BY Art Thiel 09:25PM 01/11/2014

Beastquake, the sequel, sends Seahawks ahead

Beast to the rescue as wind beat down passing game and the defense beat down the Saints. But enough was done poorly to prompt a serious week before NFC title game.

The French Quarter Nightmare, Marshawn Lynch, ran for 140 yards in 28 carries. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

If a Saints goal was to be more physical than the Seahawks: Check. If a Saints goal was to keep the game close into the fourth quarter: Check. If a Saints goal was to have the ball at the end to win (or tie): Check.

It’s just that a lot of the other stuff Sunday went as well as, oh, a punt snap into the manhood.

Especially the part of the stuff where they were supposed to keep Marshawn Lynch from doing to them in the 2014 playoffs what he did to them in the 2011 playoffs: Go seismic.

The Seahawks say they hadn’t run the particular play all season. Put it in just this week. With 2:48 left and holding a tenuous 16-8 led, it was time.

“Same play — that was the ‘Beastquake’ play,” said FB Michael Robinson, recalling the 67-yard YouTube epic. “Just with different personnel. Same play.”

Called simply “power,” the O-line caved the Saints front, Lynch took the handoff, bounced outside and, behind a key block from WR Jermaine Kearse, went 31 yards for the winning score. He made a splendid downfield cutback and even threw in a stiffarm on a Saints defender, in case they forgot how the 2011 script went.

A few lockers away, Kearse recalled experiencing the same play as a collegian. The Washington Huskies in 2010 beat Cal 16-13 on a last-minute touchdown by Chris Polk on a similar tailback dive.

“Huskies fans,” said Kearse, “know it as ‘God’s Play.’”

Both times, the play provoked a hallelujah chorus, Sunday from 68,388 Clinksters who thought they were gliding to a rout until a late Saints rally called a halt to more plate tectonics. The 23-15 win was a big deal, but an awkward route to the the NFL semifinals.

Whether natural or spiritual, the play was the last of Lynch’s 28 carries that brought him 140 yards, two touchdowns and the NFC title game at 3:3o p.m. Jan. 19 against either San Francisco or Carolina, who play Sunday.

The Accidental Oracle of Occidental Avenue was asked to explain the play.

“I don’t run,” he said, “to get tackled.”

Never has a self-summary from a great running back been delivered with such terse eloquence. And now Seahawks fans may understand why his words supplement well his deeds.

Lynch does not run to be tackled. Hello, Saints defense. Do you hear the man?

“They got the big run because we were in an all-out run defense,” said New Orleans coach Sean Payton. What? The mind reels in considering what may have happened had they not been in an all-out run defense.

Actually, minds reeled over many things Sunday in a weird game, whipped by soaking gusts to 45 mph, that Seattle dominated despite modest offense. Through three quarters, the Seahawks defense, going back to the Dec. 2 regular-season game, allowed the Saints seven points in seven quarters.

That changed in the fourth quarter after the Saints went 74 yards in nine plays and 80 yards in nine plays, producing two touchdowns, a two-point PAT, and — after New Orleans recovered an onside kick with 26 seconds left — a Seattle-wide gulp that probably registered on seismometers.

The threat ended when New Orleans WR Marcus Colston committed the last of several plays of mystery, catching a pass at the 35-yard line with a few seconds left, then trying a cross-field lateral that was a blatant forward pass. The penalty advanced the clock 10 seconds and ended the game, causing a community exhalation that was a close second in air velocity to anything found in nature’s Sunday rudeness.

But it’s hard to overlook the fact that the Saints, despite losing a fumble, missing two field goals, having a punter take a snap in an indelicate manner and never finding their All-Pro weapon, tight end Jimmy Graham, needed to have better outcomes on just a couple of plays to have pulled off the upset.

And as stout as was the defense generally, the Seahawks missed numerous first tackles dropped a few interceptions.

“It just didn’t feel like it was normal,” said coach Pete Carroll. “It was a very good day on defense, although I’m really disappointed in the way we tackled.

“We’re thrilled to be moving on — with areas to get better and things we can continue to improve.”

That would include Russell Wilson, who survived a nightmare day for any quarterback by completing 9 of 18 passes for a meager 103 yards.

