Seattle Seahawks Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 16?
What a wild two-week ride for the Seattle Seahawks. First, they shutout the Arizona Cardinals 58-0, then they move onto the Buffalo Bills and drop them 50-17. Yes, 108 points in Week's 14 and 15 combined.
And, no, that's not a misprint.
That two-week span helped them set a Seahawks franchise record—108 points is the highest number of points scored over a two-game span and a three-game span. Here are a couple of other eye-opening stats from the past two weeks:
Seahawks last two games: 959 yards, 108 total pts, 13 total TD's. Have scored in 9 straight quarters + OT going back to CHI game—Dave Softy Mahler (@Softykjr) December 17, 2012
It's hard not to like where Seattle is headed right now, yet this week's game against Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers will be their toughest game of the season. Since the last time these two teams met (Week 7), both the 'Hawks and Niners have transformed into different teams.
Colin Kaepernick has now taken over the reins at quarterback for San Francisco and Russell Wilson's play has vastly improved. Over the course of the last six games, Wilson has thrown 11 touchdown passes and only one interception. Additionally, he has three rushing touchdowns to his name, as well, and the Seahawks are 5-1.
Let's take a look at just where this team stands after its Week 15 thrashing of the Buffalo Bills.
In a week of outstanding individual performance after outstanding individual performance, there was one particularly bad performance that I just couldn't overlook. Cornerback Richard Sherman had his worst game of the season against Buffalo Bills' wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
This marked the first time that these two players had gone at one another mano a mano. Coming into Week 15, Sherm hadn't allowed six receptions in any one game this season. The most he had allowed was five in Week 4 against the St. Louis Rams and in Week 8 against the Detroit Lions.
Mr. Johnson made sure to show No. 25 that he could burn man coverage as easily as Sherman could defend it. By game's end Johnson managed to rack up four catches on seven targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. Not to mention he piled up 22 yards after the catch, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's quarterback rating when throwing for Johnson was an impressive 135.9.
However, Fitzpatrick's work against Sherman wasn't done. He managed to complete two more passes on him—one was to journeyman wide receiver Ruvell Martin and the other one was to rookie T.J. Graham. The longest completion of the day against Sherman was a 25-yard reception by Johnson.
According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, this past Sunday's game against the Bills was only the second negatively graded game of the season for Sherman and the fourth of his career. Yet, no cornerback, who has played at least 75 percent of his teams snaps, has a lower quarterback rating against this season.
Even after a poor performance, his rating against is an astonishing 50.2. With his status for Week 16 up in the air because of his impending suspension hearing, it's imperative that his strong play has rubbed off on some of the younger corners on the team.
By the sounds of it, if Sherman, Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant are indeed out—the Seahawks will start Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell and Ron Parker at cornerback. You may also see Earl Thomas take a few snaps at one of the outside corner positions.
Everything is fair game when your defensive backfield numbers are dwindling.
Now to the good—as I mentioned above, Wilson had a fine day running and throwing the ball. Sidney Rice and Zach Miller had good games catching the ball, but no one unit had a better showing than the offensive line.
As a group they surrendered a measly seven quarterback pressures. One of the pressures was a quarterback sack allowed by Marshawn Lynch, and the other six pressures were quarterback hurries allowed by Breno Giacomini, Max Unger, Robert Turbin, J.R. Sweezy and Paul McQuistan.
As you can see, it was a rough day in pass protection for the backfield. They accounted for almost one-third of the pressures allowed. Yet, by the numbers, Tom Cable's offensive line has improved mightily since the beginning of 2011.
This season, his unit has given up only 14 sacks and 22 hits on the quarterback. Last year they when they gave up 41 sacks and 46 hits and were considered atrocious. So, you may ask, who among the Seahawks' starting offensive linemen has stepped up and improved their play? Honestly, every one them has.
Moreover, it's worth noting that they have been healthy at left tackle, center and right tackle all season long. Unger is having the best season of his career, as he has yet to allow a sack on the season. Like Unger, Russell Okung has kept No. 3 clean by allowing zero sacks and just two quarterback hits.
It doesn't get much better than that—except for the fact the offensive line is also doing a phenomenal job of opening up holes for No. 24. Lynch has 1,384 yards, 10 touchdown at 5.1 yards per carry. He also has 798 yards after contact—only Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris have more yards after contact.
Heading into Week 16 against the Niners, the Seahawks offensive line will have to have another outstanding showing against Vic Fangio's vaunted front seven.
Stock Watch (Week By Week Evaluation)
Rising: Sidney Rice
On a day when offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn't dial up a whole lot of passing plays, Rice made the most of his limited opportunities. He caught four of his five targets for 76 yards. His longest catch of the game was a 41-yarder and he needs 266 yards to reach 1,000 for the season.
Falling: Anthony McCoy
A rough game for the USC product—he didn't see a single target after recording his first 100-yard receiving game of the season in Week 14. He also struggled as a blocker in both the run game and in pass protection. Not to mention he also drew a penalty flag.
Rising: Byron Maxwell
What a performance by the fill-in cornerback. The second-year player out of Clemson played 58-of-71 snaps and had the Bills passing game on lockdown. Maxwell only allowed one of five passes to be completed for 15 yards. During the last two weeks, his quarterback rating against is 40.8.
Falling: Jason Jones
Jason Jones is not falling based on his statistics or overall effort; his stock is falling because he landed himself on injured reserve today. His placement on IR is a huge blow to a defensive line that needs all the players it can get, considering the playoffs are only three weeks away.
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