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Brain Notes on Seahawks Loss to the Bengals

Pete Carroll distracts the ref with the old "levitating challenge flag" magic trick.
Pete Carroll distracts the ref with the old "levitating challenge flag" magic trick.

It's Kenny Arthur and the Case of the Missing Bar Notes on Halloween Monday.  Sort of like Harriet the Spy, but I don't grow up to be as cute.  

In reality, it's the case of the "I left my bar notes in my other pants," so I was left with a decision to either not post a write-up this week (I heard you cheer just then.  And I don't appreciate it.) or wait to write about it tomorrow, at which point nobody will care anymore, or just wing it today.  

Well, we are Hawks fans, so "winging it" seems appropriate.  Brain: Activate!

Truthfully, I didn't really love my bar notes anyway.  I sat there, wrote down what I saw, and came away by the end of the game looking at a bunch of the same old story.  I could have copied and pasted notes from earlier games this season, much like I did in high school, and nobody would have noticed.

Did the running game stink?  Check.

Did the special teams stink?  Check.

Did the offense fail to score touchdowns in the red zone?  Check.

Did we have costly penalties and/or get screwed by the refs?  Check.

In the same way that there are also a lot of positives, right now it's a lot easier for everyone to point out the negatives.  The emotion we're attaching with heartbreak is just a lot stronger than the emotions we are attaching to any victories we achieve.  There's rage and then there's elation, and the rage has just come more often and with greater intensity.  

The win at New York filled us with a lot of happiness and gave us a lot of positives to look at, and I'm sure Pete Carroll and staff came away thinking, "Wow, we are really on the right track, and we can get back into the race this season.  Everything is working perfectly!" while fans had his support and knew that whatever he was doing in Seattle, it is starting to work.

Then we score 15 points in two losses to the Browns and Bengals and people are questioning whether or not he should be on the hot seat.

That win over the Giants was 22 days ago.  

I'm not going to repeat what Danny Kelly so eloquently already said about Pete, but I'll just drive home the same point and say, "Are we being serious right now?"  

Our special teams coaching and personnel has to be put into question.  (Not the kickers mind you.)

Our running game has to be put into question.

Our quarterback situation has to be answered next season, barring something unforeseen from Tarvaris Jackson.

But Pete Carroll should not be in question.  I know it seems like he's been around forever, but he's coached the Hawks in 23 regular season and 2 postseason games.  That's it.  

I quickly grow tired of the "What did you do for me earlier today?" mentality of the NFL and some fans, and you can't give a guy 25% of a chance and then tell him you gave him multiple chances.  As far as I'm concerned, I don't even evaluate the coaching situation until after the 2012 season.  

Onto the game, where we saw some good things and some bad things, but at least the bad things are always bad, so we just drive home the point that we need to correct them somehow.

Bengals Drive to Go Up 3-0

I don't know if clever headlines will appear when I'm writing from scratch.

Seattle had Cincinnati right where they wanted them, 1st and 20 on their own 28-yard-line.  You'll find a pretty low first-down success rate on 1st and 20, and it would have been nice to stop the Bengals on their opening drive.  On the next play however, Brandon Browner was called for a personal foul and it's 15 yards and an automatic first down.

So much for 1st and 20.

We didn't get burned by any long plays, but the Bengals and Andy Dalton do what they do; without any plays longer than 11 yards, they got to the Seattle 16 and Mike Nugent was successful on a 34-yard field goal.  No Red Bryant blocked kicks in this game, and I'm going to have to remind myself how rare that really is.

Charlie Whitehurst In.  What the???

I wasn't completely up-to-date on the Tarvaris Jackson situation at the start of the game, but I knew he was active.  All the more disappointing when I saw Charlie starting the game, and really not expecting Jackson to come in unless he had to.

The Hawks had a 3rd and 1, but failed.  Another three-and-out for Charlie.

Jon Ryan Facts Just Got Real

Special teams is an issue this season, after being our saving grace last season, but nothing can be put on Ryan.  I've seen with Washington State how punters can become legends when your team stinks, but what's not to love about Jon Ryan?

First he punted the ball 65 yards, but when protection failed, Adam Jones was poised to take it to the house.  It was his first game in a year, and Pacman was embarrassing the shit out of us on our first punt of the game.  He took it 63 yards before Jon Ryan, yes Jon Ryan, ran him down and tackled him to prevent a touchdown for the time being.

