The Morning After: Seahawks Beat Titans, 20-18

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I started yesterday with a case of the “maybes.” Maybe we’re going to be better than people think. Maybe Pete Carroll is going to take pre-season more seriously than other NFL coaches, and we’ll blow someone out. Maybe Matt’s great camp will translate into multiple marches down the field for TDs. Maybe our new playmakers like Golden Tate will burst onto the scene. Maybe Aaron Curry will finally look like a great player. Or…maybe not.

Pre-season victories never feel worth celebrating, but this one felt especially hollow. It took only the opening series to slap fans out of the happy trance we’d surrendered to in an energizing off-season and training camp. Our defense looked very familiar, and not in a good way, as the Titans waltzed down the field to score an easy touchdown. No pressure on the passer was applied. Massive buffers by the secondary led to relaxing receptions and runs. Aaron Curry looked like exactly the same player he was last season while getting sealed on the 1st play of the game in what led to a 6-yard gain, and then looking lost and slow in coverage as the RB slid by him for a simple reception. Nowhere to be seen was the difference-making defensive presence that constantly disrupts an offense. All too often, the Seahawks defense has felt like the little kid swinging away wildly while the big brother holds him at arms-length with one hand. Even while it was great to see Chris Clemons get a sack, there was nothing close to consistent pressure on the QB, or disruptions in the backfield. Linebackers were not flying through holes making great plays. And getting back to Curry for a second, his tough guy act is getting tired. Woofing at the offensive players and getting in their faces while they are KICKING YOUR ASS is embarrassing. His personal foul penalty on the extra point was the perfect example. Grow up, get better, or shut your mouth. False bravado is for losers.
The most promising part of the 1st-team defense was when Kevin Vickerson substituted for Colin Cole. The pairing of Vickerson and Red Bryant on one side of the line provided the most consistent disruption of any group. Colin Cole was playing well into the second half, and may be on notice. Josh Wilson made a great play on his interception, and continues to be a playmaker at the CB position. He gets burned quite a bit as well, but on a team dying for people who can make a play, he stands out. Kelly Jennings was shown as the starter, and has played there in training camp, but Wilson appeared to be the starter opposite Trufant. Earl Thomas did not stand out, which is good and bad. Neither safety made a memorable play.
The backup defense was notable in a few ways. First, we are really thin at LB. Our 2nd team linebackers do not appear to be legit NFL players, let alone backups. Dexter Davis was someone I’m eager to watch on DVR as his stats tell the story of a disruptive presence, but I didn’t see it live. Nick Reed was invisible, often because he was being slammed to the ground on running plays. It was interesting to see Roy Lewis getting backup minutes considering he was getting burned in training camp, and he looked good on special teams and in coverage. Jamar Adams continues to be a player to watch. I have him ahead of Kevin Ellison at this point. He hits hard, and looks confident back there. I was long gone to the bus by the time my man Kam Chancellor sealed the game with a long INT return. He continues to be my favorite player that I’ve never seen play.
On offense, Matt looked somewhere between decisive and robotic. The throws were coming out quick, but not necessarily to an open receiver. While Deion Branch was being targeted, he wasn’t creating much separation. In fact, none of the starting skill positions created much excitement. Justin Forsett was announced as the starter on the PA system, but Jones got the starter carries. The people sitting around me got an earful for a quarter as we were forced to watch Jones SUCK AS USUAL. I won’t rant about it again, but the guy offers NOTHING. NOTHING!! The combination of Jones, Housh, Branch, Carlson and Baker will have defensive coordinators around the league sleeping like babies before facing the Hawks. Who is the gamebreaker there? I brought a friend to the game that was new to football, and I found myself telling him to wait for the second unit offense, because all the playmakers were there. I wonder how Hasselbeck would have done if he was surrounded by Forsett, Mike Williams, Deon Butler/Golden Tate, Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah. Great example was when Matt threw a quick WR screen to Housh, and you got to see him churn those long, slow legs for about 1.5 yards. Fine play call. Wrong personnel.
The offensive line acquitted itself pretty well for its first game together. Pass protection was solid to good. Run blocking was sub-par. Russell Okung looked great. He never looked silly out on an island, and he is surprisingly agile. He was getting to the second level of the defense with regularity. I even saw him cut block a player, get up off the ground, and make another block on multiple occasions. Whitehurst will get a lot of kudos for his game, but for my money, Okung was the most impressive Seahawk of the evening. Max Unger also had a solid game, with more than a couple of pancake blocks. Sean Locklear was just short of horrible. Most, if not all, of the QB pressure was coming from his man. He got no push on running plays. He seems checked out, and I wonder if we’ll see more of Ray Willis at RT.
The 2nd unit on offense was a clear step forward. I was disappointed that Mike Williams only had one ball thrown his way. He stands out so much with his size, strength and speed combination. I’d like to see them allow him to compete for some balls against DBs. Williams also stood out with some nice blocking. Deon Butler and Golden Tate were rarely targeted, but Butler made the most of his chances, including a gorgeous 4th down catch where he blew by his defender. Quinton Ganther is a better version of Julius Jones. No nonsense, but some punch. Chris Baker and Cameron Morrah looked solid. Anthony McCoy caught a TD, but Morrah was the best TE in the game. Ben Obamanu also had a nice game. And then we have Charlie Whitehurst.
Whitehurst had the whole stadium wondering if there might be a QB controversy after all, until he reminded everyone how punishing inexperience can be with a brain dead interception that stole a FG away from the offense. To be fair, it’s possible that INT was on Mike Williams for running the wrong route. Only folks in the locker room know that. Whitehurst was not as agile as I had been led to believe when chased from the pocket. His throws were accurate and sharp. He got rid of the ball quickly as well. I’m happy he had a good first game, if for no other reason than to take some of the pressure off of him. Fans entered this game calling for JP Losman, and left the game quite happy with Whitehurst.
The coaches and schemes did not stand out, and that’s mostly a good thing. Bates appears to favor two TEs to a fullback, and the TEs were targeted a lot in the passing game. They ran a lot of trips, usually with a TE. I’ll continue to look for tendencies, and diagram any plays that appear to be staples.
Fans that aren’t drunk on Carroll Kool-Aid will leave this game with a more realistic expectation for what this season will be. Season goals should center around, establishing Okung and Thomas, finding a playmaker or two on offense, and seeing if we can develop a disruptor on defense (I wouldn’t hold my breath on that last one).