Though I didn't post a preview for last night's game, I did write some pre-game thoughts on what I thought this game meant. After attending a jacked-up Clink on Monday night I re-read the following when sitting down to write this recap. I determined that even though it was written before the game, it clearly and concisely (as you may know, concise can sometimes be a problem for me) got to the point, even after the fact:
They showed up under the lights last week, and this opportunity isn't much different. Carroll has been putting an extra emphasis on continuing to play hard, sticking with it, doing things better and longer than the opponent. These are things they want to do on a game-to-game basis in the present, but this current four-game stretch is also a lesson for the future.
Heading into the Dallas game, the emphasis was on getting the running game going so it could affect their style of play in a positive way later in the season. We've seen changes as a result. The bigger-picture lesson that draws from this upcoming stretch will focus on how they finished; the information the team absorbed from the smaller examples earlier this year, both good and bad, will be tested. If they can finish the second half of the season strong, they will have a semblance of how to win, consistently.
Momentum into a business-as-usual offseason is something this coaching staff wants for this young team, understanding finishing strong and further learning their "identity" for the future is paramount. Without a win tonight, the final quarter will feel hollow; more of the coulda-shoulda feeling felt after the Redskins loss, a sour taste that is yet to really go away. The Seahawks need to win tonight, and they need to win big.
The 30-13 win wasn't the big win I was hoping for, as the 31-14 victory against the Eagles had more of a big win feeling for me. This game started with an odd mix of razzle-dazzle and ugly, but 10 points in the first quarter was a solid enough start. The fact that the Seahawks needed almost three full quarters to score an offensive touchdown kept this game from getting that big-win feeling. Special teams and defense held it together until the offense - with "new" starters at two spots on the offensive line - finally got it going. The Seahakws hung tough, from ahead. Not pretty it was, but it's a W under win or go home circumstances.
This was the last of three in a row at home, this game coming after a mini-bye, just one game removed from a momentum killer of sorts. Seattle was supposed to win this game. If anything, I think it's a sign this young team is becoming more apt at winning the games they should win and are proving to be on the upswing. They're up to the task of searching for an identity, playing a results-driven game for more than just results, when the results may not even matter.
In the post-game presser Carroll said his team is "on track to find ourselves," but also added he simply hopes they can keep playing this style, instead of trying to do too much, and he is anxious to see a good practice on Wednesday. I'm anxious to see how this team responds to the short week, heading on the road for an early kickoff. Sitting at 7-7 and hosting the 49ers would put them in position to finish the home schedule in a big way. This next week should be interesting. Observations from the game are after the jump.
For no rhyme or reason, I walked away from this one in stream-of-consciousness mode. To protect against a complete ramble on, this post will be in "short-thought" form. If you're looking for structure; thoughts are divided by offense, defense, miscellaneous.
--Though Tarvaris Jackson had another efficient day, I thought this performance left something to be desired. He appeared more settled in the second half, and I'm curious to watch this one again on TV. My initial impression is that Jackson could have wowed in this game and he didn't. Then again, 65-plus percent and zero interceptions - which could have been one, plus there was the botched handoff - is a step forward from the "efficient" games earlier in the year. The final three games are huge for Jackson, as the OBOTF debate will surely start heating up even more.
--Early in this game I followed Zach Miller when out in route more often than normal (I don't know why). The following sequence intrigued me; Miller was wide open coming across the field on the incomplete deep ball to Golden Tate in the first quarter, and then Jackson didn't look towards an open Miller one or two more times in the following possessions. The Seahawks started their next drive (at 6:05 in the second) with the pass over the middle to Miller that was almost intercepted, and then completed the short pass to him. It was almost like the coaches said "throw Miller the ball!!"
--I think Jackson really likes Golden Tate. It looks like Jackson is willing to anticipate with Tate much more so than any of the other 2010 ‘Hawks receivers. I was actually pretty shocked when Jackson laid that ball out for Tate on the 3rd down pass early in the game, when Jackson had to trust Tate would stop and work back to the ball. Jackson did something similar last week with Tate on the 3rd and 4, sideline throw, catch and run. I'm intrigued to see if this improving rapport becomes more of a factor the final three games.
--The 12 yard run early in the third, where Lynch broke what seemed like half a dozen tackles, was announced by the PA as "12 beastmode yards" and a Seahawks' first down! It was my favorite moment of the game.
--Marshawn Lynch is lighting up this stadium on a game-to-game basis. He makes the entire building care more. If he really is an example of the mentality that Pete is building for this football team, as Carroll's previously talked about Lynch embodying their desired mindset; hell yes. Bring more of it to Seattle, please.
--It felt like they used more offset-I backfields than "normal" in this game.
--I moved to the bottom of the 300 level for the final offensive possession and was struck by Jarriel King being in the game. First of all, he's big (listed at 6'5"). And secondly, it looked like he was leading the way on two plays, including the touchdown run. Carroll said post game that Gallery was dinged up, so good to see King getting out there along with some good results. However, it looked like he pulled up limping. Uh oh...
--Cameron Morrah stood out as a receiver last year. This year his blocking looks improved; is it that Tom Cable influence?
