Sunday's are meant to be for relaxin'. Chillin' out, maxin'. But even Fresh could tell you that best laid plans never turn out as they should. The Seahawks -- or at least us fans -- would definitely agree right now.
Maybe the team wasn't "riding high" after their 14-9 win over the Rams last Monday, but 7-1 versus 0-7 should pretty much wrap up the tale of the tape. Instead, the Buccaneers tried to catch us "riding dirty" and nearly pulled off something that no visiting team has done since the 13-2 49ers in December of 2011. I can't speak for how players feel and unless I lose 50 pounds of fat and gain 50 pounds of muscle (or perhaps if both myself and Tarvaris Jackson are wearing the same ancient magical necklace and do a "Freaky Friday" switcharoo just as Jackson is forced into action during the playoffs for the best team in the league. Coming this fall.) I will never be able to speak for the players, but I can speak for myself as a fan.
And as a fan this season we might be 8-1 but there hasn't been any additional relaxation than last season when we were 5-4.
Surprisingly through nine games, the easiest game to watch was Week 2's win over San Francisco. Even games against the Titans, Jaguars, and Cardinals were more frustrating than they should have been. Right now it seems like the only big difference between this year's team through nine games and last year's team through nine games is that there happen to be three more wins.
Are we "learning" how to win or is it simply a matter of fortuitous happenstance? Last week Seattle got outplayed in every facet except for the turnover battle and won. This week Seattle got outplayed in the turnover battle but outplayed the Bucs in every facet during the second half and overtime and won. Like Stephon Marbury, I'll take any sentence that ends with "and won" so I try not to be too negative about how we got there.
But I know that's still a major concern for most of you. Should it be?
Yesterday the Seahawks trailed 21-0 to maybe the worst team in the NFL, and they did so at home. A place that they had won 11 straight games and is widely considered to be the best homefield advantage in the league, the big reason why every Seattle fan wants the number one seed and for good reason. But yesterday they trailed 21-0 to perhaps the worst team in the NFL, and that's got to be concerning to some people.
Is it more or less concerning than the fact that:
- The Cowboys needed a last-minute touchdown to beat the 1-7 Vikings.
- The last time the Broncos played, they trailed the Redskins 21-7 in the third quarter.
There isn't a contending team in the NFL that hasn't looked bad at certain times this year, and often against bad opponents. The Packers and 49ers each have two losses, and out of all the contending teams, Seattle remains in the best position. Somebody's going to win the Super Bowl this year and just because the Seahawks trailed 21-0 to maybe the worst team in the NFL, they're still in great position and they're still the best team over the past 12 months.
Consider that this is a team that is 15-2 over their last 17 regular season games despite the fact that during that stretch they've lost these players to injury at one time or another:
Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, Breno Giacomini, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Anthony McCoy, Chris Clemons, Jason Jones, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Brandon Browner, Clinton McDonald, plus suspensions to Browner and Bruce Irvin, plus a seemingly-always banged up Marshawn Lynch.
With that many injuries over a seventeen-game span, Seattle has gone 15-2 and lost two games by a combined total of nine points on two final drives by the Dolphins and Colts. Add the playoffs and its 16-3 with those losses by a combined 11 points and on another final drive. Consider that 10 of those 17 games have been on the road.
So why are the Seahawks still so good over the last year?
It probably has a lot to do with the coaching staff and the consistent play of Russell Wilson, Lynch, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman over that time period. Not to take anything away from those other guys, but here are the steady performers in the last year, the guys that haven't missed time (Again, all due respect Kam Chancellor, Golden Tate, Wright, Doug Baldwin, etc.) but in 17 games, there's your All-Star core.
Wilson had a two-interception game, his first multi-interception game (and that's exactly what it was without any asterisks) since Week 5 of 2012, but he also took part in three touchdowns.
Lynch rushed 21 times for 125 yards even though by the time the fourth quarter rolled around he only had nine carries. Pete Carroll was not going to go away from the run however, knowing that 15 minutes is not a death sentence if you don't score through the air. Lynch had 44 rushing yards on a single drive in overtime.
