The Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) defeated the Philadelphia Eagles. The Arizona Cardinals (4-6) lost to the Minnesota Vikings. The Los Angeles Rams (4-6) lost to the Miami Dolphins. The San Francisco 49ers (1-9) lost to the New England Patriots.
Short of an epic collapse, the Seahawks about have the NFC West wrapped up.
Baldwin to Wilson
Few relationships are as one-sided as the one between a quarterback and receiver, but roles were reversed in the middle of the third quarter.
The offense is playing with two tight ends. Brandon Williams (86) is lined up outside of offensive tackle George Fant (74). Outside of Williams is Doug Baldwin (89), who is the “slot” receiver, with tight end Jimmy Graham (88) lined up as a wide-out. The Eagles defense is not concerned about Graham being one-on-one outside, which is interesting, as he is set to be covered by safety Malcolm Jenkins (27). (Match-ups like this one are potential “chuck it” scenarios). Wilson gives a look to Graham. Graham responds by motioning behind the inside shoulder of Baldwin. To the defense, this plays looks like a run toward the bottom side of the field, with the two tight ends acting as extra blockers.
At the snap, Graham crosses the formation while quarterback Russell Wilson (3) fakes the handoff to Thomas Rawls (34). The Eagles defense freezes but maintains discipline. Once the linebackers see Graham coming across as a blocker, Rawls coming out as a blocker, and Wilson pitching the ball to Baldwin on an apparent end-around, they jump on Baldwin being a ball carrier; instead, Baldwin pulls up, looking across field for a throwing opportunity. After stepping inside to take out Rawls, defensive end Brandon Graham (55) slows up. Jimmy Graham does not force the issue on Brandon Graham, and so Brandon Graham escapes outside of Jimmy. Now a free rusher on Baldwin, Baldwin barely gets his feet set before he throws the ball off his back foot to ensure he can complete his release.
On the opposite side of the field, Fant is still hard at work. After Williams gives a chip block to defensive end Marcus Smith (90), Fant finishes the job, pushing Smith toward the sideline, thereby creating an escape route for Wilson. Wilson heads toward the corner of the end zone. Linebacker Nigel Bradham (53) attempts to recover on Wilson, but never really has a shot. Wilson makes an excellent over the shoulder grab, and finishes the play by diving toward the end zone.
This play is the merging of great design and great players. It was concept art on the whiteboard and performance art on the field.
This Team Is The Best Squad Since 2013
During these last two weekends, this team surpassed the greatness of the 2014 and 2015 squads. This unit has had injuries, tons of injuries, yet it still sits at 7-2-1, and that’s because its bench players can play. The depth on this squad is what separates it from others. Also, this team can win ugly, and it has had to win a few ugly games this year, and that was something the 2015 squad lacked in particular. If this team can get enough bodies on the field for the playoffs, their biggest challenge will be the Dallas Cowboys, who are by no means having a fluke season. Dak Prescott should go to the Pro Bowl this year, that’s how good he is, but I’ve never seen a rookie who was ready for the Legion of Boom. Those guys just make inexperienced quarterbacks see ghosts.
Anyhow, the rest of the regular season puts the Hawks in an incredible position to run the table and put some heat on the Cowboys for the one-seed. The remaining win/loss record for the Hawks’ opponents is 22-37-1, a 38% win percentage. Here are the remaining records for the other division leaders.
Cowboys, 35-24-1, at 59%
Atlanta Falcons 24-35-1, at 41%
Detroit Lions 32-28, at 53%
Here are the starting quarterbacks and their rating for the closing of the Hawks’ season.
Jameis Winston, 88.5, 20th in the league (20/10, TD/INT ratio)
Cam Newton, 80.9, 27th (11/7)
Aaron Rodgers, 96, 13th (25/7)
Jared Goff, 65.8, 57th (0/0)
Carson Palmer, 83.6, 26th (13/10)
Colin Kaepernick, 85, 23rd (7/2)
Here are the defensive rankings for their final opponents. (This metric is by total points since the Hawks defense have proven this matters more than yards-per-game).
Basically, the Seahawks have a cupcake schedule. So long as this team follows the yellow brick road, the pathway to a bye week and home playoff games is right there.
These Extra Point Blunders Will Be Costly…Eventually
The Seahawks special teams squad has always been a productive unit, especially in big games. The best example being the 2014 NFC Championship game when the unit scored a touchdown on a pass from Jon Ryan to Garry Gilliam, and then when Chris Matthews made a crucial onside kick recovery. And while explosive, its bread and butter play was also solid. The consistency in the kicking department was the envy of many teams, but a weird trend is sticking around despite efforts to change it.
On Sunday, the NFL had a record high of twelve missed extra point attempts. One of those twelve came from the Seahawks. It was not a one-off situation. While Steven Hauschka is 21/24 on field goals this season, he is 22/26 on extra points. That’s right. His kicking percentage is higher for field goals than for extra points. And the problem goes beyond 2016. Hauschka also had four misses in 2015. Of his four 2016 misses, all four have been blocks. In 2015, two were misses and two were blocks. Out of the eight missed extra points since the point after was moved to the fifteen-yard line, six have been blocks. Thus far, the Seahawks have suffered no consequences for this play. All three games in 2015 with missed extra points were wins, as have been all four in 2016.
Inevitably, the team will miss an extra point in a game they lose. It will be interesting to see what the final score of that game will be.
Next Man Up
A number of injuries occurred on Sunday afternoon, including cornerback Deshawn Shead and safety Earl Thomas, which is half of the starting line-up in the secondary. Doubling their loss was that past Seahawks teams played almost universally in their base defense, meaning they only had four defensive backs. This year, due to injury issues and where the talent lies on the roster, the defense is using the nickel package (five defensive backs) a lot. Yet, what should’ve been quite the opportunity for the Eagles ended up being a non-factor. Apparently, someone forgot to tell DeAndre Elliott, Steven Terrell and Neiko Thorpe about how green they were supposed to be in their roles. Not only did these bench players stand their ground, they damn near looked like they had been playing regularly. They were comfortable in the system. They understood their assignments. They were even handling rotations well.
Here you can see Terrell shifting the defense. Nice first day on the job!
PS… Yeah, I know all three messed up a bit during the game, and the defense got more conservative, but given the circumstances, the fact that I have no gifs of these guys getting pantsed means something. They played well and they’re solid backups should they be called on in the postseason.
Thanks for reading!
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 | Week 10, Bam Bam Kam Is Prosise-ly What The Hawks Need, Finally Time To Put The Hurt On The NFC