Monday, January 28, 2008

Problem Solved: Make Dilfer the QB Coach

I just was listening to our old pal Trent Dilfer on KJR this morning when it hit me; there might not be better person to replace Zorn at QB coach in the NFL than Trent Dilfer.

Here is a guy who has Matt's trust and confidence, is already considered a QB coach as a player, and has expressed a desire to get into coaching once his playing days are over. For those that did not see him play this year, I'd respectfully argue his playing days are already over.

He already knows the offense, knows a lot about a division opponent and has a nice upside in the coaching staff.

Make it happen!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Analysis: Zorn to leave Hawks

Although, there is still not formal confirmation, it appears Jim Zorn is leaving to become the Redskins offensive coordinator.

I hate this move. If it's true that he is leaving because the Seahawks front office refused to give him assurances past this season, I really hate this move.

Zorn represented a great chance to retain some continuity after Holmgren leaves next year with our #1 asset, Hasselbeck. Matt has said time and again that he thinks very highly of Zorn. He trusts him. He respects him, and he listens to him.

I would argue that Zorn was the most valuable assistant on staff to retain past this year. I wouldn't lose much sleep if Marshall or Haskell moved on (as they likely will).

Losing Zorn was a needless risk. I certainly hope Ruskell is not going to replace coaches based on whether they were "his" guys or not. Look at what's best for the team and get over your ego.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Seahawks get the #1 pick in the draft?

An article on ESPN has me wondering what it would take for the Hawks to get the #1 pick in the draft and who we'd take if we got it.

I'm of the belief that you have very few opportunities to be in championship window, and you should do everything in your power to get there. I'm not sure what the price tag will be, but I'd certainly give up our #1 this year and next, plus some additional draft picks.

If we got that pick, the choice would have to be between the most dominant defensive tackle (at least in terms of buzz) in the last 5 drafts, Glenn Dorsey, and a franchise running back in Darren McFadden.

The question becomes, would either of those guys get us far enough to win the big one? Or, at least, who gets us closest? Perhaps surprising to some, I would lean toward Dorsey. Dominant defensive tackles are far less common than strong starting running backs. What happens on the off-chance that Marcus Tubbs is healthy all next year? We could have the most dominant defensive line in football. That could catapult us into the top 5 in defense in the NFL.

Even with a great running back, I'm not convinced we make a big difference in the running game without things falling into place on the offensive line. I also think you could get a future starting back in the third or fourth round--like Ray Rice--in this draft because it's so deep.

What would you give up, and who would you take?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Analysis: Holmgren is coming back

So you've probably heard by now that Mike is coming back for one more year. No more. No less. No plan after that has been announced, though, based on Jim Mora Jr.'s actions around the Redskins vacancy, we can make some guesses about what might have been promised to whom.

Mike Holmgren is one of my heroes. Plain and simple. It may not be logical or cool for the Seahawks to mean so much to me, but they do, and I give Holmgren a huge amount of credit for that. I won't spend time regurgitating all the things you already know about where the team was before he was here and where it is now. I will just say that he has made the last 10 years of my life more enjoyable, and I sincerely appreciate that.

So what does this mean for next year? My first thought was, "What the f**k?" I don't recall many instances of a coach going into a season declaring it's his final year. [Please send me examples if you have them, so I can look for trends across these situations]

On the downside, this could lead to problems in attracting free agents and resigning our own as they may not want to sign up for that uncertainty.

On the whole, though, I think it's great. This team plays for him, and I think they'll give their best for him next year. I think it will also mean he'll give his best. Basically, I like our chances of having a great season more now than I did before the announcement.

I'd love to hear your reactions.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Reflections: The 2007 Seahawks Part II (Defense & Special Teams)

This was a key year for the Hawks defense. One could argue that the defense was the best unit on the team. It certainly was the most balanced. However, despite nearly setting the Seahawks single-season record for fewest points allowed, I still never felt like this was a shutdown defense that could really intimidate an opponent.

Teams feared the 2006 Bears defense. They feared recent Ravens and Bucs defenses. The Hawks weren't that type of team. If we could take the defense we have at home and play it on the road, we might have something. Until then, I consider this a strong, but not dominating defensive unit.

Running Defense
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of our run defense. Losing Tubbs in the last pre-season game was brutal. As I said in the preview, we needed Pro Bowl seasons from our linebackers in order to have a shot, and we certainly got that. The tackling was superb. If we can add a game-changing defensive tackle that could clog running lanes, that could put us over the top in this department. I expect Chuck Darby to retire following his serious injury, and it's questionable whether Tubbs will be back after all his surgeries.

Brandon Mebane will be a long-time starter, but I thought Rocky Bernard's play leveled off quite a bit this year. After 9 sacks in 2005, we've seen 4 in each of the past two seasons. I don't consider him a starting quality DT. I doubt we'll have money to spend on a free agent here considering our more pressing priorities, but it remains an area of concern. Howard Green was a nice pickup who played some quality minutes and made some plays.

LeRoy Hill was our best defender against the run all year. Darryl Tapp was a liability against larger tackles. The Seahawks have consistently looked to upgrade their d-line in the later rounds of the draft, and I'd expect to see that again this year.

Passing Defense
We may really have something here. Kelly Jennings surprised me with how much he improved throughout the year. He seems to be a long-term answer at CB. Tru had his best season to date, and might have a couple of better years to come after gaining this confidence. Grant and Russell were the glue we needed to avoid those head-slapping big plays, and our linebackers excel in coverage. If anyone doubts the importance of good safety play, consider that in 2004 we had Shawn Springs, Ken Lucas and Marcus Trufant at CB and still were a mediocre pass defense.

