The Morning After — Seahawks Defense, Special Teams, Offense Prove Two Out of Three Is Bad

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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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Jaw-dropping defense

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:

  • Interception
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt
  • Punt

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 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.

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  1. Brian, this was such a frustrating game to watch. I went into it thinking they may not win and I was ok with that. It was the way they lost. How disastrous will this be if this offensive line remains inept with all the talent they have? I watched Sheldon Richardson play and still came away thinking how that money could have been used on a quality tackle or guard, despite a great performance by Sheldon. So sad. Something needs to change, or I will surely have a mental breakdown before the end of this season.

  2. A run-first, physically dominating offense that uses play action effectively is the square peg. The Hawks’s OL is the round hole. This is not 2013, on offense. A big back will not change this. Whether, and when, Pete grasps this and reluctantly changes the offense’s approach in response will determine whether this team makes the playoffs, but doesn’t go far, or is a true contender–assuming the line improves at least somewhat over the season. That Oline performance was flat-out horrible. If Tell the Truth Monday is a real thing, ears should be burning among the players, but the coaching staff needs to be doing some real mirror-gazing as well. There are times when optimism crosses the line into simply delusional happy talk. And yesterday’s game tells me that the line was crossed on the offense sometime a couple months before kickoff.

    Plenty to like on D and special teams, though. Which just highlights the waste that is being perpetrated by the offense.

    1. Amen. It’s about time that the coaching staff realize that the places they have offensive skills do not match up with the offensive “identity” they are trying to create. This team is not built for power running, play action or vertical pocket passing. This is a team that has to move the QB and the pocket, they have to run quick rub routes, they have to play dink-dunk passes, outlet balls to the running backs and anything that gets the ball away from the line as quickly as possible. This line isn’t going to create holes for a RB, they aren’t going to protect the passer taking a 5 or 7 step drop. The offensive philosophy has to change. It’s not about uptempo, it’s about matching the talent with the philosophy.

  3. There was lots to like about the defense and special teams. Wilson did not have one of his better games. I thought he had time to wrap up the ball better before his fumble. He overthrew Tyler Locket on a play that could have been a touchdown. He still doesn’t throw the ball high to Jimmy Graham, where Graham is the only one who can come down with it. That was particularly evident on one third down play.

    I also thought that Darrel Bevell’s play calling could have been better. He ran too many times to the left side, when they seem to do better on the right. No screen passes to keep the rusher’s honest.

  4. I actually don’t hold Avril’s penalty against him. He is a D lineman without much experience blocking. We should give him a mulligan on that one.

    As for the rest of that game. I would agree that the special teams was special, and the defense played great. Holding the Aaron Rodger’s Packers to 17 point at Lambeau? That is a feat in an of itself, especially after last year’s debacle. The offense was just terrible. The O-line is a dumpster fire once again this year, with the only expectation being that their will be inconsistent. Doug Baldwin played great, as he always does. The other bright spot I would agree is Chris Carson. How can the Seahawks keep that man off of the field?

  5. Many of us didn’t expect the Seahawks to win yesterday, but it’s how they didn’t win that is the big disappointment. We hope the team will improve each year. I expressed some concern last week about Special Teams……………..I needn’t have. The defense has been helped considerably by the changes in personnel almost across the board. Griffin was tested more than probably anyone imagined and, considering it was his first pro game, he did very, very well. Richardson looked very good, and considering he hasn’t played with these guys in their schemes, he should only get better. The upgrades to linebacker and db depth look very good. The hole in the bucket continues to be the offense. Sure, it’s easy to blame the O-line as THE problem, but that’s short sighted. The constant churning of the unit is harmful to good performance. Only one guy is playing the same position as last year. The rest are still trying to figure out how to play together. Can they ever figure it out? That will take time. It’s not inconceivable that a third of the way through the season this team has a losing record. The really sad thing is that little has changed from the poor performances of last year. Three downs and out, penalties, turnovers, red zone impotence and the inability (or unwillingness) to adjust the game plan to cope with what the opponent throws at you is disheartening. Just about any Pop Warner level coach knows how to deal with an aggressive defensive rush. In the third quarter there was a quick pass to Vanett in the flat, and later a quick slant to Baldwin. They worked! Sure, they’re not the chunk plays that thrill fans, but they advance the ball and often keep you out of third and long. A steady dose of that is better at possibly holding a stout rush at bay than throwing long for no gain, or having the running backs plow into a no hole. I don’t know if it’s the plays called by Bevel or what Wilson chooses to do after reading the defense but whichever, we’re not progressing in how we deal in game. Without some change there we’re going to keep having the same issues.

    A final comment on running back. As almost everyone has noted Carson is a wonderment. So far he’s shown to be the one DEPENDABLE all around back. Lacy may be a sad case. Nerves? Hangover from his injury? Slow on the uptake? I don’t know, but he’s underwhelmed so far. Rawls, love ya Thomas, just wish you had some stamina/reliability. Prosise, oh the curse of potential.

