Wow, what a busy quarter! Too much to cover, so I'll rip right into it.
- First play of the game, Lofa Tatupu interception, how'd it go down? Here's what I saw: The Eagles are four wide with a tight end; AJ Feeley in the shotgun. The Seahawks are in a base package w/ the linebackers spread wide. The Eagles have their two best wide receivers, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown, in the slots. They're covered by Julian Peterson and Leroy Hill, respectively. Tatupu is assigned L.J. Smith, so that the Hawks' three linebackers are each in man coverage against, arguably, the Eagles' three best receivers. At the snap Smith runs a loose post route, is thrown a bit off route by Tatupu and then sort of dogs it in the gap between Tats and Deon Grant. Curtis is thrown completely off his route by Peterson. I'm not so sure about Brown and Hill, but Brown looks open after the camera pans to center in on the Tatupu interception. Take that for what it's worth. The rest is obvious, Tats snags the pick and sets up the first Hawks' score.
Since we're on the subject, let's skip to Tatupu's second pick. Daryl Johnston called it a mirror image, but it really wasn't. Not that I'm picking on Johnston, he's just being colorful. It's 3rd and 6, the Hawks are in a 4-2 Nickel package and the Eagles a 3 WR, TE, single back formation. The Eagles send the slot receiver in motion, Jordan Babineaux adjusts by moving in and up against the line, Hill by moving out right. So different formation, different down and distance, and as I'll elaborate, a different group of role players for Tats' second star turn. At the snap, Brandon Mebane punishes the left guard, showing some college form with his manic handfighting, and forcing Todd Herremans back steadily towards Feeley. Westbrook jumps in for an assist and gets chucked for the effort. Tatupu briefly shadows Smith before Babs picks up Smith entering Babs' zone. This allows Tats to break back into a middle zone, intercept the pass intended for the slot receiver and then be off for a 49 yard return into Philly's redzone. That's'alotta zones!! So, Mebane pressures, Babs again shows good zone awareness, and Tatupu makes the best of an underneath zone. Pretty slick and surprisingly no frills.
The Hawks have been getting punished underneath all season. Two weeks back I opined that "Teams are killing the Hawks underneath, and unless the linebackers become better at working in short zones off the line, that's going to continue." It's safe to say that Sunday's display put a little fear in future quarterbacks and coordinators attempting to exploit Seattle's deep cover.
- How Josh Wilson was injured: He's playing right gunner on the punt return. He blows past William James, but James turns, holds stride and then begins to pull back on Wilson's jersey. Again and again, until Wilson crumples to the turf. Now, I don't know if that's exactly what injured Wilson, but, at the very least, that's a penalty.
- It's never good to be fixed in your opinions. In fact, an inability to see Shaun Alexander as he is rather than what he was is what got us into this mess to begin with. So, with that in mind, I opened my mind to the possibility that Alexander might play better now that's he's healthy. For two plays, that was true. It's not so much that Alexander recorded 18 yards and a touchdown on his first two runs, but how he did it. On the first run he hit the hole with authority and broke 3 tackles. On the second, he outran a man and actually got to the edge. After that, though, the wheels came off. And again, it's not that he ran for 1 yard on his next 3 runs, it's how he did it. His first run of the Hawks third drive typifies what makes Alexander so frustrating. Matt Hasselbeck hands him the ball, Alexander attempts a stutter step, neither cutting right nor left even a hair, just stopping cold until the Eagles close in on him. Like he was frozen by his own move.
- While we're running down my shit list, Russell had his typical quarter: Blown Assignment, Broken Tackle - even the pass defense he recorded was kind of botched. If you rewatch the play, Marcus Trufant has Greg Lewis locked up. Russell does his job, gets coverage underneath. Before we go any farther, what the hell was Feeley thinking throwing here? Lewis couldn't be more double covered. Now, with Tru overtop locking down Lewis, you might expect Russell to go for the pick. Or, if you're less demanding, at least swat the ball away. Instead, a split second before the ball arrives, Lewis sheds Russell and forces Trufant to tip the ball away to force the incomplete. How wild is that? Regarding the BT and BA, the later is the 15 yard rush by Westbrook in which Russell moved into outside containment left despite the play being, you know, a run behind right tackle. The former is just a little five yard run by Westbrook.
- Two plays later the Eagles run trips left, and in an eerily reminiscent scene, Tru loses Curtis breaking towards the sideline. It's 9/10ths the same play call the Rams ran last week in which Tru broke coverage and allowed Isaac Bruce to get open in the endzone. Mora may want to find a more effective way to defend against that. Russell tackles Curtis 47 yards down the field, and had Curtis not nearly fumbled the ball switching hands, it's unlikely Russell catches him at all.
- On his touchdown pass to Bobby Engram, Beck audibled Will Heller into an H-back position, and Shaun Alexander up and to his right in a wing back position. He did that, presumably, to pick up the Eagles' not at all disguised wide blitz. Funny, though, Alexander slipping up and out (almost) into the flat seemed to freeze Joselio Hanson and allow Engram to split the Eagles' zone. Were Alexander in his original position behind Beck, 5 yards behind the line, Hanson likely disregards Alexander, picks up Engram, and then who knows? Sometimes you make one right read and get another free for the effort.
- Chris Gray blows his assignment on the screen pass to Weaver because A) he's smart enough to stay in long enough to pick up the blitz, and B) is too slow to recover. That about sums up Gray's whole season.
Update: I have to go to bed in about...eh...3 hours as I work at 2am tomorrow morning. So in the spirit of not dying on the road, I'm pushing the 2nd quarter back. As long as the future 1st quarters aren't so damn exciting and action packed this shouldn't happen again. Revised Schedule: 2nd/3rd qtr Tuesday, 4th qtr Wednesday. Everything else per usual. Thanks.