“It’s tough to throw when the wind’s blowing that bad,” said Wilson of his season-low passing performance. “When the wind is that severe, you have to be smart. There’s definitely certain circumstances where I have to be conservative and making sure that I’m not taking any shots down the field.”

It was a prudent strategy, but doesn’t account for incompletions on three short crossing routes that were not hampered by wind, pass rush or defensive backs. Plainly, Wilson’s accuracy is something to occupy the practice week, along with another health watch on WR Percy Harvin, knocked from the game before halftime with a concussion.

In eight days, the weather won’t be any better. The opponent, however, will.


YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    A win is a win, but the second half was not good for the blood pressure of any Hawk fan. As with many games, this one seemed to turn on a few plays: Poor tackling by the Hawks D, as PC mentioned, a 37-yard run by Robert Turbin that was nullified by a penalty, two DBs preventing each other from making an interception, and Russ’s suboptimal day among them. You summed it up very well, Art. “In eight days, the weather won’t be any better. The opponent, however, will.”

    • Marcus

      Ahem, see above. Odds are the weather is as bad as yesterday or worse are actually low. I agree that the opponent will be tougher, although I’ll credit the Saints with playing about as good as a game as they could have defensively (for the pass).

      • art thiel

        Wettest game in Clink history; .22 inches during the game. Forecast is 50 degrees and 20 percent chance of rain. Damn beach weather.

    • art thiel

      If your BP is a concern, I’d stay away from NFL Sundays.

      Misplays are a part of every winner’s log. Carroll does a good job of managing them into as few as possible. As he says, it’s all about the ball.

      • ll9956

        Thanks for the advice, Art, but the fact is that I am hopelessly addicted to football, most especially the Dawgs and Hawks. Suggesting that I “stay away from NFL Sundays” is like suggesting that Pete Carroll retire in order to spend more time honing his skills at cribbage.

        • 1coolguy

          The winner of the Hawks/Niners will have the fewest turnovers.
          This is going to be a hard-hitting, smash mouth close game.
          Sure hope they let Wilson run some option as it really loosens things up.
          Niners secondary is their weakest group, so if we can hit some receivers deep, Beast Mode will be loving it!

  • M.

    My mining the web for post-game recaps isn’t complete until you post one of your typically great summaries, Art. Your humor, turn of phrase, and gimlet eye for the nuances of the game are always appreciated.

    I was also a bit concerned with Wilson’s throwing accuracy and the overall conservative approach on offense, but it made sense given the wild weather. Hopefully they get things sorted in practice this week — and I hope Percy is ok and passes all the concussion protocols.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the good words, M’s. Tell your friends.

      As far as passing game fixes, I think it rested with Harvin.

  • Diamond Mask

    You would think we had lost given this article’s sad state of affairs. I’m pretty sure the Saints came to play today and somebody might want to give them some credit. We might also want to consider the ultra-conservative play calling by Carroll probably caused by the weather.

    Am I the only one who though Percy Harvin was targeted by the sainted Saints? IMHO I thought it was blatant. Take out their best player that they have no answer for.

    Fox sports basically declared SFO the victors and our opponents in the NFC championship game. I’m really hoping the Panthers were watching. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a top seeded team in the playoffs more disrespected.

    Go Hawks!

    • oldfan

      It’s the difference between being the favorite or being the underdog. The 2011 game featured the same dynamics as this one (big lead, Saint comeback, and Marshawn showing why we love him). In that one we were thrilled to hang on, this time we expected to run away with it once we got out front.

      Everyone I’ve talked to and most of the commenters here would agree that the Saints plan seemed to include knocking Percy out of the game. If the 49ers win and Harvin plays next week you can expect the same thing (all the while Harbaugh will be complaining that our DBs play too rough).

      Didn’t see the postgame but both SF and Carolina pose a difficult challenge. But I’ll be rooting against the ‘Niners… just because they’re the ‘Niners.

      • art thiel

        Niners want to be here, just to annoy you — and everyone else in the 206.

        You’re right about next week, should Harvin play. I’d be surprised to see him.

    • art thiel

      This day, there wasn’t that much separation between the teams. Thought that point will get lost in the yippee-skippee.

