This is a team that keeps making statements.
Despite a lot of positive media coverage this week, the often trotted out ‘can’t win on the road’ excuse reared its ugly head again. A long 29-years of waiting for a road playoff victory will do that.
Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez might win a playoff game for Atlanta next week. But it won’t be the fact Seattle is playing on the road that is the problem. This was the teams third straight road victory and but for a crazy opening, it was about as comprehensive as anyone could’ve hoped for. The Seahawks can win away from the Pacific North West.
Washington came out flying and threatened to show up a number of lingering issues for the Seahawks. The team failed to generate any meaningful pass rush early on while again sticking with four rushers. Robert Griffin III had an age to throw the ball and he made it count with two quick scores. Alfred Morris also found early running room. The Redskins were playing Seattle’s game against them. They were physical, they were relentless and they executed with confidence.
It brought back memories of Seattle’s last playoff game – a pasting in Chicago. And the previous road game in the post-season against Green Bay. Surely this wasn’t going to be another beat down? Not this time — not this team?
Had you said at the time that Washington’s 14th point would be their last, nobody would’ve believed you. We can talk about the play of Russell Wilson, the defense or Marshawn Lynch. You don’t often come from 14-points down on the road in the playoffs. For a young team to show that level of composure when they were up against it is quite something. The Seahawks dominated from the second quarter onwards and fully deserve to reach the Divisional round of the playoffs.
There are some issues I want to talk about…
The offense had several missed opportunities. Anthony McCoy stalled a promising drive with a bad drop, Lynch had a momentum-destroying fumble in the red zone that was crying out to be a deciding factor. The play calling mixed between genius and puzzling. The zone read jumped in and out with a little too much frequency despite it’s relative success. I didn’t much care for a third down call at 13-14 that included one receiver (Doug Baldwin) on the field, almost inviting the Redskins to blitz (which they do well). Wilson was sacked on the play.
There were several things Washington did that were very predictable, but still had success with. Is this just execution and you take your lumps, or could certain early problems have been avoided? Even an untrained eye like mine could see how frequently they brought the secondary blitz against Dallas last week, yet the Seahawks struggled to adjust to it at any point today.
The pass rush is still a major concern – even more so if Chris Clemons is out for the Atlanta game. PFT is reporting it could be an ACL injury. The Seahawks cannot press a quarterback with four rushers. We see it every week. I’m not entirely sure how you solve this issue during the playoffs. It’s clearly a focal point of Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley’s scheme. It might be something they have to live with for now until improvements can be made in the post-season. But if they can’t get pressure on Matt Ryan next week, it’ll be more of an issue than it was today against an injured Robert Griffin III.
Funnily enough the one player who is most susceptible to criticism due to a lack of pass rush – Alan Branch – had possibly his best game of the season today. He was amped up and had a couple of key plays in the backfield, including a sack. Even so, the defensive line in general was predictable against the pass. Late in the game Carroll and Bradley clearly felt confident enough to attack Kirk Cousins and brought all-out blitzes with major success. I don’t think you can do this from the start, but there’s a duty to be a little more creative next week especially if Clemons can’t go.
One suggestion is to perhaps re-consider adding Ray Edwards this week. He’ll need no motivation against his old team and is probably the best free agent on the market who fits the scheme. Even if Bruce Irvin starts – and he played extremely well after replacing Clemons – they’ll need another pass rusher. For those not aware, Edwards was cut by the Falcons earlier this year despite signing a big contract in Atlanta after leaving the Vikings. Unless he really failed to impress during a recent work-out in Seattle, I’m not sure what they’d have to lose?
It’s hard to be too critical of the defense on a night when they made key adjustments early and dominated after the first quarter. Carroll and Bradley deserve a lot of props. They combated the early problems and came out swinging. This was a good night for Bradley, who could interview with the Eagles in the next day or two for the vacant Head Coaches position in Philadelphia.
On the whole the offensive line did a good job against Jim Haslett’s creative scheme. J.R. Sweezy had a much better game and it probably helped having John Moffitt in for a few series. Zach Miller had a terrific night making clutch plays and looked every bit an elite tight end. He was probably the MVP for Seattle. He sprung Lynch for the go-ahead touchdown with a crunching block before catching the two-point conversion. On the same drive he had a catch and run for a key third down. This was Miller’s best day for the Seahawks.
You cannot give Russell Wilson enough credit for winning his first road playoff game. He wasn’t perfect – he missed some throws and had one or two questionable decisions. Yet he’s already playing like a veteran and is a defining playmaker. At times he looked like Wisconsin-Wilson again, which is no bad thing. The game is really slowing down for him with every passing week, no doubt due to his extreme preparation and growing experience.
The Redskins came into the game with the #5 rushing defense. The Seahawks ran for 224 yards on the ground. That’s impressive.
Our wishes go out to Robert Griffin III, who played hurt throughout and appeared to suffer a further nasty injury to his right knee. Serious questions have to be asked about the way Mike Shanahan has dealt with his star quarterback. The Redskins traded three first round picks for Griffin, yet appeared to be gambling with that investment all night. He clearly wasn’t anywhere close to 100%, yet he was still running zone plays and rushing basically on one leg. When he twisted awkwardly trying to recover a botched snap, it was evident just how weak his knee was. It doesn’t matter how much a player wants to play sometimes, you have to be above that. The coaches should know better in that situation. You drafted Kirk Cousins for this exact situation.
Make no mistake, the Falcons will be a far superior test. They’ll milk the clock, use their playmakers and play a bend-but-don’t-break defense. It might be their year after several playoff disappointments. However, the Seahawks can go their with nothing to lose. They’re playing the NFC’s #1 seed on the road in a game that starts at 10:00am PST. The win tonight qualifies the season as a major step forward and it legitimises the franchise. Losing in Atlanta won’t change that. But I doubt anyone is contemplating a losing scenario right now.
Bring on the Falcons.
Draft order update
The Seahawks will now pick no lower than #25 overall in the 2013 draft. This was also a good night for the St. Louis Rams as they own Washington’s first round pick. They will pick twice in the second half of the draft as things stand with the #16 and #22 overall picks. Here is the updated draft order for picks 1-24:
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Detroit Lions
6. Cleveland Browns
7. Arizona Cardinals
8. Buffalo Bills
9. New York Jets
10. Tennessee Titans
11. San Diego Chargers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Carolina Panthers
15. New Orleans Saints
16. St. Louis Rams
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Dallas Cowboys
19. New York Giants
20. Chicago Bears
21. Cincinnati Bengals
22. St. Louis Rams
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Indianapolis Colts
Aaron Murray returning to Georgia
The Bulldogs quarterback tweeted out today that he won’t be turning pro. Considering the way the SEC Championship game finished, this isn’t a big surprise. He’ll be playing on a Georgia team without some serious defensive talent. Alec Ogletree, Jarvis Jones, Bacarri Rambo, Jonathan Jenkins and others are all heading for the NFL. Even so, he doesn’t have the physical tools to warrant early round consideration. Why not spend another year chasing glory in the SEC?
Blessed to be the QB for the Dawgs, not ready to leave just yet. Time to get back to work & help lead this team to a championship #GoDawgs
— Aaron Murray (@aaronmurray11) January 7, 2013
What to expect this week…
Lots and lots and lots and lots of mock drafts projecting Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib to Buffalo in round one. Because, as you know, as soon as a college coach heads for the pro’s, he spends a top ten pick on his old quarterback who really isn’t worth much more than a mid-round grade. Or maybe not.