I can hear your cries of frustration. I can feel your tension on the heart breaking pass that ended the Seahawks hopes in Detroit. I am here, though, to help you move on and prepare for the final eight games of the 2012 season. This team is slowly becoming better, but again came up short on the road.
If I'm being honest, I didn't see more than two to three wins on the road to start the season. I have said this here before, but again, winning on the road is hard, particularly with the amount of youth & inexperience in this team's starting lineup, especially on defense.
Let me address comments and questions that came up after this game.
1) Why can't this team win on the road?
Pete is 6-15 on the road thus far - and this might be my least favorite statistic because each of his three teams has been different. Not enough players on a patchwork defense led to some blowouts in 2010. In 2011, you had many new faces in their first year of regular play -- Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright. In year three, the defense has had flashes of brilliance, but has been playing with an offense that has to grow game-to-game.
2) Why zone coverage?
I'm going to explain in-depth how playing in zone requires experience at some point soon in an article separate from this piece, but to be brief: experienced defenses can execute zones better than young ones. One good example is to look at the Bears, led by savvy veterans in Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, and Lance Briggs. So many of the players on that team have a wealth of experience seeing pro football offenses, and this allows them to understand their drops better and more effectively play the ball in the air. Younger players playing zone will rush to a spot and then stand flat footed, more often than not making their drop meaningless, because they have effectively become a stone in the ocean of the field.
So why are the Hawks using it against spread offenses? Speed. The Hawks don't have great speed and so in order to adequately match up across the board, some zone will have to be played. The team will have to play some zone well because it won't match up well enough against an accurate QB in man coverage across the board on every play.
3) Why no pass rush?
The Seahawks definitely missed Jason Jones on Sunday. I wrote a piece about the defensive tackle's importance to the defensive pass rush and how it may be even more important than the rush Seahawks ends provide. In the game yesterday, if you look at how clean the o-line of Detroit kept the pocket, especially in the middle, there is no doubt that Jason Jones makes a key difference for their pressure packages right now.
4) Why not blitz?
This is simple - though they did blitz in the game, in nearly every situation Matthew Stafford was able to exploit it pretty quickly. And, because the defensive tackles lacked any clear advantage inside, the Lions' o-line picked most of them up without effort. This was a game where Seattle's personnel did not show up and play well in pass rush and so their inexperienced corps got beat.
5) What happened with the Richard Sherman 46-yard TD mistake?
This touchdown really kind of shifted the momentum of the game. The Seahawks had scored ten unanswered points and the Lions had had a ton of early bad luck. I hate this play for any number of reasons.
Sherman said in an interview after the game that he and Kam had communication issues on the play, but the way I break it down it appears Sherman is the player at fault. The Hawks were in a zone look, and Sherman is caught watching for quick throws and screens and the like in the flats underneath. He gets flat footed though on his drop, which allows Titus Young to get to the outside of his coverage (toward the sideline) instead of inside towards the hashmarks (toward the middle of the field), where Kam Chancellor is lurking. Chancellor was also in zone but lined up toward the middle of the field, and didn't have time to both wait for the ball to be thrown and then cover the extra strides it takes to get to Young on the play up the sideline.
For his part, it appears that Chancellor also became flat footed because he was expecting any throws to be in the middle of the field, not along the sideline. This is why he looks late getting to the throw, because it never should have been allowed to be thrown there. Essentially, if Young is forced to go deep up along the inside of the field instead of outside along the sideline, Kam is able to pick him up and prevent the throw.
In a zone call like that, the safety will not break until the ball is in the air, as instructed. By the time Kam can react to the ball, Titus has beaten Sherman and expanded the distance Kam has to cover - with a ball coming in hot. Earl Thomas has a chance to make a play like that, but most safeties in the NFL will probably miss that. This one is disappointingly on Sherman but likely won't happen again. Attention to detail is key and it can be as simple as misunderstanding your coverage help and you give up a TD.
It's a play similar to one we saw against the Redskins last year in which Brandon Browner was beat deep on 3rd & 19. Browner got caught peeking on the play and stopped his feet before falling for a double move. The TD broke the back of the Hawks and knowing in this case that you are in a man-to-man match up means you don't peak or worry or stop coverage. Since that play though, Browner has yet to be beat in a similar fashion. In this same vain, Sherman will probably file this in the "don't do that again drawer."
6) What happened on Russell Wilson's interception (and why was Sidney Rice waving for the pick)?
Russell's only real glaring mistake, but it's honest. He admitted afterwards that he thought Sidney's wave meant he was going deep so that's where he threw it, instead of taking the hole shot to where Rice was located (ultimately, of course, Wilson should know the coverage, not listen to what Sidney Rice is saying). The Seahawks miss a chance to drive and run clock and put points on their slim lead, and Stafford turns the second chance into a TD. This type of miscommunication is another learning point that hopefully will not occur again either.
Shootouts are more likely to occur on the road than at home for this team. Shootouts are easier to overcome at home than on the road. Games like this are bound to happen more on the road and so every slight mistake is magnified and every weakness hits a bit harder.
At some point though, I see this team breaking through their glass ceiling on the road. The imbalance of poor offense and a strong defense is starting to even out and these final eight games are about challenging for the playoffs, something that we could not even say at this same point last year. It's just a matter of time now before this team finds its stride and the inexperience fades to the background.
The time is now in these last eight games where this team makes the bigger strides to it's future. It's also time for fans to refocus their energy for this stretch and realize it's not where you've been it's where you're going, or as Matthew Hasselbeck once proudly spoke to Marshawn Lynch after their comeback win against the panthers, "It's not how you start, it's how you finish,"
So my question is:
Are you ready to forget how it started and see how it finishes? Are you in?