Let’s Not Start Sucking Each Other’s Dicks Quite Yet: The Falcons Aren’t The Lions

Well, that was a sight for sore eyes.  Thomas Rawls looked as good as he ever has, the O-Line had their best run blocking game of the year, the offense dominated time of possession, Russell Wilson mixed in some nice throws, Paul Richardson stepped up big to pick up the slack of losing Tyler Lockett, the defense stuffed the run without Tony McDaniel while getting good pressure on the quarterback, and a game that was 0-0 after the first quarter turned into a comfortable Seahawks victory by the midpoint in the fourth quarter.  It was everything we’ve come to expect from the Seahawks the last few years.

It was everything the Seahawks haven’t been THIS year.

So, that’s it huh?  Bygones are bygones and we can forget this whole inconsistent regular season ever happened?  They flipped the switch and we can all book our tickets for the Super Bowl?

Yeah, I dunno.

It’s one thing to do it at home on Saturday night.  It’s one thing to do it against arguably the worst defense in football.  It’s one thing to do it against a quarterback with a broken finger on his throwing hand.  It’s one thing to do it while getting the majority of the calls from an over-matched referee crew.  It’s one thing to do it when you’re heavily favored and clearly the superior team.  But, it’s quite another to do it on the road next Saturday afternoon, against arguably the best offense in football, against the likely MVP of the league, while contending with a certain over-correction from next week’s referee crew, when we’re sure to be heavy underdogs and clearly the inferior team.

Or, maybe you don’t think that’s totally accurate.  Maybe this performance has swayed you.  I’m trying to avoid the over-reaction to one fine performance, at home, in the Wild Card round, against a team dealing with a lot of injuries.  Sure, the Seahawks are dealing with injuries too, but you know who’s not?  Atlanta.  They’re pretty much as healthy as can be, and they’ve had a week off to get ready for this game.  And maybe you don’t necessarily think the Falcons are clearly superior to the Seahawks.  But, you know who they ARE clearly superior to?  Detroit.

Atlanta’s not going to drop the (approximately) billion passes that the Lions receivers dropped.  Passes that would’ve extended drives, converted third downs, and put them into scoring situations more frequently.

Atlanta’s not going to be gashed for six yards per carry to Thomas Rawls.

Atlanta doesn’t employ hotheads who lose their cool like Anquan Boldin, who cost his team 30 yards of field position.

Atlanta’s not going to consistently over-throw their receivers because of a finger splint.

Atlanta’s not going to abandon the run, because unlike the Lions, they have a solid O-Line and two elite running backs.

And you sure as shit better recognize that Atlanta’s not going to be held to 6 points.  36 maybe.

The same problems with the Seahawks that we’ve been pulling our hair out over all season – and particularly over the last few weeks – are still here, waiting to be exposed by a hungry, talented Falcons team who’d like nothing better than stick it to an over-confident Seahawks team.

Yes, we have revenge on our minds, from 2012, but as someone noted on Twitter last week, I think there’s less than 10 people still playing on this team right now that played in that game.  The Falcons have revenge on their minds too, from earlier this season, on a play they thought they got jobbed on at the end of the game.  Would’ve cost them the 2-seed had it not been for our own incompetence in losing to the Cardinals on Christmas Eve (or any of the other winnable games we lost this year).

I don’t want it to sound like I’m mad that we beat the Lions or anything.  Indeed, another week we get to sit around talking about the Seahawks ALWAYS beats the alternative (which, I suppose, is looking forward to the Mariners, but that’s neither here nor there).  I’m not saying I give the Seahawks absolutely no chance of beating the Falcons.  Honestly, the last time I was so convinced the Seahawks would lose a game was back when we had to go into New England in November.  So, you know, that’s a good sign, right?

I just don’t want to get carried away or go off the deep end, based on one impressive Seahawks victory.  Yes, it would be HUGE if we could run the ball like this the rest of the way.  Yes, it’ll be ENORMOUS if C.J. Prosise returns this week and hits the ground running like he was in that very New England game where he racked up 153 total yards on offense.  And of course, if Paul Richardson can pick up the slack and be the deep threat this team needs to open things up underneath, all of our offensive woes could very well be behind us.

But, without Earl Thomas, and quite frankly with how this defense has been called by Kris Richard the last couple years, I could easily see Matt Ryan and Co. carving up our zone like a turkey made out of warm butter.

I noticed more man-to-man in this Lions game though, so maybe there’s a shifting of philosophy.  Or, maybe that was just a one-game game-plan and we’ll go back to getting eaten alive later this week.  Either way, it’ll be fun to debate it in my head the next few days!

The Seahawks Were Routed For The First Time In The Russell Wilson Era

So, the Seahawks have won just 2 road games this year, and both of them were against the AFC East.  Just thought I’d start with that.

This feels bigger than it probably is, the whole “losing by more than 10 points” thing.  It’s, without fail, the most lopsided loss since Russell Wilson joined the team, and it coincides with his worst game.  One garbage-time touchdown against 5 interceptions.  Sure, some of those balls bounced off of the hands of receivers, but the rest were just poor decisions or over-throws.  And, speaking of over-throws, GOOD GOLLY were there a lot of over-throws in this one.  Before I essentially stopped watching, he had two surefire touchdowns that landed well beyond the outstretched arms of wide open receivers.  And there’s no way those were the only two of the game.

It was just all bad.  The quarterback stunk.  The running game stunk.  The defense couldn’t generate any pressure on the quarterback.  The secondary couldn’t cover anyone.  We were playing tentatively, on our heels, the entire game.  Green Bay dictated the tempo, dictated the aggressiveness, and really punished us from top to bottom.

