Green Bay Packers 27,
Seattle Seahawks 17
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
October 12th, 2008
Play of the Day: Pro-bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant lines up opposite of the NFL's leading receiver in Greg Jennings. Trufant, unable to effectively jam with his injured wrist, gives Jennings a clean release off the line of scrimmage and loses the foot race as Jennings hauls in a 45 yard reception for a touchdown. Seattle's chances after this play went way down, and it told a little bit of everything about this game. Injured player, doing something stupid (why line up 2 yards away from a wideout faster than you if you're not going to press?), and falling just short. Note: Trufant couldn't have turned and made a play on that pass. I hate Trufant's lack of ball skills as much as anyone, but he was already trailing Jennings and turning his head would've slowed him down even more. It was just their guys being more athletic than our guys.
Handouts to the Standouts: KR/CB Josh Wilson did an excellent job as a return man, looking like the only player who cared, and surpassed meager expectations as a cornerback... LB Lofa Tatupu notched 11 tackles and appeared energetic after a few mediocre performances... As a whole, the run defense contained Ryan Grant very well, holding him to 2.7 YPC... FB Leonard Weaver continued his excellent blocking this season and made an excellent catch of a poorly thrown pass (unfortunately, he gained half a yard on that reception, but it was a great grab)... LB Julian Peterson was sighted this week, making 7 tackles, notching a sack, and overall playing well... K Olindo Mare hit on a 50 yard field goal attempt, and remains perfect... Walter Jones did a good job in both pass protection and as a run blocker...
Things that made me go "blech!": The offense was downright terrible... QB Charlie Frye averaged less yards per attempt than RB Julius Jones did running. And Jones only averaged 3.7 YPC. Frye also took three sacks, and on all three the offensive line picked up the pass rush. Frye just never decided what to do with the ball... Seattle's defense couldn't get themselves off of the field early in the game, giving Green Bay a huge time of possession advantage that was compounded by the incompetence of the offense late in the game... In particular, third down conversions plagued the defense, as Green Bay seemingly converted 3rd and long at will (10/18)... RT Sean Locklear does not deserve all of the blame for the two sacks Aaron Kampman notched - Kampman is an underrated end and Frye failed to get rid of the ball - but his run blocking was terrible... John Carlson finally scored a touchdown, but continues to be an afterthought in the passing game when he might be the best pass-catcher on the field...
Referee Report Card: They made mistakes. Primarily allowing the Packers to do everything short of molesting our linesmen without a holding penalty, while making a game-changing penalty call on LG Mike Wahle for a hold that was relatively minor. Also there seemed to be some early contact by their defenders when Frye passed, probably because Frye's passes take so long to reach their target. Yet, sadly, this is one of the better officiated games I've seen this season. That says more about the state of officiating, but overall a solid B+ grade.
Offense: When Matt Hasselbeck was ruled out, an already difficult game became much, much harder. And that was before the entire Seattle fan base learned firsthand just how bad Charlie Frye is. He goes through his reads like a rookie project taken in the 6th round of the 2008 NFL Draft, not a former 20 game starter taken in the 2005 draft. Every sack he took was directly related to his inability to go through progressions quickly, and when he did throw the ball the defender was often prepared for the throw. On his first interception, he showed that his intermediate-range passes lack zip. On his second interception, a deep heave, he showed that his long balls flutter. The only thing he did well was run against a prevent defense. Sorry, but that isn't enough to be an NFL quarterback, at some point you have to be able to throw the ball, and Frye is incapable of doing that with any kind of zip.
Frye also showed that he can make his offensive line look bad. Not that Locklear needed a lot of help. Kampman is known for being a stronger 4-3 DE who disengages from blocks well, and Locklear is known for being great at mirroring speed rushers but lacking great strength. It turned out much as expected, with Locklear doing a good job getting in Kampman's way for a few seconds but eventually being beaten. The problem is, Frye will watch his first read run their route to completion. Then he'll look to make sure the defense isn't coming. Then he'll see if his offensive line wants more practice holding their blocks. Then, if the target receiver hasn't fallen asleep, Frye will throw the ball. How we ever expected Frye to run a timing offense is beyond my ability to theorize.
