The Seahawks closed out their 2011 season with a hard-fought, chippy, grind it out overtime loss to the Cardinals today to give themselves a 7-9 record and third-place finish in the NFC West. As Rob Staton tells us, this 7-9 record means the Seahawks will now pick 11th or 12th in the 2012 Draft, pending a Roger Goodell (or someone representing the NFL) coin-toss at the NFL Combine, as the Seahawks end in a dead lock with the Kansas City Chiefs, both in record and strength of schedule.
A few thoughts on the game then as usual we'll get more in depth this week...
First off, another great NFC West game - I came away from the last two weeks with a great feeling for what the division is becoming. I feel good about the future of the Seahawks but at the same time I also have come to respect the improvement the Cardinals have made and the type of team that is put together in San Francisco. Apart from the Rams (who reportedly will fire HC Steve Spagnolo and GM Billy Devaney) the trio of Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona all look to be on the rise and the rivalries developing there are compelling. Looking forward to next season, it's easy to imagine each divisional matchup being huge, and despite the year the Rams had, you can't forget they were runner up to the NFC West title last season, so they could surprise as well. All in all, it's nice to have a legitimate division again.
Nothing in particular stood out to me in this game as overly concerning or overly exciting. The Seahawks rushed for 178 yards on 34 attempts, 5.2 ypc, and Tarvaris Jackson finished 21 for 33 for 222 yards, a touchdown and a pick. 35 throws to 34 runs, the typical balance from this offense and overall a pretty typical performance from it too - some nice interior running, a few deep shots, and of course a few really bad throws and a few really sweet throws from Tarvaris Jackson. Sprinkle in your obligatory strange, cute red-zone play calling by Darrell Bevell and this was a typical Seahawks' game.
Marshawn Lynch continued to look excellent running in Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme. He picked lanes well, fought for yardage, ran over defenders, and ended with 86 yards on 19 attempts, 4.5 yards per carry. He failed to score a touchdown for the first time in 12 games unfortunately, but he looked the part as a feature back. Leon Washington had a good game, finally, as a running back, rushing seven times and taking advantage by breaking one open for 48 yards and a touchdown with a few nice cuts downfield.
One theme from this game was the idea that some players would be playing for their jobs following the season, and a few of these performances stood out. Justin Forsett, for one, struggled, finishing with 16 yards rushing on six attempts, or 2.7 ypc on the ground and caught three passes for -4 yards. Likewise, Ben Obomanu had a tough night, hauling in three passes on seven targets, and at least three of those missed targets were borderline drops.
On the other hand, Richardo Lockette had another 'take the top off the defense' play when he caught a 61-yard bomb from Tarvaris Jackson for a touchdown in the 4th quarter. John Boyle of the Everett Herald wrote this week about how Tarvaris Jackson had compared Lockette to Forrest Gump at the beginning of the year - just runnnang - but now he's improved on his routes and catching ability. Well, that's probably true, but this run and catch was pretty reminiscent of Forrest Gump's fictional Alabama All-American campaign.
When you watch the replay of the touchdown, Lockette the Rocket just runs directly straight down the field and simply beats his defender to the endzone. Whatever, two games, two big plays for a guy many of us were hoping would be that deep threat type of player. So far, so good.
On defense, the vaunted run-stopping unit tilted back toward mediocrity, giving up 131 yards and 4.2 ypc to Arizona's backups, though it should be noted, as Thomas pointed out earlier in the year, the Seahawks definitely struggle more against smaller, shiftier backs and that's what LaRod Stephens-Howling is. Our defensive line has a harder time keeping contain on these players and our linebacker group isn't athletic enough to hang with them on the edge.
Exacerbating this issue with stopping the run was the ridiculousness of Larry Fitzgerald, who had an otherworldly game and was easily the MVP for the Cardinals. He had at least two highlight-reel catches and was huge in overtime, picking up 46 yards on three catches and essentially sealing the deal for Arizona.
All in all, though ugly and frustrating at times, this was another good divisional game and the Seahawks once again put themselves in a position to win late. More to come soon, but what were your thoughts?