Let's put a bow on this and begin talking Tampa tomorrow.
The pessimist on this blog thought this game was over at halftime. The optimist are certain Seattle won. The reality is nine minutes into the second half, two plays had swung the game decisively in Green Bay's favor. Gridironmine argues Mike Wahle's holding call and Greg Jennings touchdown reception were worth 35% of win probability combined. Following Jennings' touchdown, the Packers had a robust 74% chance of victory.
Probability is a contentious matter among sports fans. The introduction of math to athletics certainly irks the great many, many who are current and former athletes that see sports on a passionate and empathetic level and loathe the cold certainty of calculations. Think back to your high school, were their more of athletes or calculus students? But math matters and modern athletics are part sport and part business. That's why when I say "Green Bay puts an end to Seattle's playoff hopes", it's not because I've given up on the team or even, personally, given up on the chance that Seattle could turn this season around, it is because it is exceptionally unlikely Seattle makes the playoffs. Like those two plays above, multiple factors spelled Seattle's doom.
Arizona beats Dallas. The Cardinals advance to 6th in DVOA.
Seattle loses to Green Bay. Seattle needs to go 8-3 in its remaining 11 games to reach 9-7. Seattle regresses to 28th in DVOA.
Matt Hasselbeck is out against Tampa Bay. Tampa is 4th in DVOA. This was a tough contest to begin, but losing forces Seattle to go 8-2 over their final 10 games just to reach 9-7. Seattle's remaining schedule is 6th hardest in the NFL. Arizona's, the 3rd easiest.
A few key turns and Seattle's chances spiral. No one is giving up, because, for one, no one here actually plays for the Seahawks, and, for two, anyone still haunting this ridiculous blog is a diehard fan. So let's not start questioning each other's commitment.
. . .
Tapp got more looks in the fourth. Perhaps because Jackson looked so gassed in the third, or perhaps because John Marshall really thinks Tapp is the better run stopper. He's not, but he has it over Jackson about everywhere else. I'll go ahead and post the scorecard after the bump, but let's talk a little about Tapp, Jackson, a play that demonstrates Tapp's awesomeness, and my hopes and fears for Jackson.
In a nutshell, Tapp is a little like Dwight Freeney. He's a little taller than Freeney, but not the same caliber athlete, better against the run, but nowhere near the sack artist. Where the two align is their consistent ability to apply pressure. Freeney is a huge part of Indianapolis's defense because Freeney consistently strings tackles wide, and consistently shortens the opposing quarterback's time in the pocket. That's exactly what Tapp does and Jackson doesn't.
On Brian Russell's sack (i.e. Howard Green and Darryl Tapp's sack), Tapp made the play. Green Bay employs a zone blocking scheme and Tapp's ability to string Chad Clifton wide bowed Aaron Rodger's pocket and allowed Green to split the center and guard almost untouched. Russell, Craig Terrill (who I never want to see playing tackle on a three man rush ever, ever again) and Patrick Kerney were more minor players. Consider, Seattle overloaded offensive right, but the majority of the pass rush came offensive left.
Clifton enjoyed an easy day stopping Jackson, shading him when he started wide, he almost always did, and then locking him down in isolation. Jackson lacked the burst to get past and around Clifton, he lacked the inside move to cut in and lacked the hand fighting to shed Clifton and make a play for the pass rusher.
Jackson's consistent ineffectiveness made it easy for Green Bay's interior line to stay together and retain integrity. Rodgers benefited from a good pocket, despite bad down and distance and a near nonexistent run game. Of Green Bay's 65 plays before their final, clock killing drive in the fourth, 26 were from a bad down and distance (1st-10+ (2) 2nd-8+ (14) 3rd-6+ (10)) including ten long third downs. Seattle's front four had the green light to "pin their ears" back - an underreported and hugely significant part of generating pass rush - but did nothing of the such. Like adding Brandon Mebane last season was a turning point for Seattle's pass and rush defense, because of Mebane's ability to force double teams, Jackson's ineffectiveness has caused a cascade effect, hurting Seattle's pass rush and weakening its secondary.
So where do we go from here? Speed rushers like Tapp, Freeney, Simeon Rice and Jevon Kearse to name a few, often hit the NFL running. Their winning skill, edge rush, translates near intact to the pro game. Tapp isn't a perfect match for the other three, given that he's more of an inside move man, but quickness still defines his game. Jackson is in the Kerney, Kampman, Allen league of defensive ends. Complete. Long, athletic, strong, agile and heady. Right now, Jackson lacks pass rush moves virtually of any kind. That's a major flaw. At USC, he could power and pick his way to a sack, using agility, reads, anticipation to know where to go, and brute strength to get off the blocker.
Enter the fabulously forgiving NFL growth curve. The rook is getting it handed to him and I hope coaches are noticing, because not only is Tapp's redeployment vital to Seattle mounting any kind of comeback, but recognizing that Jackson is not yet an NFL defensive end and making every effort to teach him technique is essential for turning a first round investment into a future strength. I believe Jackson has the will, and you'll find few rookies as savvy, implying he has the capability, but it's time someone shows him the way. When we talk about a coaching staff split, lesser coaches are often overlooked. Consider Lawrence Jackson Dwaine Board's living résumé.
-Outside, inside, flash into throwing lane, Rodgers checks down
-Ridden out and away
-Out, can't get off blocker
-Ridden by TE
-Awesome edge rush, strings left tackle out
-Holds rush lane
-(3 man rush) minimal edge rush, Rodgers rolls out right
-Cut by FB, jumps, cuts off passing lane, Rodgers rolls left