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Taking the Opponent Out of the Equation: How Seattle Must Stop Failing Itself

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Any idiot could have called this mismatch. I've yet to find the idiot who thought it would be in Miami's favor. But so it is; Advanced NFL Stats gives the Dolphins an 84% chance of winning. There's a fatalistic part of me that still holds out hope for this season, but my thinking self is already pondering 2009.

I spoke a bit about "Tim Ruskell's team". Tim Ruskell's team was obliterated on Sunday. 27-7 may not be the most lopsided score you've ever seen, but Seattle survived on the caprice of turnovers. If we remove that least steady element of performance, a more desperate picture appears.

Seattle averaged 18.3 yards per drive. Awful. That's inflated by Koren Robinson's 90 yard reception to start the game. After that oasis, Seattle averaged only 12.3 yards per drive. Seattle earned ten first downs total, less than a first down per drive.

Seattle's defense dominated the first quarter, allowing only 16.2 yard per drive to an Eagles' offense averaging 32.1. Seattle couldn't keep them off the field and eventually the dam broke. Given thirteen drives to score and against an offense without an answer, Marty Mornhinweg called a conservative offense knowing from the start that time was on his side.

Starting last season I started accumulating tape on every future opponent I could find. That way I could run previews detailing opposing talent, scheme, specific plays and how matchups will work in each. Sometime after the Packers throttled the Seahawks, I decided if I was going to make it through this season I'd need to take it down a notch. Scouting two teams a week led to some 2am to 6pm days I'm still not recovered from. So I never got a good look at the Dolphins.

In absence of really knowing Seattle's next opponent, here're two things Seattle itself must do to salvage this season and make a run next season.

Continue coverage after applying pressure

How important is this? See San Francisco at Seattle versus Seattle at San Francisco. In the former, the second the play broke down, O'Sullivan was flushed or the pocket collapsed, Seattle's secondary would stop coverage. When Seattle's rush didn't wrap J.T. O'Sullivan, O'Sullivan picked apart Seattle's lagging secondary. This is a failing of the coaches. In the second matchup, Seattle didn't achieve its customary Qwest Field sack-o-rama, but it did prevent long plays on the other 44 pass attempts. You could see O'Sullivan and later Shaun Hill escaping pressure but instead of finding an open man they were forced to throw away, eat it or force the ball into coverage. The difference was striking.

Know your damn assignment

Seattle has been awash with embarrassing lapses all season: Missing outside containment, missing blocking assignments, failing to engage the lead blocker, failing to read your blockers, quitting on pass rushes, quitting on routes, screwing up coverage - and that's just the ones I've seen. That's bad coaching in action. At some point, Seattle's players need to step up and play straight if for nothing but pride. I've yet to see a true leader arise on this defense. Lofa Tatupu was gifted the job after playing like wolverine for three seasons, but a leader must be more than a rah-rah, snap to whistle guy, and halfway into this season a true ass-chewer is needed. It's time some teammates' figurative heads are busted.