Seattle Seahawks Week 5 Report Card: Grading Each Unit
This was a game the Seattle Seahawks were told they couldn't win. They have struggled with road wins, particularly those with a 1:00 EST start.
The Giants were playing solid football and Seattle came into the game with a 1-3 record.
Seattle had lost 11 of their last 12 games in the Eastern Time Zone, and hadn't beaten the Giants on the road since the season they made their only conference championship game...in the AFC. Most of their team wasn't even born then.
The Giants might have given too much credence to the reports that Seattle couldn't win this game. Pete Carroll didn't pay attention to them at all, and neither did his team. He stated last week that he felt the team had worked through their East Coast issues and that his team would be ready to play on Sunday—and win.
Led by amazing special teams play and a balanced effort on offense and defense, Seattle pulled the upset that they just missed getting last week. Five turnovers by their defense didn't hurt, either.
Special Teams: A
If Seattle would have had the same special teams contributions they did today throughout this entire season, they very well could be 4-1.
Coverage breakdowns cost the Seahawks an opportunity to win their opener in San Francisco, and Steven Hauschka didn't get a clean kick off last week when trying to reach for a 61-yard effort.
Hauschka didn't struggle on Sunday. He was dead-on perfect from 51 and 43-yards. He also put all seven of his kicks well into the end zoneor out of it. Four were downed for touchbacks, and two of the returns fell shy of the 20 yard line.
His final two kicks were quite important, as Seattle couldn't afford to give the Giants a short field on their final attempts to score. The first was not returnable, and the second was taken nine-yards deep. Devin Thomas was tackled at his 14 by Jeron Johnson and Michael Robinson.
Jon Ryan's contributions were also important. He did have his second touchback on the season (he only had one in all of 2010), but he also pinned the Giants inside their own five yard-line. This led to Seahawk safety.
Defensive Line: B
Seattle continues to be stingy against the run. Their four down linemen have been solid, led by Red Bryant who seems to shut down half of the field to the run.
Not to be outdone, Anthony Hargrove continues to show incredible athleticism and speed in rush and pass defense. He showed his solid burst off the line when he tackled Danny Ware for a five-yard loss and a safety. He added another tackle for loss and forced Eli Manning to throw away a few passes.
Seattle has been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but most of it is coming from the edge. Alan Branch did have a sack on the first possession of the second half. He used a great push off the ball and a baby swim-move to get a sack on Manning just before Chris Clemons could get the sack.
Seattle's pass rush has been inconsistent, though, leaving their defensive backs in extended coverage situations.
Clemons continues his solid play with pressuring the quarterback. He added two sacks today, forcing a fumble on one of them. He had a nice tackle for loss, as well.
Brandon Mebane was a big re-signing for Seattle at defensive tackle, but he's yet to make much of an impact on the defense. He's been losing snaps to Hargrove and not just in passing situations.
Two of the biggest issues Seattle's defense had last season was long completions to tight ends and running backs catching balls out of the backfield. Both of these were tied to linebacker play not living up to expectations.
Seattle saw some of those issues return against the Giants, particularly early in the game. Jake Ballard was released several times by the linebackers when it appeared the safeties had other responsibilities. On Ballard's touchdown reception David Hawthorne was caught cheating in K.J. Wright's direction. This left Ballard wide open.
Aaron Curry still seems to be missing the mean-streak that endeared him to fans early in his career. He missed a few tackles again today, which is simply unacceptable for a linebacker.
Leroy Hill had an opportunity to make a big play near the end of the first half following a botched snap. The ball was in the open. Hill fell on it, but was not able to secure the fumble recovery. The ball slipped through his legs, as did Seattle's opportunity to expand on their 14-7 lead.
Seattle has solid individual talent at the linebacking positions, but they are not playing as a cohesive unit. K.J. Wright hasn't taken to the outside linebacker position as well as he did to covering the middle for David Hawthorne in Week 1.
Pete Carroll's defense is demanding on the linebackers. Seattle doesn't seem to have the required skill set—or at least doesn't have the linebackers arranged in a way to allow the best production.
It will be interesting to see how Seattle uses the bye week to adjust their formations. Perhaps the time will allow rookie Malcolm Smith to get healthy and contribute. David Vobora is also new to this defense and might be able to contribute starting in Week 7.
