Seattle Seahawks 16,
Oakland Raiders 0
November 6th, 2006
Qwest Field, Seattle, WA
Play of the Day: With 5:48 in the third quarter, QB Andrew Walter finally received the time needed to throw deep, and let loose a fifty-yard bomb to WR Randy Moss. Luckily for Seattle, FS Ken Hamlin was able to deliver a bone-jarring hit right as Moss began to bring the ball in, jarring the football loose and wiping out the last ray of hope for the Oakland Raiders, who punted the ball on the next play. Momentum is such a key aspect in football games, and preventing a big catch by Moss kept the momentum in Seattle's favor.
Bringing Their "A" Game: QB Seneca Wallace (18/30, 176yds, 1TD; 3 carries, 49 yards), who played far better than the numbers showed, especially given a stingy Raiders pass defense and driving rain... RB Maurice Morris (30 carries, 138 yards), who looked like a completely different runner than we'd seen all year... LT Walter Jones, who blocked superbly on every big Morris run to the left... The entire defense, there was not a weak link in that unit, everyone contributed in some form... Defensive Coordinator John Marshall, who came at Oakland with several blitzes and a couple of well-timed stunts to sack Walter seven times in the first half alone.
The Bad and the Ugly: The interior offensive line continues their struggles against good defensive tackles, allowing ancient DT Warren Sapp to sack Wallace, as well as blow up a couple of inside running plays... RT Tom Ashworth was whistled for 3 false starts and was not dominate in his blocking... TE Jerramy Stevens was whistled for a 15 yard taunting penalty, then a penalty and two plays later dropped an easy touchdown pass... Watching the receivers drop balls left and right - even the sure-handed Deion Branch dropped one - was only made bearable due to Randy Moss' similar troubles... The Monday Night Football announcing crew, which is just awful and forced millions to Americans to turn off their volume simply to enjoy the game.
Referee Report Card: The officiating on Monday was simply awful. From an absurd roughing-the-passer call on MLB Lofa Tatupu (where the quarterback remained upright after contact), to a mind-boggling false start on Raider QB Andrew Walter, which negated what would have been a Seahawks touchdown, the officiating stunk the place up. The officials did respond correctly when Raiders RE Tyler Brayton kneed Jerramy Stevens in the groin, ejecting Brayton immediately, but that is about the only thing the officials did right. The most confusing call of them all was a lack of a flag after S Jarrod Cooper drove Kelly Herndon into PR Nate Burleson with 3:32 remaining in the 3rd quarter, which caused Burleson to miss the ball. The officials justified the lack of a flag by saying Herndon blocked Cooper into Burleson, which simply did not happen. Bill Carollo's crew was abysmal, plain and simple. F, only because F- is not technically a grade.
Offense: Well, Seattle might have had to wait for the Seahawks to play the Raiders non-existent run defense for it to happen, but Seattle finally gained 100 yards with one rusher (actually, 138 yards). Maurice Morris shredded the Raiders defense, gaining 5, 6 yards with greater frequency than any Seahawk this season. It's hard to find fault with anything Morris did. When the team needed Morris to run inside, he was able to find a small gap between two blockers and hit daylight. When Morris ran off-tackle, he was much more patient and willing to cut back. Morris cut back more on Monday than he had the previous four starts combined, and while he doesn't have the size to do that very well, it netted positive yardage from a play going nowhere.
The real question is, who gets the props for that performance? Is this a sign that Morris, who ran far differently than we'd seen earlier, has taken the next step in his running? Or was the addition of LG Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack the boost that the running game needed? Did Head Coach Mike Holmgren light a fire under the large back-sides of the offensive linesmen, as he has mentioned doing? Or, was it simply a pathetic Raider's defense? From focusing on the key aspects of Morris' best runs, it looks like a combination of all three, with most of the credit going to a pathetic Oakland defense. For example, with 11:21 remaining in the 1st quarter, Morris scampers for 11 yards and a first down. On this play, LT Walter Jones did a good job of sealing off his man, and C Robbie Tobeck contributed for with a good block, but the key aspect of the play was not the solid offensive line but the blitzing defender, who blitzed himself right past Morris, when he had a chance to nail Morris for no gain. This was not an isolated instance. On Morris' 29 yard run, 3 of the four linesmen moved to the left side of the offensive line, leaving a gigantic hole on the right side, which Morris burst through before laying a devastating juke on rookie SS Michael Huff. Morris looked like a new runner, but he benefited from poor defense by the Raiders.
