I Don’t Know How The Seahawks Beat The Falcons

You know when you’re a cartoon tough guy getting ready to sock someone right in the puss, and as you’ve got your fist cocked and loaded they come back at you with an apology, and now you’re just standing there teetering on the line between rage and forgiveness?  You’ve got all this aggression inside you, just begging for release, but the target of your aggression no longer deserves to have that violence heaped upon them!  It’s an awkward feeling.  Almost as awkward as the opening to this Seahawks post.

As the third quarter spilled over into the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks drove to the red zone, trailing for the first time all game, I couldn’t help but think about that third quarter, and how easy it had all of a sudden become for the Falcons to move the ball at will.  This drive was do or die, and there we were with 1st & Goal at the 10 yard line.  Crazy run by Michael stuffed for no gain, drop by Spiller inside the 5, incomplete to Kearse in the back of the endzone.  There we were, settling for a field goal, with part of me secretly wishing we’d just go for the jugular and go for it on 4th down.  And then we botched the field goal, and for a minute there, I had to stop watching the game.  I turned the TV off for the next Falcons drive, because no good could have come from it.

I was sitting there, stewing.  Thinking about all the reasons why we were losing.  Hopping mad about how EMBARRASSING the Seahawks looked in the second half.  Breakdowns in the secondary, lack of a pass rush after we’d gotten after Matt Ryan consistently in the first half, Pete Carroll chickening out of a 4th & Inches situation on the Falcons’ side of the 50 yard line, the Falcons – in general – making the halftime adjustments, and our inability to counter, Christine Michael bungling multiple opportunities to plow ahead for first downs, seemingly allergic to contact.  I mean, I could go on and on.

But, then somehow we forced the Falcons to punt!  A miracle!  We drove straight down there, and thanks to a timely pass interference penalty, we were able to punch it in!  All I could think about was how there was still a lot of time left, and maybe it wouldn’t be so hot to be in a tie game with the Falcons at this point.  Sure enough, the extra point was blocked, and my wish was granted!  Of course, I never expected that wish to be granted, but I swear there was some logic being it:  in a tie game, the Falcons are more likely to be aggressive and move the ball down the field through the air – which, to that point, had been like a hot knife through warm butter.  But, if the Falcons were nursing a lead, they’d be more likely to go conservative, try to milk some clock, and otherwise play it safe to avoid the defensive big play turnover.

As it happened, the Falcons had no intention of going conservative.  They threw on their subsequent three plays.  A couple of short-gainers for a first down, and then a slant to Julio Jones, who had abused us all second half.  It tipped off of his outstretched hand and ultimately bobbled its way into the cradling grasp of Earl Thomas for the defensive big play turnover we’d been looking for!

We ended up driving it right back down into field goal range, and this drive really had all the makings of one of those 4-minute, run-out-the-clock type drives where you win it on the last second field goal.  But, Russell Wilson – who ended up having a fine, if unspectacular game – got a little antsy and overthrew a WIDE open Tyler Lockett with a terrible lob pass on 3rd & 3.  Nevertheless, with two minutes to go in the game, we re-took the lead, 26-24.

Shockingly, Matt Ryan threw three straight incomplete passes to Mohamed Sanu before finally going for Julio on 4th down.  In double coverage, with our two best secondary guys draped all over him.  Richard Sherman ultimately got in the way enough to allow the ball to fall incomplete, but God damn was Julio close to catching it anyway.

And don’t think this is me trying to gloss over the fact that Richard Sherman most certainly interfered with the receiver.  But, there’s a clear difference between how Sherm interfered with Julio, and how Atlanta’s Robert Alford interfered with Jermaine Kearse earlier in the quarter.  For starters, Alford is one of the worst cornerbacks in football.  He’s constantly out of position and giving up huge plays.  And, when he’s not doing that, he’s drawing huge flags to further dismantle his team’s chances of getting a stop.  Desmond Trufant is good, but he can’t cover everyone at once!  But, that’s neither here nor there, because whether or not Sherm had a good game yesterday (I don’t know the defensive play calls or the audibles or whatnot, so I don’t necessarily know what his responsibilities were supposed to be), he’s still a great cornerback.  And the great ones know how to interfere with a receiver’s ability to catch the football, while at the same time make it so subtle that the refs don’t see it.

