I came into Sunday's game against the Vikings with perhaps the most confidence I've had in the Seahawks all season. I never feel comfortable on the road, and Seattle's home opponents had been the Cowboys, Packers, and Patriots. Minnesota, with all due respect, had been trending the wrong way for the last three weeks. The Hawks were 3-0 at home and seemed to match up well against the Vikings, so even though I was concerned (as always since I have terrible anxiety), I was confident.
If only I could feel the same way about myself with real human interactions!
Unlike me though, Seattle came through in the end. Despite Adrian Peterson tearing the ACL's of our hearts on Minnesota's first drive and giving the Vikings a quick 7-0 lead, Seattle was in control for most of the game. They started out with a touchdown advantage, we finished the game outscoring them 30-13.
Thirty points. It was the first time all season that the Hawks scored four touchdowns in a game. Seattle ran for a season-high 195 yards, a not-insignificant margin against a pretty good run defense. It was more than they allowed to Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars, Frank Gore and the 49ers, Chris Johnson and the Titans, Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, and Doug Martin with the Bucs, etc. The most they've allowed all season. Football Outsiders had the Vikings ranked 7th against the run coming into the game and then Marshawn Lynch ran for 124 yards on 26 carries.
Without James Carpenter. Without Max Unger for a spell. The Vikings have a good defense and the Hawks just had their most complete offensive game of the season. This is how points babies are born. This is how a yards bill becomes a touchdown law. This is how the Seattle Hawfense is emerging from it's fragile shell.
I think we would all welcome the Hawfense with open wings and we'd chew up 12th Man thank you's and spit it in their little Hawfense mouths for sustenance.
These are my favorite moments. The moments where I get to write about Seattle after a win and spread joy and cheer to the Seattle faithful. After a loss, I want to explode a glitter bomb in my brain, but on days like this I get to sprinkle happy sprinkles on your happy heads. Here are my favorite notes about the Seahawks 30-20 win over the Vikings:
Over Seattle's first five games they averaged 17.2 points per game. Over their last four games, including a six point inburst against the 49ers, they're averaging 21 points per game. A little less than four points per game might not seem like a lot, but for a defensive football team it's often going to be the difference between winning or losing. Especially when seven of your nine games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
By racking up their three highest yardage totals of the season over the last four games, there is reason for hope that the offense is coming together and that Darrell Bevell's playcalling will look a whole lot brighter with better, more experienced, more familiar players. That's the hope at least.
There's a major difference between how you look and how you are. I look fat, when in reality I'm slightly overweight.
The Patriots are a good offense on any day. Seattle so far has just looked good a few times and let's hope that it's actually an indication of things to come and not just a few fluky performances against mediocre defenses. The Vikings are better than mediocre, they've been good. That's why it's so encouraging to see Seattle:
- Go 4-for-12 on third down and 3-for-3 on fourth down.
- Go 4-for-6 in the Red Zone.
- Gain 12 first downs by way of the pass and 13 by way of the run. That's 12 passes for a first down.
- Commit zero turnovers
Bevell's playcalling feels like the long con. (Well, in the context of one game being 'long' otherwise it's a short con really. This is an overexplanation of an analogy, you're welcome.) The defense is a lonely, rich widow. Wilson is a handsome man that tells the defense he loves them. Bada bing, bada boom, I just play-actioned your bank account for a first down on third-and-three. Save your crying for Dateline NBC.
It was evident against the Pats, it was evident yesterday, and it's probably been evident for awhile except that the personnel wasn't ready and still might not be complete. But they're coming together.
Eight Days a Week
The reputation of being a hard-worker has preceded Russell Wilson for years. None of his college coaches would have bet against him. Pete Carroll and John Schneider might have bet their jobs on him. After nine games, that seems like a safe bet and I'm sure that a lot of NFL coaches wish they could have a do-over. Wilson is walking the walk. I want to tell him, "You complete me," or "You make me want to be a better man," or the more appropriate, "I can't quit you."
Wilson is not immune to failing. It has only been nine games and he wouldn't be the first quarterback to go from sensation to an afterthought. I just hope that this trend continues on the path that it's currently on.
- Wilson had three red zone touchdown passes over his first seven games. He has five red zone touchdown passes in his last two.
- Wilson had two first-half touchdown passes over his first seven games. He has four touchdown passes before halftime in his last two.
- Wilson is 57-of-92 for 747 yards, 8.12 Y/A, 9 TD and 0 INT in four home games. His 120.2 home QB rating is tops in the NFL.
- Wilson is 66-of-109, 60.5%, 824 yards, 7.56 Y/A, 8 TD, 2 INT in his last four games. That does include the 49ers and the worst half of football he's had this season.
