During yesterday's press conference Mike Holmgren admitted that he does not decide who gets carries, that that was the decision of "Stump and Nolan". That would be running backs coach Stump Mitchell, and wide receivers coach Nolan Cromwell. Holmgren went on to say that he would like Morris and Alexander to be interchangeable. Here's an idea how you can expedite the process, Mike, hit Morris in the foot with a hammer. Let's make this clear: Had Stump Mitchell not decided to sub Morris on that fateful 3rd and 1 run, it's very likely the Seahawks would have lost. The Hawks offense was awful in the second half, Morris's TD run accounted for over a quarter of the Hawks' total yards. The other nine drives ended like this: fumble, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs, punt, punt, punt and then the end of the game. They recorded 5 first downs in the second half. I never wanted to be the blogger that called strangers incompetent, but if you were to ask me if I think Mike Holmgren and his coaching staff are effectively running this team, I would say no. I would say that they are consistently making decisions that hurt their teams' chances of winning.
- You want to hear something frightening? Alexander was markedly better yesterday than he had been in weeks. Yep. He was quicker, more decisive and able to break tackles. Healthy, fresh, but still Shaun Alexander 2007.
On the Hawks' third play of the second quarter, Seattle broke huddle in a 4 WR, 1 RB formation. Traditionally, the back in this formation is Leonard Weaver. That Alexander was in the backfield may have been an indication that something was amiss. The Eagles don't sniff out the run, and after the hand off a hole opens to the right, I'd estimate, 6-8 feet wide. Alexander attempts a stutter step, looks a bit like he trips over his own feet, and then falls forward into the waiting arms of Juqua Thomas - directly up the middle. Alexander's stutter step stops and stutter step falls started last season, and it doesn't seem at all far fetched to conclude that might have something to do with his broken foot. Those blunders, which routinely abort Alexander's rushes midstride, make it nearly impossible for him, no matter how good he is when not stopping or tripping or stumbling or staggering, to be a valuable NFL rusher. His 38% success rate, worst in the NFL among all rushers with 60 or more carries, attests to that fact.
- Shaun Alexander is a once great running back. His play is inextricably linked to the Hawks' Super Bowl run of 2005-2006. He, therefore, deserves some tolerance, some mercy. Brian Russell deserves to be catapulted into the sun. I broke down the Kevin Curtis touchdown for my fiancée and just before the reception paused the game and pointed at Brian Russell, she asked "What's he doing?" My answer was pretty easy "Nothing," or more accurately getting faked out of his shoes on Curtis' double move.
The Hawks are in base formation. The Eagles have two receivers left, Reggie Brown and the aforementioned Curtis. At the snap Brown slants right and into Deon Grant's zone. Grant covers him. Jennings, in man coverage, runs stride for stride with Curtis. Curtis enters Russell's zone and is double covered, briefly. Curtis runs a double move, false step in, slant out, slant in. On the second move, the slant in, he completely sheds Russell. It's now one on one deep. Jennings is a step behind, Feeley finds his man open, and for a second before Curtis hauls in the catch, you can see Russell all alone deep left, covering no one, doing nothing. This is the shot that prompted Alanya to ask the question every informed Seahawks fan has been asking for weeks. Were Jennings better, he still could have stopped the catch, but when a player runs deep left, it's the job of the free safety to pick him up and apply the double cover. In fact, since Russell provides nothing in the way of run support and plays so deep as to rarely be involved in all but the deepest passes, helping out in deep cover is about all Russell is asked to do.
- You know what the definition of baller is? Having two 350 lb lineman stacked atop you and still finding a way to tackle Brian Westbrook. For the second straight week, Rocky Bernard made the big play on a game changing goal line stand.
- Oh Jesus, do we have to revisit Russell? As long as he's on the field I suppose yes. 4th play, first Eagles drive of the 3rd quarter. Philly's offensive line creates a nice "^" shaped seam for Westbrook to rush through. Given the blocking and Westbrook's ability, this run was destined for at least 10 yards. That's because the only unblocked Hawks are members of the secondary, and one doesn't even come close to Weapon X until he's 10+ yards downfield. That "one" is free safety Brian Russell. Russell's job is to figure out, on the fly, where he can meet Westbrook head on, hopefully tackling him and preventing the score. Because Russell is to the right of Westbrook and because Westbrook is faster than Russell, Russell's vector of pursuit should be flat. That is, he should attempt to use his cushion to meet Westbrook where he'll be. Instead, for what, the third straight week?, Russell takes the wrong angle, pursues where Westbrook was, moves from five yards ahead of the rusher to a half a yard behind and to the side, and attempts a tackle that puts the hopeless in futile. If Russell can't cover deep, can't prevent long rushes from turning into scores, can't pick the ball or prevent long first downs, what is it that he can do?
- Play of the game, courtesy of, who else?, Lofa Tatupu. Not a pick, but a tackle. First play, third Eagles drive of the third quarter. The Eagles run a wide receiver screen to Curtis, with Todd Herremans pull blocking. Tats starts shaded a little right of center. After the snap, Tats reads the play and charges left, but is met by Herremans. How does Tatupu react to the attempted block by the 6'6", 321 pound guard? By dropping a shoulder into him and laying him out. Flat. Then shoots the gap and stops the screen before it gets off the floor.
We're lucky to have this guy.
- So, after the Westbrook score the Hawks are back behind. The offense is sputtering. How does Morris save the day? With quickness, a willingness to hit the hole, and one pretty good open field move. And really, that's about it. It's 3rd and 1, the Eagles are in their base defensive package with 9 in the box, Seattle runs a simple off tackle rush, but with a sizable hole, Morris explodes through, throws a sly little juke on Sheldon Brown, then crashes into the end zone. You know why Morris was able to do all that? Because he's an NFL caliber rusher, running behind a quality line, and the Hawks called the right play against the wrong defense. Simple, huh? If only Seattle could somehow give that NFL caliber rusher 20 carries.
- Here's your blitz package of the game. Run out of my favorite formation, the 3-3 Nickel. It led to the Julian Peterson INT, but, really, Pete did little more than let the ball into his hands. The superstar of this blitz is Patrick Kerney, who's won me over. You? The other 4 rushers are primarily decoys, designed to open a center channel for Kerney to zip through, unabated to the quarterback - but in a legal way. For that to work, Kerney must not only be quick, he must be quick off the snap, take just the right angle to the gap, and then explode through it before Feeley can adjust. Blitz accomplished.