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The Tape: 3rd Quarter: Me!Bane!

The third quarter featured a couple defensive gems in an otherwise unspectacular 15 minutes. Plus, evidence that Morris, though better than Alexander, is an incomplete running back.

  • One thing the 2007 season has truly reinforced in my mind is that running backs are fungible, and, moreover, many NFL coaches haven't a clue about the quality of their own players - At least not the quality of their running backs. Justin Fargas, Earnest Graham, Ryan Grant, Derrick Ward and Andre Hall all started the season as third string or worse on the depth chart. Each, with the possible exception of Ward and Hall, have performed better than any of the players who were ranked ahead of them. I don't have a clear explanation for this phenomena, nor the time to see if it is something new, or something that's been true for some time, but a couple rushes by Morris gave me an idea as to why it happens.

    Morris had a pair of plays that might have something to do with him heretofore not getting many carries, and in each it was his decision making that was suspect. The first came, perhaps surprisingly to you, on Morris' 46 yard rush. In the open field, a step ahead of two pursuing defenders and with a Seahawk blocking downfield to his right, Morris mistakenly broke his stride and attempted to put a move or stiff arm on Fakhir Brown. Morris looked to be running about as fast as Brown, but was a step or two ahead. Were he to simply continue to run at his top speed towards the endzone he likely would have scored, but, at the very least, he would have totaled more yards.

    The next mistake came on a run off tackle to begin the Hawks' final drive of the half. In space, more or less free from defenders, and with Nate Burleson blocking Brown out of the play, Morris had a clear lane to the outside. Instead he cut inside, and more or less into Burleson's back. Watching the two plays, I thought maybe this is the stuff that coaches see that makes them think a rusher doesn't have what it takes to start. I imagine Alexander would have made the right decision in either case. In practice, with everyone running ¾ speed, making the right decision is paramount, but in game, speed and agility rule. In fact, I believe that Alexander's decision making had a lot to with his 200+ yard performance last season against Green Bay. With everyone slowed down because of the poor field conditions, Alexander's decision making became a greater factor, his speed and agility deemphasized. Hopefully, this time next season, the Hawks will have a rusher who makes the right decisions and has the tools to make it matter.

  • Now down to the big plays, both involve Brandon Mebane, and both happened on the Rams' brief two play drive. Killing this drive, a drive that originated on the Seahawks' 39, was essential to Seattle crawling back into this contest and eventually winning. The first play is simple enough, a run between the center and left guard by Steven Jackson. At the snap Jackson runs behind Brian Leonard, Leonard is blown to smithereens by Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill slides in for the strip. The key to the play, though, is Brandon Mebane. Mebane stands Milford Brown upright, so that he is less blocker and more obstacle. It's a quiet play, but a dominant one.

    The next play is a pass. The Rams attempt to combo block Mebane off the snap, but he sheds the center, isolates the guard, and walks him back into Bulger. Never attaining true penetration, but creating pressure, and forcing Bulger to throw into coverage. That coverage is sublime. Marcus Trufant locks down Holt, and without breaking off his man scoops up the interception. Tru is still primarily a cover corner, but his ability to play the ball has improved tremendously. What is most exciting, though, and what may vault Tru into the realm of shutdown corner, is that he gets picks without breaking coverage. Even the best cover corners, like Dallas' Terrence Newman, generally have to jump routes to score picks. That's risky. Tru gets picks on plays that are either pick or incompletion. It's yet to be seen if Tru can keep it up, but if he can, he could become one of the five best corners in football.