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Cigar Thoughts, Week 5: Seahawks win ugly, beat Redskins 27-17 to regain share of NFC West lead

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The Seattle Seahawks overcame terrible O-line play and a thousand penalties to beat the Washington Redskins, improving to 3-1 in the process.

This game, nutshelled
This game, nutshelled
Rob Carr

There was a lot of ugly in this game. Ugly officiating, ugly blocking against an ugly team with an ugly name on an ugly field. From midway through the second quarter on, this game was uncomfortable and frustrating and aggravating and the Seahawks still won. Say what you want about the stenchy, puss-bloated quagmire that is the Redskins franchise, road wins in the NFL are hard to come by and the Seahawks got one despite allowing a number of chunk passing plays, horrendous execution from the offensive line, and a ton of unnecessary penalties.

It all started off so well. On the first drive of the game, Russell Wilson used his legs to dart through the Redskins defense like a rabbit, ripping off gains of 16 and 29 on the ground before hitting Jermaine Kearse for a 15-yard score to make it 7-0. On the second drive, he was at it again. In fact, by the time Seattle had run eight plays from scrimmage, Wilson had accumulated 80 yards rushing. A few drives later, he was sauntering into the endzone for a nine-yard score that brought the score to 17-0.

At that point (4:40 left in the second quarter), Wilson had twice as many yards on the ground than Washington's whole team had from scrimmage. The defense was as suffocating as you'd expect them to be against a backup QB on a bad team. Through Washington's first four drives, the Redskins were held to 1.8 yards per play while Seattle was clipping away at 9.0. It was a game that had rout written all over it. Then DeSean Jackson happened.

With the first half clock bleeding out on the 'Skins, Kirk Cousins took a snap and stepped up into a collapsing pocket. Flushed out to his right, he took a shot to (gasp) the deep defensive left of the field, where Jackson was streaking two steps in front of Kam Chancellor. The ball landed perfectly in Jackson's outstretched hands. He slipped a diving tackle from Richard Sherman and took it home for a 60-yard TD. Twitter immediately jumped all over Jackson's "burning" of his childhood buddy Sherman but the replay showed something different

At the outset of the play, Sherman was covering the outside receiver, who he followed to the seam on a post route. Beneath that route, Jackson found himself one-on-one with Chancellor, who he beat on a simple out-and-up. It was very similar to the combo wheel routes Peyton Manning kept hitting against Seattle in the 4th quarter of Week 3, only on the other side of the field. Now, Sherman wasn't beaten directly but he may very well have been in the wrong by following his man inside, as Kam looked surprised not to have any help behind him. The key to Cover 3 is taking away the deep thirds of the field. I don't know what Sherman's assignment was but the back third of the field was definitely exposed and given Seattle's insistence on not allowing explosive plays, I can't imagine that was by design.

After Seattle petered out on their next drive, the teams went to the half with the score 17-7. That lead could've been a chasm but the Seahawks insisted on running with their shoelaces tied, racking up penalty after penalty. Percy Harvin had a long touchdown run (correctly) called back on a James Carpenter hold. Two snaps later, he housed a screen pass wherein he sliced through defenders like a slalom skier. That one was called back on a false start*, in which the official said Harvin flinched. That "flinch" was Percy starting in motion, parallel with the line of scrimmage. You know, one of those rules that pee wee football refs know exists.

*even though they didn't call the play dead?

All told, the Seahawks finished the first half with seven penalties, a handful of which were drive-killers. Somehow, the 'Hawks managed 267 first half yards despite consistently facing 1st and 15, 1st and 20. They had out-rushed Washington 151-25. It was complete domination of an inferior opponent and very easily could've been a three or four score margin.

