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Seahawks Crash At Home Against Atlanta, 34-18

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Frustration.

There is no better word for it. Seattle has played some absolutely wonderful football, getting hopes and expectations up that the Seahawks are improving. But Seattle has played some truly horrendous football, crushing those hopes and frustrating those expectations into a bitter powder that tastes nothing like the Cherry Kool-Aid I was promised.

As with all things in life, there is a tendency to look for the reason for the bad while heaping praise on the good. In football, the spotlight shines brightest on the quarterback position. This is rightfully so since it is the position that manages the game, handles the ball and gets the most money.

Unfortunately, football isn’t black-and-white like that. You can’t just claim it’s the quarterback that is the problem—like moving Tom Brady or Peyton Manning to Seattle would fix everything. While the Seahawks would definitely be better, and have a better record, with better quarterback play, not every mistake that happens falls directly on the quarterback’s shoulders.

Play of the Game:

If you watched the game, or saw the highlights, you saw this play as a prime example of that: Matt Hasselbeck was sacked in the end zone and then fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Atlanta defensive lineman Jonathon Babineaux for a Falcons touchdown.

It would be very easy to boo Hasselbeck here, and many of my fellow “12th Men” did, but if you know anything about football, you could see the chain of events that led up to it.

On the play before the fumble, Atlanta punted to Seattle. Returner Leon Washington watched the ball hit next to him at the 20 yard line instead of catching it. Washington said later that he thought the ball was going out of bounds. Instead, the ball rolled down to the 4 yard line, pinning the Seattle offense deep in its own territory.

On the fumble play, Seattle’s offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called for a play action pass, rolling Hasselbeck to his right after faking the hand off left. This was a horrible play call from the field positioning stand point. Why would you call for a very slow developing play that has your QB rolling to the right when you know your offensive line hasn’t been blocking very well, your QB has a broken left hand and you are on your own 4 yard line?

So there are two boneheaded mistakes right there. Hasselbeck couldn’t let the mistakes end there though. When he was trying to avoid the sack by Jamaal Anderson, Hasselbeck tried to fight off Anderson rather than taking the sack and the safety or throwing the ball away. By trying to fend off Anderson, Hasselbeck was careless with the ball, especially knowing he couldn’t grip the ball with his broken left hand.

So there it is. Three mistakes on two plays led to a defensive touchdown for the Falcons. And that was the momentum swing that broke the game wide open for Atlanta. Why? Because Seattle has shown repeatedly this season that when the bleeding starts, Seattle tries to stop it with a chainsaw rather than a bandage.

The Good:

1. First Drive – Seattle’s first drive was an 80 yard thing of beauty. That drive was the best the Seahawks has put together all season, inspiring the fans and pumping up the volume. The play calling mix was excellent; Seattle ran the ball six times in the 12 play drive that led to a 1 yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown.

2. Marshawn Lynch – Speaking of Lynch, he looked at his best, getting 60 yards on only 12 carries. The tragedy is that he only got 12 total carries after running the ball four times as well as catching a swing pass for a 17 yard gain on the first drive. Seattle went away from the running game when it was working and never got back to him.

3. Run Defense – Seattle’s run defense didn’t look excellent but after giving up yards like they were Christmas presents the last few weeks, the defense took on Michael Turner and turned into the Grinch.

Turner gained 82 yards on 25 carries. He was very impressive, often gaining yardage after getting hit at the line of scrimmage, but the fact that Seattle held him down at all earns this unit a good.

The Bad:

1. Referees – Apparently there was a rule change that said as a Seahawks fan, I am not allowed to complain about the referees. Well, fine, fuck that because I’m complaining.

While they weren’t all bad; some of the decisions bordered on criminal, especially on the ball spotting.

Twice on Atlanta’s first drive the Falcons went for it on 4th- and-1 and both times they got first down due to very bad ball spots.

The worst was on a 4th-and-inches where Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan tried to sneak the ball over his left guard. Ryan was hit immediately and never got close to the line of scrimmage, yet the spot was past it.

