MMQB: Giants 44, Seahawks 6

In the opening paragraph of a MMQB I wrote in 2006, I pleaded for Seattle fans not to panic. That the sky wasn't falling. After witnessing the demolition in New Jersey, I believe it just might be dropping a little bit. Even if you're not inclined to panic, I'd recommend keeping an eye skyward.

New York Giants 44, Seattle Seahawks 6
Sunday, October 5th, 2008
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

Play of the Day: Where do you find a momentum-turning play in a lopsided defeat? The Giants were in possession of this game throughout. The play that best summed up Seattle's performance is a rumbling 44 yard run by Giants RB Brandon Jacobs on New York's first drive. It summed up the entire defensive performance - not big enough, not fast enough, and not game-planned well enough to stop the Giants. Actually, that doesn't just describe the defensive performance; it also describes the offensive performance as well.

Handouts to the Standouts: Really, I'm not sure anyone deserves an award. DE Patrick Kerney notched a sack and runs to the offense's right weren't as effective as runs to the left. Brandon Mebane generally held up well and got into the backfield a couple of times. That is really it. The other "top performers" didn't really perform well; rather they didn't perform as far below-standard as everyone else on the team.

Things that made me go "Blech!": Pardon me if I miss anyone: The offense and the defense. The coaches. The refs. Want specifics?

QB Matt Hasselbeck completed 11/21 passes for 105 yards. That's 5 yards per attempt. At least Hasselbeck broke 50% on his completion percentage, which means his average will actually go up. The offensive line, while not dominated, was not trusted as Matt rarely threw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. Of course, given the disastrous results when Hasselbeck did throw downfield, the wideouts aren't free of blame either. None of them stepped up against a mediocre secondary.

DE Lawrence Jackson was just dominated in this game, many of the runs were targeted at him and he was unable to make any sort of play. The Giants figured out how to take advantage of our linebacker's small size by running sweep plays that got our defenders matched up against linesmen. CB Kelly Jennings continued his poor play against the Giants, struggling deep against Hixon.

Referee Report Card: I am not a happy camper. This wasn't as blatantly terrible as the San Francisco game earlier in the season, but it was bad. Three terrible defensive contact calls (Two pass interferences, one holding) in the first quarter alone really made a bad impression. It never got better, but at least the officials called a poorly officiated game against both teams.

Offense: It is really hard for me to get too mad at the offense for this game. Any defense with that strong a front-4 (and it is very good, despite the injuries) causes problems. Add that together with the lack of chemistry Seattle has at WR and the questionable offensive line, and it is easy to see why the game plan called for a lot of short passes. Seattle has always been a team that relied on a short-passing offense, but I've never seen a team so totally focus on passes under 10 yards. This would be fine if we had any consistency, but our wideouts struggled to separate on their routes so we caught a lot of passes with absolutely no room for running after the catch. I think the team-wide YAC would be 0 if not for RB Julius Jones catching a screen pass.

Looking at the wideouts, it is clear that Branch and Engram are an improvement over the feared McMullen and Taylor combination. It is also clear that neither one of them is playing up to their potential. Matt and Bobby seemed to retain most of their mind-meld and they should continue to be fairly successful, though after dropping a deep pass Engram's rust is evident. Branch looks to have the longer road to recovery. He clearly favored his surgically repair knee after falling on it trying to catch a jump-ball, and his struggled the most to create separation on the shorter routes. It is often said that serious knee injuries taken up to 2 years for full recovery, so even with Branch rehabbing like a fiend Seattle may be playing with a limited weapon at wideout. Most concerning of all the passing woes is the absence of TE John Carlson. After appearing as the lone bright spot in the passing attack during the first three games of the season, Carlson was not thrown to at all against the Giants. It is well known Holmgren favors his veterans, but it is surprising that Holmgren would put so much pressure on the wideouts and completely ignore the promising Carlson.

