We catch up with Seahawks beat writer Doug Farrar for part 3 of this three part series. Here are Doug's insights into the Seahawks special teams and his prediction for the game. Be sure to check out Part 1 (defense) and Part 2 (offense)
Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks Part 3 (Special teams)
JS: After the Seahawks let Josh Brown go, how has their kicking game been? It seems Olindo Mare has Seattle in the top 10 for kickoff distance and top 3 in touchbacks, but is that really the whole story? What about field goals?
DF: Mare has been one of the few pleasant surprises in this lost season, making 19 of 21 field goals, including seven of eight from 40 yards and longer. Add in the kickoff distance and touchbacks, and hes been as solid as could be expected, for less money than Brown is getting in St. Louis. The Seahawks drafted kicker Brandon Coutu this year, and instead of putting him in the practice squad, theyve kept him on the roster all year because Ruskell fears the guy wont clear waivers. Coutu hasnt done a thing. Sometimes, you really have to wonder whats going on in that front office.
How well do the Seahawks do on the Kick coverage and return units? Is it possible that the Patriots can get back to their league leading ways on returns with Ellis Hobbs and Wes Welker returning kickoffs and punts respectively?
The Seahawks rank ninth in Special teams DVOA the one area in which they are anywhere near above league average and the coverage units are a big part of that. On the return side, cornerback Josh Wilson leads the NFL in kickoff returns and return yards, his 25.2 yards per return average is among the NFLs best and nobody has more 40-plus-yard returns than his seven. On the punt return side, rookie running back Justin Forsett has been coming along and learning at the pro level. Special teams is the one area in which I dont have a major issue with the way the Seahawks have built their roster over the last three years well, except for the whole reserve kicker thing
What is it like with the Mike Holmgren as a lame duck coach? Has it been a distraction?
DF: Its been a distraction from the word go, and it never should have happened the way it did. Current secondary coach Jim Mora was supposed to replace Holmgren, who will retire at the end of this season. The agreement was supposed to remain under wraps for an entire season, which in the age of the internet and an eternally invasive media, was about as possible as the Seahawks winning this years Super Bowl. The story was leaked, a press conference which neither Holmgren nor Mora attended was hastily assembled. The team screwed the pooch on that one, big-time. Not only was Holmgrens authority undermined by the public announcement, but the secondary that did so well under Mora last season has fallen apart in 2008. Theres no absolute tie between the two, but the distractions have been there, theyve been present all season, and the way this was done leaves many Seahawks fans more worried than ever about the people who currently run this organization. The sense seems to be that Ruskell and Mora will be overseeing a rebuild they may or may not be qualified to administrate.
Prediction for the game:
DF: On paper, this is a mismatch of epic proportions. The Patriots are desperate to right the ship after getting their clocks cleaned by the Steelers, and the Seahawks have nothing available to match with the NFL's best teams. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will try to lead an offense that has been decimated by injuries, but he's also among the walking wounded. The Seahawks have an enormous uphill battle in front of them with Randy Moss and Wes Welker to cover, and if New England's running game wasn't a shadow of what it was in the Corey Dillon era, they might score on every drive. As it is, I don't see the Seahawks pressuring Cassel enough to make a difference, and that bomb-vulnerable secondary looks to get lit up.
Patriots 41, Seahawks 14
For more of Doug Farrar's analysis check out his work at Doug Farrar is a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a panelist for the Washington Post, and a contributor to the Seattle Times.
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