Week Twelve: The Breakthrough. (Yes, It’s Happening).
The Seahawks gained their biggest win of the season, and put themselves in the drivers seat for the playoffs, with an invigorating victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the first time this year, the offense came to play, and they were able to orchestra several long scoring drives, including a fourth quarter TD to ice the game. Meanwhile, the defense struggled–once again–against a talented passer who could decide where he was throwing on his pre-snap read. This was an exciting game that came right down to the finish and saw Seattle hold a fourth quarter lead to victory. All in all, it was a step in the right direction as the Seahawks gain momentum in the second half of the season.
The hero of the day is Russell Wilson. Celebrating his 27th birthday on the field of play, he turned in the big 5 TDs but the devil is in the details on this one. Going 21/30 for 345 yards, Wilson displayed his hyper-efficiency at being an NFL quarterback, gaining 11.5 yards per attempt and 16.4 yards per completion. These numbers are simply astronomical. They’re in another universe. Every time Wilson drops back to throw, the Seahawks gain a first down. It’s a testament to Wilson’s confidence and growing maturity that he can produce such monster numbers on a week-to-week basis. There’s not much to say about the guy that isn’t positive, and everything suggests that he will be on the of the NFLs best quarterbacks within the next 2-3 years.
Doug Baldwin put up his best game of the season, maybe the best game of his life, by showing what Doug Baldwin does best–run routes. He struggles to catch the ball in coverage, and he doesn’t have the length to pluck passes from the air, but when he fakes out a defender and hits his zone, the guy can be wide-open with nary a defender facing him. He understands what defenses are giving him, and then he takes it from them. Also, while Thomas Rawls did not duplicate his massive break-out success against the 49ers, he did have an excellent day of running, picking up hard yards and getting to his gaps quick enough to save the o-line from getting called on holding every other play.
The Seahawk defense had a pretty standard 2015 performance. They were suffocating against the run, below average against the pass, and they gave up fourth quarter points (although, they did not surrender the lead). The situation in the Legion of Boom saw a few positive signs. Playing against the pass happy Steelers, the Hawk’s had to rotate in many defensive backs, and the Steelers were more than happy to test newbie starter DeShaun Shead and recently activated Jeremy Lane, both performing admirably against one of the best offenses in the league.
Shead is an interesting young player. He’s not a finished product by any means, but it feels like he grows with every snap he plays. The upside on this guy feels massive. Lane picked up the big pick on an ill-advised Steelers trick play on a punt-look. (It was ill-advised as the Steelers gave away the play pre-snap and because the Seahawks have been beefing up the special team’s unit by rotating in their most talented players). That said, Lane did show rust and he will have to shake it off in the coming weeks. Earl Thomas had a weird game where he picked a lot of bad angles and whiffed on a few tackles. Richard Sherman continued his climb back to the top, making his case for being one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks. Since shutting down Dez Bryant, Sherman has looked more and more like his old self. He picked all the right angles, looked faster than anyone on the field, got his first interception of the year and played left, right, in the slot, wherever the Hawks needed him.
The Hawks should stick with this unit and keep Cary Williams on the bench. The Steelers are an incredible offense, and the revamped Hawks secondary played well-enough to deserve another outing.
The Seahawks have two consecutive weeks of cross-country games where they will play at 10:00AM. The win/loss record on 10:00AM games for west coast teams is dismal. It is always harder to win at 10:00AM so the Hawks will be facing difficult tests.
The first up is the Minnesota Vikings, of whom I am not too concerned. The Hawks are stout against the run, and I expect they will be able to slow down Adrian Peterson just enough to muck up this Viking’s offense. Also, Teddy Bridgewater is not polished enough as a passer to abuse the Hawk’s secondary the way a Carson Palmer or Ben Roethlisberger did. The big concern is if the offense can put up enough points to keep this game from being a nail biter. 39 points against the Steelers is the year’s highest output, and it will be vital that the Hawks offense continues to score over 24 points at the minimum.
At 6-5, the Hawks are winners of four of their last five and are serious contenders for a play-off spot. It’s too early to call it but taking care of business against the Vikings would be another boost in confidence for a team still in search of its soul.