Well, this is going to be awkward. Like most people, I had assumed that the Patriots would easily beat the 49ers tonight. And they probably would have, if they hadn't played what was likely the worst 2.5 quarters of football in the Brady era to open the game. The epic comeback stalled when the Patriots special teams blew it late and the defense instantly remembered how to forget to tackle.
The 49ers now only need to beat the lowly Cardinals, at home, to secure the division. That "delay of game" tie against the Rams will likely bite us in the ass after all. This has been such an emotional season. I've never seen one like it.
I guess if there is some solace in tonight's result, it's that New England is now in a tough spot for getting a bye, which increases the chance they could fail to reach the Superbowl. We don't want to face New England in the big game. Entering today they were #1 in the NFL in DVOA, the only team ahead of Seattle (that might change tomorrow). It's not much of a consolation prize, but if Seattle can learn to win playoff games on the road, we could ironically be thankful for this result a month from now. I badly want the Seahawks to win a championship, and those odds are a lot better if the AFC rep is a team like the Texans, Ravens, or Colts (lol).
The Seahawks are evolving. Early in the season they started 4-4 and won mostly ugly, close games and lost only ugly, close games. They were basically playing Arizona Cardinal football, a good defense with a frustrating offense and a QB that was erratic at times. In the last few weeks, they've begun to look a bit like the New England Patriots, winning with a highly potent offense and an overly bendy defense. Seattle just became the first NFL team to score 50+ in back to back games during the Superbowl era. Even Tom Brady has never done that (although he came just 1 point away from doing it earlier this year). Who would have guessed that before the season?
A few random thoughts on the game itself:
-The scary thing about this game was that it could have easily been 59-17. Calling Irvin down on his fumble recovery seemed like a blown call to me, and it resulted in 3 points instead of 7. Leon Washington had long TD brought back by a legit though chippy hold. Seattle would later score 3 on that ensuing drive. Seattle also had an extra point blocked. A few weeks ago, these kinds of things were the difference between whether or not the Seahawks won or lost the game. Now these kinds of things are the difference between whether or not the Seahawks set an NFL record for beating a team's ass too hard.
-Pete Carroll scrambled to tell reporters after the game that his fake punt while nursing a 30 point lead was a case of forgetting to change a predetermined play. I trust Pete, but this strikes me as a little hard to believe. I played the game at two levels and I never really bought into the sportsmanship thing. These are grown, tough men. It's not something worth being offended by. That said, this was clearly poor sportsmanship if done intentionally. And I think I'd rather believe that Pete is a poor sport than a guy who doesn't even know what play his team is running. Either way, it's nothing worth caring about, although it will probably effect his image in the national media.
-Seattle's defense mostly sucked today. CJ Spiller torched us, which was predictable given his excellence this season and Seattle's long established struggles against fast RBs. More concerning was how easily Fitzpatrick found WIDE OPEN targets in little time. Maxwell and Lane played about as expected- they flashed at times but were both liabilities on the whole. Even Richard Sherman had a bit of a down game. The pass rush was non-existent in the first half, when Carroll once again was stubborn about not blitzing. The Seahawks were more creative in the second half, utilizing confusing looks and stunts to finally generate pressure. Honestly, Seattle just needs to forget about the base pass rush, at least until adding more pass rush help. If Pete is waiting until the 2nd half to get creative so that the opponent can't make adjustments at halftime, that's one thing. But if he really thinks this defense can work with a vanilla pass rush, he needs to wake up. Before the playoffs.
-I thought Fitzpatrick played pretty well today. I feel he could have threatened 300 yards if not more had his WRs not dropped so many catchable passes. Funny enough, he has an uncanny resemblance to a bearded Matt Flynn, and his profile as a QB is fairly similar as well.
-Seattle's offense is beginning to look almost unstoppable. Seattle's offense was already very good when it relied on Wilson as a passer, but the dual threat of Lynch-Wilson on read option just isn't fair to defenses. Wilson did not run much read option in college but like everything else he's picked it up quickly and his ability to execute a play has always been one of his biggest strengths. Seattle did not punt until there was a minute remaining before halftime, and by then Seattle had already amassed well over 300 yards of offense and 31 points. If there is any hope for the Seahawks winning the Superbowl as wildcard road warriors, it rests in the offense's hands. I'm starting to think our offense can win a game anywhere against any team if it can keep playing like it has the last two weeks.
-Chris Clemons had 2.5 of Seattle's 3 sacks, which is deceptive because today's pass rush (which really didn't show up until the 2nd half) was much more of a team effort I thought. Clemons now has 11.5 sacks on the season, a new career best. With two games to go. Upon semi-close inspection, Clemons seemed to be subtly declining this year at creating pressure, but I'll take production however I can get it. Maybe he'll actually go to the pro-bowl this time around.
-"Let's go Blue Jays" was a chant heard in the stadium near the end of the game. And not that I didn't expect this given the Seahawks' dominance, but the Seahawks contingent came across louder on TV than the Bills contingent did. It felt like a majority of the fans were neutral. The environment was a lot like a college bowl game. It was pretty close to being a true neutral field.
-Seattle debuted the Wolf Greys today. I kind of feel the opposite about the Wolf Greys than our home jerseys. Up close, they look far better, but at a distance they seem overly monochromatic and don't improve under the lights like the blue jerseys do.
-Seattle has 554 net yards rushing over the last two games.
-It seemed like the refs let both teams play today. I saw both teams get away with some easy calls. It seems like Seattle usually wins when that happens.
-After having mostly quiet seasons, KJ Wright had a huge game today, and ET got himself a pick six.
-I hate to bring this up, because I don't want to rehash the woulda-shoulda's, but can you imagine this current team with homefield advantage throughout the playoffs? They'd be pretty close to unstoppable.
-Unfortunately, the 49ers dropped a turd in the punchbowl tonight and the Packers defused our bye week dreams as well. Honestly if I could push a button to redo this weekend I probably would- we needed the 49ers to lose that game and the Packers just won arguably their most losable remaining game as well. This really sucks because it takes the epic feel out of next week's showdown in Seattle. Obviously, it's still an important game with serious playoff implications, but it's not really about the division anymore, not unless you think the Cardinals can play spoiler in San Francisco. And that's a bummer. It's also a bummer that Colin Kaepernick is growing up before our eyes and could make the NFC West extremely challenging for a decade to come. I never thought I'd say that a weekend with a 50-17 win would be a tough weekend, but yeah, it kind of was.
-Granted, Seattle can still earn a bye. But right now I'd put those odds around 5%. Earlier today I would have said 25%.
-On the bright side, you have to love where this Seahawks team is headed right now, and if they can figure out a way to play better defense on the road this offseason, it might not even matter how good SF is. I have faith in this front office. They have fixed everything they've touched, often with shockingly little resources required. As exciting as this team is right now, I have no reason to doubt their future is even brighter.