If Sherman's main job was to shut down Vincent Jackson, then two catches for 11 yards is certainly a worthy achievement. And if Thomas's job is to play the quarterback of the defense, despite allowing 21 points to the Bucs, they gave up just three points in the final 36+ minutes including overtime, not to mention having one of the best plays of his career negated by a questionable penalty.
On separate teams, these four players would still be very good, but when you them all together and they all gently touch the tips of their swords, some really amazing shit happens and they form like some sort of super bot like the Power Rangers. (I'm an appropriate age to know what happens in the Power Rangers, thank you very much.)
Are they playing perfectly? No. We saw that happen towards the end of last season when really everything did go right for four quarters. Now that we've seen that, despite how rare it is to see even for the all-time great teams, we're spoiled and think that great teams are supposed to crush everybody that they're "supposed" to crush. Well, if you want an example of how not true that is, please refer back to section 2A of this very article for the most recent game of some of the best teams in the league.
Did the Seahawks trail 21-0 to maybe the worst team in the NFL? Yeah, they did. Did Seattle outscore that team 27-3 over the final 2.5 quarters of play? Yep. And they did so without their starting tackles and All-Pro center. This is only Week 9 and you should know that every team in the league is going to look different when the playoffs roll around, Seattle included, so focus on what matters most: Winning. This team is doing that.
Even short-handed, I'll defend the Seattle Seahawks as the best team in the NFL right now. Long-handed? I just want them to get through the next two weeks healthy and come out of the Bye in three weeks with Okung and Harvin. And then let's see how often we're trailing 21-0 to maybe the worst team in the NFL.
Actually, let's never see that again. I think we could all use a game where we can finally relax on a Sunday.
Perhaps even a... "Super" Sunday?
Let's make like Steve McQueen and Bullitt:
- The Seahawks won their first four games of the year and their most recent four games of the year. Only nine games into the season, Seattle has two four-game winning streaks. So what?
Not only is it the first time in franchise history that they have two winning streaks of 4+ games in the same season, Seattle only had six streaks of 4+ wins (in one season) in franchise history coming into this year. For future reference, these are the longest winning streaks in franchise history, contained within a single season:
2012: 5 games
2007: 5 games
2005: 11 games
1999: 5 games
1986: 5 games
1984: 8 games
- Expansion bros, Seattle had lost the last three games against Tampa Bay by a total of 50 points. The Seahawks had won seven of their first eight meetings, though the two teams never met in the eighties after Seattle moved to the AFC.
- Completely random factoid that I just came across that has nothing to do with this game but I don't know when I'll get to use it. The team that the Seahawks have the worst regular season winning percentage against is the Washington Redskins, going 4-11 against them in franchise history.
The Redskins are also the team that Seattle has most often met in the playoffs (tied with the Dolphins) and they've beaten them in all three of those playoff games.
More like Robert Griffin the Third Straight Loss To Seattle, am I correct?
- Do you, umm, like stuff? What kind of music do you, umm, like?
Do you ever, umm, like think about the fact that if the Seahawks make the playoffs this year, they will have made the playoffs in eight of the last 11 seasons? Doesn't that, umm, like, sound crazy?
- I think a lot of kids like to watch the Olympics. It's an event full of sports that you do not have to follow one iota except for during a one or two day period every four years, because you know you're watching greatness. If athletes only get better as we advance as humans, and I'm almost certain they do, you know you're basically seeing the best version of "that" that you have ever seen.
If you watch Michael Phelps, you know you're likely seeing the greatest swimmer to have ever lived out of billions and billions of people.
If you watch Usain Bolt, you know you're likely seeing the most incredible runner (that seems like the wrong word choice?) in the history of running, or close to it.
You don't have to know what's going on to know, "Wow, this is some superhuman hero shit." And in many ways, yes, these are our version of real life "X-Men."
I can remember even watching gymnastics as a kid and thinking about how incredible it was. How do these girls contort their bodies in that manner, do the flips, hit the beam, come down and stick a perfect landing? It doesn't make any logical sense. I don't know if the floor routine is my "favorite" gymnastics event, but for some reason I was more in awe of that than of most things.
Not just in the way that they tumble, flip, flop, dip, drop, jump and fly, but it was one thing in particular that dumbfounded me. How is it possible that they can do these tumble, flip, flop, dip, drop, jump, and fly routines and at the same time without looking, move their little feet to the back corner in absolute perfect position and not commit a penalty (or what that thing is called in their sport, a "deduction"?) by stepping on the line?
Seriously, how are you doing that little girls? How many senses do you have? It does seem superhuman, even though we all know in the back of our minds that it simply takes a level of commitment and dedication from a very young age for many years in order to make something so difficult look so fucking easy.
Yesterday at approximately 1:45 P.M. PST, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas found himself tracking Buccaneers wide receiver Skye Dawson wide left. Dawson, an undrafted free agent rookie that was signed by the Redskins, released, and then picked up by the Bucs, would only get this one target all game long. He has just one catch for nine yards on the season, has played in just two games, and would happen to run for 14 yards on another play in this same game.
But in the world of the NFL, Earl Thomas is to Skye Dawson as Michael Jackson is to Rockwell.
Mike Glennon threw a pass towards Dawson, perhaps not knowing that he was going to be covered by one of the best players in the league, and surely this was something that Glennon would come to regret. Thomas put a hand out to feel for where Dawson was, as a defensive player is taught to do, and then reached up for the football. Dawson did not belong here, not with this man. Few offensive players in the league are adequately prepared for this matchup and so it's not fair to blame Glennon or Dawson for this folly.
They don't reach his level of talent. Due to natural gifts and unnatural work ethic that likely goes back to an age in Thomas's life at which point you still would have been wetting your bed and crapping your diapers, Thomas is better than you. Than you. Than me. Than Skye Dawson.
Thomas leaped up and made a catch that some wide receivers in the NFL could not make. Think about how hard it is to make it in this league as a wide receiver. It seems to be one of those most churned-through positions in football and some of the best prospects we've ever seen have flamed out in a matter of years because they didn't know how hard it would be to catch footballs and gain yards against players like Thomas, but on this day it would be Thomas making the phenomenal catch.
But it wasn't only a matter of tracking Glennon's eyes, staying with Dawson, following the football as it spun through the air, running backwards at speeds that I cannot run forwards, timing his jump at the only time that would make it possible to make the catch, and then wrapping your hands around the football and not letting go, but then Thomas also did something that only a fraction of receivers at the professional ranks can do.
In a matter of seconds, a wide receiver, a cornerback, and in very rare cases, a safety, has to go through the progressions listed above and he has to do them perfectly. But even then it only gets you so far. At this point, Thomas has done everything perfectly and now he's crashing back to Earth and he's only got 0.5 seconds before he knows one very important fact:
"My feet, my hand, or my butt are going to touch the ground somewhere at some point. Where are my feet? How far off of the ground am I? How long until the first part of my body touches the ground? In which direction is momentum taking my body? Am I going further out of bounds? Was I in bounds to begin with? Where's Dawson? Do I still have possession of the football? Is the ball moving or do I need to wrap a second hand around this? Did I turn off the stove?"
That all happens in 0.5 seconds and it doesn't cover the most important question of all: Where is that all-important white, chalky line that determines whether or not my efforts are all for naught?
Oh and by the way, Thomas does not have the luxury of being able to use his eyes in order to find this information out.
When I see a player like Baldwin do this against the Texans, catch a pass and drag both tippy-toes while maintaining possession, I'm still amazed, but that's Baldwin's job. He's been working on doing that one job for his entire life. He's a wide receiver and if you want to make it in this league as a wide receiver, if you want to last more than three years, there is a good chance that you're going to have to do something that looks superhuman, such as dragging your toes and knowing where you are on the field -- exactly where you are on the field -- without looking.
That's a wide receivers job. For Earl Thomas, doing something that I can only be considered to be a feat rivaled by an Olympic gymnast that started getting up at 3 A.M. when she was 3-years-old, to be able to toe that line with perfect precision, it's an extracurricular activity.
