To get some insight from the other side, I linked up with Danny Kelly from Field Gulls to get up to speed.
Russell Wilson, the Seahawks defense, the ending of the Packers game...not really anything interesting to talk about right now with you, man...ok, let's get any last legs out of the SEO-fueled irony that was the Golden Tate catch. There were so many positives and negatives involved there. If it was the straw that broke Joe Camel's back with regard to the referee lockout, and it sure appears that's the case, at least it got the best, most experienced referees back on the field (I miss Joe Camel, BTW. He had more game than any camel ever.) Also...well there...as a Rams fan, that's about it, I guess.
In any case, it seems like most FGers disagree with the consensus that it was a Jennings INT (to say nothing of the offensive PI...). If nothing, certainly the most vocal of the commenters do. What is the sense you get at your level? How is the team dealing with the controversy? Granted, this will all go away by Sunday evening at the latest (though I'm kind of hoping it has some kind of impact at the end of the season). But do you sense the team has moved on at this point?
The thing I'm a little nervous about is that this Golden Tate catch/no-catch debacle is going to distract and hang over the Seahawks' heads this weekend. Overall though, it does seem like the players have moved on, apart from maybe Tate, who is still getting verbally abused on Twitter and all that by vitriolic, outraged fans. I am trying to move on from the controversy -- it's tiring and the fact of the matter is, the NFL is not going to overturn the ruling, so it's immaterial at this point. I still don't have strong feelings one way or another as to whether it was an interception or a touchdown because I've seen intelligent arguments for both sides, but the collective national fury about the game is kind of what irked me the most ('IT'S CLEARLY A INTERCEPTION AND THE WORST CALL OF ALL TIME AND AN ABOMINATION AND EVERYONE SHOULD FEEL ASHAMED AND GO SIT IN THE CORNER AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE AND THE NFL MUST THINK WE'RE ALL MORONS AND SEATTLE IS A BUNCH OF CHEATERS AND I HATE PETE CARROLL USC SUCKS').
It certainly looked like a pick to me, watching it live, but if you go down the rabbit hole into the technicalities of the rulebook (the definition of 'possession', of 'control,' of a 'catch,' of a 'football move,' of 'simultaneous possession'), I can see arguments go either way, and in fact, I've seen people quote the rulebook in defense of both sides of the coin and both sides are very convincing (maybe I'm just too open-minded?); 'possession' and 'control' are two distinct things but both are ill-defined and fallible in interpretation so I really don't think either side has a monopoly on 'the rules'. Now, if you're reading this -- please resist the urge to argue that I'm a moron for even believing there's a sliver of doubt that it wasn't an interception -- because believe me, I've already heard it several hundred times - and I've been inundated with (very intelligently argued and backed up with photos and video) evidence the last week that supports both sides (I enjoy the sides that support my team won more than I enjoy the sides the don't, but I'm a human being). Logically…. morally, even -- It should probably have been an interception. Technically though? It was closer than the national consensus would tell you. Just closer. That's all.
The NFL chose to back the officials, to avoid the sh*t-storm and precedent it may have created to change the outcome of the game the next day. To me - it was a bang-bang play that happened in real time. It should have probably been called an interception and then been reviewed upstairs, and it probably wouldn't have been overturned. But it wasn't - it went the other way around. That sucks, for Green Bay fans, but not for Seahawks fans (although I will say this was the most depressing win ever). The ref evidently didn't see the initial 'control' by Jennings well enough to make a determination and thus when they both came down with the ball, he called it simultaneous possession, and apparently there wasn't enough evidence to overturn that ruling.
I wouldn't have lost any sleep had interception been the call on the play, but I will say that the way the Seahawks' defense played that day, it's certainly still possible for Seattle fans to feel good about some things that happened in the game. It would have been nice for the national media to acknowledge the Seahawks' 8-sack first half or the fact that they held reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers without a touchdown pass for the first time since December 12th, 2010.
Now, we can talk about all the other bad calls during the game too - favoring both sides - but overall, the important thing is that this outcome was, in fact, the catalyst to get the real referees back on the field, so 30 teams and their cities and fan-bases should be thanking the Football Gods for such a weird final 8 seconds on Monday, because now it won't happen to you. Or it might, maybe, still happen to you.
Ok, I never want to talk about this again.
(Author's note: That's one hell of an answer...internally rec'd)
Onward and upward. Let's start with Lil' Russ. How would you qualify his play thus far? Obviously, in limiting turnovers, it makes things look much better. Interestingly to me has been how unbalanced the offense has been the last two weeks. The Seahawks have thrown the ball less than every other team in the league. On Monday, it was 21 passes to 29 runs; against Dallas, you guys ran the ball more than twice as often as Wilson threw. Is that something you think could be attributed to his inexperience? Something in Bevell's philosophy?
Yeah, this is something that we've been talking about a lot over at Field Gulls, and it hasn't escaped fans that Seattle is currently running the most conservative offense in the League -- currently last in the NFL passing yards. This conservative nature is by design (I wouldn't say the goal is to be last in the NFL at anything, but it's a byproduct of the 'training wheels' still being on the bike), and Pete Carroll has taken credit/blame for that by saying that he's still 'keeping a lid on the offense', with respect to how much he asks of rookie Russell Wilson. It has worked, well enough anyway, for the Seahawks thus far because they have a very strong defense, strong special teams, and a very strong run game. Marshawn Lynch, over the past 12 weeks going back into the 2011 regular season, is leading the NFL in rushing (283 attempts, 1246 yards, 10 TDs). Maurice Jones-Drew follows Lynch with 1180 yards over the past 12 weeks, and Ray Rice comes in behind MJD with 1,143.