Our pass rush recovered as well. The symbiotic relationship of the pass rush and pass coverage was the "theme of 2007" as we alternated hearing from Kerney and Trufant about how the other part of the defense deserved credit for their sacks and INTs, respectively.

The real question mark here remains third-down defense. Too many times we saw the Hawks put teams into 3rd-and-long situations, only to have them convert. I don't know what the answer is to good 3rd down defense, but we need to find it.

Special Teams
Nate was a spark on special teams again, and once we resolved "SnapperGate," Josh was his old self. Plackemeier was a piece of crap most of the year. He should be a weapon for us in changing field position, and somehow he went from a big-leg boomer to a Jeff Feagles wannabe in one year. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to have a Feagles in place that can place it inside the 20, but Plack has the leg to move teams 60 yards back, and I'd hate to lose that.

Coverage teams were average at best, and could use some additional talent, especially with Niko possibly moving on as an unrestricted free agent.

The emergence of the Hawks defense has made the slow degeneration of the Hawks offense less costly. We're not going to improve on that side of the ball without some upgrades at Tapp's DE spot and Bernard's DT spot. The rest of the guys are who they are, which is pretty good.

On offense, we need to retain the dynamic passing game and sprinkle in some toughness in the run. The addition of a tight end who can run block and require coverage would be a plus as well. This off-season may be the most critical in Hawks history. We are two-to-three strong moves away from being legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and two-to-three weak or non-moves away from wasting our championship window.

The Holmgren Solution

Does anyone think Holmgren's decision is really about whether he wants to coach again? I certainly don't. It has much more to do with whether he wants to *only* be a coach. The guy came out here to be a GM, and had that title stripped. He wants to hold that position again.

Everyone assumes that will have to happen elsewhere, but I've got crazy idea:

Why not let Holmgren own all personnel decisions on the offensive side of the ball for the Seahawks?

Before you flip out telling me I'm nuts, think about it:

  • Holmgren did a terrific job as GM when it came to building the offense. He added Hasselbeck, drafted Hutch and Alexander, and signed Bobby Engram.
  • Ruskell has excelled on defense, but has stumbled on offense. He traded a 1st round pick for Deion Branch, he failed to franchise Hutch and he spent another 1st rounder on Chris Spencer. Let's not even mention David Greene as a 3rd round pick.
I realize this would require some creative thinking and cause issues around who has final say (e.g., who wins if Holmgren wants to use the franchise tag on an offensive player and Ruskell wants to use it on a defensive player?, how do they manage the draft?). However, I think these are grown man who have shown an ability to work together collaboratively thus far, and this could be worked out.

Even if this did get offered to Holmgren, I'm not sure it would have a big impact, but I think he deserves the offer and I think the team would actually be better for it, especially if it kept him on as coach for a while longer.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reflections: The 2007 Seahawks Part I (Offense)

I will probably take this in multiple parts, but I will be using my season preview (Part I and Part II) as a guide of where I thought things were going to be versus where they ended up.

Perhaps the biggest, and most welcome, surprise of this season was that I saw reason to believe we have at least one, and possible 2-3 more years where we could compete for a Super Bowl. Coming into the season, it really felt like we were on the tail end of our window. The things really gating this are Walter Jones eventual retirement, Matt's durability, and coaching stability. I would count Shaun in that list, but I think it's clear we need to upgrade there, and plenty of teams have proven you can compete at the top level with rookie running backs. Replacing Matt, Walter and Holmgren will be much tougher.

The high water mark for most hometown prognosticators had the Hawks finishing 9-7. Many people saw more downhill potential than up. I am proud to say my feel for the team heading into the season is very similar to the one I have heading out of it, including which team in our division is our toughest competition. It seemed like everybody was jumping on the 49ers bandwagon, and those that weren't were talking about the Rams. I have always been most wary of the Cardinals. My early prediction for next year is that everyone in the media will now go back to assuming no team in the NFC West is really good outside of Seattle, and that next year will be the season when the NFC West sends two teams to the playoffs.

Running Game
The level at which this part of our offense fell off was shocking. Rob Sims came into the season as an up-and-comer and left as a down-and-outer. I have no feel for why he struggled so mightily this year, but we need about triple his production at that position next year. Chris Gray also fell off and just should not be back. If we do not add at least one premium guard next season, we can't be considered real contenders. Chris Spencer also had a middling year. I'd expect him to get off-season shoulder surgery to correct the problem that prevented him from lifting weights last year. He also needs to start learning enough to make the line calls and take that off Matt's shoulders.

Everyone loves to talk about how Shaun has dropped off. He certainly has, but it's one of the last reasons our running game struggled. If we correct our line woes, Shaun will come back for one last hurrah next year. If he is the featured back, he could go for 1300+ yards and 10+ TDs. I challenge you to find another person willing to make that prediction right now.

Passing Game
Matt was back to the great QB we knew in 2005 and before. His accuracy was there, his attitude was there and so were the results. The key here is his health. He was able to play in every game. Any season he does that puts us in position to make the playoffs.

The receivers were outstanding. This was perhaps the best season for a stable of wideouts in Seahawks history. Burleson became the scoring threat I thought he could be. Engram was steady and made some memorable clutch plays. Branch showed flashes of #1 stuff, although his contributions were too uneven to really count on. Hackett proved he may be the most valuable WR on the team, but his constant injuries make it questionable whether he'll be worth the money required to bring him back. Even Obamanu and Taylor showed a little. I though Obamanu's season was disappointing. Coming out of the pre-season, I expected him to sneak up on the league as a deep threat. It never happened. Thankfully, he can still sneak up on folks next year because he did nothing of note. I really like Taylor. That kid show's Nate's willingness to fight for yardage, Obamanu's ability to get deep and some good size. If Hackett goes, Taylor may play a significant role next year.

