We live in a culture of immediate over-reaction. I used to have a job selling memberships at a gym, and I was good at it, in no small part because of my handsome biceps. My boss was a high-pressure salesman that literally looked like this, and he put a big onus on daily closing percentage. That was a difficult adjustment for me to make, as I believe strongly in the value of large sample sizes (and also in the value of letting someone walk away if they're not ready to buy). He didn't.
Every day he would peer in on my presentations and was reactive to whatever the outcome was. He wasn't as interested in how I presented as he was in whether the person signed up or not. His valuation of my (and the rest of the staff's) performance varied from day to day and I found myself sweating over each day's closing percentage instead of stepping back and viewing the entire month as a better gauge of performance. It made an otherwise wholly enjoyable job very stressful.
You see, nothing matters as much as whatever just happened, and our thoughts and words and actions are painted by the brush of recent happenstance. Perhaps there is no arena where this is more apparent than the world of NFL fandom. Right now, there are fans in Buffalo, Cincinnati and Detroit prepping themselves for a deep playoff run, while fans in Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Chicago (all playoff teams from a year ago) are wondering who their teams will take with a top 10 draft pick in 2012.
We're guilty of this in the 12th Man, as well. Although there weren't many of us (I don't think) picturing a Super Bowl this season, the constant stream of exciting acquisitions and positive PR coming out of Seahawks camp had many of us picturing, at the very least, a watchable season, if not a downright exciting one. After all, last season was nothing if not exciting, and that was with low expectations.
Now, after a performance so underwhelming against Pittsburgh that it does the word a disservice, I'm hearing 'Hawks fans wondering if they aren't the worst team in the league. I'm not innocent of fantasizing about Andrew Luck's head on Tarvaris Jackson's body either, but I can't help but think that we're collectively over-reacting. Seattle may very well end up as the worst team in the NFL, but you absolutely can't make that assessment after two games, as the Seahawks are just one of seven teams sitting at 0-2. There is a very good chance that Seattle holds serve at home this week, catapulting them into a tie for the divisional lead (ahahahaha, hahaha, ahahaha... aha... ah. It's true). If so, things will start to look a lot better, and we'll hold our new optimism high until another loss hurls us back into the depths of self-pity.
I think Seattle will beat Arizona this Sunday, and here's how I think they can do it.
1.) A moving pocket. Jackson has proven that he's willing to take a hit, and he's shown that he can extend a play when the line collapses. He has also shown, however, a propensity for jumpiness and hurried, short-armed throws have become as frequent as his set, properly timed ones. Jackson is not a pure pocket passer, and I think it's time Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell stopped treating him like one. Those two are not idiots, and I look to see them get Jackson behind a laterally moving pass-blocking scheme that allows him to make his timing throws when he's supposed to, without wondering if he's going to end up with a 320-pounder's facemask in his sternum.
2.) Quick routes. It's sounding more and more like Sidney Rice will make his Seahawks debut this week and while the temptation is to send him deep and try and milk him (ew) for that big-play money they're paying him, the offense is not in a state of array that allows for that. At least not initially. I look for Mike Williams to see his share of stop and hook routes, Golden Tate to spend a lot of his time under ten yards from the line of scrimmage, and for Zach Miller to utilize a few chip-and-run patterns that can buy his QB some time while keeping him a viable option in the passing game. With any luck, Jackson can connect on enough of the short routes to draw the safeties up, allowing Rice (or Baldwin?) to slip behind the corner for a lullaby attack.
3.) For the love of all that you hold dear, Seattle, please please keep a safety over the top of Larry Fitzgerald. If Early Doucet and Beanie Wells beat us, so be it. Do not let Fitz do it. A guy like Fitzgerald not only has other-worldly ball skills, he runs his routes with the precision of calligrapher. The real danger with Larry, however, is his ability to end a game with just one play. Few things are more disheartening than seeing a competitive game effectively ended by a long touchdown. Ted Ginn Jr made us keenly aware of that.
I hope that Seattle always keeps two sets of eyes on Fitzgerald this Sunday, whether it's assigning a fifth defensive back to help the corners, or by rotating coverages over the top. I'd love to see Brandon Browner's height matched up on him all game, with a helper having his back when his foot-speed is inevitably over-matched. I trust Marcus Trufant's ability to cover any of the other wide-outs, and the Seahawks' run defense is the aspect of this team I have the most confidence in. That still doesn't keep me from being haunted by the thought of one of the most athletic receivers the world has ever seen beating us deep late in a close game.
4.) Forcing three turnovers. The Seahawks have yet to receive the ball without fielding a punt or kickoff, which is to say that they haven't forced a single turnover. No team can win that way, especially a team with noticeable deficiencies. Now, I realize that three turnovers seems as superfluous as Wayne's gunrack, given that they haven't gotten a single one yet, but it's going to take a significant thematic change for the defense if the team's fortunes are to turn around.
One fumble recovery or interception would be nice, because they all are when forced by your team, but it's hardly going to be enough in most NFL games. Three picks, blocks, or recoveries will give this team an excellent chance to win the field position battle that they've been losing so terribly thus far, and field position cannot be overestimated as an influential factor.
5.) The fans. It's the one decided advantage Seattle has. Let's not let a slow start to the season keep us from getting so loud that Kevin Kolb has to take all three of his timeouts in the first quarter. I went to the famous Giants game wherein they committed 11 false starts. I've seen what this crowd is capable of. The 'Hawks will need our help Sunday, and don't kid yourself -- the crowd can make a tangible difference in the outcome of the game. Make SoDo tremble.