Seattle Seahawks 19,
Miami Dolphins 21
Dolphin Stadium, Miami, FL
November 9th, 2008
Even when Seattle was playing well and making the playoffs, a game on the east coast against a .500 AFC team would be no gimme. Seattle has struggled on the east coast, even against inferior teams. Had the 2007 Seattle Seahawks been playing the 2008 Miami Dolphins, I'm not sure Seattle would have been favored. Given how much of a fight Seattle put up in a close 21-19 defeat to the Miami Dolphins, I think it is safe to say that even though the playoffs are about as remote as me getting a date with Jessica Alba, the Seahawks have not quit yet and Holmgren seems to be turning the team into a somewhat effective force. If only I were writing this in Week 1 and we knew Pro-Bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck would return shortly. It does seem like this team is figuring out a few things, just far too late to help us this year.
Play of the Day: 4th and 10, Seattle down by two and on the Miami 49, with half a minute in the game, QB Seneca Wallace drops back. The offensive line does a pretty good job with their blocks and Wallace is able to make the throw. It sails on him, hitting TE John Carlson's outstretched hands. Carlson can't bring the ball in and Miami gets the ball for a kneel-down that ends the game. The play really was emblematic of the game. Very close, but not quite enough. It also has more meaning. Wallace had an open lane to run through for the first down, and his pass sailed a bit. Not quite the perfect read, though Wallace's mobility might have been compromised by his groin injury. And, of course, it was dropped. Not very startling considering that at least half a dozen passes bounced off receivers and hit the dirt against Miami, including a possible touchdown and what would have been a major 3rd and long conversion.
Handouts to the Standouts: LB Julian Peterson played a fantastic game, making plays all over the Dolphins backfield and showing surprisingly good tackling form... CB Jordan Babineaux went from fairly invisible lately to "Big Play Babs", jumping a route, grabbing an interception, and running for a touchdown... RB Julius Jones finally got hot at the right time, running for 88 yards on only 16 carries, including a long run that set up a touchdown... WR Bobby Engram caught everything near him, drew a pass interference, and moved the chains well, especially in the first half when the running game was in neutral... Seeing LB Lofa Tatupu back on the field was nice, and the 9 tackles he made didn't hurt matters any either... Return man Josh Wilson (who played well at cornerback) and Justin Forsett both made nice returns off of kick and punt returns, respectively... C Chris Spencer has had a rough career but played well today...
Blame Jet Lag for This: CB Marcus Trufant and S Brian Russell were burned by Ted Ginn Jr early in the game, to the tune of a 39 yard touchdown pass... WRs Koren Robinson and Keary Colbert need to join TE John Carlson (to a lesser degree) in some form of purgatory for their abysmal efforts catching the ball. Koren missed a great touchdown pass from Seneca while Colbert killed a drive with his wide-open drop... Seattle showed no answer for the Dolphin "Wildcat" formation, or for Ricky Williams in general, who ran for over 100 yards and over 8 yards a carry, including a 51-yard touchdown... The punt and kickoff coverage teams were downright terrible...
Referee Report Card: Is Seattle never going to get an offensive hold called against their opponents? It seemed like there were numerous times where Miami got away with blatant holding. Seattle has gotten called for very questionable holds all season, especially LG Mike Wahle, but other teams have held Seattle with impunity. So much for balanced officiating. D.
Offense: Given how huge a role drops played for the Seahawks, it would be impossible not to talk about them. Robinson and Carlson led the team in receiving going into today, but each missed crucial passes that you'd expect NFL players to catch. Koren in particular seems to have sobered up, but not fixed his drop problems any. My unofficial estimates are at least 4 pure drops, another few that were catchable passes but jarred loose. That isn't terrible, except that the guy has caught 17 passes on the year. WR Chad Ocho Cinco of the Bengals is typically among the league leaders in drops with about 15, but catches 90 passes a year. Koren has yet to establish a rapport with Seneca and hasn't been open often, but his drop numbers are in 2004 form. At least he is no longer a terror for drivers in the Seattle area. Keary Colbert has no such skeletons in his past, but can't catch the ball at all either. Unlike Koren and Carlson, who are somewhat productive, Colbert is a monumental bust at this point in the season and has caught only 7 passes, but may have that many dropped passes, or so it seems. One has to ask why Colbert is on the roster for Seattle.
