Bar Notes: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks

This happened a lot.

Danny asked me to start contributing to Field Gulls last week (as you may remember!) which meant that now I had to make sure I also watched every game.  Not that I don't love watching the Seahawks, but as a resident of Los Angeles, it means that I have to choose between nursing a hangover in bed or going to a bar to watch the game on a Sunday afternoon.

I tried to give Danny my home address and information so that he could set everything up with Directv, but I guess I we aren't quite there yet. 

The good news is that I live about a mile away from an honest-to-goodness Seahawks bar in Culver City called The Backstage.  It's actually a legit place to watch a Seahawks game, and if the team is doing good it becomes very hard to find a seat during the games.  To be fair, when the team was doing bad in 2009, you could stretch out your legs and take up as much space as you wanted by week 5.

However, during our playoff game against the Saints last year, the bar was filled to capacity with a line of at least another 50 people waiting to get in.  I have no idea why anybody would line up to get in though.  Not because I don't understand why you want to watch the playoff game in a Seahawks bar, but because why would anybody be leaving the bar to give you a spot to get into? 

Anyways, I tried my best to put my life back together Sunday morning as usual, and got to the bar with over an hour to spare.  I wanted to watch the Lions and Cowboys and find a good seat. 

The best way to describe The Backstage is this: Imagine pounding a pint of tequila and then sharing a closet with 3 other people but with worse lighting.  It's not a divey bar, but it's not fancy-pants either.  In my opinion, it's the perfect place for a Seahawks bar and I'm not ashamed to say I'm known as a "regular"  So if you are either living in LA or looking for a place to watch the game when you're visiting LA, you know the place to be.

What transpires below are the notes I scribbled out while watching the game.  Danny and Thomas do an excellent job of breaking down the X's and O's.  If you asked me what I thought about 3-techs, I'd say that is how many it took to fix my DSL connection.  If you asked me about LEO, I'd say "Gangs of New York was the bomb yo!"  This is how I see the game and what I liked or did not like about our 30-28 loss. 

"Seahawks ball to start"

My first scratchings of my 2011 season with Field Gulls is a reminder that the Seahawks got the ball to start the game.  This was a good thing, because who doesn't want to see their offense out to start the game?  I was waiting all morning for the game to start, why wouldn't I want to see our offense on the field first?  No matter how bad we've looked so far, all the more reason to finally see that improvement right away.

So I saw that we got the ball to start and I looked down at my paper and scribbled that down.  I took a sip of my beer and looked up and we were punting.   Sometimes all that morning anticipation can make you delusional of what you were waiting for.

"3rd & 1 - Conversion to Julio Jones"

The Falcon I was most looking forward to seeing was Jones.  I do watch a lot of college football, but most of my attention goes to the Pac-10, 12, 36, whatever.  Still, you can't help but watch a lot of SEC football, because I'm pretty sure on Saturdays it's on every channel, including Lifetime and the Food Network with every analyst west of Arizona telling you that this is the best conference of any sport on every level.

So I got to see a lot of Alabama and Julio Jones for the past few years and I admit that I couldn't help but see one of the most reliable wide receivers in college sports.  It seemed like when Alabama needed a score, when they needed momentum, it was at that moment that you'd hear Julio Jones named called.  And it was called a lot.

I wasn't sure how soon Jones would convert that success to the NFL, but it doesn't seem like its taking very long at all. 

He had 11 catches for 127 yards yesterday, including this crucial 3rd and 1 to keep the scoring drive alive.  The Seahawks couldn't stop him yesterday and that was a big part of Atlanta's success.

"White falls 1 yard short.  Gonzalez TD.  Party like its 1999"

I watched quite a bit of football yesterday and the underlying theme with tight ends seems to be "Don't cover them when the offense is inside the 5 yard line. 

I'm not a defensive guru, and I'm sure if it was easy to stop a tight end roll out from the 1-yard line then everybody would do it.  But this was just another example of one of the most predictable and perhaps hardest to stop, plays in the NFL.  Seahawks down 7-0.

"Penalty - 2 TE in Motion.  McCoy/Miller"

In an effort to spark the offense by calling plays that aren't allowed, the Seahawks got called for a penalty when both Anthony McCoy and Zach Miller went moving to the right at the same time.  It sure was fun to watch and wonder what that would be like, but unfortunately it is not allowed. 

