Sunday, October 31, 2010

A spooky Sunday for the Seahawks

As documented earlier in the week, this weekend's matchup against Oakland is the Seahawks first test playing as a division leader under the leadership of Head Coach Pete Carroll. Playing this unfamiliar role, the Hawks look to build on the momentum of a two game winning streak; the team will rely on a blend of superior energy and competitiveness mixed with a sound, disciplined game plan, hoping to extend the streak to three. The defense looks to carry the momentum that was established last week into Oakland, both continuing the units' stellar play and providing a spark for the rest of the team, especially the offense, to feed off.

For the offense to be successful the unit needs to start the game both sharp and unpredictable. Based on the Seahawks offensive performance last week against Arizona, it may seem a little off kilter to say this weekend the offense's first drive needs to replicate last Sunday's first offensive drive. The truth is, however, I was pleased with the play calling and execution of the offense on the first drive; The Cardinals defense was off balance as the Seattle offense spread the ball around, immediately trying to get all weapons involved and in sync. After two consecutive running plays resulted in a first down to start the game, the Seahawks threw to Leon Washington out of '11' (1 RB- 3WR-1TE) shotgun formation, the play ending in an incomplete pass; Lynch ran for 39 yards off left tackle the next play. In last week's entry The Bears to The Birds, I advocated for involving Washington in the passing game out of the backfield on first and second downs simply to keep the defense a bit more off balance and further open the power running game; this 2 play sequence exemplifies the possibility. The offense continued its aggressiveness throughout the drive, ultimately working its way to the goal line, but also losing Left Tackle Russell Okung along the way. Sitting first and goal, a tackle down, the offense proceeded to stall and the drive resulted in a field goal. While it's impossible to say, given the strong offensive game plan shown on the first drive, I do not believe the offense would have struggled nearly as much as it did last week had Okung not been hurt. The offense flashed new wrinkles when it had a healthy first unit on the field, and there is no reason to believe that this week's game plan won't involve new wrinkles, with a healthy offense, as well.

In my last post, I mentioned the success the San Francisco 49ers had when motioning out of Trips formation into a standard 1RB-4WR set and how emulating the 49ers could result in success for the Seahawks this weekend. One key element of the 49ers game plan was using Tight End Vernon Davis on the inside of the Trips, attracting the attention of the safeties and opening lanes for the receivers both underneath and downfield. Given this week's increased attention on the role of John Carlson I believe there is opportunity to get him, as well as Leon Washington, involved in the offense. Stacking Williams, Washington and Carlson on one side of the formation will dictate where the defense focuses coverage, ultimately leaving Washington open on short routes to the outside or Carlson more room to work over the middle. As the Seahawks have been struggling to spread the ball around, I believe its imperative to get both players involved early and often, as they have previously shown the ability to consistently pick up small chunks of yardage and move the chains. Furthermore, rotating Lynch and Forsett in the backfield of this particular formation will keep the defense even more off balance, as both backs can win a 1 on 1 battle with a defender, via handoff, en route to the second level or motion out wide as a fifth receiver, further confusing the defense with an empty backfield 2 RB-2WR-1TE formation. The Seahawks have the ability to use power to overwhelm the Raiders' speed, such as getting the ball into the hands of our polished receiving backs in matchups vs. corners or safeties. The 49ers showed how a combination of speed and strength can neutralize the speed of the Raiders defensive backfield, and I believe Sunday's game presents the Seahawks offense with an opportunity to use the units' speed and strength in a new, potentially explosive manner.

The defense must bring the same energy as last week for the Seahawks to leave Oakland victorious this weekend; The Seahawks need to avoid the letdown that can often follow a very strong performance, similar to the situation the Oakland offense is facing this week. Darren McFadden and Zach Miller are the two players the Hawks defense must focus on neutralizing if the unit is to avoid a letdown Sunday.

McFadden has proven to be very versatile out of the backfield, consistently catching passes and scoring touchdowns in the passing game, while Miller has shown to be the team's most consistent receiver. McFadden achieved ample success both running and receiving behind the left side of the offensive line last week vs. Denver; a major piece of this week's defensive game plan should be focused taking away the productivity McFadden provides out of the backfield, especially on the edge, and disrupt the rhythm he was able to establish in running behind the left side of the line. I will continue to note the importance of stopping the screen game for this Seattle defense, as the Raiders are very capable of exploiting the lack of discipline the Seahawks have shown against the screen game. Miller provides a threat to the middle of the Seahawks defense on all levels of the field, an explosive, consistent Tight End that can stretch the middle and provide matchup problems. The Seahawks defense needs to let Earl Thomas continue to play Center field and not get forced into providing help in the middle against Miller. Taking away McFadden and Miller will allow the defense to focus on forcing less proven players to step up and make plays for the Raiders, a philosophy that should prove helpful in creating pressure against the Raider offensive line.