That was a subtle move Sherman put on Julio.  Without gesticulating a lot, just keep Julio’s arm pulled down at his side so he can’t go up with two hands to catch it.  While, at the same time, turning around to make a play on the football.  I’ll admit, I didn’t even notice the interference on first watch; to me, it looked like two guys going up for a football.  And, I’m sure that’s how it looked to the refs who were in the area.  When you’ve got all that, plus you’re talking about an end-of-game situation, they’re usually going to let the guys play.

All in all, it added up to a miracle finish, one the Seahawks needed pretty desperately.

This was the most un-Seahawky game I think I’ve seen in a long time.  Normally, when the Seahawks (under Pete Carroll) struggle to win a game, it’s because we’ve gotten off to yet another slow start.  The offense can’t convert on third down, and the defense helps dig us an early hole.  Then, after halftime, adjustments are made, the opposing offense is held in check, and Russell Wilson & Co. hurry to make yet another breathtaking comeback!  This game was pretty much the opposite of that.  While the offense wasn’t any great shakes in the first half, we did score on half of our drives, which more than compensated for a defense that held the Falcons to all of 3 points in generating a 17-3 halftime lead.  Then, it was the Falcons who made the adjustments, while our defense fell apart to the tune of 21-unanswered.

If you could win games in the third quarter, the Falcons would’ve gotten the better of us!  But, I think I heard somewhere that you can’t win the game in the third quarter.  Just like you can’t win it in the second or first quarters, but that’s neither here nor there.

At halftime, I was convinced this game would be a walk-over.  After the third quarter, it wasn’t even dread, it was full blown resignation that the Seahawks were going to lose.  Thankfully, you can only win games in the fourth quarter.  And so we got the W, but it was costlier than I like.

Michael Bennett was taken out at the knees and was unable to return.  That one looked pretty scary, but from the sounds of things, it might not even keep him out of next week’s game against the Cardinals.  We may have dodged a bullet, so pray to the god of skinny punks that it turns out to be nothing.

Luke Willson suffered what looks like a crusher.  We won’t know until they do the MRI and all that, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends his season, and potentially his Seahawks career.  He’s an unrestricted free agent next year, so you have to wonder.  At the very least, he probably has to sign a 1-year prove-it deal somewhere, before he can cash in for something more substantial.  Either way, knee injuries are never good for “move” tight ends.  I hope it’s less severe, for his sake as much as the Seahawks’.

That means Brandon Williams moves up a spot, which is less encouraging.  I don’t want to short-change him, I’m sure he’ll be fine, but Luke’s got a track record of making some big catches for us.  That’s a nice security blanket, in the event Graham goes down.  It also means Nick Vannett is returning from his high ankle sprain at just the right time.  You figure he’ll be thrown into the fire right away, so I hope he has that playbook on lock.

Let’s run through the kudos.

Jimmy Graham with another huge game.  God, it’s just so HUGE to have a player of his calibre on this team!  It took him about a year to get comfortable with the scheme, and for Wilson to get comfortable with him, but now that everyone’s on the same page, this is the type of lethal combination we’ve been waiting for since we drafted Wilson.  Doug Baldwin is a great player, and will always be that security blanket for us, but it’s just so awesome to have a big guy we can throw it up to in traffic and have him come down with it for a big play.

Alex Collins had a nifty little TD run in the second quarter, when Christine Michael was out in the concussion protocol.  Bad for my fantasy team, but good for the kid to do that and do it in a victory.

Player of the Game on defense had to be Cliff Avril, who was on the warpath, particularly in the first half.  He had two sacks and multiple hits, as well as a forced fumble that was picked up by Tony McDaniel.  We’ll certainly need him to be at the top of his game if Bennett ends up missing any extensive time.

Another great game by Bobby Wagner, who’s really showing up with big play after big play.  Same with Earl Thomas, who nabbed the all-important interception in the 4th quarter.

We’ll definitely look back at this one come playoff time, especially if the Falcons continue playing well.  This win gives us a tie-breaker advantage over a likely divisional winner.  Since we won’t get a chance to play the Cowboys or Vikings, getting as many of these types of wins will be huge.  Next week is another one, as we can really put the Cardinals away early and put ourselves in the driver’s seat for one of the top two seeds in the playoffs.  Whatever keeps us from playing that Vikings defense as long as possible is the best scenario in my book.

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