I had the opportunity to go to the game this past weekend (thanks again to the Daily Norseman's Arif Hasan and the Field Gulls' tickets donor for that, it was awesome), so my schedule got all out of whack and I guess I haven't really written anything about what I saw yet. I guess maybe I should do that.
First off, as many/most of you well know, going to watch the game live is an exhilarating, amazingly chaotic experience, but because of that, it was hard to really tell what was going on most of the time. Arif and I sat there talking shop as much as we could, but (thankfully) we were so close to the field that it was actually kinda tough to really see the big picture. After watching the game on NFL Game Rewind, I think I have a better idea of what I saw. Ok I'll stop rambling and tell you now.
Red Bryant, as Pete Carroll mentioned in post-game interviews, had a hell of a game - 'his best in his time with us' or however it was he worded it. There was one particular run play early on where Bryant just pushed TE/FB Rhett Ellison back at the snap so violently and forcefully that Ellison ran into ball carrier Adrian Peterson and disrupted his running path. The Hawks then swarmed to the football and gang-tackled A.D., and I thought this was a pretty good microcosm for what big Red was able to achieve on Sunday. He was a force on the edge, and really set the tone for the rest of the unit. If Seattle can get consistent play like that out of Bryant for the rest of the year, seeing him push up field, throw blocking defenders down, stomp menacingly at opposing defenders and their bench? Well, I mean, that will be nice.
For their part, Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons both pressured well, and Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Clint McDonald, and Mike Bennett were all very active and disruptive on the interior. My thinking on Cliff Avril has changed over the past few weeks, going from 'he's probably just a one-year rental' to 'hmmm, I wonder if they can extend him long-term to cut down his cap hit next year'. I would still rank Michael Bennett higher on the priority list in terms of keeping him around long term, but the combination of Clemons and Avril has been way better than I'd even hoped.
Avril BOLTS off the snap - seriously, his get-off is ridiculous - and then he kind of runs arms-flailingly and haphazardly in the direction of the quarterback (zombie-running). When Avril is not making contact with the QB or forcing a fumble, he's batting a pass down, forcing a quick throw, or forcing the QB back up into the pocket toward hopefully penetrating Michael Bennett.
Avril is also pretty good at chasing down quarterbacks once they get out of the pocket, and I don't have the stats in front of me, but I am pretty sure no player has more forced fumbles and strip sacks than Avril over the past few years. Anyway, he's only 27 years old, and after a somewhat quiet start to the season, has 4.5 sacks in the last five games. The ability to rush the passer from multiple angles and multiple platforms (i.e., stand-up or three point stance) is pretty effective for Seattle this year, and as the season goes on, it seems like guys are settling into their roles and figuring out how it 'all goes together', as PC has put it.
Back to the game. I probably predicted a lot of things to Arif during the course of the game, but the two predictions I remember the best, because I turned out to be right on them, were: 1) Seattle was going to get a pick-six, and 2) Seattle has been really good at the end of the first half lately (ie, Seattle will score at the end of the half), which is really f*cking weird because normally they hilariously implode towards the end of the half.
Well, in this one, Seattle forced a Minnesota field goal and were set to get the ball back with 52 seconds on the clock. Percy Harvin returned the kickoff 58 yards and four plays later, Doug Baldwin was coming down with a beautiful Russell Wilson pass in the corner of the endzone, facilitated by Harvin in the slot, drawing the attention of the safety to that side of the field. That drive put the game away. Seriously, it was that demoralizing. Percy Harvin, Force Multiplier.
As for the pick six, I had originally thought I was going to be correct twice before I actually was: First, Earl Thomas missed out on the chance early in the game when the Vikings tried to set up a screen; Earl read it brilliantly, but Cliff Avril made a 'great play' on it by tipping the Christian Ponder outlet pass. Had Avril just accidentally missed that football, there's a good chance that's six points for Earl. It was kind of funny seeing Avril celebrate and Earl wallowing in despair at the missed chance. Later, Bobby Wagner jumped a short route for the sticks and had nothing but green in front of him for what looked like a potential pick-six, but then he dropped the football.
Regardless, Seattle's actual pick-six came in a zone look, and Walter Thurmond, after passing off a defender running out of his area, jumped a quick pass to the flats and ran it in for a score. Imagine how ridiculous this game would have gotten if the defense had scored 14 additional points. We're talking Arizona Cardinals at the CLink last year ridiculous. That's football though. Who cares.
- Marshawn Lynch is awesome. In addition to picking up additional yards every time he was hit behind the line or put in check, he also chucked a football into the crowd, ... like, far. He can throw, I guess. Lynch scored an early rushing touchdown and added another on the awesome little shovel pass flip from Wilson later in the game, and now has 11 on the year. He is now tied with Adrian Peterson for most touchdowns since the beginning of the 2012 season (23).
- Russell Wilson was super poised and 'lasered in' in this game. He wasn't pressured very much either, and this game served as a reminder of what the guy can do when he has time to throw. A few highlight throws were: 1) the absolute dime tear-drop to Percy Harvin, in the face of pressure, over an outstretched defender, 2) the 'hole shot' to Golden Tate down the right sideline, and 3) the touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin in the corner. The shovel pass was so schoolyard. Loved that too.
- K.J. Wright is so good laterally. I think all of Seattle's linebackers have issues at times with their drops in zone, but Wright in particular is really, really good sideline to sideline in sniffing out screen plays and sticking with backs and receivers in space. Wright blew up John Carlson on a little tight end drag route to foil a Vikings' drive...
... and he also blew up a screen that was headed toward Peterson on the same flank. These two plays alone don't mean a ton, but Wright has consistently done this this season.
- The Seahawks punt coverage team has given up 15 yards in returns. Total. On the season. Jon Ryan does a great job of locating his kicks and putting a lot of air underneath, and gunners like Jeremy Lane, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, and a few others have done an excellent job of forcing a fair catch or no catch at all. The kick return coverage team did a pretty decent job in this one too - especially considering the Vikings were #1 in the NFL in that category.
- The offensive line rotation.... nothing really too noteworthy. They line protected well. Let's hope that carries forward.
- Percy Harvin is awesome. More on that soon.