BY Art Thiel 09:20PM 11/09/2014

Thiel: Seahawks’ ‘polar shift’ is underway

Over the past three weeks — since the Harvin trade — the Seahawks have returned to what they do best, delivering a ground beating the likes of which the Giants had not known.

The Seahawks defense held Andre Williams and his Giants rushing mates to 54 yards Sunday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Everyone said that the Seahawks’ road back to the Super Bowl was going to be hard. But nobody said it would go through the Stone Age. After rushing for a club-record 350 rushing yards Sunday against the New York Giants, the Seahawks are more than happy to have chucked the Jetsons era for Bedrock.

The summary quote from the locker room: “Yabba. Dabba. Do.” (Look it up, kids.)

As to how the pounding the rock was perceived among the Giants, here is CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“They line up and just hit you in the mouth,” he said. “They are more physical and they just want it more.

“I just know that can’t be the case. So that’s very disappointing.”

Actually, it can be the case. It was the case last season, when the Seahawks beat the Giants in the Meadowlands 23-0. And it was the case in the second half Sunday, which the Seahawks won 24-0 en route to a 38-17 triumph.

As the Twelves know, the Seahawks in the post-Super Bowl let-down have drifted — as have all of the past 10 champions. Whether the Seahawks admit it publicly, they know it too. Coach Pete Carroll knew it so well he fired the electric Percy Harvin, causing huge local and national controversy, to begin the course correction back to a run-dominant physicality that leaves the foe whimpering.

In the second half Sunday, armed with the returns from injury of C Max Unger and LT Russell Okung to help release the Kraken, er, Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks re-asserted their primacy. No guarantee of sustainability is possible, but Carroll said he was certain the template has been re-set.

“I like where we’re going — I really do,” he said. “I told them last night I think we’ve made a big shift in the last three weeks. I was hoping it would happen again today. We’re playing the style of football that we want to play, that we’re most comfortable with,  then see if the other teams can deal with this.”

Magnificent as was Lynch — a brutal 140 yards and four touchdowns for a 6.7-yard average, “an MVP performance,” said Russell Wilson — credit also goes to a much-maligned line that, within itself, hailed the return of Unger from a four-week injury absence.

Unger is the brains, the cheerleader and the fixer among the big uglies. The void was palpable.

“Max is so vocal, especially for guys without a ton of experience,” said Cooper Helfet, the third-string tight end who will likely be a starter after an ankle injury to Luke Willson, who was already replacing Zach Miller. “He talks so much, you pick things up when you’re out there.”

Typically, Unger shunned the plaudits.

“They’re just being nice,” he said. “I just came back and smoothed out the edges, made sure the communication was rock-solid. That’s what my job is.”

But he could not resist beaming over the club-record rushing yardage, the rare stat that brings glory to the O-line.

“That’s huge,” he said. “I don’t know if I have any other franchise record. But it’s funny. There were a lot of MAs out there (missed assignments). I didn’t play very well. It was rough. You make mistakes you haven’t made before. I need to get a couple of games under me.

“This was the longest stretch of games I’ve been out then comeback to play a pretty physical game. I only had about three practices over the four weeks. I’m exhausted.”

Most of the mistakes came in a first half that started with a sizzle and dwindled to drizzle. After opening with an 80-yard drive in six plays that finished with a one-yard Lynch TD run, the Seahawks’ next three drives consisted of 10 plays, including an interception and a fumble, which helped produce a 17-14 Giants lead at halftime.

But a pattern was emerging: The Seahawks were going to feed the Beast, and when they didn’t, Wilson’s read-option wizardry would do the rest, not his passing. By intermission, he threw the ball only eight times, completing five for 71 yards, but ran for 68 yards in six carries.

Above all, the Seahawks were going to do it fast.

“That was our focus,”Wilson said. “I thought we were really up tempo today.”

Combining Lynch’s slashes with the Giants’ own befuddlement over Wilson’s keepers, all at higher speed, New York’s will evaporated quickly. In the second half, the Giants were nearly helpless.

One of the Giants’ best defenders, SS Antrel Rolle, was stunned.

“I’d say it’s a little bit worse than embarrassing,” he said. “I’ve been playing this game for 10 years and I’ve never had anyone run for 350 yards on me.”

The defense joined in the shift in momentum, getting a spectacular end0zone interception and return from Earl Thomas as well as recovering a fumble. The Giants in the second half had 100 yards and no points, and finished the game with 54 yards on the ground a week after Oakland had 37.