That’s a team that’s largely been playing mediocre football this year!  Aaron Rodgers was having a shitty season (by his standards), his receivers weren’t getting open, the running game was non-existent, and here were the Seahawks, the cure for what ails the Packers.

What kind of game plan was that, Kris Richard?  I get that you’ve got three pretty solid pass rushers in Avril, Bennett, and Clark, but once you’ve seen that not work for a quarter or a half, don’t you think you should change some things up?  Maybe NOT let the game get out of hand by the end of the second quarter?

If it were up to me, I would’ve been sending linebackers on blitzes on damn near every play, with our corners playing man coverage across the board.  Because the alternative is what you watched yesterday:  Aaron Rodgers standing there all day, picking our feeble zones apart.  The Packer offense was MADE to play against the zone!  That’s seemingly the only way it actually works anymore!  When Rodgers was struggling, and when their receivers were struggling to get open, it was because they can’t shake man coverage and they don’t run any routes to open themselves up!

If Aaron Rodgers has to beat you with his legs, then so be it, I’ll take my chances.  Because he’s not a running quarterback and eventually he’s going to make a bad decision here and there.

I guess you can’t totally kill the defense though.  It’s not like Russell Wilson put this team in any position to win the game.  He – and this offense in general – will have to figure out how to score points on the road against non-AFC East teams, because as things stand now – and how things are trending with this team – it’s looking more and more like the Seahawks will be playing on Wild Card weekend.  Which means most certainly a minimum of two road games on the way to the Super Bowl.

Some of you might think I’m over-reacting, but are you forgetting the fact that we have to play the Rams again?  And while Arizona is a shell of their former selves, they still find a way to get it up for the Seahawks?  We could very well be limping to 9-6-1 and a 4-seed if we’re not careful.  At which point, EVERYONE is going to be excited to see us in the playoffs!

What’s Wrong With The Seahawks?

You know what?  Fuck the Rams, there I said it.  This isn’t about them.  Fuck that game, fuck everything.  I’m talking about the Seahawks here (it’s not ALL ABOUT YOU, RAMS!!!).

This is the point in the season where everyone freaks the fuck out and asks, “What’s wrong with the Seahawks?”  Truth be told, this moment hit us a week earlier last year, as we had the misfortune of playing the Rams in Week 1 (why the SHIT can’t we have our first game against the fucking Rams in Week 11?  Why’s it always gotta be EARLY in the season?), but once again, here we are.  And once again, we’re asking the same question.

Of course, everyone also has an answer to this question, because EVERYONE’S GOTTA BE A BLOGGER NOW!  Or, at the very least, everyone’s gotta be a Twitter cunt who spends all day every day bombarding the beat writers with their insanity.

What’s wrong with the Seahawks?  A shitload!

And, unsurprisingly, I’m going to start with the offensive line.  Most fans would point to them and call them Public Enemy Numbers 1-5.  Most in the national media keep harping over how little we spend on our line, either via draft capital or free agency dollars.  Some of the savvier local bloggers like to defend the O-Line as much as possible, pointing to things like Russell Wilson holding the ball too long, or how they haven’t been “that bad” compared to the level of competition we’ve played through the first two weeks.

I’ll say this:  the offensive line IS a problem, and it’s probably the biggest problem.  It’s the reason why the Seahawks can’t effectively move the football against anyone with a Top 10 defense.  You can deflect blame all you want, but turning Russell Wilson into a pocket passer who gets the ball out in 2 seconds or less isn’t going to make a difference.  This isn’t the New England offense, and he isn’t Tom Brady.  He’s a guy who needs time for plays to develop, so he can make plays downfield.  If we’re going to try to be this quick-strike offense (and make no mistake, it’s 100% because the O-Line is terrible and can’t hold a block for more than 0.5 seconds), you know what that’s going to lead to?  10 guys in the box, press coverage on the outside, and a complete and utter inability to formulate a running game.

The Seahawks don’t dink & dunk.  The Seahawks play smashmouth football, with regularly executed deep strikes through the air.  I’d rather have Russell Wilson hitting 60% of his passes, with a high average per attempt than have him hit 70% of his passes with a low average per attempt.  On the spectrum of short passers, he’s more closely resembling Sam Bradford than he is Philip Rivers, and that’s NOT what we’ve come to expect out of this offense!

Now, obviously, this problem O-Line would be mitigated if our quarterback could run, but again, whose fault is that?  Oh, that’s right, the sieve of an O-Line that’s letting guys get free runs at our most valuable offensive weapon.  Just because this unit can nut up once every 20 pass attempts and actually block for a reasonable amount of time doesn’t give them a pass for all the times they let guys run free and clean at our quarterback!

At the very least, you could hang your hat on this team having a viable running game.  Even against the very best defenses, we’d ALWAYS be able to get yards on the ground to help matters along.  But, we haven’t been able to do a damn thing on the ground this year!  Thomas Rawls is a fantastic running back, and he’s getting hit in the backfield more in these first two games than he did ALL of last year!  It doesn’t seem to affect Christine Michael as much, but I’ve noticed he doesn’t always stick with what the play calls for.  He’s a guy who’s always naturally going to want to bounce things outside, to get into open space and see if he can make some moves for some home run-type plays; but he’s been doing that WAY more than usual, and it’s been out of necessity.  Rawls is great, but he doesn’t have Michael’s quicks or his cutting ability, but that’s neither here nor there because he didn’t have those things LAST year either, when he was averaging 5.6 yards per carry!

