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Film Gulls: Which Seahawks showed up against the Saints

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Seattle Seahawks v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

I have no problem saying that Sunday’s matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints was the least enjoyable contest to watch since Super Bowl XLIX. I don’t mean that from a fan standpoint (which would be true as well), but more from a pure football standpoint.

There were some blatant coaching errors that went down throughout the course of the contest that led to Seattle’s loss, as pointed out by Ben B. on Twitter:

The Seahawks’ offense, which I have no doubt will rebound, did not look like a championship-caliber unit on Sunday. Pete Carroll came out on Monday addressing the state of his unit and indicating the need for a reassessment of their recent play. A total retooling of the offense is unnecessary, but their approach must be reworked. Seattle has had no problem moving the ball towards the end of either half when they run no huddle or hurry up, and they need to figure out how to apply some of this secret sauce to the rest of the game. Whether or not that is a symptom of defenses playing prevent (which is the stupidest and most ironic scheme possible) is unknown, but the Seahawks have consistently struggled on offense in the first half of games and then turned it on just before halftime.

I absolutely hate using the refs as an excuse for any sort of negative play, especially in a close loss. Hate it. But there is no possible way that I can overlook the multitude of questionable calls on Sunday. The refs should never swing a game. The fact that they did and the Seahawks still almost came away with a win is beyond me, but I guess it shouldn’t be, as it speaks to the resilience of this team.

The officiating cannot be blamed for the loss, as it only played a part in the whirlwind of bullshit that raged on around us for three hours. There were still chances and, even if the zebras hurt Seattle’s chances, they didn’t execute in the final moments when they needed to.

Regardless, I am Field Gulls’ resident optimist and I am here to share with you the Seahawks who performed the best on Sunday. Here we go.

The Linebackers

There’s not a whole lot to discuss about Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright’s performance. The two combined for 21 tackles. There hasn’t been a linebacking tandem playing better in the league this season and they don’t show any signs of relinquishing this golden throne they sit upon.

DeShawn Shead

Once again, we must praise Shead for his play on Sunday. While he gave up a bit early, he came back and played very well when it counted. The holding flag that he was called for was absolutely horrible. It was a textbook play by a defensive back that should be hailed as such. The play I want to spotlight, though, came on the Saints’ final drive of the game:

Drew Brees lines up with a single back deep and one receiver to the left. Michael Thomas, lined up across from Shead, runs a shallow curl. Brees is looking his way the entire time. The same play had been run at Shead earlier in the game, yielding a first down. What impresses me so much about this play is how DeShawn responds. He stays with Thomas the entire route and, despite not finishing the tackle, holds up the receiver just long enough so Brock Coyle can slide over and prevent more than a two-yard gain.

Shead has all of the athleticism in the world, but this sort of play shows me his progression as a student in the game in real time. On a drive where Seattle needed a stop, he did his part to adjust against two of football’s greatest chess-masters and make a play.

Ahtyba Rubin

Ding ding ding! We have a new appearance on the list! Big Tuba held it down in New Orleans. While the Seahawks gave up over 100 yards to another back on Sunday, it’s tough to expect 150 snaps out of your defense over the course of a week and remain fully dominant. On the goal line, where it truly counted, Seattle looked dominant. A big part of that was Rubin’s presence:

After two consecutive stops at the 1-yard line, the Saints have third and goal, lined up in the I-formation. New Orleans has had success in this situation by handing the ball to their fullback quite a bit this season. Rubin flies off of the snap into the backfield, diagnoses that it’s not a fullback handoff, and wraps up the tailback before slamming him to the ground for a two-yard loss.

Rubin has quietly been having himself a very impressive season, wracking up consistently solid performances every week. While he generally goes unnoticed as a run-stuffer, he stood out on Sunday.

Cliff Avril

I have adamantly stated that Bobby Wagner has been the best player on the Seahawks so far in 2016. Avril isn’t too far off. The dude has been a one-man wrecking crew for offenses, making unbelievable plays left and right. With Michael Bennett out injured, Avril has had to fill the game-wrecking role of his running mate. He’s done a pretty damn good job, to be honest:

Avril lines up across from the right tackle, Zach Strief. Off of the snap, he gets underneath Strief’s pads and walks him backwards three yards immediately. Avril pushes the lineman back with such force that Mark Ingram is bounced backwards when he runs into his teammate. Ingram has nowhere to go before being tackled for a half-yard gain. Like the play made by DeShawn Shead highlighted above, Avril didn’t actually make the tackle, but his disruption led to a minimal gain for the offense.

Despite DeShawn Shead’s discipline above, the Saints were able to convert on the next play before driving down to the Seattle 10-yard line. Big time players make big time plays in big time moments. Although the Seahawks ended up losing the game, what occurred on the ensuing 3rd-and-long shows you the unbelievable nature of Avril’s recent play:

Brees takes the snap out of the gun and Seattle rushes four men. Avril runs an end-tackle stunt with Cassius Marsh. Both the right tackle and right guard follow Marsh outside, clearing a lane for Avril to run free to the quarterback. The subtle body language sold by Avril completely fools Jahri Evans giving him an easy sack and exactly the ammunition that the Seahawks need to drive down the field and not score.

Avril has had the best start to a season since he’s been in Seattle, with 7.5 sacks to his name already. This will need to continue for the Seahawks to keep winning games. I don’t doubt that he can do it.

Other Thoughts

–At first glance, I hated the play call on the final snap. A fade to Jermaine Kearse? Yuck. After thinking about it, I can understand the matchup to an extent. An isolated one-on-one against the Saints’ worst corner. Execution was the problem.

–Paul Richardson looked really solid in his limited time on the field. You could see the cushion that defensive backs were giving him, allowing him to turn simple slants into big gains.

–Earl Thomas had a very up and down game. He obviously made some huge plays, but missed a tackle in embarrassing fashion down the left sideline.

–Kelcie McCray had 10 tackles. He had a game-saving tackle at the 1-yard line that was eerily similar to Earl’s in Arizona. The Seahawks held strong and forced a field goal that drive, providing them a chance to win the game.

–Russell Wilson looked extremely uncomfortable in the pocket. He put himself under a lot of pressure and ran himself into sacks and throwaways. He will get healthier and, in turn, more comfortable.

–Seattle still sits atop its division. The Cardinals lost. The Packers lost. The Vikings lost. The Eagles lost. The NFC is ripe for the taking. Surprisingly, Dallas looks the best of the bunch at this moment in time. We’ll see how it all ends up over the next couple weeks.

–The next three weeks are extremely important. Bills. Patriots. Eagles. The Seahawks have the capacity to beat all three. It all comes down to adaptation, discipline, and execution. We’ll have to see how it goes. For now, keep your chins up. It’s Week 7 and not the end of the world.