Apparently starting with the Harvin trade, the Seahawks reverted.

“It’s almost like a polar shift occurred here, like it happened after the Tampa Bay game last year,” Carroll said. “We went back to the basics of who we are as a team. The players decided the were ready to take this next step.

We thought we were doing all right. But there was another big step to take. We’ve made that step.”

At 6-3, with a remaining schedule that amounts to seven weeks of football hell, the step back to the Stone Age future came just in time.


YourThoughts

  • Jamo57

    I understand the actuarial tables regarding running backs in the NFL, and the deal given to Shaun Alexander after the SB XL season was an emotion-laden “thank you” that in the long run was a mistake, but I can’t imagine a Carroll-coached Hawks team without Marshawn Lynch at this point. The conventional wisdom that this is Lynch’s last year would appear to run counter to the Carroll-Snyder mantra that they don’t care about “conventional wisdom”. Assuming he stays healthy, it seems to me a two year extension at the end of the season might be in the team’s best interest. He’s certainly earning it.

    • 1coolguy

      This years negotiation gave the Hawks needed flexibility going into next season. Lynch keeps this up and he won’t have anything to worry about.

    • eYeDEF

      At minimum he’s still under contract for next year. There was just question as to whether the team would pay the 2 mil roster bonus and 5 mil salary that would take up 8.5 mil against the cap when if they cut him they’d save 8.5 on their cap hit and only incur a 1.5 mil dead money charge. If he continues playing lights out this year I don’t see why the team wouldn’t gladly pay the 2 mil roster bonus to keep him on their 2015 roster + 5 mil base to play out the final year of his contract. There’s really no reason you’d want to extend him beyond the length of his current contract because after next year he’ll be 30. It should be a year to year evaluative process once a RB hits 29 if the team doesn’t want to get burned again like it did with Alexander by giving a big money contract to a running back on the steep downside of his career.

      • art thiel

        Another team for 2016 would probably give him an extension, one that isn’t paying a QB $20M.

    • art thiel

      Lynch is making a compelling case for keeping him around, but the salary cap is a cruel beast too. Lynch isn’t likely to take a pay cut.

  • 1coolguy

    Unger and Okung back = 350 yards. Simple math. Imagine if Wilson’s passing was on? Whoa! Maybe next week! Also, this is yet another game under Sweezy and Britts’ belts, so the right side has improved yet again.
    Interesting sideline: Britt and Sweezy were their state wrestling champs (wrestlers are animals!) in high school and Okung was a discus champ: As O-linemen need to have great balance and feet, these 3 certainly have it. I haven’t heard the coaches talk about this yet I’m sure this must be a part of what Cable scouts for.
    The Hawks may need to have Sweezy and Britt get down in a match!

    • jafabian

      There wasn’t a real need for Wilson’s passing except for near the end of the first half and he engineered that TD drive masterfully.

      • art thiel

        There will be a need. No team is going to make the same mistakes as the Giants.

        • Marcus

          Agreed! Of course if you have someone spy on Wilson that usually means one less body to stop someone else running or even a short pass…perish the thought! I hope to see more Wilson fake runs where we see a receiver right behind that Wilson spotter. :)

          • Soggyblogger

            Agreed, Marcus. We might want to MASTER the read option rather than expect our WR’s to become 6’5″ tall from one game to the next. I hope Bevel develops a read – option for every set we run. And further develop the read – option – read – pass. Which we have seen used sparsely, but is intended to keep CB’s honest.
            The Mammoth FB may be here to stay, and we will see more of Lynch and CMike in at the same time. One TD run featured the Mammoth FB out wide, in a 4 WR set, which allowed Lynch a nice big hole to run in. When our TE’s get healthy we might still see Gilliam in as an available receiver.
            Who needs the pass?

          • art thiel

            The Seahawks used Gilliam as eligible receiver numerous times, partly because they were out of TEs but mostly because it was their best run personnel in 2013.

            The read option blossomed for the Seahawks in 2012, but defenses countered in 2013 and it was used far less frequently. You can bet KC will ready. Then the pass gets re-introduced.

    • art thiel

      Cable loves HS wrestlers. Always big for him. And zone blocking schemes need better athletes. And Britt has his hands full right now trying to keep Wilson from getting splattered.