Of course, Wilson’s injury doesn’t help matters any in the running game either.  A hobbled Wilson means defenses don’t have to worry about him tucking and running, which means they can focus all their energies on the back he inevitably hands the ball off to.  You’d think that would lead to more traditional handoffs, where Wilson takes the ball from under center – so at the VERY least we can make better use of play-action in the passing game, to try to open things up that way – but NOPE!

Because ultimately, this falls squarely on Darrell Bevell’s shoulders.  He spent the better part of these first two games running an offense with a healthy Russell Wilson in mind, when he should’ve been adjusting for the fact that Wilson can’t run.  At this point, you have to dig deeper into the playbook.  Recall that Tarvaris Jackson was once this team’s starter, and try to remember what plays HE used to run.  Because, let’s face it, Tarvar was never a running quarterback, and right now, neither is Russell Wilson.

Oh, and the best part?  They STILL haven’t figured out how to get the ball to Jimmy Graham in the redzone!  Oh, what a joy it’ll be, when people can’t fall back on the Seahawks “bringing him along slowly” routine and we return to the weekly lament about how Graham gets no redzone targets because Darrell Bevell is a mental midget and Russell Wilson is a literal one.

And don’t think the defense is getting off any easier in this thing.  You want a medal for holding the Dolphins to 10 points and the Rams to 9?  Bravo, you did your fucking job against two inept quarterbacks.  You look to be well on your way to another league championship in fewest points given up, but you’ll also forgive me if I don’t line you up to suck each of your dicks.

Hey guys, where’s the fucking turnovers?  Are you shitting me?  You can’t get teams led by Ryan Tannehill and Case Fucking Keenum to turn the ball over to you?  When – SPOILER ALERT – Keenum threw 2 picks against the 49ers last week, and Tannehill did the same against the Pats this week (on top of a couple of fumbles the Pats were able to force)!  I mean, shit guys, how about a short fucking field for once!  How about making it so the offense doesn’t have to fucking go 90 yards for a touchdown every God damn drive!  How about, when our offense flips the field position, and we’re able to down the ball inside the 10 yard line, you NUT THE FUCK UP and force a 3 & Out to give us BACK our good field position???

You have to understand, Michael Bennett and all the rest, that you haven’t done shit yet.  The defense has been good, but not great.  Not dominant.  Not elite.  An elite defense would’ve held the Rams to 3 points, or 0 points, not 9.  An elite defense would see that their offense is in trouble, that their best skill position players (from Baldwin, to Lockett, to Graham, to Rawls, to Prosise) are banged up, and their all-world quarterback is a shell of his former self as he tries to play through a high ankle sprain, and that elite defense would step the fuck up and shut out an offense like the Rams.  Like the Dolphins.  Like the 49ers next week.

And that defensive coordinator needs to realize his defense is giving up too many big plays.  Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley knew how to scheme well and prevent those big plays.  This has only become a problem since Kris Richard took over.  Maybe the job is too much for him.  Well, management better fucking figure that shit out and put someone in there who’s up to the task.  Because, we can’t be fucking away these seasons when everyone is in their prime, just to coddle a fucking defensive coordinator who isn’t ready for the fucking job.

Beat the 49ers you sacks of shit!  Or, don’t be surprised when you see more 12s dumping all over you.

Part 1: Why The Seahawks Won’t Win The Super Bowl This Year

Consider this the start of a two-part season preview for the 2016 Seahawks.  Anything less would be uncivilized.

Speaking of Right Guard, let’s start there.  One of the primary failings of the 2015 Seahawks – particularly on offense – was the offensive line.  Sure, there were early-season defensive breakdowns that were our regular season undoing, but if you want to look at why the Seahawks lost in the playoffs, look no further than the interior offensive line.  Guard-Center-Guard.

Now, at least in the early going, it appears the Seahawks have vastly improved this combo compared to last year.  Once Alvin Bailey proved he wasn’t up to the task of left guard, the team panicked and put Justin Britt there.  He was a disaster.  Eventually, the team settled on Patrick Lewis at center, and things seemed to improve along the line as a whole.  But, Lewis was far from ideal.  And, we were in J.R. Sweezy’s fourth year with the team; four years that saw him plateau pretty early on, then continue to make the same mistakes in pass protection over and over and over again.

Mark Glowinski – after a year on the bench to learn the position at an NFL level – is ready to be a starting left guard in this league.  Justin Britt – in his third position in three years – seems to have finally found a spot that works for him.  And rookie first rounder Germain Ifedi is being broken into the league at right guard, where he’ll hopefully thrive and eventually shift outside to tackle in the coming seasons.  These three guys should be a marked improvement over the three we had there last year.

And yet … HOO BOY, are we thin!  News came down yesterday that Ifedi left practice with an alleged ankle injury.  The severity is unknown at this time – he could be out for the year, or he could play this weekend – but the fright it’s caused this fanbase is all too real:  who replaces Ifedi if he can’t play this week?  The only other guard on this roster is Rees Odhiambo, who was taken at the end of the third round of this year’s draft.  J’Marcus Webb is another possibility – as he’s played both guard and tackle – but as you can see, we’re already greatly reducing this unit’s effectiveness with these diminishing returns.

WE CANNOT HAVE INJURIES ALONG THE OFFENSIVE LINE!!!

Particularly up the middle, which is where we failed against the Panthers in last season’s playoffs.  Russell Wilson improved on his pocket passing last year, and getting the ball out quicker, but you still need to give him SOME time.  Thinning out the interior of this O-Line – when the tackles are already pretty shaky – is going to be a disaster this team won’t be able to recover from.

