Hey everyone at FieldGulls, I'm Charlie Todaro. First, thank you to Danny for the opportunity to be here. I've been a big fan of the site, even as a former writer for SB Nation competitor Bleacher Report.
Danny pitched the idea of becoming a regular contributor here not too long ago, and here I am. I'm thrilled to be here and it's a pleasure to meet you. I have no idea who is familiar with my work, so I've added this link as a reference.
I will admit this important fact to you right away. I did not watch the game on Sunday--the first game I have missed this season--as I attended the Frys.com Open. I once played the course in an amateur tournament and got ripped apart, so I wanted to see the pros play it better than I did. I went to the event knowing I could watch the game later, and felt it was close to a win-win.
Admittedly, it was disappointing to miss one of the most impressive victories of the Pete Carroll era. An East Coast, national exposure, double digit underdog, 10 A.M. kickoff supposed-to-lose type of game for Seattle in the opinion of most; a must win, get the season back on track into the bye week game for the Seahawks.
But, my consolation prize for missing the victory "live" was witnessing the Tiger Woods hotdog incident from about 45 yards away. The short version: Tiger was lining up his putt and about to pull the trigger when this guy right in front of me starts yelling a version of "yea Tiger." He then ran onto the course, simultaneously unleashing a fully assembled hotdog, the pieces falling nowhere near Woods.
The guy made it about 50 feet from Woods, and then fell to the green awaiting his arrest-the footage has been removed from YouTube, but the beginning of this clip shows the abrupt ending to the folly.
The Seahawks victory I learned about a few holes prior all of the sudden seemed like every day business compared to the twilight zone I had just entered. Does the hot dog throw have any connection to the game itself? No, it was just too weird not to talk about, especially considering the thrower was inspired to do something "epic" by the movie Drive and chose this.
Anyway, going to the tournament with limited access to game information-by choice, not a smart phone owner-led me to a couple conclusions. First, there was the initial surprise of learning the 36-25 final score. I knew pieces of the game, but was still trying to fill in major blanks and had no legitimate proof yet to determine whether or not this game was a fluke.
After I watched the game a few times and looked at the stats, I began to ponder; was this win an anomaly on par with the hot dog throw, or was this the win that jumpstarts the Seahawks' defense of the NFC West?
Towards the end of last week I had a strong feeling I would be moving to FieldGulls, and thus didn’t write a "game preview" like I had for weeks 1-4. I watched a fraction of the "gametape" I usually do and didn’t pay much attention to what came out of Seahawks land.
The one small piece of information that caught my eye was Tarvaris Jackson's Week 5 presser. I felt it was clear T-Jax was frustrated with the 1-3 start and steaming due to the fact that this team would be 1-4 with him at the helm if they lost.
Seeing his frustration, I formed the opinion that if this coaching staff and young team were even close to winning more; the X and O’s would be panned out and their mindset would be right. I’m not saying I expected or even needed a win, but simply a performance that could match the intensity of the second half of the Falcons game. Seattle needed to start fast and hang with the Giants for 60 minutes.
My last article at Bleacher Report was as recap of the Week 4 loss, 6 Changes Carroll and the Seahawks needed to make. Though not specifically pertaining to the Giants game, I did hope Seattle would make some of these changes starting Week 5. And since I’m a newbie here and many of you may have very little idea about my ‘Hawks thoughts, I’ll use those six ideas as a starting point for Week 5 review.
More no huddle offense: The ‘Hawks started the no huddle on the second play of the game, and continued for the majority. Whitehurst ran it as well, though more sporadically than Jackson. I loved this change, and hope it remains part of the offense.
Continue to open the first down playbook and stay ahead of the sticks: In the first half Seattle was in shotgun on first down eight times, and they ran on four of those plays. The first 1st and 10, shotgun call in the second half was the Jackson option run when he got hurt. I have mixed feelings here.
I did not know this was the play Jackson got hurt on before watching this game. Upon first viewing, I was intrigued by this call—the defense bit hard on the fake handoff--until I saw Jackson grab his pec a few seconds later.
This is aggressive Pete Carroll finding his opportunities, but now two years in a row a ‘Hawks quarterback has been hurt on a designed running play. Carroll said he scolded Jackson for not getting down or sliding; Carroll has to make sure Jackson knows that before Sunday, not after it happens. I think this type of call should be used every so often, but it can’t come at the expense of the quarterback’s health.
I liked that nine of Seattle’s 10 longest plays came on 1st or 2nd down. They did a much better job of getting first downs on 1st down, or setting up 2nd and short. Hopefully the Jackson injury doesn’t dampen the feeling around the progress that was made.
Start stronger: Beating a dead horse with this one, but Seattle had been outscored 67-13 in the first half through four games, including 33-0 in the first two weeks of the year.
14 first quarter points in New York was thrilling, especially knowing two red zone fumbles in the first half stunted even more output. Plus, Seattle broke 30 points for the first time this year.
Make life tougher on the opposing quarterback: They sacked Eli Manning three times, forced a fumble and picked him off three times. Chris Clemons is on fire. Eli surely had a headache after Anthony Hargrove flattened Danny Ware for the third quarter safety. Manning's 61.5 completion percentage was the lowest for any quarterback versus Seattle this season. Progress, but more consistent pressure is needed.
More Leon Washington and Anthony McCoy: Washington averaged 2.25 touches a game coming in and got four against the Giants, including a nifty one handed catch. Improvement, but I want to see him more involved as a receiver.
After the injury to Zach Miller, I got what I asked for…whoops. First of all, McCoy failed to get his feet down when he was WIDE OPEN on the sideline late in the third quarter. Secondly, tight ends make a living by catching passes over the middle and ignoring the footsteps of opposing safeties. McCoy dropped one in his gut, got his hands on another on passes over the middle, finally making a first down catch on the touchdown drive. His play was underwhelming, but at least we saw him in extended action.
Tighten the formula: Carroll likes his team to win the turnover margin, play clean football, stop the run, run the ball, achieve balance on offense, minimize opponent opportunities and control the clock. Through four games Seattle struggled in most of those areas.
Week 5 brought some improvement; Seattle forced more turnovers than they had all season, lost the time of possession battle by less than three minutes and ran the ball effectively amidst the no huddle attack.
However, they turned it over three times in the first half, foiling their chance to go up huge early in the game. The Giants also had 1st and goal inside the 5 with under two minutes to play. Thankfully, the defense eventually got the message and Brandon Browner ended it with the pick-six.
Seattle’s largest deficit was three points. They scored more points in the first half than in the four previous first halves combined and had no meltdowns in the final minutes. In general, this performance was a step in the right direction.
Some much shorter observations pertaining to not only Week 5:
--Seattle dominated field position, starting drives at (on average) their own 39 compared to the 19 for the Giants.
--The Giants first and only 3rd down conversion came on the Victor Cruz tipped pass touchdown early in the 4th quarter.
--I have been a proponent of the Brandon Browner experiment all along, starting in February and continuing through his early poor play. While his penalties are driving us all bonkers, he has flashed legitimate potential the past two weeks. He played the screen game very well versus Atlanta and allowed 4 completions on 8 targets his way versus the Giants, an average of 5.9 yards per target. He was also credited with three passes defensed and an opposing QB rating under 40.
--Steven Hauschka has a leg…I think enough of one to hit a 61 yard attempt every so often.
--The Seahawks opened up the blitz-book; Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Walter Thurmond were used to bring pressure all day. Even Kennard Cox got a chance. Raheem Brock and Alan Branch were used almost-effectively together rushing the passer. I noticed Chancellor was going for the hit instead of getting his hands in Eli’s face. Hopefully we’ll see him deflect one at the line sometime soon.
--Jeron Johnson is a special teams kamikaze. I want to see him blitzing once or twice a game. I miss Byron Maxwell. Marcus Trufant’s back concerns me; is Roy Lewis fully healthy?
--If Eli Manning throws the Earl Thomas interception outside shoulder and a little deeper to Hakeem Nicks, does E. T. undercut a long touchdown throw? Is the play then seen as him continuing to take questionable angles?
--Minus a few pre-snap penalties, Max Unger made a positive difference in the past couple of games. Paul McQuistan has played better over the past few weeks. James Carpenter still sometimes looks like a rookie in pass protection. Russell Okung didn't have a false start versus the Giants; it's about time.
--Doug Baldwin should not have gone undrafted. How did everyone miss? I thought it was extremely telling that Schneider faxed him a note in the wooing process. One criticism; Baldwin needs to go north-south when near the first down, not east-west.
--I’ve also been a fan of the Alan Branch acquisition from the start. Great to see him get his first sack as a Seahawk. Also, it’s worth noting the defensive line on the field for the Anthony Hargrove safety; Chris Clemons, Al Woods, Clinton McDonald and Hargrove. Danny spoke of improved depth earlier in the week, and this is a prime example.
--As Danny outlined yesterday, Golden Tate threw a key block on the Obomanu touchdown—I’m still trying to figure out that celebration. Tate’s numbers—two catches, 31 yards—don’t accurately describe the solid game he had.
--Both Manning to Jake Ballard completions on the first drive, touchdown included, showed why the IR’ed Matt McCoy was valuable to this team. The linebackers need to shore up their coverage.
--Charlie Whitehurst has won a division championship game and has now gotten revenge on the team that handed him a huge loss in his only other NFL start. His play hasn't been extraordinary, but when he’s both standing on the sidelines or on the field he looks like he wants to win. I like that.
Now back to the original question; is this victory an anomaly or have the Seahawks turned their season around?
After watching Jackson’s presser noted earlier and seeing the team come through on Sunday, with Whitehurst at the helm in the end, I’m not prepared to make any sweeping statements. The ambiguity around the quarterback situation—we don’t know how long is Jackson out for-- makes it difficult to pinpoint where this team is heading.
I will say this. Heading into the season I didn’t think the Seahawks’ changes to the starting lineup would bring them another division title. The injury histories of Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery scared me and still do. The defense made some major additions, but the group is so young. The struggles Seattle had getting it "right" in 2010 with a veteran team had me thinking this group was headed for an encouraging 6-10-type season (for the record, I 100% did not and will not hop on the Suck for Luck bandwagon, or anything like it) in 2011. I still think the odds of that type of season occurring is somewhere between possible and probable.
However, the following dawned on me after re-watching this win. In the Friday presser before Week 1, Carroll praised this team for being a hard-working, serious group that wants to improve and win. He was excited to see their potential and liked working with them because they "bring it" on a day to day basis.
It's clear the team suffered from a lack of offseason work in the season’s first quarter, but Seattle has won two of three. I attended week one in person and have been to both home games. I'm surprised by the win in New York, but I don’t think this win came out of nowhere.
After the game, Carroll spoke to his team about the fact that they are primed to win, throwing around quotes; "We’re ready to turn the corner and never look back…We don’t have to lose anymore…We don’t have to give up games anymore…We’ve got to keep marching, keep moving."
Carroll is always optimistic. However, these words struck a chord because they are eerily similar to what he told his USC team in 2001, after cornerback and now Seahawks’ secondary coach Kris Richard’s pick six sealed a win at Arizona. Carroll told them they didn’t have to lose anymore. They lost one more game that season, their bowl game. Then the program took off to win at least a share of the Pac-10 conference for seven consecutive seasons. Carroll credits that play for the change in fortune.
The Seahawks have time to rest and rejuvenate during the bye, and we’ll maybe learn more about Jackson’s injury. However, I think it’s clear that the win in New York jumpstarted the beginning of that championship swag, the confidence needed to consistently win games in tenuous situations.
Maintaining that mo-jo through the bye is on the shoulders of the coaching staff. They must think like the staff that prepared the team for the Giants and get the players acting like a team that doesn’t have to lose anymore. They must begin working with urgency, regardless of their record.
I’ve tempered my expectations that the 2-3 Seahawks have turned the corner and are on their way to repeating as NFC West champions. However, that won’t prevent me from hoping that Browner’s pick-six to seal the Week 5 win could be the beginning of history repeating itself.