Thomas came down to Earth and after getting the "easy" foot down, he bopped his other foot in bounds within a fraction of an inch of that chalky, white line, like he was bopping a Whack-a-Mole and winning me a stuffed giraffe. Earl Thomas, by all accounts, is our real life super hero. He can do things that 99.99% of humans can't do. He doesn't just shrink the field, he shrinks the other players on the field. He can make Vincent Jackson look like Skye Dawson and he can make Dawson look like me. If that's not the Defensive Player of the Year, then I'll never be able to identify what a Defensive Player of the Year looks like.
It was his league-leading fifth interception of the season... if only.
Because as super-human as Earl Thomas is, he is somehow still brought back to reality by some very fallible, and very flawed, humans like you and I. On behalf of our race, I apologize, Mr. Thomas.
You are amazing.
(By the way, the short guy is the great one.)
- Bobby Wagner had six solo tackles, five assisted tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a whole lot of people on Twitter saying that things were better without him in the starting lineup. I'm not saying that the stats can defend a player entirely, but issues in the run defense run a hell of a lot deeper than Wagner and associating the last two games with the return of Wagner seems lazy to me.
I would also remind people of one simple fact that Football Outsiders has pointed out before and still remains true: Run defense is simply not as important as pass defense.
Of the top seven defenses by DVOA going into Week 9, all of them were top 10 against the pass, but only three of them were top 10 against the run. In fact, the Chiefs rank 27th against the run, the Patriots 25th, the Bills 15th, and the Seahawks 14th, and those are all top seven teams in DVOA on defense, going into yesterday.
As noted in the FO Pre-season Almanac every year:
A great defense against the run is nothing without a good pass defense.
This is a corollary to the absurdity of "establish the run." With rare exceptions, teams win or lose with the passing game more than the running game—and by stopping the passing game more than the running game. Ron Jaworski puts it best: "The pass gives you the lead, and the run solidifies it."
The reason why teams need a strong run defense in the playoffs is not to shut the run down early; it’s to keep the other team from icing the clock if they get a lead. You can’t mount a comeback if you can’t stop the run.
Note that "good pass defense" may mean "good pass rush" rather than "good defensive backs."
If you want to stop the Saints, stop the pass. If you want to stop the Packers, stop the pass. If you want to stop the Lions, stop the pass. If you want to stop the Cowboys... well, the NFC East doesn't count.
The Seahawks have the number one pass defense in the NFL by many standards, including 5.0 net yards allowed per pass attempt. At this point, the Panthers might have a better all-around defense. The Chiefs might be better at getting to the quarterback. But nobody can fuck with this secondary and the pass-rush, though still somewhat inconsistent, is pretty good.
We need to see more of this pass-rush being really good.
- On their last five drives, the Bucs gained 61 yards and had four first downs, one of which came on a penalty.
- On the Seahawks last six drives, they gained 355 yards (not including end-of-regulation 5-yard play) and scored three touchdowns, two field goals, and an interception in the Bucs end zone.
In many ways, this game was every bit as dominating as you expected. It just started with a 21-0 tilt in the Bucs favor.
- On Sunday, the Seahawks were three-of-six on scoring touchdowns when having possession in the red zone. The Buccaneers were 2-of-3. This season, they've held possession in the red zone much more often than opponents:
Seattle - 18-of-33 for 54.5% touchdowns on possessions in the red zone.
Opponents - 10-of-23 for 43.4% touchdowns on possessions in the red zone.
They've had 4+ red zone possessions five times this year, and allowed four red zone possessions just once. (Rams, 0-for-4 in red zone.)
- Yesterday, Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings missed a very costly extra point against Dallas. Walsh is good, he was considered the best in the league last year, so shit happens, but don't underestimate how great it is to have Steven Hauschka and that even the best miss within 40 yards.
Hauschka has missed four field goal attempts in the last two seasons, three of which were outside of 50 yards.
- Seattle had forced a turnover in 14 straight games until yesterday, but still won.
Yes, they still won. Against all odds, or because of them, it doesn't matter. Every good team struggles sometimes, only the great ones win anyway. I'll take the win and spend the rest of the week chillin' out, maxin'.