But, you know, anyone could write a preview about why a team won’t make the Super Bowl and put “Injuries” as the leading cause.  Let’s face it, if your quarterback goes down, you’re not winning the championship.  If too many key offensive or defensive playmakers get injured, you’re not winning the championship.  And so on and so forth.  So, let’s move on.

Another big concern for me has to do with the defensive line.  I still don’t see us having the type of pass rush we had in 2013, and I don’t think we ever will.  Avril and Bennett are great, but Frank Clark is still young and unproven.  And I just don’t see anyone behind those three guys who will have much of an impact.  Does that mean we’ll have to blitz more?  If so, that takes away from a weak spot that is the middle of our defense.  Teams dink and dunk on us with regularity as it is; sending an extra blitzer just opens up that part of the field even more for converted third downs.

AND, I’m not so sure our run defense is up to snuff.  This is the first year in forever that we won’t have Brandon Mebane anchoring the middle.  Will Rubin, Reed, and McDaniel be able to pick up that slack?  There were a lot of times this pre-season where I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the first defense’s ability to stop the run.  Let’s hope that mess is left where it belongs:  in the meaningless pre-season.

All in all, I wonder if this is the year where the Seahawks finally fall from the top in points allowed.  It’s been a record-breaking four year run of dominance, and it’s bound to end at some point.  Part of me wonders if teams have figured us out, and part of me wonders if Kris Richard will be a new whipping boy, a la Darrell Bevell.  Kris Richard can pay lip service all he wants about not changing the scheme from years past, but he’s still the one calling the plays, and this is only his second year doing that job.  Are we sure his situational play-calling abilities are good enough for the NFL?

I mean, come on, if the players are mostly the same, and the scheme is the same, then it has to be the play-calling, right?

Of course, to really derail the Seahawks, they’ll have to lose a few games they shouldn’t.  More defensive lapses like last year.  More oddball defeats to the likes of the Rams, Eagles, or Dolphins.  Arizona will have to be as good as I think they’ll be, and run away with the division again.  The Packers and/or the Panthers will have to be another dominant NFC team.  If we let too many regular season games slip away, and prove we can’t beat the elite teams like last year, we’ll once again be 10-6 and looking at a Wild Card path to the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to believe it, I just don’t think the Seahawks are able to cruise through the regular season and then flip a switch come playoff time.  Hell, last year they SHOULD have lost to the Vikings in the first round!

Finally, I’d say there’s one big concern no one really wants to talk about.  Russell Wilson had one of the better second halves to a season that I’ve ever seen last year.  Rightly, everyone is on his bandwagon for him to continue that trend – possibly with an MVP finish.  Did Wilson figure it out, and take that next step in his development?  Or, is this a matter of momentum?  Because, we all know there’s no such thing as momentum, and it could just as easily go the other way starting Sunday.

In the pre-season, I saw good Russell Wilson and I saw bad Russell Wilson.  I saw the guy who makes quick decisions and rips off chunk passing plays, and I saw the guy who holds the ball too long and takes unnecessary sacks.  It’s the pre-season, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But, I don’t think anyone goes from Good to Elite without some bumps in the road.

If he does regress, though, with the way this team is counting on him to carry us all the way, it could be a total disaster.

It takes a lot going right for a team to win a Super Bowl.  Luck, obviously, plays a huge factor.  This team has what it takes to go all the way, but there are a good number of other teams who can say the same thing.  Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina, New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Houston, Jacksonville, Washington, Oakland, Cincinnati.  We’re damn near through half the league!

So, yeah, I’d say the odds are stacked against us in a number of ways.  Tomorrow, I’ll write about how none of that matters.

Brandon Browner Is Back, The Legion Of Boom Is Whole Again

One of the more interesting moves of the offseason has seen the Seahawks return to some familiar faces, in signing Chris Clemons and now Brandon Browner to 1-year prove-it deals.  As this post posits, perhaps this is a reaction to a perceived void in veteran leadership on this team.  You could argue that this team has a lot of leaders already, in Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse on offense; and Earl, Sherm, Wagner, Wright, Bennett and Avril on defense.  Nevertheless, I would say – to borrow from Jim Mora Jr. a little bit – that the team doesn’t necessarily have very many dirtbags on the team.  Enforcers who bring one primary trait to the table:  pain.  Clemons, by all accounts, is a nasty customer, whose focus on taking out the quarterback is legendary on this team.  And, of course, we all know how lethal Brandon Browner can be.  I would also note that with Kris Richard as a first-time defensive coordinator, and a young one at that, it’s nice to have an abundance of veterans on this defense to show the younger players how it’s supposed to be done.

In the ol’ Gods & Clods way of team-building, you’ve got a lot of expensive players, and a lot of very VERY cheap players (usually rookies/guys on rookie deals).  When you can bring in players on cheap, 1-year deals, who know the system and are able to bring something of a teaching element to Training Camp (even if it’s simply leading by example), I believe there’s really no downside to these types of moves.  There’s no guarantee either Clemons or Browner make the team in 2016, but if they push younger guys to be great in the pre-season, they will have been well worth the modest cost of their signing bonuses.

With both of these guys, you’re looking at 50/50 deals as far as whether they make the team or not.  I think with Clemons, it’ll be a matter of him proving he’s still got it.  You don’t bring in a guy like Clemons to be a starter; you bring him in to add a little extra to your pass rush in obvious passing situations (to help lessen the blow of losing a guy like Irvin).  If he comes in during Training Camp and pre-season and he looks a step slower than everyone, then hey, at least he’ll impart some lessons to the younger guys, and it doesn’t cost you much to cut him.

