Preseason is half a year away, but at least something is kicking off this morning: a new offseason column. Think of “Little Things” as a weekly methodical stroll through the weird, maddening, exhilarating, maddening again, and full-circle-back-to-weird-again season of your 2016 Seattle Seahawks. There will never again be another 2016, which is good, from a space-time continuum angle, and from a fan’s cardiac health standpoint too.
“Little Things” is not a highlight show, though it starts as one. It’s not a recap, though it might serve as one. It’s a selection of vignettes from each week — of important moments that didn’t necessarily get their due at the time, but still helped shape the game, and sometimes even the season.
Sure, a couple of giant plays each week produce violent win probability swings. (Sidenote: “Whiplash” should be the title of the team DVD from last season.) Those crucial plays get dissected to death, but what of the next tier? They often help decide the game in a more subtle way. Positively or negatively.
A refresher: the unlittle things
There were some big, big, obviously big moments in Week 1. No freakin’ duh. Closely contested games tend to have ‘em.
For giggles and sighs of relief, revisit Kenny Stills’ early six-point donation to the Seahawks’ cause —
Plus Cassius Marsh’s fourth-quarter block of this almost-decisive field goal —
And Ryan Tannehill’s gutsy, grainy go-ahead lunge —
The topper, the clincher, is Doug Baldwin’s clutchy catch.
And there you have Week 1’s biggies. This column considers five other events along the way, which shaped the game into its final form.
little thing one
circumstances: qtr 1, 2nd & 4, sea 44, 13:23
As some of you may remember, the Seahawks opened their 2016 season with five consecutive quick-hitting pass plays. It was as if 2015 had never ended.
And it looked like a plan that would conquer the Dolphins early and often. Seven yards to Doug Baldwin on the first play from scrimmage. Six to Lockett. Six more to Lockett again. The Dolphins’ corners were going to be overmatched. I don’t believe in momentum, but I do believe in the effect of an astute game plan. It looked for all the world like the Seattle offense had found a weakness to exploit, had made a pre-game adjustment Miami was powerless to counter at the time.
Passes four and five also went in Tyler’s direction. Except he dropped the one you couldn’t afford to drop — the easy one at midfield, the one that would’ve set up a first down in enemy territory. The one that would’ve put the enemy on its heels right away.
Do we really need footage of Tyler Lockett being a klutz? It hit him in the hands and caromed to the turf. Just picture all of Darrell Jackson’s targets in 2006 and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the drop looked like.
So with the season 97 seconds old, the first little thing goes wrong. Byron Maxwell swats away the next throw on a third down that should’ve been a first. A measured punt from midfield ensues, and the Hawks get no points, when points were there to be had.
little thing two
circumstances: qtr 1, 3rd & 12, sea 31, 10:04
More specifically, it was 3rd and 12, with the Hawks backed up in their own territory. It’s prime Dougie time, areweright?
Or, instead: the new guy flashes.
People commonly think of the C.J. Prosise era as beginning with his Ebola-like outbreak against the Patriots in Week 10 and his daggersome 72-yard scamper down the sideline against the Eagles a few days later.
That narrative would be unfair to his Week 1 cameo, which helped send additional points to the scoreboard. Without Prosise’s extra effort above — look again and check out his internal first-down-sticks sensor — the drive stalls. No eventual field goal is made. The game turns out differently. Maybe not the right kind of differently, either.
little thing three
circumstances: qtr 2, 1st and 10, sea 20, 4:21
Thomas Rawls gashes the Dolphins defense for eight yards on first down, setting up a second down and short. Except wait, there’s a flag.
Blocking tight end Brandon Williams is caught holding, and instead of 2nd and 2, it’s 1st and 12. Instead of being ahead of schedule, the Hawks find themselves pushed back. Jon Ryan terminates the drive with a punt three plays later.
That’s a big part of why Pete Carroll preaches staying on schedule: he knows the math. He can read the gridiron actuarial tables as well as anyone. Penalties sting. 20 yards of field position gets you roughly one more expected point.
The Hawks were flagged for eight penalties in Week 1. Five kept the offense off schedule:
Garry Gilliam false starts, turning 1-10 to 1-15
Bradley Sowell holds, turning 2-7 into 2-17
Illegal shift, turning 2-4 into 2-9
Williams holds, turning a potential 2-2 into 1-12
Sowell holds, turning 2-6 into 2-12.
One of the changes that would make 2017 > 2016 would be cleaner offensive execution. Look for an expanded version of the, uh, penalty penalty in future weeks. Yeah, specifically in the Rams game. The game you swore you’d forget forever.
little thing four
circumstances: qtr 2, 2nd & 5, mia 39, 0:15
It’s so pretty.
Pretty, yes, granted, but what’s the big deal? It’s a nice enough completion, and it gets the Hawks into field goal range; that’s not so special.
The big deal is that Seattle had no timeouts, and two aspects besides Luke Willson’s excellent work here went exactly right.
The protection needed to hold up. It did, just long enough. A scramble, or (Paul Allen forbid) a sack would’ve eaten up too much time.
Mainly, however, check out Jermaine Kearse’s block downfield. His route first draws the defensive back out of the picture so Willson can cruise toward the sideline, then he holds his block long enough and with enough physicality to turn the field goal attempt from a medium one into a near-automatic try.
little thing five
circumstances: QTR 4, 3rd & 7, SEA 7, 11:21
This won’t be the sexiest sack of K.J. Wright’s career. A little push out of bounds after the interior rush and the secondary did all the work? Hardly a highlight...? But the timing is impeccable, both within the play and within the larger framework of the game.
What K.J. can’t have known specifically, but may have known generally, is that after that much time post-snap, someone is going to beat his man. He’s correct. Loop the clip again and watch number 14 for Miami: Jarvis Landry is about to flash open in the back of the end zone. K.J. arrives to pester Tannehill at exactly the Wright time — any sooner and there’s a hole in the middle of the field; any later and there’s a decent chance Tannehill threads it to Landry.
Instead of getting six, Miami is forced to settle for a field goal. Or more precisely, a field goal attempt. Because the first highlight at the top of the page is of the Dolphins coming away from their late red zone excursion with zero points.
The little things. Turns out they can be pretty big.