Home of the Beast Force Backfield

I picked up a book I bought a while back, Contempt, and began to read it last night. It's written like this:

I walked towards the window, thinking jumbled thoughts of loves past, my feet felt pricks of nerves coming alive, which, in fact, they were not; but they were reminding me they were there, and I should feel them, feel pain, if only for a vanishing instance; and I looked out the window and saw the sun vanishing over the Vtlava River.

Ok, so it's not that bad and it doesn't take place in Prague, but it's sort of stuttering like that with lots of clauses and asides and contemplative framing of seemingly normal events. The book isn't very old, about a half century, and it's not some quickly forgotten trifle, it's considered a classic of sorts, but Alberto Moravia's prose is well, aged seeming. It seems outdated and poorly tuned to the modern ear.

Or maybe I read too many blogs.

Commas are falling out fashion. Modern writing in general is very mindful of its readers' short attention span. I've adjusted my writing, especially these sort of scouting pieces, to be terse and to the point, while my personal writing is busy and dense.

Why do I mention this? I surely lost some readers around the word "book." I mention this because I connect almost everything in my life to football, and reading something so out of time got me thinking about what is timeless in football and what is forever changing. It got me thinking about this quote I found in an old copy of National Geographic:

During mass extinctions the rules change. What had been advantageous may suddenly become a liability. --Jack Sepkoski

Not an entirely original thought there, but accurate.

Workhorse backs like Marshawn Lynch are dying out. That's been my assumption for some time. In a passing league, in which receiving and blocking are as important to a back as running the ball, there's vanishing value in the everydown masher that pushes the pile, breaks tackles, etc. Backs, like defensive tackles, should be fresh and have specialized skills and work in a committee and if any one back doesn't break one hundred yards rushing, that essential milestone, it doesn't matter.

And I think that's probably true. A team doesn't need an everydown back anymore, but though styles change, and back usage is a stylistic change, quality is timeless. Lynch may not profile like a "modern" running back, he's a sturdy generalist rather than a dynamic specialist, but his talent is timeless. Seattle may not need Lynch to take every carry. His stamina and durability may not be the vital assets they once were. Lynch may not tote the rock until he breaks important seeming milestones, but his talent his performance, like an evocative story however written, is undeniable. In the hurry to square and define Lynch, his value relative to his cost, talent of all things was something I didn't emphasize enough. Dude's called Beast for a reason.

Still with me?

To the notes:

We left with Chicago closing to within four following a field goal.

  • I worried that Matt Hasselbeck might not have the wheels to execute roll outs. I would have to look back through my notes to determine this for sure, but I don't think roll outs have been particularly effective for Seattle.
  • First play of the drive, Matt fakes hand off and rolls right. Israel Idonije chases in and is initially blocked but breaks free and closes on Hasselbeck. I don't think of the soon to be 30 year old end as particularly fast, especially not relative to outside linebackers that sometimes close on roll outs, but he's fast enough to force Hass out of his roll out and into throwing the ball away at Chris Baker's feet.
  • Lynch run. Nothing wild. Okie and Ham Fighter team up and block Matt Toeaina into the turf, but the scrum closes around Lynch and the Bears force third and nine.
  • The stalled drive is consummated when Hasselbeck targets John Carlson underneath and he's quickly wrapped short of the first. Run this play and target Carlson one thousand times and 997, he's tackled short. The other three, Carlson drops it.

Bears ball.

  • At this point, what we perceive as momentum is definitely shifting. The Bears had forced a three and out and were about to construct a respectable drive. My memory of this game is that Seattle sort of ran away with it, even though the score never indicated as much, but it was actually very close for a good long time.
  • Matt Forte curls to receive and three Bears offensive lineman form an arrow pattern in front, ready to gash Seattle with yet another effective screen pass. Behind this frightening development are three fallen Sehaawks: Kentwan Balmer, Craig Terrill and Raheem Brock. Roy Lewis was out of position on a nickel blitz. Colin Cole was upright but, well, Cccooollliiinnn Cccooollleee, if you dig. And so the Bears gashed Seattle up the right sideline for 19. Lawyer Milloy, and who else, right? makes the saving tackle.
  • Seahawks rush four, their front four, generate no pressure; Devin Hester crosses in front of Will Herring and is free and has a mismatch, though Herring is, for all intents and purposes, executing his assignment, but Jay Cutler looks off Hester and instead scrambles left. He rushes for five.
  • Johnny Knox and Matt Forte are right next to each other up the left sideline. That must be some kind of mistake, and when Cutler tosses it deep towards Forte, it's essentially into triple coverage. Walter Thurmond reads the pass in flight (!!!), drops coverage on Knox, joins Earl Thomas in a double team and tips the pass away incomplete.
  • Chris Clemons pressures on a loop inside and Lofa Tatupu tips away a pass targeting Chester Taylor.

Seahawks ball at the six.

  • Michael Robinson pulls from trips to block inside and Lynch plunges forward for five. That isn't cause and effect. It's novel detail and result. Lynch wins the yardage through power.
  • Messed up angle by Beef Moat here, as the play action is kind of comically botched. Hass reaches as if to hand off to Lynch but Lynch is a good foot from the outstretched ball. Anyone playing run ought to be ashamed. Hasselbeck finds Lynch free on the right and Lynch receives and just barely makes the first.
  • Carlson seals Julius Peppers and Justin Forsett cuts back against his blockers and turns the corner around left end. He breaks up field for 11.
  • Carlson blocks Idonije but Stacy Andrews misses Brain Urlacher and the next Forsett run nets four.
  • Linebackers bite play action and stay gap true and that frees Robinson on the right, but he drops it.
  • Mike Williams separates from Charles Tillman in the left flat and stretches for a wide throw and receives for eight and the first. Matt is throwing away from coverage, but this is a hard, truly harder than necessary, catch.
  • Since we're talking BMFMW, and since people sometimes pick my brain about how good this or this talent is in isolation, or how good I think this or this talent is in isolation, I want to make clear that I think Williams could be a top five receiver. He isn't super fast, and he sometimes loses concentration in traffic, but he's huge, coordinated and his route running, especially at 6'5" 230, is absolutely a marvel to behold. Guys like Williams shatter profiles.
  • More Lynch Effect: Pisa Tinoisamoa chases Lynch towards the right flat, Urlacher blitzes off right end and Chris Baker comes wide open over the middle. Matt finds him for an easy 16. Shades of 2007, there. The Man Called Aerodynamics caught like 20 passes over the middle just like so.
  • The least exciting event in football: Slot Machine rhythm catch over the middle. Not that I don't love you, Brandon, but you're boring.
  • Chris Spencer misses his block on Brian Urlacher and, you guessed, Frank Stallone tackles Robinson on a fullback quick hitter.
  • Force drops Peppers. Other stuff happens. Justin Forsett upends and drops Julius Peppers in the open field. Other stuff happens. Matt's an inexplicable beat late passing towards Deon Butler in the left flat and a beat is more than enough for Zack Bowman to close and tackle Butler short of the first, in fact, for a loss.
  • And it was a misdirection play that absolutely had to be bang-bang. Butler motions to left fullback prior to the snap and is uncovered ever so briefly, but Matt just doesn't pull the trigger. He waited and his opportunity was lost.
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