A win is a win. "There is no such thing as an ugly baby." That is the feeling I have after this one. But then again, should I feel that way?
The Seahawks destroyed time of possession (+11:32). They had more passing yards. They had more rushing yards. They had more first downs. Seattle's offense scored sixteen points and Carolina's offense scored just three. Cam Newton looked awful. He had just two completions at halftime, and finished 12/29. That looks even worse considering that he actually had plenty of time to throw most of the time. So why does this win feel a little lackluster?
Missed opportunities. Seattle is 3-2, which is kind of amazing because it feels like we've had two or three Superbowl XL games this year already. Seattle had "just" 7 penalties, but every single one of them seemed to come at the most painful times possible. Many of them were incredibly dubious too. Giacomini's "late hit." Okung's "hold." Obomanu's "hold." The non-call on Sherman for offensive PI. It was 100% total horseshit officiating. At least the Panthers got tagged for a bad call themselves when one of their deep pass attempts was not called for a deserving 50 yard DPI, but overall, it felt like the Seahawks were fighting the stripes in this game.
The other factor was more redzone ineptitude. I can't figure this out. My first instinct is to question Bevell's playcalling- but per Hawkblogger's research- Seattle actually had a very good red zone offense last year. And that offense was also ran by Darrell Bevell. Maybe our 2012 problems are just early season hiccups?
When Carolina got that pick-6, I said out loud "well, we just lost." Which I know was premature, because the Seahawks were dominating the game and were only down by 4, but it was just one of those games where the team was very good at finding ways not to score. Seattle had very few 3 and outs, but almost every drive seemed destined to result in a redzone field goal, a turnover, or a punt that was snapped 5 yards outside of field goal range. I won't lie, I was pretty testy by the start of the 4th quarter in this one. Enough with the bullshit, already.
Thank goodness the Seahawks actually won this game. I don't even want to imagine the meltdown here, and it would have been very much warranted this time.
But, they did win. And a lot of good things happened, too. So with all that negativity out of my system, here are some random thoughts on today's deceptively glorious victory.
Russell Wilson takes a step forward
Entering this game, I would have argued that none of Wilson's interceptions were really his fault. His first was an end of half hail mary that you pretty much expect a pick on. His second was a ball Doug Baldwin should have caught. His third was a tipped pass. His fourth was to an open McCoy who fell down.
That streak ended today. Wilson threw his first deserving interception, and unfortunately it went for six. He would later suffer a brutal fumble-ception on a pass to Marshawn Lynch that was as fluky as they come. That Lynch interception was also a poor pass, but Lynch had it reined in and then... wtf?
Rather than focus on the negative (Wilson now has more interceptions than touchdowns), I'd argue that Wilson- a rookie qb- only having one fully inexcusable interception in his first five games is actually pretty darn impressive.
Other than those two picks, Wilson looked great. He looked like a franchise QB. He posted an outstanding 8.84 YPA after entering this game at 5.7. He completed 76% of his passes. Seattle came into this game near dead last in 3rd down conversions, but today they were at 50%, and nearly all of them were on Wilson.
Did Wilson miss some open targets? Sure. But every QB misses open targets throughout a game. Even the elite ones do. Consider too that on a few of those occasions Wilson "missed" the opportunity because he was reacting to pressure and avoiding a sack.
Carolina does not have a good defense, but they did a good job of game planning Wilson. It seemed like almost every time Wilson bailed on the pocket to the outside, he had a defender on special assignment waiting for him. Wilson is at his best outside the pocket, and Carolina took that away. I really liked how Wilson responded to that by working within the pocket so well. Remember the Russell Wilson who used to flip out when a defender got within pool cue's reach? That version might just be dead and buried. The new version is fine with taking a sack if it means getting better looks. I like this new version.
Oh yes, and I liked the playcalling by Bevell today so much more than any of the previous weeks. He (with permission from Carroll) finally put a degree of trust on Wilson, and Wilson rewarded them for it. About time.
