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The Morning After: Seahawks Take First Step Towards Special Postseason, Suffocate Lions 26-6
Offense
Defense
Special Teams
4.4Game Rating
Reader Rating: (38 Votes)

There are two-and-a-half million parts in NASA Space Shuttle. They all must work in unison to escape Earth’s gravity, complete the mission, and return home safely. One serious flaw in just one of those two-and-a-half million parts can be fatal. This Seahawks team has visited space regularly over the past five years. They have spent considerable time high above the rest of the NFL world, operating at a level others could not reach. They know what it takes to succeed in their mission. Their flight plan has always included punishing defense, clutch passing, a physical running game, and an indomitable belief in their teammates and in the outcome. There were numerous times this season when liftoff appeared imminent. The countdown had begun, only to see launch scuttled by a faulty part or two. This game against the Detroit Lions was the latest systems check. Punishing defense? Go for launch. Clutch passing? Go for launch. Physical running game? Go for launch. Belief in one another? Go for launch. 5…4…3…2…1…we have liftoff. Your Seahawks are now hurtling toward a familiar altitude, fighting the gravity of naysayers and disbelief, and needing their parts to hold together. Their mission is not yet complete, but all systems are green.

Seahawks do it their way

There will be those who look at this game and try to tell you little was proven. It was against the Detroit Lions. The score was just 10-3 at half and 13-3 after three quarters. That perspective lacks insight into what Seahawks football looks like when it is right and just how tough it is to win in the playoffs. The 2005 Super Bowl team had to scratch and claw to get past what was a clearly inferior Washington Redskins squad. The 2012 Seahawks had to do the same thing against another flawed Redskins team. The 2013 championship team won just one playoff game by more than 8 points. This 20 point margin of victory represents the second-highest in the Pete Carroll era, behind only the 43-8 thumping of the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

The final score was the least impressive and important part of this game. What should have Seahawks fans excited and proud was how complete and consistent the performance was. The defense faced off against the 8th-ranked third down offense and 1st-ranked time of possession offense who averaged over three minutes per drive on the year, and held them to 2/11 (18%) on third down and allowed just three drives over three minutes. Detroit’s ball control offense has kept them in nearly every game this season. Just once before playing the Seahawks had they failed to be within a single score of their opponent in the fourth quarter, and they had lost only two games by more than 10 points.

The Seahawks offense was steady throughout, led by their lightning rod of an offensive line. That group had no false starts and no holding penalties for only the second time this season. In fact, the whole offense had just one penalty (illegal shift) all night. They played with discipline, which allowed them to play with toughness and grit. Thomas Rawls deservedly will get a lot of attention for his franchise record-setting rushing performance, but the play of the line in front of him may well have been the biggest story.

It is hard for offensive linemen to qualify for highlight reels, but that group was blowing Lions defenders off the ball and creating beautiful running lanes. The pass blocking was not perfect, but was better than the three Lions sacks would indicate. Russell Wilson failed to get rid of the ball on at least two of them, and he admitted as much afterwards. The play of the line combined with Rawls to give the team confidence on short yardage situations in a way that has been missing all year.

 

The Seahawks faced five 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1 plays against Detroit. They ran the ball on four of those five plays and converted the first down 80% of the time. They had 27 such plays during the regular season and ranked 22nd in the NFL in converting them (63%) while choosing to pass 11 times. The Seahawks had 9 rushing first downs overall, which was their second-highest total of the season.

 

Darrell Bevell has struggled to adjust to the game and his offense this year. Some of that is surely due to the players lack of execution, but some of it was also an odd reluctance to build on what was working. Seattle had six games this year where they averaged over four yards per carry. In five of those games, the team chose to attempt more passes than rushes. The first two drives felt like Bevell was once again being bull-headed about leaning on the passing game when the running game was working. To his credit, he adjusted in a big way. The next drive featured 11 runs out of 14 plays including nine straight runs to start it off.

