Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sidney Rice Goes To IR, Not To Seahawks Free Agent Graveyard

The news broke today that Sidney Rice is heading to the injured reserve. His season is over. With two concussions in the past three games on non-contact plays, the Seahawks made a prudent decision to shut him down and make sure he can be a productive part of the future instead of risking his health (and their investment) on a series of largely meaningless games this season. Some fans are reacting to the news as if this is just the latest in a series of failed free agent moves by the Seahawks. Rice's health is certainly a concern, but his production in a pedestrian offense merits more than enough excitement to offset those concerns.

Rice missed the first two games of the year with a torn labrum. He never healed, but was able to rehab to the point where he could play. John Carlson also tore his labrum, but the injury was severe enough to end his season before it began. Rice missed much of the Baltimore and Redskins games with concussions caused by having his head smack the turf on diving attempts. In his seven "healthy" games, Rice totaled 30 receptions and 470 yards for a per-game average of 4.3 receptions and 67.1 yards. That adds up to about 69 receptions and nearly 1,100 yards when projected over a whole 16-game schedule. That's far from bust territory. Rice is still only 25, and while he missed most of last season, it was for a hip injury that has no relation to the injuries he has endured in 2011.

Percy Harvin had multiple concussions to the point of having some discuss whether they would threaten his career. He has played every game this year and 14 of 16 games last year. Fans need to avoid going overboard with worry regarding Rice's situation. He is a long and thin player who regularly extends himself for throws over his head and wide of his body. Injuries will likely always be a threat with him, but so will 60-yard touchdowns. All Rice has done this year is give the team hope that they have found a truly productive member of the receiving corps for years to come. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PenaltyPalooza Part II: Just How Bad Is It?

This short series will explore the much-discussed penalty situation for the Seahawks. Seattle has the second-most penalties in the NFL this year. Is it the coaching? Specific players? Just how harmful has this been? Are there any signs of improvement? All of these questions will addressed, and more.


The Series:
Part I - Pete Carroll's Penalty History

PART II: Just How Bad Is It?

Seattle has committed 56 penalties for a total of 459 yards in the past five games. That's an average of over 11 penalties and over 91 yards per game. If the Seahawks were to maintain that pace for an entire 16-game season, they would pile up 179 penalties and nearly 1,500 yards which would shatter the NFL mark set by the 1998 Kansas City Chiefs who had 158 penalties for 1,304 yards. Even if the Seahawks just maintain their season-long pace of 9.5 penalties per game, they will challenge the record for penalties since they are on pace for 153 on the year. That's how bad it is.

I lied. It gets worse. Seattle is surrendering nearly three first downs per game to their opponents via penalties. On the year, they have given up 30 first downs to opposing offenses via penalty. That means that nearly 14% of the first downs allowed by the Seahawks defense have come via penalty. The NFL average is around 1.5. The 2010 Seahawks were at 1.3. This defense has more than doubled the amount of first downs surrendered via penalty.

Seattle is on pace to challenge the single-season NFL penalty record.
Opponents have only given the Seahawks 15 first downs via penalty all year, half of what Seattle is giving up. That means that the Seahawks enter every game with a likely first down deficit of 1-2 first downs. That manifests itself in time of possession, points and field position. And the problem is getting worse.




Lack of experience and youth certainly play a role in penalties, but there should be a trend towards improvement as the season wears on and those players gain experience with the refs and each other. That is not happening in most cases.

There is, however, some evidence that the coaching staff is a having a positive impact on penalties that the average fan would not notice. The Seahawks are worst in the NFL at false starts with 29 such penalties this year. That makes up a whopping 28% of all their penalties. Add in procedural penalties (e.g., illegal motion), offsides (defense), and delay of game and you see that over 40% of Seattle's penalties are of the pre-snap variety. Pete Carroll has mentioned those as a particular point of emphasis, and saw some evidence of improvement in an otherwise lamentable game versus the Redskins.

Check out the 4-week pre-snap penalty trend:

That is a significant change for the better. With a penalty problem on the scale the Seahawks are dealing with, it does not make sense to try and fix everything at once. Keep on eye on pre-snap penalties to see if those continue to be less common. That will at least be an indicator that this coaching staff can impact the discipline of the team given time.

The offensive line has seen an improvement overall the past four weeks as they only committed two penalties and zero holds. Many fans point to the secondary as a major issue. The reality is that the Seahawks have the 7th most defensive pass interference calls, tied for most illegal contact calls, and 14th most defensive holding calls. The illegal contact rank is a little mis-leading as the Seahawks have four on the year, and would drop 20 spots if they had two fewer. It's not exactly an epidemic. Similarly, they have seven PI calls, and would drop into the middle of the pack with only a couple less. The issue is more the overall number of calls against the secondary. This would likely need to be the next place to focus for the coaches, but it may also be something that improves the most with more time as refs will give these corners more respect after their first year and the players will learn exactly what kinds of holds they can get away with and what they cannot. Remember, Brandon Browner played in a CFL that allowed contact all the way down the field. This is a legitimate adjustment period for him.

There is a direct correlation to the secondary penalties and the first down statistic above since illegal contact, pass interference and holding all result in an automatic first down. Address some of those secondary issues, and you should also see a drastic improvement in first downs yielded due to penalty.

The penalty situation has become something deserving of much more attention from Pete Carroll and the staff. They have shown some initial ability to impact areas they want to improve, but have a lot of work left to do. 

PenaltyPalooza Part I: Pete Carrol's Penalty History

This short series will explore the much-discussed penalty situation for the Seahawks. Seattle has the second-most penalties in the NFL this year. Is it the coaching? Specific players? Just how harmful has this been? Are there any signs of improvement? All of these questions will addressed, and more.


Pete Carroll is quintessential California. He's Marin County born and bread, and reminds me a lot of a boss I once had who was born there as well. I used to joke that my boss saw the glass as four-fifths full instead of just half-full. Carroll shares that reputation as seeing even the most dire situation as glimmering with hope. That sort of reputation has fueled the belief that the Seahawks penalty binge this season is a result of Carroll's easygoing approach. Either he runs an undisciplined practice or is unwilling to go negative when the team is not executing properly, or at least that's what some believe. Others point to the youth and inexperience of this roster as being the primary cause of the penalty problem.

