With family time taking over for the past few days, it took me a while to get to re-watching the Seahawks/Cardinals coaches tape, but here are a few observations. Hopefully I'll have time to put together some GIFs for a game notebook type of thing, but in the meantime, my thoughts:
Despite what ended up looking like (and being) an atrocious performance offensively, I wouldn't necessarily lay blame with the offensive line; or, at least, they wouldn't be at the top of my list. I don't know if that's what people are blaming this week, but I felt fine about how the OL played after watching each snap twice on All-22.
I thought that Seattle did fairly well in their ground game in the first half, outside the goal-line stand by Arizona at the end of the first half (though Lynch looked to have an easy lane to the outside to score on that first carry and chose to cut up inside instead), and throughout the game, pass protection was fairly good. If you go back and watch some of Russell Wilson's incomplete passes, particularly the deep ones, the issue rarely seemed to be lack of time.
In the first half, Lynch had runs of 16 yards, 2 yards, 5, 2, 2, 19, 7, -2, and 7 yards before the Hawks inherited the ball on the 3-yard line and couldn't punch it in (and again, it's a bummer, because Lynch looked to have a great lane outside that would've been an easy score but he cut up inside and sort of fell forward off balance at the goal-line). That stand seemed to really galvanize the Arizona run defense and signaled a turning point in the game. Despite this failure in the red-zone though, Lynch finished the first half with 60 yards rushing at 5.5 yards per carry, and considering Arizona is giving up 84 yards per game on the ground (1st in the NFL) at 3.7 YPC (2nd in the NFL), things were 'on schedule,' certainly in the run game anyway.
The 2nd half ground game was a different story though, as Seattle mostly looked to pass and when they did run, they went nowhere fast. Lynch's 2nd half runs, in yards: -1, 2, 1, 1, 1, 4, and 3. Yeesh.
The problem with Seattle's run game in this one, in my opinion, was less that they've suddenly forgotten how to run, it had more do to with the herky-jerky flow of the game, the miserable execution in the pass game, and the lack of actual plays and/or the abundance of 3-and-outs (7 total). Seattle ran only 51 plays, which is 9 fewer than their already-extremely-low average of 60 plays per game (30th in the NFL). They only possessed the football for 22 minutes (compared to 37+ for the Cardinals), and when your identity is that of a sustaining, methodical wear-em-down offense predicated on brutalizing the opponent's defense with a physical run game then throwing it over their heads, stringing together a few drives with multiple first downs is pretty important. 3rd down conversions are super important, because when you're running a lot, you seem to get yourself into a lot of third down situations.
The pass game. Ohhhh, the pass game.
Going into the half, Wilson had completed six passes on 16 attempts for 47 yards. This included six incomplete "deep" passes.
In the 2nd half, Wilson threw the ball 11 times, was sacked four times, and ran it once. That breaks down to 16 pass drop-backs to only 7 runs. Of those four 2nd half sacks, I'd say that two of them were on the offensive line - on one, James Carpenter got beat badly, held, and gave up the sack anyway, and on the other, the Cardinals ran a perfectly timed middle linebacker blitz that Wilson couldn't escape. The other two were on Wilson bailing from the pocket early and finding no one to pass to, in my opinion. Coverage sacks.
Of those 11 2nd half passes, six were what the game-book designates as 'deep'. Four of those were incomplete, one was completed to Golden Tate and subsequently fumbled (luckily recovered), and the sixth was the game-sealing interception.
Common theme here was that deep passes were either heavily contested, inaccurate, or dropped. For the short passes, the common theme was that they were either heavily contested, inaccurate, or dropped. The sacks were largely due to this theme as well.
