"This is how I put the team on my back, right? Oh crap, wrong team. Wrong back, too" (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
I limited the number of games covered this time, partly because I didn't have as much time for game breakdown as I would've liked this week, and partly to encourage the savory factor among the readers. Four games a post is a lot to digest, and one may get stuffed from it all. As an analogy: cookies 'n' cream is my favorite brand of ice cream, but if I have too much of it in one sitting, I get bloated, suffer brain-freeze and want nothing to do with it for a good week.
Enough of long-winded intros. Let's get down to business.
Week 5: Bye
Bye weeks suck. Moving on.
Week 6-vs. Bears
Oh God, this is one of the many Brian Billick games I'll have to endure. Computer speakers off.
(2:53) J.Cutler pass incomplete short left to G.Olsen (L.Tatupu).
Nothing major here, but it's worth noting, given Curry's reputation for biting on play action. He's lined up on the left side in what appears to be a zone. After the snap, Cutler fakes the play to Forte. Curry jumps about three yards forward anticipating the run, but immediatedly jumps back and resumes his zone assignment. He didn't factor into the final outcome of the play, but I find it encouraging that Aaron Curry looks like he has a clue out there, which is already a big step forward from his rookie year.
(12:20) J.Cutler sacked at SEA 16 for -5 yards (A.Curry).
Curry's first sack of the season! And what a glorious sack it was. Let's break it down, my lovelies.
The Seahawks line up in what looks like a base 4-3, but it's actually one of Bradley's more creative Bandit packages. Curry is on the right side as a DE, Will Herring is in the middle, Lofa Tatupu on the left, and Roy Lewis masquerading as an LB on the right. Chicago has 3 WR's to the right, one to the left. Only Forte is in the backfield. Just before the snap, Lewis shifts to the secondary, while Tats and Herring signal blitz.
Snap. Curry blows off the line clean, and lunges at Cutler's legs. He doesn't go down at first. Herring is quickly swallowed up by blockers, but Tats is able to come off the edge and pursue Cutler. Curry, clearly pissed by his initial miss, channels the inner lion in him, jumps off the ground, grabs Cutlerfucker in one fluid motion and finishes the job he started.
Badass from start to finish. More of this, Aaron.
(7:02) J.Cutler pass short left to B.Manumaleuna to CHI 6 for 5 yards (A.Curry).
Another Bandit special from Bradley. The Seahawks line up 5 down men, Curry being on the right edge. Tats and Heater are the LBs. After the snap, Curry sticks to Manumawhatever. Cutler delivers him a good accurate pass only the TE can catch, and Curry tackles him instantly. A highlight? Probably debatable, but I like seeing Curry hold his own in pass coverage.
(5:58) J.Cutler pass short left to C.Taylor to SEA 30 for 4 yards (M.Trufant).
I'd cite this as a lowlight for the defensive call. The Seahawks have four down lineman, but Curry is tight on the left side, showing blitz. Tats and Heater are far on the right side, and Trufant is in tight man coverage. So there really is nobody to cover the left flat. Guess where the checkdown route is going to, and guess where Cutler throws.
Curry does his blitz, and is blocked out of the pocket. But a good awareness open-field tackle by Trufant salvages what could have been a much more devestating play.
(6:13) (Shotgun) J.Cutler pass incomplete short left to J.Knox.
Curry is again lined up on the left side as a DE. Post-snap, he rushes against the LT (forgot his name), and does little to get to the QB other than to push and push and push.
To the people thinking he may make an effective DE, this is my counter-point. Aaron Curry has no idea how to effectively rush the passer. This was a knock against him from Wake Forest, and it's still a knock now. He has no technique, no inside step, no finesse, no savvy. He will just push the guy blocking him until he gets to the QB, and while that may have worked in the ACC, NFL lineman have an easy counter-attack to that strategy: just push back. Countless times I've seen Curry blocked into submission, pushed out of the pocket, or simply contained long enough for the QB to make a play.
It's a legitimate weakness that I hope the coaches (and Curry, himself) spot and try to fix. Without pass-rushing skill, what's separating him from the many generic 4-3 OLBs floating out there?
--(11:50) (Shotgun) Direct snap to M.Robinson. M.Lynch right guard to SEA 43 for no gain (J.Peppers; I.Idonije).
The Wildcat offense needs to be cast back into the fiery pits of Tartarus from whence it came. What started off as a cute gimmick for an '08 Dolphins team desperate for relevance has spread like a cancer throughout the NFL. When the lockout eventually happens, I'm blaming the Wildcat.
--(9:18) B.Maynard punts 36 yards to SEA 42, Center-P.Mannelly. G.Tate to SEA 35 for -7 yards (P.Tinoisamoa, B.Iwuh).
The Golden Retriever strikes again. Tate doesn't bother to call a fair catch even though he has about 20 defenders waiting for him. He then attempts to run into his own end zone, arms flailing and all, before the defense catches him and brings him down, no doubt trying to preserve his dignity.
I just might do a series on Golden Tate once this one wraps up. He's entertaining to watch even when he does stupid things.
--(8:08) B.Maynard punts 38 yards to SEA 11, Center-P.Mannelly. G.Tate MUFFS catch, and recovers at SEA 7. G.Tate to SEA 7 for no gain (G.Wolfe).
And Tate manages to top himself in the "dumb but adorable" category. He's standing still, waiting for the ball, and he actually called a fair catch for once. The ball bounces right off his helmet, and after freezing for a split-second as if he spotted a delicious maple bar on the sideline, he snaps out of it and recovers the ball.
So goddamn adorable.
--(5:53) J.Cutler sacked at CHI 11 for -9 yards (R.Lewis).
When a DB blitz works, it works. It also helps when you're blitzing Chicago's pitiful O-line.
The Bears have 3 WRs bunched to the left, with a single man backfield. From the start, there's little help for Cutler should the Seahawks blitz. Seattle has three down lineman. Since Roy Lewis is involved, I'm assuming it's a dime package. After the snap, Lewis and Jordan Babineaux both blitz from the edges. Matt Forte is on blitz-pickup duty. Babs comes from the right side, and scares Forte enough that he backs up into Jay Cutler. Roy Lewis comes from the left side untouched and greets Cutler with a familiar friend--the turf.
The DB blitz is a risky proposition by itself; blitzing two DBs can be disastorous if they don't reach the QB in time. But Mike Martz calls the exact scheme that's vulnurable to this type of risk. Kudos to Gus Bradley for dialing it up at the right time, and kudos to Babs and Lewis for pulling it off.
--What the hell is Craig Terrill doing in pass coverage?
--Rookie gaffes aside, I'd like to see Walter Thurmond more involved. He has the ability to both stick to his man and turn around for the ball, two abilities Kelly Jennings distinctly lacks.
--(9:02) (Shotgun) J.Cutler pass incomplete short right to C.Taylor (L.Tatupu).
Through the first five games, Tats is doing his damnest to make me recant my "Assessing need: MLB" article. But we'll have to go through the whole season before I consider doing that.
--(3:26) J.Cutler pass deep right to J.Knox to SEA 25 for 67 yards (W.Herring). Seattle challenged the runner was in bounds ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #3.)
Johnny Knox completely schooled Marcus Trufant on this play. Someone might make the easy "Jackass" joke here. I won't be that man, but I'm sure one of our commentators will step up to the (Little League) plate and clear that (low) bar of humor.
--(11:45) J.Cutler sacked at CHI 1 for -9 yards (J.Babineaux). FUMBLES (J.Babineaux), and recovers at CHI -1. J.Cutler tackled in End Zone, SAFETY (J.Babineaux).
I will never understand Jordan Babineaux. At times he'll look like your run of the mill dime back whose only assignment is to come in during passing downs and not embarrass himself. At other times he'll be involved in the biggest plays of the game. He doesn't have the talent to be a starter, but whenever he is in, a major game-changing play happens to occur. Is this some supernatural talent he has? Should we lock him into a lab and not let him out until he develops the cure for cancer, which he'll discover while accidentaly huffing chemical fumes?
--(5:09) J.Cutler sacked at SEA 41 for -11 yards (L.Milloy).
I gave Gus Bradley grief in the past, but I have to admire his game-planning for the Bears. Chicago had a reputation for poor pass-blocking from the edges, and Bradley exploited that weakness to perfection. The Lewis sack, mentioned above, and this Milloy sack both involved DBs coming completely un-touched off the edges, and the Bears were helpless against it.
Perhaps Bradley doesn't deserve the vitirol we spouted towards him?
--To address comments in the previous thread, Will Herring's pass coverage looks much improved in this game. I guess Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates can make anyone look like a pile of crap with their talents.
Week 7-vs. Cardinals
(7:19) T.Hightower left end pushed ob at ARZ 29 for 9 yards (D.Hawthorne).
Aaron Curry, meet Levi Brown. Your simplistic pass-rush moves have no chance against him. Curry has the fire, the passion, the brimstone, but none of those qualities match up against the stone wall known as Levi Brown. Brown easily seals Curry, and therefore the outside, as Hightower jogs past both of them.
(8:57) T.Hightower right end to SEA 41 for 24 yards (D.Hawthorne).
This is not one of Curry's better games.
