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Little Things, Week 4: Seahawks turn on/off the Jets

Another rout pushes the Hawks to 3-1, elicits false (?) optimism

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets
who could’ve seen that coming
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Last week’s Little Things column ended up being about kinda big things. Trevone Boykin’s moment in the sun that confirmed his adequacy as a backup; suspect playcalling; target distribution.

But that’s the, uh, thing with little things — they’re secretly almost as important as the big plays.

Did somebody mention big plays?

I do believe somebody mentioned big plays.

Sherman’s interception — one play after being whistled for a dubious defensive PI foul — is one of the nails in the Jets’ coffin for Week 4.

Tanner McEvoy’s DON’T DROP IT DON’T DROP IT SHIT DO NO DROP THIS touchdown was another example of too many weapons for New York to handle. Have you guys heard of Tanner McEvoy? He is a player on the Seattle Seahawks football team.

On to littler, fancier, subtler things, things you had probably forgotten amid the blur that was 2016. As always, video guru Mike Bar provided the moving pictures.

little thing one: wise conservative punting decisions

circumstances: twice. once in the first quarter, once in the fourth

One kick up there, one kick down here.

Punting? We’re talking about punting?

Yeah. We’re talking about punting. Because of the field position aspect. Kick one comes on 4th and 4 from the Jets’ 41. It’s that part of the field where a conversion gets you already into field goal range. Kick two is called for on 4th and 5 from the Jets’ 43. It’s the fourth quarter. A conversion basically ices the game.

Typical Pete Carroll, one might say. There he is, refusing to take a smart gamble; look at him putting the onus on his defense to make plays rather than trusting his offensive playmakers; doesn’t he know a successful conversion is worth the risk of losing 30 yards of field position; how can you win when you throw away promising drives out of simple over-conservatism?

Because pinning an error-prone offense deep turns out to be a sound move, in this circumstance. Maybe you don’t punt either time against the Falcons or Patriots... but when it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, the algorithm takes on a new I’ll-go-for-it-rhythm.

Anyway, Ryan skies both punts masterfully right to no-return’s-land on the 10-yard line.

After boot one, New York marches for eight plays, including a 41-yard strike to Brandon Marshall... except that since they started so deep, they never reach field goal range and have to punt it right back.

After boot two, the very next pass lands in Earl Thomas’ crazy little hands. He hangs on and the Hawks put the game away with a field goal five plays later.

The Jets got zero points out of the two situations. In this case, Carroll’s conservative choices were rewarded.

little thing two: yards per carry is full of deceit

circumstances: C-Mike making plays, all game long

In Week 4, each team made the other one-dimensional. Each defense kept the opposing rushing attack scoreless and under three yards per carry and in the negative for expected points. SEA was 26-66-0 on the ground for -3.64; NY was 20-58-0 for -6.58 EPA.

Therefore: advantage Seattle. Because their quarterback outplayed the Jets signalcaller AND their running back actually had a deceptively good day wait what?

Christine Michael did his job for the second straight week. You won’t wow anyone with 18 runs for 58 yards — except he nailed the success rate, one of the running game’s main goals. Half his runs were successful in that they gained half the distance, or more, to the first down marker. Extrapolating: A 50 percent success rate would have placed him 12th in the league for last season overall, according to the good folks over at footballoutsiders. Among runners with 200+ carries, it would have placed him tied for seventh. In the whole league, yes.

It’s hard to make half your runs mean something. That’s a good day. Especially considering the Jets run defense led the NFL in DVOA.

The Seahawks’ other runs? Forgettable, or worse: a paltry 8-8-0 with a success rate of 12.5 percent.

Amidst a couple of disheartening runs (-2 on 3rd and 1, no gain twice on 1st and 10), Michael ran the ball more than well enough to help the Hawks win.

For every

we also got a much-needed

Yards near the end zone are tough. Slithering ahead for two and a half on 1st and 5, when your running lanes get blown up -- that is a successful run.

Oh by the way, rewatch the clips again, feasting your retinas solely on Mark Glowinski’s blocks. Number 63. Trust me. Twice you’ll see why the Hawks like him, and once you’ll see what a fixable rookie mistake looks like. (Pro tip: Don’t watch 78.)

little thing three: first down performance

circumstances: fine in the first half, then shutdown-level in the second

First downs in the first half: Jets ran 15 plays on first down for a total of 68 yards and a touchdown.

First down in the second half: Jets ran 11 plays on first down for a total of 13 yards and two interceptions., plus three sacks for good measure. Analysts often focus on third down percentage, but third down is a lot more makeable when you’re not starting from the deep well of “second and long.” Just so happens that after halftime, the Hawks put the Jets in second in long — or gave them no second down at all, because pick party — over and over and over again.

This is what the first downs looked like for NY after halftime, one by one:

  • 1-yard run
  • Michael Bennett sack
  • Bobby Wagner sack
  • 2-yard run
  • 4-yard pass
  • Interception
  • 0-yard run
  • Interception
  • 6-yard pass
  • Incomplete pass
  • Cliff Avril sack

Ah, that last play. The only time things went well for NY on first down was when the fluke play fluked its way into flukiness.

And with that bizarroid ending, we leave you to ponder the bye week. Uneventful Falcons game up next.