There were a lot of ugly moments on offense yesterday for the Seahawks, no doubt about it. Tarvaris Jackson continued to struggle making decisions. His timing was inconsistent once again, and in comparison to the previous two weeks, there wasn't much improvement from number 7. Any perceived improvement in the passing game can be contributed more to Sidney Rice than Jackson, but that said, there wasn't a digression either. We've beat the Tarvaris Jackson drum (or horse) enough for three weeks, so maybe it's time to switch the focus up a bit to a more positive tone. Let's talk about attitude.
Attitude won the game for Seattle yesterday, plain and simple. There was a nastiness to this group, particularly on defense, that set the tone early for a Seattle win. Ironically, it started on a play that didn't count. A play that was ultimately nullified by a fabricated penalty that was called more out of shock than anything else. Literally...shock. As in "Hello Todd Heap. I'm Kam. Please excuse me while I attempt to decapitate you" shock. Did anyone think to check the Richter on that one? Looking at the replay of the hit that Chancellor laid on Heap after Earl Thomas had intercepted a Kevin Kolb pass, there was nothing dirty about it. Ken Wisenhunt was over there having puppies on the sideline, demanding a flag and the refs bought it.
By the time Heap re-entered the galaxy, the ‘Hawks had left a mark. You can call the play back, but you can't call the hit back. A message had been sent, that the ‘Hawk defense was not going to make a Cardinal win easy and regardless of what the scoreboard said at the end of the game, guys were going to be hurting if they ended up anywhere in Kam's vicinity.
It didn't take long for Red Bryant to send the same message. I was on the Cardinals' sideline for most of the game, and Bryant was blowing up his side of the Arizona O-line and doing so violently. On a number of occasions following plays in which Bryant would blow his opponent off the line or stuff the runner, he'd get up and yell "bring it" directly at the Cardinal bench and motion with his hand accordingly. A lot of players do that, I know. But rarely do you see no response from the sideline. The Arizona bench was silent. Nobody wanted to respond.
We saw Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock relentlessly annoy Kolb all day, to the extent of Kolb somehow losing his helmet on a play and looking sheepish in its retrieval. Leroy Hill laid some thundering hits of his own. He's back, by the way.
Brandon Browner was getting physical, particularly in the second half with Larry Fitzgerald, to the point that Kolb wasn't even looking his direction by the fourth quarter.
Save the first quarter sideline toss to Fitzgerald, the Cardinals took no shots down the field. They didn't want to mess with Seattle's two safeties - a gameplan we'll call "Remembering Kam."
As the game progressed, you could feel the Seattle defense coming to the realization that they were controlling this game, and they began to take pride in it.
A lot of people want to give the crowd the majority of the credit, but we saw this same effort and attitude in week one on the road at San Francisco. Last week in Pittsburgh things were a bit different, but that had to do mostly with a bad matchup between Brandon Browner and Mike Wallace. Tip your hat (if you don't vomit in the process) to the Steelers for recognizing and taking advantage of that mismatch. Browner's response yesterday though, was what fans should take more pride in. He shut down one of the league's best receivers for a half of football, and his ability to bounce back with such a strong showing was only one example among several of how attitude won this week's contest.
Let's not ignore the improvements that we saw on offense. The offensive line played worlds better in the run game. James Carpenter looked like a first round pick. He was blowing guys off the line, then getting to the second level and doing it to the next guy. He's moving better, reacting better and targeting more decisively. Pass protection was better again, particularly in the 2nd half. Jackson again held the ball way too long on 3 of the 4 sacks, so I really only chalk up one surrendered sack to this line when considering missed assignments or just getting beat. That was Paul McQuistan's mistake (primarily).
Even Tarvaris Jackson sent a message that he's tough. He could have slid at the 1 yard line with the hope of being able to run the ball in on a fresh set of downs, but instead he lowered his shoulder and took a punishment from one of the leagues biggest hitters in Adrian Wilson, then came back in on the next series despite being hurt. Believe me, Jackson did a lot of things wrong. But emotionally and physically he sent a message that he wasn't going to be intimidated or deterred by anyone on the defensive side of the ball.
Marshawn Lynch ran really tough. Sometimes the holes just weren't there, but on the 23-yard effort in particular, he dragged and carried defenders with him and kept his legs churning on impact. Leon Washington had a similar run. This entire team emanated toughness and attitude, and it all started with the Chancellor hit.
This is why one play can be so big. The Seattle defense hadn't forced a turnover in the first two weeks, despite having held their own in both games. There wasn't any one defining play that Seattle ever made, on offense or defense, to set a tone that they could build off of. Yesterday, the tone was set with the hit, and as a result, turnovers were forced and good things happened.
I remember during Dennis Erickson's first year as Seattle's head coach, the theme song that played at the beginning of each preseason broadcast was "New Attitude" by Patti LaBelle. But the song may be more applicable in the Pete Carroll era.
Even during the Holmgren era, as much of a winning franchise as this was, they were much more known for being a finesse team built on speed and character. Character is great when you're trying to keep a guy out of jail in the off-season. On the field...ehhh...I've never put it at the top of my list of winning criteria. And the word "character" can mean so many things anyway. It doesn't have to mean "nice," and this front office seems to know that.
If the ‘Hawks can maintain this attitude and approach throughout the season, get ready to say "so long" to the "soft" tab that has plagued this franchise for so many years.
No, the Seahawks don't have all the pieces. Especially on offense. And considering the rebuild that is underway, they shouldn't have all the pieces. What they should have is a direction. Specifically, an identity that they can build on, and add the right pieces to as they move forward. The identity just might be forming.