If Carroll, and his approach to coaching, is the root cause, it should be pretty easy to identify a pattern of penalty problems in his coaching history.

Carroll's 2010 Seahawks team ranked 19th in the NFL in penalties. Not a stellar performance, but in the middle-third of the NFL. That, alone, seems to take a lot of air out of the argument that the terrible penalty problem this season is solely due to Carroll. Scott Enyeart provided Carroll's USC penalty history to add some more color. His teams finished in the bottom half of the Pac-10 in each of his last five seasons. You could add the two years of Seahawks into that and make it a streak of seven straight seasons finishing in the bottom half of the league in penalties. Then again, his first four seasons at USC were stellar. What changed after 2004?

Enyeart mentioned that Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow and Defensive Line Coach Ed Orgeron took other jobs after the 2004 season. If the head coach is the general, the coordinators are lieutenants and the position coaches are sergeants. The general sets the direction and paints the objective, the lieutenants and sergeants are responsible for getting the troops prepared and executing the plan. Obviously, the head coach is responsible for picking his staff, but the staff has a bigger impact on how the players perform each week than the head coach.

Look at it another way. Carroll inherited the roster Jim Mora Jr. had in 2009. Mora Jr. ran a very different show. His training camp was considered one of the most grueling in the league, and he was far from a sunny disposition. His 2009 Seahawks ranked 18th in penalties, only one spot better than Carroll in 2010. Mike Holmgren had many of the same players in 2008 and ranked 10th. Holmgren might be the best evidence against Carroll. His team ranked 1st in 2007, 15th in 2006, 1st in 2005, 1st in 2004, 4th in 2003. That's not a coincidence.

Note that things did not get markedly better at USC when Lane Kiffin replaced Carroll as the Trojans ranked 8th last season. Enyeart notes that Orgeron was back last season as well. The Trojans are now back to 1st.

The evidence suggests that the head coach absolutely effects the penalty situation for his team, but there is no credence to the theory that Carroll's philosophy is incompatible with fielding a disciplined team. It may be true that Carroll requires a certain type of staff to counterbalance his style, but not many people would argue Tom Cable is a big softy. His offensive line is among the most penalized in the league, and is also the least experienced and youngest. Being a hard-ass does not make a team disciplined. Holding people accountable and sweating the details does. Carroll needs to take a hard look at his history to find the truth of what has worked and what has not. He has success to draw on, but needs to face the issue and make it a priority. It's no longer funny to talk about fining guys in practice and other guys winning the "penalty pool." Blaming him for the penalty problem this season would be clumsy and simplistic, but a lack of improvement from here on out would be an indictment on him and his staff.

In the next few parts of this series, we will see evidence that the coaching staff may be making strides even if the overall penalty numbers don't show it.  We will also look at who is committing the penalties to determine if it really is the young players or is more systemic.

Hawk Blogger 2011 Power Rankings - Week 12

PRIMER
Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach is simple, I measure offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" is as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)


The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Only 3 of the top 10 teams from week one of 2010 made the playoffs, and a team as low as #27 (Atlanta) was a league power. Usually, these become most meaningful after week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. In 2010 8 of top 10 teams from week 3 made the playoffs.

If you'd like to see final rankings from 2010, you can read more here.

THIS WEEK
History has shown the true Super Bowl contenders get strength scores above 10.0.



Scatter chart of the rankings. This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on.



Monday, November 28, 2011

The Evening After: Seahawks Lose To Redskins 23-17

Shameful. Forget measuring progress by statistics. Set aside any personnel improvements the front office has made. When a team with a 3-7 record comes into your stadium and disrespects your franchise by dancing on your logo during the coin toss, the only acceptable outcome is a convincing win. Anything else is an affront to your manhood and makes any claim of toughness sound hollow.

Give the Redskins credit. They came out and brought the fight to the Seahawks. They acted as if something was on the line even though the Seahawks were the ones who had a flickering light of hope to reach for. The Redskins offense came out with a clever game plan that the Seahawks should expect to see much more of the rest of the year.

Their offense was built around running their receivers deep and allowing the underneath to clear out, before dumping short passes to tight ends and running backs on delays. It put a lot of pressure on the Seahawks linebackers and safeties who did not step up to the challenge. The plays took a long time to develop, so protection was critical. Seattle's inferior pass rush made this plan a good bet, and Washington executed it to perfection in piling up over 300 yards passing after not exceeding 280 since Week 2 versus the Cardinals at home. The run defense was not much better, yielding an alarming 4.7 yards per carry and over 100 yards to Roy Helu. This was a Redskins offense that was averaging around 85 yards rushing per game. Helu had not rushed for more than 41 yards since the same Week 2 game.

Say what you will about the Seahawks offense (we'll get there), but seventeen points should have been plenty to beat the Redskins. The lack of talent on Washington's offense should have allowed for proper adjustments on defense. Seattle got out-coached in this game. That has not happened often, especially on defense, but it certainly happened on Sunday.

Seattle coaches deserve harsh criticism for this loss. There is no excuse for wasting a timeout in order to get blockers on the field for a field goal. Nobody can prove it caused Steven Hauschka to miss that kick, but there is a reason opposing coaches use timeouts to make opposing kickers wait a few more minutes. That timeout played a factor how the game ended. Offensive play calling was questionable throughout. The Seahawks first possession started with a five-yard carry and a ten-yard carry for Marshawn Lynch. Seahawks coaches then dialed up three straight pass plays before a punt. Seattle followed the same plan in their first possession after half by running Lynch three times for 17 yards on the first plays before throwing three straight passes and punting. The second possession of the 2nd half, Lynch starts with a four-yard gain before two straight passes lead to a punt. That's three possessions where Lynch is averaging 6.0 yards per carry and the Seahawks went away from him for some reason.