To compound the problem, Seattle coach Pete Carroll had to challenge and the challenge was upheld because there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the spot.

I guess the replay booth was given replays drawn in crayon because the replay they showed on the big screen clearly showed Ryan short of the first down.

2. Mistakes – While I’d like to blame the refs for everything, that just isn’t possible.

Atlanta had 21 first downs in the game and at least five of those came from penalties. Seattle earned 10 penalties and while some were bogus, most weren’t. The Seahawks are not good enough to get three false starts, two on the same drive, and win. It just can’t happen that way.

I think the most frustrating part as a fan is that Seattle under Mike Holmgren got penalized very rarely. Mistakes didn’t happen because the team was precise. The sloppy factor that has crept into the team under Mora and now Carroll continues to kill any momentum Seattle gets going.

3. Matt Hasselbeck – Hasselbeck finds himself in a quarterback controversy now because he seems to be trying to play his way out of town. I don’t know what the problem is but I know the answer isn’t Charlie Whitehurst, no matter how much my fellow fans try to convince me it is.

Have you forgotten how completely awful Whitehurst was earlier this year? I didn’t name him Charlie Fucking Whitehurst because I thought he’d be good in bed.

Back to Hasselbeck, he’s had 10 interceptions and four fumbles in the last three games. That is abysmal and he knows it. He’s saying all that afterward in interviews but the point is Hasselbeck is the veteran on this team. He’s the leader and the mistakes he is making are not mistakes a veteran quarterback can make, especially with a team that is as bad over all as the Seahawks are.

Seattle needs a quarterback. The team should have drafted a project last year or even the year before to groom for this day, but they didn’t. Now the Seahawks will have to look at other teams’ castoffs or pray for a rookie to be Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan. Good luck with that.

The Ugly:

1. Play Calling – After the first drive, Seattle became the same old Seahawks again. Why must Seattle run go routes all the damn time? Why try to make Hasselbeck try and hit a receiver 30 yards down the field when he had problems doing that five years ago and almost certainly can’t do it now? The risk/reward for those plays just doesn’t work at this level. Why has Seattle gone away from the screen pass and the draw play? Hell, even a slant route would be nice right now.

It’s the same routine and it’s not working. The first drive was like watching a different team. It’s a pity that Seattle left the building right after that.

2. False Starts – Remember when Qwest Field was a daunting place for visiting teams or when the NY Giants had seven false starts in one game in Seattle? When was the last time the visiting team committed a false start? I can’t even remember.

3. Playoffs – I paid for my playoff tickets. When I got the email a couple of weeks ago, things looked much more promising. Now, not so much and to be honest, I’m not sure Seattle deserves mention in the playoffs.

I don’t agree with the argument that Seattle should try to lose out to miss the playoffs and improve positioning in the draft. I hate quitting, as that smacks of a defeatist culture that the Seahawks should fight against. Never quit, never surrender and never ever let San Francisco win the NFC West.

Atlanta came to Seattle as one of the top teams in the NFC. They left Seattle with a win and congratulations to them for that. But I’m not impressed with them overall. They run the most boring offense in the world, full of dinks and dunks, punctuated with runs by Michael Turner. The thing is, it works, and for that they deserve the success they have.

Seattle travels to Tampa Bay to face another playoff contender in the Buccaneers. Seattle doesn’t play well on the road but the game is a late game, starting at the usual 1:00 pm PST. Tampa Bay isn’t as good as its record indicates but they will not be an easy game in any way.

Who will be quarterbacking the Seahawks is the biggest question mark right now. I still believe Hasselbeck gives Seattle the best chance to win. That is, when he’s not giving the ball away to the other team.

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.
  • http://kimcrawley.blogspot.com Kim Crawley

    Russ, congratulations on your BCWTD!

    I’m glad you write about sports, the one subject I don’t write about.

  • Russ Evenhuis

    Hey, thanks Kim!