Week Three: Bench Lynch?
Before we get started…
When Jimmie Graham caught that ball over the middle, shed a safety and took off for the end zone, it just seemed too easy. The Clink didn’t go wild for a touchdown alone, they went wild because it just seemed too easy, and that made it feel like a saving grace. Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette—you name it, they’d have all gone down on that tackle but Graham’s thighs looked like they were bigger than the defender’s torso. For me, I saw Super Bowl 50, somewhere in the third quarter, a rematch against the Patriots. It’s a close game. The Seahawks defense has a better plan for Gronk (who knows what), they’re tackling solidly on Edelman, and a few well-timed blitzes are—all together—making Tom Brady look slightly pedestrian. Anything could break this game open. One easy touchdown could make the difference. And Graham gets that little bit of space, Wilson hits him in stride, and a one score game becomes a two score game and maybe…
The Seahawks have a long way to go until they can once again consider themselves to be an elite team, but yesterday’s game against the Bears may have taught them something about themselves.
The question is, did they want to learn it? And will they keep doing it?
This is a pass first offense, and we see that now. The Seahawks offensive line cannot win a match-up, hat for hat, against any NFL defense. Once again, the Seahawks found themselves in a hole when presented with an opportunity to run on third and short and there was no one put wide out. The only time the offense seemed alive was when it was marching down the field with the passing game (the vertical passing game, not the horizontal one). The issue is that the Seahawks don’t seem to want to stay with it, especially when they are in the red zone. It’s hard to tell if it’s the play calling or jitters on Russell Wilson’s part, but the Seahawks are not making throws to the end zone unless they are on the goal line. Paradoxically, that’s when the throwing lanes are most congested. After the Bears pulled the entire defense back to the end zone (WTF was that?) and Wilson hit Kearse up the middle, the entire drive fell apart on two poorly thrown passes to the left corner of the end zone. In this particular circumstance, it was clear the Bears were defending against the touchdown by dropping everyone to the end zone, but the lesson seemed pretty clear.
They preferred the Seahawks to be at the two yard line instead of the twelve.
This is Russell Wilson’s team and it’s time to give him the keys. The type of offense the Hawks have been running the last few years made some measure of sense. Look at how young everyone was! Wilson was a stud but he still needed room to mature, to grow. The receivers were green, as well. The Seahawks were winning on a few good drafts but these guys weren’t ready for a full-time big-boy offense, so the coaching staff gave them an offense that they could succeed in and, most importantly, minimize their mistakes in. Well, the Seahawks have grown up. These guys are not rookies, they’re borderline veterans and they’re ready to go to the next level, evolve into the next stage of their careers. You can see it when Russell Wilson is in the pocket. If he just gets a tenth of a second quicker on his decisions, he is going to start dictating games with his arm, not with his legs. This year accuracy has been a problem for Wilson but the bigger problem is that he is ready to take over this team, and the team wants him to take it over, but there is one big obstacle.
It’s time to bench Marshawn Lynch. Is the injured? Is he old? Is he just a bad fit for an offensive line that can’t give him that step to get up the speed? Is he bringing a subtle and maybe unintended dissension to the locker-room? The answers to these questions will always be incomplete but yesterday proved what this entire season has proved. The Seahawks can only run the ball when they pass to run, and Marshawn Lynch needs to feed the beast before the beast gets going. This “injury” of his—perhaps as physical as it is his pride—happens at an opportune time for the Seahawks. Rawls seemed very comfortable being the “change of pace” running back instead of the “everything goes through me” running back. Once the Bears were afraid of the Hawks beating them in the second level, Rawls used his speed and ferocity to knock off some very timely runs.
It’s hard to let go of a guy who has brought as much as Lynch but football is a heartless sport. Lynch is a poor fit for a Seahawk’s offense that wants and needs to evolve into a traditional passing offense.
The defense didn’t just like blitzing—they loved it, and it worked. The Seahawks decided to be opportunistic on defense this week. It’s easy to put it on Kam Chancellor returning but Kam didn’t have a big impact in this game. The Seahawks have struggled in pass coverage and the Bears had a clear “we won’t pass the ball” strategy, which felt like a “we want to lose a close game” strategy. Anyhow, that’s hardly the Seahawk’s fault. While the Hawks struggled against the run early in the game, it felt like they were confident and in control. They were disciplined and not looking for the home run. What was exciting is some of the fun blitzes they used. Being a guy who has watched a lot of Seahawks games, I felt overwhelmed by the number of blue jerseys in the backfield. Few quarterbacks are going to be able to go through their progressions with that type of chaos coming at them.
The Seahawks pride themselves on being a team that uses its secondary as a secondary way of creating pass pressure but the Seahawks discovered that generating a good old fashion rush is pretty fun (and effective).
The Seahawks need team chemistry to be elite, and they acknowledge it. One area where I love the Seahawks is in their devotion to being friends with one another. As we enter into adult life, it becomes easy to accept a certain set of friends, a spouse, and to let our lives get smaller as we plan for the future. Athletes are no different! In a way, it’s pathetic to see the Gatorade bath at the end of the game (these guys have gone to Super Bowls) but in another way it’s inspiring. The Seahawks want to be friends—not necessarily the best of friends, but they want to more than just professional football players. They want this team to be a family, and so not to sound too sentimental, I think it speaks volumes about their maturity and their commitment. Like a lot of couples who find themselves in couple’s therapy, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it, and the Seahawks are looking for their way out of purgatory.
The Seahawks learned a lot this week about the kind of team they need to be to win. Another poor outing by the offense (six points in the first half) and only one TD for the entire game (another sub-20 point game) is a sign that this team just isn’t ready for the big-time. If Cutler had been playing, this game would have been another close one and possibly a Seahawks loss; meanwhile, the Patriots put up 51 points on the Jaguars. Football has a funny way of making you confront your past mistakes. Just like Tom Brady had to agonize after the miracle catch by Kearse in the Super Bowl—like he suffered two miracle catches in two previous Super Bowl losses—the Hawks will likely find themselves exactly where they were last season when “the INT” took a team of destiny and made them feel mortal.
The Seahawks need to stay focused on their evolution to be ready for their next confrontation with mortality. But do they want to evolve, or do they want to “stay the course?”