Losing this game might be a good thing.
The Seahawks were sloppy last night. That was Pete Carroll’s assessment and he’s right. The game was littered with penalties (more on that later), but that’s nothing new in pre-season. The most surprising thing was Seattle’ poor tackling and the ease in which Denver ran all over the backup defense.
The days of Seattle’s deep roster outclassing all and sundry in pre-season might be over. Last year we wondered if a team made up of the backups would be competitive in the NFL as a starting unit. Last night was an eye opener.
There needs to be some context — with so many players not even making the trip to Denver, many of the backups were acting as starters. On the offensive line J.R. Sweezy was the only established lineman to begin the game and he took a handful of snaps. None of the first choice linebackers started and neither did Marshawn Lynch.
Even so, this was uncharted territory for this roster. And as suggested in the first sentence — it might not be such a bad game to lose.
Seattle won the Super Bowl so comfortably it’d be easy to feel immortal. When the big contracts started getting dished out, that feeling was probably enhanced even more. This was only a pre-season game, it has no meaning. But a sluggish, ugly defeat to the same team pummelled in the Super Bowl might present a much needed sense of mortality.
This isn’t an unstoppable force capable of dominating due its mere presence on a football field. It’s no bad thing to remember that now before the real stuff begins.
Here are some other thoughts on last night:
— Brock Croyle started well against the run and was solid. He took a couple of poor angles — benefiting from one of the many dubious calls when Wes Welker was penalised for an illegal block in the back. That’ll improve with time on the field. He looks like a Seahawks LB — mobile with a nose for the ball. His tackling technique needs work however.
— Demaryius Thomas is set for a huge season. Peyton Manning went to his #1 target time and time again and Byron Maxwell couldn’t make a play. It’d be easy to criticise Maxwell, but he played the coverage well and there was no real game plan on defense. It’s clear though that teams are going to avoid Richard Sherman at all costs and this will give Maxwell multiple opportunities to sink or swim in a contract year.
— Denver came out like a team trying to make a statement. They converted some big third down plays and managed a long 14-play drive leading to a short rushing touchdown. Peyton Manning was largely untroubled by the pass rush, even on third and long. It was weird to see both Manning and Wilson stay out as long as they did in a week-one pre-season game. Two long winded, penalty inflated drives ensured that.
— Robert Turbin gives his all, but he’s just an average running back. He needs good blocking to make plays. And by plays, I mean even 6-7 yard gains. The run blocking was poor but when asked to stretch the play and bounce outside, Turbin couldn’t make an impact. He’s not a natural one-cut runner and appears laboured changing direction. Christine Michael didn’t have a flawless game by any means, but he offers so much more dynamism. If Michael with all that talent can’t displace Turbin as the premier backup this year, it’s time to start wondering if he’ll ever mature enough to be trusted. The talent differential is substantial.
— Paul Richardson looks in terrific shape. He’s added good weight and had a natural feel to his game. Just as we saw in college he eats up a cushion and gets open. They didn’t test him deep but we can all look forward to that. He also earned a ‘teaching moment’ from Kippy Brown when he dipped out of bounds one yard shy of a gettable first down. This was a promising start.
— Considering the starting offensive line was Bailey, Hauptmann, Jeanpierre, Sweezy and Britt — we should be grateful Russell Wilson ended the game without injury. The Broncos went after it on the pass rush and looked dangerous on every play. They put together a sound game plan to combat the run in the Super Bowl and were even more effective here. Wilson was jittery, which is kind of understandable. He didn’t put up major yards in pre-season last year and these types of situations aren’t designed for him. Every year Philip Rivers’ stat line looks great in pre-season because he throws 4-5 passes, completes the lot and runs off for a Gatorade. Wilson’s game as a mobile point guard isn’t suited to one accomplished pass-heavy drive and an energy drink.
— Tharold Simon had possibly the biggest bone-head penalty I’ve ever seen by a player trying to earn snaps. Striking a player on a dead-ball foul in pre-season is ludicrous and unacceptable. Kris Richard had a few words on the sideline — I suspect Pete Carroll had a few more after the game.
— The pass rush generally was weak. Seattle recorded only one sack on the night. Benson Mayowa was anonymous which is a concern, while the likes of Gregg Scruggs and O’Brien Schofield didn’t have much of an impact. It’s too early to be concerned about Mayowa, but he needs a good pre-season to live up to last years promise. Cassius Marsh was the most positive story here — recording that solitary sack. He did well to shed a block and explode into Brock Osweiler. He had a few good moments, but he also allowed the Broncos QB to escape his clutches for an 18-yard gain. Out of all the young pass rushers, he looks like the one most likely to get some decent snaps based on this evidence.
— Horace Miller and Jackson Jeffcoat weren’t impressive and it’s when they teamed up with Heath Farwell at linebacker that the run-D seemed to collapse. It was a difficult second half to watch on defense. Brock Croyle aside, not many of Seattle’s defensive hopefuls stepped up to the plate against a good offense.
— Terrelle Pryor was OK. He had a chance to lead a long scoring drive to win the game before a costly (and avoidable) interception. His mobility is an asset and he can make plays. It was surprising to see the difference in arm strength however between Pryor and Tarvaris Jackson. There was a noticeable difference in Jackson’s favour. I’m not sure there’s any way he steals the backup slot and it all comes down to whether Seattle can afford to carry three quarterbacks this year — something they’ve tended not to do in the Carroll era.
— I’m totally confused by what’s happening to pre-season. The ref’s threw a million flags in this game, calling pretty much anything to make a ‘point of emphasis’. And yet they visit the teams in training camp teaching, guess what? ‘Points of emphasis’. They charge people money to watch these games and they broadcast them on the TV. This isn’t an officials training session or seminar. It’s a football game. And it should be treated like a real football game. The refs made this intriguing contest unwatchable. Seattle gave up a first down on 1st and 35 because of a terrible pass interference call, but they can thank the refs for extending their first scoring drive (ending with a Christine Michael TD). It was a mess and if they’re going to go down this route — have teams visit each other in camp and play a scrimmage behind closed doors.