After the Seattle Seahawks win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon, head coach Pete Carroll remarked that Sunday was “a really good day for us in a lot of ways.” Indeed, Carroll is correct. With the win, the Seahawks reclaimed NFC West supremacy in convincing fashion, doubling-up on the Cardinals, 36-18. Matt Hasselbeck, back after missing last week’s shellacking at the hands of the New York Giants due to a concussion, engineered an offensive attack that accumulated nearly 500 yards of total offense. The Seahawks dominated all facets of the game and now, at 5-4, hold a legitimate shot at earning a spot in the postseason.
Wide receiver Mike Williams continued to dominate, catching eleven passes for 145 yards. Across the NFL, Williams resurgence is being heralded as the comeback story of the year. After his eleven catch performance Sunday, Williams has 46 catches on the season, seven for 20 or more yards. And he’s making catches in a variety of ways: down the sideline, over the middle, in front of press coverage, and over-top of smaller defensive backs. Standing at 6’5” and weighing 230 pounds, Williams has the prototypical size, hands, and physical ability to dominate like many of his counterparts – Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin, and New York’s Hakeem Nicks. However, unlike all these similarly sized and talented wide receivers, Williams is not producing in perhaps that most important aspect of the game: the end zone.
Williams has only one touchdown catch. Compare that to his counterparts: Fitzgerald has four touchdown catches, Boldin has six, and Nicks is leading the NFL with nine. And it’s not as though Fitzgerald, Boldin, and Nicks are simply catching more balls than Williams. In fact, only Fitzgerald has more catches than Williams at this point (he has 49).
It’s problematic when a team’s leading receiver, who absolutely has the ability to dominate offensively, like Williams, is not scoring touchdowns.
Considering Williams total catch numbers, it is mind-boggling that he has only found the end zone once – a touchdown catch in the first-half of their first win over the Cardinals. Why can’t he find the end zone?
The answer lies in the Seahawks inability to convert in the red zone. Olindo Mare, the Seahawks field goal kicker, kicked five field goals Sunday. He converted from 41, 34, 19, 23, and 19. He also missed a 29-yarder late in the game.
On the season, Mare has attempted field goals of 29 yards or less eleven times, converting nine of those tries. In other words, the Seahawks are relying on their field goal kicker to convert points in the red zone rather than their most dominate receiver.
Failing to connect with Williams in the red zone is, perhaps, the Seahawks most glaring offensive weakness at this point in the season. Williams is catching balls all over the field, in many different ways. There’s no good reason why he isn’t catching more balls on his way to the end zone.
‘Tweet’ thoughts –
Does Brian Billick even watch the game?
Forget Defensive Rookie of the Year: Earl Thomas is a Pro Bowler.
Matt Hasselbeck looks TERRIBLE; where’s Touchdown Jesus?
Greg Tolar sucks.
The Seattle Seahawks were saved Sunday by a Pro-Bowl kick return specialist traded by the New York Jets following last season after breaking his leg.
After missing a myriad of opportunities to bury the San Diego Chargers in the first half, the Hawks’ Leon Washington received the opening kick-off of the second half and returned it 101-yards for a touchdown. Then, with 6:39 remaining in the game, after the Chargers tied the game at 20 with prolific quarterback Phil Rivers leading the charge, Washington received the subsequent kick-off at the one yard line, busted through one tackle, avoided two others, and sprinted for his second touchdown of the half, leading the Hawks to a 27-20 victory in front of 67,000 frenzied fans at Qwest Field.
Even with Washington’s exploits, the Hawks still had to brace for two more Chargers’ drives to end the game.
After Washington’s touchdown, Rivers methodically led the Chargers down the field hitting his big, versatile targets along the way. However, Rivers’ fourth down pass into the end zone was broken up by rookie Roy Lewis. Then, following a Jon Ryan punt, Rivers put the pressure on again but on fourth down, the drive ended in the red zone when safety Earl Thomas picked-off Rivers for the second time in the game, preserving the win and putting the Hawks atop the NFC West.
The Hawks defense played spectacularly in the first half. Defensive end Chris Clemmons and tackles Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant dominated the line of scrimmage, holding the Chargers high-powered offense scoreless. Clemmons used his speed and veteran guile to sack Rivers (one in the first half, another in the second) and Mebane used brute force up the middle to do the same. Bryant recovered an early Chargers fumble forced by linebacker Lofa Tatupu and the defense set the tone, allowing for an inconsistent offense to build a 10-0 halftime lead.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Hawks got on the board first following an eighty-yard drive highlighted by a 28-yard scamper from Justin Forsett and 37-yard pass down the seam to tight end John Carlson. However, the drive stalled and Olindo Mare was forced to come on the field to kick a 23-yard field goal. The disappointing finish to the drive was typical of the Hawks anemic offense. The Chargers turned the ball over three times in the first half but the Hawks failed to convert the turnovers into any points.
The special teams play – obviously highlighted by Washington’s return touchdowns – outplayed the Chargers special teams throughout the game. Cam Chancellor forced a fumbled on coverage, the return units opened holes for Washington and punt returner Golden Tate, and the Chargers return game was stymied throughout by aggressive.
The win puts the Hawks at 2-1 on the season and after three weeks, gives the Hawks the top spot in the NFC West – a weak division in disarray.
