Overcoaching: Vol 3. Super Bowl XLIX Edition

Super Bowl XLIX was a great game but the end left a lot of fans empty as Seattle opted for a pass from the 1 with seconds left to play. Immediately I railed it was the worst play call in Super Bowl history on social media. Many former NFLers agreed. So after a small hiatus my thought hadn’t changed and now it was time to revisit another classic case of overcoaching in the NFL.

03_ball_grand_canyon_1_hi_nat1366First off… if anyone thinks the Seattle  throwing that pass at the one yard line was the right play call, then they think Vince Lombardi called the wrong play on the final play of the Ice Bowl. Its that simple. One of his philosophies played out at the goal line during the final seconds of both the 1966 & 1967 NFL Championship Games.

Lombardi’s philosophy was in a pressure situation, players would make mistakes in Tom Landry’s complicated offense. The Cowboys had the ball at the 2 with less than 2 minutes to go down 34-27. They had momentum and had just scored on the drive previous. True to form T Jim Bokeim had a false start… remember they did a lot of shifting on the line. On the final play, which was a rollout, RG Leon Donohue ran past Packer LB Dave Robinson instead of blocking him. Robinson hurried Don Meredith into a game ending endzone interception.

The rubber match for the Ice  Bowl (1967 championship) saw the reverse as the Packers were down to the 2 yard line with less than 2 minutes to go. After two plays and a final timeout, Green Bay was at the 1 with :16 left down 17-14. Where Tom Landry was heard yelling “watch Starr on the rollout”, Lombardi’s Packers went with a QB sneak to win the game. A simplified play.  Years later in recalling Lombardi’s philosophy, G Jerry Kramer said “When the game or life is on the line, you don’t gamble and you put your faith in the defensive player’s chest.”

A philosophy the Seattle Seahawks had believed in until the 1 minute mark of Super Bowl XLIX. Some new age philosophies have made coaches overthink and overcoach situations lately. Ever since that Monday Night game where Brian Westbrook had that breakaway run at the end of the game against the Dallas Cowboys and slid down to run out the clock, people have been overcoaching end of game scenarios.

However I said it right after…that was the same play call the Titans went with in Super Bowl XXXIV when Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson at the 1 yard line also. That stacked receiver slant is 0-2 in late Super Bowl moments. Truth is they should have run the ball twice with the read option and kept it on the ground. They should have immediately run a play after Lynch made it to the 1.

Fist lets take a look at the early stages of the game when Marshawn Lynch scored to tie the game at 7.

You’ll note the first run Lynch face initial contact at the 9 ans made it to the 6 1/2 yard line. Then on the touchdown he faced initial contact at the two and powered to more than a yard into the endzone. He’s the best contact runner since Corey Dillon and he was constantly falling forward during the game.

Now we get to the fateful last plays of Super Bowl XLIX.


Had Seattle rushed to the line of scrimmage with the 1:06 left (after Lynch made it to the 1) New England may have let them score (another bone head new age move) to ensure Brady would have a chance with the football and more clock. Don’t tell me Belichick doesn’t think that way because he was lauded for his taking a late game safety against Denver 10 years ago so the Patriots would get the ball back with time and field position… Had Seattle got up and rushed to the line, New England also wouldn’t have sent in their goal line 3 corners package where Seattle would have been better suited to block. Wasn’t that why Pete Carroll said they were wasting a play??

By not rushing back to the line the Seahawks overcoached the situation. There comes a time where coaches have to drop those silly play charts and coach on guts. Lynch had gained positive yards after contact on all of his runs. Even his last carry he broke a tackle at the 4 and made it to the 1. Had they hurried and faced the same defense the next play you don’t think he scores from the 1?? That same personnel he powered through for their first touchdown and 3 yards after contact.

Bill Belichick was saving all of his timeouts and let the clock run down to :32 seconds before Seattle snapped the football.

Yet alas Malcolm Butler ended the Seahawks bid for back to back Super Bowl championships. Coaches have to get back to owning each situation and score first and win the game. Don’t sit and speculate when you can or even if you will score on a later play. You just have to trust your defense. If you can think back to Super Bowl XLVI between the Patriots and the Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw tried not to score when he “accidently” fell in the endzone. Taking a 17-15 lead, the Giant defense held off Tom Brady in that one. You have to rely on your defense.

