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Broncos Dispatch Seahawks 23-20

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The Broncos beat the Seahawks 23-20 on a 51-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka as time ran out at Mile High Stadium at Sports Authority Field in Denver or whatever the hell they call that place. The fact that the Seahawks were in a position to take the game to overtime is a small miracle in itself, so the end result was fairly anticlimactic to me. Regardless, it's preseason, so really the end result is moot in the first place. The game was ugly, in a word. The Seahawks offense looked bad... the Seahawks defense looked bad... but somehow they stuck in it, which is basically an encapsulation of what they did last year and that's either exciting or scary.

I put together a short "5 things to watch" post last night at SBN Seattle, and I thought for a quick game recap I'd revisit the things I thought would be worth watching. (I will address my "things to watch" post from here today in more detail as well down the line but this seemed like a good jumpoff point for analysis of the game)...

My five things to watch in italics, followed by my post-game reactions:

1: Schemes: it will be interesting to see some of the blitz schemes cooked up on defense and some of the creativity the Hawks bring out on offense. Formations and groupings could change from the first two games. Will the Hawks bring the house? Will they break out some trick plays? Though it won't be what you could expect in the regular season, generally speaking, more creative playcalling should be evident.

This was something I was looking forward to watching and the Hawks actually ended up bringing some new stuff into the fold. Chris Clemons dropped into coverage weak side end spot early in the game and picked off Kyle Orton on a on a beautifully designed zone blitz play. 

On the Broncos' next drive, Marcus Trufant came in on a corner blitz on 2nd down and sacked Kyle Orton for a 15 yard loss that essentially killed the Broncos' attempt at a drive. 

Though I can't say that these plays or schemes are a complete departure from the vanilla defense the Seahawks have been running in the first two games, it seemed to me that they introduced a bit more of the defensive playbook and it paid dividends on a few plays. Now, the defense as a whole was not sharp, don't get me wrong. The Seahawks gave up 450 net yards to the Broncos, including 7.9 yards per passing attempt and 4.4 yards per run, so I wouldn't say that I was encouraged. It is preseason, but there is reason to be a little worried at this point.

On offense, I can't say the Hawks got overly creative. They did have an end-around to Golden Tate later in the game that went nowhere, but it was good to see them try to get him involved nonetheless. 

2: Sidney Rice and Mike Williams: The Two Towers. They've been quiet in this preseason. Hopefully that changes tonight.

Well. So - so. Mike Williams had three catches for 30 yards and almost came down with another tough catch in the first quarter that would have been for another 8 or so yards. He stumbled just before the pass got to him and Champ Bailey was able to knock it out of his hands. Overall, I thought he looked pretty good. That's first glance, but I wasn't too worried about how he played.

Sidney Rice had 2 catches for 11 yards. He had one pass go off his chest, which was a bit disconcerting. Overall, not an impressive night for Rice but the offense didn't really get clicking throughout the whole game so it's not like I'm trying to put the blame on Sidney. I think he'll bounce back next week.

3) The offensive line: they were the goat of the game last week. Tarvaris Jackson was running for his life most of the night and the first-team running game didn't gain much traction. Will be tough against the Broncos stout defensive line, but it would be nice to see them a) give Jackson some time to throw it to his playmakers, and b) get a little push on the line and hit some people in the mouth.

The offensive line continued to struggle, and were probably the goat of the game again (maybe it was Tarvaris Jackson this time, actually). They gave up five sacks, all while Tarvaris Jackson was at QB, but 3 or 4 of them were at least partly Jackson's fault. In a simplistic way of looking at it, I'd say Tarvaris needs to work on throwing the ball away. He might not have had receivers open downfield and he may not have had a lot of time to go through his reads, but he simply held on to the ball too long a few times and got sacked, and it's getting quite worrisome. 

I will say this though -- pretty much EVERYONE has been saying this from the get-go: this offensive line will take a while to gel and things will be ugly to start, so I hope people stop freaking out about it. You knew it was going to happen going in, I'm not sure why anyone is acting surprised. 

4) The defensive line: Alan Branch. Brandon Mebane. Red Bryant. The return of Chris Clemons. Tonight, you will see the presumptive starting lineup for the Hawks on the defensive line. Will they stop the run? Will they get pressure on the QB? Will they collapse the pocket?

Well, the defensive line wasn't much better. The Broncos gained 148 yards on the ground at a clip of 4.4 yards per carry. The Hawks got 4 sacks -- 2 from Lazarius Levingston, which is nice, but those came late in the game against 2nd and 3rd stringers. Marcus Trufant got one on a blitz and Malcolm Smith had another. 

Red Bryant looked pretty good to me. My girlfriend noted that he looks a lot like a Koopa Troopa and I think that comparison plays. In seriousness though, he is surprisingly agile and quick for his size and I think he could have a big year if he stays healthy. He ran down a few run plays and looked to dominate opposing tackles on a few plays so I'm encouraged there.

Alan Branch batted down another pass, which is a good sign, but neither him nor Brandon Mebane did enough on the interior to get pressure, and the result was Kyle Orton standing behind the line for what seemed like five minutes just waiting for his receivers to get open. This will have to improve. 

5) Jeff Reed. Yep, the kicker. The Seahawks quietly lost their very solid, veteran kicker this offseason and are now faced with relying on a guy that got cut from the Steelers last season, signed on the 49ers to finish the year, and was a free agent on the street at the end of the lockout. He's a veteran, and in the past has been pretty solid, but his inconsistency and strange antics are a concern. Kicker is a more important than a lot of people realize, and a lot of games are won and lost on the foot of a team's kicker. Whether or not Reed is up to the task is a big question mark.

Reed hit field goals from 52 and 53 yards in the swirling winds of Denver, including one with just over a minute left to tie it up. Furthermore, he didn't have trouble on kickoffs, putting the ball at least half-way through the endzone, and Denver only returned one of them (for 28 yards). Despite the redflags that Jacson so aptly pointed out, color me comfortable with Reed as kicker, for now anyway. 

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All in all -- I'm trying not to overreact to anything, considering it's the preseason, but the Seahawks looked pretty awful. They were outgained 450-183 on offense, were 3/14 on third down, averaged 3.6 yards per pass play and 3.1 per rushing play. Yeesh. The defense looked a little better than the offense, but obviously didn't get it done. 

The main highlight of the game was a 103 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Doug Baldwin that all but assured him a spot on the 53-man roster. I'll delve into more detail in the coming days, but this and the Chris Clemons interception were pretty much the only things I got out of my seat for tonight. 

A few more notes before I leave you for the night: Mark Legree looked good late in the game on a few stops, including a big hit on a Broncos receiver. Byron Maxwell looked great as a gunner on special teams. Earl Thomas is the truth. Thomas Clayton is winning me over. That's all I got for right now.

The really good news? Besides the fact that I saved 15% on my car insurance by switching to Geico -- no major injuries, that I saw anyway. That's HUGE, honestly. 

Check out the boxscore here.  And here. 


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