Balance is important in an offense, but when your offense is gaining over 5.0 yards per play, you stick with it until the opponent stops you. A 3/1 or 4/1 mix of run/pass is what the team should be after when the running game is that effective. You could see Seattle blowing the Redskins off the ball for almost the entire game, even with eight and nine men in the box. The Redskins started the game with nine guys in the box, and the Seahawks were still mashing them for big chunks of yards. When Sidney Rice exits, Mike Williams plays horribly and Zach Miller drops another pass, that is all the more reason to stick with something that is working. Bad day for the staff.

The post-game topic on Twitter seemed to be Tarvaris Jackson and how he clearly isn't healthy enough to play. Really? Did anyone see the ridiculous drops early in the game? I counted at least three first downs and a touchdown lost on great throws by Jackson and bad plays by receivers. Williams was one of my favorite players to watch last season, but does not deserve to be on the field right now. Every other receiver on this roster has done more to earn snaps this season than Williams. His drops were bad, but his worst play was giving up on a ball Jackson threw toward the sideline that was almost picked off because the defender decided to play through the whistle. Williams may want to consider how his game would improve with elite effort. He's not even bringing JV effort at this point.

There is reason to be concerned about Sidney Rice's concussions. This is the second concussion he's had this year without any contact from a defender. He just is hitting the ground on diving attempts. That's not good.

This year's "Mike Williams" story has been Brandon Browner who has got plenty of love on this blog. Browner hurt this team yesterday. His holding penalty on the first drive allowed the Redskins to keep a drive alive and eventually led to a touchdown. His receiver was nowhere near the play, and Seattle was about to have the defensive stand to start the game they needed. Unacceptable. His penalty on the kick that cost 15 yards was also way off the ball and did not effect the play. Those are stupid penalties. Fighting with a receiver down-field that leads to the occasional illegal contact or hold can be forgiven since he brings so much else to the table, but these sort of silly off-ball penalties cannot happen. His worst play was allowing the 50-yard touchdown that won the game. Anthony Armstrong had 47 yards receiving the rest of the year before that catch. Browner turned his head to see the ball coming, but then inexplicably turned back to the receiver and started slapping him instead of just backpedaling and either picking the ball off or knocking it down. He had a great interception and made some great plays on the ball. Even with that, this qualified as Browner's most disappointing performance to date. He needs to be better.

The bottom line on Sunday was that the Redskins played like this game meant more to them, and the Seahawks were out-coached. They now face a much more difficult match-up with the Eagles who boast players that are fast and shifty. That is a tough task for this defense. Coaches will need to be great to come up with a game plan that puts the players in positions to succeed. Fans should be angry after that loss. It's the first one that really goes without legitimate explanation or excuse. As they say, the measure of a man is not how many times he is knocked down, but how many times he gets up. This team must pick itself up and earn back some goodwill after an unacceptable outing this week.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anatomy of Super Bowl Winners Part V: The Overstated Franchise QB

To Suck, Or Not To Suck is a series exploring whether franchises have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl by suffering through some terrible seasons to get higher draft choices, or whether winning begets more winning. Each article will look at this question from a different angle. All will be based on quantifiable data. Varying interpretations and debate are highly encouraged!

The Series:
Part I: Where Super Bowl Winning Quarterbacks Are Drafted
Part II: Where All-Pro Players Are Drafted
Part III: Does Losing Lead To Winning?
Part IV: Best & Worst Franchises Since Start Of 16-Game Schedule

PART V: The Overstated Franchise QB
Franchise quarterbacks are almost mythical creatures in the NFL. Everybody is on a quest to find one outside of the handful of teams that already have one. The allure of the franchise quarterback is so great that large chunks of fans are willing, even eager, to pile up losses in order to have a chance at drafting one. History has shown a strong correlation between quarterback play and winning.

Every one of the top eight rated quarterbacks heading into Week 12 of the 2011 season lead a team either in 1st or 2nd place in their division. Last year, eight of the twelve playoffs teams had a quarterback with a Top 10 passer rating. The evidence continues as far back into NFL history as one would like to look. Twenty-four of the forty-five Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. No other position has more than seven.

The question is not whether quarterbacks are a critical aspect of building a Super Bowl winning team. A better question might be how many great quarterbacks never won a Super Bowl. The course of this research has also raised the question of whether losing enough games to get a player like Andrew Luck could mean fans would have a significantly longer wait until they get their ring. The rest of this article will look at different ways to measure great quarterbacks, which of those won Super Bowls, how long it took them to win one, and why some never got the trophy.

Start with passing yards. The amount of passing yards a QB throws for is certainly one of the primary methods of evaluations for their effectiveness.

As you can see from the figure above, only seven of the Top 20 career passing yards leaders have won a Super Bowl. It should also be noted that four of those seven played within the past couple of years, and three are still playing (Peyton Manning's career is active even if he playing status is not this year). The NFL has become more and more reliant on the forward pass to move the ball, so it stands to reason that we would see many more modern era names on the list, and a higher propensity for championships the more recently the player's career took place.

Manning and John Elway were both taken #1 overall in their respective draft classes. No other SB winning player in this list was drafted in the first round. Interestingly, both Manning and Elway had to wait longer to get their rings than the other guys who won one on here. We will revisit the question of whether there is a strong correlation between when a franchise quarterback was drafted and how long they have to wait to win a Super Bowl later in this article.

Make not of the some of the great quarterbacks on the list that never won a championship. Players like Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, and Dan Fouts jump out as undeniably great quarterbacks. These are Hall of Fame level talents, yet they never won the Super Bowl.

Let's continue to build our list of great quarterbacks by looking at the NFL career leaders in touchdown passes. Eight of the Top 20 touchdown tossers have won a ring.


Only Len Dawson is a new addition to the list of SB winners. The other seven were also Top 20 in passing yards. There is a pattern developing in these cumulative stats where players with long careers start showing up. Every Seahawks fan loves Dave Krieg, but he does not belong next to names like Joe Montana and Drew Brees. A more time-independent statistic like passer rating might be more revealing.


We are now up to 10 of the Top 20 with SB wins. The clustering at the top is more noticeable as eight of the Top 10 have won Super Bowls. All but three of the SB winners, and 16 of the Top 20, have played in the last ten years. This stat adds names like Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger to the list of winners, and guys like Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers to the list of great quarterbacks who have not yet won.