It's not the Ryan could outrun Adam Jones, but he took a perfect angle, and had enough in the burners to catch him and take him down.  It was my favorite play of the day.  I love Jon Ryan.


Bengals Go Up 10-0

Still, Jon Ryan can only do so much.  Three plays later, Andy Dalton hit Jerome Simpson for his only catch of the day, a 14-yard touchdown.  

Whitehurst Moves the Chains, Hawks Make it 10-3

On the ensuing drive, it was more Charlie time.  Whitehurst went deep on the first play to Sidney Rice, but it was incomplete.  At least, the Hawks were trying to make the game interesting.  Deep throws aren't a high-percentage play, but the Hawks could do well to at least make themselves mediocre and interesting instead of mediocre and boring.

We've spent a lot of time watching a team that's mediocre or just plain bad, and also hard to watch.  The Panthers are worse than the Seahawks in many respects, but they'll be on national television at least three or four times next year, I imagine, because of Cam Newton.  

This team hasn't been easy to watch and they've got a lot of work to do if they are going to stop being boring, and airing it out is one way to do that.  Every single time your team's QB goes back and chucks one in the air, the crowd gets on their feet, mouths gaped open, waiting in wondered awe.  Most of the time, the result is either bad (interception) or nothing (incompletion) but sometimes it totally pays off.  Heck, even a pass interference penalty is in the cards.

This one was just nothing, but the Hawks would have some big plays in the game.

The Hawks got a break on 2nd down and instead of 3rd and 10, it was 1st and 10 with 15 yards because of unnecessary roughness on Reggie Nelson.  (I can't think of that penalty without remembering that Hollywood once put Scott Bakula, Sinbad, Rob Schneider, Jason Bateman, and Kathy Ireland in a movie together.)

Whitehurst completed throws of 17, 15, and 13 yards on the drive and the Hawks got to the Bengals 29-yard-line.  Steven Hauschka makes a 47 yard field goal.

There Are a Lot of Good Kickers

Just a quick note on kickers.  Years ago, it seemed like there weren't enough good kickers for the NFL.  Some teams, like Dallas, would struggle for years waiting to find a good kicker.  Some kickers were detrimental to their teams.  

Now it almost feels like there are a lot of great kickers that are probably just sitting at home without a job because there are only 32 jobs available at any given time.  

The Hawks picked up Hauschka at the last minute and he's 8 of 9 on field goals, with his only miss being from 61 yards.  We thought we might regret losing Olindo Mare, who is 13 of 16 with Carolina, but we haven't missed a beat with Hauschka.

I don't know where this thought leads to, it's just interesting.

Jackson Back, First Play Fail

So the Bengals went 3-and-out, then the Hawks did, then the Bengals did again, and Seattle had the ball at their own 28-yard-line. 

The exciting news was that Tarvaris Jackson was in the game.  It definitely felt like a move that could spark something in the team, still with a chance to tie this game early in the 2nd quarter.

On the first play from scrimmage, there's confusion on the handoff to Marshawn Lynch.  It seems like Lynch and Jackson weren't on the same page about which side Jackson was supposed to hand it off to him.  Luckily, Lynch recovered that gaffe.  Unluckily, he fumbled it two steps later and the Bengals recovered the ball.

Let it never be forgotten how important it is to take first-team snaps in practice.  Getting on page with your center and your running back is one of those fundamental things we don't think about, but it's a crucial aspect of the game.  I'm not saying that's what caused the weird handoff or the fumble, I'm just saying they clearly weren't on the same page to begin.

Andre Smith Gifts Seattle Again

You may remember Smith as the former Alabama tackle that looked like he could have been a number one pick, but then had the worst combine ever.


Honestly, from what little I saw of him on Hard Knocks when he was a rookie holding out of camp, Smith seemed like a good dude.  But he's struggled to live up to the hype, after the Bengals took him 6th overall in 2009.

With the Bengals already in field goal range, Smith was called for his second holding penalty of the day.  Guard Bobbie Williams was called for holding on the next play, and all of a sudden it was 1st and 30.

They started on the Hawks 31 and ended on the Hawks 41.  Good break after the fumble.

Worst Spot I Can Remember Seeing

The Hawks got the ball back at their own 11 and Jackson went to Rice three straight times.  The first two were incomplete, but the third saw Rice stretch for an obvious first down.

Obvious to everyone except the refs of course.

It is almost impossible to get a spot overturned.  Coaches try and fail all of the time it seems.  I finally knew I was going to see one overturned, and sure enough they saw they got it wrong by two whole yards.  

