I watched this at a bar with my friend Spencer so must admit I could not watch it in the same detail as usual. Since my thinking is a little scattered, let's handle the one question I'm sure most are asking.
Why does this win matter?
Apart from pulling away from .500, and apart from retaining first place when a loss would have put us in second, the two most noteworthy parts of Seattle's win are A) Morris did enough to continue to see carries and B) A shutout always matters. Let's handle the later first.
Prior to tonight's contest, only two teams have managed a shutout all season: The Packers this past Sunday against the Vikings and the Steelers against the Hawks in week 5. That might sound like a factoid in search of meaning, but allow me to explain why I think it matters. First, the Steelers and Packers are a combined 15-3. The 2007 NFL is a hyper-offensive environment. It's very hard for one team to shutout another and when one does, it implies true domination. Not just defensive either. To shut out a team, your offense must be able to sustain drives. The Hawks did just that. Tallying more rushing first downs than the Niners tallied all first downs and chewing nearly 40 minutes off the clock. So the Niners are awful, true, but dominating lesser opponents is the best indicator of playoff success.
Regarding Morris: No one said that Morris is a great back. Nor am I completely pleased that Morris was given 28 carries and Weaver only 2, but let's cut to the quick: This is a much better and much more balanced team with Morris starting than with Alexander starting. In the first half, Morris was successful on 58% of his runs. He converted 3 first downs and a score. Against a stacked box in the second half his success declined, posting a more Alexander like 38% success rating. For the game that adds up to a serviceable but not extraordinary, 46% success. However unimpressive that might be, for the Hawks it’s a step up from one of the worst rushing attacks in the league, one that put tremendous pressure on the passing attack, to something resembling league average.
Mike Holmgren stated that the Hawks were going to key the pass and they clearly did. Though the semblance of balance exists because this was a blowout, the Hawks first two drives totaled 16 passes and only 3 runs. That might work against the Niners, but better defenses will punish Seattle for that kind of play calling. The danger is not only that the Hawks offense will become predictable or one-dimensional, but that teams will be able to blitz against Seattle with impunity. You simply can't have your franchise quarterback throwing 40 passes against heavy pass rush and expect him to stay healthy.
Hopefully Holmgren will see Morris's production, the ability of his line to block with the right back behind them, and once again trust his rushing attack. When I talk about Morris earning carries, I don't just mean from Alexander, but also from the passing game.
Tonight was a good win. No negatives. None. Just a fun night to watch football.
Game Ball: The Line: How hard is it when your coach tells the whole world he's going to pass more and then does just that? The Hawks line did what they've done all season, give Beck great time and allow a bunch of zone busting slot guys the time they need to get open.