Finally, some smart in-game decisions by the Seahawks today
I loved the safety call late in the game, which 80's beard confirmed was a designed play despite the frighteningly high snap (the gunners did not advance downfield- indicating it was an intentional playcall). I loved the decision to run on 3rd down the play before, even though a completed pass for a first down would have won the game. I thought Pete read that situation just right. I also liked how the Seahawks game planned that goalline stand just right to keep Newton from running for a TD. I also really liked that Wilson roll out keeper late in the game. It didn't work, but it had the same clock killing result as a handoff to Lynch and could have caught the Panther's off guard for a huge 1st down.
Other random thoughts
-Carolina is now 2-5 in their last 7 home games. I felt pretty strongly that Seattle would win this game all week, but you should never take a road victory for granted. Seattle is now 3-2 with 6 home games remaining.
-All four teams in the NFC West sport a winning record. How often has that happened in any division after 5 weeks? The NFC West is a combined 14-6. Outside the division, the NFC West is 11-3. All four teams currently own top 10 defenses by almost any metric.
-Bruce Irvin barely played, and registered two more sacks, including the game winner. He's at 4.5 sacks through five games. I don't say this because of the numbers: I really like the progress Irvin is making right now. He's at a point right now where he might be even deadlier when he's stunting inside than when he edge rushes.
-Golden Tate had another good game. He had a pretty reception deep down the field wiped out by penalty, but later had a crucial catch on 3rd and long that ended up being the game winning score when Carolina forgot how to tackle.
-Sidney Rice and Zach Miller looked a lot harder to cut for salary reasons. I noticed Miller several times for his quality blocking and had nearly 20 yards per reception too. Rice looked terrific while catching 5 passes for 67 yards. That's pretty much the equivalent of a 100 yard game in this offense.
-Doug Baldwin had 3 catches! Even Braylon Edwards got a catch, and a key reception at that. The Panthers have a poor secondary, but I thought our receivers looked terrific today.
-Bobby Wagner had another very good game. Six tackles, 1.5 sacks. I must stress that Wagner has improved by leaps and bounds at attacking behind the LOS compared to college. In college, he had 1.5 sacks in 4 years that came from the 4-3 MLB spot (he played in a hybrid defense and most of his sacks came from playing a 3-4 OLB). He's already got more 4-3 MLB sacks in 5 NFL games than he had in 4 college seasons. Wagner was a very well rounded LB who's one weakness was attacking the LOS, and it now appears that weakness is becoming a strength. Not to overhype the guy, but you really have to take your hat off to this coaching staff and how they consistently get the most out of their young players.
-Carpenter looks very natural at left guard.
-I loved that Sherman forced fumble that took away a 1st down late in the game.
-How did Cam Newton throw no picks while Wilson threw two? Just the latest reminder that the universe is chaotic in nature.
The play of the game
After Alan Branch recovered Cam Newton's fumble to seal the game, my dad remarked that the play of the game was Browner's 3rd and goal stop at the 1 yard line. I thought he made an excellent point. When Louis Murphy caught that pass, he pretty much only had to fall backwards a yard to win the game. If you saw the Colts upset the Packers today, you know exactly how hard it is to defend a catch at the one yard line. I think 9 times out of 10, that catch ends up being a touchdown, but Browner arrived and delivered a huge hit, a hit that was just huge enough to prevent the score.
My brother disagreed, saying that Browner's forced fumble was the play of the game, because it shifted momentum and set up Seattle's game winning touchdown drive. Another good choice. I guess it goes without saying that Brandon Browner had a pretty good game today.
But to me, the play of the game was Marshawn Lynch's "wtf really?!" 1st down run on 3rd and 7. He got 11 yards up the middle on a play that everyone in the stadium should have expected a run on. That first down allowed Seattle to burn Carolina's remaining timeouts and milk the clock down to 49 seconds remaining. It's really hard to march down the field and score a TD with only 49 seconds and no timeouts. That run could have easily been the difference in the game. Without it, Carolina gets the ball back with almost 3 minutes left and a timeout.
Seattle plays two more games in the next 11 days, and they are probably the two toughest games remaining on Seattle's schedule (Patriots, @SF on 4 days rest). I don't know about you guys, but I'd be just fine with a 3-4 record so long as the Seahawks are competitive in both games. That said, they probably need a win in there somehow to feign contention. The NFC is crazy this year.