  • jafabian

    As I said in the other column, I wonder if there was a bounty on Percy? At worst the Aints got a 15 yard penalty but the Hawks lost him for the game. There was too much pushing and woofing by the Aints, especially when they hit Percy.

    Russell would have better stats if Percy stayed in. Just by playing he stretches the defense. The offense stalled when he left. And Marshawn was having too good of a game to rely on the pass.

    Sean Peyton has to be shaking his head on that last play. What a lame way to go out.

    • oldfan

      Maybe I’m just the suspicious sort, but the thought that the Saints were headhunting on Harvin crossed my mind too. On the first one the play seemed common enough, but they weren’t the least bothered by the penalty and celebrated as though getting it was part of the plan. The one in the end zone may have been marginally late (it looked it on replay), but the safety clearly drove his elbow into Harvin’s head as it lay on the ground (if you look close you can see his helmet flexed with the blow). Even if it was unintentional it should have been flagged. I don’t necessarily expect it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fine coming on that one.

      • Jamo57

        Yeah, what made the original ‘Bountygate’ the scandal it turned out to be was the financial reward the players and coaches created as incentives and rewards. It seems all the Saints have done is remove that technicality. They’re still playing to take key players out of the game.

        • Huskydwj

          I second, third or fourth the bounty call – exactly what I was thinking. My wife thought I was nuts, but you can clearly see an overemphasis on hitting high and making as big of an impact as possible. Like Tate said, good game plan to take it to the guy who’s been out

        • art thiel

          It’s been a part of football forever, but now that they have supposedly eliminated payments, the only thing the NFL can do is offer post-game fines, which aren’t going to stop anything in high-stakes games.

    • art thiel

      You and everyone watching that first hit on Harvin thought the same thing: “Bounty!” My guess is the Saints are the least likely team to do cash for bash. But for Payton to tell his defenders to hit Harvin hard — yes, that was the game plan, one that the Seahawks would use if the situation were reversed. Bush went too hard and was penalized, but Payton probably thought the trade was worth it.

      • 1coolguy

        China doll. Hope we can get some value for him next year……….
        his guarantee is huge so we can’t drop him. Thankfully Rice will be gone – what a waste he was.

  • RadioGuy

    They were definitely targeting Harvin. I’ve been hard on Percy, but those were some wicked hits he was taking yesterday. You’d like to think the Saints have grown a brain when it comes to putting bounties on players, but I have no doubt Harvin had a target sign on him.

    This game is why you REALLY want a solid RB to carry the load when your passing game goes south on you. Wilson had a poor (albeit turnover-free) game, but Lynch stepped it up. The TV guys caught it: As much as Marshawn is a human battering ram, his quickness and footwork are equally exceptional…this ain’t Earl Campbell.

    Kudos to the defense. They’re the reason Seattle has come this far, especially over the past month. No matter who wins the Niners-Panthers game, they’ll have their hands full next week with a big QB who can run AND pass.

    I agree with Diamond Mask: Everyone’s discounting Carolina, but they’ve won 10 of their last 11 (beating the Niners in SF), the only team in the NFL that’s given up fewer points is Seattle and they’re at home today. Panthers by six.

    • RadioGuy

      Well, THAT prediction went well…almost ranks down there with “Sonics over Nuggets” in 1994.

      • art thiel

        Good to man up, Radio. SF is too experienced at this level of play. Panthers are not.

        As far as Lynch, I’ve never seen a back who stays so balanced. He changes direction without losing leverage. Amazing.

  • Jamo57

    Call it January Madness. Survive and advance is all that matters. Bring on the next foe.

  • Marcus

    Looking at yesterday’s and next Sunday’s games all comes down to odds.

    For starters, odds are high that the weather will be better next Sunday. It might be raining, true, but the odds of the rain and wind are not as high as you’d think this time of year. Just look up how long it’s been since we had power outages in the area. It’s not impossible, but definitely improbable to have that nasty of a game weatherwise.

