Seahawks Mid-Season Review

It was either write this, or go out in the cold and the rain (on Halloween night; yes, I wrote this ahead of time because I’m out of town all weekend) and engage in socializing with actual human beings.  I think I made a huge, crippling mistake with my life the right choice.

Some people like to hit up a Position-By-Position breakdown, some people like to bust out with a bunch of graphs and .gifs, some people like to give out arbitrary grades to players.  I like to ramble and throw everything on the page in an incoherent gumbo.  And I like to revert back to my pre-season predictions to see where I went right, and usually where I went horribly, horribly wrong.

To start, I think I was spot on about this defense:  they thrive on leads.  Big leads!  Big double-digit leads where the other team is scrambling to get back into it.  If you can figure out a way to get a 3-score lead on another team, they become desperate:  not only do they have to score three times, but they have to stop you three times.  The more we let teams hang around (like San Francisco, like Detroit), the more they’re able to walk us down.  Dinking and dunking, converting third downs, finding holes in our defensive line, finding holes in our secondary.  It allows the other team to maintain their gameplans:  short, quick passes so our fast, athletic defensive ends don’t have enough time to get around the edge and harass the quarterback.  I don’t care how great your secondary is:  if you can’t pressure the quarterback, you’re going to get beat.

So, that’s one thing you notice.  The Seahawks haven’t had any great leads.  Make no mistake, the Seahawks have had a lead in every single game.  Here are the biggest leads the Seahawks have had in each of their first eight games:

  1. @ Arizona – 3 points
  2. vs. Dallas – 20 points (but their biggest 1st half lead was only 10 points)
  3. vs. Green Bay – 7 points
  4. @ St. Louis – 7 points
  5. @ Carolina – 6 points
  6. vs. New England – 3 points
  7. @ San Francisco – 3 points
  8. @ Detroit – 10 points

Aside from that Dallas game (which was only a 6-point game at halftime, which turned into a rout in the second half), the Seahawks have either been frantically coming from behind or holding tenuous leads.  Which means our defense has either needed to get a huge stop to hold the lead, or they’ve needed to force a turnover to try to shift the momentum our way.  We have yet to see the full potential of this defense, because we have yet to really impose our offensive will and let our defense put their feet down on the other team’s necks.

An astute quote from my pre-season analysis:

As for Detroit, the good news is we get 10 days to try to figure out how to stop them.  The bad news is, they still have Calvin Johnson and there’s no way we stop them with Calvin Johnson.  This is where we really question whether or not our defense is as good as advertised, as we give up another over-30 game and lose 31-24.

Just substitute “Calvin Johnson” for “Titus Young”, and I’m damn near perfect with that whole series of words.  Because that’s ALL we’ve been doing this week is questioning whether or not our defense is as good as advertised.  Granted, the Seahawks haven’t given up 30+ points yet this season, but the actual score of that Detroit game was 28-24, so there.  I was off by 3 points.

Funny thing about my predictions, I’m ALMOST there.  Obviously, that particular post happened after the Arizona game (which I incorrectly guessed the week prior), but after that I had us beating Dallas and I even said this about the Green Bay game:

… I like us every time we play on Monday Night, no matter the opponent.  I think that’s one where we can sneak up on Green Bay and pull it out at the last second.

How about THAT?  Damn right we pulled it out at the last second!  Of course, I thought for sure we would lose to New England (and it damn near happened).  I had us losing in St. Louis but beating Carolina, and I had us losing both San Fran and Detroit.  Had I written that post in a timely fashion, I would’ve had us 4-4 anyway.  It just turned out that we lost the Arizona game we should’ve won and we won the New England game we probably should’ve lost.

For the record, I thought we’d win the next two (vs. Minnesota and the Jets) and I still do, but that’s a thought for the end of the season.

Now, the big numero uno major high-five super special story of this season has been and will continue to be Russell Wilson.  You can’t talk about 2012 Seahawks without talking about this guy and pretty much ONLY this guy.  He’s the future of the franchise!  Now, that future can be bright, filled with Super Bowls and Lombardi Trophies, or that future can be a desolate, Jacksonvillian wasteland where Pete Carroll gets fired and we’re drafting another quarterback (this time in the first round) in 2-3 years.  In the pre-season post, I’m on record as having drunk the Kool Aid.  So far … I’ve managed to hold the Kool Aid down, but it’s been trouble.