The Cardinals manned up on Seattle's receivers for a large part of the game, and played lights out. Pete Carroll even pointed out that the Hawks' receivers were challenged to win one-on-one, and didn't get the job done (which is why we saw so many deep passes unsuccessfully attempted and so many short passes broken up). Carroll said that protection was fine, but that Arizona just was able to make more plays on the football than Seattle was. Receivers didn't come down with tough-but-catchable passes. There were a few overthrows. A few passes batted down with excellent defensive coverage. It happens. It just rarely happens with this degree of lopsidedness.
Arizona essentially gave Seattle a taste of their own medicine. They played tight coverage downfield and they swarmed the run game with their stable of athletic defenders. They held Lynch right around the line of scrimmage all too frequently. I kept waiting for a 'breakout' run after so many were stuffed, but it never came.
I think Jacob Stevens really summed it up well in his All-22 review when he said the Hawks had just a few too many 'oh-so-close' plays that ultimately blew up in the hangar. A screen the Marshawn Lynch that was just a little mistimed, which meant that Lynch was tackled by a lone DB (this rarely happens). A ball drops harmlessly through Jermaine Kearse's fingers on a deep bomb (think about how huge of a game-changing play this would be!). Doug Baldwin drops the ball as he hits the ground after making a toe-touch catch (the drive ends). I don't care if they thought it was first down, Baldwin usually makes that play.
What I saw on tape, as a whole, was less dire than how it seemed watching live.
A few more notes:
- I was really, really impressed with Michael Bowie at right guard. Bowie is listed at 6'5, 330 and moves with the nimbleness of a left tackle. He mirrors really well, moves well, spots stunts, recovers his balance easily, and has grappling hooks for arms. I liked him as a longer-term option at right tackle but after watching him in this game, I feel that he could legitimately retain the job as the starting right guard right now.
One game is a limited sample, but against two very good defensive tackles in Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett and a huge nose tackle in Dan Williams, Bowie exhibited some necessary attributes. While he's agile enough to get out and cut block, at 330 pounds he plays physical and has the weight to anchor against the bullrush. Remember, he's probably 30 pounds heavier than incumbent Sweezy, so he's tougher to move. I like a lot of things about Sweezy's game, but I also feel that he's just too easy to push back into the pocket at times, and still plays like a guy that's new to the position. Bowie looked calm and collected as he took over at the spot.
With Sweezy back at practice this week, it will be interesting to see if Bowie retains the starting job. Pete played coy about the idea after repeatedly noting enthusiastically how well Bowie had played, so I'm still unsure what will happen.
- Perhaps a move to left guard is in order for Bowie? Former 1st round pick James Carpenter only played 15 snaps in this game despite being the 'official' starter on the depth chart. I thought Carp played fine, outside of one disastrous series in which he missed a downfield block and then got called for holding on the next play, but the coaching staff is clearly not sold. With both Carpenter and McQuistan middling at the left guard spot, perhaps an offensive line made up of Okung-Bowie-Unger-Sweezy-Breno would be worth a try. I know that continuity is a big deal for offensive lines, but the platoon at the left guard spot has been going on for quite a while, with no clear winner.
- I noted in my post-game wrap that Seattle didn't seem to go to any of their 'constraint' plays even despite major struggles with their bread and butter. Well, they did run at least one bubble to Jermaine Kearse (which picked up a first down) and one screen to Lynch (which was blown up for a short gain - this was the play that the referee told Lynch and Wilson it was a first down but was really marked off as 3rd and 1.). Still, would have liked to see a few more of these types of plays thrown in. I can't remember the last time that Golden Tate has been made a focal point in the offense... it's weird.
- Russell Wilson's pocket presence wasn't awesome in this one. There were several snaps where he looked to have plenty of time to stand in the pocket but sensed pressure and took off. There's a big of a double-edge sword here, of course, because Wilson can be very dangerous moving around outside the pocket, but there are likely a few plays that he'd look at and say that he should have hung tough a little longer.
That's what I got on the offense right now. It would have been fun to focus in only on the defense because holy shit, the defense played well, but I think the offensive struggles are more of a focus at the moment.