Another clear case of overcoaching and now Seattle has to let this fester as they ponder an opportunity lost. It could fuel their trip to Super Bowl L in San Francisco’s new stadium. Stay tuned…

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NFL Kickoff : Seattle Seahawks v. Green Bay Packers

Once upon a time the Green Bay Packers traveled to play a young team led by Pete Carroll on a Monday night in week 3 of 2012. That game ended in a debated Hail Mary that dominated the headlines the following morning. What Packer fans and pundits forgot was the fact the Seahawk defense chased Aaron Rodgers out of Qwest Field. They sacked him 8 times in the game with 7 of those coming in the first half.

Can the Seahawks repeat?? Absolutely

Can the Seahawks repeat?? Absolutely

In that game Rodgers never adjusted to the noise and neither has the rest of the league. Since that game the Seahawks are 21-1 over nearly 2 seasons since the “Fail Mary.” Seattle joined the league’s elite where the Packers slipped to the 2nd tier of playoff teams. Last year they made the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record and that isn’t elite.

Can Green Bay crack the Seattle defense on the road?

Can Green Bay crack the Seattle defense on the road?

Did you know the Green Bay Packers are 8-7 on the road since that game?? Ooops make that 8-8 on the road if you include the “Fail Mary” game. Well….upon further review, if we include the 2012 playoff loss to the 49ers they are 8-9 on the road. Now they have to go in to play a team returning 11 of 12 starters on a defense that had one of the best seasons in NFL history and win?? On a night where the 12th man will be rowdy as they raise their first ever league championship banner??

The key to the Packers winning is Eddie Lacy running right at the Seahawk defense.

The key to the Packers winning is Eddie Lacy running right at the Seahawk defense.

Only one way for the Pack to pull off a stunner… They have to run Eddie Lacy at the Packers on direct power running plays. Screens and trickery won’t work against the Seahawks since they rarely blitz. If the Packers try these plays the Seahawk defenders will beat Green Bay blockers to the point out in space.

Another factor is the history of Pete Carroll coached teams in big games. Aaron Rodgers will struggle with this pass rush and secondary tonight. Green Bay’s receivers can win mismatches against an average secondary. Not this one…and not when they are healthy.

The other is Packer coach Mike McCarthy who has a penchant for abandoning the running game. Tonight is the night he has to coach against those tendencies and he won’t do it. He wants to showcase his quarterback and this is looking like a shutout to The Chancellor of Football. Tonight 29-0 as Seattle is on their way to defending their Super Bowl championship.

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Next up: 2014 NFC West Preview

2014 Seattle Seahawks Preview – The Birth of a Dynasty?

As time wound down toward the end of Super Bowl XLVIII, there were several questions floating around Met Life Stadium. Was this one of the NFL’s greatest defenses?? Are we looking at the birth of a dynasty out in Seattle?? The first question is a resounding yes and the next question can’t be answered for a few years. Yet one point definitely remains, how can the Seahawks not be the odds on favorite to defend their crown in Super Bowl XLIX out in Arizona next February??

The Legion of Boom leads one of the best defenses in NFL history.

The Legion of Boom leads one of the best defenses in NFL history.

They just re-signed WR Sidney Rice to bolster the receiving corps along with a healthy Percy Harvin. The front office just signed Pro Bowl S Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sheman to long-term deals. It’s only a matter of time before they ink a deal with QB Russell Wilson.

Next is the feel good story that shapes the Seahawks different from other NFL franchises from a culture standpoint. The signing of 6th round pick OT Garrett Scott knowing he had a heart condition, allows him his full compensation of $550,000 even though they had to release him. Guarantee that struck a positive chord in every player across the league. If you thought free agents wanted to play for Seattle now, this move will resonate for years to come.

Quarterback: The Seahawks seem slated for a 7-10 year run with Russell Wilson at the helm. Yet make no mistake he still has to improve his ability to go through his progressions within the structure of the offense.

Russell Wilson keeps plays alive with his legs if they're not there initially.

Russell Wilson keeps plays alive with his legs if they’re not there initially.

Think back to the NFC Championship where Russell was really in a slump. Up until that 4th quarter touchdown bomb to Jermaine Kearse, we weren’t sure Wilson could make a play to end the ball game. Too many times if his first read wasn’t there, he’d take off. Coach Pete Carroll’s staff does a great job in calling play action roll-outs and half rolls where he has two reads. Sure this limits throws to half the field. However Wilson’s decision making of when to run or when to throw has been great. It was off kilter for those first two playoff games though.

For the season, Wilson completed 63.1% of his passes for 3,357 yards 26TDs to only 9 interceptions. Terrific numbers but his game has to evolve. When the Seahawks are in shotgun they normally run slants and go routes. Teams will adjust and start throwing zone blitzes in an attempt to force him to be hesitant and cut off running lanes with speed. The Seahawks also should watch for delayed blitzes designed for him to pull the ball down and scramble into an area where a defender will be headed.