The Seahawks line up in the classic Bandit package--3 lineman, 2 linebackers, the other LB in a down position. Curry is on the right side, in this case. Before the snap, Lawyer Milloy sneaks up beside Curry in a blitz signal. The Cards have 1 WR on the outside left, 1 WR bunched in on the left, and Dude A bunched on the right side. I sadly don't know who Dude A is. He plays an important role in this play, yet moves so fast and the TV camera pans so quickly I can't read the jersey number. Is it Beanie Wells? LaRod Stephens-Howling? Reagan Maui'a? Somebody help me out here.
Anyway, snap. Deuce Lutui pulls from the LG position, and renders Curry helpless. Dude A moves up and shades Milloy away from the stretch run to the right. With both outside containment men occupied, Tim Hightower has an easy avenue to 24 yards.
(9:31) C.Wells right tackle to ARZ 45 for 2 yards (C.Cole).
This really is not one of Curry's better games.
Seahawks in a base 4-3. The Cards are in a I-form with both WRs on the right side, so with nobody to cover, Walter Thurmond joins the bunch on the LOS. Curry starts on the right side in the standard OLB position, but moves towards the line in a blitz signal.
Snap. Anderson hands off to Beanie Wells in a tried-but-true run to the right side, with the FB Reagan Maui'a leading. Thurmond does blitz, but doesn't factor; the real action is on the right side. Curry beasts his way forward, and hits his man like a true lion...only that man is the blocker Mau'ia, and he hugs Curry like a true blocker would. Wells runs through the subsequent hole opened up, and may or may not have tipped his helmet to Curry for opening up an obvious running lane. Thankfully, Colin Cole sheds his blocker and hustles to the side to stop the bleeding.
You'd be surprised at how much happens in a simple 2-yard gain.
(8:51) Penalty on SEA-A.Curry, Defensive Offside, offsetting, enforced at ARZ 45 - No Play. Penalty on ARZ, Illegal Motion, offsetting.
--I can't help but love Marshawn Lynch's "drunken boxer" running style. He'll pick a spot, run into it with determination (regardless of whether or not the spot is worth running in), and challenge defenders head-on as if they were his sworn nemesis. Give him an O-line worth a damn, and he might be something special.
--(13:47) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete short right to L.Washington (C.Haggans).
The play is a designed screen to Leon Washington, and it almost works. Leon gets to his spot, Matt delivers the throw on time, all should be peachy. But there's one problem--no blitz pickup. Clark Haggans is clearly showing blitz on the right side, but since it's a designed screen, Sean Locklear stands up and quickly runs toward the right sideline as blocking help for Leon. Haggans bursts through uncontenested and tips the ball away.
Why can't the Seahawks make a screen pass work? I will argue that it's because they can never call it at the right goddamn time. An OLB blitz is one of those bad times.
--(5:02) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 42 for -6 yards (A.Branch). FUMBLES (A.Branch) [A.Branch], RECOVERED by ARZ-D.Dockett at SEA 45. D.Dockett to SEA 45 for no gain (S.Andrews).
Please go away, Sean Locklear.
--(6:41) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 27 for -4 yards (A.Branch).
No seriously, please go away, Sean Locklear.
--Max Hall's stats as of 5:46 in the 2nd quarter: 2-10, 16 yards, one INT. Even the bad stats said that Max Hall was bad in this game. I don't have the time to calculate his QB rating in this stretch, but I'd bet it was somewhere in the 80's.
--The more I see of Walter Thurmond, the more I like him.
--If Derek Anderson was really the best the Cardinals could find in '10, then their QB situation is even more dire than Seattle's is.
--During an officials' conference at 7:09 in the 4th, the ref is holding something that looks like a lit cigar. I wish that refs would actually puff cigars while calling penalties. It would certainly improve their "coolness" image; those striped shirts are anything but cool.
--Craig Terrill is pretty useless, in case you need to be reminded of that fact.
Through the first five games of 2010, Aaron Curry was about what I expected. He combined enough truly incredible plays with enough truly baffling plays to make one want to reserve judgment on him, to wait for him to figure it out. Was he worth the #4 pick? That's a touchy subject, and I won't bring it up until my eventual wrap-up post. But he sported some moves and athleticism worth getting excited about, and after reviewing these five games, I was intrigued to see how he would progress.
Then the Cardinals game happened. This was the first 2010 game that had me truly rubbing my temples, palming my forehead, and furrowing my brow as to what the hell he was doing out there. Whether he was running straight into blockers, leaving his assignment to pursue a run play that would leave open that zone he just abandoned, or simply walking around looking for something to do, this was the first game that left me with legitimate concern.
I suppose this is an appropriate spot to leave off with a cliffhanger. Was that Cards performance a one-game abberation we can shrug off, or a chilling harbinger of things to come? Stay tuned.