Tight ends were who we thought they were. Pollard was a solid, but not spectacular, player. He was probably an overall improvement to Stevens just due to blocking and dependability. We need a longer-term answer here.

Perhaps the biggest plus on offense this year was the emergence of Leonard Weaver. He will be a difference maker for years to come.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And....we're done

Maybe it's the beer, but I feel surprisingly at peace with a total meltdown loss to end our season. As I told HawkBloggerWife, it wasn't like there was one killer play or call that turned the game around. We got our asses kicked. We could play that game ten times again, and we would lose by at least 22 each time.

We had no answer on defense, and no spirit on offense. I knew from the very first stretch play the Packers ran for seven yards that we were in for a long day. It was thrilling to go up 14-0. I was proud to see the team take advantage of the two turnovers.

We got beat by a clearly better team today, and I'd take that over what happened in 2005.

Let's draft a RB, sign Tru and Alan Faneca and find a tight end. Thanks for making my football season more enjoyable.

I will post on occasion when I've got something to say.

Game Thread: Seahawks @ Packers

It's game day, folks. Pressure is mostly off. Most folks aren't expecting a Seahawks win, and generally aren't even expecting a close game.

Frankly, I'm just looking forward to watching another Hawks playoff game. This is our NFC Championship game as far as I'm concerned, because if we win this, we're going to the Super Bowl.

I can accept any outcome if the Hawks come to play and the refs call a fair game. I'll be at a buddies house during the game, but he's more of a geek than me, so there should be a computer I can log onto to post some thoughts during the game.


Let it snow, let is snow, let's kick their butt

Forecast calling for almost certain snow now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Seahawks Ruin Packer Party, Win 37-27

Green Bay, WI - The Packers were the team that was supposed to have the resurgent running game and the never-ending stable of quality wide receivers. It was the Seahawks, on Saturday afternoon, that proved people wrong with a surprisingly strong running game to compliment their potent passing attack.

Shaun Alexander combined with Maurice Morris and fullback Leonard Weaver to pile up 165 yards rushing, much of it coming when the Seahawks had spread the Packers out with their multiple wide receiver sets. Alexander shocked the Lambeau Field crowd by capping the opening Seahawks drive with a 38-yard scamper on a 2nd & 7 draw play.

Alexander finished with 95 yards and two touchdowns in a performance that is sure to quiet some critics for at least a little while.

The Seahawks quick start seemed to cause the Packers to tighten up, as they appeared overmatched from the beginning. Deon Grant and Lofa Tatupu delivered big hits on the Packers first two series that set the early tone. It wasn't until Brett Favre led a late TD drive in the second quarter, to make the score 17-10, that the team appeared to start playing their best football.

Seattle closed the first half with a 47-yard Josh Brown field goal to regain momentum as they went into the locker room ahead 20-10.

The second half started quickly as the Packers scored on a 65-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings on the opening possession to draw within three. The teams traded field goals before closing with a pair of touchdowns.

Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck did plenty to erase the memory of his infamous overtime interception against the Packers in 2003. He outplayed his mentor in a nearly flawless game that saw him completing passes to eight different receivers for nearly 300 yards. His 20-yard strike to Deion Branch was the first of many frustrating moments for the Packers secondary that never found an answer for the Seahawks four wide receiver sets.

The Seahawks now await the winner of the Giants/Cowboys matchup on Sunday. A Giants victory would mean Seattle would host its second NFC Championship game in three years.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bad Omen?

If things don't work out this weekend, I will be the first to assume responsibility. Direct your anger here. Here I was, getting excited that we're 48 hours away, and so I pulled the season ticket holder gift out of its resting place. For those that don't know, the gift was one of those car flags with the number 12 on it.

I stuck it on my car window for the commute home only to have it snap off on the highway driving over the I-90 floating bridge. Not good.

I promise to wear my lucky underwear, sweatshirt, and hat up to game time as penance.

Conflicting news on Packers secondary

I found some different info on about the CB injury situation. Perhaps it's not as rosy as it seemed. Here's the section I am referring to:

Multiple-WR sets
The Packers have done well with their "Big Five" formation this season, but the Seahawks may be in position to spread things out a little bit too with the return of wide receiver Deion Branch from injury.

With Branch, Seattle boasts depth and explosiveness in its receiving corps that rivals Green Bay's. If Bobby Engram, D.J. Hackett, Nate Burleson and Branch are all on the field at the same time, they and veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will test the depth of the Packers' secondary.

But Green Bay feels confident in that depth, with backup cornerbacks Tramon Williams, Frank Walker and Jarrett Bush all getting extensive playing time this season, particularly late in the year when starters Charles Woodson and Al Harris were in and out of the lineup.

Even if Will Blackmon is unable to help on defense, the Packers are confident their nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six) packages, which require three and four cornerbacks, respectively, can match up against Seattle's multiple weapons.

"We feel very comfortable with every one of those guys," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Tramon has done an excellent job, Frank Walker has done a good job when he's in there. Jarrett Bush is healthy again (after a calf injury), so he finally looks like himself here last week and throughout the practice this week. We feel very good about our secondary."

Packers thinning at CB

Looks like the Pack will be down to their third-string nickel back this weekend. I don't know what that means for their dime, but it's got to be good. This is significant news. We need every edge we can get.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hawks Beat Packers 34-24!