With Browner, I’ll give the same odds of him making the team, even though his position has much more competition.  Browner’s reputation has taken quite a hit the last couple years.  He was a big part of costing the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but at the same time, he was super prone to penalties and was cut by the Patriots after the season ended.  Then, he cashed in with New Orleans, but his defensive coordinator was a boob and didn’t use him properly, so he continued making many boneheaded penalties and getting beat frequently.  The Seahawks know what Browner brings to the table, limitations and all.  In this system, Browner made a name for himself, and was able to cash in on that.  Returning to this system, we should see something of a bounce-back year out of him (assuming he makes the team, of course).

I’m not as negative as a lot of Seahawks fans are with this move, mostly because I agree the guy wasn’t in the right scheme last year.  If you bring in a veteran on a free agent deal, you sure as shit better adapt your defense to him and not the other way around.  With a rookie, you can mold him; with a veteran, you’re not teaching an old dog new tricks (unless he’s a superstar like Revis, but even then, he struggled a bit in Tampa when they had him play more zone coverage than his customary lockdown man coverage).

I’m also tempering my expectations a little bit.  Browner’s best years with the Seahawks were in 2011 and 2012 (mostly 2011, if we’re being honest; his Pro Bowl season).  He wasn’t exactly all that dominant in 2013, when he played only 8 games, and wasn’t even around during the stretch run or the playoff run; that’s where Byron Maxwell stepped into the starter’s role and ran with it.  Even Browner at his best has his limitations.  He’s not as great against smaller, shifty receivers.  Against a guy like Kearse – who he was able to shut down in the Super Bowl – Browner is all kinds of effective.  In that sense, you wonder if he’s a guy who will see a lot of time in certain games, against certain teams, and then next to nothing against others.

What we should all be looking forward to is the fact that – barring injury – Browner isn’t coming in to be a starter.  Jeremy Lane is the one who got the big contract, and he’s going to see the majority of the snaps on the field after Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Browner is here for depth – so the team is able to push Lane inside on nickel situations – and he’s here to push Tharold Simon, who is solid when healthy, but who’s never healthy for a full season.  In that sense, as a depth piece, he further cements the secondary as the best unit on the team, and nearly brings us back to the greatness that was the secondary of 2013.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the pre-season, but my initial impressions are nothing but favorable.

The Day Of A Thousand Seahawks Eulogies

Really, the only thing that can make this defeat any worse is staring down the barrel of yet another Manning vs. Brady showdown.  Time to avoid ESPN at all costs.

Yesterday couldn’t have gone any worse.  And yet, there we were, down a score, with a chance to kick an onside kick with a little over a minute to go.  Obviously, not an ideal scenario – not something you’re praying for going into a game like that.  But, after the way the Seahawks looked in the first half, it’s really all you could hope for.

I woke up yesterday with just the WORST feeling about the game.  I don’t know why.  I certainly didn’t expect Carolina to jump out to a 31-0 lead.  But, for some reason, I couldn’t help feel like we were in for a bad day.  Maybe it’s because just about every Seahawks fan thought this game was going to be a cakewalk.

For the record, my impressions after this game are 100% different than they were after last week.  In spite of the Vikings missing a chipshot field goal – and a VERY likely victory – I thought the Seahawks were the better team.  This week, I don’t think there’s any way you can say the Seahawks are a better team than Carolina.  We may have more talented players at certain positions, but as a team, the Panthers were better this year, and they showed us all why yesterday.

The Seahawks are flawed.  They’re not BAD, but they did take a bit of a step back in 2015, while at the same time sort of taking a step forward as well.  For as great as Russell Wilson has been in the second half of the season, he’s still prone to falling back to his old tricks when consistent pressure is getting to him.  That can be a good thing, like when he grabs an errant snap and turns it into a 35-yard gain against the Vikings.  But, it can also be bad, like when he holds onto the ball too long, trying to make something happen, and then gets dropped for a 10-yard loss when he had PLENTY of time to throw the ball away.  While I like the improved pocket play out of Wilson this year – and hope he builds on that in the years to come – it wouldn’t hurt to have him play a little smarter on some of those plays and look to live another day.

Of course, our Achilles heel the whole year reared its ugly head – especially in the first half – with poor offensive line play.  We couldn’t run, nor could we stop their pass rush between the tackles, and I think it’s pretty plain to see this team needs a major upgrade, really, at all five offensive line positions.

Moving along, I’d also say the 2015 Seahawks had some serious flaws on defense.  Yeah, I know, led the league in scoring and was second in yards.  Big deal.  The Seahawks made their hay against some really shitty offensive teams this year (Chicago, Detroit, Frisco twice, Baltimore, Minnesota, Dallas, Cleveland), and yet look at the point totals we gave up to these teams:

  • St. Louis – 34
  • Green Bay – 27
  • Cincinnati – 27
  • Carolina – 27
  • Arizona – 39
  • Pittsburgh – 30
  • St. Louis – 23
  • Carolina – 31

That’s four games where we gave up over 30 points; THIS is your elite defense?  Now, I get it, we’ve been spoiled.  We had one of the all-time greatest defenses in 2013, and it’s going to be hard to live up to that standard.  That defense made the good offenses look mediocre and the mediocre offenses look non-existent.  The 2015 Seahawks aren’t bad on defense, but you can’t say they haven’t taken a step back.  And, I’m sorry, but it’s obviously not all Cary Williams’ fault.