The red zone stuff is really important because this team can't settle for field goals when it has opportunities for touchdowns. There is your four-point difference per game, basically. A truly good Seahawks football team is going to have the efficiency of the 2005 offense and right now the puzzle pieces seem to be there, with Wilson being the most important of all. He's not all-the-way there, but the writing is on the wall.
It's also important that Seattle scores more in the first half to build leads and be able to run their offense with the lead. We've seen the importance of that, even if the Lions were able to mount a comeback.
Finally, his numbers at home have just been incredible. With four of the next seven at home, this will be pivotal in making the playoffs.
The Long and Winding Road
It's been one for Golden Tate. He started off well, with some great open-field ability showed in his first few games and then he fell off the map to the point where some thought he might get cut before the 2011 season. His second season was also inconsistent. He'd make some catches that proved he had rare talent, then disappear for stretches.
Again, some wondered "Why do we need this guy?"
Golden is not yet a "Productive" wide receiver. He's not going to win you your fantasy championship, that was your own fault for drafting Darren McFadden. But like I've said many times about Sidney Rice, he can do things that many receivers can't and he gives Seattle options in the passing game that they need. Hopefully if the last two games are any indication, he's getting better and consistency with that will be crucial.
Tate has been targeted 13 times over the past two games and has 11 catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, with 21 'rushing' yards against Minnesota. Not crazy amounts of production, but how many wins would we have this season without Golden Tate?
A big part of Seattle's 5-4 record is that they have stayed relatively healthy this season. Going into yesterday's game, the only 'starter' to miss a game on defense was Jason Jones. The Hawks have more than 11 critical players on defense though, and Greg Scruggs has been heaven-sent as a 7th round pick. According to Chad Davis on Twitter that I just read, Scruggs has 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, 3 QB hurries in only about 75 snaps.
That's why this K.J. Wright concussion business isn't good for anybody.
But we're lucky. Let's count our blessings. Jones and Wright become the major pieces on defense that need to get healthy, and Seattle has a home game and a bye week coming up. With or without these two, let's hope that the Seahawks B-E-A-T the Jets and it's currently 20 days before the game in Miami.
If Walter Thurmond returns and is effective, that's another major boost we didn't have before. Even with a few hits here and there, we're lucky to be in the position that we're in with regards to injuries.
I Feel Fine
Speaking of injuries, Sidney Rice has played in every game and I don't recall seeing him on the injury report much this season. Speaking of Sidney Rice:
- He caught 4-of-4 targets on Sunday for 54 yards and a touchdown, including 1-for-1 on deep targets.
- He caught 6-of-8 targets against the Lions for 55 yards and a touchdown, 1-for-3 on deep targets.
- He caught 2-of-4 targets against the 49ers, 0 deep targets.
- He caught 3-of-6 targets against the Patriots, 2-for-2 deep, and one of those was pretty cool.
- He caught 5-of-6 targets against the Panthers for 67 yards, 1-for-2 deep.
Overall, Rice has caught 20 of his last 28 targets for 289 yards and three touchdowns in his last five games. We've seen him be effective in both intermediate situations and deep situations. The touchdown against the Patriots was a testament to the talent and relationship between quarterback and receiver. Wilson couldn't overthrow or under-throw the target, or it wouldn't work. Rice couldn't be too slow to catch it and he still had to make the catch.
The talent at the positions is evident, the production should come in time. When Rice had his career season in 2009 (and boy was it a career-season, he has never topped 500 yards otherwise) he caught an excellent 69% of Brett Favre's targets for 1,312 yards and ranked 1st in the NFL in YAR and DYAR, 3rd in DVOA.
Is Rice overpaid? What should you be willing to pay the best receiver on your roster? Look at the opponent yesterday and tell me that the Vikings wouldn't like to still have him after their leading receiver had 14 yards. Fantasy football seems to force the idea of 'big numbers' as the only way to evaluate a player, but Rice is incredibly important to the offense. He doesn't make the play calls, so as long as he catches 70% of his targets, what else can we really ask him to do?
Finally, we said hello and goodbye to the Vikings yesterday, a team that was ahead of us in the wild card race. Had we lost, this season would start to feel over and probably for good reason. Not that we couldn't finish on a high-note, but the Packers look hard to catch and we would fall behind Minnesota, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and possibly the Eagles.
Win, and now the bets might say we're in.
I was going to detail the shape of the NFC playoff race, but somebody already did that.
We absolutely, positively, can not lose any games that we are perfectly capable of winning. That starts with Jets. You have to hope that if you can make Christian Ponder look like Mark Sanchez, that you can make Mark Sanchez look like the fourth clone of Sanchez a la Multiplicity. If there's one thing I know, it's that Michael Keaton movies are 100% scientific.
I go into Week 10 with confidence. Let's hope that the result is positive again.