It's true. It happened. Last year, the teams played at a snowy Qwest Field and the Hawks won, but you'd never know it because almost nobody has discussed it. Contrast that with how much talk there was about the 2005 Redskins playoff game before the rematch last week, and you've got another odd thing about the lead-up to this game.

I realize the Packers have far different results this year than last, but I can't imagine there aren't some things we could glean from a look back, so here goes.

Packers Differences
  • Ahman Green is no longer the starting RB
  • The Packers did not have WR James Jones who is their third-leading receiver this year
  • Donald Lee was not nearly the factor he is now. In fact, he did not have any receptions in the game last year, but is just behind Jones in receptions this year
  • Marquand Manuel was playing safety
  • LB Nick Barnett was not playing due to injury
And that's really about it. That's a little shocking. There are some differences in how much certain guys are playing, but the stats and players are not as different as you might think considering the change in record.

The Seahawks may not have improved as much as the Packers, but it's certainly more obvious where the improvement came from in terms of players and roles. The Packers were a very young team (still are), and so much of their improvement seems to be just from being in the system and league another year.

I think there's a pretty good chance we won't see Shaun rush for 200 yards against the Pack like he did last year. Matt was also just returning from his injury and had a horrid game with 3 INTs and 4.4 YPA. Hackett had a decent game.

The teams looked very similar last year as well. Favre matched Hasselbeck's 3 INTs and a lost fumble. Each team had one sack. Each team struggled on third downs.

It just goes to show you how much confidence can effect the outcome of a football game. Two essentially identical teams face off one year later, with completely different expectations. This lack of clear difference on the Packers side makes me more confident that we have what we need to beat this team.

Not feeling it

I could not find enough time in the day to post every bit of analysis I had for the Redskins game last week. One would think that a week later, with a bigger game, would lead to at least as much motivation. It hasn't, and I'm wondering why.

The most obvious things are:
  1. The Hawks chances of winning seem more slim than in any playoff game in three years
  2. I feel pretty satisfied with that win last week. Even if we don't win another game, I'd consider the season a success.
After completing the Packers game log, I was surprised to see how few story lines there really were. The teams are essentially identical, although GB is a better passing team, and the Packers are playing at home. One of the key indicators of Seahawks success this year has been sacks. The Packers almost never give up sacks.

I'm glad I'm not the defensive coordinator for the Hawks because I really don't know what the gameplan should be. People always say, "stop the run," but this team thrived without a running game for most of the season and use their short passing game to supplement the run. There aren't any receivers you can really focus on like a Santana Moss because there are so many weapons, including multiple tight ends.

The one thing that I keep coming back to is that great football word, "physicality." The Hawks defense needs to knock the snot out of the Packers players. The GB offense is the football equivalent of the Dallas Mavericks from a couple years back. They put up a ton of points and have a ton of weapons, but don't like to get into a bruising half-court game. Has Greg Jennings gotten punished for his willingness to fight for extra yards? Donald Driver is a tough guy and the clear leader of the group. What happens if you knock him out of the game? Do the other WRs get a little tentative?

I tend to avoid analysis with no substance to back it up. That's really all I have this week. I have actually enjoyed the way things have played out. It's nice being the clear underdog. It's nice playing a team you don't hate with a passion (like last year's Bears or the Cowboys). There might be a slim chance that we win, but there is also a slim chance that we play below expectations. I am looking forward to kicking back and watching what should be a great game in a great location with great football weather.

I'll be back later with a look at the forgotten game: Seahawks beat Packers 34-24 last year.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Interesting article on Packers d-line injuries and pass rush

This could explain some of the differences in run numbers we're seeing. If they are blitzing more, there could be more rushing lanes.

Article is here.

Early look at the Packers

I've completed the game log for the Packers, and it's both sobering and weird. The updated Hawks game log is available in it's normal spot.

My early read is that Green Bay is having a special season. Their passing game is consistently potent, their defense is very similar to ours (including being especially potent at home), and they are getting points from all parts of their team including special teams and defense.

They gave up the third-fewest sacks in the league. That is a key part of their mojo. We can hope their offensive line injury issues cause a hickup.

I think the Packers are a better team than the Hawks. The difference is even more dramatic when they are at home and we are on the road. It will take our best effort of the season, and a nearly flawless performance to move to the next round.

The good news is that the pressure will be squarely on the Packers, and if we have any interest in winning the Super Bowl, we're going to have to beat teams even better than the Packers, so let's get warmed up this week.

As always, throughout the week I'll be looking for the key items that could turn the game one way or the other:

  • The Hawks have scored 24+ points in 10 of 11 games. The Packers are 2-3 when allowing that many points in a game.
  • The Packers have only scored under 20 points four times all year (3-1 in those games). Luckily, the Hawks have only scored under 20 points three times all year (0-3 in those games). Can you see how important our offense will be?
  • In the last five games, the teams have an identical 3-2 record
  • Would you believe the Packers have averaged 30 yards *more* rushing during losses?
  • They also allow over a yard-per-carry *more* during wins. Odd
  • They start quickly, scoring first in 11 of 16 games. Unfortunately, they are 4-1 in the games they don't score first. The Hawks are 3-4 this season when they don't score first.
  • We might actually be better off stopping their passing game than the running game. They average almost two yards less per attempt and nearly 50 fewer passing yards when they lose.
  • Similarly, they allow almost 2.5 yards more per attempt during losses. This game could definitely be decided by whose passing offense betters the opposing pass defense.
  • They are feeling very good about their running game where they have averaged over 5 YPC in 5 of the last 6 games, and have been closer to 6 YPC in four of those games.
  • Their rushing defense has sprung a few leaks, though, allowing two of their top three rushing totals of the season in the last three games. They have also allowed over 100 yards rushing in 5 of their last 7, after allowing only two teams to eclipse that mark in their first 9 games.
In many ways, these teams are mirror images of one another. The Packers passing game is significantly better than the Hawks, but their running game is comparable (4.1 YPC (GB) vs. 3.8 YPC (SEA)) and their defenses allows identical YPA against (6.7) and YPC against (3.9).

