Tuesday, January 8, 2013

These Teams Played Not So Long Ago

Many Redskins fans wanted to remind folks in Seattle that Washington had beat the Seahawks in CenturyLink field just a year ago with Rex Grossman at quarterback. The problem with that logic was that both teams were significantly different, at least on offense, than the ones that matched up the year prior. I took a cursory glance at the game, and found way too many variables to make it worth further exploration. Atlanta also beat the Seahawks in Seattle last season by a score of 30-28. There were significant personnel differences in that game, but most of them were specific to Seattle. With that in mind, I re-watched the game from start to finish and came away with a few observations.

Richard Sherman Sure Would Have Helped
It was almost painful to watch Atlanta receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones beating Marcus Trufant knowing that an All-Pro corner was sitting on the bench. Trufant was not particularly bad, but Jones and White are deserving of all the accolades they get. These guys run nice routes, especially White, have fantastic hands, and make great plays on the ball. Their length gave Trufant fits at times.

Brandon Browner was just two games removed from his tough game at Pittsburgh, and was playing in only his fourth NFL contest. It showed. He looked tentative at the start of the game, and was fooled a few times. His confidence emerged as the game wore on, and he made some of his signature tackles on bubble screens to Jones.

Kam Chancellor Would Have Helped, Too
Atari Bigby started in place of an injured Chancellor, and the communication challenges early on were clear. Seattle had no answer for Tony Gonzalez. This was only the second start for K.J. Wright, after replacing Aaron Curry, and Gonzalez made him look silly a few times. David Hawthorne was on a bad wheel, and struggled in coverage all year. I am not convinced anyone on the Seahawks can shut down Gonzalez, but Chancellor is where I'd start. Bobby Wagner could be a major difference with his ability to get deep in his drops, and natural instincts in coverage.

Seattle's Running Game Was Pre-Natal
Marshawn Lynch had 24 yards, but more striking was the way he ran. There is a marked difference in his decisiveness and commitment to a cut. This was the Lynch pre-Dallas where he was as likely to dance laterally in the hole as Shaun Alexander.

Lynch had a signature highlight, but was not the same player
The running game, as a whole, was disjointed and less talented. Justin Forsett is not the runner Robert Turbin is. He may not even be the runner Russell Wilson is. There was no read-option, and the offensive line had barely played together. James Carpenter was the right tackle, and Max Unger was starting his fourth game at center under Tom Cable.

The Falcons seem to miss Curtis Lofton at linebacker as well.

Doug Baldwin Killed The Seams
Baldwin had 5 catches for 84 yards, and could have easily gone over 100 if not for some big hits that jarred the ball free. The Falcons lost CB Brent Grimes after the first game of the 2012 season, and have been playing Robert McClain in the nickel. Baldwin could be a key part of the game plan again this week.

Tarvaris Jackson and Russell Wilson Play Differently
That will seem like a silly statement to most, but whatever you think of Jackson, he had certain strengths. They happen to be different than Wilson's, and fewer in number, but were strengths nonetheless. Jackson did something in the game last year that Wilson has yet to do, throw for over 300 yards. He did it almost entirely in the second half while the team switched to a hurry-up offense. Jackson made calls at the line and picked the Falcons apart. If not for a false start penalty on Sidney Rice on the last drive, the Seahawks very well might have won that game.

Jackson's weaknesses, though, also were notable. He threw two picks, and was inaccurate much of the day. He looked incredibly indecisive early in the game, and was a reluctant runner.

Wilson undoubtedly presents a far more diverse set of challenges for the Atlanta defense, and does so with far less risk of mistakes. There is little doubt that the Seahawks would have won the game if the Wilson of today had been the quarterback. 

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