The Seattle Seahawks improved to 2-2 on the season, beating the Detroit Lions 13-10 on Monday Night Football. That's the real story. Unfortunately, all anyone seems to want to talk about is whether the NFL should have enforced some arcane footnote in the addendum to their rule book whose tangible purpose is completely null unless there's ever a referee's tournament on Jeopardy. So here's the deal I'm gonna make with you: I will address the KJ Wright tap / bat /slap /heavy-petting play once and once only in exchange for your agreement that afterward, we talk about the stuff that actually has bearing on future performance (of which there was plenty).
Ok, yes, Heiroglyphic %, Counter-section Marble, Rule Firtyflurb does say that if a player yadda yaddas then the team that should lose actually gets to win. I get it. It's etched in stone right next to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That said, rules must serve a purpose beyond their own existence and the one that has analysts hollering and TV/radio producers excitedly filling up the docket of tomorrow's contrived argument shows simply does not.
I don't know if the ref forgot about the rule, never learned it, or truly thought that Wright attempted to recover the ball, the spirit of the play was served justice. And for all the balsa-thin arguments about "a rule is a rule" and "integrity of the game", imagine the outrage if that asterisk were enforced and the Lions got the ball back. Like, not as a Seahawks fan, just as a fan of football; how would you feel about the fumbling team getting the ball back because some player with no opposition anywhere near him knocked the ball out of bounds?
Here's the play in question, as seen on TV:
Here's that same play, as seen by my drunk ass at the game:
So listen, fill up the comments sections with arguments about it if you must but I'm far more interested in literally every other part of the game, including the rest of that play. Let's get to it, shall we?
First of all, I would be remiss if I went another sentence without thanking Aaron Thomas aka Native Seahawk, who happens to be one of the best, most connected fans I've ever met, for inviting me to come watch the game with him in one of Century Link's killer suites and to Scientific Games for hooking it all up. Everything about the experience was top notch, from the food to to the service to our placement; which was just close enough to the petty commoners in open seating to feed off their peasant energy but far enough away to maintain a feeling of superiority over them. It was a uniquely indulgent way to watch a Seahawks game and I'm truly grateful for the opportunity. Plus, I met The Drunkard.
I found the Drunkard pic.twitter.com/DdW1DKlx4O— Jacson the Merciful (@JacsonBevens) October 6, 2015
Now, finally, to the game itself. Much of the talk about the 2015 Seahawks has centered around their under-performing offense, at least with regard to expectations. Well, this one didn't do much to dispel that notion, other than remind us that Russell Wilson is some kind of gat dang warlock. The offensive line has been the most culpable unit on this team thus far and likely will remain that way for the rest of the season. I have conceded that this OL will probably be pretty bad all season. There are two ways to accept that fact: be sad and frustrated or be grateful that this team has a QB that can handle it.
Now, it did look like the line had started to improve over the last couple of weeks but any temptation to see them as a decent group that got victimized by a next-level Rams front went out the window after their performance against Detroit. The Lions came into the game 31st in sacks and left with six of them plus 10 hits on Wilson not counting scrambles. Consider this observation from Dave Boling:
Now think about how many sacks Seattle would've allowed with almost any other QB on the planet. Yeah... yeah. It's not that this unit can't be good someday, it's just that they're so far away from it that we may not see it materialize until sometime in 2016 or later. And it's not just the pass protection that suffered, either; Seahawks running backs were having to avoid tacklers in the backfield all night, something that is easy to overlook when Marshawn Lynch is shrugging them off like clingy texts from a one night stand but which is painfully apparent when anyone else is back there. That's one of the things that makes Lynch so valuable- the ability to break tackles before generating any real forward momentum. Ideally, that would be a superfluous talent but behind Seattle's Ikea front line it is an absolute necessity.
Still, I thought Thomas Rawls and Fred Jackson played fairly well, all things considered. It took Rawls forever to get going but a nice-ish second half got him to 47 yards on 17 carries while Jackson, who left with an ankle injury (X-rays negative) chipped in with 21 on three scampers plus another 33 on two catches. The ability is there but the vision of Rawls as Lynch's heir apparent has been put on hold until further notice. Without a run game or any semblance of security on his dropbacks, Russell Wilson reached elbow deep into his officially licensed magic hat and pulled out a passer efficiency of 125 to go with 40 yards on the ground.
Did he make some mistakes? Absolutely. But playing 6-on-11, he completed 20 of 26 passes for 287 yards and a gorgeous teeder to Doug Baldwin that reminded all of us that he can make that throw too. The best part of it was that he stood medium-height in the pocket and delivered the ball on time and on target. Pocket presence is arguably the most elusive skill to master in the NFL and hasn't been a strong suit for Wilson thus far, perhaps due to necessity. Still, there he stood, a quarterback that's too short throwing the ball deep over the top to a receiver that's also too short and hitting him right in the tweeters.
Yeah, he had a fumble that put the Lions right back in a game they had no business being in and yes, he missed Jimmy Graham a number of times, but I don't think there are five QBs in the NFL that could have given that type of performance while playing in a blender. His two completions to Kearse went for 84 yards and both of them were sensational. The first one I linked to above. The second one was the world's politest go fuck yourselves to the Lions when everyone in the stadium was certain they'd run to milk the clock*. If you're nitpicking Wilson after this game, it is my suggestion that you re-evaluate the way you watch football.
*Still a hilarious mental image for me
Did somebody say Jimmy Graham? No player has taken the brunt of the fans' impatience like Seattle's newly acquired tight end. Never mind that it took him over a year to develop any kind of rapport with Drew Brees or that he's learning a drastically different offense with a new QB, we want to see Jimmy dominate and we haven't yet. After a tantalizing game last week (7 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD), he seemingly regressed, posting a line of four catches for 29 yards. It is still too early to draw conclusions on Graham's role in this offense (shut your mouth, yes it is) but we're definitely to the point where it's become a little worrisome.