One thing lost in the hubbub about the drops is how effective Ray Willis was at right guard. I first noticed him in the second half pulling on an outside run and so far ahead of the runner I thought we had put him as a tight end on the play. He actually came from the guard spot, showing surprising athleticism for a guy who has never been considered a great athlete. The rest of the game was just as impressive. He got to the 2nd level (critical for guards playing against a 3-4 defense) and made big blocks on linebackers, moved the nose tackle when asked to, and held his weight in pass protection. I think Floyd Womack has played well this season, and believe Locklear is the worst member of the offensive line, but Willis played quite well at guard in Womack's place.
Seneca Wallace has gotten several starts this year, and we are starting to see what he can and cannot do. We now know he can not win games with his arm when his WRs are playing terrible football. We know he has a good deep ball. We know he isn't Hasselbeck. We know he does avoid sacks fairly well (as opposed to Charlie Frye, who seems to seek them out). We know his accuracy is hot-and-cold. He has, however, shown an ability to be competent when we aren't asking him to win the game for us. When he is our main source of offense, we will lose. And he might struggle against some great defenses. But he is showing enough to justify being a backup on this team, if not a starter. I am, however, curious as to how he would play if Seattle still sported a halfway decent WR group.
Defense: No offense to DD Lewis, who played very well filling in for Lofa Tatupu, but I was relieved to see Tatupu playing again. He had an exceptional game against the Dolphins, allowing little gain for Miami inside the tackles and causing havoc in the passing game. Lewis did his job, and pretty darn well. But Lofa seems to bring a sort of toughness that is missing from this team. With Lofa back, the next step is bringing back Patrick Kerney - Lawrence Jackson was almost invisible today, except when the announcers pointed out good blocks by Miami players against Jackson. Looking at Jackson, he appears to have no idea what to do with his hands in run support or as a pass rusher. All reports are that Jackson is a smart player and a hard worker, so hopefully he can add an arsenal of pass-rush moves.
Seattle did a good job forcing the Miami running backs to the outside. Unfortunately, once they made it to the outside, they often had a lot of room to run. It is hard to measure how well Trufant would play without the cast on his hand, but there is a marked difference in Trufant's efforts in the running game. In previous years, he was an excellent wrap-up tackler *(for a cornerback) who got off blocks quickly. This season, he is slow to disengage and has used his shoulders more to collide with runners. I think this is likely due to his cast, which could impair his technique when fighting off blocks. One thing is clear - Miami had huge success running outside to Trufant's side of the field, and in past years Trufant has been a deterrent for outside runs to his side of the field.
Why am I not surprised that Seattle had no success stopping Miami's version of the "Wildcat" formation? Anyone who watched the game heard the announcers talk about it, and every time Miami showed it, Seattle struggled to stop it. While overall this was the most creative game plan I have seen from Marshall (LeRoy Hill on a blitz? Finally!), he is not cutting edge in the slightest and the Wildcat formation, along with the flea flicker, shows how unprepared Seattle was for Miami's creativity, despite the Dolphin's reputation for trickery.
Special Teams: Obligatory "Fire Bruce DeHaven" comment. I can't see a reason not to. Forsett and Wilson seem to be creating every return on their own with no blocking, and our kick coverage is totally dependent on Olindo Mare kicking the ball deep into the endzone... Otherwise, it might get returned for a long gain. Our coverage units could well be the worst on the team, with absolutely no discipline. Miami might have had 2 returns for touchdowns, if not for a penalty and a tackle by the punter.
Conclusion: In all,
there were a lot of things that went wrong in this game. But despite that, the
team showed a lot of heart and effort. Seattle showed some fire, and made it
a close game. Given how injured our offense is and how poorly coached our defense
and special teams are, Seattle deserves some credit for showing up to play against
Miami, even though in the end they could not pull through. Maybe it is symbolic
of our season that I would never have imagined myself writing that last sentence
when the season began, but in this lost season, we have to take what we can