    The two serious concerns are Russell Wilson missing the short passes (as the article states) and the offensive play calling. If the Saints can get open against our defense (and they did get their catches in the second half), then some of our guys need to get open against their weaker D. And I’m not talking about always having to beat one-on-one. Plenty of teams just get guys open and there’s no excuse why the Seahawks can’t do more of the same. My criticism of Wilson is missing the short passes. That was entirely on him and you just can’t miss those. The rest was Bevell. The offensive plays can’t go conservative quite so soon. If we had been up by another field goal I actually would have been okay with it. But the conditions were so crazy that I thought we went into a vanilla offense too soon. And how about getting our tight ends more involved next time? It felt like we were overconfident and didn’t want to show much more of the opened offense once we got ahead.

    Why I’m less worried. Sometimes the ball does not bounce your way. The Saints received some BIG breaks this game and still lost. The pick that turned into a 50+ yard play for them was the biggest. How often does that happen. Harvin out at the half. The fumble that wasn’t called. The ball squirting right off of Tate. Several other Brees passes that were near or should have been picks. Do you want to bet against this defense and say they don’t bring more of those down next game? Harvin has a week to pass his tests and odds are at least decent that he’s back in there. That helps. KJ Wright should be back next game. That helps. Luke Willson should be even more ready to go. That helps. They’ve shown that they can tackle well and will get right in this week of practice. When turned loose we’ve seen what Russ Wilson can do. He should have a better game next Sunday.

    In short, the odds that the Seahawks play the same, or poorer, than yesterday are small. Now to be more radical. The Saints defense played incredibly well (against the pass and against Wilson). I don’t expect Carolina or San Fran to play a better pass defense than what we saw yesterday. The run game may be harder.

    I’ll be rooting for Carolina today. Cam Newton has never played at the CLINK. He’s also been a headcase in the past. I think the noise will make him implode.

    • art thiel

      Didn’t get your wish for Cam. But there’s just way too much fun to be had with the 49ers to not want this matchup.

      As far as TEs, they spent most of their day in max-protect. No strip-sacks of Wilson.

      And a drier day might make for more picks. Kaep had three in Sept.

  • Huskydwj

    I suspect Russell’s gloves being the issue with the misses on the short crossing routes. If I recall correctly, he was missing low to the left, and for a right handed passer, he wasn’t getting a quick enough release. His big hands get a lot of contact with the ball. I think the gloves gave him too much grip. I’m sure they’ve got it figured out for the next time. He’s just too accurate of a passer to have it all go wrong without outside influences. Gotta get more out of the offense or the season will end next week.
    Whew! Glad for the win and game balls to the D and Marshawn!!

    • art thiel

      Don’t think it was the grip. He’s been less accurate for some time, regardless of temps.

  • ss

    The last quarter of the year, the same quarter Carroll wanted to get things revved up, Wilson’s qb rating has dropped and so has the offense. It seems defensive schemes have taken to corralling Wilson in a collapsing pocket and limiting his escape routes and scrambling options. He’s best in the league while on the run, but far less effective finding passing lanes through the crowd of defensive and offensive linemen. Bevel hasn’t produced a strategy to liberate him. Hope the next OC will.

    • art thiel

      If Wilson completes the same throws he was making earlier, games are not as close. Bevell doesn’t need new plays. Wilson needs to find the strike zone.

      • ss

        Why hasn’t he found the strike zone for the last 5 games? Last good outing was N.O. in the regular season.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    If you think the Saints were an unsportsmanlike bunch? Just wait til you see the boys in red show up next week?With all of the petty chirping they were doing in Charlotte i think this is just a precursor of more to come in Seattle. A LOT MORE.

    Thing is?Seattle showed the Rams that homey doesnt play that game.
    And we ARE the home team with the definite advantage that comes with it.
    Try to get in our heads 49ers. Too much is at stake.We are clearly NOT Carolina.

    I love our guys.God bless them for pulling out that Texan road win that was borderline preposterous(thereby making it to 13 regular season victories).
    That telly of 13 will allow us to entertain the 49ers this weekend. Harbaugh said “Who could possibly be better than us?” trying to pump them up after their win against the cats.

    Do the math Jim. That’s why we have the home field. We are better.

    Here’s to the thought that our defense manhandles the SF offense as such that they might lose a few numbers off of their name…. they night leave Seattle as the 46ers or something it will be so severe.

    Its going to be Ali/Frazier and we will be the team floating like a butterfly….on to victory!

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      “I’m so pretty, and Joe, you ugly!”