If The Chancellor of Football has seen this on film, you better believe Jeff Fisher, Bruce Arrians, and Jim Harbaugh within the division have. Yet because of his decision making and ability to run, their playoff level at quarterback.

Offensive Backfield: For all the conversation, the NFL is a passing league and the running back has been devalued, here is exhibit A on quite the contrary.  Marshawn Lynch is the attitude and toughness of his team. From an X’s and O’s standpoint his downhill running style is why Russell Wilson is effective.  Teams have to honor that stretch run which makes the play fake so successful. When they don’t, Lynch bursts through for 4.2 yards per carry. Last year he did so while running for 1,257 yards and a career best 12 touchdowns.

Marshawn Lynch is the key to Seattle winning this game.

Lynch is the tone setter for the Seahawks.

Lynch runs with fury and reminds The Chancellor of Marion ‘The Barbarian”Barber yet he doesn’t seem likely to burn out in the next year or so. He sets the tone for the entire Seahawk football team. This year they may have to spell him in games to keep him fresh for the stretch run. If he’s able to power the team to another Super Bowl win, his resume becomes a Hall of Fame one. Still Super Bowl quality at running back.

Receiver: This is where the offense needs improvement the most. A rejuvenated Sidney Rice could help them stretch the field. Doug Baldwin is a gritty receiver who won’t wow you but slips to get open when Wilson scrambles and catches passes in traffic.

However the Seahawks have a serious jolt of speed with 2nd round selection Paul Richardson. If Harvin can stay healthy, this group could be lethal from multiple receiver (3 or more WR) sets on the field. First is where will Harvin line up?? In a slot position? Wing Back? Out of the backfield. While opponents concentrate on Percy, the Seahawks now have several receivers who can get deep.

The player who should be on the field more this year is Jermaine Kearse. Going into his 3rd year he should fully know the system. He just passes the eyeball test at there is more potential to his play than Baldwin. This year will also be a full year with Percy Harvin in the mix. This is still a receiver by committee group. If Sidney Rice can be the player he once was this could be a playoff caliber group. As of right now they’re average.

Offensive Line: The most misleading statistic afforded this team all year would be the 44 sacks allowed in 2013. How many times on rolls and scrambles were defenders able to track down Wilson to shove him out of bounds behind the line?? Those are recorded as sacks. Yet it’s a give and take scenario with Wilson making a rusher miss when protection breaks down.

Led by Pro Bowl Center Max Unger, this is a relatively young line with no starter past his fifth season. In pounding up the middle, Seattle in obvious power situations (3rd/4th & 2 or less) converted 60% of the time. For a straight ahead running team with 509 rushing attempts, to be tied for 5th in the league with just 6 negative rushing plays, says a lot about their blocking. When you can power your team to 2,188 yards, 14 TDs, and a 4.3 yard average, you’re playoff caliber up front.

Defensive Line: Now the best off-season move last year happened on day two of free agency when they plucked DE Cliff Avril, formerly of the Detroit Lions. His addition along with Michael Bennett allowed the team to terrorize opponents with a 3 DE alignment in Nickle and Dime sub packages. Bennett had 8 1/2 sacks while lined up inside Avril who had 8 as well. These two combined for 10 forced fumbles that usually broke the back of opponents.

Avril terrorized quarterbacks rushing them from the front side.

Avril terrorized quarterbacks rushing them from the front side.

Brandon Mebane is the stay at home Defensive Tackle that offsets this. So when teams run draws and screens, he’s nomally there with the linebackers to make a play. Seattle did lose DE Chris Clemons, but he had his least effective season with only 4 sacks. One replacement for the 3rd rusher is 3rd year player Bruce Irvin #51.  He was used more at linebacker in 2013 yet amassed 8 sacks as a rookie. Still a Super Bowl level group up front.

Linebackers: Did you know that Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith wasn’t a week 1 starter?? That’s right the man who sealed both the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl has to beat out KJ Wright #50 (80 tackles/4 passes defensed) for the OLB position on the weakside.

Yet Smith had a great postseason to boost his resume. In the regular season he started 8 games had 54 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack and 2 interceptions. He will definitely be on the field to accompany MLB Bobby Wagner (120 tackles/ 7 passes defensed/ 5 sacks). With another season like that he will replace either Bowman or Willis of San Fran in the Pro Bowl. Don’t forget Bruce Irvin also aids here. Defensive speed is the mantra to this group and it cleans up what makes it past the front four with aplomb. This is a playoff level group. They need to force a few more turnovers.