The third quarter was about as gross as third quarters get. Seattle quickly racked up three more penalties, making them guilty of 10 of the first 11 calls in the game. The offense avoided turning the ball over but they lost the ability to move the chains. Whether by circumstance or design, the Seahawks never even tried to take the lid off the defense. Settling for scrambling dump-offs and short runs. I know that Seattle is refocusing on high-efficiency passes in the first level of the defense (and I don't blame them, given their personnel) but those plays only work when the defense is giving those receivers space and they're not gonna give them space unless they're worried about getting beat deep.

Throwing the ball downfield isn't always about whether or not you succeed, often times it's about showing the defense that they need to worry about it. Like a flame-throwing pitcher mixing in a curveball once in a while to keep hitters honest. To be honest, I don't think a Wilson pass officially* traveled further than 15 yards in the air all night. In the five possessions after Jackson's score, the Seahawks gained a total of 38 yards on 16 plays, including four straight three-and-outs.

*His deep dime to Percy was yet another touchdown erased by a dubious penalty.

The offensive line was a big part of that. They were as bad in pass coverage as they've ever been, leading to 23 sack yards and if Russell Wilson wasn't Russell Wilson, there literally might have been another 50. They blocked about as well as that free totally-not-a-scam anti-virus software you downloaded does. They were their typical effective collective self on run plays, as Lynch consistently gained plus yardage despite never really breaking one. I'm not worried about that part of it.

Carpenter is very good going forward but he's just as bad moving backwards. Same goes for J.R. Sweezy. Justin Britt is still learning, which is to be expected. The real concern for me is Russell Okung. Make no mistake, Okung is a Pro Bowl quality tackle but for as dominant as he's been against middle- and lower-tier ends, he's struggled against the top rushers in the game. Unfortunately for him, he's started the season against Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, DeMarcus Ware, and Brian Orakpo. I'd say the worst of it is over but he still has games against Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Justin and/or Aldon Smith, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Calais Campbell... you get the point. Before tonight, he hadn't been terrible. In fact, he's fought most of his assignments to a draw, which is a win in pass-pro; but he hasn't been the dominant guy he was drafted to be and tonight he was flat out over-matched. Hopefully it was just a bad game. Max Unger is my rock. Well, him and Mekhi Phifer. No worries there.

After the Redskins added a field goal on the opening drive of the second half, the outcome was suddenly cast into doubt. On that drive, Washington faced a 3rd and 1 deep in Seattle territory. It looked for all the world like Washington was gonna score another touchdown. They tried to sneak Cousins up the middle but  Kevin Williams shut that shit down. I swear he could stop the Earth from rotating if he dug his heels in hard enough. Nevertheless, Seattle continued to sputter on offense, while Cousins and Co. kept picking up first downs and tepidly moving the ball down the field.

Despite the change in momentum, the Redskins offense had trouble really breaking through and a lot of that had to do with how well the front seven played.  Williams and Brandon Mebane and Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were stout and disrupted a number of pockets but they weren't getting home, notching just one sack and four QB hits on 37 dropbacks. The real outstanding defensive performances came from the linebackers.

K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner harassed the passing lanes, batting down three passes and changing Cousins' arm angle on a few others. They were excellent in coverage, aggressive when tackling, and shrunk the available real estate in the second level of the defense to almost zero. Superior LB play forces teams to try and beat Seattle deep, which plays right into their hands.

For as incredible as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor are, Bobby Wagner is quietly making a run at being the best defensive player on this team. He's definitely having the best season. He led the team in tackles (8), as he has in every game this season. Three of them were for a loss. Bobby Wagner is 9% of the defensive personnel but he produced 15% of the tackles, 28% of the passes broken up, and 100% of the tackles for loss (3 TFLs, 1 sack). he was the best of a great bunch in this one.

With the game 17-10 and the 'Skins gaining confidence, Seattle found another drive stalling out. Taking advantage of good field position, the 'Hawks pushed the ball into Washington territory before stalling out at the Redskins' 35. Staring at a 4th and 1 and leading by just one score, Pete Carroll sent out the field goal unit. That's when my favorite thing happened.

