The Seahawks are NFC West Champions tonight.
Forget the two defeats against San Francisco and Arizona. Seattle won the division.
First goal, accomplished.
This was an encouraging performance against the Rams, even if it wasn’t perfect.
When the two teams met in week eight, St. Louis ran for exactly 200 yards. Today they managed just 13.
Frankly, they were lucky to get 13. This was a thoroughly dominating performance by Seattle’s defensive line.
Brandon Mebane had possibly his best game as a Seahawk. He was unstoppable. Not just in run defense either. On several occasions he was the one creating pressure up the middle — his move forced Kellen Clemens’ second interception to Byron Maxwell.
Mebane has had a terrific second half of the season and he’ll be vital in the post season if he keeps up this level of performance.
Not to be outdone, Tony McDaniel also had a big day. St. Louis couldn’t block him in the first half. McDaniel has quietly been one of the steals of the season. His cap hit in 2013 was just $605,000.
As a unit Seattle’s defense was scary good — and that is a big relief. More on that later. Some other names I want to mention — Malcolm Smith and Bobby Wagner were both excellent at linebacker. Wagner in particular for me was all over the field making plays. Michael Bennett had yet another sack (have I mentioned he needs to be re-signed?).
The only frustrating moment was the botched interception where Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell all ran into each other. It seemed like Sherman had position. I guess you can compete too much sometimes…
On offense it was also a relief to see Marshawn Lynch back to his best. He ran with more purpose today, looked decisive and deserved the missing three yards he needed to hit 100.
The Seahawks need Lynch. Flat out need him. They need a great defense too.
And here’s why…
For whatever reason, the passing game is going through a big slump. The kind of slump we haven’t see in the Russell Wilson era so far. Golden Tate’s big touchdown late in the day padded the stats, but the reality is this has not been a good couple of weeks.
It’s a relief to see the back of St. Louis’ and Arizona’s superb defensive lines.
Some of the blame goes to Wilson, who just doesn’t look like the ice-cold, super poised quarterback we’ve come to expect. For the first time in his pro-career he looks a little rattled. Teams are keeping him bottled up, he’s trying to extend plays too much and he’s running into trouble.
More of the blame, for me, is the scheme. I’m still a big fan of Darrell Bevell. I believe Pete Carroll has a pretty substantial say in the game plan. As a duo, I think they need to make life easier for their quarterback.
I noticed a lot of people calling for more designed bootlegs, purposefully getting him out of the pocket. I completely disagree with that. But it seemed early on that’s what they tried to do.
From my untrained eye, it looks like teams are toning down the edge rush and having the ends read the play. Wilson is so good at exploiting over-committed DE’s, you can’t afford to let them pin their ears back. Arizona sat and basically let Wilson run himself into trouble.
Players as good as Robert Quinn can do this and still bring pressure on a high number of downs. But it seemed to me St. Louis also toned down the rush — especially from Chris Long — and used the same plan as Arizona last week.
If teams are going to do this, I’d argue the best thing to do is to shorten it up. Get Wilson into a rhythm passing underneath and on shorter routes. He looked at his best today when Seattle chipped away rather than looking for the big plays.
And hey — I love the explosive nature of this offense and I like the fact they want to make big chunks of yardage downfield. But it’s not happening right now.
For the time being, they need to quicken the tempo and shorten the passing game. It worked for a time today. Let Wilson snap, drop and throw. It’s basic, but it might just help him get back into a groove.
If the issues continue in the post season — and that could happen — the running game and the defense has to be there for this team to win. That’s why it was such a relief to see them play the way they did today.
If Lynch is running like this, if the defense plays lights out — the Seahawks can live with Wilson struggling a bit.
My hope is two weeks off to prepare will be just the ticket. They tore New Orleans apart after the bye in week 12 — by throwing the football. With the Saints owning the #6 seed, there’s every chance they’ll be back in Seattle for the Divisional playoffs.
Some other notes from the game…
- The Refs were a total embarrassment today. They lost control of the players very quickly and the ejection of Kendall Langford was a joke. Although there were no game-defining calls like last weeks bizarre bicep fumble, this was about as bad as it gets for officiating.
- The St. Louis Rams should also be embarrassed tonight. It seems to me like they came to play the Seattle Golden Tate’s, not the Seahawks. They spent so much time trying to wind Tate up for his silly taunting penalty from week eight — and what impact did it have? Absolutely none. You can’t let a player get into your head like that.
- Aside from their obsession with Tate, the Rams looked like a completely disorganised bunch who came for a scrap, not to win a game of football. It seemed like they were getting flagged on every play. They out-flagged the Seahawks — the flaggiest team in the NFL. Rivalries are great. But you have to play your game, not the opponent. I’d be frustrated as hell if I were a Rams fan tonight.
- Losing Luke Willson to a high ankle sprain is a major blow. This will have an impact — and they might need to bring in another tight end.
- Nothing about this game made me change my mind on what I’m starting to believe is Seattle’s greatest need — a big bodied receiver. Simply put — it’s a must. Even if Percy Harvin makes a full recovery and they re-sign Tate, they need a big guy in there.
- Kudos to Ricardo Lockette for two of the best special teams tackles you’ll ever see.
We know the Seahawks will definitely face one of Green Bay (#4), San Francisco (#5) or New Orleans (#6) in the divisional round. Three interesting story lines there. A ‘Fail Mary’ rematch, another NFC West showdown or the Saints still looking for Beastquake revenge.
If this team plays defense the way it did today, they have a great shot against anybody at home. If they run the ball well, they have a great chance. If Russell Wilson and the passing game make the necessary improvements, they’re going to be rock solid.
This is a fantastic opportunity for Seattle. Go take it.