I thought Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and K.J. Wright really lived up to the standard they’ve set as pros.  Throw in Mebane and Rubin as well; those guys were phenomenal and – in spite of yesterday’s performance – the rush defense was no joke this season.  As for everyone else on that side of the ball, I don’t know what happened.  Maybe we’ll find out they were dealing with nagging injuries that prevented them from playing up to their abilities.  I saw a drop-off in the number of big plays by Earl Thomas.  I saw a HUGE drop-off in the number of big plays by Kam Chancellor.  I thought Bobby Wagner was okay, but he didn’t seem to have as many impact games as I’m used to.  Bruce Irvin never really popped, in spite of this being a contract year.

And, if you just look at this unit as a whole, I think something was really missing.  Too many breakdowns in coverage.  Too many guys WIDE OPEN.  You know teams are going to try to beat this defense with quick passing, so instead of playing so much zone, why not play more man-to-man, in hopes that it’ll give our ferocious defensive line enough time to pressure the quarterback?  One of the lesser talked-about aspects of this season is that Kris Richard is a rookie defensive coordinator.  He’s going to have his growing pains, just like anybody.  Hopefully, he’ll get his house in order and help this team get back to its old, punishing ways.

I don’t want it to sound like I’m just calling everybody out here.  I’m not angry with this team.  Just disappointed, like everyone is, with how the season ended.  There’s still A LOT to like about this team.  In the coming days, I’ll touch on that, as well as what this team needs to do to get better.  For today, I’m just going to wallow a little bit more, and then I’ll be okay.

One of the better aspects of losing the way we were losing yesterday – having the doors blown off in the first half – is that you can start preparing yourself for the inevitable that much sooner.  I’d lose like this a thousand times before I’d lose like we did in that Super Bowl again.  Which, of course, got me to thinking:  the decision to pass there on that final play is now DOUBLY atrocious, because we couldn’t come back and right that wrong this season.  Now, it’s been TWO years since our last Super Bowl victory.  And, a loss like yesterday’s – and a season like 2015’s – just goes to show you how difficult it is, not just WINNING a Super Bowl, but getting there in the first place.  We could’ve had 2 titles, and with that, losing to the Panthers wouldn’t feel quite as awful.  Instead, we have 1 title, and you can’t help but wonder if/when we might get another.

The Peak Seahawks Era looks to be coming to a close.  But, the Championship Window is still open (I just don’t think we’ll ever be quite as good as we’d been from 2012-2015).  Now, it’s time to go to work and rectify all that needs improving.

Seahawks’ Arrogance Leads To Seahawks Sucking

One of the quotes I took away from Twitter before I had to get off and give myself a little peace of mind last night was from Earl Thomas, when he said, “We know we don’t suck.”

Unfortunately, that’s not true. The Seahawks DO suck right now. When you can’t explain exactly why you’re losing, because there are too many reasons to name, then you just have to throw up your hands and realize it’s the fact that this team just plain sucks right now.

Kris Richard sucks as a defensive coordinator. The defense as a whole sucks at the fourth quarter. No one is able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback late in the game, which means that guys like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are playing too many snaps overall. When this team was at its best, Bennett and Avril were playing closer to 60% of the snaps. Now, they’re playing 85-95% of snaps, and they’re gassed at the end of games. Which means players like Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh (suck) are not developing at a rate we need them to. It means when Jordan Hill is injured (which is always, because his body sucks) we have no one on the interior who can generate consistent push.

The book is out on the Seahawks’ defense. Teams know what it takes to beat us, and we’re not adjusting to the way the rest of the league has adjusted to us. It’s this team’s arrogance – and it starts all the way at the top with Pete Carroll – that’s going to be its downfall. The arrogance being:  all you need are elite players while playing a simple style of defense, then let your opponent beat themselves. Well, that’s not working anymore. Because, teams are all too comfortable taking the underneath stuff, and they’re finding the holes in our deep pass defense to generate just enough big plays to make us look bad.

You hate to pile on a guy so early in his career as a defensive coordinator, but it’s pretty clear that Kris Richard isn’t a good defensive coordinator. We’re six weeks in, and what have we accomplished defensively as a unit? When you throw out that Bears game (which, I guarantee they would have scored upwards of 30 points if all their offensive stars were healthy and playing), the Seahawks are giving up 25 points per game. This is elite? This is the same defense we’ve watched the last three years rank at the top in the game? What’s changed from 2014 to 2015 besides Byron Maxwell playing for Philly? There’s no way Byron Maxwell is worth upwards of 10 points per game; the difference is Kris Richard is the guy running the defense. He’s clearly not ready for this much responsibility, and again, going back to this organization’s arrogance, it speaks volumes that they thought he could handle it.

Just stick some guy in there! Some jerk off the street could run the Seahawks’ defense and make it look okay!

Turns out, Dan Quinn was a little better at his job than anyone thought. Good for the Falcons; bad for the rest of us.

Of course, the offense is no better. Yeah, Jimmy Graham had a big day, but he ALWAYS has a big day against the Panthers! He’s made them his bitch since entering the league. But, like I’ve been saying all along, Jimmy Graham doesn’t make this offense go. Throwing it to him 8 times for 140 yards isn’t going to make us the #1 offense in the league. Not when the rest of our guys are held to 10 catches for 101 yards. Not when Marshawn Lynch is held to 54 yards on 17 carries. Not when Russell Wilson was sacked ANOTHER four times.

It’s cute that some of the players are saying that when this team clicks, it’s going to be hard to stop. But, I just don’t see how it’s going to happen. There’s too much going wrong right now. There are too many aspects in which this team truly SUCKS to think that they’ll be able to flip a switch and magically get things going.

