It was good to see the offense move the ball. Alright, it was a god damn relief to see the offense able to move the ball. The running game picked up and the passing game played off that. The third offensive line combo in three games played OK against a respectable pass rush.
1) The Rice Factor:
Sidney Rice has a significant effect on the production of this offense. Jackson trusts him more than BMW, though both receivers have similar skill sets. Rice is a playmaker and Carroll loves him some playmakers. He made a few great catches and I enjoyed seeing the juxtaposition between his and Fitzgerald’s play over the course of the game; I think Rice can have Fitzgeraldesque production with the right QB and play calling. I was actually surprised to see he had such good chemistry with Jackson, considering they didn’t show much together in Minny. On TJack’s TD run, his first read was Rice, who was covered, and his second was Mike Williams who he said was open but didn’t feel comfortable throwing to (not because it was Mike, but because he thought he’d be late on the throw). I wonder if he’d had thrown it to Sidney in that situation. Nonetheless, Rice opens the playbook and occupies the defense, which I would imagine is part of what helped the run game get going. Bevell needs to do everything he can to get the ball to Rice. He’s an asset to this team’s ability to win.
2) Drive Momentum:
Going back to that TD drive, during the 14 plays and 72 yards, I think the up-tempo offense was key. I’d like to see more no-huddle, fast pacing throughout the year, especially after big plays. The 32-yard Rice reception would have been a good opportunity to sustain momentum, as would after Leon’s explosive 21-yard run. I hope the coaching staff saw how the tempo of the TD drive impacted the offense’s overall play. I hope they’ll incorporate that wrinkle into game planning. It seemed like every time the offense was clicking, either a penalty or negative play would absolutely kill the momentum. Young guys need that confidence.
3) Beating Pressure:
Pete Carroll said his play of the game was Anthony McCoy’s fumble recovery. My (offensive) play of the game is Rice’s WR screen. It was 13-10 Hawks at that point, Feely had just missed his second field goal which would have tied the game, 5:30 left in the fourth. The momentum shifts to the Hawks, Lynch runs for 1 yard on first down as the AZ defense becomes more aggressive, focusing on the run to try to force a quick 3-and-out and regain possession. 2nd and 9, Jackson throws short right. Rice gets some blockers and takes it 23 yards, from our own 40, to the AZ 37.
The next series stalled, but that screen to Rice was huge. Opposing defenses know they can punish our O-Line, and screens are an effective way to beat pressure. It was a play I never would have expected from our normally vanilla offense, and it’s good to see this wrinkle used. The Falcons have a pretty solid pass rush and run defense, and expect to have the lead throughout the game. I’d like to see more successful screens to set up double move routes, open running lanes, and take some pressure off the OLine. They’re like play-action; all you need is the threat to open up an offense.