It will also be interesting to see if Gus Bradley experiments with moving K.J. Wright back inside where he played well in Week 1, pushing Hawthorne back outside where he spent the 2010 season.
Defensive Backs: B
The Seahawks defense did surrender too many yards through the air. Some of that was the result of coverage breakdowns. 68 of Eli Mannings 420 yards were the result of a fortunate bounce on a tipped ball by Kam Chancellor. Some of the yards could also be pinned on Manning having too much time to throw.
Despite the yardage, the Seahawks did manage to come up with several big plays. Earl Thomas had an interception and a fumble recovery. Chancellor tipped a second pass that resulted in another touchdown, but this one was to teammate Brandon Browner.. It resulted in a 94-yard interception return and sealed the victory for Seattle.
Chancellor had tired of tipping passes when Manning made his final throw of the game. Chancellor simply caught this pass for the team's third interception on the day.
Browner continues to play tight coverage. He is too tight at times, though, staying in contact with the receiver. He was flagged again on Sunday for defensive holding/illegal contact. He needs to learn to stay close without continuing to stay in contact with the receiver.
Walter Thurmond was adequate filling in for an injured Marcus Trufant. His back locked back up on him this week, creating concerns for his season. He missed half of the 2009 season with back issues, and just wasn't the same cornerback after returning to the lineup.
Offensive Line: B-
The lack of offseason workouts certainly hindered the Seahawks offensive line. The unit has been improving by the week, and is starting to look like an NFL line.
Their run blocking has certainly improved, particularly off James Carpenter. However, he surrendered two sacks and had a false start against the Giants.
Russell Okung was starting to look like he was getting healthy. However, Jason Pierre-Paul stepped on his ankle late in the game and Okung had to leave one play later. Okung still needs to work on getting off the ball quickly, as he surrendered a sack to Osi Umenyiora. He was by Okung before the Seahawk left tackle got off the line following the snap.
There are still too many defenders getting free shots on Seattle's quarterback. In addition, false start and holding penalties continue to mount, putting pressure on the young offensive unit.
These issues should be expected to clear up as the season progresses. For now, though, the unit is improved with significant room for growth. Perhaps getting a "healthy" Robert Gallery in the lineup will foster additional improvement.
There are 32 teams that should be kicking themselves for not drafting Doug Baldwin. The Seattle Seahawks wanted to use a pick on him, but, after taking Kris Durham in the fourth round, they felt they had to address other issues.
Seattle made up for it, offering him a large chunk of their money available for undrafted free agents.
Baldwin has been finding holes and getting open for Seattle and was a major part of their win over the Giants. Like the rest of the receivers, he also was solid in run blocking.
Sidney Rice made several strong plays, but perhaps my favorite was on Marshawn Lynch's 47-yard run. Concerned with Rice as a receiving threat, Cornerback Corey Webster became engaged with Rice. This allowed Rice to disrupt the strong safety. By the time Webster realized it was a running play, Lynch was already by him.
Running Backs: B+
As much as I would like to give the running backs an A+ for their best yardage output of the season, they were also responsible for keeping this game close. Two fumbles in the red zone wiped out scoring opportunities that would have allowed Seattle to open up a big early lead.
Many, if not most, Seahawks fans had spent much of this young season asking to see Charlie Whitehurst. They finally got their wish, but by the time it happened most had realized that perhaps Pete Carroll and company knew what they were doing all along.
The Seahawks offense finally started to click last week. Tarvaris Jackson's level of play has improved, but mostly as a result of improved offensive line play and better performances from his receivers.
Jackson has taken a lot of contact this season, and it finally caught up with him early in the second half. After being chased from the pocket he opted to fight for a first down instead of sliding. He took a hard hit from Deon Grant and injured his pectoral muscle.
Whitehurst replaced him and struggled early. He overthrew Anthony McCoy, pulling him out of bounds on what would have been a big gain. On another play he had Golden Tate wide open, but underthrew him. He gained 17 yards, but there was the potential for a big gain on the play if Tate could have stayed on his feet and made the catch.
Whitehurst began to click with the offense with just under 5:00 remaining. He went 4-5 on their final drive, eventually hitting a wide-open Doug Baldwin in the end zone on a 27-yard touchdown.
Jackson will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his injuries. The bye week could be coming at an ideal time for Seattle.