Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stay stingy

Last week's win over the Packers confirmed the excellence of Seattle's defense. Over the first three weeks, Seahawk defenders have established themselves as the stingiest unit in the league, allowing fewer points than any team in the league.

Historically, a weak pass rush has been the Achilles heel of our otherwise strong defense, but Monday night's eight-sack hammering of Aaron Rodgers was encouraging, though many of those were coverage sacks that should be credited to our smothering secondary.

The only troubling element was when the Packers shifted into a power running game in the second half, and our defense--normally sound on the ground--yielded generous yardage. When Seattle fully commits to stopping the run, we can. But when we must hedge our bets against the prospect of play action passing by a very capable quarterback, we are vulnerable on the ground.

Because our defense allows fewer than 14 points per game, we can generally win with just two touchdowns. Unfortunately, our offense's ability to meet that modest production target remains doubtful.

Seattle is still the league's poorest passing team. Russell Wilson has played well, but poor playcalling and butterfingered receivers have not helped matters. (If Golden Tate hadn't dropped two balls in the end zone earlier in the fourth quarter, we would not have needed a Hail Mary play.)

Everyone is picking the Seahawks to win, but we would be unwise to take the Rams lightly. Their roster is loaded with talent, they have a good coach now in Jeff Fisher, they played well at home earlier this year, and they are hungry for a win.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quit crying

It should surprise no one that strikebreaker referees are less capable than the union men they replaced.

However, the NFL confirmed that there was no visual evidence to justify overturning the on-the-field ruling of simultaneous reception.

So, Seattle won that game.

I hope the controversial effort inspires a resolution that removes the scabs and returns professional officiating to the gridiron.

But the regular refs aren't perfect, either.

Where was this outrage after Super Bowl XL?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Worries on offense

Seattle fans have a right to celebrate last week's cathartic beatdown of Dallas, one of the league's most odious franchises. Unhorsing the Cowboys was satisfying on several levels: we dominated a credible opponent, dissipated America's Steam, and jammed a taloned thumb in the eye of Jerry Jones, the NFL's most obnoxious owner.

Our defense and special teams presented a resounding demonstration of how a good football team defends its house, by hitting hard and separating opponents from the ball. If those units keep it up, then for the first time in a few years, our opponents will have a real reason to fear playing in Seahawks Stadium.

However, concerns remain on offense.

Two days ago, a Seattle Times headline sunnily proclaimed "Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks running game in high gear." In reality, we saw Beast Mode only in the second half of the Cowboys game. During the first half, and during the entirety of the Arizona contest, our ground attack alternated between neutral and first gear.

Our aerial offense rests on solid ground, insofar as we sit at rock bottom, ranked the least productive in the league in terms of passing yards.

Poor pass protection was a factor in Arizona but not as much against Dallas.

There is, to say the least, a lack of chemistry between our rookie quarterback and his corps of receivers.

That chemistry may come in time. Given the youth and talent of most of the athletes involved, they may have the time to develop that chemistry.

The question is whether Pete Carroll has the luxury of time. His contract makes him one of the league's best-paid coaches, but after two 7-9 seasons, he really needs to produce results commensurate with his compensation.

Green Bay's offensive powerhouse poses the sternest challenge yet to our defense. If the game remains close, then Russell Wilson should be find managing our Beast Mode offense. However, if it turns into a shootout--if we have to throw to win--then Matt Flynn is probably our best bet.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Failure in Phoenix

I had a good time at the game last Sunday, even though Seattle lost.

The Seahawks acquitted themselves reasonably well.

Leon Washington busted a couple of great returns.

The defense looked good, although our inability to exploit the inexperience of their offensive tackles suggests that our pass rush remains a weakness. Arizona defenders ruthlessly exposed our experimental rookie right guard JR Sweezy as not quite ready to start at the professional level.

Despite limited run support, poor pass protection, and a dearth of open receivers, Russell Wilson exceeded expectations. With Houdini-like escape skills, he repeatedly eluding defenders in the backfield and either made plays, salvaged plays, or limited our losses.

But I still would have benched him in the fourth quarter. Wilson is the right quarterback for this team when the defense doesn't know whether a run or a pass is coming, because his mobility keeps the defense guessing.

However, late in the game, when it became clear that we would have to throw on every down in order to win, that was the time to insert Matt Flynn, who is a better pure passer than Wilson.

I have never bought into the notion that quarterbacks need to be coddled. They're like any other player. The circumstances of the game should dictate when they play and when they sit.

No matter who throws the ball, they need open receivers. I hope Seattle is looking for upgrades at wideout and tight end. Perhaps the lack of interest in Kellen Winslow on the free agent market will influence K2 to accept a pay cut and return to the Seahawks.