As a whole, I think Wilson has struggled; he's a rookie, he's still learning the system, the speed of the game, making the right line calls and audibles and he's shown some of the limitations that his height brings. He's been reticent to step up into the pocket at times and he still takes off a little early when he senses pressure. He's missed high on several big throws and has failed to pull the trigger at times when he has openings downfield.
Now, obviously, it depends on perspective. As a rookie 3rd round pick and the first sub 5'11 quarterback in the last 1,283 years of football to be named a starter in his 1st game as a pro (not sure about that statistic but it seems right), he's been ok. He's only turned the ball over twice in three games (one interception, one lost fumble), and he still does have intriguing tools that, with some development, could make him a pretty dangerous player. He can sling it, I know this, it's just a matter of ironing out all the rest of it. I'm sure St. Louis fans can relate to this idea with Sam Bradford as the franchise QB (I really like Bradford, if you were wondering).
The Seahawks' offense has leaned heavily on Marshawn Lynch thus far but as Wilson gets more comfortable in the offense, gets more in sync with receivers, and gets better protection up front (this has been improving a lot, which is nice), then I can see Wilson improving a lot. He flashed this in the preseason (yes, I know, it's the preseason), so there's still quite a bit of hope that he'll get better as the year goes on and the Seahawks will loosen their grip on his limited role in the offense. That's the optimistic look at it -- and I'm sticking with that for now.
With the Rams' O-line in shambles, I'm really worried about your front seven. Against Dallas, that unit was limited to one sack and six QB hits. And much to your delight, I'm sure, you guys pounded Aaron Rodgers with eight sacks and 12 QB hits. Where's the norm for your pass rush? How do they look against the run?
The Seahawks have been very strong against the run - thus far they're 2nd in the NFL in opponent yards per game (58.7), and 3rd in opponent yards per attempt (3.1). Honestly, a good number of the 'rushing' yards the Seahawks have given up thus far are by opposing quarterbacks and receivers on end-arounds (only 27 yards surrendered to Arizona's running backs, 44 yards to the Cowboys' backs, and 47 yards to the Packers' running backs, or 39.3 yards per game). So, I'm confident they can at least stifle the Rams' running game.
The pass rush hasn't been as consistent, though the pressure the Seahawks have been able to bring has been noticeably better than it was last season. I'm hoping that the momentum gained against Green Bay will carry over into Sunday's game at the Edward Jones Dome, but it's always a bit different on the road. The D-line won't have the advantage of crowd noise in this one, so they'll have to really play well to force Sam Bradford into rushing his throws. Look for Chris Clemons and rookie Bruce Irvin (2.5 sacks on the season) to come from the edges, and the underrated Jason Jones to pressure from the interior and draw some double-teams. NT Brandon Mebane has been playing out of his mind this season and has been bringing consistent interior pressure.
Back on the offensive side, I want to check on your O-line. Rams fans are understandably excited about the potential on our D-line. Chris Long and Robert Quinn form one of the more potent pass rushing pairs in the league. It looks like Michael Brockers might be able to make his season debut Sunday, albeit in a limited role. How confident are you in your front five? How's Russell Okung holding up on the left side with his recent knee injury?
The offensive line is still a work in progress. Russell Okung was supposed to be the anchor this season but he's struggled with pass pro and false starts, and his recent knee injury doesn't help matters. That said, he pretty much neutralized Clay Matthews on Monday (with some help) and apart from a few more false starts, looked more like himself. Okung still has the potential to be a top-level left tackle, but he'll need to knock it off with all the penalties. He's still the Seahawks' best option in terms of going mano-a-mano with opposing (elite) defensive ends. On the other side, Breno Giacomini has been battling an injury this week to his chest, so he's a question mark. The Seahawks have been platooning, a bit, the right guard position with John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy, and last year's first round pick James Carpenter might see some action at left guard this weekend after missing the 9 or 10 months with an ACL tear. That would likely move starter Paul McQuistan to the right tackle spot. Maybe. Or maybe right guard. We don't really know. This unit has yet to really establish much continuity, outside of center Max Unger, who has been solid, so it's tough to really tell.
The pass protection will certainly be a key on Sunday -- and I'm not confident either way. The run blocking has been good, but for Russell Wilson to develop, interior pressure must be controlled and the return of Michael Brockers could complicate that. We'll see.
What breakout players do you think are flying under the radar? Is there anyone you think is primed for a big game this weekend? Who should Rams fans be prepared for?
I'm still waiting for Sidney Rice to have his 'breakout game', though I know he's not under the radar. He's had some good showings -- 3, 4 big catches a game here and there, but he's yet to establish himself as a true number one (that can stay healthy). Against the Rams' secondary, I think this weekend will be a great test for Rice. Janoris Jenkins is supremely talented but is still a rookie and Rice has a big height advantage over him, and Cortland Finnegan will be a very, very tough matchup for him. If Russell Wilson can feed Rice downfield, on play action, their offense will be in good shape, as we haven't really seen a ton of this yet.
Also, don't be surprised to see a little bit more of rookie Robert Turbin. Lynch has gotten the lions' share of the touches thus far this year and is on pace for 350+ carries on the year if he keeps it up. The Seahawks have to get their backups more involved so this week we could see them start to transition to that a little more.
Thanks again to Danny for taking the time to answer these.