Monday, December 16, 2013

The Morning After: Seahawks Pound Giants 23-0


Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead 

Tasers are meant to be a deterrent. They are used to stop a person from doing something harmful. You can see a demonstration here:



Eli Manning did his best "Fat Jesus" impersonation on Sunday. Getting stung repeatedly by Seahawks defenders, but refusing to learn his lesson. It reminded me of a scene from a show fittingly called Jackass:


Manning threw at Byron Maxwell. Zap! Then he tried Richard Sherman. Bzzzz! Well, let's try Maxwell again. Zzzzzap! When his receivers did manage to catch the ball, they realized electrocution may have been less painful. Trading cattle prods for being gored by bulls like Kam Chancellor is a losing proposition all the way around. Somewhere in the city of lights, Manning is walking a few steps and then lighting up himself with leftover electricity and tremors from the voltage administered to him by the Seahawks defense.

It was a dominant performance by a defense that never seemed to get out of neutral emotionally. There was little fire, but plenty of burning. The Giants offensive line is an embarrassment. Seattle defenders may actually be worse off for having faced them. It is not supposed to be that easy in the NFL. That may have been the Seahawks best defensive performance of the season, but it was impossible to tell because their opponents were so completely inept. The best blocking for New York on the day came when one Seattle defender got in the way of another Seattle defender.

At least some of the poor blocking can be attributed to the depressing reality of who they were blocking for. Manning went to the ground faster than Punxsutawney Phil. Their running back went Beast Mode, but his beast was form of field mouse. There was no greater juxtaposition than in the second quarter when Marshawn Lynch tore through seven thousand men to reach the goal line, and then Andre Brown threw up the white flag a split second after clearing the line of scrimmage before being hit. It seemed as if the entire Giants offense would have been happy to forfeit. Consider a team like the Jaguars, and the fight they have shown with little to fight for. Tom Coughlin and his offense should be ashamed.

The Seahawks secondary will get plenty of attention for their five picks, but it was the defensive line and linebackers that had my attention. Brandon Mebane set the tone early, just as he did against the Saints two weeks prior, by bulling his way through the middle of the Giants line. Michael Bennett was unblockable all day long. Bobby Wagner continued his recent stretch of torrid play, and now looks every bit the player he was last season.

Bobby Wagner has 59 tackles and 4.0 sacks in his last six games, good for 66% and 100% of his season totals, respectively.
Malcolm Smith was on point again, showing excellent gap discipline versus the run, and elite coverage ability. Some will say his opportunity to start at SAM the first four games of the year was his chance to shine, but it will be these games at his natural WILL position that will demonstrate his true colors.

The free agent acquisitions, Bennett (7.5 sacks) and Cliff Avril (8.0) continue to pay off. Consider the dire straights the pass rush might be in without them. Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons have combined for 1.0 sack in the last six games, and have 6.5 combined on the season.

No two players acquitted themselves better in this game than Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Maxwell is not just making plays, he is making plays that most defenders do not make. Those interceptions were special. Wrestling the ball away from a receiver on one, and plucking another out of the air by undercutting the route are just not seen that often. His performance matters a lot, and not just for this year. Brandon Browner will be a free agent, as well as Walter Thurmond III. The Seahawks cannot afford to pay premium deals to Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and another starting corner. Maxwell is under club control until 2015. If he can maintain this level of play, or even improve, Seattle buys itself at least another year before needing to figure out who plays that spot.

Lane's play was similarly stellar. His speed was showing up all over the place. Pulling Giants lineman on a screen pass looked stunned to see a Seahawks player blur by them before they could even turn down-field to start blocking. That play is designed to get big lineman on smaller defensive backs. It is conceptually related to the play last week when San Francisco got their big lineman on small defenders on the big 3rd and 7 run late in the game. This time, Lane shot the gap and brought down the Giant receiver before the play ever developed. He flew up to support another wide play earlier in the game. And his coverage was solid again as well. He is starting to look like a viable nickel defender. As important as Maxwell's play has been, finding a guy who could be a nickel corner has far more wide-ranging impact for Seattle.

It was thought that they needed to either sign Thurmond, or spend a high draft pick on a nickel corner. This was not just a fan perspective. There was a reason the front office immediately went out and tried to sign Antoine Winfield after the Browner news hit. Lane's emergence gives them someone under club control through 2016, and gives the team even more leverage in any negotiation that happens with Thurmond.

Russell Wilson and the offense did not have a good day. The game plan was as uninspired as the players who were asked to carry it out. It appeared Darrell Bevell expected to be able to run for large chunks of yards versus the Giants, but the Seahawks offensive line had trouble blocking all day. They were not great in the run game or the pass game. It was disappointing to see such a poor performance after what appeared to be large steps forward against the Saints.

The running game is officially slumping. Seattle is averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry over the last four games. Wilson led the team in rushing with 50 yards. That is not a good thing. The offensive line had started to find a rhythm in the Tampa and Atlanta games. It is good to have Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini back, but it looks like it is taking some time for them to coalesce. No group needs to show more growth over the last two games than the offensive line. The Seahawks probability of winning takes a precipitous fall when they cannot establish the run. It is the foundation of their whole team philosophy. They need to get that right.

Passing yards were there for the taking. Wilson did not have a great day. He was inaccurate on a number of throws he normally makes. He was also not helped by some uncharacteristic missed opportunities from Golden Tate. There were at least three chunk plays that Tate normally makes that he was unable to secure. Doug Baldwin had a nice game, and in what is hopefully a good omen, has scored a touchdown every time he has played in New York.

This was a dominating defensive performance against a meek offensive unit, and an aggravating offensive performance against a mediocre defensive unit. Winning 23-0 on the road against a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback would be cause for celebration on most days and during most years. This is not most years. This is not most teams. Seattle turned in a good enough performance on Sunday to win in New York. Their offense must take steps forward if they want to win there in February.

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