So here's a summary of my emotional state during the first quarter or so of the game: Wow guys Russell Wilson throws every ball so high and no one can catch it and he overthrew Golden Tate on what would've been a touchdown and Matt Flynn should start and here comes 7-9 again wow life sucks.
Then the second half came, Gus Bradley and D-Bevs made their famous halftime adjustments, and I was more like: ok Wilson is looking better and is throwing the ball lower and Marshawn Lynch is running great and OH MY DID YOU SEE THAT BLOCK BY GOLDEN TATE WOW I THINK THAT LINEBACKER SHOULD JUST QUIT FOOTBALL WOW.
I think many of us can relate to that emotional turmoil. I find it similar to what happened against the Chicago Bears last year. If you recall, Seattle was able to force turnovers early, but had to settle for field goals after getting great field position. Lapses in defense also lead to players scoring quickly. Then, in the second half, the offense clicked, Marshawn went wild, and clock killing drives (and Red Bryant's pick six) iced the game.
A few key parts of this winning formula are what I would call "sustainable" and some that you can't rely on every game. I'll discuss both, and we'll see if we can squeeze every positive thing out of this game without getting too overzealous. Sound good? Cool.
So, the way I see it, Seattle won this game for a few reasons:
1. The turnover ratio. Obviously, the fumble on the opening kickoff led to three points, the blocked punt gave us a nice cushion, and Brandon Browner's pick... didn't really do anything. I'd call this partly sustainable. I genuinely believe you can rely on this defense to either get a pick in the secondary or a forced fumble from the linemen/linebackers every single game. Pete Carroll's philosophy, Gus Bradley's coaching, and defensive talent should make this a relatively safe promise. I would argue that special teams turnovers are not sustainable, simply due to the fact that they are rare (hence why we only block about one punt every year). You never know when a returner on a kick or punt is going to fumble, so I wouldn't bank on that sustainability either. But nevertheless, turnovers will come to this team most of the remaining games, if not all of them.
That leaves it to Wilson and the offense to not give it back. They've done a fantastic job of this so far, and the only turnover has come from a Wilson hail-mary pass to end the half. It wasn't a mistake by any means. This is exactly what the team wants. Smart QB play which emphasizes the mantra "it's all about the ball."
Having said all that, I'd argue that given our defense, and Russell Wilson's propensity to not repeat mistakes, like ever, that this positive turnover ratio should be sustainable about 70 % of the time.
2. Marshawn Lynch's running. Beast mode was back today. It took him a while to get going, but once the offense actually had an opportunity to get on the field, Marshawn had some fantastic second effort runs that turned into huge gains. He helped break the will of the Cowboy's defense. After two games, Lynch is the number four leading rusher in the NFL. Thankfully, it appears that a big contract has not effected Lynch's physical style of play.
I'm gonna say this is sustainable. The only injuries that plagues Lynch are erratic back spasms, but other than that, the big bruising back has been able to keep his body healthy while taking a large amount of physical abuse. Therefore, I'll say that this trend is 90% sustainable, especially since the offensive line has shown that it has the propensity to improve as the year goes on.
3. Winning the time of possession. After not seeing the ball much at all in the first quarter, the Seahawks went to dominate TOP throughout the remainder of the game, ending with close to a ten minute lead overall. This is something Pete Carroll has stressed the of importance of this statistic multiple times, and for good reason. Quite simply, when the offense is on the field, killing clock with long drives, the defense is resting. When the defense is resting, Tony Romo gets shut down. When Tony Romo gets shut down, the Seahawks win. So switch to DirecTV. Wait, that isn't right.
Anyway, remember that touchdown drive where Jason Witten annihilated the Seahawks' zone scheme by himself, converting what seemed like every single third down? Well I attribute that to a couple things. One: The Seahawks linebackers aren't that good yet at playing zone defense, and big tight ends (or Larry Fitzgerald) simply murder them up the seam and over the middle. Two: a tired defense can't react to those quick third down throws. So if we get rid of the tired defense, then we have a better chance of stopping 3rd and 13 conversions from happening (that one still pisses me off to no end).
Ultimately, given Seattle's focus on running the ball and utilizing the short passing game, winning time of possession with Russell Wilson at the helm is an achievable goal. He knows how to manage an offense and kill some clock (sometimes he kills a little too much clock and then the Seahawks lose five yards). Henceforth (does anyone ever use the word henceforth), I conclude that winning time of possession ought to be sustained in about 60% of the Seahawks' quarters.
4. Stuff the other team does (and stuff the officials do). Now I'll be candid here, we got very lucky on a few Jason Witten drops. Cowboys fans are quite angry about those, but they seem to forget that the guy pretty much kept them in the game by himself as well. We as a team can't rely on a team to miscue. When December rolls around and teams are clicking, the Patriots aren't going to miscue. The Packers aren't going to miscue (Well, hopefully they miscue on Monday, but that's irrelevant). Seattle needs to be a well-oiled machine that can score without any aid from turnovers or miscues. That will truly mark them as an elite offense and team. Luckily, I think we all witnessed that against the Cowboys when Wilson led drives of 88 and 90 yards, both for touchdowns.
Speaking of those drives, the officials gave Seattle multiple calls today. The unnecessary roughness call on Wilson was absurd. We got a lot of help in the PI department as well. Granted, Demarcus Ware was lined up offside half the time, and the Cowgirls' offensive line held Alan Branch like nobody's business. But whether with replacement refs or real refs, bad calls and missed calls will occur. In order to consistently win, Seattle must outplay any potential bad calls. We must not put ourselves at the mercy of those zebra bastards.
So, for the large part, this isn't really anything Seattle can affect too greatly. We really just need to play our game, without relying on Luck. I will say one thing though: those Jason Witten and Dez Bryant drops later in the game weren't just mental lapses. Those guys heard footsteps. I'm telling you, when Kam Chancellor drills Witten the second after he catches the ball, Witten doesn't forget that pain. The next time a short pass comes his way and he knows contact is coming, his mind is focused on the pain, not the ball. And we saw that today. It was visibly evident that our hard hitters affected the Cowboys' receivers. And that, my friends, is Seattle's new defensive identity. That identity has a tangible impact on the game, and is the reason why teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh have sustained success over the years. We hit hard, we talk trash, and we play physical in every aspect of the game. I love it.
So, for the sake of crediting our physical team, I'm gonna give this a 10% sustainability rate.
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