The last thing any head coach wants is an offensive line controversy - continuity is considered key for the line, as missed assignments in the passing game go away and everybody knows each-other's strengths and weaknesses. However, Floyd Womack's return to the playing field began about the same way it ended - with defensive tackles bursting through the line and blowing up plays. For such a big man Womack should be devastating in the running game, but while he got to the second level much faster than expected, but he also had trouble blocking Oakland's defensive tackles. As if the problems in the running game were not bad enough, Womack was also pushed around in the passing game, giving up a sack and often letting the tackle put pressure on QB Seneca Wallace - who did an admirable job with that pressure. It is time to put in rookie LG Ron Sims. We know that C Chris Spencer is not an NFL guard, but in the spot duty that Sims has been in he's been nothing short of excellent, winning battles in the running game and stone-walling his assignment in the passing game. The only mark against Sims is that he lacks game experience, but given the flaws of the other guards we have available, it's worth a few growing pains.
Seneca Wallace continues to impress. As pathetic as the Raider's run defense has played this season, the pass defense was rated 1st by the NFL ratings (which are notoriously flawed) and 10th by Football Outsiders' much more advanced metrics. Either way, for a streaky passing game and a quarterback making his 2nd NFL start, there was ample reason to feel cautious. Seneca Wallace had made a few dumb throws last week, and the Oakland secondary was 2nd in the league in interceptions per pass attempted. For all that, Wallace was electric. The stats show merely a good game by Wallace, but he was given no help by his receivers, with Darrell Jackson, Jerramy Stevens, Mack Strong, and even Deion Branch dropping very catchable passes. The only receiver that held onto every ball thrown his way? WR D.J. Hackett, who caught 4 passes for 58 yards and was clearly Seneca's "bail me out" man. The chemistry between the two is quickly growing to match the chemistry of Jackson and QB Matt Hasselbeck. Just as Hasselbeck will throw to Jackson when under pressure, Seneca would find Hackett when the defense blitzed or won the battle in the trenches. The offense needs to find a way to get D.J. Hackett in the game more, especially until Hasselbeck comes back, as Wallace moved the chains most effectively with Hackett in the game. The one flaw in Seneca's game? He continues to burn timeouts. That needs to be addressed but it is minor compared to what he brings to the table.
Note: While overall the offense played pretty well, one aspect that will have Mike Holmgren's cardiologist working overtime was the penalties. Seattle as a team was hit with a ton of penalties, many of which are inexcusable. Jerramy Steven's taunting penalty was downright stupid, RT Tom Ashworth had 3 sacks but played well after the ball was snapped. It was a sloppy game, though the officials were also very strict and called a ton of penalties that probably should not have been called. Film day isn't going to be pleasant when it comes to the penalties.
There is a problem that seems to have come back in Seattle: Dropped Passes. Seattle thought the national media was done with their entirely un-funny jokes about dropped passes, but the issue has returned. Jackson dropped one easy pass on Monday, and missed another more difficult, but catchable, throw. Jerramy Stevens will not soon forget the end zone toss that he dropped, and if he does Mike Holmgren wont let him forget. Mack Strong dropped a catchable pass, though it was not a good throw by Wallace, it would have lead to solid yardage if it had been caught. And Deion Branch dropped a short pass that hit his hands perfectly, though he continues to bring in a ton of the passes to him. Yes, the driving rain and wind was a factor (for those watching from the comfort of your own living room, it was as bad as the announcers said it was). Yes, Seneca's bullets are much more difficult to reel in than Hasselbeck's tosses. However, the drop problem was not just relegated to Monday's game. This offense, which dropped almost no passes in '05, has a case of the drops that, while not the epidemic of '04, are really becoming a nuisance. If drops continue to plague this offense, the team is going to have trouble sustaining the long drives needed to shelter the defense.
Defense: Much as the running game dominated a weak run defense, the defense chewed through a pathetic offense. Seven sacks by halftime, nine when the final whistle blew. There is no doubt that the Seattle defense needed a shutout to boost it's plummeting confidence, and there is hope that this stellar performance will inspire the defense and help them turn around their season. As hard as it is to remember, this defense was pegged by almost everyone to be a top 10 defense this year, and the talent is all still there. It simply comes down to the defense playing to it's potential. The big question is how much do we take from this performance?
