Optimism and pessimism are funny things. Both sides saw the same thing. Both sides probably want the same thing. In the case of a Seahawks game, there are going to be people that see the bright side of any given play, and there are people that are going to see the negative side of any given play. Neither side is inherently wrong.
Neither side is inherently right.
I guess you could say that I'm an eternal optimist and I think it always shows in my writing. I try to always look at everything critical now because of that since it can get you into trouble to always think everything is going to be okay. My mom also says I'm way too trusting of people, but she just doesn't understand that you don't get e-mails from Nigerian princes every day. Must be seriously serious.
There was both optimism and concern after the Seahawks 30-10 preseason win over the Broncos on Saturday night. Everybody is titillated with Russell Wilson, mostly because it's fun to say titillated. But people were concerned from the first half, because Matt Flynn's numbers don't look so good and the defense was cut up by Peyton Manning, while never providing any kind of pressure on the Broncos offensive line. Indeed, there are criticisms to be made and the real question should be: "What if this was a real game?"
Yes, what if this was a real game? Objectively, you could say that most of the first half was like a real game and the Seahawks were down 10-9 after two quarters and all those bad things that I mentioned had happened. So would it be reasonable to say that eventually Seattle would have lost this game if it was real? Last night I dreamt that I was on vacation and all of a sudden I was hanging out with Dolph Lundgren, getting some sun, when aliens started to invade. What does THAT mean? Not everything can be real.
Looking at the first half objectively and pretending like this was a real game, I didn't come away very concerned. Because if you started to imagine what this game would have looked like if it were real, you'd understand why preseason games are to regular season games as Snakes on a Train is to Snakes on a Plane.
It's just a cheap ripoff that doesn't entirely reflect it's master.
The most real that this game ever got was in the first quarter when most of the starters were playing for both sides. Most, but not all, and even then it's still a mishmash of what the reality of a regular season game would have looked like. For instance:
- If this were a regular season game, Doug Baldwin would have likely played and started. I don't think I have to explain why Baldwin is integral to the offense. With Sidney Rice out for seven games last year and Mike Williams out of style for the entire season, Baldwin stepped up and led the receivers. Matt Flynn was 6-of-13 for 31 yards but I ask you, what did he have to work with? The only receiver that was able to play that he seems to work well with was Deon Butler, and Butler had 3 catches for 16 yards but mostly their bond showed. They're on the same page, unlike...
- Terrell Owens. If this were a regular season game, T.O. either would not have played or would have played sparingly. He likely wouldn't have seen five targets, but since this is the preseason, they had to see how ready he was and that's why we have fake games. Really, it wasn't even as bad as it seems.
If you think about it a little bit more, Owens and Flynn nearly hooked up on a beautiful 46-yard pass. The timing. was. perfect. The throw was perfect. Owens displayed like 90% of what makes him a great receiver on that play except for the "receiving" part. Whether or not Owens makes this team will depend more on what he does after three or four weeks of practice, not one week. I'm not going to tell you that Owens looked great out there, because he didn't and I'm not going to make excuses for him, because we shouldn't. I'll only say that if this were a regular season game, the only pass he might have seen was that 46-yard bomb, because that's the only time he was wide open from what I saw.
- I thought that the offensive line played as well as they could against two of the top pass rushers in the league. There was an early sack on Flynn and a holding penalty on Russell Okung when he got juked by Elvis Dumervil. But Marshawn Lynch ran well when he was in there and they opened up at least one huge hole for Robert Turbin in the first half that gained nine yards and put them in position for fourth-and-inches, which they converted.
There were more than enough errors though, too.
Holding on Lynch.
False start by J.R. Sweezy.
Unnecessary roughness on Breno Giacomini.
Then Pete Carroll watched Unnecessary Roughness, which doesn't hold up well.
Holding on Giacomini.
There's going to be a lot of pressure on Giacomini to play well this season and expectations that he's going to start sixteen games at right tackle. It could have gone better but that's why we have preseason games.
