Reflecting on the Denver game, CFB week four thoughts

September 24th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Are the Seahawks weaker than last year?

That was the question debated on ‘First Take’ this week. The answer, resoundingly, is ‘no’.

Pete Carroll made quite a bold statement on the Brock & Salk show on Monday. He claimed the Seahawks had done a better job against Denver’s offense compared to the Super Bowl rout back in February. The 43-8 and 26-20 scorelines suggest otherwise.

Having watched Sunday’s game for a second time today, the score doesn’t matter.

He’s right.

The Super Bowl was an avalanche. Seattle got momentum early with the safety, forced a couple of big turnovers (including a pick six) and scored on a kick return to start the second half. It was a very opportunistic performance. They took their chances.

Denver still put up stats — Demaryius Thomas had a Super Bowl record for receptions. Peyton Manning threatened a couple of times before Seattle took the ball away. On the night everything that could go wrong for Denver did go wrong. They were helpless.

On Sunday, Seattle completely shut down the Broncos. They didn’t rely on huge momentum-changing turnovers. They didn’t need a kick return for a touchdown. They simply did to Manning and his record-breaking offense what they’ve done to so many lesser teams in the last couple of seasons.

They made them look bad.

The run game was totally ineffective. Denver tried desperately to establish it early and were forced to become one-dimensional. The screen game — so integral to their system — was never allowed to prosper. They didn’t attempt any downfield throws and kept everything short. Emmanuel Sanders had some success because hey — you can’t cover everyone brilliantly and he’s the only one on that offense with the speed to compete with Seattle’s defense. He played well. Nobody else did. Not Demaryius Thomas. Not Julius Thomas. Not Wes Welker. Not Montee Ball.

As the game headed to the fourth quarter, this was a beat-down. Another one. A more comprehensive destruction of Denver’s much vaunted offense. They had no answer. Manning sat sweating on the sideline with a look on his face that screamed, “this team has our number”. On another day Seattle would’ve added a couple more scores and romped to the kind of home win they had in week one.

They were totally responsible for what happened in the fourth quarter — turning a coast into a near crumble. The missed a field goal, conceded an avoidable safety and gave up a careless interception. Then to cap things off — an 80-yard, 40-odd second, eight-point drive where the Broncos used the same concept multiple times.

Kudos to Denver — this time they were the opportunistic team. Manning still had to make those throws. The two-point conversion was a brilliant piece of scheming and execution. The shovel pass for the first touchdown was equally good. Aqib Talib breaking off his route to deflect Russell Wilson’s pass was another excellent play.

All of this was avoidable though. Seattle almost gave the game away — before finally snatching it back.

None of this should diminish the performance of Seattle’s defense for three quarters of smothering, dominant football. This was possibly their most accomplished performance in the Carroll-era.

A 2-1 record might look only ‘Okay-ish’ for a team carrying so many expectations. In reality they played incredibly well against Manning and the Broncos, handled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and were beaten, just, in 120-degree heat in San Diego at the hands of Philip Rivers at his very best.

Seattle lost three games last year. In none of those defeats did they face an opponent like Rivers playing at such a high level. They almost lost other games too — including against a Kellen Clemens led St. Louis and against hopeless Tampa Bay fielding a rookie QB.

In the video above it’s pointed out that Seattle has conceded a lot more points in their first three games this year compared to 2013. This year they’ve faced Rodgers, Rivers and Manning in weeks 1-3. Last year they faced Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Chad Henne.

That information wasn’t disclosed in the take-making process.

Week four college football notes

— I posted the video earlier in the week, but I was very impressed with Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson) against Florida State and left tackle Cameron Erving. Seattle has the smallest roster in the NFL but they’ve got a ton of speed. Beasley plays in the 235lbs range but he has fantastic get off, terrific balance to lean round the edge and explode to the quarterback. He’s prepared to use his hands (vital) and will mix it up. Yes — he will get blocked out of plays. Yes — he will struggle in run defense. As a pure pass rusher though he is exceptional. He’s a fighter. He plays with the required attitude. In his last 23 games he has 25 sacks. I’m convinced he’ll go a lot earlier than people think next year, especially if he tests well at the combine.