More depressing than the understandably limited passing game was the surprisingly poor running game. After two weeks of Julius Jones looking like a potential pro-bowler, the team once against struggled to run the ball. From eyeballing it, Jones didn't appear bad. Yet, this has to bring up the disturbing question of whether or not Jones can run effectively away from Qwest Field. Jones had some great games at Qwest earlier in his career, despite his overall Dallas Cowboys career being a disappointment. Then he struggles at Buffalo, dominates at home against two division rivals, and struggles at New York. Maybe he, like the rest of the team, views the east coast as the Kryptonite to his superman? Regardless of the cause, the running game has so far been terrible on the road but extremely effective at home, making them not too different from the rest of the team.

Defense: While the offense performed terribly, the defense performed much worse. The offense struggled, but the defense set the tone for a lopsided defeat by not forcing the Giants to punt until the second half of the game. Even players who didn't play terribly - Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant, Josh Wilson - still struggled mightily in some areas. Hill missed a few tackles which is very uncharacteristic of him. Trufant struggled in coverage early in the game. Wilson accumulated 9 tackles, but many of those were on coverage. Even when it isn't ugly, it's still ugly.

It boggles my mind that John Marshall still has a job with Seattle. In fact, I believe in 2006 my MMQBs were calling for Marshall to be fired. This one will be no different. Even better, we have Jim Mora just sitting around apparently not teaching the secondary. It would behoove Seattle's brass to give Mora control of the defense - his specialty - and see if he can create results. If the front office likes what they see from Mora version 2.0, then we will keep him as the head coach. If his tenure as defensive coordinator turns out as terrible as his last year as a coach for the Atlanta Falcons, then we know to pursue someone else.

The biggest flaw I saw with Marshall is that he didn't use the game plan many teams have had decent success with against the Giants - cede the 3-5 yard runs to Brandon Jacobs and defend the deep pass. Jacobs clearly wasn't going to be stopped by our small defense, but we could have both slowed him down and guarded the pass better. Our linebackers were a couple steps short in their drops from making plays against the Giants (not surprising since the Giants run many of their routes a couple yards deeper than most teams would run the same route) and when they crowded the line of scrimmage, it usually involved them getting blocked out of the play and Jacobs running rampant through the second level against a secondary that doesn't specialize in tackling. Seattle decided to play according to what we normally do, rather than plan against what the Giants do. It backfired terribly. Dropping the linebackers deeper wouldn't have caused a shutout - the Giants have a talented offense, one that takes advantage of Seattle's flaws - but it might have added a touch of dignity to the score.

Aside from Marshall, the most confusing player against the Giants was Brian Russell. As has been his reputation this season, he got burnt in the air and on the ground. But he also, somehow, made 11 tackles. Now, when a safety makes 11 tackles either the safety is very good or the defense is very bad, and it shouldn't be a question as to which this is, but many times Russell was actually making good plays. Sure, he got stiff-armed once (and then made the tackle a few yards down the field) and juked once (and dragged the guy down later) which is normal, but suddenly he was making difficult tackles. I debated this for quite a while, and the conclusion I've come up with is that as the game progressed, Russell was the only player who still was giving max effort. Now, Russell at max effort is still a poor safety, but he should get some recognition for his performance, since he gets (deservedly) a lot of flack when he fails.

Special Teams: The first game all season that this special teams hasn't been too terrible. P Jon Ryan had a great average (46.1 Yards per Punt), though that is a little misleading since he out-kicked coverage once and shanked another badly. The coverage units were acceptable on punts and kickoffs. Not great, but not poor. The kick returns were decent, and the punt return team got a lot of rest. K Olindo Mare made both his attempts and did well on kickoffs. Overall, a nondescript unit that hadn't reached average before today.

Overall: Seattle got dismantled by a superior team. That definitely explains some of the problems. Sure, it was a 10:00am game and Seattle never shows up for those. Sure, it was a bye-week game as well, and Seattle never shows up for those either. But the team never should have played this terribly. It isn't just this loss that should cause you to stop mocking the "sky is falling" people. Looking at the schedule, Seattle faces a must-win game against Green Bay, then a road game against Tampa and a road game against San Francisco. Seattle must go 2-1 to even have a prayer at the playoffs. In fact, given Seattle's road difficulties, it is not unreasonable to deem next week's game against the Green Bay Packers a must win.

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