I had the good fortune to be at this Sunday's game, helping a close friend celebrate his birthday as well as helping the Seahawks kick off their season. Seated in the hawks nest, we were ready to watch a tough game against the pundits favorite to win the division, the San Fransisco 49ers. With the offseason's overhaul of our roster and coaching staff, we were eager to see those changes translate into actual wins. Maybe it was the energy drink, maybe it was the beers, maybe it was just finally being back at a football game after 6 months, but we were all ready to see our Hawks win in a big, big way.
Kickoff dropped by Leon Washington.
Hasselbeck's first pass of the season picked off.
The first quarter of play left me hoarse from shouting and completely demoralized. The defense looked stout against the run and effective against the pass, but our offense was a non issue for the 9ers beastly D. It was at this point in the game that I decided this article would have a title like "Seahawks Offense Fails to Get Anything Going, Sucks a Whole Lot". I was ready to destroy myself with beers and resign myself to the fact that we were not a good team, the niners were, and I'd spent $150 on a ticket to a game that was going to ruin my week.
But I stuck it out, and I'm glad that I did.
Pete Carroll's biggest focus is on control of the football, both on offense and on defense. On offense, it's moving the ball efficiently and not turning it over. On defense, it's about minimizing run gains to force the ball into the air, where our secondary (hopefully) intercepts the oppositions passes.
Our offense started with that run, run, run strategy that Knapp ran last year. It didn't work last year, and it didn't work for us yesterday. The key difference between this year and last year is that when our coaching staff observed their gameplan wasn't working, they changed it. Instead of being an exercise in futility, which running against the 49ers defense is, our offensive strategy shifted to an aerial attack, and took advantage of the niners man coverage system by using plenty of double moves. A double move is a great tool to help a WR break man coverage. He gives a head wobble or feints one direction, hoping that the DB will bite in that direction, before returning to his route in the other direction. It gives him a few steps on his defender, steps that will hopefully free him enough to make the reception and possible rack up som YAC. What is important here isn't WHAT we did, but the fact that our coaching staff recognized that what we WERE doing wasn't working and adjusted it accordingly. This malleable coaching style isn't just refreshing after years of predictable Holmgren style play calling, the creativity and willingness to admit we may be playing the wrong gameplan is indicative of the new regime's priority on winning as opposed to running "their game". Our new OC Jeremy Bates has a great creative mind, and believes in having a big playbook to respond to many different game situations. Holmgren had a limited playbook, and emphasized on flawless execution of his plays. HIS plays. The egotistical attachment to his own program worked when he had a dynamic playmaker like Shaun Alexander and an All-Pro guard in Hutch, but when we lost both, we went 4-12. A coach who wants to be successful in the long term must have a program set up that will work in the absence of key players. We may have that coach in Jeremy Bates. Take the Vikings preseason game. The Vikings have a savage defensive line. Our 1st round pick LT Okung was injured. He ran plays all game long that emphasized extra protection, particularly on the blind side where we started Mansfield Wrotto, a backup backup guard who has since been released from the team, at offensive tackle. This gameplan would not work for every game. Teams would study footage and figure out how to get around it. But it didn't have to work for every game, it only had to work for one. And, for the most part, it did. I am impressed and encouraged by the variety of attacks that Bates is proving himself capable of orchestrating.
Defense ruled the day yesterday. There are the obvious plays that come to mind, Marcus Trufant's pick 6, the goal line stand that yielded nothing to an efficient niners running game. What I was most impressed with, however, was the cohesiveness of our defense. Everyone did their part well. The corners were stuck to their assignments like glue. Even Kelly Jennings has a very good game. Our safeties limited passing plays by recognizing where coverage was needed and pressuring recievers. Our D line is beastly. There is a ton of bulk in that line. Clemons pressured the QB well, more-so than his one sack would suggest. Linebackers were always either on the ball or on the QB. Our boys played hard, mean defense. Much, MUCH more impressive than the 31 points the Seahawks scored was the 2 field goals for 6 points the Seahawks defense held the 49ers to. Granted, Alex Smith played like Alex Smith. He is hot and cold, and after a luke warm first quarter, he froze right up for the rest of the day. Plays resulting in this picture presumably did not help:
We will see how the Seahawks play against the HATED Broncos next week. We will see if this week was just a fluke, or if it is an indication of a breakout season with our new regime. In all probability, it was a game against a overhyped team, at home, with a mostly healthy roster. Any given Sunday any team may win, but at least for one week, talk of tanking the season and picking up Locker next year will have subsided. It's Football season people. Thank goodness.