Week Sixteen: Only a Hiccup.
Before I get into the Hawks/Rams game, I want to state a few other things that happened this Sunday. The Patriots, Steelers, Panthers and Packers all lost. Meanwhile, the Vikings–one of the worst offenses in the league–put up 49 points. Go figure. Yesterday was one of those weird Sundays that happen once or twice a season. You look at these scores and about nothing makes sense (except for the Chargers blowing an overtime game–that made perfect sense). The Seahawks got caught in the same game the Patriots, Panthers and Steelers got caught in, the “trap” game against an inferior divisional opponent who played way above their heads to win.
About nothing went well for the Seahawks. The ball seemed unusually slick, resulting in a few dropped passes and horrendously poor snaps. These mistakes always happened at the most inopportune moment, killing drives. A few calls from the officiating crew, including upholding a questionable no catch on Tyler Lockett, kept the game close. To put the icing on the cake, the Rams got all the lucky bounces, including two forward fumbled balls that were recovered for huge gains, ending in the most garbage touchdown in the history of the NFL. (Okay, I’m exaggerating but I’m still hot about it).
However, not all is well with the Seahawks. For the second straight week, the running game regressed. Without the ferocity and decisiveness of Thomas Rawls, the Seahawks went limp in the first quarter, unable to get the first downs necessary to sustain a big opening drive. As the afternoon progressed, the offense quickly became pass-only. This pattern is similar to the regression the Seahawks saw at the beginning of the year, when they chose to stick with a struggling Marshawn Lynch. The Hawks can ill-afford to lose their running game. Without Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, the offense had no way to attack the middle of the field and instead had to throw to the sidelines where their smaller receivers could work in space. The only potential cure to this ailment is the return of Beast Mode for a playoff run. (His MMA trainer seems positive this will occur).
On a positive note, Doug Baldwin caught his 14th touchdown pass of the year, setting a Seahawks record. The dude is killing it right now. From making a 28 yard catch on 3rd and 31 to blowing past three defenders only a few plays later for a touchdown, Baldwin had cracked NFL defenses and defenses can do little but try to contain his onslaught. This is not a fluke. Assuming Baldwin stays healthy, get your popcorn ready because this is the reality of Wilson to Baldwin.
The defense had a solid day against a Rams unit that made few mistakes. If one considers that 7 points came off a fumble return and another 7 came off the pair of Ram’s miracle fumble recoveries–you can’t imagine how pissed I am about that, my actual text after it happened: “Bullshit. Total Bullshit.”–the defense only yielded 9 points. It was a dominate performance against a team that came to play its best game of the season and did play it.
That said, two 3rd and 9 situations saw a Hawks collapse, both being converted by surrendering to passes (I believe). Also, Richard Sherman gave up an uncharacteristic touchdown to Kenny Britt. This is the continuing drama of the Hawks secondary, or as we used to call it, “The Legion of Boom.” No matter what the Hawks try, this seems to be a year of transition. Jeremy Lane appears to have (rightfully) earned the starting role; however, his performance left a lot of be desired. McCray did a good job starting in place of Kam, and I still see potential for the Hawks to save big bucks by keeping him as a starter if he can improve in run coverage (Kam’s specialty).
The Seahawks were the recipient of many Pro Bowl selections. None of them would I argue with save for two. Marshawn Lynch made it as a alternate, as did Kam Chancellor. If there was ever an argument to ending fan voting, it’s these two selections. Lynch has barely played this year, and he was mostly ineffective when he did. Kam missed the first two games, these last two games, and has been equally as ineffective. Both are players who do not deserve to be Pro Bowlers, nor should they be Seahawks next year.
Week 17 brings a rematch against the Arizona Cardinals. Considering the fourth quarter heroics that the Panthers have needed to win these last few games, losing their most recent on the final drive, it would seem like the crown for the best team in the NFL belongs to the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are dominate at every aspect of the game. This is their year, so to speak. Everything they have built is reaching its point of maximum effectiveness. They will never be a better team than they are right now, and the Seahawks will need to be their best and need some luck to win.
The Seahawks are 9-6 and headed for the playoffs no matter what, so perhaps next week is the time to rest starters. Russell Wilson took a pounding against the Rams and was continually grabbing his knee during the game. Doug Baldwin is nursing a hamstring issue. Bennett with his toe. The rest of the roster has a concussion (seriously, these two teams kill each other). I doubt the Hawks will rest guys but maybe it would be best if they did.
Losing to the Rams was a weird loss in a weird week for the NFL. It doesn’t define this team; however, this coming challenge against the Cardinals and the post-season to follow are when we see what these Seahawks can muster.