Arriving at one of the three most pivotal junctures of the 2016 season makes the big things stand out more. Like how Russell Wilson’s compulsion to never waste a play cost him a leg. It’s the biggest single-player story of the 2016 season (sorry Earl, sorry Bobby, sorry Jimmy, sorry Justin).
Watch, or don’t watch. It’s up to you.
Other things happened that day. Christine Michael owned the Niners in the first half, scoring twice to put the Hawks ahead for good. If the play call is “please find the hole and run fast,” Michael knows it.
Doug Baldwin caught five explosive plays all his own. First drive, second play:
Doug Baldwin is #good. He might be #great.
As always, videos are courtesy of the excellent Mike Bar (@SeahawkScout) and gifs are courtesy of the ever-giving internet.
little thing one
circumstances: qtr 4, 3rd & 6, sf 16, 12:59 left
You, the official/unofficial talent evaluators of the Seattle Seahawks, found something out on September 25, 2016. Namely, that you have a potential long-term backup quarterback on the roster.
Wait a sec. Trevone Boykin took all of 23 snaps in Week 3. He threw the ball all of nine times. How much can you learn from that small a sample? Depends on how many skills you can spot in this, his most successful play.
I found five positives Boykin displayed on the touchdown throw. He showed me he can:
- cope with pass rush from the edge. Watch both tackles give him zero time.
- be reasonably accurate under pressure. The throw comes out exactly as Baldwin makes his cut.
- come in cold off the bench and finish a scoring drive. Disclaimer: SF at home isn’t the toughest test the NFL has to offer.
- identify a hot route in blitz situations. The Niners rush extra men.
- trust Baldwin. The very essence of quarterbackial wisdom.
Later, the backup even threw an interception. Which is good. Wait. What?
Ill-advised throws are learning experiences, and when are you going to get a better time to learn than up 37-10 with time winding down? It’s almost better that he made the error. Better for everyone, except intended target Tanner McEvoy.
Boykin being competent enough, tough enough and accurate enough is no little thing in the long run, if true. His skill saves you the need to draft another quarterback for a while. You can continue to develop him knowing he can handle himself. The sample size is a little thing. The roster construction upside is not.
little thing two
circumstances: end of qtr 2, through wilson’s injury
For a risky change of pace, we’ll dive into a critique of play-calling for little thing two. Don’t get used to it. But the blowout nature of the game lends itself to a fair gripe.
Listen, I’m not one to wake up in the morning with a hankering to tell Darrell Bevell how to construct his offense or call a game, just like he should not be one to give me unsolicited tips on how to play the piano. I’m also not one to give him a free pass. But we know, as fans, every offensive coordinator is going to give us those moments when heads will be collectively scratched. Like... the decision to pass more than run despite a three-score lead at home against an inept team. When your quarterback is already maimed. And when you’ve already scored two touchdowns on the ground.
After five drives, the Hawks had put three teeders on the board. Up 21-3, they’d gone with 15 passes and 14 runs. Everything was working in concert.
Then... between the third score and Wilson’s MCLicide, Seattle ran 10 passes to four runs. Wilson took two sacks that counted, and the one that didn’t came on the fateful play shown way up there at the top of the story.
And it’s not like the Niners were threatening. Previous to the injurious drive midway through the third, SF had managed all of 79 yards through the air and 54 on the ground. They were averaging 4.3 yards per play. They were down by three scores.
We understand that 2nd and long, then 3rd and long are passing downs.
We understand Pete doesn’t care to coach with fear of injury.
We understand a game is not over with the score 21-3 in the third.
We understand it is fun to demolish rivals.
But if there ever was a time to lean on the run, for the sake of the bigger picture, maybe that relatively easy Sunday afternoon in September was it, Seahawk decision-makers.
little thing three
circumstances: qtr 3, 2nd & 21, sf 37, 10:15 left
Spoiler: It’s an incomplete pass to Jimmy Graham. Unspoiler: It’s the play right before the really bad play.
Despite RW’s terrible injury, despite the curious decision to expose him to hits that can be called unnecessary, Week 3 still gave us a beautiful vision of what the offense looks like centered on Wilson and his numerous targets, with the running game set up by the passing game instead of vice versa.
Jimmy Graham led the club in targets with nine. He caught six for a hundred yards on the nose, which is not a little thing. But it was another little step in the chemistry building between quarterback and tight end. If the pass above is a little more on the money, another explosive play hits the ledger.
By the end of the day, after Wilson had risen from the dead, after Boykin had taken the offense for a nifty little joyride, the distribution of targets looked like this:
- 5 targets to backs
- 12 to tight ends
- 12 to wide receivers
- 1 to Tanners
What a great mix, with dangerous weapons utilized in all four major position groups (that one’s for you hawknado). With 10.5 yards per attempt, Wilson was taking and making his shots, fearless like a scorching Stephen Curry.
And there you see the upside from the downside of putting your franchise quarterback a little more at risk. Again, with the caveat that the opponent was one of the league’s worst teams playing in the CLink, it’s worth filing Week 3 away as a possible template for a 2017 season filled with offensive greatness.
As long as, well, knock on wood.