The next drive featured three more rushes (out of seven plays) for 32 yards. It was not flashy. It was workmanlike and supremely confident. There is nothing quite like the feeling of imposing your will on an opponent via the ground game. That element of toughness has been missing for much of the year, and the Seahawks identity has been muddled as a result. Saturday felt like seeing an old friend who had been gone for some time.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the game was how consistent the level of play was throughout. There were no major lapses outside of another missed extra point. Tackling was terrific. Coverage was sticky. Penalties were sparse. The offense scored on five of their final six possessions, excluding kneel downs at the end of each half. The Lions never got past the Seattle 33-yard line on their way to two field goals in ten possessions. It was a promising display of Seahawks football.

 

Detroit defense was representative of the other NFC opponents

Detroit was the perfect sparring partner. Their defense is not great, but neither are the defenses of every NFC team outside of New York and Seattle. People will spout off about Vic Beasley Jr.’s 15.5 sacks, but fail to recognize the total lack of pass-rushing on the rest of that Atlanta team. They will also forget that while the Lions were the 23rd-rated run defense by Football Outsider’s DVOA statistic, the Falcons were 29th. Still not convinced? Look at the yards per drive rankings for Green Bay, Dallas, and Atlanta defenses compared to Detroit this year:

  • Dallas – 23rd
  • Atlanta – 26th
  • Green Bay – 28th
  • Detroit – 30th

Points per opponent possession is similar:

  • Dallas – 13th
  • Detroit – 26th
  • Atlanta – 27th
  • Green Bay – 28th

New York is far better at 5th and 2nd, respectively, but tell me who would pick the Giants to come into Seattle and win with that offense. The Lions were relatively healthy on defense, with Ezekial Ansah just now rounding into form. He finished with two sacks and beat George Fant a few times, but only one was really unavoidable.

The 387 yards piled up by the offense felt like a lot, but you might be surprised to learn that the Seahawks are now averaging 383 yards of offense over their past nine games. The New England Patriots, by comparison, averaged 386 on the year. That includes the only two games where C.J. Prosise started, when Seattle put up an average of 28.5 points and 429.5 yards against the 1st-ranked scoring defense in New England and the 12th-ranked scoring defense in Philly. Word is Prosise is likely to be back next week.

We are well-versed on the concept of rose-colored glasses. The disappointing outcome of the final six games of the year is having a bit of the opposite effect. There is a light bulb flickering on and off with this young Seahawks line and the offense that relies on it. Our gaze has been fixed on the moments when the light went out. If you look when the light was on, it was shining pretty darn brightly.

 

The Seahawks averaged 29 points and 409 yards of offense over the second half of the season if you remove the Tampa Bay and Green Bay games. Half of those six games came against Top 15 scoring defenses and four of the six came against Top 13 total defenses (yards per game).

 

None of this guarantees the light will now stay on, but it does indicate this offense is far from toothless, even against the best defenses the league has to offer.

 

Russell in his element

We all fell in love with watching Wilson fling the ball around with ruthless efficiency to end last year. He was playing the position as well as anyone in the game had ever played it, at least statistically speaking. It is not hard to understand why the team felt some mix of confidence and obligation to lean on him more this year. The result, however, was an awkward identity that actually worked against Wilson.

He is at his best when there is a commitment to the running game that allows him to utilize play-action and take deep shots down the field. This game required him to deliver in the clutch. He was the right hook that was set up by the running game as the jab. He is perfectly suited to that sort of dynamic.

That helped lead the team to a season-high nine third down conversions and break out of a dismal streak of red zone ineptitude. The Seahawks finished 9-16 (56%) on third down and are now 40-86 (46.5%) over their last six games. They have been 47% or better in five of those six games.

The red zone had been holding them back, with only 9 touchdowns in their last 24 red zone trips (37.5%). They finished with 3 touchdowns in 4 attempts against Detroit and could have had a fourth had Wilson either made a better throw to Tanner McEvoy or run for the first down.