— Markus Golden didn’t feature in Missouri’s costly defeat to Indiana. He reportedly has a hamstring issue — but it’s not clear how long he’ll be absent. The Tigers clearly need him alongside prolific team-mate Shane Ray.

— We highlighted Kevin White (WR, West Virginia) in week one after he put up gaudy numbers against Alabama. This guy is legit and worth monitoring. He’s tall (6-2/6-3) with deep speed and excellent control. He high points the football well and he’s competitive. In the past he suffered with confidence issues but there’s no sign of that in 2014. Against Oklahoma he posted a 10-catch stat-line for 173 yards and a touchdown. He looks a bit like Bruce Irvin with the WVU jersey, dreads and #11. Only Amari Cooper has more yards in the NCAA after week four.

— Landon Collins (S, Alabama) had his best game in college against Florida on Saturday. At times he’s looked a bit pedestrian — perhaps more suited as an undersized linebacker without the range at safety. Yet against the Gators he was all over the field — breaking up plays, making tackles at the LOS and grabbing a nice interception. On this performance he has the skills to be effective at the next level. He’s got to keep it up though. It looks like another weak group of safety’s this year.

— Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) already has more touchdowns than last season and it won’t be long before he has more yards too. Cooper was sensational as a true freshman — flashing natural catching ability, route running skills and the ability to get open. Arguably he was the best receiver in the SEC in 2012. Last year was a step back. I’ve seen arguments to suggest he wasn’t 100% — but he still made to many mental errors. Alabama are throwing a ton right now and Cooper is putting in a Biletnikoff winning year. He had ten catches against Florida for 201 yards and three touchdowns — you can see the tape below. He’ll need stats and technical quality to make up for a lack of elite size/speed.

— Austin Hill (WR, Arizona) has injury issues but is incredibly talented. On Saturday he had his first big performance in a while — helping the Wildcats beat California with 127 yards and two scores, including the game-winner. A serious injury history will hold him back, but he can make it in the NFL.

18 Responses to “Reflecting on the Denver game, CFB week four thoughts”

  1. Mark says:

    Quite right Rob. I see a lot of articles detailing Denver’s mistakes, but none mention the serious 4th quarter problems Seattle had. There’s also no mention of the injured secondary players Seattle is missing. I feel good about these types of games as mistakes can be corrected. As much as has been said about Wilson’s OT drive, it isn’t enough. That was absolutely one of the best offensive series you’ll see in football.

    PS On behalf of America, I’d like to apologize for sending Oakland and Miami to play in England this weekend.

  2. cha says:

    It seems almost a pity that this game was only in week 3. If this was the Super Bowl instead of the 43-8 blowout, it’d probably be hailed as an all time classic with lots of great angles. Stifling Seahawk defense. Peyton mounting a furiously improbable comeback. RW overcoming a late pick to will his team down the field to victory.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the blowout but this one is a keeper. Downloaded it on iTunes and it’s going to stay in the library for a long time. 🙂

  3. Arias says:

    Couple things of note is that Skip Bayless is all aboard the seahawks bandwagon, having predicted the hawks to finish 15-1 in the regular season and to win the Super Bowl. The only loss he predicted was against San Diego, which turned out to be accurate.

    Just after the clip provided above they debated Luck v Wilson because of what Chris Harris said about Wilson being better via his twitter. Stephen A took major umbrage saying the question was preposterous and kept repeating the wrongheaded claim that Seattle had a superior offensive line compared to Indy. I was disappointed that Skip didn’t call him out on that when Seattle had a bottom 5 offensive line last year, but I guess it’s to be expected. Not saying Indy’s line was anything to write home about, but it’s ridiculous to say Seattle’s offensive line has been a factor in Wilson’s superior numbers. He then went on about Seattle’s receivers “Harvin, Baldwin, Kearse, those boys can PLAY” … when Harvin played in all of 3 games last year.

    What a tool.

    • Mark says:

      And Brady is always lauded for his performance with bad receivers. Until the success last year what journalist could name the starting WRs for the Seahawks. How many could name them outside Harvin right now?