"Michael Turner TD.  Wide open."

After a Tarvaris interception (which I wrote down as being deflected, will need to refresh my memory) the Falcons easily scored on four plays, finishing on a 21-yard run by Michael Turner in which he was hardly touched. 

The Seahawks overall did a nice job against the run and came up with some big stops on Turner.  I still think this is a top 10 rushing defense when healthy, but breakdowns like that will happen, the play was blocked perfectly, and Michael Turner is a great running back.  My next note is "Seahawks cover half the field" because it certainly looked like they had 11 men lined up on the right side of the play because nobody was near Turner as he got the score. 

"Offsides/Free play - Jackson unloads to a wide open Sidney Rice"

So if we can just get the defensive line to jump early and give Tarvaris the confidence that no matter what happens when he throws the pass it will still be the Seahawks ball, we may be onto something here. 

We seem to agonize every week on the Hawks inability to go downfield.  As the rest of the league unleashes NFL records in passing yards, the Hawks have to scratch and beg for every yard we get.  But if Jackson has the confidence to actually unload it, he's got a big play wide receiver now who is able to break free and make things happen. 

This could be a very enticing combination this season, if only Jackson had that confidence on more than just free plays.

"Rice does a left hook, then a right hook, then he slits his own throat.  Unsportsmanlike conduct penalty."

After the big score, Rice drew a penalty for doing the throat slash.  I don't get it NFL, he's slashing his own throat.  Clearly this is not a threat to the opposing team, but a cry for help.  Rather than punish him, lets find out why he feels this way and what we can do to get him back on a healthy mental track. 

"Brandon Browner good phsyical stop on Julio Jones.  Next Play: J. Jones 29 yards."

I'm starting to see the good and the bad with Browner.  In one instance he made one hell of a stop on the star rookie wide receiver and on the next he got burned pretty badly.  This up and down pass coverage is probably just something we will have to get used to this year and hope there's a few more ups as the season goes on.

"2:43, down 21-7 in the 1st half.  Play: Tarvaris roll out - throw out of bounds.  Play: Sidney Rice for 4 yards.  Play: Throw it 1 yard at Forsetts feet.  1:56 left in the first half."

There was some good to take away from Tarvaris and Darrell Bevell and the Seahawks offense.  But it can't be forgotten that when the Seahawks needed to score or at least keep the game within reach, they ran off only 47 seconds with Jackson making 2 bad throws, and a lateral throw to Rice that only went for four yards.  He didn't make 1 throw that was downfield as we punted it away and gave Atlanta enough time for a 47-yard field goal.

24-7 at Half

"Someone in the bar screams out OFFENSE.  Not surprisingly, nobody answers."

Surprsingly, I was wrong. 

After Atlanta went up 27-7, the Hawks marched 61 yards in 3:39 to make it 27-14.  Doug Baldwin had a 20-yard reception, and Mike Williams made 2 important catches including a 6-yard touchdown.  This is the kind of offense I was hoping for.  One that spread it around and involved every weapon we have, not just Sidney Rice.

"DOUG BALDWIN IS GOOD"

This is what I wrote down on Baldwin's 20-yard catch.  I know that the NFL talent evaluation process is really hard for prospects.  I know we get caught up in combine numbers, college numbers, and physical stature.  Doug Baldwin had an unremarkable career at Stanford and all that.  But thank God everybody missed on this kid, and we are so lucky to be the team that took a chance on him after the draft. 

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't help but think of Bobby Engram when I think of Doug Baldwin.

"Football players spend a lot of time laying on the ground"

This is something I've always thought about, and now was my chance to finally write it down.  It seems like one of the few jobs out there where you find yourself laying down for a decent chunk of your day.

I know football is hard, but I'd kill for the opportunity to just chill out on the cool grass for awhile.  Every time I do that at my own job, I get reprimanded. 

"The Seahawks support the fight against breast cancer better"

The Falcons had a little bit of pink on them, but props to the Seahawks for going all out in typical Seahawks fashion.  After putting up 28 points and 372 yards of offense, Seattle will petition the NFL to wear pink every week now. 

