The Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1) defeated the New England Patriots. The Los Angeles Rams (4-5) beat the New York Jets. The Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) narrowly took down the San Francisco 49ers (1-8).
Welcome Back, Kam Chancellor
After nursing an injured groin for a month, the late announcement that safety Kam Chancellor would start may have been some gamesmanship on Pete Carroll’s part. To say the Patriots were unprepared for Kam would be a grave understatement. Having seen the Seahawks defense give up a hundred yard rusher to the Cardinals and the Saints, plus 128-yards to the Bills’ LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor, whizkid offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels clearly thought LeGarrette Blount could exploit this soft run defensive. My, oh, my was he wrong. As a run defender, Kam is second to none as far as safeties are concerned, and the man was everything this defense had been missing. Mean and ferocious, fast and decisive, Kam pushed blockers back, broke free of their blocks, and was always there for the second effort.
Oh, you thought you were going to make it to the edge? That’s cute.
While essential to Seattle’s run-stuffing effort, Kam’s pass coverage skills, in recent years, had come under fire, especially when tight ends were involved. Against Ron Gronkowski, Kam’s two goal line opportunities split the difference. The first time he was on Gronk, he drew a flag, but the second time, he held his ground in a way few defensive backs could duplicate. Instead of bouncing back like a pinball when Gronk went into him, Kam managed to jam Gronk and then hold that jam long enough to disturb the route.
Goal line heroics were only part of the story. What makes Brady to Gronkowski so potent is skill and practice but also their schoolyard mentality. If Brady sees a match-up he likes, he will go to Gronk, many times without an audible or signal. Brady had several opportunities to target Gronk when Kam had him in press coverage, but Brady chose not to do so, including an opportunity to Gronk he would’ve definitely thrown if Kam hadn’t crossed the formation to bailout Brock Coyle.
Brady stuck with the QB sneak. McDaniels and Co must have regretted that decision because they ran the same formation with the same motion for Gronk on fourth down and threw it at Kam. We know what happened.
Anything You Can Do…
On Running Backs
Against the Patriots, the offense lined up 72 times and put up a slight advantage in time of possession, at 30:25. Surely, this shift to balance was due to a serviceable running game. Four rushers racked up 96 yards and four first downs. Leading the charge was CJ Prosise, who accounted for 66 ground yards and 87 passing yards, with five of his seven receptions converting for first downs. That said, Prosise was more of a complimentary player than a tone-setter. Those accolades go to both Wilson and the offensive line, but don’t sleep on Prosise’s dual-threat as a rusher/pass catcher. Football is a psychological game, and when a running back is a first down machine, whether it’s ground or air, that player becomes a moving piece that defenses will have to devote special attention to containing.
Also, Prosise does do pass protection.
Prosise’s development means a reduced role for Christine Michael. Michael was a stopgap until Thomas Rawls was healthy and Prosise got comfortable in the offense. A second injury to Rawls and an injury to Prosise kept Michael as the starting tailback until the tenth week of the season. Brought back in 2015 when the offense was desperate for legs, Michael overachieved and does deserve respect for the heart and guts he’s put in, but it’s November, and a running back like Prosise gives the Hawks the best chance to win.
I Can Do Better!
The #2 Seed
Despite an onslaught of injuries, the Seahawks have avoided duplicating the 2-4 hole from the 2015 season and are currently second in the conference standings. Thus far, the tie game against the Cardinals is an advantage. The team boasts a .722 win percentage in place of a .500%. Barring a Dallas implosion–which could happen, seeing as every Cowboys fan suddenly loves Tony Romo after years of saying, “We can’t win with him,” and being proven correct–the number two seed is probably the spot the Hawks are most likely to achieve.
The Eagles come to Century Link having just defeated the division-leading Atlanta Falcons and knowing three of their final contests are also against division leaders–the Seahawks, Ravens and Cowboys. The Eagles can feel their season slipping away, but they know their potential as a squad. Probably the better all-around team compared to the Patriots, the Hawks improving offensive line faces regression against a tough Philly pass rush. The balance between the ground and air attacks will need to stick around, and Wilson creating ground yards could be the deciding factor.
On the opposite side of the ball, Carson Wentz is not polished enough as a passer to handle the Legion of Boom. Personally, I think the unit will turn him into a dump off machine.
How To Get Jimmy Graham Wide Open
On first and ten, Wilson is under center with Prosise as a single back. Jimmy Graham is on the bottom side of the formation, indicating that the run would go in his direction. He goes in motion to the high side of the line. Safety Patrick Chung moves with Graham. At the snap, Wilson fakes the handoff to Prosise. Most of the defense bites. Graham uses this activity to sneak back across the line, leaving Chung isolated on the opposite side of the field. In a nice bit of running, Graham splits linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive lineman Trey Flowers. Wilson puts the right amount of arc on the ball to get over Flowers. Graham completes the catches with no one near him. The result is a nineteen yard gain.
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In case you missed it…
Week 1, On One Leg | Week 2, The Spread Will Save the Seahawks, Exactly Like It Did Last Year | Week 3, Could Trevone Boykin Be The Future? With Doug Baldwin, He Might. | Week 4, Kam Chancellor’s Modified Role Improves Entire LoB, Takes Defense to New Level | Discombobulated But Still Dangerous, The Cardinals Lie Ahead – Seahawks Bye Week Special | Week 6, Seahawks Defense Comes Up Strong, Team Passes First Test | Week 7, Defense Wins Championships But This Vanilla Offense Needs An Attitude | Week 8, As Injuries Mount, Seahawks Still Poised For A Super Bowl Run | Week 9, The Hawks Deal Blows To The AFC East, Real Test Comes This Sunday