Red zone offense often follows third down offense. Both require a similar level of timing and execution. Third downs can be easier as there is usually more room to work with and more plays at their disposal. The improved third down performance of late may have been a leading indicator of a red zone offense that can now step forward. Putting Wilson in a position to be smart, efficient, and clutch is when this team is at its most dangerous.

 

Defense on point

It would be easy to overlook the Seahawks defensive performance with the running game exploding on offense and the narrative that Matthew Stafford was less-than-his-best due to injury. Seattle’s defense put together one of their most complete games of the season. Every level did their part.

The run defense continues to be the best-kept secret in these playoffs. The linebackers were everywhere, and the secondary was on point throughout. I would have liked to have seen more pass pressure early on, but even that showed up at the most important times to end Lions drives and close out the game.

DeShawn Shead had a marvelous game. He was targeted 8 times. Three times, he knocked the ball away. The ball fell incomplete the other five times. Richard Sherman was targeted just once all night and deflected the pass effortlessly. Kam Chancellor was shadowing the tight ends flawlessly.

I cannot remember a missed tackle on the night. Yes, the team misses Earl Thomas. They also are fully capable of being the best defense in this playoff field without him.

 

On to Atlanta

The Seahawks are now in flight. Those who watched the game can feel it. As with any launch, millions of things could still go wrong, but we watch because millions of things can also go right and result in something special. What we saw last night was just the latest example of the otherworldly resiliency this team possesses. They were likely going to beat the Lions one way or another. The one way they chose to beat them was the best possible way. It reignited the torch that has guided them to championships in the past, and can do so again. We cannot know for sure what is around the corner, but whatever we find will be faced with a far more menacing foe. Seahawks football is back. Enjoy the ride.

22 Responses

  1. Nate

    This is ground control to major Tom Rawls: keep doing that

  2. kimo

    Nice write up, fun and comprehensive. I would only add that our WR play vs. Detroit’s WR play was a major discrepancy in our favor .

    Hey, Atlanta, feel any extra pressure this morning?

    • TBar

      I don’t think they do. They seem overconfident to me as do Cowboy fans. They’ve decided their teams cannot be beaten. They’ve learned nothing from the Panthers 2016-17 seasons.

      I LOVE the Seahawks being underdogs again. It’s been a while since that happened. We’re running largely under the radar, which is a great place to be. The Hawks have thrived on it – fed on it, excelled and overcome it. Take the Seahawks lightly, please.

  3. Marita

    The thing I like about Brian’s post-game reviews is that they are always fair: for better or for worse. Love this one. Go Hawks!

  4. rivermerchant

    Usually I agree w/ the HawkBlogger, but on this I gotta disagree on a few points.
    1) Shead is a good job, but the DET WRs dropped most of those ‘in completes’.
    2) Kam did a decent job on covering RECEIVING TE Ebron, but Ebron was open on a few routes.

    All I care about is that if the Hawks can run like this on the remaining teams. I think the answer is YES, but only if the offense minimizes the penalties like HB called out. The SuperBowl run is completely dependent on Rawls getting 100 rushing yds per game.

    • SikhHawk

      I see why u think Lions WR/TE dropping catches was a factor, but I think the stress of playing the LOB & ear drum bursting roar of the 12s helped cause those drops in part. Kam killing receivers in SB48 are a recurring nightmare for all those receivers who are not like Fitz, OBJ, etc.

  5. Brandon

    I really hope they get prosise back for the rest of the tournament. The couple games he started that offense looked on another level. Only team to score 30+ against New England and it was in New England

    • SikhHawk

      I agree Brandon, & that slaying of the spygaters occurred after 6 nights rest & thousands of miles travel whilst they had 14 nights rest. Even if CJP is not 100% just having him on the field as a decoy will open spaces for Rawls Jimmy, Doug & PRich.