It’s the whole Gods N’ Clods thing biting us in the ass like it bites most teams in the ass. When you pay as many players big money deals like we have, then you have to rely on too many guys earning next-to-nothing. We all thought the Seahawks would be immune, because the coaching staff is just too good. What’s happened is, we’ve wildly overestimated their abilities. Our best coaches – Dan Quinn, Ken Norton Jr., Gus Bradley – are working elsewhere. Leaving us with the likes of Richard, Tom Cable, and, of course, Darrell Bevell, left to pick up the pieces and keep this train a rollin’. They’re not up for the task, and as a result a once-great team is staring down the barrell of an 8-8 season.

Maybe a crappy, playoff-free season is just what this team needs to regain its hunger for the game of football. I’m starting to think that miracle finish in last season’s NFC Championship Game was more of a curse than we realized.

Seahawks Death Week: It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

If we win that Super Bowl, all conversation right now is focused on The New Dynasty.  For anyone who’s not a Seahawks fan, it’s pretty miserable to have to listen to, so in that sense the world is probably happier that the Patriots won.

For us, though – the tortured souls forced to relive that moment in every highlight package about last season – the only thing worse than an offseason focused on why Tom Brady Is The Greatest Quarterback Of All Time will be all the articles burying the Seahawks.

Yeah, it started with Keith Olbermann’s lunacy, but don’t think that’s going to be the end of it.  After all, the 2013 Seahawks were champions and looked stronger than every other team in the league by a million miles, and last year people STILL endlessly picked us apart, trying to degrade the quality of our roster as they made their convoluted predictions about why we wouldn’t get back to the Super Bowl.

The fact of the matter is – as I said yesterday – the Championship Window is still wide open for this team.  Even if Marshawn Lynch is 50/50 to return next year, take a look at the players we’ll have returning:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Earl Thomas
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Richard Sherman
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Michael Bennett
  • Cliff Avril
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Jeremy Lane
  • Jordan Hill

That doesn’t factor in an offensive line that gets the job done more often than not, a deep running back group, and some veterans I left off who SHOULD be back (like Zach Miller, Brandon Mebane, and Tony McDaniel).

This is still a deep roster.  And it’s a quality roster in all the right places.  Our quarterback will be entering his fourth year, and he’s already shown that he belongs in the upper third or upper quarter of franchise quarterbacks in the league.  With Russell Wilson, we’re ALWAYS going to be somewhere on the “Good” spectrum.  We’re always going to at least contend for division titles and playoff spots.

It’s the players around Russell Wilson that make us championship-calibre.  The great thing about this team is that everyone plays off of everyone else.  Russell Wilson gets help from an elite running game.  The receivers get help from other defenses focusing on our running game, and from Wilson’s scrambling ability that gives them time to get open.  Defensively, our cornerbacks are allowed to be more aggressive thanks to the great play of our safeties.  Everyone in the secondary is helped out by our pass rush and our line’s ability to stop the run.  It’s all one terrific unit that only works when everyone is playing in unison.

Now, obviously our coaching staff took a bit of a hit with Dan Quinn moving on to coach the Falcons, but I don’t think any team has ever been totally devastated by the loss of a coordinator.  Kris Richard gets a deserved promotion, which is good for coaching continuity, as well as good for the message it sends to the guys.  Just as our greatest players are rewarded with contract extensions, our greatest coaches are rewarded with promotions.  Although, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, how hard can it really be to coach this defense with all the talent we’ve got on the roster?  Are Gus Bradley & Dan Quinn really that amazing?  Or, did they just luck into a roster for the ages?

I wouldn’t expect much of a drop-off because this is still Pete Carroll’s team.  It’s still his vision.  And, in spite of certain decisions that were made at the end of certain ballgames, Pete Carroll is still one of the best head coaches in the league.  And John Schneider is still one of the best general managers in the league.  The organization is still in good hands.

The only thing that could possibly derail things would be injuries, and those are impossible to predict, so it’s not even worth trying.

It’s hard to tell when the Championship Window might close.  It obviously opened in 2012, when we made that great season-ending run.  From a roster-quality standpoint, we probably peaked in 2013.  We dipped a bit in 2014, but if you focus on where this team ended up – after all the early-season strife in coming off of our first championship – you can see a team that peaked at right around where it was in 2012 (or maybe a little better still).  How long the window remains open depends on how well our recent draft picks of the last couple years – on into this year – pan out.  We had a great run of drafts from 2010-2012 that made us into what we are today.  It’s the drafts from 2013-2015 that will determine if we stay on this championship run, or if we fade back into the status of mere playoff contenders.

Here are the players we still have from our 2013 draft group:

  • Christine Michael (RB)
  • Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Alvin Bailey (OL) – undrafted free agent

Williams has finished his first two seasons on the IR and might not be on the roster come September.  Bailey is depth along our offensive line who can play four positions.  Michael has been a third string running back who has been inactive more often than not; it doesn’t appear he’ll ever get a chance to be a starter with this team as long as Lynch is around.  Hill came on in the second half of 2014 as a strong part of our defensive tackle rotation, so hopes are high that can continue.  Simon has made some spot-starts and looked okay – though he’s been picked on quite a bit, and hasn’t come away as well as Maxwell did when he took over the starting spot opposite Sherman.  Willson spent most of 2014 as our #1 tight end and for the most part did pretty well.  I’m not convinced yet that he can be a #1 tight end forever, but he’s a great #2 or #3 tight end.

Here’s our 2014 draft class that remains:

  • Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Justin Britt (OT)
  • Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Eric Pinkins (DB)
  • Garry Gilliam (OL) – undrafted free agent
  • Brock Coyle (LB) – undrafted free agent

While there’s not really a prize jewel of the 2013, there are enough role players in that group to make it “good enough”, with the potential for greatness if either Michael or Simon somehow pans out.  The 2014 class has a higher upside, in spite of the fact that only four guys managed to make it all the way to the end without being put on IR.

