The Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) defeated the Buffalo Bills. The Los Angeles Rams (3-5) lost to the Carolina Panthers. The San Francisco 49ers (1-7) lost to the New Orleans Saints and are on a seven-game losing streak. The Arizona Cardinals (3-4-1) were on a bye week.
After two weeks of depressing production, the offense exploded for 31 points, its first thirty point game since week three. Going 20/26 for 282 yards and 2TDs, a healthier and freer Russell Wilson was able to extend plays beyond his first read. Wilson spent a fairly equal amount of time between being under center and in the shotgun. His movement inside the pocket was considerably improved and his outside the pocket game was his best this season. Of the three times Wilson rushed, two resulted in a touchdown and a first down, on a mere total of ten yards. This effect was felt elsewhere. His mobility allowed relief to the offensive line. On many plays, the way the offense beat the pass rush was not better blocking, but by moving the pocket.
This play saw Wilson complete a fifty-yard pass to Doug Baldwin, setting up the Seahawks for first and goal at the three-yard line. Paired with taking a deep drop, Wilson moves to the right, and the entire offensive line moves the pocket with him.
(This pass is the best pass of the 2016 season. A tear drop that dropped so cleanly Baldwin simply had to cradle it like a baby. In fact, I think Wilson could’ve thrown a sleeping infant fifty yards and it would’ve landed still asleep. Hell, maybe he could’ve throw an egg and Baldwin would’ve caught it without breaking it).
Pass protection from the tailback position is essential to an effective passing game. Christine Michael has struggled in this role all year. CJ Prosise saw an increase in snaps, and while his stat line was hardly sexy, he played a solid all-around game. Check out his pick up here. This touchdown never happens with Michael on the field, and it illustrates what a blink of an eye can buy on the football field.
New team rule: Prosise and Michael are no longer allowed to dress like twins. Though, I decoded it eventually. Prosise wears white glove and Michael wears black.
This Injured Defense Is Vulnerable
This defense is banged up and is desperate for any player who can competently take a few snaps at either defensive end or linebacker. Cliff Avril has put other guys on his shoulders, saying, “I will create the disruption. You do the clean up.” Yet, his intensity and production are not being matched by Frank Clark or Cassius Marsh. This defense can still scheme its way to a lot of pressure, but it will struggle to close the deal. Though, this plethora of injuries is not solely negative. Outside of the touchdown he gave up to Taylor, which many a great football player has given up to Wilson, Brock Coyle showed some real sparks. And, man, the guy has a motor.
Due to the size mismatch, Coyle did not attack offensive lineman Ryan Groy’s upper body. He went low, taking out Groy’s knees. In a remarkable display of energy, once free, Coyle moved inside for a potential rush on quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor attempted to flush out of the pocket, and Brock sprung to the outside. Taylor adjusted, moving inside, where Coyle caught him. In terms of football IQ, Brock has some gains to make, but like many of the Carroll-era players, the guy is a baller and has some real meat on his bones.
Beyond that, third down has become difficult because Jeremy Lane has disappeared. Last year, Lane was far and away the better cover corner to Deshawn Shead. This year? Week after week, you see Lane, hell, you see Sherman, getting owned, but when does it happen to Shead? When does he get burned? When does his lack of discipline cost the team a touchdown? It’s hard to explain because defensive backs don’t take a leap like Shead has. The job is a hunter position. Sometimes hunting requires a DB to go for the kill. Sometimes it requires patience. But, the hunter always knows. And, right now, Sherman is giving yards and touchdowns, Kelcie McCray is struggling, even Earl Thomas is occasionally missing tackles, but Deshawn Shead?
Just this. Our #2 corner. Against LeSean McCoy.
A final thought… McCray played both a great and bad game. He was like a yo-yo, but so was everyone else. What was KJ Wright thinking on that touchdown the two messed up on? They were both so fooled by the ghost of Tyrod Taylor that they froze, but McCray will catch the most hell for it.
The Running Game
Over the last two weeks, Wilson has amassed only twenty-one rushing yards, but they may be the most consequential yards this season. It’s not enough, not even close to enough. He has to get to twenty, hopefully twenty-five yards. Needing Wilson to take off is not a reflection of him as a quarterback. As a pocket passer, Wilson could stand in there and deliver strikes all day. The reason Wilson needs to run more is because, when Wilson moves, every player around him becomes better. It may be December before Wilson can run the option again, but right now, even as hobbled as he is, he is the best all-around rushing threat the Seahawks have. He’s the only guy who can get a first down, get a touchdown, on a lark, with no reason to think he can so.
The offensive line is not run blocking well, but sometimes, you can pass block in a way that allows a quarterback to get free, even if by total accident, as long as you have a quarterback who can understand the situation.
One can always hope Thomas Rawls will explode upon his reentrance, or that Prosise—who has a solid understanding of the nuts and bolts of the position—will develop, but today and on Sunday, Wilson needs to prove to opponents that this offense can generate rushing yards.
Can the Hawks beat the Patriots on the Road?
The way things are looking, expect Tom Brady to have a great football game. (Stop the presses!) I expect a +70% completion percentage and at least 2 TDs, as he picks apart a nickel defense that plays on its heels, even in run situations. This defense knows its ammunition is depleted and it’s playing it safe, especially on third down; however, once the field is shortened, a lot of these superb athletes shine. Brady cannot extend plays in the way Taylor did, so the key is to keep him contained and to try to get there in three seconds.
The Hawks will need another thirty point performance to win, and it cannot be a repeat performance of what happened against the Bills. This offense has to get some type of running game going to keep Brady off the field. The fewer snaps Brady gets, the greater the likelihood of victory. Otherwise, I won’t be negative. This team never gets killed and, no matter how bad they play, they win despite it all the time.
Be patient. Have faith. This team is better than the 2015 squad and it can win the Super Bowl.
Thanks for reading!
*This post originally talked about Christine Michael during the fifty yard pass to Doug Baldwin. A Reddit user convinced me to pull it.
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