I think extreme weather conditions may actually level the playing field a bit.

Oh, and if I hear one more time that Hasselbeck choked when he threw that pick in overtime last time we played GB in the playoffs, I'm gonna hit someone. That INT was ALL on Alex Bannister who did not run the right route. Hass audibled because the Packers were blitzing and Banniser was supposed to run a quick hitch. He didn't, and the rest was history.

Okay, more later.

On further review: Hawks beat Skins 35-14

Alright. I've had 24 hours to gather myself. I think I'm ready to revisit that psychotic game yesterday.

What the hell was that!?? If my wife treated me like that, it would be classified as spousal abuse. You just don't do that to people. It was like watching someone build the best ice cream sundae ever for three quarters, and then having them swap it out for a bowl of soggy dog food, only to see them swap the sundae back in with a couple extra cherries. I am not nearly emotionally stable enough to handle that kind of crap. I literally screamed out, "Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!" during the fateful kickoff in the silence before anyone else realized what was about to happen. Not exactly the stuff manly men are made of.

Thankfully, I recovered my masculinity by jumping up and down like a school girl after Hackett's touchdown. I was relieved to see I was not alone as every dude was hugging another dude as far as the eye could see. Of course, we'll all deny it if you ask us about it on Monday.

Now, to the game:

- Big time kudos to Ryan Plackemeier. That was one of the top 5 punting performances in Seahawks history. Hyperbole, you say? Take a closer look: seven punts, ZERO returns, four punts inside the twenty, two inside the five, a 41.6 NET average all done in swirling winds after a horrible inconsistent season. That is called stepping it up, folks.

- Don't underestimate the importance of Josh Brown's 50-yarder into the wind. For those that weren't there, the wind was consistently blowing south-to-north. Remember the horrible kickoff? Remember Suisham's 30-yarder? Brownie is back.

- Hass played better than his QB rating would indicate. That was only the third game in the past seven where his YPA was over 7, and this was against a much better secondary than he's faced all season. He threw some of his best fades all season, and it led to a number of big catches along the sideline. He has an uncanny ability, though, to add fuel to the fire when things start going bad. Was anyone surprised to see him throw the pick after they took the lead? He's still the man.

- Once, just once, I'd love to have the other team outraged in the playoffs over bad officiating. That fumble Kerney caused...errrrrrr. The pass interference that went uncalled on Matt's second pick. I heard Collingsworth's lame explanation on DVR, "I think the official determined the interference happened after Landry made the interception." Give me a break. Obamanu was getting bear-hugged to the ground. If that was Owens or Moss, the flag is thrown for sure.

- Maybe my expectations are just so low, anything is good, but I thought our running game was solid. Shaun ran hard, and got yards after contact. Weaver had a terrific TD. We converted 3rd and short. I continue to see good signs of that part of the offense warming up. Remember, this was the fourth-rated run defense in the NFL and had just held a team to 1 yard. 77 yards and almost a 4 yard average is pretty respectable.

- Balanced defense. I think this defensive unit is comparable to our 2005 offense when it comes to balance. It's been an education for me to watch it get assembled and schemed. The press coverage they are able to play due to above average CBs and assignment-correct safeties allows the front seven to apply pressure that in turn reduces the total amount of coverage time necessary. The media has started to roll it's eyes when they hear Kerney or Tru give the other part of the defense credit for their sack or INT. I don't think it's "team talk." I think it's the truth.

- I admit to being surprised at our pass rush. Whether it was scheme, players, crowd noise, or all of the above, it was a welcome surprise.

- The Hawks have now scored 24+ points in 10 of their last 11 games, are 30-5 in the last three seasons when scoring 20+ and 15-1 when scoring first at home. They are also now 23-2 when holding the opposition under 100 yards rushing.

- I'd say it was best game played by a group of linebackers in Seahawks history if I hadn't witnessed the Eagles game when Lofa and J-Pete combined for four INTs, including the game clincher.

L. Hill13111
L. Tatupu1206
J. Peterson1016
(total tackles, sacks, solo tackles)

Are you kidding me with those numbers? 35 tackles? The three leading tacklers on the team. LeRoy Hill was a man possessed. His play running down Portis from the backside and his sack were two of the best plays of the day. Ladell Betts now has to walk 15 feet behind LeRoy whenever they're together as a sign of submission. He was owned!

- Drago did not just have a nice streak of sacks for a while. This guy is outstanding. Can you believe we got by with Grant Wistrom?

- Gold star to Brandon Mebance for his block on Chris Samuels. It has to feel great for a d-lineman to pancake an o-lineman.

- Walter Jones quietly is starting to look like himself again. Andre Carter's line? Two tackles, no sacks, no pressures. He was the Skins leading sacker with 10.5. Very good sign.

- Solid game by the o-line overall. The only sack they surrendered was completely on Matt since he held onto the ball for 10 seconds. The Redskins were coming really hard, and the pocket was certainly dented, but nobody came free. I always think it's a good sign when none of the opponents top four tacklers are in the front seven. London Fletcher being debated as a comparable off-season pickup to Drago is a joke. The guy had two tackles.