Rivers finished the game 29-53 for 455 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Hasselbeck finished 19-32 for 220 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
For complete game statistics, visit nfl.com
‘tweet’ thoughts – Many fans had a terrible morning trying to get to Qwest Field…Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nat McMillan hoisted the ‘12th Man’ flag before kick off…CBS’s Dan Fouts used the word ‘misconnected’ in the first half trying to explain an incompletion between the Hawks Matt Hasselbeck and Carlson…Cornerback Marcus Trufant left the game with an ankle injury…Running back Julie Jones did not step on the field for the Hawks…Tate, once again, showed flashes of brilliance returning punts…The Seahawks had one first down in the second half.
After an incredible off-season, the Seattle Seahawks begin the season at home on Sunday against NFC West rival (and Division favorite) the San Francisco 49ers. The flurry of transactions this off-season appear done, so it is appropriate to ask a few questions heading into week one.
Will Matt Hasselbeck be protected?
This question could also be ‘Will the offensive line perform?’
Hasselbeck will turn 35 later this month. It’s no secret his pro-bowl years are behind him. In 2005 – the 13-3, Super Bowl appearance season – Hasselbeck played as well as any quarterback in the NFL. He played the season with Hall-of-Fame tackle Walter Jones and perennial Pro-Bowler Steve Hutchison protecting his backside. This season? Russell Okung is the heir apparent to Jones but he’s injured and won’t begin the season on the field. His preseason replacement, Mansfield Wrotto, is no longer with the team. At present, it looks like Tyler Polumbus will start at left tackle. If he goes down, Chester Pitts will step in. After that, only God knows. Alex Gibbs, a respected, veteran offensive line coach abruptly quit (Retired? Fired?) this week and now the ‘Hawks offensive front is being led by a guy Pete Carroll took from the UFL. To be sure, none of this is good news. The offensive line is a giant question mark heading into the regular season. That is not good news for an aging quarterback who has struggled to stay on the field recently or for a backfield in transition.
If Hasselbeck is protected this season, however, he will be the undisputed ‘king of quarterbacks’ in the NFC West (more on that later).
What about the running game?
Justin Forsett will start. Leon Washington will get touches. So will Julius Jones. Splitting carries in an NFL backfield is paying dividends for some franchises (Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in Carolina) but what about touches spread between three? And let’s not forget all three are, essentially, NFL castoffs. Forsett couldn’t hang in Indianapolis and barely made it in Seattle. Jones was jettisoned from Dallas due to the emergence of Marion Barber and promise of Felix Jones and Washington was expendable to the Jets. Of course, Washington is an explosive runner and appears ready to handle a workload out of the backfield in addition to returning kickoffs. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Also, don’t be surprised to see Jones talking loudly to reporters if he doesn’t get the same opportunities as Forsett and Washington early in the season; something to look forward to there.
Regardless of how touches are dispersed out of the backfield, will any lanes be available? There’s no continuity up front, as mentioned above. Shaun Alexander was a successful back in Seattle because he ran behind an offensive line with almost unprecedented continuity and tremendous talent. He didn’t win NFL MVP because of his outstanding elusiveness or penchant for big plays; he won because his legs stayed fresh and his body stayed strong running wild and free.
Seattle’s running game heading into week one is a giant question mark and the outlook is not promising.
Will the defense consistently get to the quarterback?
The Seahawks finished last season with a paltry 28 sacks. Not surprisingly, the defense also finished 30th against the pass. In other words, the pressure up front must materialize for any hope of defensive success. Thankfully for Seahawks fans, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
Red Bryant had a fantastic camp and is thriving. Brandon Mebane looks immovable. Colin Cole looks rejuvenated. The addition of Chris Clemmons on the edge looks like a coup. Lofa Tatupu is healthy. Aaron Curry is a beast.
Beyond the initial size, strength, and talent up front, however, the defensive line is thin. Also, Leroy Hill will miss the opener and is dealing with a serious off-the field issue (although, reworking his contract should prove as a great motivator). Finally, although Curry is a beast and has physical tools reminiscent of (pre-steroids) Shawne Merriman, he still makes a lot of mistakes. Dumb mistakes, too. The hope is he’ll grow as a professional this year and fit well into the new scheme.
What about the secondary?
Josh Wilson is gone and now there is no doubt that Kelly Jennings will hold down the corner opposite Marcus Trufant. Jennings is small and open to exploitation opposite Trufant – who looks like a pro bowler again. In his defense, however, Jennings is clearly making it his mission to make plays on the ball and he seems committed to tackling and supporting on the run. He must be ready to make plays, too, because as the season progresses Trufant will see fewer and fewer balls come to his side.
The biggest addition to the secondary, obviously, is first-round pick Earl Thomas. He is a ball hawk, creates turnovers, and is more than willing to lay the wood. Before the draft, there was plenty of discussion surrounding Pete Carroll looking to draft his former player, Taylor Mays, to improve Seattle’s secondary. He didn’t draft Mays though because Thomas is better in coverage; a fact that can easily be overlooked in a hard-hitting safety like Thomas. Lawyer Milloy, a savvy veteran, will provide plenty of leadership from the other safety spot. Cutting and subsequently resigning Jordan Babineaux was a money-saving move but odd nonetheless. He’s not good in coverage and simply lacks some physical tools but the ‘Big Play Babs’ moniker may carry him through his Seattle career.
The secondary will be better than last year – provided Seattle gets consistent pressure up front. Also, rather than facing Kurt Warner twice this season, Seattle will face the Derek Anderson-led Arizona Cardinals. That fact alone will help out the secondary. In that same vein, Alex Smith (49ers) has been maddeningly inconsistent in his career and Sam Bradford (Rams) is a rookie; a much-heralded rookie, but a rookie nonetheless. Seattle will face Anderson, Smith, and Bradford six times this year – unquestionable good news for the secondary.