Carson Palmer visits. T.J. Whosyourmama as well. Chad Johnson books the Seattle Lite Opera for a potential end zone celebration. And you are there. Let's run up the score, shall we? We shall.
Update Three Keys --John
- The Hawks rushing attack has to break out and that starts with the offensive line. Shaun Alexander has shown that given a hole he can still be a productive back, but he fails to hit creases and seems with authority. Putting aside Alexander's age and recent spate of injuries, that's been true his entire career--just never to this extent. In the second half in Arizona Mike Holmgren began loosening the run blocking calls. Robs Sims, specifically, was asked to pull block with more regularity. Sims as a pull blocker is still a work in progress. Seahawks fans weaned on Steve Hutchinson's ability to move through traffic and square up and dominate his man on the second level must adjust their expectations. Sims hasn't quite the agility of Hutch, but he has most of the power and quickness. What he lacks, but can realistically be expected to learn, is the ability to work through traffic. Once Sims can decipher the wreckage comprising the post-snap defensive/offensive lines, he should be able to slide into the second level and provide the kind of forceful pull blocker that makes Mike Holmgren's power rushing attack work. With the Bengals linebacker corps thin and depleted, Alexander should--and really must--excel if Seattle gives him room to work.
- I may harp on this fact until I'm blue in the face, but the Hawks defense is built on the pass rush. No player is as essential to that rush working as Rocky Bernard. Bernard doesn't always get the sacks, but no player on the Hawks consistently degrades the pocket like Bernard. Interior pressure does a funny thing to quarterbacks: Some scramble to the left or right often into the teeth of a defensive end or blitzing linebacker or DB (see Tampa Bay), others force the pass; Matt Leinart showed poise and patience waiting for his receiver to get open. Last week I talked about protecting Kelly Jennings against a mismatch, to a limited extent they did. Seven receptions and 87 yards is a productive but not dominating showing for a wide receiver of Larry Fitzgerald's caliber. This week the Hawks must protect both corners. Despite not converting a sack, the Hawks amped up the pressure in the second half. In the first half of the contest Seattle's line looked overmatched. Leinart averaged 9.19 yards per attempt. In the second half Seattle's pressure kept Leinart checking down and he averaged only 6.63 yards per attempt. Sacks are gravy against the Bengals, the rush must limit the downfield passing attack.
- The final key is unsettling in a way, but important to Seattle winning today and vital to the Hawks hopes of contention. Walter Jones must play better. Jones allowed two sacks against an iffy Bucs pass rush. He looked improved in the second half against the Cards. Unfortunately, that might be as much the continuing decline of Bertrand Berry as Jones. Jones faces his toughest matchup, Justin Smith, of this young season and he must win it. One of the greatest tackles in the history of the NFL, you want to give Jones the benefit of the doubt, but Jones wouldn't be the first once dominant player to hit a wall entering his mid thirties. Without at least a very good left tackle Seattle has no chance at true contention.
Apologies to Bill Watterson. Let's hope Seattle doesn't play the role of Calvin today.