Oddly, Seattle gave it to Lynch on the next two plays and wound up in 3rd and 13.  If memory serves me correctly, Zach Miller dropped a first down.  But I'm not sure I liked seeing us run it on 2nd and 13.  We pass-pass-pass, then run-run, and I am not a football genius by any means, but it seemed like we were doing so much better passing the ball.

Yes, run to set up the pass, but we just need to get first downs at this point and our absolute best weapons on the entire offense are our wide receivers.  They frustratingly dropped some passes again in this game, but not as frustrating as watching us try to run.

Seattle is 31st in rushing after this game.

A.J. Green is Good

I knew what player on Cincinnati I was most looking forward to seeing and it's not even close.  Green is a future star in the NFL, if not deserving to be one already.

The Seahawks had the Bengals on their own 16, and forced an early 3rd and 1.  Red Bryant was called for encroachment and automatic first down.

Sometimes I wonder with a player as good as Bryant, if he has a great read on the snap count and then when the other team realizes he has it, they do something to trick him.  Bryant is just so good and he was the only person to move an inch.  I feel like he just got fooled on that one because he was good enough to read the snap count.

The Seahawks then forced a 3rd and 6, and a pass interference on Browner allowed another automatic first down.  That's two scoring drives kept alive on a Browner penalty.

3rd and 11 and Andy Dalton completes a 14 yard pass to Donald Lee, who is only filling in for starter Jermaine Gresham.  Another third down conversion for the Bengals when the drive could have been stopped.

An Andre Smith false start makes it 1st and 15, but on the next play Dalton hits Green for 43 yards.  We simply don't have anybody good enough to keep up with a player of Green's ability.  17-3 Bengals.

The Decision

Leon Washington returns the kick 43 yards and the Hawks have it at their 35.  

Ben Obomanu, having one of the best games of his life, caught a 32 yard pass and the Hawks were in field goal range with a little over a minute left in the half.

He'd connect with Doug Baldwin for 21 yards and now the Hawks were at the 11, but on the next play Jackson was sacked by Frostee Rucker and time was running down.  The Hawks timeout management was suspect, and there were ways to put themselves into better position with more time left, but I wasn't really dissatisfied with any of the decisions.  Especially the one to go for it.

You're down 17-3 to a team that's clearly better than you and you're on the 3 yard line.  The offense might not get this close again.  17-6 does absolutely nothing for me.  You can keep 17-6 all day long as far as I'm concerned.  Seattle needed to make it 17-10, or go into half knowing that if you can't score from the 3, then you don't deserve to win.

And just because they didn't make it, they still had chances to win this game afterwards.  I liked the call and I would have been upset if Pete did kick the field goal and the Hawks still lost.  When it was 4th and 2, I didn't hesitate to say "Oh yeah, you have GOT to go for it."  It wasn't even a choice in my mind.

Leon Washington Returns the 2nd Half Kick 34 Yards

Let's just not forget how important this guy is.  Our special teams defense is atrocious, but Washington is a special player.

The offense didn't go very far though.  Punt.

Richard Sherman Gets on My Good Side

Teams exchanged punts a little bit and then the Bengals were driving in Seattle territory again.  Dalton went to his favorite target, A.J. Green, but this time Sherman was there to make the very nice interception.

Great coverage isn't what I'll expect from these corners going forward.  Making a huge play to offset some of that is what I expect.  This was one of those moments.

Obomanu for 55 Yards

After the pick, Jackson hit Obomanu for a beautiful 55 yard pass.  Obomanu finished with 104 yards, the second highest total of his career.

In a corps that's really flooded with talent, somehow he has managed to show up and not be a forgotten part of this offense.  He's not as talented as Sidney Rice.  He's not as flashy as Golden Tate.  He's not as interesting as Doug Baldwin.  As he's not as loud as Mike Williams.  Some people might have even preferred to have Kris Durham over Obo because at least Durham is young and cheap and Obo is what he is.  He proved to be an important part of this team and I wouldn't want to know what we would have looked like yesterday without him.

Speaking of Mike Williams, what happened?  Loved, loved, loved this guy last year.  He got a contract extension and we were so happy.  How much longer will he stick around? 

Only a Field Goal

Hawks had a 1st and Goal from the 10, but managed only 3 yards before a field goal.  What would this teams record be if they were a good red zone, goal-line team?  It's a major, major part of the problem.  Probably the thing that we'd want to fix more than anything right now.  It's that 17-6 score now that I did not want.  

