Sometimes the thing that sports teaches a person isn’t good sportsmanship, camaraderie, or even victorious happiness. No, sometimes that thing is gut wrenching, anguish aching, heart breaking sadness.
So far this season, the Seattle Seahawks have beaten teams they shouldn’t (i.e. the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens), lost to teams they shouldn’t (i.e. the Cleveland Browns), and played like a badly constructed roller coaster in Sim City. It’s been hard to watch at times, even harder to digest and review here because going into it, I knew it could be ugly.
I said in the 2011 preseason preview that this is a rebuilding year for the Seahawks, no matter what the team says. When you draft most of your offensive line and let the best quarterback in team history walk, you’re telling the world that this is, at best, a work in progress.
Having said that, Seattle had won two games in a row before facing the visiting Washington Redskins on November 27, so there was a fresh feeling of optimism flowing through the stands in Seattle.
Washington took an early lead with a touchdown on its opening drive that took 7:49 of game time but felt like an hour of real time to complete. It was aided by a crucial holding penalty by Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner on an incomplete pass on third and 11.
That set a tone for the whole game; the refs were very willing to let the flags fly.
Overall, there were 19 penalties, including a weird unsportsmanlike conduct on Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate’s touchdown celebration. He did what looked like the Nestea Plunge, on his own, so I’m not exactly sure where the penalty came from on it.
Play of the Game:
The only time the refs choked on their flag was on a no-call on a crucial defensive pass interference late in the fourth quarter. At the time, the Seahawks had given up 16 points in the fourth quarter to trail 23-17.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson let the ball fly deep up the middle to a wide open Doug Baldwin. The Redskins’ cornerback on the play, Kevin Barnes, draped himself onto Baldwin while not looking back at all for the ball. Despite the interference, Baldwin almost made the catch. The back judge and the line judge both decided to hold their flags on a textbook example of pass interference despite throwing the flag earlier on a much ticky-tacky foul by Redskins corner Josh Wilson.
It’s that kind of judgment that sends sports fans’ blood pressure through the roof. It makes people scream about biases and turn into black helicopter paranoids. I try hard, very hard, not to complain about referees, I believe they have a very hard job and do try their very best. But that no-call yesterday had me inventing new languages composed strictly of swear words.
1. Red Bryant: Bryant has become a force whenever he is on the field. Against the Redskins, he blocked one field goal and one extra point in addition to his normal defensive line duties. As he gets more experienced, Red Bryant has gotten better and better.
2. Run Offense: Marshawn Lynch got another 100-yard game, his fourth out of the last five games, with 111 yards on 24 carries for 4.6 yards per carry average. The run offense has gotten progressively better as the year has gone on, giving the team something to build on.
3. O-Line: In addition to opening the holes for Lynch, the offensive line, with the right side replaced, continued to get better. Jackson got sacked twice but both sacks were due to him holding the ball too long instead of anything the line did wrong.
1. Play calling: Of, by my rough count, 22 first down plays, Seattle ran off tackle on 15 of them, including a first and 25. How do you run off tackle on first and 25?
2. Tarvaris Jackson: Jackson looked tentative, even more so than usual, and spent a lot of time not scrambling when he would have done so in the past. I’m not sure if it’s due to his pectoral injury, but I don’t think so since his accuracy didn’t seem any worse. Nonetheless, his decision making was bad and he held the ball too long too many times.
If something is that wrong, why not play Whitehurst? Okay, we know why not. An injured Jackson is still better than Whitehurst, but that shows how bad the Seahawks quarterback situation really is right now.
3. Officials: I said I don’t like to complain about the officials, and that’s true, but this was an amazingly random crew.
They did make some good calls, for example correctly ruling that Jabar Gaffney had gone out of bounds and come back in before catching the ball in the end zone. I liked that they caught that, something I don’t think most fans would have seen, and maybe not even some officials.
They followed that up with the no-call I described earlier. I know they’re only human, but how can you catch something like the Gaffney penalty and not the blatant pass interference call?
1. Brandon Browner: Browner has turned into a penalty machine. He made up for his early holding call by intercepting Rex Grossman to set up Seattle’s first touchdown, and I love his aggressive play at the corner. But it seems the officials are targeting him now as much as opposing quarterbacks. He has to play smarter to stop hurting his team.
2. Run Defense: Seattle’s run defense has been a cornerstone for the team this season, but giving up 103 yards to rookie running back Roy Helu puts this group in the ugly category.
The worst was watching Helu bounce off a Kam Chancellor tackle, hurdle corner Roy Lewis, and gallop 28 yards for a touchdown.
3. Pass Defense: Seattle’s defense overall played a poorer than usual game. The pass defense was soft, allowing too many catches in the middle of the field.
Part of the problem was an injury to middle linebacker David Hawthorne, leading to a void in the middle as well as the captain.
The Seahawks don’t have much time to lick their wounds as Philadelphia arrives on Thursday for a national audience on Thursday Night Football.
I’m excited for the big stage, but part of me is cringing as well, knowing that the Seahawks this year have played their best games against big time opponents but also looked their worst at the worst possible times.
Photo credits: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson