It started ugly and stayed ugly but then it got pretty all of a sudden. Real pretty.
2-10-SEA 47 (14:50) (Shotgun) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass short right to 1-M.Williams to GB 49 for 4 yards (49-R.Francois).
Matt Hasselbeck receives from shotgun and finds Mike Williams underneath. He snatches the pass well away from his body and then drops to his knees. Rob Francois taps him down.
A four yard reception rarely feels exciting. Something about this play excites me. It's not the zone awareness shown by Williams, though that helps. It's not the developing trust between Hasselbeck and Williams, though that might help make Mike Seattle's number one receiver. It's how Williams snatches the ball so far from his body yet so assuredly. Every great receiver needs a few rare qualities. Williams is big and tall, but he just might have amazing hands too.
3-6-GB 49 (14:18) (Shotgun) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete short middle to 89-J.Carlson [55-D.Bishop]. PENALTY on GB-22-P.Lee, Illegal Contact, 4 yards, enforced at GB 49 - No Play. Four yard penalty as a result of ball spot
Another truly bad play by most involved is rescued by a sloppy penalty by the Packers inexperienced secondary. This play fails at two specific points.
The first failure is on Max Unger with a minor assist from Sean Locklear. I am wary to blame Locklear at all, but we will get to that.
Green Bay is in a 2-4. Both outside linebacker and both defensive tackles initially pass rush. The left inside linebacker runs a delayed blitz.
The left outside linebacker peels off into coverage on Washington as the inside linebacker begins his blitz. This creates confusion. Locklear widens his lane by briefly chasing the left outside linebacker, but it's brief and it's not that wide and Locklear is justifiably sticking with his man, who could be attempting an outside move and not chasing Washington.
Unger is caught out of position. He is doubling B.J. Raji with Chris Spencer and is forced to recover very hurriedly and so attempting, does not really recover at all. Bishop streaks in and strikes Hasselbeck. Failure one.
Hasselbeck shows poise under pressure - and hot damn is that good to see. It won't last if Seattle's blocking doesn't improve. He steps into a throw to John Carlson. Carlson is playing receiver. He runs from the left slot. He runs a dig, a receiver route. And perhaps because he just isn't that experienced running a receiver's route, he loses the ball. He loses it out of his cut. It's not a typical drop. Carlson does not put grasp but fail to secure the pass. He does not seem to have a clear idea where the ball is and so stabs his hands out and fails to do much more than tip it.
Luckily, Pat Lee interfered with Deion Branch. It's not apparent. Warren Moon* believes the interference is committed against Carlson, but that seems ticky-tack. Whatever the case, it isn't common that an offense can turn a quarterback hit and a dropped pass into a first down. Thank you, scrubs.
1-10-GB 45 (14:13) PENALTY on SEA-65-C.Spencer, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at GB 45 - No Play.
Spencer half-snaps. False start.
1-15- (14:13) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass deep middle to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh to GB 32 for 18 yards (36-N.Collins).
Good play but tame. Zone eater. Hasselbeck motions play action, drops seven steps, steps up and finds Housh between Desmond Bishop, Tramon Williams and Nick Collins. Good-enough zip, but this play is made through timing.
(And now to the portion of the drive in which two off-season acquisitions sex up the offense)
1-10-GB 32 (13:41) 33-L.Washington right tackle to GB 28 for 4 yards (51-B.Poppinga).
The exciting part of this play is how close it is to breaking. No, the exciting part of this play is how good Seattle's run blocking looks.
Seattle runs an inside-zone right. Max Unger turns Raji left. He does not dominate, but Washington's vision and quickness makes dominance irrelevant. Much the same can be said for Locklear and Carlson. Neither dominate but both hold off long enough for Washington to sprint through the hole. Carlson eventually loses his block and Brady Poppinga ankle-tackles Washington, but it's a minor mishap. Not at all the FUBAR blocking we have come to expect from Carlson.
Chris Spencer goes ape shit. He begins by combo blocking with Hamilton. He then releases when it's clear Hamilton can contain. He pulls towards the second level and unlike on so many runs, where the rusher is still in the blocks and Spencer is desperately attempting to block a player with an angle to the ball carrier, Washington has hit the hole fast enough that Bishop and Brandon Chillar are in contain. They are on the defensive. Spencer drops a nasty cut block on Bishop and then rolls through Bishop and into Chillar. It's dirt-baggy. It's so, so deliciously dirty. Washington is going to blow by them. Washington is about to enter the third level at full speed.
But he's tripped up by Poppinga. Which isn't so bad.
This looks like an entirely different run-blocking unit when blocking for a player with an elite second-gear like Washington.
2-6-GB 28 (13:08) (Shotgun) 8-M.Hasselbeck pass deep left to 1-M.Williams ran ob at GB 11 for 17 yards. Green Bay challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was Upheld. (Timeout #1.)
I often describe a quarterback's effective range as a radius. Jeremy Bates has smartly designed deep patterns that cross over the middle. I remember endorsing Greg Knapp do the same thing. It didn't really happen and Seattle's deep passing game was a liability in 2009. This is how you pass deep and towards the sidelines without forcing Hasselbeck to pass beyond his range.
Hasselbeck receives the snap, motions inside hand off to Washington. This works. Successful run, what do you know, play action works. The line and Washington surge right and the Packers front seven follows. Hasselbeck boots left.
T.J. Housmandzadeh is the lone decoy route. He doesn't finish, but he is outside Hasselbeck's effective range. Washington could, conceivably, still be passed to and he would have a hell of a screen set up, but it would require Hasselbeck throwing across the field and across hostiles hungry for the ball.
There are three live routes: Deion Branch running an out at four yards, John Carlson running a crossing pattern at ten yards and Williams running a hook-out at 17-18 yards.
It looks like this:
... and I have no clue why my computer spat out that toothpaste orange for the routes, but so be it.
Branch has a step. Carlson is somewhat in traffic. Williams has literally juked Underwood to the turf. Kid is a talented route runner. Hasselbeck passes. The pass is low and flat and Williams has to go down on both knees and snatch it before falling out of bounds.
It's a good play and I like that. It's well executed and I like that more. It takes advantage of play-action and that's heartening. But it's Williams, with the combination of excellent route running and elite concentration and hands, that makes this work.
1-10-GB 11 (12:56) 33-L.Washington left tackle for 11 yards, TOUCHDOWN. WATCH HIGHLIGHT
Our title track:
Inside-zone left. Spencer and Hamilton double Cullen Jenkins into oblivion. Max Unger passes Raji and pulls and cut blocks Bishop. Raji must be thinking "oh no" when Unger passes, because you know what that means: Locklear cuts the shit out of Raji's legs and the big kid collapses into a pile. Carlson cuts Poppinga.
And we're off. And Washington is in for the score. It's a flash. Washington does not hesitate. He does not cut or shift or attempt to fake anyone out or bowl anyone over. Washington sees a developing lane and sprints through it.
Suddenly, everyone can run block. Even Deion Branch helps out.
I knew a great zone-blocking back must have elite quickness through the hole. I knew Justin Forsett was superior to Julius Jones. I also knew Forsett does not have elite burst through the hole. Washington does. Washington makes this unit work. I did not know how desperately this team needed a back like Washington.