Richard Sherman Likes Assists Too

The Bengals again were driving and again going to A.J. Green trying to make this game out of reach for Seattle.  Dalton went deep to Green, but Sherman threw an assist on a Kam Chancellor interception and the Hawks had new life.  

Hawks were getting turnovers and actually turning them into points, but they didn't turn them into enough points and although the final score was a blowout, the defense kept this game so close and so winnable.

Jackson Slings It, Lynch TD

31 yards to Baldwin.  34 yards to Rice.  9 yards to Tate.

These successive plays by Jackson and the offense brought Seattle down to the 5 yard line, where Lynch punched it in two plays later.  I can get used to an offense like this.  We need to see more of an offense like this.

If a high school pitcher hits 100 mph with his fastball, he's going to be drafted.  It doesn't matter if he has no idea where it's going or if he has another pitch, somewhere in there is a 100 mph fastball.

Somewhere in this team there's that same dynamic.  But we can't harness it.  We can't mold it and make it work whenever we need it to.  The Bengals play good defense, but at times our offense actually handled them well.

We like our defense just fine, imagine what they'd do if our offense could sustain drives.  Let's harness that power somehow.

Two point conversion fails though.  17-12.

Brandon Tate 45 Yard Return

Goodnight moon

Goodnight green, goodnight blue

Goodnight team, goodnight news

Goodnight fan, goodnight 12th man

Goodnight stars, goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere

No, this didn't signal the end of the game.  But the Hawks drove down the Bengals throat and scored.  We had the momentum.  If felt like we gave that away when the Bengals got to their own 38 yard line.  Then Bernard Scott broke off a 16 yard run into Seattle territory.  

It was enough for Nugent to get down to make it 20-12 with 5:02 left.  We just need a touchdown and a two-point conversion.  It's not over.

Except That it Was

Interesting that Taylor Mays and Kelly Jennings both play on Bengals special teams.

Anyway, the awesome Hawks offense we saw one drive before, accumulated negative eight yards on the ensuing drive.

The amazing Jon Ryan hit a 49 yard punt, but couldn't catch up to Brandon Tate on this one.  He returned it 56 yards for a coffin nail.

What can we really say?  This game would have been interesting if we had a special teams defense that was decent.  But we are pretty terrible at that it appears.  Something that seems like it can be fixed with some personnel adjustments, but we'll see.

Reggie Nelson One More Time

Nelsons name appears a couple times in this game, but none bigger than his inconsequential 75 yard interception return for a touchdown.  There was no time left for Seattle to mount a comeback.  I'm sure it was a cool moment for Nelson, but it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, except for maybe overshadowing the fact that Seattle had a chance to tie this game with five minutes left and ended up losing by 22 points.

That's the main thing to really take away from it.  People are being so reactionary to the final score, but not nearly as reactionary to what's really important: That Seattle has a solid defense, a bad but interesting offense, a good return game, and a terrible special teams defense.

What are the chances we're 4-3 if we actually played great special teams defense?  

The offense is clearly below average, but it's that 100 MPH fastball.  There are weapons here.  There are good weapons in Seattle's offense.  Zach Miller isn't playing as good as he's proven before, and I have hopes that he will improve as the year goes on.

I have hopes that James Carpenter will improve, like many rookies do.

I have hopes that Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice, and one of Golden Tate, Mike Williams, or Ben Obomanu, can form an exciting-as-hell wide receiver corps in 2012.

I have hopes that we're getting close to having a legitimate top 10 defense, because I know we have some legitimate stars on that side of the ball.

I have hopes that our special teams will improve.

These are all things that we can do better and that's before we talk about next seasons draft or free agency.  If I imagine our personnel improvements as a download bar on an internet page, I'd say that when Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived, it was at 5%.

Since then its gradually improved.  But we have to remember that building an NFL franchise from the dregs to the Super Bowl isn't high-speed internet.  It's not even 56k.  It takes awhile.  I'm sorry if you look at Buffalo and Detroit and San Francisco and you get jealous because they're apparently turning things around so quickly.

But those teams weren't built in a day.  The Lions have been building this team after four solid drafts where they were nearly mistake free.  

Carroll and Schneider have had all of two drafts.  Give it time.

I don't have many hopes for this year, other than hoping we stay healthy and the players improve.  I have high hopes for next season, and I don't doubt that for a minute.

I feel like I should say "namaste" or something after that.  I feel cleansed.

Follow me on twitter @casetines