity” that Baldwin referred to had led to some controversial decisions.
Against the Cowboys, Darren McFadden received a pass in the backfield. He “caught” the ball, tucking it into his side. Facing KJ Wright, McFadden took three steps across the field. During these steps, McFadden held the ball securely in both of his hands. When McFadden turned to face Wright, the ball slipped out. McFadden assumed it was a fumble and immediately twisted to regain possession. The call was a catch and a fumble, recovered by Cliff Avril. The play was reviewed. The result was to overturn the call on the field.
The drive earned the Cowboys a field goal.
Against the Cardinals, another such play occurred. Carson Palmer stepped up into the pocket to throw a pass to tight end Darren Fells. Fells had crossed the field and was ahead of Palmer, so Fells had to both reach back and contract his abdomen to establish contact with the ball. Fells clearly secured the pass and turned upfield, preparing to get hit by, of all folks, KJ Wright. Instead, Bobby Wagner dove in from behind, stripping the ball. Earl Thomas scooped it up, clearly establishing possession. The ruling on the field was an incomplete pass. After review, the incomplete pass was confirmed.
The drive earned the Cardinals a field goal.
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The final score was 39-32, another fourth quarter loss—which, at this point, felt like a curse. For all intents and purposes, this team should’ve been 9-0, not 4-5. So many aspects of the 2015 season betrayed football logic, yet these weird patterns persisted. Once again, all fans could do was assure themselves that, for stretches, the Hawks had played better football than they had all year. It felt like this season was building to something, but it would be too late to capitalize on the opportunity if it didn’t happen soon.
Week 9 will post next Tuesday, May 10th. Until then, why not get an early analysis on the 2016 schedule?
Previous posts in the Re-watch Series:
Week 1, The Rams…Again | Week 2, The Pack Attack | Week 3, The Good News Bears? | Week 4, Kam’s Big Comeback | Week 5, The Cincinnati Heartbreaker | Week 6, Lockette’s Great Grab | Week 7, Karper-can’t | Week 8, Sherman Shines