Quarterbacks are ultimately judged by wins. Two quick ways to examine wins are total career wins and career winning percentage.


It should come as no surprise that 13 of the Top 20 career wins leaders at quarterback have won a Super Bowl. It was a surprise that this was the first list Troy Aikman shows up on, and even here, he just sneaks in.


Jackpot. A full 16 of the Top 20 career leaders in QB winning percentage have Super Bowl rings, including all but one of the Top 17. Poor Jim Kelly. This raises the question again about whether the quarterback makes the team or the team makes the quarterback. Many of these players joined teams already in decent shape. Steve Young, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and others joined teams with talent around them. Eight of Top 20 winning percentage leaders were drafted in the Top 5 of their draft class. Four were drafted after pick 100. Another four were drafted between picks 27 and 52. Looking at the team winning percentages in the three years prior to drafting these players would be illuminating. That will have to wait for another time.

One thing that does seem clear is that being a team bad enough to draft #1 overall usually leads to long lag time between drafting a great quarterback and winning it all. There appears to be an almost linear trend that shows the later a franchise quarterback is found, the quicker the teams wins a Super Bowl. Take a look at the this chart of all the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks mentioned in the above tables.


The players on the far left were drafted highest (#1 overall all the way through Troy Aikman), and the players on the right were drafted latest (Warner was undrafted and Brady/Starr were drafted 199 to give you some context for spread). The higher the peak, the longer the time between when a player was drafted and when their team ultimately won a Super Bowl. The overall average is a smidge over 5 years. Teams that don't have their franchise quarterback yet should let that sink in. It will likely be at least five years after your team drafts the right quarterback before a parade can be planned. If you are "lucky" enough to find your franchise quarterback with the #1 overall pick, expect a wait of closer to eight years (the average is 7.6). Teams that find their Mr. Right after pick 100 average just over two years to pay dirt.

Teams bad enough to draft in the Top 10, and especially #1 overall, are almost never missing just one player. The idea that Peyton Manning or John Elway come in and take their teams to the promised land is patently false. Manning only won one Super Bowl, and that took him eight years. Elway won two, but it took him 14 years to get his first. You are talking about having a team so talent-less that it takes a decade to build the roster up to the point that it can win, and that's if you happen to have one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game running the show. Is Andrew Luck going to be that much better than Elway or Manning? The comparison to Manning may not be that tough if the Colts end up with the top pick. Consider, though, that by the time Luck has his feet under him at the NFL level, players like Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne, Jeff Saturday, and Robert Mathis will be either out of the league or near the end of their careers. The idea that Luck would just come in and turn the Colts back into contenders is something history does not give a lot of credence to.

The quarterback remains a crucial piece of any championship puzzle, but finding a great one is far from a guarantee that a championship is inevitable. The tables above list a number of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who never won it all. Previous articles have shown less than Hall of Fame quarterbacks that have accomplished the feat. How does one rationalize Doug Williams, Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson having a ring when Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Fran Tarkenton do not? Great teams win Super Bowls. It is worth spending some time in a future article in this series doing a case study on Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Kelly was surrounded by fantastic talent, but never quite got to the mountain top. Marino never seemed to have the defense necessary to buoy his offense. We will also explore what changed for the likes of Manning and Elway that finally got them rings after playing winning football for so long.

Seahawks Defense Heating Up Turnovers

Americans consumed, on average, 5000-6000 calories during their Thanksgiving meal this week. Turkey, Ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, pecan pies and pumpkin pies are just a few of the tasty treats enjoyed by many. Seahawks defenders have been feasting on opponent turnovers long before Thanksgiving came and went, and we're not talking about apple or cherry here. These are the kind that taste even sweeter and may even cause the average fan to burn a few calories jumping for joy. Over the past six games, dating back to the New York Giants game before the bye week, only one team in the NFL has forced more turnovers than the 15 Seattle's defense has caused.

Seattle's D is ball Hawkin'
Seattle's defense currently ranks 13th in the NFL in total turnovers forced with 17. The Top 11 teams all check in with more than 20, but five of those teams have played one more game than Seattle. The Seahawks started the season by forcing only two turnovers in the first four games, pushing them down near the bottom of the NFL. The six weeks that have followed have seen the team force and average of 2.5 turnovers per game. The league-leading 49ers have averaged 2.36 turnovers per game for the season, and forced only 12 in the past six games. The Chicago Bears have forced one more turnover during that six-game time frame, aided greatly by a six turnover game against the Lions a few weeks back.


Seahawks 6-Game turnover spree
Not only have the Seahawks piled up an impressive turnover total, but they have forced at least one turnover in each of the six games. The Green Bay Packers, the Giants and the Houston Texans have forced a turnover in every game this season. Seattle's streak of forcing a turnover in six straight games ranks as the next longest. Fifteen teams have forced fewer turnovers the entire year than the Seahawks have caused in the last six weeks. If the Seahawks maintained this turnover pace the rest of the year, they would end the season with a total of 32. Seattle's 2010 defense forced only 22 last year, ranking near the bottom of the NFL. This year's team, with 17 already, should have no trouble eclipsing last year's total.

The turnovers are coming both on the ground and through the air. It is that balance that is leading to the recent surge. Seattle's seven fumble recoveries is tied for 8th in the NFL, while their 10 interceptions rank 16th. Contributions are coming from all across the defense. Kam Chancellor leads the team with four turnovers (3 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery). He also has a forced fumble. David Hawthorne has two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Chris Clemons has forced three fumbles. Roy Lewis has already recovered two fumbles in his short return from the PUP. Everyone else has no more than one forced fumble, interception or fumble recovery.

Earl Thomas continues to be a player that could pop for more turnovers at any time. He has underachieved with one interception and one fumble recovery, but faces a Rex Grossman-led Redskins team this week that has thrown more interceptions than all but two teams. The Redskins total of 23 turnovers is only one behind the worst in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles own that throne, and the Arizona Cardinals are not far behind with 20. Seattle's defense could potentially gain steam in the turnover department as they play these teams the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Weekly Podcast With Softy: Rams Redux & Redskins Shutout?