  4. Vin says:

    I wouldnt call this year’s Seahawks team ‘weaker,’ more like well rounded. Last year, the D was obviously the strength, whereas this year there will be games where O puts up a bunch of points allowing the D to attack, and other games where the D will have to hold the line. I do find it annoying when these reproters, etc make comments such as “Hawks allowed XX points last year, but this year theyve allowed YY points” without putting it in context. The first 3 opponents last year were not the offensive juggernauts that Denver, GB & SD are. I like Skip’s optimism, 15-1. When I first saw this year’s schedule, I predicted 11-5, and Im sticking with that. There are some teams now that I thought might be walkovers and now will be tough, and vice versa. I’d say the next 7 games are crucial, because the back half of the schedule is brutal.

    • UKhawk says:

      I like how the Hawks have few weaknesses and are so balanced they can adjust and take advantage of other teams weaknesses. This is huge in a party driven league

      • Kelly Orr says:

        I do see some differences in this team this year from last years. People are saying the defensive line is getting no pressure this year. I am not seeing that at all. I think the defensive line is playing much better than it was at this time last year. I think Marsh will come on strong at the end of the season. He had a great play on a delayed screen pass in that Denver game. The offensive line looks much better run blocking. But as far as pass blocking i feel Sweezy has stepped up his game and I feel Britt will prove to be a huge upgrade over Giacomini and is holding his own very well in my eyes with who he has had to go against. What is concerning me with the offensive line is the play of Okung. I would have to say he has been our worst offensive lineman this year. To me the defensive line is getting a good pass rush i just feel the secondary and LBs are playing a bit inconsistently beside Wagner, Thomas, and Sherman. Say that this team is only going to get better and stronger as the year progresses. I would like to see a bit more success with the intermediate passing game from the offense but i think that will come with time.

  5. MarkinSeattle says:

    Some people tend to forget that the defense at the end of the year was different than the defense at the start of the year. At the beginning of the year, we had a stout run defense, and a strong pass defense but mediocre pass rush. As the season wore on, we went through a stretch with mediocre to bad run defense, while the pass rush continued to improve.

    I think that for two reasons, the defense will improve as the season goes on. First, we have a lot of young backup guys who should improve as they play more through the year. Second, our depth will keep all of our players not only fresh, but hopefully fairly healthy. Which is why I think the defense really stepped up at the end of last year, our guys were fresh and the opposing players were walking wounded.

    We will go through times where we have to deal with injuries, such as now at CB. That will have an impact on how well the defense performs. But barring major ligament tears or other surgery requiring injuries, PC’s approach seems to be to make sure that everyone is fully healthy before returning so that we have them for the playoffs.

    As for opposing offenses, I think that there is little doubt that we have played three of the top 10 QB’s in the NFL, of which two are among the top 5 at the position. Given that performance, I think that we have performed quite well.

    I do have a couple of concerns about the offense. My expectation was that they would perform better than they have. I sometimes get the impression that Bevell is too focused on getting the ball to Harvin, and that we aren’t looking deep enough or running the ball enough. Granted, some of that relates to the pass rushers that we have faced and getting our OL up to speed, as cohesiveness and playing time has a big impact on their performance.

    I hadn’t really made a prediction for the Hawks prior to the season. If you pinned me down right now, given the current performance of the Niners, Cardinals, and Rams, I would say that 13-3 is very doable. But I could also see 12-4 or 14-2.

    • Vin says:

      I, too, have a bit of concern with the Hawks Offense. I understand that every defense will be attacked differently, but there are some plays where I wonder why Bevell calls them. My biggest beef is with what appears to be these ‘long developing plays’ where it just seems like Wilson holds on to the ball for an eternity either A) waiting for the receiver to run the route and/or B) moving on to his 2nd/3rd options. While its great that Wilson has his escape artist tactics, I still wish that they’d run more quick passing plays, slant ins, etc, like what they did in the early part of the SB, or some of the Percy crossing routes that were run during OT. Obviously theres stuff Im not seeing on the screen which plays into the decision making, but it would be nice not having to yell at RW to ‘throw the ball!!!’ I dont know why but I just feel like there are times where Bevell realizes he’s got all these weapons and is suddenly an Offensive genius…..and then there are plays where Bryan Walters is on the field for 3 straight plays. Go Hawks

      • Arias says:

        Wilson interestingly does have the highest average time to pass attempt in the league at 2.81 seconds.

