Another slow quarter be...cau...se this was a slow game.
- 6th play of the quarter, 3 and 1, the Hawks are in a 3 wide, 1 back, 1 TE set. The call is a delayed handoff to Shaun Alexander. Two things to recognize: One, on first viewing it looks like Rob Sims gets handed his lunch, and, two, on repeated viewing it looks like Alexander runs into the defender. I can't quite resolve whether I should credit Sims with a blown block or not. Given that it's a delayed rush and that Walter Jones is blocking out, it's entirely possible that Sims allowed Kris Jenkins through. Why would a blocker allow a defensive linemen through, well, so that they get "sucked up". That is, like a draw or screen, offensive linemen will occasionally jujitsu their assignment, instead of blocking them down, let them use their own momentum to guide them away from the play. Sims moves Jenkins well away from Jones, and between the two offensive linemen a gaping hole appears. At the same time, Alexander hardly gets started before the defender's on top of him. My opinion, which is of course debatable, is that Alexander saw the defender with immediate penetration, panicked, and attempted to cut right. In doing so he moves right into Jenkins, bounces back and then pirouettes to the ground having lost 6 yards. Perhaps I'm unwittingly poisoned against Alexander, but it sure looks like a better rusher would have taken the gaping hole to the left, converted the first and made hay in Carolina's second level.
A good comparison is Alexander's 20 yard rush on the next drive. It's the exact same formation. Alexander explodes off right tackle. A run like this almost makes you wonder if he's dogging it on other plays, because Alexander's first gear sure looks intact. Anyway, to what matters. On this run, Chris Gray allows near instantaneous penetration by the defender, but Alexander hits the "hole" so quickly it doesn't matter. The big difference you see between the way Gray blocks and the way Sims blocks is that Sims looks in control. Sims is taking his defender back right and away from the hole. Gray looks as if he's struggling to hold on and even records an uncalled hold. The difference in the way the play is interpreted by fans, though, is that Alexander ran for 20 yards in one, and lost 6 in another. That's all about the rusher, even if you credit Sims for a blown block, it's not as badly a blown block, for sure. If Alexander cuts left instead of right, the Hawks record a first and, given the boulevard he had to rush through, likely quite a bit more. So we have a muddy situation. Sometimes you have to make a judgment call.
- That same drive provides a good example of what so infuriated me about Stump's seemingly arbitrary substitutions, and why I say if Mike Holmgren isn't willing to control the running back situation, much less adjust his play calling for his different backs, then he should be fired for gross incompetence. I'm not saying Mike Holmgren is a bad coach, but you have to know who's on the field, and you have to know how that affects your team's ability. Alexander has not been a viable receiver since 2002, and that season he still posted a negative DVOA. Alexander's yards per target for 2007, that is the average yardage on a pass targeted to Alexander, completion or no, is 2.7. That might be why Hasselbeck didn't even look at Alexander, his supposed outlet receiver, on the Na'il Diggs sack. He had all but dropped the pass intended him two plays earlier. Again, we can fudge that. Beck was hit so quickly maybe he just didn't want to expose himself for a turnover. All this, though, the incomplete pass on the second play, the fumble on the third, the slow coach curl out of the backfield on the fourth, the sack, the resulting 2nd and 26, all this didn't shake Stump, didn't rouse Holmgren, didn't awaken anyone enough to realize that a 2nd and 26 pass to Alexander is not an effective use of personnel, is not an intelligent play call, is not, in any circumstance, going to work. Yet...
- Howard Green, everybody! On the Hawks' 4th and 1 stuff to end the Panthers first drive, Green buried his shoulder into Mike Wahle and then performed a very Marcus Tubbs like slide to the ball carrier, collapsing DeShaun Foster's hole, and playing an essential part in the stop. Good for you, guy!
- If only Tatupu could wrap up, he'd be that much more fearsome. The guy allows a lot of broken tackles. A lot.
- An exceptional game by Ryan Plackemeier, and perhaps vindication that it was not him, but, yes, Boone Klutz at fault for the Hawks' sudden poor punting. Of Placks 8 punts, only 2 were returned. Three were downed inside Carolina's 10 yard line. That's the boom we expect from Placks, and should this be a harbinger of things to come, a boost from an unexpected place.
- Finally, a quick note on Darryl Tapp, as in, where the hell is Darryl Tapp? His 4 sack performance against the Rams, specifically, Milford Brown, a barely capable guard, and a joke at tackle, is not so quickly becoming a very distant memory. Every team from here on out will double Patrick Kerney, so it's Tapp's duty to make them pay. I wish I could say that he will, but not only has his sack prowess disappeared, but that which allows sacks, penetration, has disappeared, too. 5 defensive penetrations in the last 3 games is a dry spell worth worrying about. Perhaps that's why they were playing so much gull darned Nickel on Sunday.