This was my first visit to Arizona's attractive new stadium in Glendale. (I continue to refuse to acknowledge naming rights auctioned for a fraction of a facility's cost; as far as I'm concerned, every stadium should be named by or for the taxpayers who paid for it, or by their elected representatives. I am particularly loath to honor naming rights held by an unscrupulous private diploma mill with a business model predicated on duping people into overloading on federally subsidized loans in order to pay exorbitant tuition for an education no better and often considerably worse than more affordable public alternatives.)

When the Cardinals played in Sun Devil Stadium, most of the seats were empty and Seattle fans appeared to comprise up to one third of the crowd.

Now that the Angry Birds have their own facility, most of the seats are filled, though not all of them. The Cardinals claimed that last Sunday was their sixtieth and something consecutive sellout, but the stadium appeared perhaps one-third empty, including some entire sections on the mezzanine level. (Do other stadia have similarly dubious definitions of a sellout?)

Seattle fans are a smaller fraction of the crowd now, but there were still enough of us to prompt Seahawk defenders to gesticulate to solicit crowd noise, and we happily obliged.

Arizona fans didn't cheer that much until the last two minutes, but they were never louder than the public address speakers, which were turned up to 11. They maintain a count of false start penalties since they opened the new stadium, but the relationship between their tame, meek crowd and errors by opposing offenses is about as strong as the correlation between tattoos and good taste.

Throughout the first half, the Cardinals presented only partisan images on the big screen, confining themselves to replays of Arizona successes. At some point in the second half, they shifted gears and presented replays in a more evenhanded fashion, belatedly fulfilling the league promise that the stadium audience would see the same replays as the TV audience.

 I saw two other Seahawk fans representing with #71 jerseys like me, in honor of  Big Walt.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Diehard Comes Alive

The Prodigal Blogger returneth.

A cavalcade of professional and personal crises have limited my posts to the Diehard in recent months. How bad was it? Usually, I manage to see every preseason game. this year, I didn't get a chance to see any of Seattle's preseason games. That's bad.

I have, however, kept up with the team by reading online press coverage. (Check out the links to the right, including real time feeds from all of the major Seahawks blogs. Now, this website is a one-stop portal to Seattle-related NFL news, so it has utility for my reader(s?) even when I don't find time to post.)

The aforementioned crises haven't passed, but I have to blog today because the regular season is upon us, and because...


The last time I posted, I questioned the quirky first and second round draft selections of Pete Carroll and John Schneider.

I had planned to follow up with praise for their flair for finding talent in the middle and late rounds of the draft. I never found time to do that, but this offseason confirmed that trend in spades:

Russell Wilson, a third-round pick, won the quarterback competition, besting Matt Flynn, the offseason's most coveted free agent quarterback in free agency.

In the seventh round, Seattle let Tom Cable gamble with one of our picks, selecting defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy not to play his college position, but to convert him into an offensive guard. In mere months, Cable coached Sweezy through the transition so effectively that the rookie secured a starting role for himself, at the expense of credible veterans like Deuce Lutui.

Other things I loved about the offseason:

1. Having a true competition for the role of starting quarterback

2..Letting the best man win that competition, based on performance in practice and in exhibition games. (Were Flynn's regular season appearances weighed appropriately?)

3. Having Matt Flynn as a backup, because his history in Green Bay shows that he comes off the bench hot. (Will Carroll insert him promptly if Wilson falters?)

4. Getting something for T-Jack instead of simply cutting him. (Good luck in Buffalo!)

5. Letting veterans like Alex Barron, Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens compete for roster spots, and keeping only the ones who earned their places.

6. Throwing the ball to Zach Miller in the preseason, rather than relegating the Pro Bowl receiving tight end to blocking.

7. Cutting Kellen Winslow when he wouldn't take a pay cut to square his salary with his value, thus conserving a draft pick we would have owed Tampa had we kept him.

8. Dealing Barrett Ruud to New Orleans when it became clear that Bobby Wagner was exceeding expectations.

9. Finding Robert Turbin, a power back to spell Marshawn Lynch.

10. The continued strength of the O-Line and the defense in the exhibition games.

Of course, preseason success doesn't always carry over into the regular season.

Seattle slumped into the offseason last year by losing here in overtime and accepting a second consecutive 7-9 season. Today, we need a win to exorcise those demons and get off on the right foot for the season and in the division.

The last time I saw a Seahawks game in Arizona, Seattle blew them out. Shaun Alexander recovered from halftime diarrhea to bust an 80-yard touchdown run.

I'm hoping for a repeat today, without the intestinal distress.

I want to see Leon Washington return a kick for a touchdown.

I want to see a healthy Marshawn Lynch unleashed in Beast Mode.

I want to see Russell Wilson running free like a point guard, dishing the ball to his receivers.

I want to see Bruce Irvin's speed victimize Arizona's inexperienced tandem of offensive tackles.

I want to see Red Bryant toss aside O-Linemen like rag dolls and pulverize pigskin-packing Cardinals.

I want to see our Pro Bowl corners erase Larry Fitzgerald from the stat sheet.

Go, Seahawks!