Sports Radio KJR host Dave "Softy" Mahler and I recorded our weekly conversation about the Seahawks.

This week we discussed the Rams game, Softy predicting a shutout against the Redskins, and whether Seahawks fans should be talking playoffs.

Tell me what you think. Tell me what you'd like us to cover in the future. Hope you like it!


**Listen to the Podcast**

Hawk Blogger 2011 Power Rankings - Week 11

PRIMER
Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach is simple, I measure offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" is as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)


The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Only 3 of the top 10 teams from week one of 2010 made the playoffs, and a team as low as #27 (Atlanta) was a league power. Usually, these become most meaningful after week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. In 2010 8 of top 10 teams from week 3 made the playoffs.

If you'd like to see final rankings from 2010, you can read more here.

THIS WEEK
History has shown the true Super Bowl contenders get strength scores above 10.0. The Patriots are making a late push. Seattle gets its highest ranking of the season.



Scatter chart of the rankings. This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on.



Monday, November 21, 2011

The Morning After: Seahawks Win 24-7 Over Rams

Seattle's defensive line got a new appreciation for the team's offensive struggles on Sunday. Clinton McDonald picked up a fumble forced by Chris Clemons and took two steps before fumbling it while being tackled. Brandon Mebane had a chance for a big return late in the game after yet another Clemons strip sack, but booted the ball terribly before tripping and falling on his face. Red Bryant talked glowingly about seeing the end zone on his highlight reel interception, and had some bragging rights after going "Big Red Mode" with a vicious stiff-arm that helped him gain five yards before being tackled by Mebane who was trying unsuccessfully to block. The Seahawks offense can be hard to watch at times, but at least they are not tackling one another yet.

It would be easy to spend time lauding the Seahawks defense for a dominating effort, and the team as a whole for rallying from a humiliating start. Bragging about beating the Rams is like acing a 1st grade math test. Any good teacher can tell you getting better is hard to do when you are not sufficiently challenged. The Rams were gifted two interceptions and a 7-0 lead. They even partially blocked a punt, but there was a sense of inevitability in their demeanor. Their offense, especially, seemed to be waiting to lose. It took the Seahawks a while to realize they had hit the snooze button a few too many times. Usually a start like that on the road leads to a blowout loss. The Rams allowed the Seahawks to glance over at their alarm, see they were late for work, and still take the time to make some coffee and take a shower before starting their day.

The Seahawks run defense finally stepped up it's game
One critical takeaway the Seahawks can be proud of was reversing the troubling trend of a run defense that appeared to be weakening. Seattle had allowed opponents an increasing amount of yards per carry for five straight weeks. This is a team that prides itself on stopping the run, and sacrifices a lot in pass pressure in order to do so. The defense was on the field for so long through the first seven games of the year (2nd most in the NFL), that it was not surprising to see evidence of wear.

The Seahawks have now won the time of possession battle three straight games. They have rushed for an average of 135 yards per game, and averaged  37 rushing attempts per game. Each game featured at least as many runs as passes, and significantly more runs than passes in both the Baltimore and St. Louis games. The timing of this new found commitment to the run could not have come at a better time for a defense that desperately needed a break from shouldering so much of the burden. Yesterday's game features a Seahawks defense that looked refreshed. The quality of the opponent certainly factors in, but don't forget that Stephen Jackson had rushed for an average of 139 yards his last three games and was boasting a yards per carry of over 5 for the season.

Take note that this was the second-straight week that an opposing offensive coordinator fashioned a pass-first game plan against the Seahawks. There was much talk about Ray Rice getting only a handful of touches while Joe Flacco threw the ball 52 times last week. Jackson carried the ball 15 times while Sam Bradford threw it 40 on Sunday, and it was not just because the Rams fell behind. The Rams came out in empty backfield a number of times and were attempting a bunch of quick passes to avoid pressure. They did not have a running back in the backfield on a 3rd and 1 play until late in the third quarter. This was a plan, but not a particularly effective one. Teams are starting to question their ability to run against the Seahawks before the game even begins. They are going away from their strengths to probe for weaknesses. Anytime you can force an opponent to beat you in a way they are unaccustomed to playing, you are greatly increasing the chances of victory. Convincing teams to forego their strengths before the game even begins is a special thing indeed.

Seattle's secondary was nearly as intimidating as the rush defense. The Rams tried a few deep passes, but had little success. Brandon Browner got his weekly illegal contact penalty, but it kept Brandon Lloyd from making a 40-yard gain. You decide which you would prefer. The Rams went right back to Lloyd on Browner the next play and Browner swatted the ball away. Lloyd has been a revelation for the moribund Rams passing game since he was acquired, but the Seahawks corners held him to 5 receptions in 14 targets. He was at 2 catches in 10 targets, before a few meaningless catches late. Richard Sherman had a decent game, but allowed a touchdown and dropped two interceptions that hit him square in the hands. Still, the team lowered it's cumulative opponent passer rating to 72.5 since Sherman became a starter versus Cleveland. Roy Lewis deserves a shout-out for his best game since returning from injury. Lewis played well in coverage, had 0.5 sacks and recovered McDonald's fumble.

Bradford's rating stood at 100.8 after one quarter, while Tarvaris Jackson slumped at 16.7. Jackson, however, had a 98.3 passer rating after his first two throws (both interceptions), while Bradford slumped to 47.3 after the first quarter. The two quarterbacks finished with nearly identical ratings of 55.6 for Jackson and 60.5 for Bradford, but it was clear which player was better by day's end. How many people would have predicted Jackson would outplay Bradford when the season began? Don't, though, get carried away. Jackson had his worst game since the Dallas game, and that was only two weeks ago. He was holding onto the ball too long, was inaccurate, and made a number of poor decisions. It is impossible to know if his injury is getting worse, his injured line was adding pressure, or he just is not a great quarterback.

The offensive line looked exactly as one would expect, half-baked. Max Unger and Russell Okung had another strong game, but Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini were over-matched. The right side of the line looked like it did the first three weeks of the season, but the unfortunate difference is that the potential for steep improvement is not as likely with a veteran like McQuistan or a practice squad signee like Giacomini.

