Sometimes the game is on my mind and sometimes what the game means consumes most of my postgame thoughts. The latter dominated yesterday. With the season over, and the realization that the season is over really dawning on me this morning, I wanted to take one last chance to talk about the Seahawks recent performance and what I thought worked and what I thought didn't work.
- Matt Hasselbeck had a very good game. He had protection. He found open receivers. Though most of his stats were acquired in garbage time, and though all of Seattle's 24 inconsequential points were scored in the deepest recesses of garbage time, that wasn't Hasselbeck or the offense's fault.
- Seattle has been blown out in ten different ways, if you want to be specific about it. We could probably group those blowouts into two distinct variants though: Games the offense sputtered and the defense slowly crumbled and games the offense was okay but the defense was run off the field. Oakland, at St. Louis and New Orleans were prime examples of the former. At San Francisco, Denver and yesterday's game against the Bears are good examples of the latter.
- Greg Olsen had more yards and as many touchdowns yesterday as he had in his previous six games. His first reception, a 58 yard touchdown pass that symbolically ushered Lawyer Milloy out of the league, was worth 17% win probability. In application, it was worth even more. Both teams needed an early lead. The Bears seized it.
- Olsen's next reception was worth 6% win probability. His next, a 22 yard reception early in the second quarter, was worth only 1%, but that's because the Bears were already so far ahead. Chicago was at 87% at the end of the first quarter, and that assumes neutral opponents and no home field. In reality, the Bears top ten defense was protecting a two touchdown advantage against a traveling Seahawks team with a bottom five offense and a bottom five passing offense. The game was effectively over.
- The Seahawks didn't lose just because they couldn't cover Olsen, but it was a particularly bad matchup and Seattle seemed ill prepared to stop it. After pointing to Mike Martz's stubbornness as a play caller as one reason the Seahawks could beat the Bears, Martz outsmarted Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley, Dan Quinn, et al. Had it been an aberration, it would be forgivable, but it's not and auditing the leadership and direction of this defense is imperative now. I will get into that in a separate post.
- So the Seahawks defense fell apart, but Seattle battled on and scored three meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Hasselbeck was particularly good and even as much of his surrounding talent was not. Mike Williams struggles with physical coverage. He was targeted 14 times and only turned five targets into a reception or penalty. Williams struggled with separation and drops. Charles Tillman bullied Williams, and that is discouraging.
- I am not going to open a can of worms about Hasselbeck. There is nothing I can do if the Seahawks chose to re-sign him but hope for the best. He had two of his best games in the two final games of the season, but that followed what's now being called a benching. (Which is sort of strange in its own way, but that is a subject for another day.) That two game stretch will be prime evidence in the campaign to re-sign Hasselbeck. As will how often his surrounding talent has let him down. It sounds like Jeremy Bates is in Hasselbeck's camp. It will be interesting. I think you only re-sign Hasselbeck if you intend for him to start. Fans want to foist a mentor role on Matt, but he's better than that and wants more than that. And for the record, I hope Hasselbeck signs with Cleveland, enjoys some success with that almost fully built offense and Seattle commits to the tear down.
- A healthy Brandon Stokley is Matt's favorite receiver--of the last three years. That's a real testament to the disconnect between Ruskell's FO and the Seahawks coaching staff. In Ruskell's entire tenure, he added one receiver that Hasselbeck gelled with: Joe Jurevicius.
- Route running can be divided into two abilities: separation and accuracy. Nate Burleson could get separation, but he wasn't in the right place at the right time. Stokley can not get the same kind of separation, but Matt -the Objectivist as we used to call him- thrives with a receiver he can trust fully. A receiver that is skilled at spacing, timing and that catches almost everything he touches. It took a midseason pickup for Seattle to finally add a receiver he can work with. If Seattle doesn't sign Stokley, I don't think they make the playoffs. He became the Seahawks most valuable per target receiver. He turned 44 targets into 31 receptions and 23 first downs. That's an Engram-like ratio, implying that Seattle's decade long slot magic wasn't about Bobby Engram or Mike Holmgren but Matt Hasselbeck.
- If the Seahawks want to re-sign Matt, I hope they use Stokley as an example of what works. But, as I said, I still hope Hasselbeck signs with Cleveland. He would love Brian Robiskie.
- So the Seahawks fell behind early and scored ultra late and saved a little face, but though 35-24 doesn't look like a beatdown, it was. It's obvious on the win probability graph:
- The Bears took control of the game in the first and Seattle's late push was too little way too late.
- In light of the blowout, Seahawks fans should probably cheer for the Bears. That is, the prudent decision would be to cheer for the Bears. The Packers are sexier. The Packers always seem to have an underground bandwagon. The Packers are capable of tearing the Bears to shreds, but since Seattle didn't play Green Bay and since we will never know for sure how the Seahawks would have fared against Green Bay, Chicago carries the torch of the Seahawks 2010 season. The better the Bears are, the better the Seahawks are by relation. If Chicago hosts Green Bay in the NFC Championship and Green Bay blows their doors off, then we can probably heap the Bears in with teams like San Francisco, Oakland and Tampa Bay. Mediocre teams that ran roughshod over the Seahawks.
- Now that the season is over, my focus is once again on the Seahawks being a good team. The Bears breaking out and making a Super Bowl run, implies in some small way that if not for yesterday's loss, maybe the Seahawks could have been the one to break out and make a Super Bowl run. That is, if no one beats the Bears, then the Seahawks lost to the eventual champions.
Of course, who cares about consolation prizes?