Sunday, September 17, 2006
[drive-by-drive stuff posted Fri ~2:06a]
There was definitely improvement, that's for sure. The defense didn't have to shoulder anywhere near as much of the load as they did in Detroit last week, but they still had to pick up the offense more than any Seahawk fans would expect or like.
After last week, it was safe to say Matt Hasselbeck had a great day even though the offense was out of sorts. Though the offense showed signs of clicking today, it still is nowhere close to what it was last season. Hasselbeck's completion percentage was under 50% after the 83.3%*** showing last week, though that's not all his fault because dropped passes reared their ugly head(s) again. The drops need to disappear next week, not just for the good of the season as a whole, but because the Giants are coming in next week, and they can't lose yards to butterfingers, alligator arms, or having the ball bounce off shoulder pads or their backs when the receivers forget they're supposed to turn around. The drops must disappear, pronto.
[***corrected, I thought he was 21-for-28, but he was 25-for-30]
Hasselbeck only completed 12 passes out of 27, and the distribution wasn't too great. Darrell Jackson got five catches and 127 yards (monster game) and Bobby Engram caught four for 51 yards, but only one other wide receiver or tight end caught a pass, and that was Nate Burleson, who only caught one pass himself. Jackson dropped a pass at one point and Burleson muffed a great Hasselbeck toss on a 3rd-and-19 catch he should have had. The Burleson play ushered in a three-and-out on the possession that came right after Neil Rackers hit the crossbar on a 51-yard field-goal attempt toward the end of the first quarter. Also, Hasselbeck threw two picks. Gerald Hayes made a dive and picked a 3rd-and-3 pass intended for Itula Mili on a possession where the Seahawks should have built upon their 14-0 lead before the half. The second pick came on the first play from scrimmage after Bryant Johnson caught the 40-yard touchdown pass to bring the Cardinals to what would eventually be the final score of 21-10. Luckily the Cardinals turned the ball over four plays after they got it.
The passing game wasn't overly sharp, but the good thing was that unlike last week, the running game existed. Shaun Alexander didn't break 100 yards, but he ran for the one touchdown and other than that, his biggest run of the day was the one that sealed the deal, a 13-yard run on 3rd-and-7 on the second play after the two-minute warning. The next play was Hasselbeck taking a knee, and that was it. Twenty-six carries, 89 yards, and a touchdown for Alexander. It's not immaculate, but it'll do. Also getting almost unprecedented love in the playcalling was Mack Strong, who carried three times for 30 yards and the deceptive touchdown that surprised exactly everybody because it didn't go to Alexander. Mo Morris also got some plays, rushing four times for 25 yards as well as catching a 27-yard pass. Morris had more receiving yards than Burleson in this game.
The return game wasn't as bright as it was last week as Willie Ponder only had one return, and Jimmy Williams didn't break a return of longer than ten yards. The real concern on special teams right now has to do with the kicking plays, and not necessarily with Josh Brown. JP Darche's placement on the injured reserve for the hip injury changes the kick snapper to Derek Rackley, who was quickly brought in. Still, Josh Brown needs not only to deal with a new snapper in Rackley, he also has to get used to rookie punter Ryan Plackemeier holding his kicks instead of the sure-handed Tom Rouen. So, last week multiple field-goal attempts were blocked, one was blocked today, and hopefully none will be blocked next week. In the punting realm, Plackemeier has great potential and a booming leg that was shwon off last week. This week was okay, though the worst part definitely was the untimely 14-yard punt late in the fourth quarter that gave the Cardinals the ball on their own 30-yard line when it should have pinned them deep.
