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Visioning is a powerful tool. Elite performers of all kinds use it to turn dreams into reality. Seahawks players, coaches, and fans had collectively envisioned this day millions of times before Mason Crosby strode toward the football and launched it skyward to Tyler Lockett, setting reality in motion. Lockett took his first touch of 2017, and first since a grotesque leg injury, back 43 yards to give the the Seahawks great field position. This might be better than expected, we all thought. Then came the first offensive snap. Instant pressure. Near sack. Then the second snap was a 3 yard loss. Then the third snap was more instant pressure and a sack. It would not get better. My imagination is powerful. It can create visions of extreme delight and extreme disappointment. It was not capable of imagining the depth to which this offensive line sunk yesterday. Quite possibly the worst performance of any offensive line in the Pete Carroll era against a middling Packers defense doomed what should have been a victorious day given the play of everyone else on the team. Those five players must be significantly better or every game will be a struggle, and true greatness elsewhere on the roster will be squandered.
Enough is enough
We all knew the offensive line was going to be a challenge this season. The modest goal was simply to allow the offense to function. Even being a league average line seemed unrealistic. Just be a little better than last season. That was all this team needed to be a championship contender. What we saw on Sunday was worse than any game last season. The game against Tampa Bay comes close, but the Bucs front seven is considerably more talented than the Packers and Justin Britt missed that game.
The Seahawks had the starting five they expect to feature the rest of the year, and they were almost uniformly atrocious. They looked like what one might see in the fourth quarter of a preseason game when players who do not make NFL rosters sub in. In other words, they did not look like an NFL-caliber offensive line.
Blame is the tool of small people, but there must be a point where the Seahawks hold Tom Cable accountable for the results on the field. His evaluation of linemen is in serious question, and has been for some time. He had the audacity to call Luke Joeckel one of the best guards in the game last year. He was tossed around like middle schooler by the Packers. Mike Daniels was made to look like the second coming of Reggie White. Daniels was not doing anything special or athletic. He literally put two hands forward, pushed the lineman to one side, and stepped forward.
Germain Ifedi struggled moving his feet, and was unable to keep up with edge pressure. Odhiambo was hit and miss all afternoon. On consecutive plays on the first possession of the second half, at least three of the four Packers linemen broke past their “blockers” and closed in on Russell Wilson within a second of the snap. Wilson’s fumble on the second play was a crucial factor in the outcome, gifting the Packers their first points of the game.
There was nowhere to run. There was no time to throw. Keeping extra blockers in did not help. This team is so good elsewhere, they still had a chance to win. If John Schneider can make another trade, make it. If Oday Aboushi can outperform Joeckel or Mark Glowinski, play him. Panic is not the answer, but ignoring reality will not help either.
Jimmy Graham disappoints
I have been banging the drum to get Graham more involved in the offense, especially in the red zone, like everyone else. Wilson targeted Graham twice in the red zone in this game, and should have been awarded a hold or pass interference on one of those plays. It was a game-changing missed call. That aside, I did not like what I saw from Graham. His body language was terrible all game. He appeared to be going through the motions.
He was asked to stay into block on one play, and when Wilson improved a swing pass to him, he had room to run. Instead of barrelling into defenders to get a first down, he angled toward the sideline and avoided contact. This was a team scratching and clawing for every yard and every first down. He owed his teammates more than that.
Later, a crucial third down pass dropped perfectly into his hands, and then right through them to the ground. He is being paid like one of the best players on this team, who must deliver when the game is on the line. Maybe he is upset about his lack of targets or being forced to block more because the line is so bad. Get over it. Step up. The team needs you.
Chris Carson should be the starter
We did not get to see Thomas Rawls due to injury, but I saw everything I need to see from Chris Carson to know that Eddie Lacy should never get another snap at his expense. Carson was faster, stronger, and more decisive than Lacy. It was agonizing to watch Lacy slow churn his feet for 3 yards on 5 carries. Carson ran behind the same line, and at least slammed into the defense quickly and aggressively. No runner is going to excel behind this line for now, but Carson gives the team the best chance, and the team cannot afford to let any ego associated with Lacy’s contract get in the way.
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I had been bracing for a loss in this game since I saw it on the schedule. There are not many tougher ways to start the year than facing Aaron Rodgers and this offense at home. As talented as this defense is, Rodgers is just shy of unbeatable at home. The lack of crowd noise allows him to use all his tricks like hard counts and catching extra players on the field for free plays. It had happened in both of the previous games in Green Bay, and it happened again Sunday.
Rodgers got two free plays, and turned one of them into a touchdown. The two Packers touchdowns were a 6-yard drive after a Wilson fumble, and a free play after Terence Garvin failed to exit the field in time. They might not have seen the end zone if not for those miscues. Green Bay was held scoreless in the first half, something that has not happened for years.
Their first half possessions:
And oh…that interception. Rookie defensive tackle Nazair Jones stepped in front of a Rodger pass and plucked it out of the air before rumbling 64 yards for a touchdown. The big fella beat the fleet-footed Rodgers down the field. It was a glorious moment that froze in time as we learned two penalty flags had been thrown. The interception would stand, but would the touchdown? Of course not. Jeremy Lane had been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and was ejected from the game for throwing a punch, while Cliff Avril was flagged for a block in the back.