"Marshawn screen - Moffitt hurt"

In something I'd like to see a lot more of, Tarvaris ran a little screen to Lynch that saw John Moffitt run a nice lead block on for 26 yards.  It was all too much for the big guy and he had to come out of the game after making me notice him positively for the first time this year.

"Tarvaris overthrows a wide open Ben Obamanu"

After hitting Baldwin for 11 more yards, it looked like the Seahawks were rolling unlike we've seen all year long.  This was really reminiscent of the way things used to be in Seattle when the offense was a well-oiled machine.  Then it was really reminiscent that we have Tarvaris Jackson when he missed Obamanu for what would have been an easy touchdown.

"Zach Miller catches TD! Then ball pops to ATL"

This was a really unfortunate break for the Hawks, but it was an unfortunate break because Miller didn't hold onto the football.  You can say I'm being tough on the tight end, but so be it.  Tarvaris actually put it right in his basket, and you don't squander chances like that.  He was hit really hard, but it was also the kind of catch and hit that you see players like Jason Witten hang onto.  Nobody expects Miller to ever be as good as that, but this was a catch he could have made and it turned into an interception for Tarvaris.  Good job on Atlanta, and its understandable why Miller didn't hang on.  But it could have also been the moment in 2011 where would say "Wow, that Zach Miller guy is good."  It was not that moment.

"'Ladies Love" Leon Washington returns to the 11"

Tides turned quickly after the turnover.  The defense came up big and forced a 3 and out which turned into a big Washington punt return.  Lots more reasons to love this guy. 

"Beast Mode TD"

Because that's what happened on the next play.  27-21 now.

"Pete's smile makes me smile"

Whatever Pete does in his Seahawks career, no matter how successful he is in the W-L column, I just don't think I can ever dislike the guy.  He gets as excited about his team winning as any coach in the NFL.  He's absolutely giddy to be here and absolutely devastated when the team fails.  He's like a representative of what a fan would be like if one of us was coaching the Seahawks. 

I really hope he is successful in Seattle for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons is that I just like the guy and I hope we are successful together as a team and coach.  He had me at "Doesn't it feel goooood?" 

"Matt Ryan bad pass to Gonzalez.  Caught w/1 hand"

A ridiculous catch by Gonzalez proves he's not just for goal-line usage anymore.  You can't do anything to stop that.

"4th Q - Tarvaris ROPE to D. Baldwin"

I've given Tarvaris credit for the bad and the good.  On one fourth quarter pass to Baldwin, he threw a really pretty pass on what would be a scoring drive to make it 30-28. 

You can't come away from the game feeling terribly about Jackson during a season when we don't feel terribly good about any playoff chances.  For some fans, they don't even want us to get that far and are hoping for that Andrew Luck guy.  Probably just because he's friends with Doug Baldwin and we want to make Doug Baldwin happy. 

This was my last note of the game, as I was 7 beers deep at this point and now I've learned my lesson about drinking and taking notes. 

What ensued was the Seahawks lost this game because they simply ran out of time. 

They forced Atlanta into a 3rd and 7 and what should have been a punt to get the ball back with over 6 minutes remaining, but a defensive holding on Browner gave Atlanta a first.

They had Atlanta in a 3rd and 7 again with 4 minutes remaining and nobody covered Matt Ryan.

Ultimately, the Hawks got the ball back on their own 15 with 1:49 remaining.  They got to Atlanta's 45 yard line but had to spike the ball to stop the clock and use up first down.  Then Sidney Rice was called for a false start which cost them another 5 yards.

The Seahawks didn't lose this game because they missed a 61-yard field goal, they lost this game because they had to attempt a 61-yard field goal.

It should have never been that difficult and they outplayed Atlanta badly in the 2nd half and especially the fourth quarter on both offense and defense.  Penalties kept them from getting into a better position to win the game.  If they had another 30 seconds on the clock, I believe at the very least we could have put Hauschka in good position to make a real attempt for a victory. 

I come away with this game feeling better about the team than I did going into it.  We've got several good wide receivers and progress on the offensive line that could at least keep us interested and keep me from drinking myself into an early grave.

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