Did I mention that Sweezy was not a guard up until a few months ago? Or that John Moffitt could be playing by the regular season? If this were a regular season game, Okung still would have gotten beaten by Dumervil a time or two, but that shouldn't be unexpected.
I don't think that the offensive line necessarily played well, but they played well enough. And I also thought that Flynn showed good scrambling ability and decision-making when the line broke down.
- If this were a regular season game, Lynch would have had more than six carries, you know. Turbin played fine, but there's a reason that Lynch is a Pro Bowl running back and it's not because he gets a ton of help from the offensive line. He also gained 37 yards on those carries, so what would have done with 20 of them?
Seattle left the first half down 10-9 on the road in Denver and there were concerns about the play, but that should only matter to you if you think that the first half resembled a regular season game. Did you believe that for real?
From what I could tell, the Broncos did play with almost a full deck for most of the first half, so the players out there matter, but let's also not forget that even if Manning tossed for 177 yards, he threw 23 passes. He presumably threw 23 passes in a half because Denver wants to get his arm warmed up. This doesn't necessarily reflect a regular season game. In 2010, Manning led the league in pass attempted and went almost 100 attempts over his previous career high. He threw it 679 times that year, which is ridiculous. It's more than Drew Brees has ever attempted.
It's 42.4 pass attempts per game. On Saturday he attempted 23 in a half. That's abnormal. That's because it's preseason. His results were 177 yards, 0 TD and 2 INT. The receivers found some wide open spaces but I find it interesting that it was Brandon Stokley that led them in receiving. His history with Manning plus the defensive packages the Seattle was running probably affected that. Also, Stokley is not a starting X or Y. We can rest and relax knowing that we're probably still good in the secondary, and that Richard Sherman played well against Demaryius Thomas.
Also don't forget that while Jeron Johnson forced a fumble and had an interception, I'm really not sure how big of a difference the coverage is between Johnson and Kam Chancellor, and Chancellor only played the first quarter. Of course, then we wouldn't have had Johnson make those plays in the second, not that I have any doubts about Chancellor's ability to make gamechanging plays.
So, as I said, I think Denver mostly played a full deck in the first, but what about Seattle?
No Rice, Baldwin, Zach Miller, Moffitt, or Jason Jones. I think the absence of Jones definitely comes into play when talking about pressure on the quarterback. I also believe that Miller will play a much bigger and better role this season than he did last. Maybe Flynn hasn't thrown a ball past 15 yards much in his first two games, and maybe we have to consider that Rice and Baldwin are two of our best deep threats.
The optimist and the pessimist.
I have definitely given you the optimistic view of the game and I don't take lightly the fact that I simply try to look for the good in things. I know the hardships of being a Seattle sports fan as well as anyone of my age, I think. I can tell you that being a Mariners fan has been especially hard over the last decade, while the Seahawks have provided plenty of good stuff to watch over that time period. Yet whether you root for just one Seattle team or all of them, championships don't come around much.
That gives the general population of Northwest sports fan reason to be pessimistic, and it wouldn't be true to say that Seattle played poorly at times over the first half against Denver. If it were a real game and the results were the same, that would mean something. But since it was a fake game with about 50 caveats to consider, it doesn't mean much at all. If you were concerned about Flynn, you should be giving reasons that go beyond numbers. In fact, they shouldn't consider numbers at all. His numbers were negatively affected by not only a lack of his true starters, but by a game plan that was set for a preseason matchup. A gameplan that included five targets to a player he had probably never even spoken to until two weeks ago.
38% of his pass attempts.
Even if you didn't come away encouraged, I couldn't blame you. But I don't see what's to be discouraged about because it was a fake game. Make judgments on the accuracy of his throws, his decisions in the pocket, the strength and zip on his passes, and whatever else is a real thing to judge him on in a fake game with a not-real game plan.
Seattle went down to Denver and trailed 10-9 at half with a lot of backups playing against a solid Broncos defense and held a Hall of Fame quarterback out of the end zone while mostly containing his top two receivers. Yeah, I'm fairly encouraged.
But hey, I'm an optimist.