Now to the defense. The Seahawks held the Cardinals to 191 net yards through the air, which isn't too bad considering the Cardinals are trying to win their games through the air with some Edgerrin James on the side. They held Arizona to 65 net yards on the ground, which is pretty good stuff. James rushed 18 times for 64 yards and caught seven passes for 33 yards. Still, the Bryant Johnson 40-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter brought back painful memories of games two and/or three years ago in Baltimore and Minnesota. For the good news, though, the Seahawks sacked Kurt Warner five times, with Leroy Hill, Ken Hamlin, Julian Peterson, Darryl Tapp (on 3rd-and-15 on Arizona's last possession), and Grant Wistrom all ringing the bell. Also, Michael Boulware came up with a pick on the final play of the first quarter. The Seahawks should have turned that into a 21-0 lead, but the ensuing drive ended with the block of the field goal. Of course, it's not just the sack numbers that should tell you the Seahawks were getting to Warner for most of the day -- Arizona fumbled five times, and Warner had four of those. Unfortunately the Seahawks only recovered one fumble, and that was Lofa Tatupu bailing Hasselbeck out of the interception just a few plays earlier in the fourth quarter.
The bad thing I have to say about the defense relates to Arizona converting six of 14 plays on third down. They didn't convert in the first quarter. They converted on a 3rd-and-2 early in the second quarter after Ken Hamlin got called for interfering with Anquan Boldin. They converted a 3rd-and-10 just before the half on a Boldin catch for 11 yards right before Kurt Warner fumbled and left Neil Rackers with a 53-yard try as the clock ran out. Arizona got the ball to open the second half and converted another 3rd-and-10 on a 13-yard play underneath to Obafemi Ayanbadejo. Early in the fourth quarter, Warner hit Boldin for nine yards on a 3rd-and-8 from midfield, then later in the drive hit Bryant Johnson on a 3rd-and-9 from the Seattle 40 for the touchdown catch. Warner hit Larry Fitzgerald for 14 yards on a 3rd-and-10 on their next possession (the next play was the Tatupu fumble recovery). The final Arizona third-down conversion came on a 3rd-and-1, and Warner moved the chains on a sneak with that one.
To sum up that last paragraph, the Cardinals were able to move the chains on third down when they needed two (Hamlin penalty), ten, ten, eight, nine, ten, and one yard. The sneak by Warner I can let slide, and I need to see replay of the Hamlin penalty, which was iffy. The other five plays, though, all came on 3rd-and-long, and "long" was eight to ten yards.
What to conclude? The Seahawks are still top dog in the NFC West, and that's good. The defense still looks great. The offense looked better and more like itself, though the full brunt of offense will be inflicted in time on some unlucky team yet to be determined. Hasselbeck only got sacked three times this week as opposed to five, so a muffled hurrah for the offensive line, who also held up a little better so that a running game could register on the radar this week.
Just off hand, though, the two things I really need to see next week (other than the offense going much more nuts) are the elimination of dropped passes and a drastic cutback of the opposition converting on 3rd-and-long plays. These 2006 Seahawks need to be more like the team from 2005, not the ones from 2003 and 2004. The third-down plays and dropped passes reek of those teams (mostly the 2004 edition), and they're problems that I hoped wouldn't come back in any way, shape, or form, but they've leaked into the train of thought, and now they have to be dealt with accordingly. Though I haven't brought it up yet, it should come up in the drive-by-drive stuff to end this post, but the untimely penalties gotta go too.
The bottom line is that I don't want to have to pay the carpet-cleaning bills next week (read: vomit) that would come as a byproduct of Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, and Plaxico Burress running all over the field. So, the Seahawks need to just prevent most of that from happening.
Also, Deion Branch will be a go for Week 3 against the Giants. If it's DJ Hackett that's the odd man out to bring Branch to the roster, then I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the contributions of Big Play DJ on this team, and it'll be a shame that he'd get cut before facing the Giants, especially after the big catch he had against the same team last season. I hope it's not Hackett that's going, but I've come to terms with that probably being the case. Thanks, DJ.