Once Seattle funnels your receivers to the middle, Cam is there to knock 'em  out.

Once Seattle funnels your receivers to the middle, Kam is there to knock ’em out.

Secondary: The reciprocal advantage to a pass rush is a secondary that won’t have to cover more than 5 seconds. When the secondary play extends beyond that, it allows the pass rush more time to get to the quarterback& you get the coverage sack.

Both happen in Seattle. Starting with the coverage of reigning Taylor Blitz Time Defensive Player of the Year in Richard Sherman. He led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 158 yards and that significant touchdown. He also was 7th on the team in tackles with 48, defensed 17 passes and recovered 2 fumbles.

By the time you add Pro Bowl FS Earl Thomas (105 tackles/ 5 ints/ 11 pass defensed/ 2 forced fumbles) & the thunderous shots by Pro Bowl SS Kam Chancellor (99 tackles / 3 ints/ 12 passes defensed/ 1 forced fumble) you have one of the best secondaries in history. That’s what a championship can elevate you to. Three of four in the secondary in the Pro Bowl. That’s beyond outstanding and now Sherman and Thomas are signed to long term deals.

Seattle did lose Nickel Back Walter Thurmond and regular starting CB Brandon Browner to free agency. However Byron Maxwell manned one of the corners after Browner’s suspension, and picked off 4 passes and defensed 11 others while starting 5 games. This is a Super Bowl caliber secondary if ever there was one.

Overall: This juggernaut has been the NFL’s best for the last two seasons and will be for a third. Although they are league champion you still can’t put a finger on where you would start to attack this team. One of history’s finest defenses and they come at you in waves with no true focal point. Right now the rest of the NFL is in a conundrum. Everyone is lining up in multiple receiver sets and playing in space. Seattle performs best here and Chancellor, Wright, and Wagner are there to lay pads on receivers.


Teisha, will it be confetti or raining skittles next February in Arizona??

They stay to the ground and minimize offensive mistakes. Since they take long drives and dominate time of possession, opponents feel rushed to score and get back into the game. This plays into Seattle’s hands again where they have taken the 2007 New York Giants’ blue print of 3 DE alignments, and tweaked it. Instead of 3 power rushers they have ends who are speed rushers. Couple that with the crowd noise and this is going to be a 14-2 or 15-1 team when you look at their schedule. A possible loss to St Louis on the road in week 7 and maybe one more in Arizona in week 15 look like the only hiccups. Carroll’s team should bludgeon their way to Super Bowl XLIX easily.

Next up: The Denver Broncos

The model in the pic where it’s raining skittles is the lovely Teisha Lyons. International Fashion Model and friend to TBT. Please click the link and like her page as well.

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2013 Seattle Seahawks Preview – Ready To Make A Move

Coach Pete Carroll has the NFL's best young defense.

Coach Pete Carroll has the NFL’s best young defense.

There had to be some serious angst going through the minds of Seattle Seahawk players, coaches, and fans when the 49ers came back and won the NFC Championship. Just a week prior the Seahawks were :31 seconds away from the biggest road playoff comeback in NFL history. Being down 20-0 in Atlanta, the Seahawks made a furious rally that saw them take a 28-27 lead and a rematch with the San Francisco 49ers was beginning to crystalize.

A team they had throttled 42-13 just three weeks prior. Then Matt Ryan ended those hopes with two completions and a last second field goal for Atlanta to escape 30-28. As the two teams left the field that day there was a sense the better team hadn’t won. Then to watch history repeat itself with the Niners comeback and you could feel the groans coming from the pacific northwest. Furthermore, how different would the NFC divisional against Atlanta have been had sack leader Chris Clemons (11 1/2 sacks) not been injured??

Quarterback: For all the talk of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and even Colin Kaepernick, it was Russell Wilson that was the most impressive first year signal caller in 2012. It was his play that set in motion the late season quarterback change in San Francisco. They were tiptoeing around the issue playing Kaepernick in spots until they saw Wilson’s progressive improvement at the season’s midway point. Then the Niners pulled the trigger.

Center Max Unger was an All Pro and protected Russell Wilson like The Hope Diamond.

Center Max Unger was an All Pro and protected Russell Wilson like The Hope Diamond.

