August 25th, 2007
Qwest Field, Seattle, WA
It was a great game to be a Seahawks fan. After a brutal drubbing by the Green Bay Packers, the Seahawks looked strong from starters to backups the entire game. The score and focusing on isolating performances was the name of the game then, and it applies just as much this week. In that regard, however, Seattle looked much better this week.
Note: I believe I utter the thoughts of every Seahawks fan, player, and coach when I say we hope for the best for injured Minnesota linebacker Cameron Siskowic.
Play of the Game: Were this a regular-season game, it would have to be Seneca's picture-perfect 57-yard touchdown bomb to Ben Obomanu. The Vikings had sliced and diced the defense on the ground (though when Vikings Head Coach Childress got cute with the play calling and tried to pass, the offense stalled) and managed a field goal, but Seneca and the Seahawks answered back with a touchdown pass that sealed the game.
Handouts to the Standouts: QB Matt Hasselbeck, who stayed calm despite some pressure from the right side of the offense… WR Bobby Engram, who gained first downs in a variety of ways but looks to already be in regular-season form… WR Ben Obomanu, who has looked fantastic all pre-season and caught a 57 yard touchdown pass… TE Marcus Pollard caught 3 passes for 38 yards despite limited looks and showed some impressive speed… RT turned LT Sean Locklear, despite a holding call, did a nice job filling in for Walter Jones… DT Brandon Mebane was very effective in the game despite limited statistics… DE Baraka Atkins notched a sack late in the game… CB Kevin Hobbs returned an interception for a touchdown and looked to be playing smart football out on the field… Special teams was very solid all-around.
Things That Made Me Go, "Blech!": Notice that not a single starting defensive player played well enough to merit a spot on "Handouts to the Standouts". Every good defensive performance had some negatives… WR DJ Hackett continues his string of not-doing-anything-worth-mentioning… The offensive line did a good job at blocking Minnesota's vaunted front-four (and especially the pro-bowlers Kevin and Pat Williams), but couldn't pick up a blitz adequately to save their lives… The secondary continued to look "confused" on the field against the pass, but was saved due to the inability of the Vikings Quarterbacks to actually hit the Vikings wideouts… The officiating has had some major flaws all pre-season, and that continued with a couple horrible calls (WR Deion Branch was denied a touchdown on a screen pass when he most assuredly was in, and FB Leonard Weaver was called for holding on a nice Maurice Morris run when there was no holding, nor "ingredients" of a hold).
Offense: There are two places where I would prefer the Seahawks offense not go: The Bermuda Triangle, and the red zone. While the stretch of water is well known for killing navigation systems, the red zone seemed to be equally adept at killing Seahawk drives. The red zone has previously been an area of strength for the Seahawks, so we can hope this was an isolated incident, but the 1st-team offense too often settled for field goals instead of touchdowns. On a team with Shaun Alexander, such an inability to punch the ball in is downright strange. I do feel that we can divide blame equally between the great interior defense the Vikings have and the pre-season gameplan.
More important was the inability of the offensive line to pick up the blitz. While Hasselbeck got great protection when the Vikings rushed four, that went away when linebackers were added to the mix. To Hasselbeck's credit, he wasn't flustered by the pressure and continued to throw short passes to open receivers. It's worth noting that Hasselbeck's one horrid throw - an interception to Antoine Winfield - was the result of a poor read, not pressure (though that's hardly comforting).
On a positive note, Seneca Wallace showed what he can do when he isn't getting destroyed by whoever RT Tom Ashworth is assigned to block. 5/7 for 77 yards isn't especially impressive, but the play calling didn't really call for Seneca to do much, except for the one touchdown pass to Obomanu. Unlike last week, where Wallace was kept inside the pocket almost exclusively, Holmgren did call two pass plays where Seneca bootlegged - he completed both, by the way. Due to his short frame and great mobility, plays designed to get him moving make sense, but they should become the rule instead of the exception.
Promising notes on offense:
Shaun Alexander may not have the same success running inside that he had in '05, due to a weaker line, but his outside running appears to be as strong as ever. A big concern was whether or not Alexander had lost his burst after an injury-marred 2006, but he appeared to be as quick as ever - certainly faster than in '06 - when he bounced a couple of runs outside.