»» 1st Seattle possession (from SEA 20)
Best play: Darrell Jackson on a deep ball for a gain of 47 on 3rd-and-12 from the Seattle 18
Worst play: Matt Hasselbeck sacked for a loss of 10 on the first snap of the game
Result: Shaun Alexander to the right side for a 2-yard touchdown run
***SEAHAWKS 7, CARDINALS 0
»» 1st Arizona possession (from AZ 47 on rekick after a Darryl Tapp offside negated a Kelly Jennings fumble recovery; DD Lewis had forced the fumble)
Best play: Ken Hamlin hits Kurt Warner after the latter had fumbled a snap on 3rd-and-8
Worst play: a short pass to Edgerrin James on the first play, I guess (it was a three-and-out, so it's slim pickings)
Result: punt (three and out)
»» 2nd Seattle possession (from SEA 26)
Best play: Jackson got behind the Arizona secondary for a 49-yard touchdown reception on the right side
Worst play: I guess it's Alexander getting snuffed trying to cut back to the right after a sweep attempt to the left; two yards were lost on 2nd-and-10
Result: the Jackson touchdown
***SEAHAWKS 14, CARDINALS 0
»» 2nd Arizona possession (from AZ 27)
Best play: Kelly Jennings read a pass to Anquan Boldin on 3rd-and-4 that went incomplete, the only time Arizona had a third down on the drive
Worst play: kind of a weak call, but Lofa Tatupu was flagged for an elbow to a helmet, making it an automatic first down instead of a 3rd-and-10
Result: Neil Rackers hits the crossbar on a 51-yard field-goal attempt
»» 3rd Seattle possession (from SEA 41)
Best play: on 3rd-and-19, Nate Burleson bobbles and drops a deep ball that he should have had
Worst play: on 2nd-and-13, Hasselbeck rolled right, tripped, and was sacked for a loss of six...the Burleson play is only the best because it was the only play on the three-and-out where there was no negative yardage
»» 3rd Arizona possession (from AZ 31)
Only play: Warner had Adam Bergen wide open deep, but Michael Boulware picked it off
Result: Seattle ball
»» 4th Seattle possession (from SEA 38)
Best play: on a 3rd-and-10, Hasselbeck got Engram on a crossing route for 18 yards across midfield to the Arizona 33
Worst play: a 1st-and-10 play where Hasselbeck threw a bullet over the middle and nobody was there, possibly signaling miscommunication
Result: 30-yard Josh Brown field-goal attempt is blocked
»» 4th Arizona possession (from AZ 8)
Best play: on 3rd-and-17, Julian Peterson rolled up Warner on a backside blitz for a loss of nine
Worst play: the call on Hamlin's interference instead being called pass interference (he was covering Larry Fitzgerald); this nullified not only what would have been Seattle ball, it was also a 3rd-and-2 play
»» 5th Seattle possession (from SEA 36)
Best play: on the first play from scrimmage, Jackson for an 8-yard catch
Worst play: on 3rd-and-1, Mack Strong dropped a short pass
»» 5th Arizona possession (from AZ 21)
Best play: a pass to Troy Walters on the left side was caught, but he was stopped short of the chains on 3rd-and-8, though the Seahawks would have been able to accept an Arizona illegal formation penalty if it got worse
Worst play: the only other play for positive yardage, a four-yard stretch play for James
»» 6th Seattle possession (from SEA 38)
Best play: on the first play, Engram was wide open across midfield for a 25-yard gain
Worst play: Gerald Hayes picked off a pass intended for Itula Mili on 3rd-and-3
Result: three-and-out, but the out was an interception instead of a punt
»» 6th Arizona possession (from AZ 21)
Best play: James was hit in the backfield and only got a yard on a delayed handoff on first down
Worst play: on their only third down of the drive (3rd-and-10), Boldin gets 11 yards down the right sideline
Result: Rackers was wide left on a 53-yard field-goal attempt after Warner had a snap go behind him on the previous play and fell on the ball but had no way to stop the clock