Both were phantom calls, with the ejection of Lane being most egregious. Packers receiver Davante Adams initiated the contact and grabbed Lane’s face mask while pulling him to the ground. Lane managed to get his forearm into Adams to push him away and landed with it on his throat. Not the most pleasant of exchanges, but far from uncommon on the field, and certainly not one-sided. Avril’s blocking penalty at least showed some glancing contact, but that is being generous to the refs, and Carroll was right to call Avril out in his press conference that there was no reason to even attempt the block in the first place.
Legion, once more
The ejection of Lane pushed Shaquill Griffin into the starting spot opposite Richard Sherman and required newcomer Justin Coleman to hop off the bench to play inside in nickel situations. Both players rose to the occasion. Griffin, in particular, was more than anyone could have reasonably hoped for.
I have been effusive in my praise of Griffin since the second practice of training camp. He is going to be the next great Seahawks secondary player. Even so, I expected some embarrassing mistakes against the crafty Rodgers and talented Packers receivers. There were none. The longest pass play Griffin gave up with a 13-yarder. He wound up with 10 solo tackles, becoming only the second Seahawks rookie to record that many in a game, per Pro-Football-Reference.com. The other was Bobby Wagner in 2012.
My favorite Griffin moment was when he broke up Rodgers and Jordy Nelson’s favorite pet play, the back-shoulder fade. Griffin was within inches of Nelson the whole way, and then perfectly timed reaching his back arm out to deflect the ball harmlessly to the ground. That play is incredibly difficult to defend for even the most experienced corners. Griffin did it flawlessly in his first pro game.
Coleman did not have any standout plays, and did give up one big crossing route, but he was impressive in his absence. He made few mistakes, and looks like a very capable backup for Lane.
The question is how long the Seahawks will consider Lane the starter opposite Sherman before realizing Griffin is the far superior player. Hopefully, not long. The depth appears to be back at corner for this team.
Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor deserve more praise than I am going to deliver, but they were both back to being the best safety duo in football. Thomas, in particular, was all over the field. Chancellor was special in coverage. The Packers tight ends had very little impact on the outcome.
Good start for the defensive line
Sheldon Richardson was a badass in the middle, drawing holding penalties and creating pressure. He appeared a bit winded, and should only get better as he gets more time with the team. Jones had the great interception. Michael Bennett had 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss. Cliff Avril had a sack and a couple of hits on Rodgers. Frank Clark had 0.5 sacks and a hit on Rodgers. In all, the team had four sacks in the first half.
Even when Rodgers was not getting sacked, he was getting moved out of the pocket and being forced to throw the ball away. The crew appeared to wear down in the second half. Rotation players like David Bass and Marcus Smith did not make as big of an impact as I had hoped. Bass looked particularly slow on one play where Rodgers outran him for a first down.
The run defense was terrific. The Packers finished with an average of just 3.0 yards per carry. That was even lower before the defense ran out of steam at the end of the game. It also included a long run of 13 yards by Rodgers on a scramble. This will be a tough group to run on all year.
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Special teams shine
Jon Ryan had a great day punting, and the coverage teams were fantastic. They were as big a part of the first half shutout as the defense. Rodgers was forced to start inside his own 20 four times, and inside his own 10 three times. The combination of forcing a team to go the length of the field and this defense will be tough for opponents to overcome. Neiko Thorpe showed why he is on the roster with a great special teams tackle on a punt. In all, the Packers had two punt returns (non-fair catches) for zero yards. That’s 2013-level awesomeness.
Blair Walsh was perfect in his Seahawks debut. Any one of those kicks could have been a dagger in the Seahawks chances if he had missed. He did not miss. He also kicked every kickoff out of the endzone. Add in Lockett’s great opening kick return, and the special teams certainly did their part.
Separating reaction from overreaction
The Seahawks have never been fast starters on offense under Carroll, especially on the road. They have scored 16, 12, 31, and now 9 points in Wilson’s week one road starts. That 12 point game happened in 2013. The 31 point game was actually a loss, to the Rams of course. Overreactions are common after week one. Mistakes are more prevalent, grooves have not been formed. There are some incredibly promising signs that this Seahawks defense and special teams could be dominant this season. They are going to have to be for a while.
The lowly 49ers come to town next week for what should be a relatively easy win, but it likely won’t be unless the defense creates a bunch of turnovers. This offensive line is not ready to face NFL defenses yet, even the one San Francisco will trot into town. They were that bad on Sunday. It should be better, but it is unclear how much better they can get in one week, and whether that will be anywhere near good enough to allow the offense to function.
You will read plenty of opinions that the Seahawks should go up-tempo because they have had better results when they do that. Sure. Try it. That’s not going to cure all that ails them. Eventually, the line is going to have to create running lanes and passing lanes. Eventually, they will need to demonstrate competence. It is no sure thing that will happen.
The vision for this season remains intact. Ironically, the offensive line is blocking it for now.