Russell’s performance last year was the best rookie quarterback season in NFL history. Not only did he help turn around the fortunes of the Seahawks, he tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record of 26 TD passes. However he only threw 10 interceptions compared to Peyton’s 28 during that same 1998 campaign. His total stats were 252 of 293 for 3,118 yards along with 94 car. for 489 yards and 4 touchdowns. He never showed any nerves nor did the games ever seem too big for him. Where the Seahawks started 1-5 on the road, Wilson’s play improved and they won their last 3 including a wild card win in Washington.

The key to his use of The Pistol was he improved his throwing touch and ball placement as the year went on. He knew when to throw the ball away as much as when to run when the ‘read option’ was called. Unlike a few of the other quarterbacks in the same offense, The Chancellor of Football doesn’t see a sophomore slump. The number one reason is he had to endure the baptism by fire at the beginning of last season. Where others like Luck and RGIII seem to hit a wall, Wilson kept improving and was within :31 seconds of the NFC Championship. Head Coach Pete Carroll has to get him in camp and get working on his second season and keep him from having his head in the clouds. At quarterback the Seahawks are Super Bowl quality.

Marshawn Lynch closed in on the goal line during the playoff loss to Atlanta.

Marshawn Lynch closed in on the goal line during the playoff loss to Atlanta.

Backfield: Is there a tougher running back in the NFL than Marshawn Lynch?? Along with Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, no running back clearly defines his team and inspires it through his play. He powered for a career best 1,590 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns as he benefited from the Pistol and the read option in 2012. Last year Lynch was able to get a step on linebackers who were hesitant to attack the line of scrimmage trying to defend against Wilson pulling the ball out and running himself. He was able to be full speed at the point of attack in many of his runs. It’s no coincidence he had a career best 5.0 yards per carry average which was up from 4.2 just a season before. Both years he was a Pro Bowl player. Entering his 7th season, “Beast-mode” may have his career prolonged with this offense allowing less wear and tear on him. He’s only turning 27 this year so there is at least a three year run with him as the featured back barring injury. This team is Super Bowl quality as long as Lynch is running the football.

Receivers: This could be where the Seahawks address a need in this year’s draft. Sidney Rice (50 rec. 748 yards 7 TDs) needs a new running mate. Golden Tate (45 rec. 688 yards 7TDs) benefits more from Wilson’s mobility to get open than Rice does. With the right compliment, Rice could return to being a 1,200 yard receiver as teams try to jam the intermediate area (15 yards and under) playing the ‘read option’, it’s fakes and a bigger better receiver that can get open underneath. Because of his physical nature, Tate is better in the slot where he can block and doesn’t shy away from contact. Ask Cowboy linebacker Sean Lee after last year’s encounter.

When the team is lined up in more traditional sets, Wilson has Tight Ends Zach Miller (38 rec. 396 yards 3TDs) and Anthony McCoy (18 rec. 291 yards 3TDs) to keep the chains moving. Tactically they are good enough as a unit to win with but could use an upgrade at the ‘Z” receiver and that would free Rice to attack the deep safeties. If they don’t make a move here they will stay below average.

LT Russell Okung is one of the best tackles in the NFL.

LT Russell Okung is one of the best tackles in the NFL.

Offensive Line: This was one of the quiet strengths of the team last year and should be a staple in 2013. John Madden gave his award to the San Francisco 49ers offensive line but this group had a better season. Not only did they give up fewer sacks (33-41) but they paved the way to 2,579 yards (3rd best in the NFL) and 17 touchdowns. Center Max Unger and Left Tackle Russell Okung both made the Pro Bowl and are going into their 4th and 3rd years respectively.  In two games against the 49ers they only game up 1 sack against Aldon Smith in both games combined. Without any weaknesses, this group looks to be intact for the next three years and is Super Bowl quality.

Defensive Line: The end of the line for the Seahawks came when it was announced that sack leader Chris Clemons was going to miss the NFC Divisional round against Atlanta. They couldn’t mount a pass rush and Matt Ryan was never sacked in the game. This is where the Seahawks could go after another pass rusher whether they bring in a free agent or draft a few players. Clemons had 40 tackles to go along with 11 1/2 sacks and needs some help from LE Red Bryant never got to the quarterback all year. That has to change if they’re to get where they want to go. Designated pass rusher Bruce Irvin did amass 8 sacks but you have to be able to rush the passer on every down since it’s more of a passing league now.  Defensive Tackles Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch were stout against the run with 56 and 30 tackles respectively. They ranked 10th against the run and had 20 1/2 sacks but could use more quarterback pressures and are playoff caliber up front.

Bruce Irvin tallied 8 sacks in spot duty rushing the passer.

