A classical fan behavior is to over react to pre season games. Saturday's game is a good case in point. It would be easy to focus on the breakdowns and seeming poor play, and forget that there were some real positives in that game. As the eternal optimist, I feel obligated to point out a few, while discussing what really happened.
While wins and losses in pre season are virtually meaningless, the way games are won and lost is paramount.
The Seahawks faced some pretty big obstacles even before opening kickoff.
For one, the Seahawks have never fared very well in Arrowhead stadium. During our tenure in the AFC West, it was a house of horrors, where we couldn't win to save our souls, or our seasons, for that matter.
They were playing a road game, after a Monday night game, after a short week on Saturday. That alone will cause odds makers to shift the line heavily in the home team's favor.
During the game, it was easy to get a bit deflated at how the Chiefs scored on their opening drive. But hey, they were the top offensive team in the league last season, and are basically the same group of guys. Should we really be surprised?
A better benchmark might be how we fared on the second and subsequent drives. That shows how well our defense adjusted to what the Chiefs were doing. The gamebook shows, after the initial scoring drive, that the Chiefs went: 4 plays, interception; 3 plays, punt; 4 plays, punt; 5 plays punt. So, after that initial drive, the Chiefs starters went basically nowhere. I can live with that.
Note that in that group of series, the interception was more or less caused by tremendous pressure on Trent Green, Green was pulled, apparently for a minor foot injury, and QB J. Quinn was sacked. Also, the defense forced an important 3 and out following the Josh Brown missed field goal had given the Chiefs very good field position.
Reports of the demise of the Seahawks defense would seem to be a bit premature.
The Seattle offense got off to a particularly poor start. Alexander had no running room, and was tackled for losses as often as he gained positive yards. Hasselbeck seemed a bit off on several passes, possibly aggravated by some impressive Chiefs blitzes and pressure. Perhaps it was the affect of the short week and travel after a difficult Monday night loss to Dallas. Maybe the Chiefs were installing a new set of defensive players and were experimenting with some exotic blitzes. Who knows?
The thing is that, following that, the starting offense put up three scoring drives for 17 points. That equaled the Chiefs output for the entire day. Our starters were leading when they left the field. What more can we ask for?
Then, the second string came in under Seneca Wallace and added two more scores to seal the win. We outscored them 13 to 3 in the second half. Perhaps fans need to stop panicking just because we don't have a 25 point lead in the 4th quarter.
One of the intangibles in the pre season that coaches look for is how hard the players play. Many players are playing for their football lives, as their careers are on the line and the axe is ready to fall. Fourteen players were released this week, and some twenty more will feel the axe next week. How players respond to that pressure will go a long way to helping or hindering their future with the team.
Jerheme Urban has been playing under a self-generated cloud the past couple of weeks. Saturday, he made enough good plays to earn him a one week reprieve. Still on the roster, he faces another challenge Friday night. Right now, he still seems like a long shot to pass the final cut. But a lot of people seem to be pulling for him, including Holmgren and Hasselbeck, who have both praised the kid's work ethic. However, another drop could end his tenure in Seattle.
The punting game was excellent, with both punters booming their kicks and coverage units were excellent. Average punt distance was 45.4 yards, and coverage allowed only 3 returns for 3 yards. Araguz got the most work, getting 4 attempts to Kluwe's one. We'll see if that is reversed next game. It looks like a spirited competition, with Araguz having a slight advantage. Since he also holds on field goals, he seems the most likely to make the team. Coach Casullo seems comfortable with him, and Holmgren is a long time advocate of having a veteran punter.
The kickoff game was not so good. Maybe they were trying to kick the ball into the corner a bit to make the coverage easier by having to defend only half the field. Whatever the reason, Brown pushed two, and nearly three, kickoffs out of bounds. This elicited a "what the heck is going on here" sideline conference with Holmgren. The last kick was safely kicked down the middle. When he managed to kick it in bounds, coverage was decent, with a 15 yard average.
There were some horrendous breakdowns on defense, to be sure. A team will never like to give up a 97 yard run, any time, anywhere. But let's see what happened.
The Chiefs offensive lines, arguably one of the best in the league, blocked it perfectly.
The Seahawks defensive line was playing second string on all four positions. It was probably thought, with the ball on the 3 yard line, it would be good to see how they performed on a nice long drive. Whoops.
Our rookie MLB, Lofa Tatupu, read the wrong formation and went into the wrong gap, got tied up with the linemen, and couldn't react to the play.
Lord knows where the secondary was. Shouldn't there have been a safety back there somewhere?
Overall, it was a perfect storm of a play, where everything they did worked right, and everything we did was pretty much wrong. Hopefully, with some coaching, that kind of thing won't happen again this season.
Quite frankly, one thing that won't continue once the games start to count is the way we have been substituting, especially on defense. When the season starts, look for substitutions to be much more situational and rational. It seems unlikely that we will replace the whole defensive line, for example, as a wholesale substitution. While some of the pre season results have been problematic, I suspect that the line will be stronger when the season starts in most situations.
Once again, a sense of perspective says that they are still evaluating players, so they are not game planning for opponents. They are calling plays with little regard to what the other team is doing. Given the difficulties of playing on the road, on a very short week after a Monday night game, a win seems a nice result to me, whether it counts or not. The players played like it counted, and the outcome supports that.
When I step back and use a little perspective, life is not so bad.
And neither are the Seahawks.
Steve Utz writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Send your feedback to Steve at email@example.com.
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