If you were to just glance at the box score from the Seattle Seahawks vs. St Louis Rams game yesterday, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a one sided blowout. After all, Seattle dominated the score, (28-0), first downs, (25-13), and total yards, (446-247). The only stats St. Louis won were turnover battle, (4-2), and penalties, (10-4).
The statistics were a long way away from reality early in the game. After the Rams fumbled the opening kickoff, Matt Hasselbeck tried desperately to give the ball back. He missed badly on his first two passes before St Louis was able to pick off the third. Hasselbeck had another interception and looked every bit of a player too keyed up for the start.
The Seattle defense was the difference. Every time the offense misfired, the defense came onto the field and stopped the Rams cold. By the time Hasselbeck settled down and stopped forcing throws, the score could have been 14-0 for the Rams. Instead, it was still tied at zero thanks to a Josh Brown missed field goal.
The key play of the game happened right before the half. Seattle was up 7-0 and lined up for a 49-yard field goal that would send the team into the locker room up 10-0. St Louis defensive end C.J. Ah You blocked the attempt and safety Quincy Butler scooped up the loose ball to race 51 yards to score. The crowd was stunned and silent. I know, I was one of them. As St Louis lined up for the PAT however, the referees blew their whistles and announced that the play was being reviewed from the booth for St Louis having 12 men on the field.
Before the referee was out of the curtain, the Rams defense and Seahawks offenses were coming back onto the field. The big screen showed a picture of the pre-snap lineups and sure enough, the Rams had too many men on the field. A 7-7 was now a 7-0 game with Seattle getting a first down off of the penalty. Three plays later, Hasslebeck throws a 12 yard touchdown to Nate Burleson and the Seahawks are up 14-0 going into the locker room. That 14 point swing took everything out of the Rams and the game was essentially over from then on.
1. Matt Hasselbeck. After an atrocious start, Hasselbeck was able to calm down and play like the field general of the past. He is at his best when he is distributing the ball, calling audibles and in control. His performance after the first quarter gives me a lot of hope for his season.
2. Aaron Curry. In his post game comments, Jim Mora told reporters that the referee came up to him three times during the game and asked him to tell number 59 to calm down. Mora said “But every time I talked to him on the sideline, he was very calm. He wasn’t frenzied. He wasn’t out of his mind. He was in control. He just plays with passion, energy and emotion and speed. Boy, its fun to watch.” Curry noted that he wanted to set the tempo for his career in his first game. Mission accomplished, Mr. Curry. Consider all that pre-draft hype justified.
3. Jim Mora. The coach opened up the offense and gave future opponents a lot more variables to game plan. Early in the game, Seneca Wallace line up as the quarterback while Hasselbeck was split wide off to the right. Wallace took the snap and then threw backwards to Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck scanned the field like he was going to throw long before throwing backwards back to Wallace who took off for a 24 yard gain. This is exactly what I was looking for with the new head coach. It might not work every time but it damn sure makes things more exciting and Seattle has the personnel to use plays like this.
4. John Carlson. Six receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Is there a better tight end in the NFL right now?
5. Seahawks O-Line. No Walter Jones or Chris Spencer? No problem. Hasselbeck didn’t get sacked, didn’t even get hit most of the time and Julius Jones gained 117 yards on 19 carries including a 62 yard sprint up the middle for a touchdown. It’s early yet but that zone blocking scheme thing might be good.
6. Video Referee. I’ve never been a huge fan of this but when it works, it is worth it. It worked on the blocked field goal.
1. Seattle’s Linebackers. Although Seattle came through the game reasonably healthy, Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu both left during the game due to injuries. Hill suffered a groin pull while Tatupu had a tightening of his hamstring. Of the two, Tatupu’s was more precautionary while Hill’s is more cause for concern. Their status for next week is uncertain but Coach Mora said neither injury is serious. In their place, Will Herring, David Hawthorne and Lance Laury rotated in very well. D.D. Lewis, one of the last cuts, was resigned today.
2. Referees. Although I felt they called a good game, why was a video review even necessary on the blocked field goal? Isn’t it the back judge’s responsibility to count the players before the ball is snapped? Without the video review, this game is very different going into halftime.
1. Richie Incognito. The St. Louis guard is clearly one of the worst cheap shot artists in the league. Of course he is claiming now that he is being targeted but his first personal foul was right next to the pile after the whistle had blown. He reached out and shoved a Seahawks defender while a referee was walking up next to them. There is absolutely no way that is not getting called every time. It’s not targeting if you put the bulls eye on yourself.
2. C.J. Ah You. The St Louis defensive end lived up to his name by being named as the 12th man on the field during the blocked field goal attempt. Ironically enough, he is also the player that blocked the kick.
3. Josh Brown. Getting booed lustily by the 12th Man before missing his one field goal attempt must have been pretty disheartening. Cheer up, buckaroo, at least you’re still getting paid big money although you would never admit that is the reason you left.
It’s only the second game of the season coming up but the 49ers upset win in Arizona over the Cardinals yesterday sets up a very early showdown between NFC West leading Seattle and San Francisco. A win on the road for Seattle could put an early stamp on the division. It will not be easy because the 49ers defense is still very strong and Frank Gore is not injured yet.