Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Okay, so they got the win. After it was all over, however, it felt like so much more than that.
Did anyone expect Shaun Alexander to break out for 201 yards? I said in the game post that I didn't expect him to break the century mark, let alone get double that. Alexander hasn't looked that great running the ball since last year's NFC title game. He was the cutting running back that could pound the ball through holes, break a few tackles, and get some extra yards. I thought going into this game we might see 18 carries for 85 or 90 yards or something. Instead, 40 for 201. It wasn't just about Alexander, though, and not just about the suspectness of the Packers' run defense. The offensive line was without Robbie Tobeck and Sean Locklear. Floyd Womack got subbed out some with rookie Rob Sims as well. Based on recent play, though, I feel pretty comfortable turning the offensive line over to Chris Spencer for the coming years. Mack Strong also deserves props for his great blocking.
Needless to say, the Seahawks had to get through the first half before really taking control of the game. I knew Matt Hasselbeck was going to be rusty, sure, but three interceptions in the first half? Sheesh. Passing routes were jumped by Charles Woodson and the very much hated Al Harris. Woodson also grabbed a pass that was thrown off the helmet of Green Bay defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Then there was the fumble. I consider the interception off the helmet and the fumble run all the way back for a touchdown to be freak plays. It takes me back to that trap game in Cincinnati a couple years ago where every pass Hasselbeck threw was batted at the line of scrimmage and/or picked. Other than the picks (and what turned out to be three touchdowns), you look at his completion rate. He was 17 for 36, a pretty low completion rate for a well-functioning West Coast Offense. Granted, it was snowing outside, which may explain some of the throws that were off target or picked, combined with Hasselbeck's rustitude. However, how many of these passes were right to the receivers' hands? Whether it was Mack Strong, Nate Burleson, Darrell Jackson, DJ Hackett in the end zone (he arguably could have had two touchdown catches), or Jerramy Stevens (I'll get to him later), there were a lot of balls that should have been caught.
I didn't expect that much yardage out of Alexander, sure. I was hoping for some actual interceptions out of the Seahawk cornerbacks as well. They got 'em. The first interception of Kelly Jennings' NFL career basically sealed the game. Kelly Herndon picked off a pass in the end zone that would have been a 27-yard touchdown catch by Donald Driver had it not been overthrown. Still, those were the first interceptions by Seahawk cornerbacks since November 5th last year against Arizona. Interceptions out of the cornerbacks are a good thing. An extra pick from Marcus Trufant was also greatly appreciated. Still, there were some faults on the big plays. I could have done without the long Driver catch-and-run. Ahman Green didn't pile up a bunch of rush yards (he caught for more yards off of dumpoff passes), sure, but he did prove to slip a lot of tackles. Missed tackles were still a problem for the Seahawk defense. Also, Brett Favre was never sacked until the final play of the game, though he did face some pressure during the bulk of the game. It definitely wasn't enough pressure.
Nate Burleson. Sometimes he has some adventures on returns. Last night, they let him return kickoffs as well as punts. He ended up averaging 25.8 yards per kickoff return, though that only matters so much if the ball's way deep and he runs it out to the 28-yard line or whatever. The Seahawks hit a field goal to bring the Seahawks within one point before halftime, and Burleson ran a punt back to midfield to situate that drive. After Seattle three-and-outted on their first drive of the half, they scored touchdowns on the next three drives. They started off from their own 38-yard line on the first drive, their own 23 on the next drive, and the 49-yard line on the third. Burleson might not run back another punt for a touchdown for the rest of the year, sure, but if he can get decent chunks of yardage, that means a lot. This team hasn't had a decent returner since the days of Charlie Rogers or Michael Bates, so any meaningful return yardage is welcome.
Jerramy Stevens. When people get on his case, it better not be for anything that happened last year not including the Super Bowl. You can get on him for being the guy who seemed for years before that like he'd never get his head on straight. You can get on him for not catching balls thrown to him this year (that's been quite a few), though he hasn't been healthy the whole year either. People giving him guff better not be doing it for anything related to the bulk of the 2005 season, because he made a ton of big catches in a year where going in, we were freaking out about Itula Mili not being able to play. To say Stevens went through a rollercoaster in this game would be an understatement as well. He dropped passes, he had passes broken up, and he was hearing it from the fans, etc. In the end, eight of the Seahawks' points were caught by his hands. The two-point conversion gave the Seahawks a 27-21 lead. And for Hasselbeck to still show enough confidence in him to hit him in the end zone on third-and-goal, well, that says a lot too for both Hasselbeck and Stevens. The final touchdown accounted for the final score. Do I wish Stevens would catch more of the balls thrown to him? Of course. Hopefully that'll come in the near future.
Also, Paul Allen and/or Tim Ruskell need to pool together some dough right now and lock up Josh Brown to a long-term deal immediately. While he didn't hit any crazy-long field goals, the conditions made it all the more challenging. His four first-half field goals kept the Seahawks close before the offense hit full stride (especially in the red zone) in the second half.
The number one thing about this game? This is the closest to the 2005 Seahawks that we've seen on the field this season. Even in the game against the Giants, Alexander didn't run all that well and ended up with the crack in his foot, so most of those points weren't put on the board with the run game.
After a crazy Sunday of football and a Seahawk win on Monday, they have placed themselves nicely in the NFC. Chicago leads the NFC at 9-2, but the Saints, Seahawks, and Cowboys lie at 7-4. Based on conference record, the Saints' 6-1 record trumps the Seahawks' 6-3 record, and Dallas is 4-3 in the NFC. Thus, the Saints are second, the Seahawks are third, and Dallas is fourth. The Giants and Panthers are 6-5. and in fifth and sixth, respectively.
The Seahawks have a short week to prepare for a journey to Denver to start the Jay Cutler era, but before that happens, I'll let out one gigantic sigh and thank goodness that this one went okay.