- Three penalties for 30 yards. The discipline on this team is crazy. It's a drastic difference, and I believe most of it can be traced to special teams. Compare how many times we've seen holding calls on returns this year to the last few? I can't even remember the last time we had one.

- This was our second-lowest YPC against (2.59) of the season, and the best in the last 9 games. The longest run of the day for the Skins was 13 yards. Knowing how much Gibbs wants to establish the run, that's just outstanding.

- My man-crush on Nate might be getting serious. He was great on returns all day, and despite the muffed kickoff (I honestly believe that was more Josh Wilson's fault than Nate's as the upback), his catch on third down was as clutch as they come. Imagine D-Jack on Koren in that situation. No way they make that catch. Same things with Marcus Pollard on the conversion compared to Jerramy Stevens.

All in all, I think we witnessed Seahawks history yesterday. Considering the Dallas game last year and the Super Bowl run the year before, we have to count our blessings. We went decades without seeing a single game like we've been treated to. On to the Packers, and our toughest playoff matchup in the Mike Holmgren era (yes, including the Super Bowl).

Packers injuries on the offensive line

Just saw this article detailing some problem on the o-line for the Packers. It seems they have had problems with their guards all year as well.

I especially liked this user comment:

In every game that the Packers have had trouble this season, and Daryn Colledge has been on the Line, the Packers have stumbled greatly or been beaten. He's had maybe ten, or eleven, good plays all season. He was instantly overmatched against the Redskins and will be again, if they leave him in there.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

ESPN Video on Hass

For those that haven't seen this:


You want to talk about 21? I've got 21 for you right here: subtract 14 from 35!

Hey Todd Collins

Aren't you the next great quarterback? I thought you don't throw interceptions? Nice tackle on the last one, biatch.

Your 15 minutes are up.

1-2 (th Man) ALWAYS trumps 2-1


Folks, you're going to have to give me a little while to compose myself. I was reaching for the prozac midway through the fourth. I was so low. So low. I was already hearing the story in my head about 21 being the with Skins after that kickoff recovery. I went from that to jumping high enough to dunk a basketball.

Thanks goodness for Nate Burleson and that catch. Unbelievable play (even if it was offensive PA).
I will be back to talk more about:

- Our running game
- Punting and field position
- Character
- Pass rush
- Horrible calls
- The 12th man

Game Thread: Redskins @ Seahawks

Game day. I'm heading down to SoDo soon to start tailgating. My buddy and I are going to wander trying to find someplace with space. It took us nearly an hour to find a place when we went early for the NFC Championship in 2005, and I'm hoping it's that crazy today. I'll trade a little inconvenience for some buzz.

I was out watching a movie last night and saw a man wearing a Seahawk cap with three people wearing Redskins gear closely behind him. It sure looked like these folks were going to be taken to the game by a Hawks fan. Not cool.

It was extremely windy here last night, but has calmed down a lot. They are expecting at least moderate wind and rain throughout the game. Should be interesting. Overall, I think that weather favors the Redskins because it will limit the passing game and the Hawks are more dependent on that part of their offense. However, I wouldn't mind not needing to worry about Moss or Randle-El on the deep ball either.

Enough analysis. Enough talk. Let's celebrate a big win today.

Friday, January 4, 2008

One day away

Is anyone else having trouble concentrating on anything other than football right now? Here's an attempt to get everything I'm thinking about this game flushed out so I can get some work done.

Things that would surprise me
  • A blowout on either side. There is always the chance of a runaway win, but it doesn't feel likely here.
  • The Seahawks scoring 24+ points. They've done this in 9 of their past 10 games, and they've scored 20 or more point in 7 of 8 home games (they lost the one game they didn't).
  • The Seahawks getting more than a couple of sacks or consistent pressure. I think Gibbs will be protecting his QB with a running game and extra blockers in the pass.
  • The Redskins coming from more than one score behind. They are not built for quick scoring.
  • A lot of turnovers for either side
Things that wouldn't surprise me, but may surprise others
  • Offensive plays from the Hawks that we haven't seen before or for a long time. Specifically, I'm expecting Seneca Wallace to play a role in this game. He's been mostly under wraps for the past 6-8 weeks, and remember that Holmgren has been willing to throw these things out there during the playoffs. Seneca's time last week makes him that much more ready for game action, although his two turnovers may give Holmgren pause.
  • Marcus Pollard being more involved than at any point during the season. He's quietly caught at least three balls in the last three games. There is no way the Skins are preparing for a heavy dose of him.
  • Tentative home crowd if things are close after the first quarter
  • Idiots booing Shaun Alexander during a critical playoff game
  • A big game from Leonard Weaver, especially on screen plays.
  • A better than average running performance against a vaunted Redskins run defense. I saw some things that I think are very promising signs in the past two games.
  • A Will Heller TD

Key players for the Hawks
  • Lofa Tatupu: We need to see his very best tomorrow both in coverage and against the run.
  • Josh Brown: No mistakes
  • Ryan Plackemier: We need to win the field position battle
  • Matt Hasselbeck: Duh
  • WR not named Bobby Engram: We need a consistent threat in as many places as possible to make things tougher on the Skins
  • Rob Sims: He must keep his man from spending all day in the backfield
A few other random tidbits rolling around my brain:
  • I heard on KJR this morning that a Damon Huard talked to Chris Egan (Kong 6 Sport guy) and told him that Todd Collins is a germ phobe. Egan told Kerney and Julian Peterson to lick him. I wonder how he feels about playing in the rain?
  • A Hawks win tomorrow delays any talk of a declining team. Super Bowl in 2005. Divisional round last year. I'd like to at least keep the trend even, if not moving back up.
  • I'm convinced Tampa Bay would beat Dallas if they play, which would mean we are two wins away from hosting another NFC Championship.
  • It's nice that nobody will be able to discount our win considering how highly the Redskins are thought of right now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

You've got to be kidding me

I can't wait until Saturday. I may find some people to start screaming at the Redskins in their hotel.