Bruce Irvin tallied 8 sacks in spot duty rushing the passer.

Linebacker: The speed of the Seahawks was most evident at linebacker. Bobby Wagner led the team with 139 tackles and also had two sacks and three interceptions. He had an even better season than divisional rival Patrick Willis at MLB. Whom he might replace in next year’s Pro Bowl with another season like he had. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright started 15 games and garnered 96 tackles and 1 sack. Thes two play a relatively fast game. Trained by Coach Ken Norton Jr, these two fly to the football smothering running backs and tight ends in the under and immediate areas. They don’t miss tackles and at 23 and 24 years old respectively, we should see even more improvement this year. Leroy Hill rounds out this unit and is the greybeard at 30. Will he maintain his starting role in 2013 is a question as this young team develops. This is a Super Bowl caliber group.

Earl Thomas patrols the deep middle for Seattle.

Earl Thomas patrols the deep middle for Seattle.

Secondary: Twitter feud and arguing with Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take withstanding, Richard Sherman is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Last year he made the Pro Bowl with 8 interceptions, 63 tackles, a quarterback sack, and 3 forced fumbles. That’s a tremendous year for a player going into his 3rd season. You play like that, you can talk like that. FS Earl Thomas joined him in Hawai’i after a 61 tackle, 3 interception performance. However a couple of dropped interceptions kept SS Kam Chancellor from joining them. He had 91 tackles and several thunderous shots as the enforcer of the best secondary in football. These three are 24, 25, and 25 years of age and play a fast physical game.

Brandon Browner is at the other corner and stands 6’4. He along with 6’3 Richard Sherman are the first issues that teams face. They can’t throw over them. They also manhandle smaller receivers when they jam them on the line of scrimmage. Don’t forget Head Coach Pete Carroll’s expertise is coaching in the secondary. Right now he has the best in football and is definitely Super Bowl quality.

Overall: If you thought you read the phrase Super Bowl a bunch while you were reading this, you weren’t mistaken. This team was undefeated at home in 2012 and then learned to win on the road as Russell Wilson matured. Their margin of victory at home got wider and wider as the season progressed. In their last two home games they beat the Cardinals 58-0 and the NFC Champion 49ers 42-13. They are aggressive, young and fast.

They were the first team to score 150 points in a 3 game stretch in the last 60 years in the NFL. Even in defeat down in Atlanta, Russell Wilson concluded his rookie of the year campaign with 445 combined yards and almost pulled off a great comeback. If you think this team isn’t on a Super Bowl course for 2013, you haven’t watched the NFL that long. They have no obvious weaknesses. The Chancellor of Football sees the NFC side of the ledger going to this group from the pacific northwest.

2011 Seattle Seahawks Preview

What a strange and goofy odyssey the Seahawks took their fans on last year.  They became the first team in NFL History to make the playoffs with a losing record going 7-9.  This is a team that could look completely listless as they were in a Halloween loss to the Raiders 33-3, yet look like a world beater like they did in their 41-36 wildcard victory over defending champion New Orleans.  Get this…the Seahawks gave up 97 more points than they scored in 2010 (310 for / 407 opp.) while posting the 28th best offense and 27th ranked defense. Which makes one ask the question; Who in the hell are they? Are they a division champion or a team that was just the best of an NFC West that was just terrible?? In their first year under Pete Carroll few new what to expect from this team.  Now with a season under our belt, we’re going to take a shot at it…maybe

Hasselbeck throwing the rock

Quarterback: If you were to ask me this question before last year’s playoff tilt against the Saints, I’d say it might be time to see what the Seahawks have in Charlie Whitehead.  Lets face it for much of last season Hasselbeck looked uninspired. He seemed to be an aging quarterback on a fading team and out of nowhere came this masterful playoff performance. Against the Saints he threw for 272 yards, 4TDs and only 1 interception.  He was even better in the loss to Chicago where after a mediocre first half, he wouldn’t let his team quit.  His 258 yards and 3TDs withstanding, it was his leadership and inspirational play that rallied the Seahawks to finish with a flair.  What happened?? Who was the guy wearing #8 for them in the regular season??  You know the guy who threw for 3001 yards, 12 TDs with 17 interceptions and a dismal 73 quarterback rating. Lets see if we have this right…14 regular season games 12TDs v. 2 playoff games and 7TDs. Tell him they’re all playoff games and Hasselbeck may throw for over 50TDs this season.

