CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18: (L-R) Richard Sherman #25, Brandon Browner #39 and Doug Baldwin #15 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate Browner's return of an interception for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 38-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Let's chat about Sunday's game, shall we?
Let me start with the defense. Five turnovers is good. Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber led Bears' offense notwithstanding, five forced turnovers is good. Two pick-sixes is good. Four total interceptions and one forced fumble is good. Six tackles for a loss is good. Five quarterback hits is good. Four sacks is good.
Limiting an opposing team's offense to seven points is good. Shutting out your opponent in the second half is good. I wrote this earlier, but Chicago's eight second half possessions looked like this - thrown interception at their own 28, punt from their 23, punt from their 15, punt from their 19, punt from their 33, thrown interception at their 30, thrown interception at their 29, and end of game. Another way to look at it - Chicago didn't get past midfield in the entire second half.
I'll take that.
Chris Clemons played out of his mind. Chris Clemons was more noticeable than Julius Peppers, even taking into account Peppers' forced fumble that led to a Bears' touchdown (which was more Tarvaris' poor pocket presence in the endzone of all places than Pepper's brilliance - though he did make the play). Clemons was consistently in the backfield and was credited with two sacks. He definitely created at LEAST three, maybe four sacks in reality though - with Raheem Brock reaping the statistical benefits. Clem now has 11 sacks on the season, equaling the number he had last season, with two games remaining to surpass that total.
Now, that said, I don't necessarily feel good about the amount of pressure the Seahawks' line, in general, got on Caleb Hanie, especially in the first half. The Hawks apparently feel content in what they're doing, because they don't seem intent on blitzing much and run out of their base 4-3 for the vast majority of the time. This means Red Bryant, Alan Branch, and Brandon Mebane are often left chasing after opposing quarterbacks in the times they're able to collapse the pocket, and this usually means an easy time for those quarterbacks. Hanie finished with 34 yards gained on five scrambles, and for whatever reason, these QB scrambles just make me want to pull my hair out.
The reason these guys are in there though, is undoubtedly to stop the run. On the surface the 132 yards given up on the ground at a 4.3 ypc clip looks bad, but when you look at the numbers it's a little less concerning. Take away those five successful scrambles by Hanie, Seattle gave up 4.3 yards per carry to Khalil Bell and a more respectable 3.0 ypc to Marion Barber. Those two finished with 98 yards rushing on 26 attempts, or 3.76 ypc. This is exactly on par with their 3.7 ypc on the year.
Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor had solid games - Chancellor had his hand on two Seattle turnovers - first forcing a fumble that Thomas came up with, and then later tipping a Hanie pass that Thomas came down with. Richard Sherman had a strong bounceback game, breaking up two passes and picking off a third. Then there was Brandon Browner, who at this point of the season is legitimately a Pro Bowl candidate on the merit of his six interceptions, 220 return yards and two touchdowns. He's fourth in the NFL in interceptions, just one off the lead, first in passes defensed, and first in return yards.
Now, I'm not saying Brandon Browner should be named to the Pro Bowl, but he's making a case for himself to be in the discussion regardless. It should also be noted that in addition to his interception totals and high number of passes defensed, he's an extremely reliable tackler on the outside and has been eminently reliable, playing nearly every down for the Seahawks defense this season. All this from a street free agent playing in his first NFL season.
I'll take that.
Lest I forget before I move to the other side of the football. RED BRYANT IS AWESOME.
On the offensive side of the ball, overall, it wasn't a particularly impressive game but the Seahawks did enough to get the job done. The run game was, as one esteemed Field Gulls writer had predicted, stifled pretty much everywhere on the field, with the Seahawks rushing for 1.8 yards per carry and a total of 60 yards. The rushing total was well off the 100-yard benchmark the Seahawks had hoped to hit for a seventh straight game and the 60 yards on the ground was the lowest such total for the Seahawks since Week 4's matchup against Atlanta.