    1. Bingo Uncle Bob. My take on Tom Cable is that he gained his reputation under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was back when players wore pads and hit each other ‘game style’ in practices. This current CBA isn’t conducive to new offensive linemen being able to learn their craft without realistic contact being made, and we can’t get ready-to-play talent out of the draft at pick number 27-32 each year. On the bright side, penalty free at Lambeau Field to start the season, who’da thought?

  6. What really bothers me is Cable and the front office is supposedly making player talent evaluations and coaching decisions based upon the philosophy that they are a big nasty road grating run first team. Cable built his reputation on his ZBS to facilitate a powerful run game.

    I could live with poor pass blocking if the O-line could actually run block as advertised… but the run blocking is just as terrible.

    The run game is supposedly what Cable is a master at developing. There is no excuse for all of this poor run and pass blocking considering the high draft picks and years in the system that some of these lineman have had under Cable.

  7. Offensive Line – It’s my favorite position group to watch, so while sitting in the auto body repair shop this morning (wife’s vehicle got hit), I decided to go back home and watch just our offensive line with the following formula in my little mind.

    S=Sack. H=Hurry or Hit on QB. I=Idiot false start/holding. T=Trucked and that is what I call it when the lineman gets picked up and delivered to the QB’s physical location. P=Powerful block/pancake. I also figure 2.5 seconds to be about league average in time to throw, so I don’t fault players much after that time frame has elapsed, not unless the effort just isn’t there. Now I’m just a fan, and criticism is probably warranted, but here goes:

    LT – 1 Sack, 2 Hurries, 2 Trucks, 2 Powerful blocks. First pro start I believe at LT.
    LG – 1 Sack, 1 Powerful block. Looked over-matched.
    C – 1 Truck, on a running play (?????).
    RG – 1 Sack, 1 Hurry. Looked over-matched.
    RT – 1 Hurry, and 3 Trucks. Pad level consistently higher than all other linemen.
    TE – Luke Wilson gets 2 Power blocks downfield.

    Final score shows that nobody’s S-H-I-T-Power was very good against the Packers except for maybe that of Luke Wilson, so I tip my hat to him.

    To be fair to the players, It’s four new faces in four out five positions again this year, so I expected a bad start in a lot of ways. They were also penalty free at a hostile & noisy Lambeau field, and that surprised me… A lot.

    Other notes: Run blocking was pathetic all game long, but I did see some big holes open up on passing plays, so where’s that read option again?

    1. You might have something here: The higher the tally the more a line stinks? (sorry, couldn’t pass on that one LOL)

      1. Yup. Yesterday morning started at six AM when my wife called to say she’d been hit by another driver (Packer Fan?), and I just knew it was going to be an Sunny Hot Interesting Type of day!

    2. Great job doing the analysis! I wonder how much of what we saw yesterday was the result of poor communication in a hostile environment? There was a huge discrepancy in performance from the preseason game vs KC (who has a decent DL group). I have to think the noise affected the communication enough to make the OL look worse than it really is.

      1. Thanks Another Doug – I think I’ll try to keep doing it week in week out since it really doesn’t take very long, and especially when our team only holds possession of the ball for 20 minutes. I’m sure the ruckus crowd in GB was trying to upset our team’s offense as you pointed out, but heck we in Seattle are willing to return the favor ain’t we?

  8. TC has shown time and time again his ineptness in evaluating talent on the OLine. It is the same platitudes year in and year out: this group is going to be really special, look how Gilliam just swallows guys up, so and so will be a pro-bowler. What’s next TC? This Hawk OLine will be the first NFL offensive line to land on the moon? The only truth in the Hawks OLine is that it is: offensive to the Hawks defense and Hawks’ fans. Maybe they do get better, but even so, beating a 49ers team is no great shakes. The 49ers aren’t a measuring stick to determine an average OLine. The Falcons, Packers, Rams, Cowboys and Cardinals are the teams who are the measuring sticks. They failed that test with flying colors yesterday. Why TC keeps getting a pass or not being held accountable or being allowed to use the proverbial crutch “It takes time” year after year is absolutely mind boggling? That OLine is a complete farce. I hope I am wrong, but to lose another season in a Super Bowl window because of it, is beyond perplexing.

  9. You’re probably right, Brian. But there’s another possibility: that Green Bay’s defense has suddenly gotten a lot better than it was last year. (Even Packer fans think this is more likely to be a pipe dream than a new reality.)

    We’ll know after next Sunday’s games. What happens when those same Packer players go up against the Falcons, whose offensive line is far better than Seattle’s? Will the Packers defense still look good or not? We shall see.

    And what happens when the Seahawks atrocious line goes against the 49ers at home? The 9ers are supposed to be halfway decent on their front 7 — it’s just every other part of their team which sucks. So our line will get another test next week, and then we’ll see what’s what.

