- Mea Culpa: I think it's right to start out with a couple things I got wrong. The Hawks did not create much pass pressure in the first half. After calling for almost anyone to replace Chris Gray last season, he has looked pretty good this year. He had a real nice drive block on Shaun Alexander's 5 yard rush during the Hawks fourth drive of the second quarter. Darryl Tapp looks like the real deal at right defensive end. Also, Rob Sims did anything but dominate, I'll talk more about that in a second.
- The Quiet Strongman: The Bengals weren't scaring anyone with their linebackers, but Mack Strong had a real nice half both run blocking and pass blocking.
- Back to Sims: Sims had a growing pains type half. His missed a block on the screen to Engram, he missed a block when Alexander pirouetted to the ground and he actually missed two blocks when Beck got sacked by Michael Meyers. Here's how that last play went down. It's the fifth play of the Hawks third drive of the second quarter, Seattle has just benefitted from a neutral zone infraction by Justin Smith. It's third and 5, the Hawks are spread wide with 4 receivers and one back. Hasselbeck drops back but finds no one open. That's important, because the pass rush takes a second to develop. The Bengals are running stunts on the right side, Sims steps up and puts a glancing block on Meyers and then moves to engage Smith. Meyers is passed on to Walter Jones, Jones doesn't exactly lock down Meyers but he doesn't really do anything wrong either. The rush develops when the stunting Smith puts an inside move on Sims and hurtles nearly untouched towards Hasselbeck. Jones attempts to block both Meyers and the now free Smith, Beck has nowhere to run, Meyers disengages from Jones (who is no doubt having flashbacks of 2006) and records the sack. For the record Jones' man records the sack, but it's Sims who makes the fatal mistakes. He never put much of a hit on Meyer leaving Jones in a bad spot to stop the rushing tackle and he completely whiffs on Smith. It's Smith barreling down at Hasselbeck from the inside that compromises the pocket and forces Jones to disengage.
- Alexander: I wanted to figure out what got the Hawks crowd up in arms against their once beloved back. The two plays I can pinpoint are, first, his aforementioned pirouette. Seemingly, John Thornton tackles him after Sims blows his block, but it really looks a lot more like Alexander just fell over attempting a spin move. The crowd did not like that. The second is, well, if you're sick of me talking bad about Alexander you can skip down. This one won't take much explanation, it's 1st and 10 on the Hawks third drive of the second quarter, Seattle is at their twenty. Seattle is in a 3 wide, I-back set, Beck snaps, Alexander completely whiffs on his block leaving linebacker Caleb Miller untouched and with bad intentions for the Hawks exposed QB. Miller wraps but does not sack Beck. Beck dishes a little shovel pass, Alexander looks the ball in, seemingly catches it for a second and then watches it drop between his legs. Somewhere that's a fumble. Just ugly, fraidy-cat football by Alexander that nearly cost Seattle big.
- Nobody's Perfect: Beck absolutely stared down Bobby Engram on the second play of Seattle's second drive. Delta O'Neal, covering Alexander who motioned wide before the snap, read Beck's eyes and were he better, would have had an easy pick. WRT to Alexander motioning wide, did I mention something about that not working for much longer? Huh.
- Low Center of Gravity: You just don't see opposing offensive linemen push Brandon Mebane back. On Craig Terrill's tackle for a loss during the Bengals first drive, Mebane and Cincinnati center Alex Stepanovich deserve most of the credit/blame. Mebane is actually triple teamed and Terrill runs right through the gap untouched to stop Rudi Johnson. Mebane demands respect, but not that much respect, Alex.
- Diagnosis of a Broken Play: You know what happens when you call an overload cornerback blitz to the offensive right side against a screen pass to the left? An easy 33 yard gain for the offense and a embarrassing miscall/misread for John Marshall and the Seahawks defense.
- Zone Versus Man: If you look at the Hawks coverage schemes you can see that yards and receptions will be allowed. That's zone coverage. A good example of the trade off between zone and man came on the Bengals fifth play of their second drive. When Houshmandzadeh receives the ball at the 39 he's surrounded by three Seahawks. The completion is made so that 8 yards isn't coming off the board, but Housh then faces a three man pinscher-style, gang tackle. Leroy Hill forces the fumble, Hawks recover, etc. etc. The zone works to limit yards after catch and to punish the receiver. On this play Houshmandzadeh coughs up the fumble, on later plays to end the half you can watch Chad Johnson act skittish, apparently hearing footsteps, and dropping back-to-back passes.
- Briefly, the Matchup: I don't have time to dedicate an entire article to recapping the Rocky Bernard versus Bobbie Williams matchup, but Bernard did enough to win. While for stretches Bernard couldn't shed the bigger Williams, especially when the Bengals were rockin' the no-huddle, Bernard made some big plays. He blew up a run, recording a split tackle for a loss with Leroy Hill. He chased down Rudi Johnson on that god forsaken screen. And he was instrumental in Deon Grant's interception. It's the Bengals first play of their third drive of the second quarter. Off the snap Bernard explodes through the line. Palmer is forced to role out to his right, this is essential because he now has only one viable receiving target: T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Bernard isn't fast enough to chase down Palmer, but he is fast enough to stall Palmer's pass. Finally, nearing the line of scrimmage and with Bernard closing in on his outside shoulder, Palmer delivers the strike towards Housh. Grant then converts a highlight reel interception, breaking down on the route and grabbing the pass before expertly dragging his feet inbounds. Grant made it spectacular, but Bernard made it possible. Once Palmer was forced to roll to his right, he locked onto Housh and Grant had an easy time jumping the route. Just excellent execution by the D and proof that everything in football, every play, every pick, is a team effort.
The Tape: First Half Reflections 9/24
By John Morgan