One thing I generally like about the Seahawks' fan base, blogosphere and media is rarely needing to talk otherwise sensible people off the proverbial ledge. Most people seem to understand the victory over Oakland for what it was: a fairly comfortable win under trying circumstances that provides ample reason for optimism but didn't do much to alleviate some lingering concerns.
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For this episode of Closing the Book I review three plays from the critical 2nd quarter touchdown drive for what they reveal about where the offense is headed in the second half of the season.
Play 1: 1st and 20 [3:26] M. Lynch right side for 9 yards to 21 yard line.
A holding penalty by Carpenter on a first down run puts Seattle in passing downs right out of the gate. This is almost a giveaway down for Oakland's defense if Seattle wants to run. On 1st and 20, theoretically, the defense should easily be willing to concede a five yard or so run. The offense would have burned a down without seriously altering its position. Oakland, for its part, also has a credible run defense (14th by DVOA), and eventually walks a safety down after Seattle motions TE Luke Willson into the backfield as a blocker.
The nine yards is a nice chunk for Lynch, who had a fine day, but this run was more important for Seattle's mistake-addled offensive line. Seattle has to be a run threat on passing downs for the offense to really function. The offense must be able to get yards in chunks in the run game, and the entire unit blocks this play up well allowing Lynch to gain back almost all the penalty yards. Willson gets a nice seal on the Mike, but what really stuck out to me was the play of C, Patrick Lewis. He appeared to have a blown block or two, but Lewis is a big dude, and he had some beastly blocks in the run game. That includes manhandling Pat Sims on this play. (Add to that, his snaps were wholly unnoticeable for the game.)
Play 2: [2:33] R. Wilson short pass middle to L. Willson to SEA 40 for 16 yards.
I get that we are all frustrated by Willson's recent struggles catching contested throws in some key spots. He has had some disappointing drops, covered up a bit by his big TD catch vs. Carolina. Though it is frustrating waiting on young guys to get right, I am still sold on Willson's upside. It's easy to forget that Luke Willson is Seattle's "move" tight end, a compliment to the more traditional Miller (whose skill set doesn't magically transfer to Willson based on injury).
What I like about this play call is that it is built around Willson's strengths. After weeks of trying to force fit Willson into the Holmgren-inspired short route concepts off bootlegs (the type that Miller excels at) Bevell gets Willson the ball in space on the move. He really is a tough cover for a linebacker once he's on the move (ask Patrick Willis). Also, like a lot of lanky, long-limbed TEs, Willson prefers having a defender on his hip more than at his back.
Play 3: [1:25] R. Turbin run up the middle to OAK 22 for 7 yards. [1:09] R. Wilson short pass left to Turbin pushed ob at OAK 8 for 14 yards.
It seems like every game now Turbin has a drive or two where he contributes consecutive plays that may not be special, but are positive and well-timed. On 2nd and 6 with 1:25 to go in the half, Seattle is in a play caller's down. The playbook is wide open, even if most teams pass in this situation. Well within comfortable Hauschka FG range, Seattle can afford to run to set up a 3rd and short.
Turbo does his thing. He hits the hole and goes. He makes the line to gain mostly by hitting the hole with authority. Of course last season, he would have tripped on the turf keeping himself to a 4 yard gain. Worth highlighting again is Patrick Lewis out front into the second level. On the subsequent 1st down play Turbin is split wide left. The corner to his side drops back into a zone and Turbin settles down about five yards down the field, over the LBs' drops. Both Wilson and Turbin take what the defense gives. Turbo gets what he can and stops the clock in 6 seconds by getting out of bounds. Lynch scores on the next play.
On a day that featured a lot of ugly play out of Seattle's offense, this drive was a thing of beauty. Just clean, efficient football. We have seen flashes of this type of play in the post-Harvin era, especially in the two minute offense. Lot's of contributors. No one is asked to do something superhuman. An utterly repeatable drive.
Hopefully, the team can grow on it.