--The Lynch forward pass was pretty sloppy...twice. Why not have Robinson, or even Leon, try the second one if they really had to try again? They both happened in the closest quarter of the field to me and the first one just didn't look like a running play. I won't pretend to know what triggered my sentiments, but I almost immediately thought pass. Similar to Danny, I thought this was a bit peculiar.
--I was nearly positive the Seahawks would bust out a running play with a receiver in this game to mix it up (because of the familiarity these teams have with each other, given the matchup a few weeks ago) and my first choice was with Golden Tate. Though, given all of the other unorthodox calls on the evening, I'm not giving myself much credit for my pre-game hopes. Also, I'll admit I was looking for a play out of a similar set-up to this (from 2010, Week 11)...
Harvin runs inside right tackle for the first down, but it should have gone for only two or three. The hole quickly closed and Harvin did the work.
Anyway, I was still really happy to see Golden running with the ball, even if it was a simple ol' end around.
--Take a look at these screen shots:
Do the 5-2, 3-4 and six man-base personnel fronts look familiar? Those are plays from recent weeks and the Seahawks dug even farther into the defensive formation playbook for this game, something I'm looking forward to studying this week. Are the days of being primarily a hybrid, 4-3 defense behind us? Is this actually headed somewhere, or is Seattle simply expanding their defensive scheme?
--K.J. Wright had eight tackles, with three for loss and a sack, not to mention a pass defense that should have been a pick. He looked especially physical and his tackles on Jackson early in the game were impressive stuff for a rookie. I had Wright smack-dab in the middle of the 4th round on my Seahawks draft board last April. Given his value and improving play, he's definitely in the running for my favorite pick of the 2011 draft.
--Brandon Mebane has been hustling all over the field in recent weeks; chasing the play downfield, getting in passing lanes and being an undersized beast. He's playing hard and I simply want to acknowledge it. I especially like him at the nose.
--The 50-yard Steven Jackson screen and 26-yard Lance Kendricks catch were both slow developing plays out of the backside, where Seattle seemed to flow too strongly towards the fake. Watching both plays felt like watching old Seahawks' football.
--An interception, five passes defended, a few backbreaking penalties and overly physical play by our corners; sounds about right. The Sherman taunting penalty bugged me. I like him, but he's becoming borderline too cocky, given his rookie status, for my taste. I'm curious as to if these penalties will vanish over the final three games, or if this is something we'll have to live with to finish the season; and hope it doesn't stay a problem next year.
--One knock against Browner; he's appeared a bit frantic and stumbly defending the edge in the open field, when trying to get to running backs, in the past couple of games. Memory says the Jackson screen is the play that struck me this week...
--...but the play was also another example that Earl Thomas is ridiculously fast. It looked like he ran in front of that play, not chased it down, and saved the touchdown. Like...wow.
--Brandon Lloyd just finds ways to get open. It's actually pretty sick how he manages to create separation at the blink of an eye. He exploited Sherman's developing habit of biting on the out and up, and Lloyd got Browner completely flat-footed and stuck - something Browner sometimes does when defending the deep ball - with a hesitation move on that long pass play.
--Atari Bigby's second down blitz on the goal line was his third (I think) in that situation, this year. I remember all of them to have ended successfully, one way or another. In real-time I actually thought this call was coming. At the same time, I'd say this is becoming a tendency. Other teams should begin to notice.
--Anthony Hargrove has a celebration/pump up tactic where he flaps up-and-down in place, or he'll even do it when running around after a big play. During the TV timeout when the Rams had 3rd and goal on the 11, Hargrove flapped for what seemed like 20-30 seconds. The following play was one of the loudest moments of the year, in my opinion.
--The reputation of Seattle being soft I think is starting to become a thing of the past. Yes, they need to play some stiff competition and stay up from a legitimate punch to the mouth - I'd consider the Redskins loss a punch to the mouth knockdown - before I think we can say their mentality has taken a step up. They're one of the two or three youngest teams in the NFL and are still learning their swagger, and it doesn't always come out at the right time. That said, this team plays with some serious stones.
--Doug Baldwin's special teams trifecta in the first quarter - the reverse on the opening kickoff, the downed punt inside the 10 and then the punt block that sprung the touchdown - was awesome. Oh, he's now got nine catches of 20 yards or more on third down for the year; a third down and special teams machine? Sounds like a team player.
--I'm just going to put this out there; what would our year be like without Dougie-Fresh? Seriously, could he be considered irreplaceable for this 2011 Seahawks team? John Schneider deserves continued props on this one. And I'm beginning to think they may have to trade/release one of their receivers; who is the odd man out?
--One more on Dougie. The common comparison for Baldwin is to Bobby Engram, maybe because of the uniform and usage. After seeing Lloyd in person, I think Baldwin has a little bit of the good-Lloyd in him.
--I had a few-minute conversation with myself over weekend regarding if Seattle would start this game with an offensive trick play, and I thought it was definitely possible. That opening kickoff reverse was trickier than I expected. Personally, I like that they tried to carry the momentum of the 4th and seven pass to Miller to close out the Eagles right into this game. The Monday night lights probably didn't hurt, either.
--Seattle is 4-0 in their last four "primetime" home games. I'll be enjoying that nugget this week.