        On pass attempts where he throws in less than 2.5 seconds his QB rating and completion percentage actually goes up. He sits with a 108.9 QB rating and 69% completion percentage right now, yet it jumps to 130.4 QR and 77.6% when throwing under 2.5 seconds. When throwing with 2.6 seconds and above it plummets to an 81.1 QR and 57.9%.

        Of his 105 total drop backs, 49 or 46.7% of them have been passes made in less than 2.5 seconds, and 56 or 53.3% have been 2.6 seconds and above.

        So it’s pretty evenly split as to how long he holds the ball. I’m assuming the higher completion percentage in the throws under 2.5 stem from the quick passing plays you’re talking about.

        Still though, I think part of the purpose of those 2.6+ dropbacks is that if he’s going to progress as a signal caller he’s got to learn to stand strong and climb the pocket while making his reads, check down his progressions if he needs to, before getting his pass off. Once he gets more comfortable trusting his receivers and anticipating their breaks then I expect his average time to pass attempt to drop dramatically. I don’t get the sense he’s there yet.

        Last year we saw him improvise a lot, which is one of his greatest strengths, but it seems to me at least in the preseason that the plan was to have Wilson become comfortable in using the whole field and maturing as a thrower from the pocket. He seemed to do that to great effect in those preseason games that I haven’t seen him replicate yet in the regular season though I do blame shoddy line play too.

    • cha says:

      Rewatching the OT it really stood out to me that Bevell/the Hawks have gotten away from the RW as a ‘read option’ weapon…and by that I mean any play where he runs with the ball. The OT session, the Hawks moved the ball so decisively and it just kept the defense so off-balance I think they should plan a series or two (especially earlier in the game) with a couple of those plays just to give the defenses a third wrinkle to think about.

      1-The Percy sweep/fake sweep, 2-the Marshawn run, and 3-the RW scramble/run just puts too much pressure on a defense.

      They used it quite a bit at the end of 2012 if memory serves and those were the games where the Hawks were absolutely steamrolling opponents.

      I’m not advocating RW running 15 times a game, just enough to keep things off-balance and frustrate the defense with a key third down conversion when they’ve got all the receivers covered.

      • Vin says:

        I think my favorite playcall in the game is where Percy runs towards RW for a jet sweep, and then RW fakes a pass to Percy….only to throw a screen pass to Lynch for a 15-20 yards. That’s when we’re at our best. And I love seeing Carp and Sweezy absolutely annihilate people. I hope the line stays healthy all season so Lynch can eclipse 1200 yds at a minimum. Lynch is playing at a high level at the moment.

      • Steeeve says:

        I’ve been feeling the same way for three games — we’ve been doing this triple-option stuff but RW wasn’t ever calling his own number and no one was biting on his misdirection.

        In San Diego the play with the fly sweep late that we lost 6-7 yards, RW had nearly an entire 1/3 of unblocked field he could have run in if he’d kept it.

        The only good thing about RW not keeping the ball for three games was that it surprised the heck out of Denver when we needed it to.

  6. AKHawk32 says:

    I believe that Hauschka’s “miss” has been credited as a blocked FG to Terrance Knighton.

  7. jrockrichards says:

    Awesome write up Rob, as always. I cannot wait to see how this offense matures this season. We are going to have some awesome games this year!

    If that one big game comes from Rivers and company in week 3, I’m happy with that. Much better than getting torched in the playoffs when it’s do or die time.

    My only gripe this weekend was the drop off in TE production. I was really looking forward to seeing what Willson and Miller could do against that “improved” defense.

  8. Turp says:

    I, too, hated the Bryan Walters quarter. Not the guy I want out there when we can put the game away. P-Rich would be better on the routes Walters was running at anyway…