Obviously that isn’t going to happen but there was a button pushed psychologically for Hasselbeck going into those playoffs and it might have been the way the Seahawks were being mocked by the media. If he plays like that with his back against the wall Carroll may want to keep that fire lit with a spirited competition for the starting quarterback role with Hasselbeck and Whitehurst. In the two games that Whitehurst started, he went 57 of 99 for 2TDs and 3 interceptions.  If Hasselbeck were to go down again the season won’t be lost. However they have to plan for the future and next year may need to draft a quarterback.  When the Seahawks passed on local college star Jake Locker and didnt draft a quarterback this year, we know he thinks he can get one more good year out of ole #8.  Quarterback is average in the Emerald City

Offensive Backfield: Well here we are with the University of Cal Golden Bears backfield of 2007 with Marshawn Lynch starting and Justin Forsett backing him up.  Oddly enough Forsett had slightly better numbers when he was in the lineup with a 4.4 yards per carry average.  As with the case with Hasselbeck, Lynch didn’t seem inspired until the post season.  With that thunderous 67 yard run in last year’s playoff win over the Saints, he showcased what he can do and what he possibly could be.  That has been the problem, he showed a flash here and there in Buffalo yet would slip back into an easy to tackle, marginal running back. Last year Lynch rushed for 573 yards on 165 carries for a 3.5 yard average and that has to improve for this team to return to the playoffs.

Forsett is better suited as a 3rd down back.  He shows burst, just not the bulk you want in a runner when its time for the 10 play 75 yard clock killing 4th quarter drive. Evidence of this is he only scored twice rushing the football to Lynch’s six.  He plays better in space when a defense isn’t keying on him.  He rushed for 523 yards and caught 33 passes for another 252 yards out of the backfield.  Decent but not spectacular.  At running back the Seahawks are below average.  This group just doesn’t pass the eyeball test and when focused upon is easily stopped.  As a team, they only had 6 games where the Seahawks ran for more than 100 yards.  Thats an indictment of their line but also their backs who rarely make plays in space.  Maybe thats why the roar of the crowd was so loud on that playoff run by Lynch.  This team should have drafted a running back.

Receivers: This was a position in flux over the entirety of 2010.  First they released T.J. Houshmandzadeh before the season.  They traded Deion Branch back to the New England Patriots and shuffled their receivers to the tune of 5 different starters over the course of the season. Former USC WR Mike Williams resurrected his career and was fairly productive between the 20s catching 65 passes for 721 yards yet he only scored 2 times.  Then in the draft the Seahawks draft the same type of receiver in Kris Durham who is 6’5 and 215 lbs, another possession type receiver with not much burst. Why would you need two of the same type of receiver when you lack playmakers?? Puzzling selection to say the least.

The Seahawks did have 2 younger receivers come to the forefront in Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu, who could be the match set of receivers for this team in the near future.  Butler caught 36 for 385 yards, while Obomanu caught 30 for 496 yards, and they each scored four times.  Golden Tate out of Notre Dame rounds out this group and is trying to learn the pro game at receiver after switching to receiver from running back in college.  He did grab 21 receptions for 227 yards yet showed nervous hands which is understandable for a young receiver.  He is suited to the slot receiver role in a 3 receiver set where he can come out of cuts quickly and get up field after the catch. Unless one of these receivers has a breakout year, this group is slightly below average and doesn’t pack a punch.

Offensive Line: Aha, we found the source of the offense’s problems.  Do you realize this team was 31st in rushing yards, 30th in rushing average as a team (3.7 yds per carry) and was 16th in allowing their quarterback sacked 35 times?? Come on you have to be good at one of them don’t you?? This team could only power the football for the first down 54% of the time up the middle and 57% of the time on 3rd and 2 or shorter.  When push came to shove this line didn’t get enough push. Now here are some well spent draft picks. First they took James Carpenter in the 1st round, a 6’4, 321lbs. mountain of a man who was a blocker for 2009 Heisman winner Mark Ingram at Alabama. Will he be a guard or a tackle? Hmm.. They spent their 2nd selection on Wisconsin G John Moffitt, who at 6’4 319lbs can come off the ball and punish linebackers if  he gets to the 2nd line of defense.  Hopefully this team will run the football with more regularity this season keeping pressure off these rookies when it comes to pass protection.

One of the reasons the sack total was higher than anticipated was rookie T Russell Okung settling into his LT spot.  If he meshes with the two young studs they drafted this group could come off the ball and really improve the Seahawks ability to run. The question is will the coaching staff call those running plays as often as they should? They didn’t draft these guys this high to sit the bench.  The Seahawks never adequately replaced Steve Hutchinson from a few years back.  They may have finally done so.  We’ll give the offensive line a grade of average for now until we see these guys take the field.  If they return with the regulars from last year,  completely below average.