Take a look at this article in the Washington Times where the Skins downplay the crowd noise at Qwest and one of them actually says it's fake noise piped in by the speakers!

Uh uh. You did not just disrespect the 12th man. Did you?

Isn't that special?

Now a mere 48 hours from kickoff, I still can't get a clear read on this game. That usually means one thing; it's a pretty even matchup.

In games against evenly matched teams, two things become magnified:

1) Special Teams
2) Turnovers

And it's not uncommon for one to combine with the other. The Seahawks fumbled three punts in the last playoff matchup with the Redskins and still won the game. I doubt they can afford the same kind of mistakes this time around.

The good news is that I believe we have an advantage in both of these areas, especially at home. ESPN seems to agree with me. For those without an Insider account, they rank the Hawks special teams unit as fourth best in the playoffs and the Skins as #8.

Antawn Randle-El has a history of electric punt returns, but the team has only averaged 7.5 yards per return this season.

The Redskins are the better coverage team on both punts and kicks, however.

We should all be aware by now that the Hawks are having a strong season in the turnover department with a +10, compared to the Skins at -5.

In a game where many other factors may cancel themselves out, these two could be what decides the game.

How does 67,000 vs 11 feel?

We're waiting for you. Cooped up inside because of the rain. Itching for the chance to get outside and scream 40 years worth of Seattle sports frustration into your ear holes. Better know that snap count, rook. Drago's gonna be coming off the corner before you know the ball is even snapped. Overreact to the outside? He's gonna spin inside and pancake your geriatric quarterback back into obscurity.

Leave in an extra back as a crutch? J-Pete and LeRoy are going to be picking you up like a sack of groceries and tossing you 10 yards back.

Find someway to get the ball off in desperation? Grant and Tru are going to be waiting.

Save yourself the trip.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hey Redskins, you can't handle our passing game

Alright. I'm feeling a little feisty tonight. The Redskins are the best team on the planet, right? They are hot and on a mission. They play in the rough, tough, NFC East and have a Hall of Fame coach.

The Seahawks are inconsistent, weak, chokers with no tradition that play in the pansy NFC West.

Well, suck on this, Redskins:

You haven't played a top 10 passing team during your win streak. And, no, the Cowboys don't count because they barely showed up. I'm feeling generous, though, so let's include the Cowboys game and look at whole season to see how you did.

Let's see:
#1 New England (QB Rating 116)
Skins lost 52-7

#3 Dallas (QB Rating 97.1)
Skins lost 28-23
Skins won 27-6

#6 Green Bay (QB Rating 95.9)
Skins lose 17-14

#8 Tampa Bay (QB Rating 91.7)
Skins lose 19-13

So, if I'm feeling really generous and giving you that piece of crap win over the Cowboys in the season finale, you are still 1-4 against good passing teams. And guess what? The pitiful, hopeless Hawks sport a #7 ranking with a 91.8 QB rating.

How you like me now? Sweatin' a little? Good. Hasselbeck and the boys are going to roll your asses.

Weather: Rain likely for the game

Looks like it won't be particularly pass-friendly on Saturday. The forecast is calling for rain. I think that favors the Redskins and their running game.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Another victory indicator

The Seahawks are 14-1 over the past three seasons when scoring first at home. That's an easy one to keep an eye on Saturday.

Applying this new info to the game this weekend

So now I know how important opponents rushing yards are for the Seahawks. There is somewhat conflicting statistical evidence about whether this info should make us feel more confident about winning the game.

To re-state:

The Seahawks are 22-2 over the past three seasons when holding opponents under 100 yards rushing.
  1. The Redskins have been held under 100 yards seven times this season and are 2-5 in those games
  2. The Seahawks hold opponents to an average of just 83 yards rushing when playing at home
  3. The Redskins have rushed for at least 100 yards in their last three games
  4. The Seahawks have allowed at least 100 yards rushing in 6 of the past 7 games, and 10 of 16 overall. They are 5-5 in those 10 games. This seems to indicate that while holding a team under 100 yards rushing almost guarantees a Hawks win, allowing a team to go over 100 yards does not doom them.
  5. The Seahawks have held opponents under 100 yards rushing in 5 of 8 home games this year, but it's happened in 2 of the last 3 home games (although the totals in those games were just 106 and 107 yards). They allow an average of 83 yards rushing a game at home.
What does all of this tell us? Not much, really. I know I will be watching that rushing yardage total at the stadium this weekend.

The best indicator of a Seahawks victory

As I've mentioned here numerous times, the Hawks have an outstanding 29-5 record over the past three seasons when scoring 20 or more points in a game. The question I have not spent time trying to answer is, "What are the key characteristics of a game when the Hawks score 20?" I averaged key stats across every game from the last three seasons in games when the Hawks did and did not score 20 points. The results were not all that surprising, but still interesting.

The first characteristic is, they seem to score 20 points in these games. (Yes, I'm hilarious)

Obviously, it doesn't make much sense to analyze scoring in these games. I will note that it is a feast or famine sort of thing. When the Hawks eclipse that mark, they average 29 pts/game. When they don't, they only average 12.5.

However, there is not much of a difference in how many points the Hawks surrender in these games (18 in games when the Hawks score over 20 vs. 20 in games when the Hawks score under 20).

