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The Tape: Hawks Hit the Heartbrakes

I turned this off after Matt Hasselbeck led the Hawks final competitive drive, a quick three and out with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. After that both teams subbed in the scrubs. I'll jot down the stats from those grueling final four drives sometime before the bye week, but unless you like futility (and maybe as a NW sports fan you do) there wasn't much to report.

  • First, as to the phantom first down. The officials made the right call. It was 2nd and one and Parker ran for 11 yards, the play was called back for holding, but where Cedric Wilson committed the hold was already past the first down marker. So Parker had already legally converted the first down and then ten yards was subtracted from the point of the hold. Daddy's Boy up in the booth has the responsibility to explain this stuff--I think the NFL would benefit by requiring some level of competence and knowledge from the various network's broadcasting crews. The more fans understand what is going on, the more legitimate officiating seems and the more interesting the game is.
  • Quite simply, Ben Roethlisberger played out of his mind. Let's ignore the luck component for a second (like the fact that whenever Roethlisberger rolled out and away from the Hawks' pass rush, he always somehow ended on the side of the field where a Seahawks DB was just breaking coverage), the fact is he made some marvelous reads, some great touch passes and looked like vintage Daunte Culpepper in his ability to shed the pass rush. Craig Terrill had him twice dead-to-rights only to be brushed off like Kelly Jennings.

    Rough day for Seattle's secondary, and though we think of the big men along the line as suffering the most from fatigue, the little guys, of which Seattle has considerably less depth and who must run around all game, looked the worse for wear. On the Steelers' back breaking 10 minute drive to open the second half, Marcus Trufant, Jennings and Jordan Babineaux combined for four blown coverages resulting in 56 yards and 3 first downs.  Tru seemed to have particular trouble keeping his feet.

  • Seattle's second half defense was all about the five man front. They had five or more men, not counting goal line here, 6 times on Pitt's first drive and four times on Pitt's second drive. One can understand why John Marshall was interested in stopping the run, but loading up the line didn't stop the run. It, in fact, backfired mightily against the run and pass. The Steelers averaged 7.3 yards per play against the Hawks' stacked line, and worse yet, a first down or touchdown once every two plays. Yikes. Ever the iconoclast, put me squarely in the more base defense, less snazziness camp.
  • Weaver badly blew a block on Alexander's lone meaningful rush. First play, first Hawk drive of the second half, and the type of blown block that gives you chills. He didn't whiff squaring up against a defender or get caught in traffic, he just ran into his own O-Line, right into Chris Gray's back, so that once Alexander bounced the ball outside, as he's wont to do, Weaver was behind Alexander.
  • With Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett both injured, you might expect Seattle to revert to more 2 WR sets, but you'd be wrong. It's only 7 plays, but Seattle ran four WRs thrice and three once. That actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The remaining Hawk wideouts are all slot receivers. The one time they went two wide, a lopsided right formation with two tight ends (left/right) a single back and both receivers right, Beck looked like he wanted to spit piss he was so mad. First Obomanu aligns too far from the line and Beck has to yell at him to get closer, and then on a play that was clearly quick slant or bust, Obomanu runs the most half-assed slant in the history of man. He runs about quarter speed, never getting an inch worth of separation from Deshea Townsend. Beck motions the pass, on what was certainly an aborted throw and not a play fake, and then the whole thing just breaks down. Pitt doesn't even bother with a pass rush, and three seconds into the play the Hawks wideouts are just milling around in the second level neither running routes nor seriously looking to get open. Beck just throws it away. On the next play Beck throws a frustration pass into Ike Taylor's back on a pathetic curl route by Burleson. With Burly and Obo both goofing off, I can't help but wonder if Courtney Taylor shouldn't get some looks starting wide. He's not gifted physically, but he does run his routes.

Nothing else to report. Crap, boring half. From the don't panic camp, remember that the Steelers entered Sunday's contest with the NFL's #1 ranked pass defenses and #4 ranked rush defense. Seattle will play better games, but with the run game in shambles and the Hawks' without a viable starting wide receiver, expect the next two weeks to be frustrating.