Thomas said Saturday, prior to the game, "I feel fairly confident in saying Lynch's performance is about to drop heavily through no fault of his own, which really shouldn't change our estimation of his abilities, since he won't rush against top-3 run defending teams back-to-back with half his offensive line missing that much in his career, I hope."
As Thomas predicted, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks rushing game's performance dropped heavily but as the story's title suggested (The Seahawks Offensive Line and Context Sensitive Analysis), it's important to take things in context. Chicago has the NFL's 3rd ranked rush defense, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA, so it's not like a whole hell of a lot of teams are running all over them. Particularly teams missing 3/5ths of their starting offensive line. So, as Thomas also pointed out, it's probably not a reason to doubt Lynch and the Seahawks' ability.
The passing offense, particularly in the second half, was more impressive. Tarvaris Jackson went 15 for 19 for 176 yards, a touchdown and no picks in the second half, on par with the type of game-manager, efficient performance Pete Carroll wants out of him. Obviously, the first half was a struggle, with TJack connecting on only 4 passes for 51 yards, but it was encouraging to see improvement as the game went on.
Most encouraging was that after TJack had that awful first half, he started the second half by leading the Seahawks on a five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that included two explosive plays, first a 33-yard reception to Golden Tate, followed by a 43-yard connection to Ben Obomanu down the sideline. These explosive plays are very meaningful or this (or any) team, and that drive was integral for the Seahawks in recapturing the momentum and essentially taking control of the game. On the road.
Golden Tate again showed up, catching four passes for 61 yards, including the aforementioned 33-yard catch and run. It's becoming apparent to me (though I never really doubted it much) that Tate does indeed have a future with this club, and probably in a prominent role. He's playing disciplined and with confidence, and is probably Tarvaris Jackson's current favorite target. He's making big plays - a 22-yarder last week to go with his 33-yarder this week, and he's been getting more snaps than any other Seahawk receiver.
Mike Williams quietly had a solid effort again, making two nice catches for 31 yards and made another acrobatic catch diving for the ball that was rightly ruled out of bounds. Unfortunately for Williams and the Seahawks, he broke his leg later in the game and is now lost for the season.
I'd go on record saying I hope that Williams' lack of production this season doesn't affect his status with the team - we've heard from Doug Farrar recently how prominent he's been in the leadership role and I still see a lot of potential in him. When he's on his game, he's nigh unstoppable (the two 11-catch games last season would be good examples) and if circumstances were to align a little more favorably for him I could see him reproducing the 65-ish catch year he had in 2010. Regardless, his 2011 season ends with 18 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown.
More notes: Zach Miller finally got some targets, catching four passes, including a huge 3rd down catch on a ball that was thrown behind him that went for 12 yards and a first down mid-fourth quarter when the Hawks were still trying to salt away the game. This catch certainly helped, as the Seahawks retained the ball for four long minutes following that play (the drive ended with a turnover on downs).
Deon Butler had two catches for 19 yards. Cameron Morrah had a 21-yard reception that nearly went for a touchdown out of the "22" formation for the Seahawks - two tight ends, two running backs with Morrah motioning out to the wing in iso to the right. Michael Robinson caught a touchdown pass as he slipped through the line and released out to the wing.
For those of you that read me often, you'll know I have an obsession with Raiders' fullback and former UW Husky Marcel Reece - I love a guy that can effectively play two positions, both a lead-blocking fullback and a route-running wide receiver. Reece is a 6'3, 240 fullback that played receiver at UW; he's learning to lead block but has the savvy and agility to run routes through the line, and Michael Robinson has been demonstrating a penchant to do the same things these last few games. This gives the Seahawks an excellent option to keep the defense guessing and it showed up in the Seahawks play-calling from the two-yard line on Sunday. I like it.
Anyway, there's obviously a whole lot to talk about, but that's what I got right now without re-watching. You guys and gals have had a chance to sleep on the game - I wanna know how you're feeling about it this morning. Hit me up!