  10. Sitting here watching the Saints game, listening to Gruden rave on about Ramcyk, the player i was hoping the Hawks would take in the first round. Good for him starting at LT & doing a good job so far, bad on the Hawks braintrust to overlook a solid OT prospect to take another high potential high risk D front seven player. In the 1st round most teams draft to fill a weakness, unfortunately Hawks didnt do that in 2017, and looks like they will pay the price again this season.
    The packer game was very frustrating to watch, the same weakness as last season. I agree with a lot of the other comments here, why not move the pocket more, it worked on the Baldwin pass at the end of the 1st, why not go to a quick passing game, why not start Carson, I often wondered during the game why they didnt doubleteam Daniels, on the play where Wilson fumbled Britt helped double team #61, leaving Joke-ll 1 on 1 against Daniels.

    1. Dave, I just pulled up the Seahawks 2017 draft list and gotta agree with you, and here’s some evidence to prove your point. First round, having no pick equals no talent acquired. Second round, DT Malik McDowell who equates to no talent, or you can look at it as he cost us next year’s second round pick because that’s what it cost to get Sheldon Richardson to fill in for McDowell this year. Second round OL Ethan Pocic picked 58th overall and that’s closer to third round talent than middle second round, and they already deem him not good enough to start. Third round they had four picks and spent none on offensive line help. Beyond that, the college level draft isn’t deep enough to get quality offensive line help. Example, 6th round OT Justin Senior is already gone and didn’t even make the practice squad. Myself, I do like the group okay, but it’s four new faces, at four out of the five positions all over again.

  11. Good read, Bryan, after a most disappointing game.

    Cable’s latest “Product” and the Refs = yuk much.

    To think that we COULD have had Ramcyk and Bitonio as our
    tackles. But, unfortunately, our brain trust needs to demonstrate how clever they are in the first round, year after year, by not taking the player(s) they need when they fall in in their laps. (Yes, yes, we needed more picks, but we needed people who could run and pass block even more. And, yes, Cable cosigned on Ifedi, cuz Ifedi’s arms are so very strong — though, his head and feet seem to be in cement).

    Some fans fall back on that old song & dance of: ” Hey, we’re just fans, these guys took the Hawks to the promise land,” etc. Which puts me in mind of Portland NBA fans pleading for Hall of Fame Coach Jack Ramsey & Co. to draft Michael Jordan (or Charles Barkley) instead of oft injured Sam Bowie. It seemed so obvious to we non-qualified fans.

    Oh, and for Pete’s sake, please allow the offense to evolve and change as personnel and circumstances dictate, Pete. Please abandon a rigid philosophy for the offensive side of the ball that no longer works here — largely because of misplaced loyalty to coaches and coordinators who season after season have failed the eye test on Sunday.

    (Sorry, about the run on sentences. Lashings of apologies, but, golly gee whiz and good gosh almighty, what an embarrassing, frustrating FUBAR of an “Offensive Line.” Stay the course, Pete, and watch your diamond defense die. Play One and Done again with a Super Bowl team. Or: Make a few tough, tell-the-truth adjustments. Cut the excuses for Bevel and Cable. Smash Mouth is officially in the rear view. Welcome to 2017. Our OL is a circus. (Next time the Hawk’s OL stumble out there on the field, they should cue up some Benny Hill slapstick music. And if the offensive looks better against San Francisco this week, (fingers crossed), please don’t think the ship is righted. Please respect the incredible defense you have been so instrumental in assembling, Pete, and…

    UNLEASH THE TARKINGTON. Roll Russ out. Play some fun football. Time for Russell to show he’s an elite scrambler-rambler and relocate his groove. Let’s put up some 1st half touchdowns. (It’s not against the law. And no more 7-step drops — read the memo, Bevel. And no more pre/post game platitudes, Mr. Cable. Your OL smells like a beached whale at low tide. AGAIN.

    Gasp, rant all over now.

    Where’s that beer?

    1. Didn’t it seem like the read option would’ve just flayed the ‘Kers on several occasions? He’s healthy, Pete (Darrell). He will make things easier on the O-line if you let him. Great point.

  12. Ok Brian. Catharsis over. Hope you feel better.

    As you so astutely wrote towards the end of your piece, let’s not overreact. But here’s why I think so, and it flies, to a degree, in the face of your take…

    Week 1 means players are physically fresh as daisies. It also means a turn-up from 5 to 11 in terms of intensity of play vs. the preseason game 3, 1st half. The point is, this O-Line is quite capable of not screwing things up. It is just that week 1 is so much an extreme catapulting outlier. What we saw was an extremely high level of play from the D-line of Green Bay against an O-Line that could not possibly match the exquisite skill and intensity of their opponents so early in their gelling process.

    San Fran next week is once again the medicine we need. And by week 3, both the aforementioned extremes will likely both veer much closer to center.

    I feel strongly that week 1’s O-Line debacle will soon be a distant memory, and that in January, the 13-3 Hawks will be hosted by the 12-2 Packers for the abundantly satisfying rematch. The Hawks will then display their depth, prowess and superiority. And on to the Super Bowl with another amazing NFC Championship win. Dare I say that I can hear the Joe Buck call as he hails the Hawks as KINGS once again of the NFC.

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