Britt is obviously the biggest “get” in the group, as he started right away at right tackle – a position of need going into the season.  He played nearly every game and was good enough to be considered a starter going forward.  He’s not perfect, but you have to like all the experience he got.  He’ll heal up from his nagging injuries, get stronger going into next year, and we should see a nice boost out of him in year two.

I’m really high on Cassius Marsh.  He tops out as a starting defensive end opposite Michael Bennett (while eventually replacing him when Bennett retires or is let go at/near the end of his deal).  His floor, though, is what makes me happy, as I think at worst he’s still a rotational guy who can play both inside (on passing downs) and outside (on any down).  Considering we still have Bennett, Avril, and Irvin going into next season, if Marsh can stay healthy, I don’t think we have to invest a whole lot in our outside pass rush (the interior rush is another story, of course).

Richardson and Norwood are the wild cards of this class.  If they both pan out, we could be talking about this group in ways we talk about the draft classes of 2010-2012.  If just one sticks, I still think we’re happy.  If they both flame out, then we wasted two draft picks in an area of great need for this team.  I thought Richardson really started to come on at the end of the year, but obviously his torn ACL makes him a question mark going forward.  If he returns (and yes, it’s an “if” in this scenario), will he be the same guy?  Will he have the speed required to make it in the league?  Will he inevitably injure it again?  Remember, he had the same injury in college, to the same knee.  As for Norwood, it might be unfair, but I think we all expected a little more out of him.  The phrase “security blanket” has been used quite a bit with him.  Hopefully, being healthy and having a year’s experience under his belt will help him grow in year two.  We’ll need it, that’s for sure.

The other guys are longshots.  KPL figures to be a depth guy and a special teams standout if he can stay healthy.  Staten probably tops out as a rotational tackle on our defensive line, and probably one who isn’t active very often.  Pinkins was drafted to be another tall cornerback, but it doesn’t look like he has the ability and will probably be moved back to safety (where, obviously, we’re pretty well stocked).  Either Pinkins sticks as a backup to Kam, or he gets cut.  Gilliam is more offensive line depth.  And Coyle is a special teams guy and an okay backup to Bobby Wagner.  It wouldn’t shock me to see any of these guys get the ax at the end of Training Camp this year, if the right people come along to replace them.

There are certainly guys you like out of the 2013 & 2014 draft classes – even guys who project to be starters – but there aren’t many (if any) superstars in the bunch.  I know it’s hard, when you’re consistently drafting near the end of the first round every year, but then again, this is the team that has managed to make 4th & 5th rounders into superstars.  Here’s to hoping we get another diamond in the rough in this year’s class to keep the good vibes rolling.

Dan Quinn Is Going To Atlanta

What’s sort of getting lost in all the excitement of the Super Bowl this week is that Dan Quinn is all but officially the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.  I know for a fact once the game is over, this will be a much bigger deal locally, as there will be an almost-immediate search for the candidate to replace Quinn as our defensive coordinator.

For starters, you have to give congratulations to Quinn.  I think he’s certainly deserving, given his body of work to date, and I honestly believe he’ll be one of the better head coaches to come out of this year’s circus.  I think Quinn and the coordinator from Arizona – turned Jets head coach – will have the most success of the ragtag crew that’s been hired this year.  I’ll also say this:  it’s about damn time!

Teams are idiots.  If the best head coaching candidate just so happens to be a coordinator on a Super Bowl team, why WOULDN’T you wait the extra two or three weeks to make sure you made the right choice?  It seems absolutely silly to do otherwise!  Is the “head start” you’ll get with those extra couple weeks going to make up for the years of wasted seasons because you hired the wrong guy?  This is the NFL!  The head coach in the NFL is more important than the head coach in any other sport!  To settle for less is ridiculous, and all those teams last year who missed out on Dan Quinn will rue the day when he turns things around in Atlanta.

From a Seahawks perspective, we have to suffer a lot of downside for not much upside in this move.  The upside is, I guess, we get to take pride in the fact that our success breeds a coaching tree that will see its branches spread throughout the league.  It’s the price you gotta pay for all the winning you do.  Would I trade away Dan Quinn if it means winning two Super Bowls with him?  Absolutely.  But, is it going to hurt to have him leave?  Again, absolutely.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do to replace Quinn.  Kris Richard, our secondary coach, is a hot name right now.  Some were saying he might follow Quinn to Atlanta to be his defensive coordinator, but those talks may have cooled.  Odds are, the Seahawks promote from within, which I think is the best move.  You reward your best players with long-term contracts; why wouldn’t you reward your best coaches with promotions?

The elephant in the room right now that nobody wants to talk about is:  how much is Dan Quinn thinking about his new job ahead of the task at hand?  This type of thinking gets dismissed pretty quickly, but it’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world to consider.  Especially if we lose this game and the defense looks terrible!  Do I think his impending hire in Atlanta will affect his duties this week?  No.  The man has pride in his craft as I’m sure most coaches do.  But, at the same time, he’s only human.  He’s probably got a million ideas running through his head about how he’s going to do things once he’s running the show; it’s not like you can just sweep those thoughts under the rug for a week.  The real question should be:  are we getting the most out of our coordinator this week, or at least, as much as we would if he didn’t have a job offer sitting right there on the table?

I dunno.  I’m not too worried about it.  Let’s just hope the Seahawks win and the whole argument is moot.