Seattle has an interesting stretch in the schedule where they play at home three games in a row, including a Thursday and Monday night game. There is not a game on the schedule the team can't win, but there's also not a game they couldn't lose. The new commitment to the run is crucial to continued success, and may lead to the defense reaching heights not seen so far. A fresher defense could cause more turnovers, more pressure, and give the offense shorter fields to play on. Just don't ask them to play offense.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Sherman Effect

Seattle needed a cornerback. Everybody knew it. Draft experts had the Seahawks looking at Jimmy Smith at the #25 overall pick. John Clayton had corner as the #3 priority on the team's free agent needs. People were talking about Tom Cable recruiting Nnamdi Asomugha, or going after a guy like Jonathan Joseph. All the while, the Seahawks front office was telling anyone that would listen that they were comfortable with their depth at cornerback after spending a fifth-round pick on Richard Sherman, a sixth-round pick on Byron Maxwell and signing little-known Brandon Browner from the CFL. Even the front office could not have predicted the impact Sherman has had on the pass defense since he took over for an injured Walter Thurmond in the second half of the Browns game.

In the five games before playing at Cleveland, the Seahawks pass defense was allowing opponents to complete 67% of their passes for an average of 8.1 yards per attempt, and a gaudy 91.4 passer rating. That would rank 26th in the NFL right now. Since pairing Sherman with Browner the past four games, the results are quite different.

Even with Tony Romo having a great game and finishing with a 112.2 passer rating, opposing quarterbacks have only completed 58.5% of their passes for an average of 6.0 yards per attempt and a 75.8 passer rating. That rating would rank 5th in the NFL among defenses. 


Sherman has played a role in 3 of the team's 4 interceptions the last four games. He grabbed one himself against Cincinnati, tipped one to Kam Chancellor in the same game, and forced a quick throw from Joe Flacco that was tipped by KJ Wright before David Hawthorne picked it off.

It takes a whole secondary to produce numbers like this, so it is clearly not all about Sherman. In fact, Walter Thurmond appeared on the cusp of having a very similar impact when he took over.

Ask yourself this, if you could trade Sherman for Asomugha straight-up right now, would you? 

Weekly Podcast With Softy: Ravens Reaction + Rams Letdown?

Sports Radio KJR host Dave "Softy" Mahler and I recorded our weekly conversation about the Seahawks.

This week we discussed our love of the Seahawks secondary, the Ravens game, why Softy thinks losing to gain draft picks isn't even worth talking about, and the potential for a letdown against the Rams.

Tell me what you think. Tell me what you'd like us to cover in the future. Hope you like it!



**Listen to the Podcast**

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hawk Blogger On ESPN Radio: Brock & Salk

In case you missed it, Brock Huard and Mike Salk spent nearly 30 minutes talking about my To Suck, Or Not To Suck series. They are always a good listen.

You can listen to part one here (you may want to fast-forward to the ~29 min mark)

Part two is here


Anatomy of Super Bowl Winners Part IV: Best & Worst Franchises Since Start Of 16-Game Schedule

To Suck, Or Not To Suck is a series exploring whether franchises have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl by suffering through some terrible seasons to get higher draft choices, or whether winning begets more winning. Each article will look at this question from a different angle. All will be based on quantifiable data. Varying interpretations and debate are highly encouraged!


Detroit got off to a 5-0 start. They were the talk of the league, and for good reason. I dedicated an article to them for ThisGivenSunday, after doing some research that revealed no other franchise had lost more games since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978. It occurs to me that this research may be of interest to those debating whether losing in order to gain higher draft picks can lead to winning.


Here's an excerpt from that article:
Many fans take for granted that bad NFL teams will become good teams over time. Talent wins football games, and nothing beats high draft picks when it comes to adding talent. The Lions have walked an almost impossible line of producing bad team after bad team, and still managing to squander high draft picks at a rate high enough to sustain their losing. Detroit has a league-worst .380 winning percentage since 1978 (see chart), averaging only six wins per season. They have made the playoffs only eight times in that span. Only the Arizona Cardinals (4) and Cincinnati Bengals (6) have played each season since 1978 and had fewer playoff apperances (the Saints also have eight playoff appearances in that time). 
Much of that suckage can be traced back to instablity at the quarterback position. The Lions have had 17 different passing leaders over the course of those 33 seasons. Even a near-.500 franchise like the Seattle Seahawks have only had 9 passing leaders in the same time frame. The Lions are basically churning through a new starting quarterback every other season. That's no way to build a winner. 
Mathew Stafford was drafted three offseasons ago, and has finally stayed healthy long enough to give Lions fans hope that they might finally have a franchise quarterback.The Lions have had exactly zero Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the past 33 seasons. Every fan knows it is hard to find a franchise quarterback, but what Detroit has managed seems harder.
Note that St. Louis and Tampa Bay are the only two franchises to win a Super Bowl in the Bottom 10 winning percentages since 1978. There have been 33 Super Bowls since the 1978 season, with two teams in each, for a total of 66 teams appearing in a Super Bowl since 1978. Of those 66 teams, only 9 were represented by the Bottom 10 records. On the flip side, 33 of the 66 teams, a full 50% came from the Top 10  winning percentages since 1978.

Winners win. Losers lose. The data continues to back that up.

Hawk Blogger 2011 Power Rankings - Week 10

PRIMER
Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach is simple, I measure offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" is as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)


The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Only 3 of the top 10 teams from week one of 2010 made the playoffs, and a team as low as #27 (Atlanta) was a league power. Usually, these become most meaningful after week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. In 2010 8 of top 10 teams from week 3 made the playoffs.

If you'd like to see final rankings from 2010, you can read more here.

THIS WEEK
History has shown the true Super Bowl contenders get strength scores above 10.0. Only three teams meet that mark right now, and Houston just lost Matt Schaub. Watch out for Dallas. They are making a run, and may have found the next stud running back.



Scatter chart of the rankings. This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Anatomy of Super Bowl Winners Part III: Does Losing Lead To Winning?

