Seattle Seahawks Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 7?
What a win for head coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. You know Coach Carroll wanted that game badly after Robert Kraft fired him 12 years ago and replaced him with Bill Belichick. A little vengeance is always nice.
I hope PC gave game balls to the secondary and Russell Wilson, because they earned it. Richard Sherman and the "Legion of Boom" held Tom Brady to six points in the second half and Wilson threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
On a short week, Seattle travels to San Francisco to take on a Jim Harbaugh-led team that is coming off of one of the most embarrassing defeats in recent memory. The 26-3 loss to the New York Giants has to sting, so you know the 49ers will be coming out with plenty of fire on Thursday night.
Let's take a look at just where the Seahawks stand heading into Week 7.
The secondary would be a no-brainier here, so it would be more appropriate to talk about the advancement of Seattle's rookie quarterback. He had his best outing as a pro against Belichick's Patriots and, for the first time in his young career, he tossed three touchdown passes in one game.
Fans had been clamoring for weeks to see this kind of offensive explosion from the passing game. The funny thing is offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn't call any more pass plays than he usually does. It simply came down to better execution than in weeks past.
Through the first five games of the season, Wilson was averaging 25 pass attempts per game. During his Week 6 outing, he was close to that mark—he attempted 27 passes. Pro Football Focus (account required) had him graded out as its fifth best quarterback for the week. He finished ahead of guys like Brady, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.
By breaking down his numbers even farther, you realize his passing downfield was incredible. He was an impressive 5-9 on throws of 20-plus yards. 200 of his 293 passing yards came on those five throws. Not to mention his quarterback rating when throwing down the field (20-plus yards) inside the numbers was a perfect 158.3.
Should we expect another near-perfect performance from No. 3 this Thursday? Probably not, considering the 49ers' pass defense is head and shoulders above New England's.
Outside of defensive end Chris Clemons, Seattle's bad was its anemic pass rush. The 'Hawks finished with one quarterback sack, six quarterback hits and 11 hurries. Clemons accounted for the one sack, three of the hits and three of the hurries. Only one other player finished with at least one hit and one hurry. Rookie Bruce Irvin had one of each.
Going into last Sunday's game, the Patriots were middle of the pack in terms of pass-rushing efficiency, so I was expecting a better performance from interior defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch.
Hats off to right guard Dan Connolly and center Ryan Wendell of the New England Patriots. Both players had underperformed all season long in pass protection, and they knew they had to up their level of play if they wanted to keep Brady clean.
Of his 59 drop backs, the future Hall of Famer was only under pressure 23 percent of the time—meaning Gus Bradley's defense only recorded a pressure on 14 pass plays. Definitely the Seahawks' lowest number of the season. Only four of the 16 defenders had a positive pass-rushing grade by game's end.
Given the fact the 49ers' offensive line has already given up 18 sacks this year, an improved pass rush should be expected Thursday night. If left tackle Joe Staley can't suit up for San Francisco, expect No. 91 to take advantage of his matchup against Alex Boone.
Rising: Sidney Rice
Sidney Rice's late-game touchdown against the Pats not only sealed the game, but sealed his best outing of the season. He caught three balls on six targets and averaged 27 yards per catch. For the third straight week, he saw five or more targets. It seems as if Wilson and Rice are building a nice rapport.
Falling: Max Unger
I must have jinxed Max Unger after putting him on the rising stock list last week. Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork had his way with Unger. He was the only offensive lineman to allow a quarterback hit all game long, yet he still hasn't allowed a sack all year. Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga will prove to be another big test this week.
Rising: Brandon Browner
Another standout cornerback in the Seahawks' secondary, imagine that. Brandon Browner's play in the run game this year has been phenomenal. He has five defensive stops on the season and PFF has him as its second best cornerback against the run. His big and physical style of play shines through every week.
Falling: Kam Chancellor
Covering tight end Rob Gronkowski is never easy, just ask Kam Chancellor. Chancellor had primary coverage on Gronk quite often during the first half and it spelled trouble. He allowed three catches on three targets for 37 yards. Later on in the game, Seattle mixed up coverage and shadowed Earl Thomas on Gronkowski and things improved from there.
The Outlook Heading Into Week 7
If Coach Carroll's Seahawks want to make it three in a row for the first time since 2010, they will have to ramp up their pass rush. They can't afford to have two straight down weeks, especially knowing 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman went back to the drawing board after a poor three-point effort on Sunday.
The running game needs to get cranked up again as well. Against New England, Seattle never got Marshawn Lynch going, and as a group, the team only averaged 3.5 yards per carry on 25 attempts. Linebacker Brandon Spikes played neutralizer in the middle, so it's important the Seahawks don't allow NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis to do the same.
Carroll and Harbaugh have a rivalry that extends all the way back to their days in the college coaching ranks. It's no secret that both coaches yearn to beat each other as they are two of the most competitive coaches around. Harbaugh currently holds the advantage at 2-0 against Coach Carroll.
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