Against the 49ers, there were moments of despair, glory, and encouragement.
The first half offense: Don’t worry, T Jac gets a whole topic for himself (see below). It was a miserable showing by this offense in the first half. Lynch looked like Shaun Alexander’s un-glory days, rushing 7 times for 6 yards, dancing behind the line. Receivers couldn’t get open, defensive pressure never allowed plays to develop, and the final stats were 4 three-and-outs, one sack and fumble on 3rd down, and an interception on a Hail Mary to end it. The first drive of the game would have been a 3-and-out had there been no roughing the kicker penalty. The Seahawks offense looked like the worst offensive unit in the league and went into halftime down 16-0 thanks to the defense keeping San Fran to three field goals. There was no rhythm, no momentum, and no consistency.
Tarvaris Jackson: Two quick anecdotes. 1) I was watching the Hawks-Vikes preseason game at a bar down by the CLink, and ended up getting tickets to the game after halftime. We sat next to a Vikings fan and I asked him if Jackson was really as bad as he looked. He said “I couldn’t be happier he’s gone from Minnesota.” 2) On Sunday, I was watching the game with a good friend of mine and he made the comment “It doesn’t matter if you’re fast on your feet when you’re slow in the head.”
Now I don’t hate Tarvaris Jackson, and I still maintain he was the best available option for the Seahawks, but he needs to dramatically improve his decision making and pocket presence if he wants to continue to be an NFL starter. When the offensive line broke down, he was pressured into poor throws/ sacked. When the line gave him good protection, he held on to the ball too long, and was, again, pressured. If the line created a nice pocket, he’d take too many steps back, step up contemplating a throw or run, or move too far left/ right for the tackles to maintain their blocks. He made a few nice throws; the TD to Tate had good touch over two hands and between two defenders, and the read on Baldwin was his second progression (so it seemed, after Zach Miller) and a good call in zone coverage. Jackson showed better poise and ability in the second half, but I was overall unimpressed with his performance. The problem is I don’t think Hasselbeck or Whitehurst could have done any better, so I’m taking a wait and see approach before I jump to anything.
Officiating: It’s not an especially “bad” part of the game, but I’m venting. I thought we were watching football, not an NBA playoff game; tell David Akers he’s a worse flopper than Ron Artest. I literally spit out my beer in anger…and then got angry I spit out my beer. My game notes: “absolutely ridiculous roughing call, **** Akers.” Browner was also called for two more questionable plays: the P.I. that set up Smith’s rushing TD, and his ‘block in the back’ that nullified Leon’s good return.
Side note: Bill Leavy will be officiating our skirmish this Sunday against the Steelers. Remember him?
That’s all I have to say about that.
Special Teams: Obviously, giving up two returns for a touchdown is unacceptable. That needs to change; you, I, and, most importantly, the coaches know that, so I won’t dwell or even expand on it. What bothers me is Leon Washington’s penchant for returning what should have been touchbacks, and the consistently poor field position. This offense does not have the fire power to drive 85 yards every time it gets the ball.
The second half comeback: As Clare Farnsworth said, “in the first half, we were wondering if this team was going to score at all in the game- if they would score at all this season”. After halftime, the offense played with confidence and rhythm, converting key third downs and making plays through the air. Lynch ran with a purpose, instead of making highlights for his ‘Dancing with the Stars’ audition tape. I hope the running game can be more effective to start games, to prevent quick deficits and the subsequent change of game plan. Jackson, in the second half, showed greater accuracy and poise, and gave me the slightest bit of confidence for the season.
Doug Baldwin: I liked what I saw in his work this preseason and I like what I saw last Sunday. I’ll refrain from my “Doug Baldwin is a STUD” drivel (at least until next week), but he looks the part. He made a couple nice catches in the slot, and that TD catch from the right side. When/if Sidney Rice plays, Baldwin will be a nice complement in the slot and backup on the outside. If/when Rice gets/stays injured, I have confidence in Baldwin’s ability on the outside. Our receiving corps looks pretty solid, especially with Miller taking passes from the TE spot. I hope Miller won’t pull John Carlson duty and be forced to block with Michael Robinson injured.
Defense: If there was one bright spot from the 49ers game, it’s the defensive play. Our D Line looks like the same run-stopping force it did to start last year. They took the serial Hawk killer Frank Gore out of the game, despite a couple nice runs. Vernon Davis was relatively quiet (though that pass to his back shoulder was spectacular). The defense showed excellent poise, made good reads on screens (which is refreshing after recent years), and remained stout when it mattered, despite a few demoralizing QB scrambles. They applied consistent pass pressure, though the stats don’t reflect it, and I look forward to watching this defense against stronger competition.
Offensive play calling: In recent years, I’ve become more and more perplexed with the offensive play calling. It’s usually predictable, either by the situation or the formation shown. There’s been very little pre-snap movement, and very little experimentation and risk. If it’s first down, Hasselbeck will throw a 3 yard slant, or Alexander will run right guard for 2 yards. If it’s third and 8, Forsett will run a draw for 6 yards. There will be no throws past ten yards, no misdirection in the run game, and third down passes will be thrown in front of the first down marker. That’s what I’m used to. Call it West Coast, call it conservative, call it playing to your strengths, but I call it boring.
It was nice this week to see the team throw an effective screen. That Obomanu reverse was an excellent call. Getting Mike Williams some short throws will take pressure of the O-Line and Jackson, so it was good to see him get involved in the second half. I’m hoping Rice’s return will open the playbook for deeper passes. If the second half is any indication of this year’s offensive play calling, I look forward to it.
Growth: As has been repeatedly stated, the Hawks offense was a different group in the second half. Teams that show the ability to overcome deficits and adversity are the ones that win championships. The O-Line, T Jac, and the run game looked better. The run and pass defenses were superb. After mounting a comeback, it felt like the momentum would ride the Hawks to a win, and, obviously, because of poor special teams play, that never came to fruition. It was tough to lose to a division rival, sure, but Pete Carroll will use the second half to motivate this team for next week. He knows what this team is capable of; he saw the defense hold its own through the entire game and the offense furiously mount a comeback. If the team wasn’t pumped and jacked already, it should be for what’s to come. The next few weeks will test the team chemistry, and the strong competition should give the young guys a healthy look at what it is to play in this league. I think the team is off to a good start growing, learning, and playing together, and that they can thrive, prosper, and win together. Eventually.