So, yeah, that game was incredible. The team came away with a W. Whomever predicted the Seahawks would beat the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots, but lose to the Rams and Cardinals, I really hope you placed bets in Vegas.
But when looking at the game objectively, we must evaluate what needs work, because the scary truth of the matter is that one of the best teams in the league is waiting for us (along with their weapon-toting fans). Sunday's game wasn't all sunshine and daisies. In fact, aside from the first quarter and last five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Seahawks looked incredibly outmatched in multiple facets.
Let us then examine some aspects of football that range from fundamental skills to gameplanning, all of which will certainly be necessary for this week's matchup.
1. Remember to Wrap Up, Boys
Many of you may of noticed this throughout the day, but Earl Thomas did not have his best game. Despite his clutch interception in the endzone, Thomas struggled in multiple areas. He dropped what would've surely been a pick-6 on the Patriots' second touchdown drive (that's a 14 point swing right there, ladies and gentlemen). In addition, Thomas was the one who got caught playing too close to the line of scrimmage on Wes Welker's 46-yard TD. Thomas simply did not look like the elite defender we all know him to be.
More important than either of those mental lapses, however, was the fact that Earl routinely went for the kill-shot on receivers, and subsequently missed the tackle, allowing first down yardage. This has been an issue that has plagued Thomas throughout his young career. He has improved on it over time, but sure tackling is huge for any defense worth its stuff. These are third down conversions that are being allowed due to lack of proper tackling form. It's not just Earl, either. The whole defensive backfield struggles with arm-tackling, with Browner and Thomas being the most suspect.
Coming up against a brutally physical 49er squad, arm-tackles will be useless. Vernon Davis and Frank Gore will make sure of that. Therefore, the coaches ought to really hammer the point of solid fundamental tackling in the short week. It's one of the few things that the defense need to work on.
2. There's a Really Cool Thing Called the "Middle of the Field." Let's Attack It More.
Like many Seahawk fans, I've been a critic of the Darrell Bevell playcalling system this season. Even though Russell Wilson was "unleashed" more this game, the offense still lacked balance. As many pointed out, almost every pass was either a bomb or a short route. Better safety play from the opposing defenses will shut this down. In order for the offense to abuse a defense as good as the 49ers', Russell Wilson and the offense must throw deep in-routes, deep out-routes, and deep slants, all of which operate within the 12-20 yard range.
It's not like protection is an issue. Wilson has seen clean (enough) pockets for most of the year (the notable exception being the Arizona game), and will have time to wait for these routes to develop. This playcalling strategy will be most effective in complementing the short game. As soon as Wilson hits the receivers across the middle, the 49ers will be forced to play a 3-4 zone scheme. And you know what works against a 3-4 zone scheme? Every stick route and slant route imaginable. In order to pass short, you must first show that you can work the rest of the field.
3. Matchup Their Best Players With Our Best Players.
Their were certainly some questionable matchups that occurred this past Sunday. Lining up Jeron Johnson one-on-one with Aaron Hernandez is the most obvious, but the most unnoticed mismatch occurred the numerous times when Marcus Trufant was assigned to Wes Welker, at least in Nickel Zone. Welker and Brady promptly took advantage of this mismatch, scorching the defense for ample yardage.
Personally, I do not like the Seahawks' nickel zone whatsoever. If Kevin Kolb can tear it up, why would we expect Brady to do any worse? Trufant has shown some true (get it?) inconsistency in zone coverage and this is expected when one learns a new position, but the team hasn't really done anything to alleviate the growing pains. Using Man Coverage, when possible, as in tandem with the rush scheme while in the nickel package would be preferable, because it plays to Trufant's strengths: namely in tackling ability, footwork, and anticipation on routes.
In conclusion, we have three main things that the team ought to work on for this week's matchup. Here's to a victory on the road!