No shortage of material. I’ll try and keep this under 6,000 words. And under six points. Like the Hawks. (Hey-oh!)
More scoring than in one of Littlefinger’s establishments? Uh, no
Neither team put points on the board for the last 40:39. Steve Hauschka’s field goal capped the scoring — in the early part of the second quarter.
As SEA MODE put it:
“While I’m all for not under-estimating an opponent or writing any game off as an automatic win, I think they have too many injuries in the secondary to slow down our passing game. This will also lead to Rawls breaking a big one in the 2nd half as they over-adjust to defend the pass. Hawks put up first 40-burger of the season.
(And if I’m wrong, you know where you’ll find me…)”
A common sentiment. Read the replies.
"they have too many injuries in the secondary to slow down our passing game
Their secondary sucked without any injuries.”
“We put up 30+, and Russ makes other teams start to worry that the end of last year wasn't a fluke (and it really wasn't)”
“The Bucs are going to seriously miss their Nickel CB, who was suspended this week.
He’s their only natural Slot corner. Baldwin will feast on them for 120+ yds and 2 TDs.”
And there we have it: the Hawks’ passing game should’ve eaten the Bucs’ lunch and dinner and maybe even part of Monday’s breakfast. Why didn’t that happen? Because a good pass rush covers for a weak secondary.
So to prove that point, it was Tampa who pestered the QB far, far more than Seattle. Six sacks and consistent pressure for the Bucs defense; no sacks and inconsistent pressure for the visitors.
There was reason to be right instead of wrong. The TB defense was bad overall. They’d given up
- 2.12 ppd, which is bad. Seattle got 0.27
- 5.9 ypp, which is bad. Seattle got 4.5
- 8.1 Y/A, which is really bad. Seattle got 4.6
- 4.4 YPC, which is still pretty bad. Seattle got... hey 5.8, helped by Wilson rediscovering the read-option to the tune of 10 yards a carry, eight times. Otherwise 3.3 is what the running backs produced.
What a downer. Maybe let’s bring in the opposition, for once:
“I think there’s more or less a 2% chance we contain Graham on Sunday. We’ve been an easy exploit for pass catching tight ends. We are 100% screwed there, unless we build our entire coverage scheme around stopping him, in which case I think we’ll get sliced up elsewhere.”
Graham finished with six catches on seven targets. 67 yards and that unfortunate fumble; no touchdowns. No red zone targets. He was not stopped, but he was contained.
Hey, fun fact, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham will be on opposite sidelines Sunday. They’re 1-2 in receiving yards among tight ends. Just wanted to throw that out there.
So unfortunately, either the Hawks exploited none of the weaknesses other teams had exposed, or the Bucs made enough adjustments to cover for their deficiencies. Or both. (It’s almost always both.)
Too many times to count, the fanbase expressed concern about Earl Thomas’ absence. After six and a half seasons, and a few more than six and a half bruises, Sunday was Earl’s first missed start as a Seahawk.
Steven Terrell played every snap on defense in Thomas’ stead. At the end of the day, Terrell can hang his hat on the fact that the Bucs scored no points after the two opening drives.
He threw in five tackles and one Malcolm-Smith-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time fumble recovery. His collision with Jeremy Lane near the left pylon looked like the same I-got-it-you-got-it-damn-nobody-got-it routine Richard Sherman and Thomas have perfected over the years.
In all, Terrell looked up to the task. The defense allowed just 3.4 yards per rush, with a long rush of 11 on the day, and both deep middle passes went incomplete. In fact, on deep passes overall, Winston finished just 3-for-8 for 69 yards and that one pesky TD to Evans
The Hawks can usually be counted on to Protect The Ball (Pete Carroll TM), as they entered the game having committed just six turnovers all season. Yet they gave it away thrice.
The Bucs came in having committed only five turnovers in the past six games. Jameis Winston had just started to figure out how his passes might avoid the other jerseys, according to game logs. His first 20 pro games saw him throw 34 interceptions. (Rookies. They play like rookies, unless they’re 5’10”5/8 mutant robot ninjas.) But in his last 229 passes, just three picks, for a sparkly 1.3 interception percentage.
So of course, both quarterbacks furnished a couple interceptions apiece. One each in the red zone.
You don’t get 40 minutes of scoreless football without some glaring errors.
RW in video game mode, MVP race
Unsurprisingly, Wilson is one of the best signalcallers under pressure. Since he faces so much of it.
Unsurprisingly, he was under duress half the time on Sunday. It was another bad game in pass pro from an uneven offensive line missing its leader.
Surprisingly, Wilson turned in a 38.8 rating. Even in the NFCCG, four interceptions and all, he posted a 44.3.
That’s not Madden mode. That’s maddening mode.
We’d expected more along the lines of:
“On the flip side, like a caged raptor straining at his chains, Rawls breaks free and demolishes the Bucs D for 130 yards. But Wilson puts all the points up with 5 TD strikes, Lockett and Baldwin each snagging a pair, while Luke Willson earns back his L’s with a deep seem over a hapless linebacker as JFG, ADB and No E draw coverage away.
Not so much. Maybe against the Panthers?
Carolina On Our Mind
Here’s the thing with the Panthers — they’re competitive in their losses. They have been edged by one, three, three, three, and three points in addition to two blowout defeats.
They still have Greg Olsen, whose catch right here
“helped” the Hawks fall to 2-4 last season.
They still have Cam Newton, whose numbers are very much in line with his 2013 and 2014 seasons at 7 Y/A, 5 rushing scores, close to no picks, and a passer rating in the low 80s. Gone are the 45 total touchdowns from last season, replaced by just 18 so far. He’s not MVP Newton, but he is capable of game-changing plays, as he always has been.
Injuries are big deal for both teams — Luke Kuechly did not practice and the Panthers are thinning on both sides of the line. Earl Thomas looks like he’ll play, as will Justin Britt, plus Michael Bennett returns. Maybe even DeShawn Shead. Maybe maybe even even the Pope will drive up and park his Popemobile in the backfield a few times. But how close to 100 percent are all those guys, and how nervous are you about their health going forward?
Finally, was Sunday’s bitter loss the continuation of year-long offensive sputtering, or a bit of unwelcome noise within another dominant playoff run? That’s another debate to be had.