Defensive Line: Surprisingly the Seahawks had a decent pass rush that produced 37 sacks in 2010.  Not a bad total for the league’s 27th defense.  That total was high enough to rank 13th in the NFL for rushing the passer.  Chris Clemons swo0ped in for 11 sacks, while former Colt and current pass rush specialist Raheem Brock came in for 9 sacks as well. This was the bulk of the Seahawk pass rush with several rushers coming on for 1 sack a piece.  DT Brandon Mebane teamed with Junior Savii for not only 2 sacks from the defensive tackle’s sacks they combined for 43 tackles. That isn’t enough and they need to get enough inside push to offset the pass rushing from the outside. The Seahawks were a dismal 21st against the run and couldn’t stop their opponents when they needed to.  They could use a boost here.  They did draft Levingston Lazarious in the 7th round from LSU, but at 6-4 292lbs, he seems suited to play end more than tackle.  This defensive line is below average and am surprised they didn’t make more of an attempt to address this in the draft.

Linebackers: The strength of this defense can be found in this linebacking corps. Lofa Tatupu, David Hawthorne, and Aaron Curry started all 16 games and made plays all over the field. It was OLB Hawthorne who led the team in tackles with 105 tackles, he forced 2 fumbles and did have one interception last year. Yet it looks like the brass is trying to replace him.  They used two draft picks on outside linebackers K.J. Wright in the 4th and Malcolm Smith in the 7th from Pete Carroll’s USC tree.  This could push him to have an even more spectacular 2011 campaign.  Lofa Tatupu is a solid MLB, but I expected him to make more splash plays than he does.  He’s instinctive and solid diagnosing the play but if a lineman gets on him he doesn’t shed blocks that well. He did shed enough blocks to make 88 total tackles and had 1 sack, an interception and forced one fumble. Just a little more out of Tatupu and ….

Which brings us to #1 draft pick Aaron Curry out of Wake Forest. At 6’4, 250 lbs., this is a linebacker that can really run.  He made 70 tackles, forced 2 fumbles and had 3.5 sacks when he did blitz.  His 3rd year should be a breakout year for him now that he is used to the pro game. He can get to the flank and defend against the pass and should intercept a few passes this year as well.  Last year you could see plays where he was a half step off in recognizing specific plays, with his athleticism and study those will be turnovers this year.  He should make his first pro bowl in 2010.  Watch this kid… Linebackers are good with a chance to be great if Lofa could just….

Secondary: This was an active secondary. SS Lawyer Milloy had a real good year logging 89 tackles and 4 sacks on blitzes.  He also forced two fumbles yet I can’t remember the last time I saw him intercept a pass. He has always been beatable when you can get him to cover man to man. See last year’s TD play by Greg Olsen (The U) in the playoff loss to the Bears.  He’s muscular and hips don’t swivel that well yet in a zone or phonebooth (near the line of scrimmage) he is as solid as they come.  Age is a concern though and at 38 he could age in a hurry during the season. Earl Thomas had a good year at FS leading the team with 5 interceptions and had 71 tackles which was 5th best on the team.

Corner play was up and down with Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings (The U). Jennings play picked up when he returned to the lineup from injury.  Although he missed 2 games he led the Seahawks with 13 passes defensed and may be rounding into a solid NFL corner. Trufant often got his nose dirty making 80 tackles which was 4th on the team. So where is the down side?  As a tandem, they only had two interceptions which prompted them to draft CB Richard Sherman from Stanford and CB Byron Maxwell from Clemson. One way or another they should get more active corner play.  It looks like they will move Marcus Trufant to SS to replace Milloy since he is willing to tackle and is 8 years younger.  The Seahawks are slightly above average and are the beneficiary of a weak front that doesn’t put teams in obvious passing situations. However they were exposed in the playoffs by Jay Cutler and Drew Brees and looked tired at the end of the season.  They need help from the defensive front.


Overall: After all this research we still don’t know who the Seahawks are.  If they can get the return they expect from their top two picks on the offensive line this can be a much improved team. Lynch will have a 1,000 yard season and they could win 10 games.  Still can’t make since of their picking two linebackers when one led the team in tackles and the other is on the verge of stardom.  Why not pick up defensive line help? Puzzling… This team is puzzling and we have to wait and see which Matt Hasselbeck comes into the new season. Will they make it back to the playoffs? Still unclear however they have to watch out for the Rams.