Sitting down and watching the tape and taking copious notes and sharing those notes is my absolute favorite thing to do at Field Gulls. The features pieces, the fire and brimstone and pollyanna opinion pieces, serve a different purpose and seemingly earn a more positive response, but describing the story of the game will always be my first love.
This comes up every so often when I meet other sports fans, but I just don't care about the personal lives of football players, coaches, owners and do not think they owe football fans anything off the football field. I don't care what Mike Williams tweets, and when Giants closer Brian Wilson appeared on the Jim Rome show, a link I found on Lookout Landing, I found him obnoxious and stopped the video. If I want to watch some swaggering jughead I can at least have a beer with it at the local bar.
I love sport for sport, and I love football because football is the absolute most complex and esoteric of any mainstream sport. When I sit down and begin to watch the tape over and over, and in slow motion, and even frame-by-frame on especially complicated plays, it's like unraveling a knot or solving a puzzle or playing a game of chess. And though I watched the game just a day earlier, re-watching it in a controlled and probing fashion is like a whole new experience. So much is revealed, and, in the nervous-manic fits I sometimes find myself in while watching tape, it can almost feel overwhelming. One play can seem so dense and impenetrable I can become intimidated.
Marshawn Lynch's 39 yard run on the fourth play of the game was just such a play. I can't tell you how many times I rewound that and played it again, watching different players interact, and piecing apart how it happened. It was fun when it happened, beautiful and intimidating on review, and, in my memory, everything I love about football: complex, subtle, delicate and dense with hidden performances.
One performance that wasn't hidden, that fans everywhere nailed on first viewing, was the sucktastic performance of Sean Locklear. It usually takes a food riot to inspire such a bloody travesty.
Onto the notes.
- Seattle shot out of the box with their opening scoring drive, and after Russell Okung was injured, that drive petered out. Our brains are hardwired to make connections and many people connected Okung's injury with the decline of the offense. Was it? I would say, to an extent, but not nearly the sea change many hope.
- For instance, on Lynch's first run, an eight yard run on an inside zone right, Okung didn't block Calais Campbell particularly well, and Campbell was well on his way to chasing down Lynch in the backfield, but began to stumble and fall for no real apparent reason. I'm pretty sure Mansfield Wrotto is equally capable of missing his block and then watching his assignment trip and fall.
- But that long Lynch run, the one that I spent so long picking apart, did feature Okung and in a way I don't think any other Seahawks offensive tackle is capable of.
- Here's the setup without maybe all the gory details: Seattle sets with two wide receivers, two backs and a tight end, but the formation is like a four wide receiver set. It has-two man bunches left and right pinned close to the line.
- On the left, Michael Robinson is aligned like a tight end, but prior to the snap, he motions to fullback in an "I" right.
- The rush develops off of left end with a good size cutback lane for Lynch. Ben Hamilton is able to get under and steer Campbell right. That's significant, because Ham Fighter versus Calais Campbell isn't a dream matchup.
- Then Okung does something subtle, but if I may, fucking awesome. He pulls into the second level and engages inside linebacker Daryl Washington and blocks him hard right and into the pile. At that point, the cutback lane is torn wide open.
- The final moment, other than Lynch's chug chug chug, is Robinson's cut block on Joey Porter. Robinson drops a shoulder into Porter's thigh and knocks him down and when Porter gets up to attempt to pursue Lynch from the backside, Robinson recovers and blocks and knocks over Porter again.
- From there, Lynch cuts from behind Hamtilon right of center into a huge clearing on the left. He doesn't run away from defenders like one would like, but he does keep Deon Butler out in front of him and deke Kerry Rhodes back and forth for another ten.
Then some stuff happened that I'll forgive you if you don't care about. Let's fast forward to the Okung injury.
- It's second and six and the Seahawks are in a run formation: 2 TEs (left), Williams on the right, I formation. Prior to the snap, John Carlson motions from left end to the right slot.
- Chris Baker is assigned Campbell and he doesn't accomplish that assignment and he injures Okung in the process.
- Okung pulls forward and blocks Paris Lenon. Chris Spencer eventually escapes the pile and joins Okung in the second level. Okung's pull block and the motion of the pile opens an incomplete cutback lane on the left.
- It's incomplete because Baker is a step slow out of his stance, attempts to angle block Campbell and is pushed away. Lynch can not cut back because of Campbell and so continues right and into the pile and nets two yards.
- But in a rash and desperate attempt to drop Campbell, Baker attempts a late cut block, glances off Campbell's hip and rolls up the legs of an unsuspecting Okung. Boom: injury.
- Don't get me wrong, I'm not ripping Baker. His block is the downside of hustle, I guess. But that's how it happened.
- And the silver lining is, if you can squint and see it, Baker probably could have injured anyone with that block. To my eye, Okung didn't do anything wrong. It was just a bad result of a routine play.
Now onto Sean.
- 1-1-ARI 1 (9:48) PENALTY on SEA-75-S.Locklear, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at ARZ 1 - No Play. That play was worth -2% win probability.
- Then Locklear blows two blocks. He misses Darnell Dockett and Dockett swarms Lynch in the backfield, and when Lynch almost Beast Modes out of calamity, Locklear's second missed block, this one a whiff on Lenon, arrives to complete the tackle. -3% win probability.
- Deon Butler runs a really nice dig route to put Seattle back at the two. +1 win probability.
- But Locklear laughs at Butler's feeble attempts, and kills the drive. Well, it's interesting actually.
- It's loud, too loud, and when Chris Spencer snaps the ball, it doesn't seem like anyone, even Matt Hasselbeck if I'm reading his body language correctly, anticipates it. So the line fires off in waves emanating from center and Locklear is particularly late. Alan Branch, the Cardinals version of Red Bryant, cuts in front of Locklear and into the backfield untouched. Lock pursues him but it's hopeless. Branch catches Lynch from behind for a loss of two. -7% win probability.
The blocked kick, my impartial side must note, is very, very close. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie keys long snapper Clint Gresham's tensing of his arm and very first, ever so slight movement of the football, but DRC's arm and the front of his helmet are in the neutral zone as the ball begins its slide backwards. I do not dispute the penalty, but it really is a fraction of a second from being an absolutely spectacular play from Cromartie, the kind of timing off the snap you see maybe once a month.
This has grown long, probably better to split it into two posts.