      • eYeDEF

        agreed. As much as sweezy improved his play this past game his pass blocking remains firmly a work in progress and is the biggest weakness on this line.

  • dharmabruce

    In a pastime of throwers and catchers the seahawks are blockers and runners. Sometimes some of the blockers will catch and even one of the runners throws but those job duties are secondary.

    On defense they are a team of block busters and tacky tacklers. Other teams are forced to throw risky passes. The seahawks have stacked their deck with mangy air cheetahs looking to be tested, hungry for crumbs.

    The seemingly-yearly Eli-mination of the Giants is fun.

    • art thiel

      Mangy air cheetahs? If tortured a few comparisons, but . . .

  • Diamond Mask

    Now for the Chiefs on the road. It’s not like we haven’t been there and done that. Let’s hope for another Kreig to Skansi miracle in the endzone. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      One miracle per team per millenium. It’s in the collective bargaining agreement. Need to find another answer.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Doesn’t the new millennium start at the turn of the century? That Kreig to Skansi thing happened in 1990…although one of the KC linemen sacked Kreig 7x that day(an NFL record for one guy) and in the aforementioned play almost made it 8…Kreig just getting it off as he was being wrapped up. NOW I would take thatto turn the tables on KC…Seattle wracking up a wheelbarrow of sacks making it miserable for that offense to score.

        • Lohengrin

          I think Art meant per fiscal millennium. That would take us to 2089. But hey, what’s another 75 years among friends?

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            Yes I would guess you are correct …his point is true. A play like that literally comes along every 100 years. I watched that game and the reaction was did i just witness that? That Derrick Thomas was an Eyelash from sacking Dave made it even sweeter.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Think it was Derrick Thomas that had sore ankles from all of the sack dances he deployed after mangling Kreig 7x

  • jafabian

    Between today’s game and Barry Sanders’ recent comments about Beastmode I find it hard to picture the Seahawks without him on the roster. He’s a rare RB that has the speed and cutting ability of Shaun Alexander and the power of Jerome Bettis. But Christine Michael game us a glimpse of what might be with his 71 yards on only 4 carries.

    Has Eli ever won against the Seahawks? At least in Seattle? No coincidence that they succeeded so strongly after getting players back from injury. Hard to criticize Wilson’ subpar passing when the rushing game was so successful. Hopefully Carpenter will be back next week and Wilson can settle down in the pocket more.

    • art thiel

      Michael doesn’t secure the ball as Lynch does.

      Wilson needs a passing game going to SF/AZ. But without a tall guy to win jump balls in the red zone, not sure he has one.

  • eYeDEF

    It now makes sense why the front office had worked so hard to find Wilson help in the passing game, with reports of even Randy Moss having been asked to come out of retirement surfacing yesterday. The loss of Golden Tate has hurt the passing game big time, much more than we expected as fans, but it appears management was aware it’d be a tough slog for Wilson as he’s yet to find his post-percy footing. Tate has demonstrated this year standing in as Detroit’s #1 receiver during Megatron’s injury that he’s a #1 receiver himself capable of stretching the field in the vertical passing game and creating separation. This offense hasn’t been the same in his absence and it’s clear Wilson misses his reliable hands and his elite ability to gain yards after the catch. Wilson needs to compensate by building rapport with the rookies through trust and familiarity so he can best utilize their strengths. The question is, how quickly can he do this, as we’re in the thick of the season and they have some seriously catching up to do to get on the same page with most of the first half wasted on an offense built around a guy no longer on the team.

    • art thiel

      Tate was a huge asset that becomes even more valuable after the Harvin implosion. They backed the wrong horse. But they also miss, for different reasons, Zach Miller and Michael Robinson/Derrick Coleman. Right now, a healthy Sidney Rice would help.

      But none are available, and they came up with a game plan that worked. But it is less likely to work in against the defenses of AZ and SF.

      • Lohengrin

        “Less likely” being the understatement of the week.

    • Lohengrin

      “Hey, everybody. It’s Golden Tate, hangin’ with my new buds in Detroit. Miss me much?”

  • PokeyPuffy

    The Flintstones analogy is a great one. Bronto burger anyone? Steak a saurus? Lets hope it travels well to KC where they are no strangers to BBQ :)

    Game-wise, the Wilson keepers seem to make all the difference. After 2.5 seasons no one has an answer for that

    • art thiel

      Actually, teams have stopped it and forced the Seahawks to go away from it. The Giants, for whatever reason, were oblivious to spying Wilson.

