To say the Seahawks beat the Bears Friday night would be incorrect. The names and colors on the jerseys were irrelevant. The men occupying said jerseys…also irrelevant. Seattle has reached a point in their development that Pete Carroll has talked about for years. When you are truly the best team on the planet, your only competition is in the mirror. The Seahawks defense set a standard last season that very few in NFL history have ever touched. Seattle special teams nearly broke records of their own. A reality that is sure to catch many in the NFL off-guard, the Seahawks offense now has a chance to be the best unit on the team. A season after Seattle made big corners all the rage, we may be talking about small, fast receivers being back in style by this time next year.
The Seahawks starting offense has had the ball twelve times through three preseason games. They have scored on 10 of those 12 possessions, and one of the scoreless possessions ended in a missed 53-yard field goal.
FACT: After being denied in their first possession of the pre-season, the Seahawks starting offense scored on 10 straight possessions over three games.
And this group is not just settling for field goals. Eight of their 10 scoring drives have resulted in touchdowns. They are a perfect eight-for-eight in red zone possessions. And they are not just benefiting from the defense and special teams giving them a short field. Eight of their 10 scoring drives have been 60 yards or more. They are averaging 30.3 ppg. Maybe that does not matter, but they finished the preseason at 27.5 ppg last season and went on to score 26.1 ppg during the regular season.
Russell Wilson has been the catalyst. Already threatening to the most efficient quarterback in NFL history, Wilson has upped his completion percentage from 63.2% in last year’s preseason to an impossible 76.9% through three games this year. Nobody in the NFL that has at least 32 attempts (Wilson has thrown 39 times) is matching his pace, and that includes a series of near-misses to Doug Baldwin in the end zone last week and Luke Willson this week. The game is coming easy to him right now.
More good news
The offensive line has gone from a major concern to a source of optimism in a few short weeks. Rookie Justin Britt continues to step forward. He caved in the left side of the Bears defensive line to clear the way for an easy Marshawn Lynch touchdown on the opening possession. He had some issues in pass protection, but far less egregious than in past games. Fans are going to yell at him through their TVs more than a few times this year, but his growth is very good news.
J.R. Sweezy had another monster game. His newfound power allows him to pancake defensive lineman and his always-present athleticism has him consistently getting to the second level to get linebackers and cornerbacks on the ground. Russell Okung looked a bit rusty, but we know who he is when healthy. That goes for Max Unger as well. James Carpenter had a little trouble in pass protection again, but is light years ahead of where he was.
It is worth noting that the second string tackles played extremely well. Alvin Bailey played right tackle and Eric Winston played left. Tarvaris Jackson had very clean pockets time and again. Watch the game again and see how many times Bears defensive ends were blocked in symmetrical arcs around the quarterback. That does not even count Gary Gilliam. Seattle is loaded at tackle.
Turbin turns a corner
Robert Turbin had a flashier game against the Chargers with the long run, but was not overly impressive in his other carries. This was his best game running in a long time. Each run was maximized with decisiveness and power through contact. He looked like a new man. He only had 26 yards, but his 4.3 yards per carry was well-earned.
Christine Michael had a nice game as well. His 28 yards on the ground included at least two runs where he turned likely losses into significant gains by sidestepping defenders in the backfield. He had one jump cut early in the game that was breath-taking. He added another 36 yards through the air, including a touchdown and an-almost long 3rd down conversion on a screen. You can start to see how the team might work Michael into the mix in certain sets and situations. There might not be a true backup running back. Look for each player to be assigned specific personnel groupings, and be used when those groupings are called for.
Defense holds up
The starting defense shut out the Bears, but got a little good fortune from a questionable call in the endzone to do it. Jay Cutler and his receivers got good chunks of yardage, but the Seahawks were able to bow up and get off the field.
Cutler came into the game with a preseason passer rating over 122.0 and the Bears offense was leading the NFL in yardage. Seattle slowed them down, but were not quite their dominant selves. Richard Sherman finally saw a pass thrown his direction. He saw a few, and a fair number resulted in completions. These two receivers are as good as it gets in the NFL, so completions are going to happen. Sherman sets a high bar, though, and he only was close to a pass defensed once.
Byron Maxwell once again showed the strength of his hands by knocking a sure touchdown out of Alshon Jeffrey’s hands and then nearly causing a fumble.
It was good to see the return of gang-tackling. Seahawks defenders were running to the ball in bunches. That was a trademark of the 2013 team, and a key to limiting yards after catch and often creating turnovers.
A few individual player notes:
Jeremy Lane had a very strong game with an interception at the goal line, a near-interception and 3 total passes defensed.
Korey Toomer returned to action and immediately showed up in pass rush, getting to the quarterback a split second after Heath Farwell got home for the sack.
Kevin Pierre-Louis did not have a great game. He was overwhelmed against the run, and had trouble getting off blocks.
O’Brien Schofield is not just playing well, he’s forcing the coaches to find him as many snaps as possible during the season. Bruce Irvin is going to have some real competition for the nickel defensive end role.
Malcolm Smith returned and had a great hit.
Jackson Jeffcoat had his best game. He is getting more time at end, his natural position, and had a few nice rushes.
Cassius Marsh got his second sack in three games, and showed some nice backside pursuit on one play. He was stonewalled quite a bit. That is to be expected as he acclimates to playing starting level players.
Ricardo Lockette just about cinched a roster spot with his performance. Another crunching special teams tackle and a nice catch. Phil Bates is on the outside looking in.
I love Terrance Parks as a practice squad candidate. He has flashed in each game.