It took six tries, but the Seattle Seahawks finally got themselves a road win over an NFC opponent this season. Sure, it was against the San Francisco 49ers at a stadium that serves as the unofficial second home for Seahawks fans, but it’s one that means Seattle will be playing the slumping Detroit Lions instead of the top defensed-New York Giants, who are due for a completely random Super Bowl run again.
Let’s look back at some of the winners and losers from Sunday’s performance, and there is one winner in particular who has definitely been a pleasant surprise in recent weeks.
The Defensive Line
Hot damn that was a performance! Michael Bennett celebrated a new contract with a sexy sack of Colin Kaepernick, as well as two TFLs. Frank Clark reached double-digit sacks on the season and also registered two TFLs. Ahtyba Rubin forced a fumble on DuJuan Harris, which Clark scooped and nearly scored on. Tony McDaniel was disruptive in run support. They held the number seven (DVOA) rush team to 62 yards on 31 attempts, although if you want to put an asterisk there, Carlos Hyde didn’t play due to a season-ending injury.
It’d be criminal if he doesn’t receive any votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Wagner led the team with 12 tackles, recorded two sacks, and recovered a first quarter fumble that set up the first three points for the Seahawks. He finishes the regular season with a league-leading 167 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery, and perhaps importantly, this was the first time since his rookie season that he’s played in all 16 games. He is a special talent at the middle linebacker spot, and this has been a superb season for Wagz.
The Tight Ends
Jimmy Graham caught four balls for 64 yards, including a comically easy boxout of Antoine Bethea for a 43-yard reception to SF’s 1. If he’d been in “full game speed” for the first two games of the season, he probably would’ve achieved a 70 catch, 1,000 yard season, but instead finishes with 64 receptions for 923 yards. Not too shabby. Luke Willson snagged three catches for 26 yards and his second touchdown of the season, and Brandon Williams hauled in a 20-yard pass for only his second grab of the year.
This is a little bit of a repentance moment for me, as I wasn’t high on him in college, was thoroughly unimpressed with him in preseason, and continued to be unimpressed with him through his limited action in the regular season, but he’s been playing his ass off over this past month. He had a career-high 55 yards on just seven carries, and has rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries in his last three games. Pete Carroll said on Monday that Collins lost 10 pounds and it shows on the field. You can note that the Green Bay game was garbage time, but that shouldn’t take away from his effective play vs. Arizona and San Francisco. While Thomas Rawls has stalled out, Collins has balled out, and yes, I’m not against starting him next week.
With the Falcons comfortably ahead against the Saints, Carroll opted to pull Russell Wilson from the game, and inserted Trevone Boykin to close the show. While the first series was disastrous and nearly ended in a turnover, Boykin calmly led a 12-play drive for 53 yards, converted two pivotal third downs through the air, and ran for 11 yards on a bootleg for the game-clinching first down. He came through in relief duty and made sure the Seattle defense didn’t need to see the field again, and you couldn’t ask for much more than that.
With Tyler Lockett out, Richardson is effectively Lockett’s replacement, and he put in another solid shift, catching four passes for 40 yards and also taking a jet sweep for five yards. That’s five touches for 45 yards, with four of those plays resulting in first downs. He could’ve very well had a fourth quarter touchdown on a 3rd and long bubble screen, but George Fant missed the key block that would’ve sprung him free. This is as involved in the offense has Richardson has been since the tail-end of 2014, and it’s encouraging to see the way he’s played since the second half of the Cardinals game.
I know this isn’t entirely on him, but he was painfully inefficient again, with eight carries for 14 yards (and a TD). He has only rushed for 56 yards on 37 (!!!!!) carries in his last three games. Two of the biggest non-Russell Wilson contributors to Seattle’s second half surge last year were Rawls and Lockett, but they’ve both been unable to rekindle their rookie season magic in 2016-17, and health has been a major factor for those two. Lockett is now sadly out until next season, and Rawls is clearly neither 100% nor a positive contributor right now.
I don’t know where to begin. Another blocked extra point for Steven Hauschka, a brutally high snap from (an injured) Nolan Frese led to a safety for San Francisco, and the final TD drive for the 49ers started with a Music City Miracle type of trick play, but for a punt return. The ST unit is ranked ninth by DVOA, but they continue to be an unusual liability and once again “helped” make a victory closer than it should’ve been. This cannot continue in the playoffs.
Colin Kaepernick went 17-22 for 215 yards and a TD, which is far and away his best game against any Seahawks defense. There were blown assignments and chunk plays allowed to Shaun Draughn, and receivers left open on play-action. Since the loss of Earl Thomas, Seattle has yet to record an interception (although two were erased due to penalties), and finished the year with only 11, of which almost half came off of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz. Their inability to get even one INT off of Kaepernick yesterday meant that the Seahawks finished the season with just 19 takeaways, setting a new low in franchise history.
Seattle only committed four penalties all game, but Ifedi sadly had one of them. A false start on the eventual game-ending drive put the Seahawks at 1st and 15, but Boykin saved the day, so it wasn’t as critical as it could’ve been. Ifedi has committed five false starts in the last three games, and in terms of pass protection, he was badly beaten off the snap and made Russell Wilson hurry into a dangerous red zone throw in the third quarter. Ifedi isn’t a major loser, per se, but the recent wave of false starts are becoming an issue.
I overstated it when I said yesterday that Wilson had a bad game, but I don’t think it was necessarily a really good one. The stats look nice, and he definitely had some classic Wilson plays, but he missed a gimme to Graham on the opening 3rd and 2 of the game, missed him again for a touchdown in the third quarter, and overshot a streaking Jermaine Kearse for a probable touchdown on the play before the botched punt snap. He was an ugly 2/8 on third down passing, which puts his total third down passing percentage to 55.8% (82/147), a career-low.
Jarran Reed got himself ejected for (according to Pete Carroll) throwing a punch after the extra point on the final 49ers touchdown. That led to a heated sideline confrontation between Reed and Frank Clark. Hopefully that’s all been squared away and we can move on, because the instances of public arguments and in-fighting keep piling up.