Still, there is ample reason for hope. Graham hasn't been targeted a ton this year (23) but on those opportunities (which trail only Baldwin's 24), he's been remarkably effective. When throwing to Graham, Wilson is 18 of 23 for 174 yards and two TDs. That's a passer rating of 127.2. When targeting all others, Wilson is 73 of 104 for 804 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, and a rating of 94.4. The production is extremely high, now the opportunities just need to catch up.
Now, to the other side of the ball. With Kam Chancellor back, so is the Legion of yore. The Seahawks' defense is like a woodshed. It's got a lawnmower and some shovels and a rake and a different rake and some other shit and while we can debate which player is which tool, there's no doubt which guy is the sledgehammer. Chancellor is the rare player that can step onto a field of 21 other gigantic alpha males, all of which are half an evolutionary step more advanced than the rest of us, and immediately command respect and avoidance. It doesn't matter if you're built like Julian Edelman (jeez), Mike Tolbert (yeesh), or Calvin Johnson (watch Golden Tate's reaction), Kam will snatch your chain if you cross his street. It's crazy- when Kam squares folks up, there is no exchange of velocity, no bounceback- just savage, silencing, one-way force. It's like the ballcarrier is electric and someone rips the cord out of the wall at the moment of impact.
We'll get back to Chancellor later but it would be a disservice to the defense as a whole if we focused solely on how
strong and handsome and sexy good at football Kam is. Bobby Wagner was actually the one who set the initial tone, sniffing out and subsequently shutting down the first two plays. He was sticky in pass coverage, sure in his tackling, and an outright nuisance in the backfield. It was Wagner's best game of the season so far and the type of performance that justified some of the Defensive Player of the Year talk he was getting last season. Wagner finished with a team-high eight tackles.
Michael Bennett showed us again why he's the president that America needs. Single-handedly collapsing the pocket on a number of occasions, Bennett netted five tackles, including one for a loss, and got three shots in on Matthew Stafford. Well, four, if you count this one. His post-game performance didn't stop there, as he danced with some pom-poms, told Paul Allen to pay Chancellor, shrugged off his fourth quarter injury "like a G", and described the Seahawks defense as "kind of like sex" in that they stress the importance of every inch. Make Bruce Irvin his running mate and we can finally get this country back on track.
With regards to the "every inch" comment, it was a phrase reiterated in varying forms by a number of Seahawks defenders. In addition to Bennett, Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril (who played a hell of a game), and DeShawn Shead all mentioned defending every inch, every blade of grass on the field. It's more than cliche, it's as mindset and the defended the most important inch in this one. Thomas also heralded the play of Cary Williams, who entered this game as the least targeted CB in the NFL and bowed up admirably against Megatron and Tate. Hopefully we can finally put this weird, contrived anti-Cary narrative to rest, as he has played out of his mind this year and is drawing a lot of praise from his teammates. Especially when you consider that Byron Maxwell is getting eviscerated playing Williams' old position in Philly.
All told, the defense smothered for a second straight game. Since Kam Chancellor's return, Seahawks opponents have had 21 possessions- 19 of which have resulted in punts, with a field goal and one very timely fumble mixed in. Zero offensive touchdowns allowed since Bam Bam's been back. The Seahawks also kept their penchant for shutting down the opposition's best receiving threat. In this case, there were two but they each suffered in kind.
Calvin Johnson entered this one with a total of five catches for 73 yards in two previous games against the Seahawks. He improved slightly on those numbers with seven receptions for 56 yards but it took 11 targets to do it. For his career, Megatron has been targeted 28 times vs Seattle. He has 12 catches (42.9 completion %) for 129 yards (4.6 YPA), and zero touchdowns. When targeting Johnson against the 'Hawks, Matthew Stafford has a passer efficiency of 56.9. For context, the lowest passer rating in the NFL last year was 65.0.
Tate didn't fare much better in his return to the city that drafted him, finishing with 29 yards on three catches. In fact, over the last two games (Jimmy Clausen disclaimer), the Seahawks have allowed a grand total of 253 passing yards on 52 attempts. They shut down Detroit's running game, too, holding the Lions to 53 yards on 18 carries.
Detroit only bothered with Sherman a couple of times that I saw, completing one catch for 11 yards. If there was another, I missed it. He's just so damn good.
Steven Hauschka is not getting the type of love that he deserves. In a season where placekicking has been as reliable as your pot dealer, Hauschka has remained calm, steadfast, and perfect, like a sunny pasture or an elephant. His second field goal (which ended up being the game winner) saved the raunchiest redzone possession in team history. First and goal from the nine yard line quickly became fourth and goal from a concession stand, but Seattle's kicker and presumed philatelist calmly drilled the 50+ yarder to salvage the inferno of stink that the offense created.
The brilliance of the play in this one will sadly get lost in the tired arguments regarding how appropriately KJ Wright touched the ball, but I'll be gosh darned if we don't take a moment to appreciate it. As Johnson runs a little in-and-out on the hashmark, Stafford hits him in such a way that his momentum continued towards the endzone. As he crossed the five, a touchdown seemed inevitable. That's when Earl Thomas catapulted his own damn self into Johnson's legs, which caused a very subtle separation of the ball from Johnson's body. It was at that exact fragment of time that Chancellor arrived to jar it loose. It was a magnificent play and one that could serve as a crux for the success of this season.
The cigar of choice week was a Decade Emporer from Rocky Patel, which I came across at my retailer of choice: Famous Smoke. The thing I like most about the Decade long is just how many different flavors you get between lighting up and snuffing out. It changes constantly as it burns, which provides a really unique treat-to'-self smoking experience.