Good half, the Hawks' D starred, natch. One thing you might have noticed is just how much playing time Craig Terrill saw. Once things got pretty lopsided, it made sense to let Rocky Bernard rest. I like Terrill a lot, he's truly unappreciated by anything but the one-percenter Seahawks fans, but he really is best suited as a sub. His greatest assets, a fast first step and excellent quickness seem to wear down with regular snaps. Someone who doesn't possess a fast first step is Baraka Atkins. Atkins, in fact, possesses the slowest first step I've ever seen. You hate to see someone so talented seemingly so clueless about the snap count, but the guy was literally two steps behind his line mates on every snap.
- Briefly, because I don't spend as much time watching special teams play (try it and you'll see what I mean), I want to congratulate the Hawks wedge unit. You don't see lead blockers get instant replay treatment much, but Burly's lead blockers got the nod after his 91 yard kickoff return. In reality though, they didn't do anything particularly impressive, this Rams kick return team was begging to be exposed. When a wedge unit gets as far out on the field as Seattle's did, with nary a gunner to disrupt their daisy chain, any competent returner in football is going to explode through this walking offensive line. I think this is just the beginning of disasters to come for the Rams' kicking team.
Blink and you might've missed the Hawks O in the second half. Instead let's look at the Hawks' big D, what a half, what a game.
- Kerney had another nice game. His sack on the Rams first play of their second drive is a great example of how sometimes, very rarely, one player makes the play essentially on his own. Tapp is out with a busted up hand, subbed in is Atkins aligned at right end. Pre-snap, the Hawks three down linemen minus Kerney slide right, Kerney in turn slides slightly out left. At the snap, Terrill and Mebane crash into the center of the pile, Atkins stays in the blocks (duh.) and Kerney puts a "you don't belong here" bull-rush on Milford Brown. Brown is walked, no, jogged back, Kerney gets in under Brown's pads, pushes off and wraps Bulger up in a you-never-had-a-shot kind of sack. Mebane, for his part, forces a double team and busts through at the end. Had the play lasted more than three seconds, Bane might have delivered vital inside pressure. Atkins, I guess was guarding the outside rush lane, because he's out playing pattycake while his line mates are causing havoc. None of it much matters, though, because Kerney delivers the goods. The drive is aborted, Tapp cleans up two plays later with his 4th sack and a forced fumble on a hopeless 3rd and 17, and an injured Ram gives us time to see the Hawks D goof off on the sidelines. Hooray.
- Have I told you how much I like the 3-3 Nickel formation? The Hawks 3-3 Nickel has two primary looks, Peterson up and floating or Peterson positioned as a down lineman opposite the left tackle. You could probably describe the later as a 4-2 Nickel, but I prefer to call it a 3-3 because of Peterson's versatility. The reason I don't make that distinction might be clear in a second, but first let's look at a true 3-3 formation, Peterson up, 7th play of the Rams' 4th drive of the half. The Hawks' D line is set up wide, with the ends opposite the Rams' tackles and Bernard playing a true nose. The Hawks' linebackers are staggered left (right offensive). At the snap Tapp and Bernard pull right, Tatupu rushes in to where the left defensive tackle would usually play, he's a decoy. Here's key one, Kerney uses an outside edge rush to the right offensive side, pulling Brown out wide. Peterson wraps around Tatupu's starting position and begins to turn into the exposed right C gap like so.
Now key two, Hill comes on the delay blitz more or less alongside Peterson, Peterson falls and Hill shows a second gear like roid-aided Shawne Merriman. He's summarily on Bulger delivering a crushing blow. The great thing is, Kerney is almost there himself, he could have probably gotten the sack even without Hill, but Hill's hit is a three megaton blast, the kind that forces fumbles from players wearing flack jackets and busts ribs of those who aren't. If anyone has the chance to see this game again, I implore you, watch Hill hit that hole. I watched it a few times in honest disbelief, he looks crazy fast.
- 3-3 Nickel again, this time Peterson is playing down lineman. First play, Saint Louis's next drive. Peterson has the pass rush ability of an elite defensive end, but he's not and that's an important distinction and here's why. The Rams are pinned within their twenty, this is screen and draw country. The Rams call the former, Peterson edge rushes, but Alex Barron retreats, never putting a block on him. It's a classic suck-up, get the line deep and then dish the ball behind them screen. Peterson reads this, breaks his rush and pulls into a short zone directly in front of Brian Leonard. It all happens so fast, a split second read an' react, and Bulger not wanting to give away the play never looks until he's thrown the ball right to Peterson. Interception, the Hawks score two plays later, Julian Peterson rocks the funk right from my socks.
- Lots more I can talk about, but this is getting a bit long, so a brief one about Deon Grant. Fans may have noticed something specific that's changed about the Hawks secondary from the prior three seasons. Teams are not throwing the ball deep over the middle like they used to. Ken Hamlin and Michael Boulware had a way of getting eaten up by the deep post nearly every game. It was astounding, really. Grant suffers no such foolishness.
It's the 8th play of the Rams last offensive series, second and ten, but generally speaking the Rams are having their way against an extremely soft zone. The score is 33-6 with about a minute and a half left in the contest. Seattle is in their, wait on it, 3-3 Nickel package. At the snap Seattle sends a perfunctory pass rush, Bulger takes a five step drop, steps into a deep pass, and is picked off. On the instant replay you can see Grant about 15 yards from the play, deep center, at the time of the throw. He runs expertly to where the receiver will be, forms the inside half of a bracket with Kelly Jennings and jumps up for the pick as if he were the receiver. A great, if unspectacular play and notice that the Seahawks are no longer soft deep.