Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA
October 26th, 2008
Be still my beating heart. Seattle really pulled off a win? It's been so long, I'd forgotten what it was like. In an ironic twist of fate, the struggling Seattle Seahawks pounded the same San Francisco 49er team on the road that had managed to edge out Seattle, at Qwest Field, earlier in the year. Let us not worry about the future quite yet, and instead savor the feel of victory for at least a few minutes.
Play of the Day: Y'know, this has been hard all season to pick one. Normally, it has been difficult because, well, there haven't been many positive ones and the negative ones are painful to write about. This one is difficult too But because I'm actually torn between a couple of deserving plays. However, I'm nominating FB Leonard Weaver's 62 yard catch-and-run as today's biggest play. WR Koren Robinson made a crucial block, and Weaver's legs did all the rest as he rumbled to the endzone for a statement touchdown.
Handouts to the Standouts: FB Leonard Weaver, who brought in 4 passes for 116 yards (that's 29.0 yards per catch!) CB Josh Wilson, who took an interception near the end of the first half and ran it back for a touchdown LT Walter Jones, who was the only competent run blocker and easily handled the 49er he was lined up across from DE Patrick Kerney, who just flat out destroyed the pass protection for JT O'Sullivan, and recovered a fumble to boot LB Julius Peterson, who forced that fumble for Kerney and notched 8 tackles The other LBs, LeRoy Hill and DD Lewis (taking over for Lofa Tatupu), tackled well, notching 11 and 8 tackles, respectively The pass protection for QB Seneca Wallace was excellent, and there were even a couple of blitz pickups that looked well-executed
Cringe-Worthy Events: D.D. Lewis took over at linebacker because Lofa Tatupu left the game early with a groin injury 49ers RB Frank Gore had a strong game both running and catching the ball, luckily for Seattle he wasn't given enough touches to really hurt the Seahawks The run blocking was every bit as putrid as the pass-protection was great Seneca Wallace still hasn't established any sort of rapport with his wide receivers WR Bobby Engram had chances for a couple of big catches early on, and while the passes we not accurate, they were the kind of passes you'd expect a good receiver to make
Referee Report Card: No real complaints. I felt the refs overall kept the flags in their pockets on most plays, which is what I like to see. The 49ers were penalized far more than the Seahawks, but most of the penalties were rather cut and dry. Apparently the key for LG Mike Wahle to avoid costly-holding penalties is to not have any long runs!
Offense: Is there a Seahawk's fan whose chest doesn't swell with a bit of pride when you read: "Leonard Weaver, 4 catches, 116 yards"? If so, make sure you have a pulse. Leonard Weaver has been a player that I feel is underrated in Seattle, but he was really unleashed against San Francisco. He's surprisingly fast for a fullback, with a good grasp of how to break tackles by smaller defenders and soft hands. Oh, and his run blocking in particular is as good as anything we've seen since 2005 Mack Strong. Weaver may have to fight Tampa Bay RB/FB hybrid Ernest Graham for the NFC's pro-bowl spot, but Weaver is a true fullback and clearly is developing as a playmaking fullback. The real question is, how will Seattle use him next week against Philadelphia? It is unlikely that he will continue to catch 100 yards in passes, but he has earned a bigger role in the offense, especially with the wide receivers still struggling.
Weaver the receiver (oh, hey, that rhymes!) was the big highlight in today's game. Honestly, if you take away those catches, it wasn't all that pretty in terms of production. There is still little chemistry in the passing game, and that isn't unexpected. The stats, sans Weaver, are not all that different, but the play most certainly was. It is clear that Seneca was much more comfortable against San Francisco than he was against Tampa Bay, and Seneca could easily have had a better game if a couple of near catches were turned into catches - the receivers situation is clearly difficult for Seattle's quarterback, whoever it happens to be this week. Seneca isn't going to become Matt Hasselbeck but he is slowly getting the hang of things, and it is important to remember this was his 6th career start.
Something very surprising, by both Seneca and the offensive line, was how well Seattle handled the blitz schemes from San Francisco. A 3-4 defense is based largely on blitzes that are unpredictable and creative - two things that seem to be completely unknown to the Seahawks. It was very impressive that the offensive line was prepared to handle them, and Seneca also showed both poise and vision in finding ways to combat the blitz. Seattle doesn't have a deep-threat so it is hard to truly burn a defense that blitzes, but Seattle has at least shown that just because Matt is gone, doesn't mean the blitz is going to force bad plays by Seneca.
In a very tough season, I'd like to extend a little bit of credit to Holmgren. I thought that this gameplan was pretty good given how ineffective the running game turned out to be. Sure, Holmgren got a little lucky that Weaver decided to have a career game at the right time, but given how much bad luck this team has had, hard to begrudge Holmgren a little good luck. But Seattle did several things that impressed. Wallace threw all over the field - deep a couple of times, screens, flares, over the middle - which shows that Holmgren at least is recognizing that his normal game plan is not working. Sure, the passing game wasn't humming, but the willingness to try new things is not a hallmark characteristic of Holmgren, so it should be viewed as at least an attempt to fix an anemic offense.
Defense: I posted last week that Josh Wilson was flat-out robbed on a potentially critical fumble-recovery for a touchdown, that was called dead due to a whistle-happy official. This week, Wilson finally made the needed play, picking off a pass late in the first half and running it back for a touchdown. What is interesting to consider is that Wilson's play has been good enough to have resulted in two touchdowns in two weeks, were the officials competent. That is impressive, and even more impressive is that Wilson has played pretty well the past couple of weeks. Sometimes a player does not mature immediately into an impact player, but that doesn't mean the player is a lifelong bum. Wilson may be coming into his own midway through his second season.
There were two defensive stars - Josh Wilson, and Patrick Kerney. Kerney seemed to have absolutely no trouble manhandling the San Francisco offensive line, and has shown a peculiar tendency to either make a dominating impact, like he did against Washington in the 2007 playoff game, or do absolutely nothing, like he did against Green Bay a week later. This week, we were treated to a dominating performance. Kerney is only credited with 3 tackles and 1 sack, but he pressure he applied all game made a big impact in the score.
And, unfortunately, here is where I must point out a flaw and look towards next week. I will only briefly mention how much superior Philadelphia is to San Francisco - you can make the case that every single offensive starter for the Eagles is superior to their 49ers counterpart. The biggest concern I have is that Seattle did not shut down Frank Gore at all - he ran for 6 yards a carry and caught seven passes. Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook is a similar kind of back to Gore, except even better. Seattle had the most trouble with Gore finding holes in the short field as a pass-catcher that led to several first downs - something Westbrook is familiar doing. Seattle will need to look at what Gore did and figure out a different way to stop Westbrook from doing the same thing.
Special Teams: This was a surprising game for the special teams. Sure, Josh Wilson did an excellent job again on the one kick return he had. We should be used to that by now, Wilson has shown if he gets any kind of blocking - and indeed, even if he doesn't - he is excellent at giving Seattle position at midfield. But the coverage units finally had a good game, which is something that has plagued Seattle all season. It wasn't perfect, and rookie PR Justin Forsett didn't make any big plays, but it was quality.
Conclusion: This was a fantastic win. I don't want to take anything away from it, Seattle not only beat but pummeled the 49ers at San Francisco. So savor this win Seattle fans. The next week against the Philadelphia Eagles is at home, so even though Philadelphia is a much better team than the squad we faced today, there is a slim chance at pulling out a victory.