For those who dislike negativity, you might just want to skip this quarter. Since I don't much cover special teams, the best and worst moments of the quarter won't be covered in-depth. But, briefly, Josh Wilson's return was very impressive, though it's clear his top speed does not match his awesome acceleration. And that Burleson committed returner greed. From taking the ball out from within the ten, to leaving his feet, to repeatedly hanging the ball away from his body - Burleson's fumble was earned.
- The reason Will Witherspoon was able to get back-to-back sacks on the Hawks' first drive has a lot to do with a peculiar style of pass blocking Seattle sometimes employs, and that style's inherent weaknesses. It works like this: Walter Jones blocks in and Rob Sims blocks out. That's abnormal, of course, because Jones is the outside man, the tackle, and Sims is the inside man, the guard. On Witherspoon's first sack there was no obvious blown block. Matt Hasselbeck pump faked, and then barely had time to bring the ball back to his body before Witherspoon, shooting the gap between Sims and Jones, recorded the sack. On the next play the Hawks employed split backs (they were 4 wide single back on the previous play) and Weaver sat in the gap between Sims and Jones to counteract another blitz down the middle. Instead, Witherspoon employed an edge rush. Sims, having to move from the left guard position to engage Witherspoon on the outside, was down a step against Witherspoon and had little hope of stopping him from getting around the edge. Weaver could have chipped the defender, but his assignment was to control the gap and then run into the flat, so I'm remiss to blame him for the sack. No, the real blame is the unorthodox (to my knowledge) blocking of the Seattle Seahawks left guard and left tackle. I'm not sure if this is because Jones is injured, or if it has worked in the past, but it sure didn't work on the Hawks' first drive.
- Sims completely missed his block against Adam Carriker on the Morris safety, but Chris Gray blew his respective block, too. If Carriker hadn't caught Morris from behind, it's very possible that La'Roi Glover would have dropped him in the end zone from the front.
- I'm going to attempt to get Brian Russell off the hook. Though he took a bad angle and missed a tackle, I don't think he is primarily to blame for Steven Jackson's 53 yard touchdown. Perhaps the touchdown part of it, but not most of the yards. Still, indirectly, the whole mess is Russell's fault, but we'll get back to that.
It's first and ten. The Rams have excellent field position after receiving the post safety punt. The Hawks come out in their base defensive package, with Deon Grant near the line in the traditional "8 in the box" look. The Hawks look like they're employing a run blitz, and at the snap the outside linebackers jam the gaps. Grant does likewise. The problem is apparent, the Hawks defense has "flattened out", that is, they're in a line with only Tatupu in the second level. This weakness is exposed when Grant attempts to fill the outside gap, Jackson runs right up the middle, Tatupu runs full speed at Rams fullback Brian Leonard, and Jackson is suddenly free with only Grant pursuing and Russell to beat. The keys mistakes are in the play call, Grant's misread of the run and then, of course, Russell's poor angle and poor tackling. FWIW, most safeties in the league would have trouble tackling Jackson running at full speed. Then again, Russell didn't even become close. The reason I say that Russell is indirectly at fault is that Grant simply is not a strong safety. He doesn't have the experience or build to make a great run stopper. He's not particularly strong in man coverage. He's a free safety and a very good one at that. Moving Grant back to free safety and moving Babs, Mike Green or C.J. Wallace to strong safety would improve Seattle at two positions.
- Speaking of Russell, he is partly to blame for Bruce's touchdown reception. It's 3rd and 6, the Rams are in a bunch formation left, the Hawks, a base package with man coverage. Grant is lined up over top, Jennings on the exterior and Trufant on the interior. At the snap the top and inside man of the bunch run in what might best be described as an "X". Jennings picks up the receiver running out, Grant the receiver running in. The pattern has the effect of screening Trufant from Bruce until about 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. Now, Tru bears blame, while Jennings and Grant are able to confidently maneuver the formation and pick up their men, Trufant looks bewildered. It is possible that he assumed that the inside man would be his responsibility and not Grant's, but that we'll never know. What we do know is that Trufant is well behind Bruce and desperately in need of deep help. That's where Russell, who is working in a middle zone in the endzone, should run over to cover Bruce. Instead, Russell stays in the center though Grant has his man covered, and then doesn't break towards Bruce until it's entirely too late. The Rams convert the score and Trufant looks a couple shades worse than he deserves.