Instead of receiving the snap and placing it down for a Steven Hauschka field goal, as per the yoozh, holder-extraordinaire Jon muhfuggin' Ryan took a ran a got dang power sweep and bullied forward for a first down. He also pinned five punts inside the 20 (including tumbling one out of bounds at the 1) so we can just go ahead and elect him to public office whenever.

Inspired by the plucky orange one, the Seahawks regathered their strength and plunged themselves to the hilt into the beleaguered Redskins defense. They capped the drive with a swing pass to Marshawn Lynch who found himself eight yards from pay dirt and one man to beat. He shrugged off the hapless linebacker like so much dust on his FUBU jacket. It is startling how automatic it has become that Lynch won't be tackled one-on-one in the open field.

The Redskins, to their credit, didn't fold with the score 24-10. They marched right back down that casserole of silliness they call a field and scored another touchdown with three and a half minutes left. On the penultimate drive, the 'Hawks found themselves just a couple first downs from icing it. The 'Skins held up on the first two plays and then completely overwhelmed Seattle's offensive line on 3rd and 4.

With both defensive ends crashing hard, Wilson spun away from the first to arrive, only to find himself a step away from the next one. Spinning (again) away from trouble, the right-handed Wilson ran towards the left sideline before somehow flipping the ball to a waiting Lynch, moments before the third pass rusher leveled him.

Marshawn Lynch picked up the first down and slithered his way downfield for 30 soul-extinguishing, game-sealing yards. Moments later, Hauschka was closing it up with a field goal, giving the Seahawks a 27-17 victory and a share of the lead in the NFC West.

Some other stuff:

~Passer efficiency differential which, as I've said before might be the most indicative stat in football as it pertains to wins and losses, is now 4-0 on the season in Seahawks games. While Cousins was actually really good and posted an impressive 102, Wilson navigated his leaky protection and canceled TDs to a melodious 127.3.

~13 penalties for 90 yards. Yeah, some of them were bad calls but most of them weren't. Gotta clean that up or a better team will hurt them for it.

~Almost 35 minutes of time of possession for Seattle. For all the talk about how TOP doesn't matter as much in today's NFL, it matters a lot to the 'Hawks. The plan is always to dominate the ball and the did a good job of that tonight.

~117 yards and a teeder for Lynch on 22 touches. He is as fearsome and dangerous as ever.

~Doug Baldwin had another nice game, leading the team with 50 yards on four catches.

~Percy Harvin is so much better than his year-to-date production would suggest. He was absolutely exceptional tonight and no one should worry about him. He's still the Ferrari in the garage.

~The Redskins came into the game averaging 123 rushing yards per game at a 4.5 YPC. Seattle held them to 32 yards on 17 carries for a 1.9 average. The Seahawks are now allowing 64 rushing yards per game at a 2.69 clip. Both numbers lead the NFL.

~The Seahawks out-rushed the Redskins 225-32. They now lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (167.3), yards per carry (5.3), rushing yards allowed (64/game), and yards per carry allowed (2.7). The average Seahawks rushing attempt literally doubles the yardage of the average attempt against them.

~The Seahawks are now 11-1 in primetime games under Pete Carroll.

For all the fretting we've done about the offense, they're still averaging 27.5 PPG, good for 5th in the league. Next up, the surprising Dallas Cowboys come to Seattle with first place in the NFC on the line. The game will feature the top two rushing teams in the league and if anybody is going to crack this Seattle run D, it's DeMarco Murray. This team was never going to blow out 19 straight opponents and coast to a repeat. In the NFL you have to win ugly sometimes. The Seahawks didn't play their best game but none of their mistakes were a result of talent deficiency. Everything they struggled with tonight is correctable and what they did well is damn tough to stop.

The Seahawks will play better than they did tonight. The cool thing is that they can win, on the road, even when they don't. I'll leave you with this...

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