The Morning After: Seahawks Obliterate Chiefs 44-14
Something special is happening with the Seattle Seahawks. Skeptics can talk about the vast gulf between pre-season wins and regular season results, but are they really watching this team play? Have they watched the other 35 Seahawks pre-seasons, or at least the last 5-10? Have they caught any other pre-season action this season to see how other teams look? There is a difference between belief and knowledge. This defense knows how good it is, and this offense is starting to believe it can be as well. We talk so much about the quarterback position that it can be easy to miss the bigger picture. This team is headed toward a memorable season.
The pass rush finally showed up. It showed up on the first series of the game with a sack from a name becoming more familiar to Seahawks fans, if not Curt Menafee, Greg Scruggs. Scruggs took advantage of the team resting Jason Jones to continue showing he can contribute this season. Finding interior pass rushers is among the hardest things to do in football, and it appears the front office found one in the 7th round. Mike Morgan, a second-year linebacker out of USC, chased down the Chiefs Matt Cassell for a second sack. Cassell could have gone done a half-dozen more times, but showed remarkable elusiveness. Sacks are great, but they can be misleading. Consistent pass pressure is more valuable than a few sacks, and the Seahawks managed to get both last night. The best example of came in the second half when rookie LB Korey Toomer rocketed toward Cassell, who rushed a throw right into the hands of a streaking Earl Thomas. It was Cassell’s longest completion of the night as Thomas went 75 yards for a touchdown. Quick side note to Earl: please do that in the regular season because it is way too fun to keep hidden in pre-season game.
Toomer had a nice game in pass pressure. His speed makes him a useful blitzer, and he had started to show some of that talent later in camp. He still is a long way away from being capable against the run, but having a knack for pressuring the quarterback is plenty valuable on its own.
The story of the game was clearly the play of rookie Russell Wilson. Wilson did exactly what Wilson does. He makes plays and scores points. If he is making blatant mistakes, they are sure hard to find. He had one bad throw, and broke the pocket a few times too early. Wilson eagerly challenges defenses down the field. Many of his throws in practice and games are not to wide open receivers running down the sidelines. He puts the ball in good spots for the receivers to make plays by identifying 1v1 match-ups and locating the ball well. His running ability is going to give defenses headaches, and he is a smart runner who finds space and willingly avoids contact by sliding or going out of bounds. He took some hits, mostly late, and bounced up without a problem. There has always been an inevitability around Wilson. Even when he struggled early in camp, there was little doubt his talent would eventually break through any barrier. The trajectory of his improvement has been the surprise. Even people that have only seen him play in the games have seen how much better of a player he is now than he was in that first game.
There is still some possibility that Pete Carrroll will name Matt Flynn the starter. It is far less likely at this point, but still possible. The challenge is that the coach has, unintentionally, made Flynn public enemy #1. The fan and media reaction to benching Wilson would be loud and angry. Flynn is in an impossible situation now. Fans may not want to accept it, but as good as Wilson is, remember Flynn was beating him out less than a week ago. Flynn is that good. The shame is that things have not flashed in the games the way they have for Wilson. The prospect of backing up a rookie, who has fan and front office support, cannot be what Flynn has in mind. It raises the possibility that the team will consider fielding offers for him in addition to Tarvaris Jackson.
Jackson is a more logical fit as a long-term back-up to Wilson than Flynn is. The days of Jackson as a starter have come and gone. It is unlikely any team outside of someplace like Arizona would consider him a starter. Flynn is a potentially good starting quarterback in this league. He may have to settle for a back-up role this season, but there are probably places with more upside potential than Seattle if he is not named starter. Wilson is not going anywhere, and he is not going to lay an egg.