Speaking of speed, TE Marcus Pollard can move. The track record for old tight ends is not promising, but if Pollard fails it will not be due to losing a step - he showed on a 24 yard reception that he can still stretch the seam effectively, and his hands appear to be as good as advertised.
Leonard Weaver is as good as runner as you thought going into the season - don't let the stat line fool you. The problem isn't Weaver; it's a coaching staff that seems to put in Weaver for Maurice Morris but calls plays like Morris is running them - plenty of outside runs for little gain, with almost nothing inside. I noted 3 runs designed to go inside (he cut outside once for a nice gain) and all three were successful. Not a single toss or sweep went for any yardage worth mentioning. His pass-blocking didn't draw my attention, which is usually a good sign, and he appears to have developed into a good drive-blocker.
Defense: Despite the score, the offensive ineptitude of the Vikings was on display much more often than the defensive prowess of the Seahawks. True to form, the deep pass continued to be the bane of the Seahawks defense. Luckily for Seattle, Tarvaris Jackson and his wideouts seemed to be a couple of steps away from each other on every pass, but this kind of coverage usually ends up with a wideout doing a hilarious and infuriating end zone dance after a touchdown. Safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell may be able to solve a Rubik's Cube faster than former safeties Ken Hamlin and Michael Boulware, but apparently neither tandem can provide support for the cornerbacks on deep passes.
Marcus Trufant, long an enigma who combined the ability to run alongside any receiver with the inability to stop the brown leather oblong-shaped object from hitting aforementioned receiver's hands, has developed a new kind of way to deal with footballs: Dropping sure interceptions. Admittedly, the one knock on Trufant coming out of Washington State had to do with hands roughly as soft as slabs of granite, but one of the passes was a lame-duck tossed by Tavaris Jackson that had almost no velocity behind it. On a positive note, while Trufant was challenged, only once did an opposing receiver get a first down on him (though he gave Bobby Wade another with a pass-interference call).
Perhaps the best news on the defensive front is that Marcus Tubbs is back. And, true to form, he had an impact. While he contributed little to the pass-rush - despite being a very acceptable pass-rusher for the role he occupies - he was able to man-up against double teams from two perennial pro-bowlers: C Matt Birk and LG Steve Hutchison. Just as important, given Tubbs' poor health record, Brandon Mebane was excellent against both the run and the pass, and even defeated a couple of double-teams against the run. I was actually chanting for Mebane before he was selected in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft, but he has exceeded even my expectations so far.
Notes on the defense:
Patrick Kerney is not getting sacks, but don't let his impact be understated. Against the Vikings he was the Seahawks' most consistent linesman at applying pressure on passes.
Brian Russell is going to make plays. He is always around the ball and doesn't lack aggressiveness.
For the 3rd straight year, Minnesota has run a trick play pass on Seattle. What is it about our defense that makes them think a WR/RB pass is the call? To their credit, the last two have ended up as touchdowns for them, so they must be doing something right.
Which defensive tackles are you going to put in when your opponent is stuck a yard away from their own end zone? How do both Marcus Tubbs and Brandon Mebane ride the pine while 270-pounder Chuck Darby goes out in an obvious running situation? In truth, Darby had a very poor game against the run, but I keep feeling like he must offer something to the defense that I am simply not seeing.
Special Teams: We can now talk about special teams without making jokes involving short buses, as this week the Special Teams unit was spectacular. Josh Wilson is going to make an impact as both a gunner and a returner, even if he has a lot to learn at cornerback. Wilson set up Wallaces 57 yard touchdown blast with a very nice return the play before, and he caught a Plackemeier punt on the 1-yard line. Nate Burleson was one missed ankle-grab away from returning a punt for a touchdown, leaving both return positions stronger than they've been in many years. Coverage units also performed very well, doing a good job of keeping pace with Plackemeier's punts.
only pre-season, and Seattle should be much happier that nobody on our team
was seriously injured (and, indeed, that Cameron Siskowic initially appears
to be alright) than the score. The game itself is about as trivial as it can
get, but what is not trivial is that the team rebounded from a terrible showing
against Green Bay. The score may be unimportant, but the resiliency the team
showed is most definitely not.
Kyle Rota writes for Seahawks.NET, and he's known as "Rotak" on our message boards. Feel free to e-mail Kyle here.