It hit me last Saturday: The season is almost over. And as soon as I thought it I realized how awful that is.
See, I think fans take two forms. Fans who love like Romeo: Overwhelming infatuation, all consuming, but fickle and in need of constant approval. Fans who will jump from team to team looking for the fresh angle. Fans who will bolt when things hit the skids.
And fans who love like Rick Blaine: Bitterly loyal, fierce, steady, growing with both triumph and loss. Fans who might die before seeing their team win it all. Fans who fall more in love with their team watching it struggle to 2-11.
I'm Rick Blaine and the 2008 Seahawks never showed at that Paris train station.
Enough hugs and lollipops: The officials butchered a call to end the first quarter. The mistake may very well have cost Seattle the game.
On the last play of the first half, Matt Cassell passed to Jabar Gafney in the flat. Kelly Jennings tackled Gaffney at the New England 42 and so doing forced a fumble. Instead, the official ruled Gaffney down and time ran out before New England could attempt another snap. On replay, Gaffney is indisputably not down before the ball comes out. After the half, discussion was about whether Gaffney controlled the ball before dropping it. This is a smoke screen. Had Gaffney dropped the ball, the game clock would have been stopped and New England would have been forced to punt. But the official ruled Gaffney had caught the pass so the right call was fumble. Brian Russell recovered, but rushed for only a yard before being tackled by Gaffney. From there, it's a 58 yard field goal. That's improbable, but Seattle had all three timeouts. It's not improbable Seattle could have gained ten yards and still had time to attempt a kick. Mare is five for five from 40-49 yards and has kicked a 50 and 51 in three attempts of 50+.
When Seattle took the field to start the second half, it had a 65% chance of winning. In a game that was ultimately decided by three points, three points contingent on a successful two point conversion, this officiating mistake was game changing and maybe even outcome changing.
Mike Holmgren's Big Gay Heart: Mike Holmgren thinks Vallos had a good game. In the second quarter alone, Vallos blew a block on a delayed blitz, snapped the ball too early causing Mansfield Wrotto to stay crouched and allow Jarvis Green untouched into the backfield, and spearheaded a three stooges tight end screen in which Vallos, Wrotto and Ray Willis each pulled to separate places, none of them between Carlson and three Patriots.
When I read Holmgren's evaluations, two questions always arise in my mind: Is it enough for a player to be assignment correct even if they don't execute their assignment well? And is Holmgren soft on players he thinks are trying hard? Maybe he's too nice to be blunt with Vallos. Whatever it is, Vallos isn't bad on every or even most snaps. On most snaps, he's ineffectual. He's bad on enough snaps to be a liability. Many of the outright mistakes come from inexperience. If Seattle sees fit to retain Vallos, those problems should resolve themselves. The ineffectualness is more troubling. That means when Vallos does do everything right, he's just good enough to not matter.
Wrut-roh: On TJ Duckett's first run of the game, following a Wrotto false start, Duckett ran into Wrotto's back as Wrotto zone-loitered in the hole. That false start did a number on Wrotto's confidence and this was his worst drive of the game (so far).
Blade Fury: Atkins was really active, cutting across and laying a shoulder after Josh Wilson sent Lamont Jordan airborne (the two forcing a fumble), coming down hard behind the line and tackling Sammy Morris after two, and, for his first sack, hand fighting Matt Light into a stick-`em-up pose before disengaging and wrapping Matt Cassell. Actually, if you take your eyes away from the misdirection (Cassell did), you can see it right here:
Exhaustion Bubble: Seattle's defense has faced 875 plays this season, the most in the NFL. The last two games, and for the first time I can think of all season, Seattle's first team defensive tackles are getting pushed off the line. I think they're exhausted. If Red Bryant doesn't return, and perhaps even if he does, Seattle's run defense may begin to crumble. The deeper Rocky Bernard and Brandon Mebane are pushed into the second level, the more likely blockers will overcome Seattle's talented, but small linebackers. And beyond them lays a moving walkway to the end zone.