      • Effzee

        Their DC sure seemed to be amused watching him run around.

        • art thiel

          The DEs went for the ball-fake to Lynch every time. Amazing.

  • Effzee

    Pretty much playing out just as I thought. I wasn’t worried 3 weeks ago, I wasn’t worried when we were down in the first half yesterday, and I’m not worried today. The only thing that worried me all season was what in the hell was going on with Harvin. I would not be surprised if we do not lose again during the regular season. And now that Carson Palmer is done, the division is sitting right there for us to go grab. Which I fully expect us to do.

    • art thiel

      Good that the Twelves have such a calm captain at the helm.

      • Effzee

        Yeah. My friends typically (and lovingly?) refer to me as Glum, from Gulliver’s Travels, when it comes to my Seattle sports outlook. My confidence in the Seahawks comes from the fact that we are where we are, even with major injury problems. And yes, we lost a lot of talent in the offseason, but Pete and John have *always* had guys ready to go. We won last year with people who started out as no-names (SB MVP, anyone?), an oft-ramshackle offensive line, and “pedestrian” WRs. We had games where we struggled against mediocre teams, just like this year. It seems like its a really similar vibe right now as to last year, and we managed to manage every single one of the problems right into as dominant a SB victory as any of us have ever seen. I see no reason that we will not get stronger as the season goes along, and with our core players having Championship experience, I really don’t see who is going to keep us from the SB again. When we are healthy, there is no team that can match our talent, position-by-position.

        • art thiel

          The “always” well for talent acquisition begins to dry up when you have to start paying premier players who are young.

          Do your friends ever call you “Eeyore?”

        • eYeDEF

          sorry but I have a hard time understanding how you could think this vibe had anything on the vibe last year when we were winning all of the close games and only had one loss at this point in the season. last year’s team felt from start to end like it could be a team that could go all the way. That doesn’t feel to be like the case this year … at all.

    • Matt

      I wish I was as optimistic as Effzee. I was nervous before the Green Bay game, and I’ve been nervous ever since. The Seahawks lost a lot of depth in the off season. And Harvin, as some predicted, didn’t pan out. Wilson looked iffy last year at times but had an insanely good defense to cover for him. I don’t see that happening this year as the schedule heats up.

      • art thiel

        Each year’s changes for every NFL team presents new strengths and weaknesses. To carry over expectations isn’t realistic. Remember earlier in the year games were decided almost solely by Wilson, which isn’t good either. They overloaded with rush plays Sunday to take pressure off the pass pro so Wilson won’t have to throw so quickly. Worked, for one game.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    They are going to face a much different game on the road in this horse race style offense the chiefs have ….hope the defense comes to play for 4 full quarters. They wont be able to take a half off like they did against the Giants. A modest win streak and a lil swagger back doesn’t hurt anything though. Its funny that Wilson keeps insisting he would prefer not to run but it seems that is really part of the key to winning…keeping foes on their heels knowing he might wrack up 100 yards on them. Not ideal but its working. Keep figuring it out Hawk!

    • art thiel

      Defenses can game-plan to stop him on the read option, so he needs receivers he can trust to go get a ball.

      • 1coolguy

        His receivers have a difficult time with separation. They don’t create their own space very well making it that much tougher on Wilson. Tate was able to do this.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    I’ll take the ‘Hawks in KC. Even money.

    • eYeDEF

      I’m sure there are many bookies in vegas that would happily take your bet.

  • Gerald Turner

    Paul R need to learn to come back for the ball, not just stand there, that was rook. Norwood? Lynch was renting space in their heads, only explanation for getting caught inside on the rush over and over. Missing that deep pass? Perhaps Danger Russ is having a delayed sophomore slump, or one of those QB that don’t play well in the rain. Still a bad day for Wilson is an average day for a lot of the QB slop that’s out there.

    • art thiel

      When WRs don’t separate, Wilson gets too fine and forces the ball.

      • eYeDEF

        are they really failing in getting separation because they can’t or because of limitations in the scheme? last year the receivers were able to get separation in spite of limitations because schemes were run that allowed them to get separation. For instance bevell ran a lot of vertical switching routes designed to create separation for their “mediocre” receivers like Baldwin and Kearse. the only good explanation as to why those same schemes wouldn’t be working this year is because of the absence of Golden Tate who created separation for his teammates even when he wasn’t catching the ball by forcing defenses to have to account for him.