»» 7th Arizona possession (from AZ 24)
Best play: on first down, the defense stuffed James on a stretch play to the right for no gain
Worst play: on 3rd-and-10, the Seahawks brought a four-man rush, but Warner found Obafemi Ayanbadejo underneath for a gain of 13 and a first down
»» 7th Seattle possession (from SEA 2)
Best play: Burleson caught the ball on the first play from scrimmage, but apparently he didn't have both feet in bounds
Worst play: Alexander was hit in the backfield for a one-yard loss on 2nd-and-10
»» 8th Arizona possession (from SEA 42 though Ryan Plackemeier was lit up on the play and no flags were thrown)
Best play: on 3rd-and-4, Fitzgerald tried to make a sliding catch, but the ball fell incomplete, and the defense kept good pressure on Warner during the play
Worst play: Boldin broke a tackle on a slant and got 11 yards on the first play from scrimmage to get into Rackers' field-goal range immediately
Result: Rackers good from 43 yards
***SEAHAWKS 14, CARDINALS 3
»» 8th Seattle possession (from SEA 26)
Best play: Burleson actually had a catch, going for seven yards on 2nd-and-20
Worst play: Engram was wide open down the middle, but Hasselbeck threw over his head
»» 9th Arizona possession (from SEA 46)
Best play: on 2nd-and-20, the defense brought a five-man rush and Warner threw a slant pass to the right side behind its intended receiver
Worst play: James caught an underneath flare pass for seven yards on 3rd-and-20, the only positive yardage on that possession.
4th quarter during following possession
»» 9th Seattle possession (from SEA 20)
Best play: on 3rd-and-6 from the Seattle 24, Hasselbeck audibled and looked like a genius when Strong got loose for 13 yards and a first down
Worst play: on the second play from scrimmage, Alexander dropped a short pass on 2nd-and-6
Result: Strong on a 3-yard dive through the middle into the end zone when everyone and their mother thought Alexander would get it
***SEAHAWKS 21, CARDINALS 3
»» 10th Arizona possession (from AZ 28)
Best play: on 2nd-and-8, Marcus Trufant had decent coverage on Fitzgerald on a sideline pass following a Warner pumpfake
Worst play: on 3rd-and-9, the Seahawks rush four men and Bryant Johnson catches between the safeties for a 40-yard touchdown reception
Result: Arizona touchdown
***SEAHAWKS 21, CARDINALS 10
»» 10th Seattle possession (from SEA 20)
Only play: Hasselbeck underthrows to Jackson and is intercepted by Adrian Wilson
Result: Arizona ball
»» 11th Arizona possession (from AZ 47)
Best play: Bergen catches a ten-yard pass before Kelly Herndon forces the fumble and Tatupu recovers it
Worst play: the Seahawks blitz on 3rd-and-10 and a pass to Fitzgerald is tipped by Trufant but still hauled in by Fitzgerald for a gain of 14 and a first down
Result: Seattle ball
»» 11th Seattle possession (from SEA 29)
Best play: on first down, Mo Morris hit a gap on the left side and kept rolling for 16 yards
Worst play: on 3rd-and-7, Morris appeared unaware of a pitchback on a four-receiver set, and Hasselbeck fell on the fumble
Result: 14-yard punt by Plackemeier
»» 12th Arizona possession (from AZ 30)
Best play: on 3rd-and-15, Tapp wraps up Warner for a loss of seven to basically end the game
Worst play: first play from scrimmage, James got five yards to set up an easier second-down try
Result: punt, as Dennis Green threw up the white flag
»» 12th Seattle possession (from SEA 35)
Best play: on 3rd-and-7, Alexander got through the left side for 13 yards to seal the deal
Worst play: Alexander only got one yard on the first play from scrimmage, but this is nitpicking
Result: Hasselbeck takes a knee, then the game clock shows zeroes
...and there you have it.
Giants. Seahawks. Next Sunday.