The nine sacks are obviously not going to be a frequent occurence. Teams don't just notch nine sacks very often. However, even looking past the obvious there are some areas for concern. LT Robert Gallery is a rarity - an offensive linesmen who has not lived up to the hype he generated on draft day. Gallery was as "cant miss" as any linesmen could get. Big, strong, agile, solid competition in college ball, gregarious personality... He was exactly what Oakland needed. Yet he is quickly becoming the biggest bust of his draft class. LB Julian Peterson (who now has eight sacks in as many games) went over him for a sack early in the game, and throughout the game the RDE position dominated him for a total of three sacks and numerous near-sacks. Unfortunately for Grant Wistrom's stat line, Seattle will not face Robert Gallery this year, and next week Wistrom will have to deal with All-Pro LT Orlando Pace. The other culprit was Oakland RG Kevin Boothe, who was dominated by DTs Craig Terrill and Rocky Bernard. Terrill and Bernard combined for five sacks and Bernard especially blew up a few running plays. Seattle only faces an offensive line this bad one more time, when the Seahawks travel to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals.
There are positives to take from how the defense generated their sacks. Most of the sacks occurred when QB Andrew Walter held onto the ball longer than even Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe likes. That means that the defense was doing at least an adequet job in coverage, and adequet is a huge jump from the coverage we'd seen earlier. More hopeful is that the defense used the linebackers to cause pressure. Lofa notched a sack (technically half a sack, though Lofa should have received full credit for the sack) early in the game and had a couple more chances for sacks when the quarterback just eluded his grasp. Better yet were the stunts. DT Rocky Bernard is one of the best interior linesmen in the league on stunts, but had been underutilized until Monday's game. Defensive Coordinator John Marshall deserves credit for an excellent game plan, though outwitting Tom Walsh isn't a great accomplishment. As long as the defense continues to apply pressure creatively, the defense has a chance of being as good as expected.
Another positive is that LB Julian Peterson is arguably the best pickup in free agency. He is now tied for third in the league in sacks (and should soon pass suspended Chargers LB Shawne Merriman) with eight, provides excellent coverage, and is on pace for 108 tackles for the year. Peterson received a big contract from Seattle, which labeled him as over payed, but now Peterson has to be viewed as a bargain, at any price. Though I wish the officials would let the linebackers play - LB Lofa Tatupu was hit with a bogus roughing-the-passer penalty, and Peterson's pass interference penalty was as bogus, it was just solid coverage by Peterson. Overall, though, Peterson has been a huge pickup and is probably the only defensive player exceeding expectations.
While the newfound pressure is clearly the most important accomplishment by the defense, shutting down WR Randy Moss deserves a lot of praise. While a few times I spotted Moss lined up against CB Kelly Herndon in man coverage - perhaps the worst match-up in the history of football - Oakland never capitalized on that match-up and more often sent Moss against CB Marcus Trufant, who had an excellent game. The one time Oakland threw deep to Moss, Moss was being well covered by Trufant and Hamlin, and the pass was broken up. Give credit to the entire defense for containing Moss, including coordinator John Marshall for keeping the pressure on Walter and limiting Moss to short passes, many of which the oft-maligned wideout dropped.
The Seahawks have now seen SS/CB Jordan Babineaux for two full weeks at safety, and it's obvious what kind of player he is. In his favor, he is a coverage safety who has not given up a big play against him. In fact, passers haven't even challenged Babineaux, which usually means his coverage has been airtight. However, he doesn't have the big play tendency at safety that he showed last year at cornerback. He plays very cautious, which is both positive and negative. Michael Boulware is infinetly better against the run, because he takes chances and he creates big plays on defense, but also blows coverages constantly. Seattle now has to make a choice if they want big plays from the safety position or want to play it safe. It isn't about who is a better player, it's about what this organization values from it's players. Having Babineaux against St. Louis receiver Tory Holt is probably a good thing, given how Holt tore apart SS Michael Boulware their last matchup.
Special Teams: P Ryan Plackemeier continued to boom punts for a 42.4 average, though this game he looked shakier, it's hard to find fault with the rookie punter. K Josh Brown finally got to kick a chip shot, a welcome relief after so many long attempts. WR/PR Nate Burleson has finally taken over at punt returner and looked excellent. He'll run to the sidelines if he has nothing ahead of him, but picked up positive yardage on every return (except for the one he was blatantly interfered with) and had a couple broken tackles on returns. The coverage teams were also excellent... All around a great game by the special teams unit.
Conclusion: The Seahawks
came on primetime and really outplayed the Raiders in every aspect. The offense
ran all over the Raiders. The defense ended halftime with a realistic chance
at the NFL sack record. Special teams was excellent (is that two weeks in a
row?). It's all about how much of this performance came from playing against
the Raiders, and how much is a new look Seahawk team. Seattle has the chance
to clinch the division with a win over St. Louis next week, and build upon the
momentum generated Monday.
Kyle Rota is our fine MMQB, and is also known as "Rotak" on our
message boards. You can e-mail him here.
Kyle Rota is our fine MMQB, and is also known as "Rotak" on our message boards. You can e-mail him here.