Locklear didn't do the offense any favors with his run blocking. In fact, it was terrible. Again, Kampman is a complete DE who isn't easy to run on, but he had no trouble holding his ground against Locklear while also appearing to disengage at will to pursue the runner. Given how the passing game survived Willis at RT, and the running game seemed much better, it is probably worthwhile for the coaching staff to ask if we really need Locklear in at RT right now, given the team's abilities and priorities. Locklear may well have better luck blocking the smaller right defensive ends, but on the strongside - even getting help from Carlson on many plays - he is simply not getting the job done. He used to atone for that problem somewhat as a pass-protector, but given the passing game this season, a more ground-oriented attack seems like the smart move, and one that Locklear is ill-suited for at his current position.
Defense: How, how, how can a former linebackers coach be so atrocious at utilizing his linebackers? Last week, defensive coordinator John Marshall insisted on throwing his undersized linebackers against a, well, excuse the pun, giant offensive line. This week, against a team well-known for throwing the ball out of four wide sets and utilizing the whole field, Marshall keeps his linebackers primarily in the middle of the field. This is not a case of teams game-planning around our linebackers. This is a case of teams doing what they naturally do, and our linebackers not being put in position to make the plays needed. I've yet to see a mismanagement of talent that compares in scope to what Julian Peterson does for this team. He's a renown cover-man who never covers, because that is LB LeRoy Hill's job. Hill is a great blitzer who never blitzes, because that's Julian's job. Of course, the linebackers could be part of the solution, but the real problem is the secondary. Green Bay, as they did last year in their playoff victory against Seattle, had no trouble chewing up our zone coverage. Their wideouts usually waited until third down to do the job, but it appeared as if they could score against our zone coverage at will.
It doesn't help that the entire defense looks to be either bad or hurt. Kerney, Trufant, and Tatupu all have hand injuries that require casts. Especially for Kerney (who in general is playing well) and Trufant, those casts really inhibit their ability to use their hands. Kerney has to make his arsenal of moves more predictable and has a harder time tackling, while Trufant appears to have abandoned press coverage altogether. Tatupu has the most minor injury, but probably uses his hands as much as anyone on the defense. Their injuries, all to guys expected to have big impacts for the defense, has deprived the team of many of its star defenders. Grant injured his knee on Green Bay's first offensive play, and though he came back to play the injury was at least a distraction. Kelly Jennings has struggled all year, perhaps due to the rib and head injuries he has battled. The entire starting defense is playing, but these minor injuries do appear to be causing problems. A good coordinator would gameplan to mask their weaknesses, but as shown by Greg Jennings' long touchdown, Marshall seems determined to call his gameplan and not worry about if his players can execute it.
Blitzing, as many fans have called for, isn't the answer. Seattle actually showed two primary looks against Green Bay. Drop everyone back into coverage, or blitz. The three man rush was ineffective, but the six man blitz has had no more success either. The players are capable of blitzing - we know that Hill and Peterson are excellent pass-rushers, and Lofa is no slouch either. But the looks are so vanilla and so expected that when we blitz, we get burned (as on the long touchdown given up by Trufant). The answer isn't more blitzing - it is better blitzing and better coverage. You can send as many players as you want at the quarterback, but if he can identify the weak spot in coverage right away, it isn't going to matter. The coverage also needs to be more creative on this blitzes in order to confuse the quarterback into making the kind of stupid mistakes our quarterbacks have been making this year.
Special Teams: Surprisingly good from coach Bruce DeHaven's unit today. Josh Wilson appeared to single-handedly rip off big return after big return, though a block in the back penalty negated a nice run and lowered his average. The coverage units didn't have an especially difficult assignment but Will Blackmon is an underrated returner who can hurt an unprepared team, and Seattle largely held him in check. P Jon Ryan even managed a 62 yard kick, though he so outkicked coverage that it was returned for 23 yards before a great tackle by reserve safety CJ Wallace. In another bad week, the special teams did enough that in a close game, they would not have been the reason for a loss.
Overall: Sad as it is to say, Seattle's reign of five postseason appearances appears done. It would take a minor miracle to avoid a top-10 draft choice, and a major winning streak to sneak into the wild card. Seattle is now 1-4 with three of the next four games on the road, and as incredible as it sounds after this game, our worst games have all been on the road. In fact, looking at the rest of the season, it isn't a stretch to say that our easiest part of the schedule was this week. It is going to be a long, rough season, but one that will hopefully lead to the right changes being made and the team coming back with a vengeance in 2009. That is really all we have to realistically hope for.