I play pick-up basketball twice each week. I’ve been playing pick-up basketball since I was 9 or 10 years-old. One of the best parts of the game is when you line up on a team that is clearly inferior to your opponent, and somehow you send them back to the sideline scratching their heads and cussing about an unfathomable loss. Effort beats talent.
It would be easy to walk away from the Seahawks 24-13 loss to the Vikings believing we may be more talented on defense than all of us thought. What I saw was inspired play by one team, going against another team that was relying on their talent. That’s not to take anything away from what was perhaps the best Seahawks defensive performance in the last year (yes, I would rank this over our shutouts in regular season games last year). Seahawks fans should be ecstatic about the way the defense played on the road against a fantastic offensive line and a skilled offense. It simply tells us that our side can rise to the occasion. They can play above their talent level. That’s about leadership, belief and coaching.
Lawyer Milloy set the stage early with big hits and jawing. Lofa Tatupu made his presence felt right off the bat with a tipped pass. Even Red Bryant bellied up to a few Vikings. Talent has a way of showing up when your defense is playing with speed and confidence. Chris Clemons led a great night from the defensive line by turning in a dominating performance. His early sack and forced fumble was just the start. He had the upper-hand much of the evening against LT Bryant McKinnie. He finished with two sacks, 1 official QB hit and a forced fumble. Brandon Mebane helped with his strongest performance in recent memory. Colin Cole and Red Bryant both were impressive as well, as the Vikings had very little luck running up the middle all night. You can pencil Red Bryant in for 4-5 sacks this year. He’s going to have trouble closing the deal, but he’s spent more time in the backfield than any other Hawk lineman. If you have the game on DVR, go back and watch at about the 6:45 mark in the 2nd quarter. Bryant tosses Steve Hutchison around like a rag doll and nearly forces a fumble.
The linebackers had a decent game. Tatupu really shows up on tape. During the goal-line stand on the Vikings second possession, he told his defense the direction the play was going to go on both third and fourth downs. On the Vikings third possession, he checked out of a play, and sacked Favre, forcing a fumble. The play was negated by an illegal contact penalty, but the reality remained that Tatupu makes his teammates better. Will Herring was possibly the worst player on the field for the defense. After a terrific pre-season, and solid regular season last year, he’s been an easy target for offenses so far this year. I wonder if we’ll ever see LeRoy Hill play a full game with Tatupu and Curry. Speaking of Curry, he has his best game of the pre-season. It wasn’t a great game, but he made some impact plays. After re-watching the Packers game and watching Curry again last night, I’m starting to see signs that he is taking steps in the right direction as a pass rusher. Tyjuan Hagler and Matt McCoy continue to battle and make some notable plays.
The secondary gave the defensive line a run for their money as best unit on defense. Lawyer Milloy was everywhere. He blitzed. He made plays against the run, and well, he usually got burnt in coverage. Sorry, Lawyer. Trufant was flawless for the second straight week. Josh Wilson played his usual uneven game, with too much cushion on some plays, and great playmaking on others. He was the guy who knocked the ball into Earl Thomas’ arms for the pick-6. Thomas responded wonderfully to a tough game against the Packers. The Seahawks could not script a better pre-season for Thomas who has started cocky, gotten burned, and then made an impact. It wasn’t hard to predict that Thomas was going to make more and more plays after that interception. Sure enough, he made a great tackle on a screen play and a crunching hit on Percy Harvin. Thomas hasn’t arrived, but the seal has been broken, and we should expect him to make plays all year.
It’s hard to really talk about any of the backups who were a far cry from the starters. Roy Lewis showed up, and Cord Parks stood out on special teams.
The offense was not quite as disappointing as the score might indicate. We have no running game, regardless of the running back. The passing game is still a work in progress. What is encouraging is that the offensive line pass protected well, and the Seahawks are showing that big play passes are not an endangered species in Seattle anymore. We had the 51-yard play to Mike Williams in game 1, a couple of passes over 20 yards in game 2, and THREE passes over 40 yards in the Vikings game. I think you’d need to go back years to find a game where the Seahawks had three passes over 40 yards. The wide receivers look far more talented than their reputation would indicate. Deon Butler, Housh, and Branch all made nice plays. Golden Tate had his best game, but really does look like a project player who will make a bigger impact next year. And then there’s Mike Williams, who has Pro Bowl potential. I honestly believe that. What we need to see is fewer mis-communications between Matt, Housh and Williams. It wouldn’t hurt to see a tight end make an appearance in the seam either. Mansfield Wrotto and Mike Gibson started the game as the big story, with everyone predicting a major calamity. They ended the game as a big story with Gibson pushing Hamilton for a starting role and Wrotto making the coaches wonder if Sean Locklear is ready to be replaced. This is a great development.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Seahawks recap without mentioning Jon Ryan. Has a punter ever won the league MVP award? Kidding…