We have officially reached the panic phase of the Seattle Seahawks’ season. Yeah, you heard me. The time for everybody to panic is now. Panic about what, you ask? About the ridiculously short span of memory that the majority of Seahawks’ fans possess. It’s pretty baffling at times.
No matter the method Seattle chooses to begin their march to the playoffs, there is always a stretch of play towards the middle of the season that induces this sort of reaction from fans. A chorus of “Fire Bevell!” and “This team sucks!” rains down upon thy Twitter feed every sun up and sun down.
Despite the deficiencies in offensive production, the Seahawks are set up to begin their yearly run of dominance. Their next four opponents are the Bills, Patriots, Eagles, and Buccaneers. I can very easily see them going 3-1 in this stretch, if not 4-0.
Patriots game is going to be like Pittsburgh game in 2015. Russell plays through physical ailments to beat an elite offense in a thriller.— Mike Bar (@SeahawkScout) November 4, 2016
But looking ahead isn’t what we’re here for. It’s all about the Buffalo Bills. Games are never easily won in the NFL. Unless they’re easily won, that is.
It is never healthy, though, for teams to look at games as easy wins. The Buffalo defense is a solid unit that is surprisingly ranked 17th in DVOA. This low slot doesn’t matter though, as Seattle had trouble moving the ball against the Saints’ 29th ranked unit.
Fortunately, the Seahawks are as talented a team as any at adjusting midseason to mitigate the disastrous tendencies that plague them early. These three adjustments will be key in capturing a win over the visiting Bills on Monday evening.
Stop the Run
It is understandable that Seattle was moved around a bit on the ground in New Orleans. That defense played an ungodly amount of snaps over the course of eight days and they were missing (probably) their best player while doing so. They were a shining deity of run defense on the goal line, if that helps.
Buffalo has the 3rd ranked rushing attack in the NFL according to DVOA, but a lot of that hinges on their resident stud-muffin, LeSean McCoy. Shady has been cleared to practice and believes he is ready to roll after being hindered with a hamstring injury over the last few weeks. Hamstring injuries, if you’ve never experienced one, are the worst. McCoy will probably be running cautiously on Monday, to avoid re-injury. This doesn’t mean that he can’t still juke everybody in the league out of their shorts. The Bills have a solid offensive line and Seattle must stay disciplined when defending their gaps if they want to force Tyrod Taylor into attempting to beat them through the air.
Own the Pocket
Field Gulls’ resident film guru, Samuel Gold, broke down Russell Wilson’s subpar play against the Saints in his great piece here. Cameron Jordan is most definitely a beast on the Saints’ defensive line. Unfortunately, the big uglies in New Orleans don’t compare in the least to the horror show that they have going on in the Buffalo trenches. Halloween was days ago people, come on. Let’s cut this scary shit out.
Jerry Hughes, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcell Dareus (who might not play), and Kyle Williams will be out for blood against the Seahawks’ offensive line, and I have no doubt in my mind that they will win their matchups a decent percentage of the time. They’re too talented to be stonewalled consistently.
The key is for Russell Wilson and Darrell Bevell to be smart about the way they play this team. Russ needs to be decisive against the Bills and navigate the pocket much more adeptly than he did last Sunday. When he had space to step up and throw, he bailed on a clean pocket to spin out and take a drive-killing sack. This can’t happen on Monday night.
Wilson is one of the elite quarterbacks in this league and he’s dealing with a multitude of injuries that he’s never had to previously play with. I have no doubt that he’ll make the adjustments that he needs to. He’ll have to, if this offense has any hope of moving the ball against Rex Ryan’s defense.
This works hand-in-hand with Russell not taking bad sacks. Mental errors have destroyed promising drives left and right over the last two games. Be it penalties, sacks, or negative plays in the run game, the offense cannot afford to get off of schedule. Rhythm is what it’s all about for this group and these drrrrrrive-killers (emphasis on the 27 r’s) throw a wrench into the gears that make it all go.
This comes back to my frequent reiteration that execution is the key to this team. Most of the time, when Seattle loses, they don’t get beaten – they beat themselves. It would, of course, be ideal if they beat Buffalo on Monday night.
To do so, they’re going to need to get a grip and carry out their game plan to the best of their ability. They have the capacity. We’ll find out if they can execute soon enough.