Week Eight: The Sherman Show.
Seahawks @ Cowboys came out a road victory for the Hawks.
Let’s start with a gold star for the afternoon. I don’t care if Dez Bryant was coming off an injury, Richard Sherman beat him to every attack point on every throw. He played at top speed. He played with instinct. He stayed with Dez on the right or left side. In a low scoring, ugly game where a field goal decided win or loss, Sherman ensured that the Cowboys would not beat the Seahawks by getting one in over the top. Like most of the team, Sherman has struggled this year, but yesterday he was the biggest factor on defense. His crippling coverage over Dez compressed the field, shortening Cassel’s already limited throwing radius. I think it choked Cassel to death–to the point that Cassel became so frustrated that he gave up. Sherman had this best game of the year, IMO.
Conversely, we have to talk about Michael Bennett. It’s one thing to play with passion and like a crazed lunatic but you have to keep it together enough to not hurt your team. As much as I rag on the Seahawk’s offense, I do feel a huge portion of that Green Bay loss falls on Bennett’s false start penalties. During every game this year, and at the end of the Super Bowl, Bennett is either an instigator or a secondary participant in fights. Yesterday, he went low on Cassel on the Cowboy’s last drive, gaining the Cowboys fifteen yards on the penalty. During the slow motion replay, you can see Bobby Wagner staring at Bennett in disbelief, pointing to his brain, as if to say, “DUDE, THINK! THINK!” While Bennett is extraordinarily talented, his psychological grip on the game and his maturity as a veteran are poor. The Seahawk’s need Bennett to be a leader and an example for the others to follow but too often Bennett is an example of how to be a liability at the worst possible moment.
All and all, the Seahawk’s defense deserves a lot of credit. The Hawks are 4-4 and all four of those victories are due to this defense. At the very least, we know that–without this big play defense–Calvin Johnson doesn’t fumble and the Hawks lose to the Lions. 3-5 kills this team for the playoffs, so the Hawk’s D can deposit their paychecks with little shame.
I don’t know what to really say about the Hawks offense that I have not already stated. I understand the offensive line isn’t as good as it was in year’s past (tell me what part of this team is as good as it was in years past?) but they aren’t the whole story. Lynch has lost a step. Maybe it’s injury, maybe it’s age, but I’ve seen this before. Shaun Alexander did a disappearing act in exactly this same way. Nagging injuries that didn’t seem so big. Occasional high points that made you think, “He’s back! He’s back” before you realize, “Oh wait, he’s not.” The last few years we told ourselves that it was Lynch punishing the league but the war of attrition has caught up to Lynch. He is slow on his cuts, slow laterally, frequently off-balance and instead of dishing the big hits, Lynch is taking them, as opposing defenders have the time to square up and overpower him.
If you remove Russel Wilson’s rushing contributions, the real truth of the Seahawks rushing attack becomes frightening, especially on third down. Also, the Hawks unrequited love of running on first and ten is burying the passing game in 2nd and 3rd and long, putting tremendous pressure on Russell Wilson to exceed his already phenomenal 8 yard average per attempt. As an aside, to get 6-10 yards for a first down on third down eliminates slants and outs. You’re going up field–so you need an extra half second of protection. To recap this set, the Hawks run on first and 10, get 2, find themselves in a passing situation on 2nd down. It doesn’t work or only picks up 2-3. Now they’re 3rd and long or 3rd and near long, clear passing situation, and Bevell is asking the offensive line (that we already conceded is weak) to give Wilson .5 seconds longer to throw when the defensive ends are foaming at the mouth.
Not exactly a winning formula……………….
The Hawks do rack up a lot of rushing yards but since those yards are coming from first or second down, they do not extend drives. Essentially, they become empty calories that chew time off the clock but do not translate to points.
The Hawks are in trouble against the Cardinals. So far, the Hawk’s four wins are against these quarterbacks: Jimmy Clausen, Matt Stafford, Colin Kapernick, Matt Cassel. They’re losses? Nick Foles, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton. Now if you had to create a spectrum for these quarterbacks, where would you place Carson Palmer? For me, he’s neck and neck with Andy Dalton. For the purposes of this article, that makes Carson Palmer a dangerous opponent for the Seahawks. We know that teams who can throw the ball will score more than 20 points against the Seahawks. What does that mean? It means the Hawk’s offense needs to score at least 24. At the bare minimum, they have to score 24. Barring a miracle where Carroll and Bevell accept that the Hawks are a passing team, and give Wilson 40 to 50 pass attempts, the Seahawks will simply not be able to generate enough scoring opportunities from the 30 rushing attempts they will afford Lynch/Jackson/Rawls.
The 2015 Seahawks are a pass-first team, but as we approach week 9, it seems Pete Carroll and Co have decided to ride this season out and try to rebuild this offense into its past iterations during the offseason instead of forcing it to evolve and improve this year. In some respects, I can’t fault them. All teams need a year or two to reload through the draft and through free agency–that’s just the NFL. It’s my personal opinion that the Seahawk’s can win this year if they’re willing to approach the game differently but I could be proven wrong. Maybe the Hawks grab a lineman at a steal in the draft, get a guy from free agency looking to prove himself–next year, with a chance to offload Lynch and some others from the payroll, the Hawks can focus on rebuilding their O and D lines.