It really comes down to three key stats:
  1. Rushing yards for
  2. Yards per attempt
  3. Rushing yards against
The first two are not surprising since scoring more than 20 means the offense is playing pretty well. I will note, though, that this indicates passing efficiency is more critical than running efficiency for scoring. The Hawks YPR is essentially the same when they score over (4.18) or under 20 (3.96), as are their passing yards (225 vs. 206).

There is a 40 yard difference in rushing yards (138 vs. 96) and almost 1.5 yards in YPA (7.2 vs. 5.91).

The last item is a little more surprising, and was the biggest disparity of all the categories. There is a huge 50 yard difference (143 against when scoring less than 20 vs. 92.5 when scoring 20+). When starting this little research project, I would not have guessed rushing yards against as being a key indicator for how many point the Seahawks would score. On reflection, it does make sense that a team controlling the clock would limit our scoring chances.

I'd bet that if I went back and looked, things like time of possession and first downs would also be skewed in these games. It's also worth noting that teams do not appear to have to run all that well while piling up these yards. The difference in YPR against is modest (4.36 when scoring under 20 vs. 3.85 when scoring 20+), but the amount of rushing attempts varies quite a bit.

This bodes well for the Hawks at home where they are allowing only 83 yards rushing/game vs. 118 on the road.

Whoa. While tracking this stuff down, I found my new favorite stat:

The Seahawks are 22-2 (including the playoffs) when holding an opponent under 100 yards rushing over the last three seasons
That's pretty clear cut. If you need any more evidence that the opponents rushing total is *the* key stat, you'll need to find another sucker to do the research.

A look back at 2005 Skins/Seahawks game

Despite the amount of turnover that normally happens on NFL rosters, many of the same key players are present in the rematch with the Redskins, including both head coaches. There are reasons to expect a similar game to that one, but first let's look at what different:

Redskins Differences
  • John Hall was their placekicker. It is now Shaun Suisham. Hall was very limited in long range, and did not make a kick over 50 yards all season in 2005. Suisham is a huge part of the Skins offense, and while he's attempted only two kicks over 50 yards this year, we no longer have a significant advantage in the kicking game.
  • Mark Brunell out. Todd Collins in.
  • Taylor Jacobs was their #2 WR in that game. I believe James Thrash was injured. They now have a significant threat opposite Moss in Antwaan Randle El.
  • No Sean Taylor. He led them in tackles with seven, and was an intimidating force in the secondary. They now rely on Reed Doughty to play the FS spot. Doughty is an unproven player.
  • Lemar Marshall and LaVar Arrington were starting LBs (although I thought Arrington was in the dog house that year and may not have started). A big part of the Skins defense has been the addition of London Fletcher and Randall Godfrey at LB, especially Fletcher. The Skins were undisciplined at the LB spot last time. No longer.
  • Ryan Clark was the other starting safety. That spot now belongs to LaRon Landry. Landry was the sixth pick in the draft, and had what appeared to be an outstanding rookie season with 95 tackles.
  • Carlos Rogers was opposite Springs at CB. He is out for the season with an injury, so I believe Fred Smoot is the starter.
  • I believe there are differences on the offensive line, but I don't see a simple way to track down the ones who left. Pete Kendall, former Seahawk, is new at LG. Jason Fabini is new at RG and Stephon Heyer is a rookie at RT. Heyer was an undrafted free agent. Expect the Hawks to focus on him and force the Skins to leave a back in to help.
  • Anthony Montgomery is the other starting DT next to Griffin. He is a third year player.
  • Andre Carter is opposite Daniels at DE, and has 11 sacks this year.
  • Daniels had 8 sacks in 2005, but has only 3 in each of the past two years.
Seahawks Differences
  • We all expect Mo Morris to play a big role instead of being thrust into a situation where he was subbing for the injured MVP in a critical game.
  • There will be no Mack Strong to rumble 32 yards on a critical third down in the 4th quarter, but we have a player in Leonard Weaver that provides a much greater threat.
  • Instead of prepping for Joe J, D-Jack and J Stevens, they are looking at Branch, Burleson, Hackett and Pollard. D-Jack had 9 catches for 143 yards in that game. No other receiver had more than 2 catches. The Skins will not be able to focus their attention that way in this game.
  • Jimmy Williams is not returning punts. Thank...freakin'...goodness! Williams combined an amazing ability to get 3 yards on a punt return with THREE fumbles in that game. In case you don't remember, we lost the turnover battle 3-to-1 thanks to Williams. Williams' official line was 4 punt returns for -1 yards. Are you ready for Nate the Great?
  • Similar thing on kick returns where we had the zero threat in Josh Scobey-Doo.
  • Tom Rouen was our punter, and that might have been better considering the way Plack has punted this year.
  • The defense's transformation is well chronicled. No Marquand Manuel, Michael Boulware, Andre Dyson, Kelly Burndon, Chuck Darby, Marcus Tubbs, Grant Wistrom, DD Lewis, or Bryce Fisher. Fisher had a big game with 8 tackles and a sack. Tatupu and Hill were monsters with 10 and 9 tackles, respectively.
  • The changes on the Seahawks defense--almost all for the better--is by far the biggest difference in this rematch. Even though we clearly have better talent, that defense was playing it's best at the time, especially against the run where they were allowing only ~50 yards/game in the last seven before the playoffs.
Many key players are the same, including Hasselbeck, Moss, Cooley, Walter Jones, Springs and Clinton Portis. You could say Alexander is the same, but he's not what he was in 2005, as we all know.