  6. Psy

    Insightful analysis as always, Brian. Vegas appears to agree with your assessment installing home team Falcons as 3.5 PT favorite (essentially ‘pick ’em) next Saturday. I’d have liked to see Russ run that TD in rather than throw a poor pass to McEvoy, who has very safe hands in end zone generally. In addition to Russ not getting rid of the ball twice resulting in sacks, we did not see Russ run the read option at all, which we need to do at Atlanta, to throw off their defense and run off more clock. Hawks also need to double cover Julio Jones to reduce chances of “Mattie Ice” deep passing attempts. We have a good shot at taming the Falcons next Saturday.

    • SikhHawk

      Yeah I think Russ was slow starting but he finished great with almost 80% completion rate.

  7. Mike

    Great article! The game gave me more confidence than I’ve had in some time. The article cemented that confidence! GO HAWKS!!!!

    • SikhHawk

      Its time to rock & rawl.

      I watched in UK & game finished 5am UK time, I was late for work, but the telling off from boss was worth it.

  8. SikhHawk

    Fabulous article ! CJP’s return will be huge & with Rawls finally hitting a gallop & Collins getting into a groove, Our Run game could be unstoppable. Our D has always been irresistible when our run game devours clock, as the longer rest aids faster D work.

    BTW Russ has won more PO games than Atlanta ever has & PRich was better than Tyler. My only worry is Hauschka who was lucky not to have his FG blocked, hope his yips can end now.

    Tony Mac will also be back & revenge for 2012 which stopped us from winning SB47 can finally be claimed. Falcons fans are in a panic from the posts I have seen.

  9. andytyl003

    Definitely a great win but we were playing, at home, against DETROIT w/ a QB that has a 2-21 record against winning teams on the road in his career (not including 2016 season). A team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991, and not since 1957 when they won it on the road, I believe. That being said, I am glad that the “smartest” QC decided to stick w/ the run, instead of pass-happy. We need to be balanced with our pass/run ratio- should be around 54-46, not 60-40. TC changed his blocking scheme, more inside runs, between the tackles, w/ double team on their DTs. I believe we have the highgest percentage of runs from the left side during the regular season. Britt and Glowinski played a great game. Gilliam played a decent game. Hopefully, we can re-sign Britt because he is going to be really good at center. Not quite sure what game Brian was watching, Fant got beat almost every time by Ansah until they changed the blocking scheme by having TEs on his side. Detroit got 9 hits on Russ and Ansah had 5 of them plus 2 sacks when he had 2 in 13 regular season games. He also had 9 tackles (5 solo and 4 assists), which is a lot for a DL, and 2 tackles for loss. And finally, our “smartest” OC called for more roll outs away from Ansah. According to PFF, Fant has the lowest grade among our OL, around 29.9 or something, which is the worse among qualifiers or at the bottom 5 in the league, don’t remember. Fant is not very good. He is going to have problems w/ Beasley w/ his speed like Ansah. Fant is neither quick or strong for a tackle. So please stop w/ the narrative about the feel good story. Not his fault, though.

    We’ll see how our defense will hold up against the Falcons at their place. Hopefully, we can maintain our run game and control the game. Russ has played well against them in his career so far. Kearse needs to step up and makes catches. Isn’t the post-season is his time to shine? JG needs to be more involved. We are wasting money and talents for him to catch 2 or 3 passes per game. Russ appears only to trusting DB right now. Can’t blame him though. DB is a Da Man. DL needs to step up. We got only 5 hits against the Detroit’s patchup OL. Atlanta has a better OL w/ an All-Pro at center (2nd team) and a RT ranked 6th, which means our DTs need to carry their weight against their run game and MB and FC in passing situations. CA needs to be on his game again against Schraeder. I am very sure they will test Terrell w/ deep post routes, which he has been very vulnerable to those types of passes. Even though it was a great win but still not very confident going to ATL. OL will be the key if we are going to win (control the game and protect Russ because I believe he will have a big game given the time). I believe Russ has the highest winning percentage on the road against winning teams (.500, not including 2016). We shall see.

    • pkgoode

      Man blocking seems an inexperienced line and RB corps, which raises the question of why they didn’t make this move sooner: Intuitively, you’d think that a young OL should become good at man before graduating to zone. Not that I’m an expert.