Because I fucking love lists, here are Russell Wilson’s passing totals through eight games:

  1. 18/34 (52.9%), 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 62.5 rating (Loss)
  2. 15/20 (75.0%), 151 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 112.7 rating (Win)
  3. 10/21 (47.6%), 130 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 99.3 rating (Win)
  4. 17/25 (68.0%), 160 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, 45.8 rating (Loss)
  5. 19/25 (76.0%), 221 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 82.2 rating (Win)
  6. 16/27 (59.3%), 293 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, 133.7 rating (Win)
  7. 9/23 (39.1%), 122 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 38.7 rating (Loss)
  8. 25/35 (71.4%), 236 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 96.8 rating (Loss)

Aside from Game #7 (which was at San Francisco – probably the greatest defense in the NFL – and which featured a number of high-profile drops by receivers which drastically shifted the complexion of that game), you see a guy who has improved dramatically from his first four games to his last four games.  Here’s the official breakdown:

  • First Four:  60/100 (60%), 594 yards, 4 TDs, 4 INT
  • Last Four:  69/110 (62.7%), 872 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INT

Look, it’s not the MOST dramatic growth spurt you’ve ever seen, but he’s gone from averaging 148.5 yards per game to 218 yards per game.  It’s not NOTHING!  If he maintains this trajectory, he’ll finally be reliably good over the next four games and he’ll be elite in the last four games of the season!

If you’re like me and you came from a position of believing this team would PROBABLY be 8-8, then what did you really want to see?  You wanted no grotesque injuries (which have thus far been avoided, apologies to Obomanu) and you wanted to have a belief in Russell Wilson.  That he will get better as the season progresses and that he can show you he will someday be an elite quarterback in the NFL (and not the CFL).  Preferably someday soon.  Preferably next year.

You wanted this team to be 8-8 because that would likely mean next year the Seahawks could contend for 12-4.  Anything less than 8-8 would likely be a disappointment; anything better than 8-8 would be gravy.

I think if you look at this team now and what it has accomplished thus far, 8-8 would be a huge disappointment.  But, is it still unrealistic?

I think the Seahawks can still lose that game against the 49ers.  I think the Seahawks go into Miami and Chicago after the BYE and come back home 0-2 from those trips.  That leaves one other stumbling block.  Do the Seahawks lose this weekend to Minnesota?  Do the Jets figure out some crazy gameplan and pull it out in the end?  Do the Seahawks continue their pathetic road play in Toronto against the Bills?

It’s not impossible, is what I’m saying.  At this point, probably the worst-case scenario is still 8-8.  Best case?  The Seahawks go into the BYE 6-4, they win 1 of 2 against Miami/Chicago to be 7-5, then they win out to go 11-5.  If I had to bet my life savings (which isn’t all that much, honestly; mostly a Roomba, a 1980 Camaro, and a flat-screen TV I use as a computer monitor), I say the Seahawks finish 9-7 and miss out on the playoffs by one game.

Still, for THIS team, 9-7 is fucking fantastic!

On an individual basis, I love what Beastmode has done thus far.  He’s averaging almost 95 yards a game with nearly 5 yards per carry.  You probably like to see more than 3 TDs out of your running game combined, but this team has been breaking in a rookie quarterback.  Other teams are going to load the box and make you beat them through the air.  The fact that this running game has done as well as it has says remarkable things about Beastmode and Tom Cable.  And don’t forget Guns Turbin!  You don’t ask a lot out of your rookie change-of-pace back; he’s delivered and then some.  Over 4 yards per carry, no turnovers, and what I can only assume is some decent blocking (otherwise, would he play as often as he does?).

Where I think this running game could improve is in two areas.  I think we need to utilize it more in short-yardage situations.  We currently sit 6th in the league in rushing for first downs, but I feel like that could be a little higher if we just committed more.  I’m not saying that because I want us to shelter Wilson; just the opposite, I want him to experience as much as he can in his first year so he’s ready to come out on fire in Year 2.  I just feel like instead of trying to pass on all these third and shorts, we could be running for them and MAKING them.  The other area involves Wilson himself:  I think he could be tucking the ball and running more.  Not around the end on the right side, going backwards ten yards before trying to head up field; I mean going up the gut.  Be smart about it!  Slide whenever you can.  But, there’s a reason why Pete Carroll covets mobile quarterbacks to run his football teams:  because they can RUN.

