Seattle Seahawks: 5 Players Who Stepped Up in Week 4
Seattle rebounded from a horrific start and for the second week in a row, the defense clamped down in the second half. The offense exploded for the first time with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. Special teams played their part, too.
After the Falcons received the second-half kickoff and extended their lead to 20, this game was one Seahawks' stalled drive from being completely out of hand. This team stepped up and showed resolve. Instead of losing by double digits, like every loss in 2010, they hung tough until the end.
Washington was still underused on offense, totaling three touches, but he was more of a factor on special teams than he has been all season.
After the Falcons kicked a field goal to go up 20, he registered his longest kick return of the year, 36 yards; this jump started the Seahawks' first second-half touchdown drive.
Later in the quarter, tight end Zach Miller had a sure touchdown catch knocked from his grasp for an interception, preventing Seattle from getting within a touchdown. After a three-and-out by the Falcons, Washington stood toward midfield awaiting the punt.
I was at this game and can attest to the fact that most of the stadium, myself included, expected a big return. The crowd grew loud, Washington responded with a chest-pound-and-skyward-point and the 12th man stepped up.
A 33-yard return to the 11 and a Marshawn Lynch run later, the game was within reach.
Seattle needed Washington to have a big game to beat the Falcons. He didn't have quite the impact of the two-return-touchdown game from 2010 against San Diego, but he was instrumental as a drive starter in the second half.
How did this guy go undrafted?
The Seahawks' leading receiver on the year, the creative Doug Baldwin was the leading receiver in Week 4 with five catches for 84 yards, on six targets.
He had a 30-yard reception on a 3rd-and-8 to set up the 52-yard Sidney Rice reception in the first half and all five of Baldwin's catches resulted in first downs.
He's capable of playing multiple receiver positions, can go up in between defenders and take contact, is a savvy route runner that finds holes in the zone and is becoming a legitimate weapon for this team.
Even without the ball, Baldwin was a threat. On the Justin Forsett screen reception in the third quarter, Baldwin ran a fake end-around to draw the defense and opened up the field—this play was very similar to the first-down screen Chicago ran in Week 1, resulting in a long Matt Forte touchdown.
Baldwin proved in Week 4 that Seattle has a versatile fourth receiver, and Golden Tate's seat is warming up.
Minus the first play of the second half, when Matt Ryan threw an absolute dime to Julio Jones 45 yards down the sideline—a ball dropped underneath Browner's outstretched arm, great concentration by Jones—Browner contained Jones and Roddy White for the majority of the day.
Jones averaged 11.5 yards per catch on 11 catches and 17 targets. Minus the big play, the YPC number drops to 8.2. Browner was solid enough in coverage and Jones' low yards-per-catch average is a credit to Browner.
Where Browner really stepped up, however, was around the line scrimmage. Browner blew up a first-half screen pass to Jones for negative yards; in the second half on the same play, Browner shed the blocker and stopped Jones cold for two yards.
Browner had a couple of other big hits and ball-carriers were not getting around Browner; he was instrumental in preventing first downs on short passes.
It's clear Browner still needs work on his coverage technique, and notably needs to get his head around to locate the ball instead of swatting at the defender.
He also needs to eliminate penalties that have taken away Seattle big plays, one in each game this season—in this case, an illegal contact penalty negated the opportunity for Seattle to get the ball back with just over six minutes left in the game.
He is not an All-Pro and in current form, is not a Pro Bowler either, rather, a physical starter capable of battling elite receivers and a strong tackler around the line of scrimmage. There is room for improvement, but Browner proved in Week 4 he is a physical force on the football field.
The Trenches in the Second Half
It's tough to single out one player from each of these units, as the second-half comeback was a team effort.
Yes, the Seahawks' five yards rushing the first half is not acceptable. However, they kept Jackson upright all day allowing zero sacks, and helped Seattle get the no huddle offense going in the second half.
Furthermore, Marshawn Lynch had a huge hole to run through on his 11-yard touchdown run and John Moffitt threw a great block out in front on Lynch's screen reception. This game showed progress for the unit as a whole, and the offensive line is not to blame for the loss.
After a poor first half, the defensive line stiffened in the second half against the run, fueling the comeback. Zero sacks and the consistent lack of pressure on Ryan is concerning, but Seattle managed to hold the Falcons to 1.7 yards per carry fully knowing the Falcons were going to lean on the run to close out the game. Clinton McDonald had six tackles for the game and Brandon Mebane had three tackles, holding Turner to one yard or fewer.
Though the Seahawks lost the game, they showed progress in the trenches.
Jackson came into Sunday needing a strong performance Sunday to buy more time as a Seahawks starting quarterback—time bought.
Minus the free play because of the defensive offsides, where he threw the 52-yard touchdown the Sidney Rice, Jackson had an average first half.
However, Jackson finished the game with an average of 8.4 yards per attempt. He had one of the strongest games of his career—a career-high 319 yards passing—and looked like the quarterback the Seahawks' front office believes he is.
One major factor in this game: For the first time all year, Jackson didn't take a sack. One of his two interceptions was his fault—the Zach Miller almost-catch was a strong throw, with Miller at fault for the deflection.
Jackson looked more comfortable putting the ball into tight windows, showed better poise against the rush, had a scramble for a first down—his ball security is still suspect at times, though—and didn't mishandle a snap for the first game all year.
The two most promising aspects of the entire performance: He spread the ball around, as seven players had three catches or more; Jackson ran the no-huddle well in the second half, continuing to prove the Seahawks need to go no-huddle more often.
Jackson may not have gotten the win, but he stepped up and proved that unless his play takes a drastic turn south, he should be the starting quarterback for the near future.