With the 2017 draft out of the way, never to be spoken of again, welcome back to Little Things. Before your eyes sits the eighth in a series of eighteen game reviews; fourth in a series of five consecutive bad-for-your-heart games, decided on the final drive or the final play. You’ll have to wait another week to see Kam Chancellor deny Rob Gronkowski on a pass play from the one yard-line. (From the one? Who even calls that pass?)
Bottom line from Week 9 — the Seattle Seahawks improved to 5-2-1 with a last-second 31-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
In our universe.
Over in parallel universe 13,013B, the Seahawks suffered another roundhouse to the crotch when after a pass interference call bailed the Bills out on fourth down, Tyrod Taylor scampered in for the game-winning score from the one. The stunning home loss dropped Seattle to 4-4 after heartbreakers in Glendale and vs. Atlanta a couple weeks prior. Lesson for Richard Sherman: don’t hug Julio Jones on fourth down or you might set the Falcons up for yet another crushing late field goal.
Oh well. Fortunately, Jermaine Kearse had miraculously hauled in the last-second toss in New Orleans, or the Seahawks would be under .500 at the midpoint of a season for the second time under Pete Carroll. (We thought only Doug Baldwin could get his feet down in bounds in such miraculous fashion.)
The little things matter. Sometimes they lift you to 5-2-1. But don’t mistake their power for kindness. Because sometimes their polarity is reversed, and the inescapable magnet of regression draws you to .500 — nothing personal, that’s just its business, and there’s precious little you can do about it.
The Big Things
Oh, this little pass to Jimmy Graham?
Read all about it again, dissected by FG film expert Samuel Gold, by directing your fingermouse to this location.
Not all highlights are created equal. Seattle’s first drive ended inauspiciously:
On the bright side, as the half wound down, MOAR JIMMY MOAR GRAHAM
And then there was the Russell Wilson score that gave Bills fans PTSD* stemming from 2012...
Though the Seahawks had scored 28 points by intermission, all they got in the second half was a fourth-quarter unblocked Stephen Hauschka kick; so, as discussed above, the game’s outcome hinged on a fourth down and goal to go.
Exhale. Exhale again. Very good.
Comic relief dictates that the end-of-half sequence be presented to you, in baffling sequence.
Maybe Sherm’s offsides, maybe he’s not, but he’ll make the most of it...
Bills spike it to re-stop the clock, as they were out of timeouts...
Giving them more than enough time to line up, but what’s this, a penalty...?
So Carpenter gets a re-kick from 54. No big deal. He’ll split the uprights again and...
...and that, class, was how Rex Ryan came to abandon his well-documented foot fetish.
The little things are just aroind the corner. But before those larger paragraphs, one very special Tyvis Powell wants to remind you that special teams tackles count, when you make them count.
little thing one: time management
circumstances: qtr 1, 12:58 left, ball on sea 47
circumstances: qtr 2, 0:48 left, ball on buf 25
(so, both sides)
It’s often forgotten that Doug Baldwin hauled in explosive catch after explosive this just-completed year; maybe he accumulated fewer TD’s than in his record-setting campaign of 2015, but these 30-40-50 yarders are point manufacturers too.
Don’t think Baldwin is ‘just” a slot guy, “just” a third-down guy, “just” a guy with superior hands and superior moves and superior chemistry with his quarterback. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating his speed.
Because Doug Baldwin will burn you.
Love you Dougie Fresh.
The play itself is a big thing. What happens in the next few seconds is a little thing: Buffalo spends a timeout. With two and a half minutes gone in the first quarter.
We’ve seen coaches waste timeouts early before; visitors to the Clink often have to take them because of excessive noise. This timeout matters more than most because it leads directly to the end-of-half shitshow.
If Ryan conserves the timeout for a more opportune time, like his final drive, his team doesn’t get charged for an injury timeout after Carpenter fakes his own death upon contact with Sherman. If the injury timeout never happens, no need to spike, no delay of game occurs, no miss from 54 yards out.
Not to be outdone, Carroll was responsible in his own right for jumpstarting the bizarre Bills drive. To open the possession with 1:00 left, Taylor had checked down to Mike Gillislee for a loss on first down. At 0:48, instead of letting the clock run down, or forcing Ryan to stop the clock, Carroll calls for time.
Wouldn’t you know it, on the next four plays, Taylor finds Robert Woods for 29, throws it away, hits Reggie Bush for 8, and puts the Bills in (theoretical) field goal range with another 15-yard strike to Woods.
The rest is madness.
little thing two: third downs? more like every downs
circumstances: sea defense, on numbered downs
Much was made, in the aftermath of this nailbiter, of the defense’s inability to get off the field on third down. The Bills were 12 of 17 on third down. They had only three missed conversions through three quarters.
But the Seahawks weren’t in fact having a third-down problem.
On first down: 34 plays, 173 yards allowed, 5.1 ypp
On second down: 27 plays, 153 yards allowed, 5.7 ypp
On third down: 17 plays, 99 yards, 5.8 ypp
They were having an every-down problem. A success rate problem, if you will. Every time an offense begins a new series, it can achieve the next first down, or score a touchdown. Those are “successes,” according to what footballoutsiders calls the drive success rate. Buffalo’s was 26/31, or a .839 success rate.
Atlanta led the NFL in 2017 with a .778 success rate. Buffalo simply moved the ball up and down the field, irrespective of downs, at a pace far exceeding the best offense in football. If Richard Sherman hadn’t found the time in the third quarter to play a little wide receiver,
then who knows how things would’ve turned out.
little thing three: pass rush depth
circumstances: the visitors’ final drive, 2:41 left to 0:13 left
If I tell you the Seahawks sacked Taylor five times, you’re likely to nod in approval. Five is an effort that will win you football games.
But Taylor spent 57:30 of the game eluding pass rushers, dodging tackles on third downs, making defenders miss inside and outside the pocket — in short, playing the part of Russell Wilson better than RW himself. When the final drive began, the Seahawks had notched just two sacks. “So this is how other teams’ fans feel when they play us, got it.”
As the 2014-2015 Green Bay Packers learned the hard way, however, games are not 57:30 and tend to go the full 60 minutes. So, as the seconds ticked down, Seattle’s pass rush depth is the team unit that really saved the day. Even on the 3rd and 21 conversion, Taylor has to scramble out of the pocket to find his receiver.
Why “depth,” though? Because Michael Bennett was out, injured. So Cliff Avril played 68 snaps, Frank Clark logged 67 (a career high), and you saw DaMontre Moore in there for 37 plus Cassius Marsh for 31 more.
Even with their best defensive lineman missing, the Seahawks had enough in the tank, on the final drive of the game, to drop Taylor three times for a loss. Twice, on goal-to-go.
K.J. Wright on second down:
Clark, with a predatory ferocity, on third:
The Bills ran the ball on first and goal and took two sacks on the subsequent plays. Because of the constant pressure on Taylor, they only had one pass even cross the goal line for a potential game-winner, instead of three or four end-zone throws.
Maybe, when it comes to pass rush, it isn’t at all how you start, it really is how you finish. Maybe it’s better to have five guys who can drop the quarterback, so that any four musketeers who remain active for Week 9 can pull an all-for-one and win the day.