To Suck, Or Not To Suck is a series exploring whether franchises have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl by suffering through some terrible seasons to get higher draft choices, or whether winning begets more winning. Each article will look at this question from a different angle. All will be based on quantifiable data. Varying interpretations and debate are highly encouraged!

Part I of this series focused on where Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are drafted. Part II looked at where All-Pro players, the best of the best, are drafted. This installment will examine the theory that a franchise that gets a number of high draft picks due to bad records can turn those into a Super Bowl winning foundation of talent. I looked at this from a few different angles. First, we will look at the last ten Super Bowl winners and examine the seasons preceding their championship. How many losing seasons did they have? How many Top 10 draft picks in the years prior to their big win? Next, we will see how teams that have had the most Top 10 picks in the last ten years are faring.

The last ten Super Bowl winners are as follows:

2010 - Green Bay Packers
2009 - New Orleans Saints
2008 - Pittsburgh Steelers
2007 - New York Giants
2006 - Indianapolis Colts
2005 - Pittsburgh Steelers
2004 - New England Patriots
2003 - New England Patriots
2002 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2001 - New England Patriots

Their combined winning percentage in the three years preceding their Super Bowl victories was 0.602. That translates to about 10 wins per season. None of the ten teams had more than one losing season in the three years prior to their championship. If you add up the three seasons each team had before their championship, you would have 30 seasons (10 Super Bowl winners multiplied by three seasons each). Of those 30 seasons, only six were below .500. This does not seem to support the idea that teams can "pop" from losers to champions.

Three years is not a large sample size, so let's look back 10 years prior to their championships. Again, for the 2010 Packers, this would mean we would look at their 2000-2009 seasons. For the 2009 Saints, we look at their 1999-2008 seasons, and so on. The combined winning percentage in the ten years preceding these teams Super Bowl championships was 0.553. That translates to around 9 wins per season. Only three teams had more than three seasons with below .500 records in the ten years leading up to their win. In other words, 70% of the teams had winning records at least seven out of ten seasons before their championship. The 2002 Tampa Bay Bucs had the most, at five seasons of below .500 ball in the ten years before their win. Interestingly, none of those losing seasons came within three years of winning it all. The Giants and 2001 Patriots had four losing seasons. Every team had at least two losing seasons in the previous ten. Only the Bucs appeared to be consistent losers anywhere near the time they won the championship. Most of these teams were perpetual winners.

Maybe they struck it rich during one of those below .500 seasons with a franchise-defining draft pick. I looked back at the five years of drafts prior to the Super Bowl season of each team to see how many Top 10 picks each had, and who they drafted.
Very few Top 10 picks in the 5 years before a SB win
Four of the ten teams did not have a Top 10 pick within five years of their championship. Eight of the ten teams had one or fewer Top 10 picks in that time frame. The quality of these picks was not franchise-defining in most cases.

GNB - BJ Raji #9 overall, AJ Hawk #5
NO - Sedrick Ellis #7, Reggie Bush #2
NYG - Philip Rivers #4 (traded for Eli Manning #1)
NE - Richard Seymour #6 (he was the 1 Top 10 pick within five years for each of their SB teams)

The only player you could argue keyed a Super Bowl run of those Top 10 picks is Eli Manning. Even then, most would credit that Giants defensive line and running game as being the key elements of that team. Those that do believe Manning was the key cog would have to acknowledge that the construction of that 2007 Giants team was not a blueprint anyone should emulate. Richard Seymour, BJ Raji and Reggie Bush played important roles in their teams championship runs, but it is hard to believe their teams could not have won without them.

Step back and recognize that only one player (Eli Manning) was drafted in the Top 10 within five years of winning a Super Bowl that could be considered a franchise-defining player. Four of the last ten winners did not have any Top 10 picks within five years of winning. These Super Bowl teams were getting almost all of their key pieces outside of the Top 10.

Look at the flip-side. Which teams have had the most Top 10 picks in the last ten years (since 2001)?


Detroit has had an astonishing eight Top 10 picks in the last ten years. Their fortunes have finally begun to turn, but nobody should be expecting a Super Bowl too soon. The Texans and Falcons are probably the strongest teams outside of Detroit on this list. One could make an argument for the Bengals as well. Only the Cardinals and the Raiders have made a Super Bowl appearance in the last ten years. Look at the teams with the fewest Top 10 picks in the last ten seasons:


This group, by contrast, has all but two (NOR, GNB) of the last ten Super Bowl winners represented. It also has 15 of the last 20 teams to have appeared in the Super Bowl. Think about that. This is a decade of football. Teams that are battling for the ring are rarely finishing in the bottom third of the league.

If your team is drafting in the Top 10 next year, evidence suggests your franchise is at least five years away from winning it all. Sure, it's possible that your team drafts the next great quarterback, but being bad enough to get him likely means your franchise is a long ways away from the game that really matters. The better path appears to be winning a lot, for as many seasons as you can. Seems kind of obvious, right? First round draft picks clearly matter, but winning franchises consistently turn players in the bottom half of the first round into stars. Pete Carroll gets a lot of grief for his "Win Forever" philosophy, but he may be on to something. Winning is a habit. Losing is too.

Drive Rewind: Seattle Closes The Door On Baltimore

Individual plays take your breath away. There are those moments that last for an instant, but are remembered forever. Entire drives, especially those that result in zero points, are rarely worth the mind space necessary to commit them to memory. The Seahawks had one of those drives against the Ravens on Sunday. It was a drive that will act as a mile marker on the Seahawks road to recovery. One of the best teams in the NFL had just closed to within one score with just under 6 minutes to go. The Ravens were used to comebacks, having beat the Cardinals and Steelers the last two weeks in unlikely fashion. They had their intimidating defense on the field against an offense that featured Tarvaris Jackson and the youngest offensive line in the NFL. A quick three-and-out would give their offense the ball with three timeouts and well over four minutes to drive the field. The Seahawks have consistently lost this year when given the chance to rise up in the fourth quarter. They entered the fourth quarter of last week's game against the Cowboys down one score, before turning the ball over repeatedly on the way to 10-point loss. They climbed to within one score of the Bengals in the fourth quarter a week earlier, before collapsing into an eventual 34-12 blowout. 

