The Seahawks managed to do exactly what I thought they'd have to do to get a win this weekend - they made Joe Flacco put the the Ravens on his shoulders and beat them. He wasn't able to.
I brought this point up prior to the game and it played out as such - an inconsistent, and at times this season, rattled Flacco has resulted in a hit-or-miss offensive attack for the AFC-elite Ravens. That had led to previous losses to Tennessee, Jacksonville, and an awful first half against Arizona that exposed the potential weakness on an otherwise strong team. Of course, Flacco has looked elite at times as well - leading comebacks against the above mentioned Cardinals and last week against the mighty Steelers, so really I had hoped that quarterback wouldn't show up. He didn't.
Flacco ended up 29 of 52 for 255 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Looking past that though, you'll see that 35 of those 52 attempts targeted running backs or tight ends, with 24 of his 29 completions finding those players. In other words, the Ravens' receivers only caught five passes all game - 3 to Torrey Smith for 28 yards and 2 to Anquan Boldin for 22 yards. Flacco dumped off to his running backs or checked down to his tight ends time and time again.
Now, 255 yards isn't really something to sniff at, but those were hard-earned yards through the air on a meager 4.9 yards per attempt. The Seahawks secondary did a pretty decent job with 10 total passes defensed - three from Brandon Browner, two from Richard Sherman, one from Kam Chancellor and another from Earl Thomas (though that should have been an interception by Brandon Browner) and gave fits to the Ravens' offense all day.
As is becoming usual, Earl Thomas, Leroy Hill, and David Hawthorne led the way for the Seahawks with Thomas and Hill each recording eight tackles and Hawthorne racking up seven. Chris Clemons managed two quarterback hits and rookie Malcolm Smith got his first NFL sack with a big blitz that brought Flacco down on second down with 9:01 in the game.
The biggest defensive play of the game might have been a David Hawthorn interception though - as Flacco looked to pass to his right, K.J. Wright jumped up to deflect the pass right into Heater's hands, which he returned to the Ravens' 8 yard line. That play netted a Seahawks field goal.
The Seahawks had a pretty impressive offensive day against a very, very good defense. They didn't get into the endzone as much as anyone would like of course, but putting up 22 on the NFL's best defense isn't shameful. The Hawks finished with 327 total yards of offense, 208 through the air and 119 on the ground. Balanced, like they wanted.
Marshawn Lynch was the workhorse - Leon Washington only got three carries and Justin Forsett one - and he accounted for over half of the Seahawks total offense with 167 all-purpose yards. He rushed for 109 yards and caught five passes for 58 yards and was responsible for two nail-in-the-coffin first downs late in the fourth quarter - both extremely difficult running plays he extended after they both looked to be stopped dead. He's the unquestioned player of the game in my mind and Dave Softy Mahler might have said it best when he tweeted "Marshawn Lynch is simply running like a guy who is sick of losing."
The balance between running up the gut and catches passes out of the backfield gives Seahawks fans glimpses of the 'feature back' that Lynch was brought here to be. Now that the offensive line is starting to show semblances of competency, Lynch has rushed for over 100 yards two games in a row.
Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin both suffered concussions in the game but with that series of unfortunate events, Seattle's depth at receiver really shined through. Golden Tate stepped in rather seamlessly and produced - catching 3 passes for 46 yards, with two key first downs late in the game that kept the offense on the field and extended drives. With both Baldwin and Rice probably missing at least a game going forward as they get back to full health, Tate will have more of a chance to prove to his coaches that he's still a big part of this offense as they grow together.
The Seahawks' tight ends got involved in the action as well, with Zach Miller catching three passes for 24 yards and Anthony McCoy, two for 15. It was nice to see Miller targeted early.
The story on offense though was that the Seahawks rushed the ball 42 times to only 27 pass attempts. The ability to do this, despite only 2.8 yards per carry, ended up being huge for the Seahawks as they ate away at the clock and preserved their fragile lead. The offense wasn't powerhouse by any means - failing to get into the endzone except for once and settling for field goals five separate times - but grabbing and holding an early lead against a very good Ravens team is not something to scoff at.
The Seahawks now sit at 3-6 heading into a stretch of winnable games against St. Louis (2-7), Washington (3-6), Philadelphia (3-6), and St. Louis again. Let's see if the Hawks can manage to string together a few solid performances on both sides of the ball.