The receivers obviously aren’t elite, but I think they’re working their asses off and I think they get too much of a bad rap.  People like to blame them constantly for Wilson’s struggles when, in reality, they’re actually wide open, we just can’t see it because we’re watching Wilson check down or run wildly for his life around the pocket.  Granted, that 49er game was terrible.  But, aside from that, and MAYBE one or two passes in the Arizona game, I don’t think drops have been as big of a deal as people make them out to be.

What I like is all the times we’ve tried to go down field.  Even though this passing game is in its infancy with Russell Wilson (and even though they started the season with the clamps firmly in place on the playbook), we’ve still been able to connect on a significant number of deep balls.  Now, once he starts nailing those intermediate routes with more consistency, then we’ll know we’ve got something.  But, it’s a good sign that things are starting to open up more and more.  I would expect a lot of improvement out of the receivers (provided they can stay healthy) in the second half.

Another thing you like to see is the reduction in penalties over the last three games (two of which were on the road, one of which came after Crybaby Harbaugh whined to the NFL about how rough we play defense).  Here’s the breakdown:

  1. 13 for 90 yards
  2. 5 for 35 yards
  3. 14 for 118 yards
  4. 5 for 55 yards
  5. 7 for 65 yards
  6. 4 for 35 yards
  7. 3 for 20 yards
  8. 2 for 10 yards

Now, I wouldn’t expect that number to ever get down to zero for zero yards – because no matter how disciplined they can be, this defense will still get some calls to go against them – but I think it’s a good sign that we’re seeing less of those UNdisciplined penalties.  Offsides, false starts, offensive holding, delay of game, personal fouls.  The one huge worry about a Pete Carroll team is a perceived lack of discipline.  It’s nice to see, in these last three games, that Pete can coach a brand of football where his players respect the rules.  Offensive penalties kill more drives than inept play for this team.  And defensive penalties kill this team that already has a problem getting off on third down.

What to look for in the second half:

  • Fix that third down problem I was just talking about.
  • Overall as a defense, be better.  Show this league you belong in the discussion as a Top 5 unit.  Don’t just be brash and headline-grabbing with your mid-week antics; go out there on Sunday and ram it down the other team’s throat!
  • A steadily improving Russell Wilson.  He IS improving.  Remember this season, because in the years to come you’ll wonder how you got to be so lucky.
  • A steadily improving running game.  That’s just a byproduct of a steadily improving Russell Wilson, but it’s bound to be there.
  • More points.  This team has averaged 17.5 points per game through the first half.  For the record, that’s exactly 17.5 points in the first four games and exactly 17.5 points in the last four games.  I would look to see this team around 20 points per game average by season’s end.
  • More close games.  There are opportunities for blowouts here and there, but for the most part this team isn’t going to turn it on like the flip of a switch.  You’re still going to see Russell Wilson driving in the fourth quarter needing a touchdown.  That’s good.  The more he accomplishes now, the better he’ll be in the future.

Try not to let this team drive you crazy.  Obviously, in the moment, this team WILL drive you crazy.  But, always keep this thought in the back of your mind:  the Seahawks won’t win the Super Bowl this year.  The Seahawks WON’T win the Super Bowl this year.  It’s fun to dream once in a while, but it’s better for your sanity to be realistic.  You can start thinking about Super Bowls next year.  This year, just focus on improvement.  This isn’t like what we were doing with the Mariners this past season; this is TANGIBLE improvement.  Guys actually getting better, not guys you hope MIGHT get better in a year or two.  Guys getting better before our eyes.  Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and Guns Turbin and Golden Tate and Richard Sherman (as scary as that sounds, since he was already pretty great last year) and Earl Thomas (again, scary, for the rest of the NFL that is) and Bruce Irvin and Pancakes Carpenter and Brandon Mebane (who, if he isn’t a Pro Bowler this year, will suffer the greatest injustice since Brendan Ryan not winning the Gold Glove for short stop).

All of those guys and more make up the core of a dynamic team that will be great probably for the next decade.  A team that will steadily compete for NFC West titles and Super Bowl Championships.  It’s not meant to be in 2012, but lucky for me and you the world won’t end in 2012.  And if it does, what have we really missed out on?  The next Super Bowl is in 2013 anyway!

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