Drives like this, against teams of this quality, are how young teams learn how to win. Let's see how it unfolded.

NOTE: Click on any image for a larger version


The drive starts at the 20-yard line with 5:52 seconds left on the clock. Starting receivers Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice are out with concussions at this point, leaving Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu in to pick up the slack. Marshawn Lynch had 23 carries for 67 yards at this point, good for a 2.91 average. The entire Seahawks offense had only managed 60 yards in the second half up until this point, after gaining nearly 200 in the first half.

FALSE START: Russell Okung kicks things off with a false start. Move back 5 yards.

ILLEGAL MOTION: Golden Tate is flagged for illegal motion next. Move back five more yards to the 10, and see if you can actually get Pete Carroll to frown. He at least reaches exasperation in this pic, as the team gets their 13th, and final, penalty.

1ST & 20: Seattle goes with two WRs, two TEs and a RB. 

The Ravens send four to rush the passer, and Seattle sends out all receivers, tight ends and running backs. The line creates a nice pocket for Tarvaris Jackson to throw.

JACKSON TO TATE FOR 10 YARDS: A big completion to Tate gains back 10 yards. You can click the image to zoom and see how tight the defender was on Tate's back. Great protection, great throw, nice route and catch. 

2ND & 10 FROM THE 20: Now back to the original line of scrimmage.  Seattle features two tight ends and a WR in bunch formation up top, and a WR below. Single RB.

Russell Okung seals beautifully, as does Robert Gallery and Max Unger, creating a lane for Marshawn Lynch. Lynch plows ahead for five yards, setting up a crucial 3rd down.

3RD & 5 FROM THE 25: Only a minute has burned off the clock at this point. Failure to convert would give the Ravens the ball in good field position with about four minutes to go. Seattle has Mike Williams and Golden Tate on top, and Ben Obomanu below, along with a tight end. 

The Seahawks run a pick play with Mike Williams running a slant route meant to cut off Golden Tate's defender as Tate circled around behind him. Note the protection as the Ravens send four against only the five lineman. Nobody is left in to help block. 

24 YARDS & 1ST DOWN: Jackson delivers the ball perfectly to Tate in stride who makes the clutch  catch and runs an additional seven yards to the 49-yard line for a first down. Each first down is worth around two minutes of game clock unless the opponent calls a timeout or there are incompletions. This was arguably the play of the drive. How many people would have predicted Tarvaris Jackson to Golden Tate on 3rd down deep in Seahawks territory against the Ravens defense? Big play all around.

PLAY #5, 1ST & 10 FROM THE 49-YARD-LINE: Michael Robinson makes an appearance as a fullback. The Seahawks run up the gut for a gain for four yards. The line does a great job as first contact did not happen until Lynch was 3.5 yards past the line. 

PLAY #6, 2ND & 6 FROM THE RAVENS 48: The Seahawks stick with the ground game.

The line blocks well, but Lynch is only able to gain one yard, leaving another  big 3rd down.

PLAY #7 3RD & 5 FROM THE 46: One WR, Two TEs, 1 FB, 1 RB

The Ravens send an extra rusher, with five men. The Seahawks send out everyone, leaving just the offensive line to protect Jackson. Check out that pocket as Jackson hits the top of his drop. Also look at Lynch leaking out of the back-field with nobody near him.

Lynch catches the ball and sets Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson up for a vicious fake by dropping his head down to the left, along with all of his weight, before bursting nearly two yards laterally to his right.

Lewis and Johnson lay in heap as Lynch motors by untouched for the first down.

That's 9 yards, and another crucial Seahawks 1st down. This play also merits play-of-the-drive consideration. It certainly was the flashiest.

Just for good measure, here's the endzone view. Look how far Lynch collapses his body to the left, and how dead to rights the two tacklers have him.

Whoops! Lewis' right leg literally buckles as he falls to the ground, and Johnson takes the Nestea plunge as Lynch meanders by.

PLAY #8 1st & 10 FROM THE 38: The Seahawks have burned over two-and-a-half minutes off the clock to this point.  They run the ball again for a modest two-yard gain.

PLAY #9 2ND & 8 FROM THE 36: The Ravens use a timeout ahead of the two minute warning. Seattle bunches toward right side of the formation with no fullback. The Ravens now have eight men in the box, crowding the line of scrimmage. 


The line blocks well, but there is little push. The Ravens appear to have stacked up the play about a yard from the original line of scrimmage.

Robert Gallery and Anthony McCoy throw key blocks and Lynch finds a seam all the way to the 32-yard line when he makes initial contact with the defense. This is indicated by the red line I added to the image. Lynch was not done.

Lynch keeps pushing and Lemual Juanpierre keeps pulling and Lynch pushes ahead  four more yards for another first down. This would be the third nominee for play-of-the-drive.

PLAY #10 1ST & 10 FROM THE 28: Seattle reaches the two-minute warning and won't be throwing the ball again.  The Ravens still have eight men near the line of scrimmage, and you can see one linebacker starting a run blitz pre-snap.

That linebacker goes untouched through the hole, and Lynch looks to be facing a loss on the play.

Of course, Lynch sees it differently, pulling another massive jump cut that moves him around the linebacker untouched on the way to a seven-yard gain. Look at every other Raven defender near the line being blocked beautifully by the line.

PLAY #11 2ND & 3 FROM THE 21: The Ravens have used their final timeout. A first down here will end the game.

Another perfectly blocked play creates a great seam for Lynch to the right.

The two teams snuggle after Lynch gets the game-clinching first down. Sweet dreams, Ravens.

Seattle does the victory formation to run out the clock.

Lynch finishes the series with 9 carries for 42 yards and a 4.66 avg. Remember, he started with 67 yards for the entire game and 2.91 avg. Jackson was 3-3 for 42 yards, including two big 3rd down conversions. The team goes 74 yards, from their own 10 to the Ravens 16, and burns nearly six minutes of clock. That's a drive to remember.