    • SikhHawk

      I like the analytics in your post Andy & its a shame u don’t fell confident. So heres a nice cuppa optimistic tea for ya from the UK.

      1- Fant is a weak link but growing fast, has lots of upside, & with TE help & Russ was 50% to blame for those sacks by holding on to long. The confidence boost from this win will make the OL & Russ 25% stronger. I think Fant will be OK v Beasley.
      2- Likewise STerrell is constantly growing, according to PFF.
      3- I agree DT’s lack of penetration was a concern but Tony Mac will be back
      4- The LOB predators are smelling blood, Matty Ice has a terrible PO record, only team he beat was us, mainly due to Clemons injury.
      5- Our run game will be stronger with CJP retruning & Glow Britt Iffedi playing well.
      BTW can you explain why “pass/run ratio- should be around 54-46, not 60-40.”.

      • Mark Dewees

        The pass/run needs be around 50/50 or maybe even leaning more towards the run like 47/53 imo. Hard running, clock control and good defense has always been Carrolls MO. His entire scheme is built around it. And they are inter-linked. A strong running game allows you to control the clock which in turn keeps the defense fresh and able to handle the high powered offenses like Atlanta and Green Bay. The best defense against Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady to keep em on the sidelines

  10. Robert Loeder

    Well crafted article! I was banging the drum for getting our running game unhinged with more man blocking or power blocking vs the ZBS we usually deploy. Just feel our interior linemen are so big, strong and athletic that they we should play to their strength and just let them smash! Loved the constant double team powerblock schemes! More of that vs Atlanta and throw him some Read/Option! Best D is a great running game!!!

  11. Uncle Bob

    We’ve been critical of the coaching for some time both in initial plan and in game adjustments. Perhaps the Lions weaknesses helped make it look better, but there were some decided differences in the “shape” of this game, especially on offense. The good blocking by Reece from the I helped Rawls a bunch IMO, I hope his foot isn’t much of an issue for next weekend. The support from TEs for blocking was better orchestrated than I can recall. In other words, coaching that fits the talent available and sets them up better for success. Pete of course denied that there were any changes in process, but I suspect that’s for strategic reasons. Just a side comment to tweak some who think that the cost of O-lineman is the most important measure of potential………….the lowest paid line in the league advanced Saturday, the most expensive (albeit without Penn) was sent home. Just sayin’…..

    We’re going to be in for a week of renewed whining over the “no call” of Sherm on Jones. Never mind the no call on Jones illegal hit to Sherm’s head. Just like the Lions fans who are all in arms about the no call on Richardson’s miraculous catch. They should be forced to watch an endless loop of the 2 or 3 facemask penalties not called on their guys………………..but all that is pretty much meaningless as long as the over hype doesn’t end up influencing the zebra squad next Saturday. Those guys here the tom-tom beats too, so it is a possibility, but let’s hope they continue with the “let ’em play” attitude. There will be missed calls on each side, but usually they balance out if a normal game flow is allowed.

    The early line had the Hawks down by 4.5, apparently it’s moving, but either way I hope they stay underdogs by more than the obligatory 3 for home field……….they seem to do better when selected against. For the most part I’d guess only the Texans will be less regarded……………….perfect!!

    • SikhHawk

      Love reading your posts Bob, I agree Luke Wilsons TE support for Fant when Ansah was looking unstoppable & Reeces blocking for Rawls were big factors. Hopefully this means we can use Jimmy to catch not block more often.

  12. Colin Perceful

    Our last meeting with the Falcons was in the divisional round during Russel’s rookie year. Since then the Seahawks playoff record is 9-2. The Falcons playoff record since then is 0-0. That means aside from Matty Ice and Julio and a few other role players, the Falcons are a team full of inexperience on the NFL’s biggest stages. I think their bye could end up hurting them and you know they are starting to feel the pressure of the stage as well as having to go up against a team that performed so well this weekend. I like our chances with this team of playoff tested grizzled veterans!