There’s an old cliche in English football.
“Good teams know how to win ugly”.
I’m not sure how often it’s used across the Atlantic, but it fits tonight.
This wasn’t a classic Seahawks performance. The running game never got going. The defense didn’t pressure Cam Newton enough. There were costly penalties and missed tackles.
And the end product is a big fat W.
In other words, we’ll take it.
Do not underestimate how difficult it was to win this game. Carolina — particularly Cam Newton and the defense — played well. It was a 10am start on the road. It was an out of division opponent at the opposite end of America.
This is the kind of game Seattle usually loses.
Not any more, it seems.
I had some issues with the game plan early on. Seattle’s first play was a five yard run by Marshawn Lynch, followed by two long developing pass plays (both incomplete, one nearly a turnover). On the subsequent drives, Wilson seemed to be throwing a lot. And when I say throwing, I actually mean running for his life.
Establishing the run early seemed to be a solid plan, even if it meant risking an early 3rd and long. Eventually they did turn to the run, but it couldn’t find any momentum. The first half ended well (before the fumble by Wilson) but overall it was a frustrating start.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but I would’ve liked to see some early run calls leading to play action. It could’ve taken some of the sting out of the pass rush and set the tone. Instead Carolina tee’d off on Seattle’s offensive line and did a good job stuffing the middle when the Seahawks did hand the ball off.
But hey, we’re all great play callers sat on a sofa watching the game. And I’m not one for criticising Darrell Bevell or the offensive staff. I think Bevell is a superb coordinator who receives a lot of undeserved criticism. It was probably a consensus game plan anyway, led by Pete Carroll.
When it clicked Seattle’s passing game looked crisp and explosive. Doug Baldwin was a sensation. His catch on the far sideline from a Wilson ‘hit and hope’ was a genuine momentum changer. He seemed to make numerous third down conversions. This was undoubtedly his finest hour as a Seahawk.
The other receivers chipped in too. Jermaine Kearse made the game winning catch, while Golden Tate and Sidney Rice both contributed. It was a shame not see more of Stephen Williams — the Seahawks tried very little downfield. His one opportunity was a drop, although Wilson slightly overthrew on the pass despite clear separation.
I wasn’t a big fan of the short stuff they tried to force. They did this a bit last year with Golden Tate, but I suspect this is a Percy wrinkle. But Percy isn’t here, yet. So do we need it?
Luke Willson was a non-factor and made a rookie gaffe for a penalty early on. They need him to grow — and learn — quickly.
Last year Seattle fielded the #1 scoring defense and today they conceded just seven points.
After all, Cam Newton was calm and composed and made some plays. The Panthers running game wasn’t as terrible as it has been recently. And bad penalties (eg Michael Bennett) could’ve been costly.
There was no consistent pass rush, just occasional splash plays (a feature of this defense). The linebacker play wasn’t quite as sharp as we’ve come to expect. Richard Sherman dropped a relatively easy interception and Steve Smith didn’t have the nightmare he witnessed against Seattle last season.
And yet somehow, Carolina had just seven points to show for their efforts.
I put it down to the mental toughness of the Seahawks core group on defense. They created a couple of big turnovers and just stayed in there. They kept believing. That’s not to say the lack of pass rush won’t come back to bite down the line, but for now this unit should be credited. Let’s not forget, they were minus Clemons, Browner, Avril and Irvin.
There were a few things that bothered me…
– 109 yards on 9 penalties. This is a major problem.
– Why no Christine Michael? Robert Turbin might be better as a catcher and blocker, but when he had the ball today he just lacked any kind of spark. Michael is all spark. Let’s use him.
– The big issue last year (interior pass rush) is still a big issue. There’s zero improvement on this evidence. And if this area doesn’t improve, Seattle has to get this sorted. If you want the kind of consistent pressure Carolina showed today, you need an inside rush. I spent the entire half time break dreaming of Star Lotulelei in navy blue.
– Seattle’s pass rush depends on role players. I don’t mind that, but can’t help but feel a more conventional four man front might create more consistent pressure with orthodox edge rushers and a decent interior tackle. I’m watching St. Louis right now, and it’s how they roll.
Other NFL week one notes:
— Christian Ponder today vs Detroit: four turnovers. Yuck. And Matt Cassell is the alternative. Double yuck. The Vikings should look for a quarterback next off-season.
— What a rough start for Gus Bradley. The Jaguars did a decent job starting the long rebuild this off-season, but they’re three or four years of good drafting away from contention. Lets hope Bradley gets the time.
— The Pittsburgh Steelers look like a mess. I gave too much credit to Brandon Weeden. The Bengals aren’t as good as everyone thinks (well, A.J. green is) and Baltimore were blown away by Peyton. The AFC North doesn’t look quite so intimidating these days.
— Anyone else genuinely disappointed for Buffalo and E.J. Manuel?
— Tyrann Mathieu might be the most Seahawky player not playing for the Seahawks. His turnover on Jared Cook was pure Seattle.