Injuries will play a role in the outcome of this week's matchup of the Seahawks defense vs. the Oakland offense. The Raiders are without their top two receivers: Louis Murphy, Oakland's leading receiver, and #2 Chaz Schilens; 2nd year, top 10 draft pick Darrius Heyward Bey and rookie Jacoby Ford will be responsible for creating plays down the field for the Raiders. On the other side, Seattle is hoping to be down one Cornerback, at best. One player who I have been waiting to see in regular season action is former Miami Dolphins Corner Nate Ness who was acquired in the preseason; he is big, physical and talented, but raw. Roy Lewis said if he (Lewis) were to start, he'd still slide back inside in the nickel package with Nate Ness taking over at the corner. Lewis, "I've become a third down expert. Now, it's a whole different dynamic. The vision changes, the technique changes and the mental game changes." If Jennings and Thurmond are out Sunday, Ness' performance will be crucial in successfully defending the Oakland passing game, as the Seahawks must force the Raiders to feature their young receivers, and ultimately force mistakes.

Sunday's game in Oakland is a true toss up. The team that is most composed, fundamentally sound and ready for adversity is going to win the football game. It's a game of two, inconsistently even teams looking to rekindle an old rivalry and gain a game in their respective divisions, both sides knowing that only one is going to frighten the rest, especially on Halloween.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

On top of the NFC West, but looking up at the ceiling

As Head Coach Pete Carroll worked his way down the bench dropping a hail storm of Hell Yeah on his defense, notably Roy Lewis and Lawyer Milloy, at the end of the victory over the Cardinals, I imagine his words to echo something similar to the following: "You competed like hell; you brought it how this Seahawks team brings it. You are tough, fast, physical. Enjoy this. Build on this!" He knew he had to build up his boys. He knew pointing out the fact that by playing together, individual players abiding by the same defensive principals as a collective unit, buying into what the team had worked on all week in practice, is why the team won. They bought in; everybody won.

So when Pete Carroll stepped to the microphone for his post game press conference Sunday, victorious as coach of the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks, what I expected and what I saw didn't completely line up. Somehow, the most jacked up coach in pro football seemed somewhat disappointed after a tremendous win. I was confused. But as I listened further, my gut didn't change. Carroll, "we had so many chances; we left so much on the field in terms of points. It was great to get the win and we had fun in the locker room. A lot of good happened but we have so much room for improvement. That's what's really exciting." Let me quickly translate: our defense and special teams led by ball hawking rookie Earl Thomas, the best Center fielder Seattle has seen since Griffey, played tremendously creating five turnovers combined between the 2 units; however, Seattle's offense scored 1 touchdown, a dismal 1 for 7 on possessions inside the opponent's 14 yard line. The defense was highly effective on third down, but uncharacteristic on first and second allowing 100 yards rushing to a team for the first time all season. Mike Williams finished with 11 catches only after dropping balls early, a common theme for his performance's this season; He also got stopped on the 1 yard line, again. Olindo Mare made an astonishing 8 field goals, but only five actually counted. We're showing we can be tough and physical on offense, but did I mention an average of 3.8 yards per play? We learned this football team is good, and has work to do before its closer to great. We also saw, however, the tough as nails, disciplined mindset this football team, and organization, operates under; to learn more about this mindset, look no further than the words of veteran Safety Lawyer Milloy.

In his 15th season as a strong safety, Milloy has a reputation of toughness, longevity and a Super Bowl victory. He played for Carroll in New England in the late 1990s, leading a Carroll influenced defense, and has been the leader of the defensive backfield under Carroll in Seattle. Milloy has logged more snaps than most in the NFL, and knows a winning formula when he sees one. He sat at his locker after the victory and praised the defined direction of the organization. Milloy told Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times, "Our team was built through competition. It started in the offseason. The 53 guys in here, we know we belong. We earned it. Our roster is still changing, but the one thing that's a constant is effort. A lot of times, effort gets you through the tough times." As I noted in my previous entry Hawks Flyin' High, to be on this team you have to compete like hell, and if you aren't willing to buy in and put in the effort to stay on the 53 man roster, someone else will; notice how some players, Quinton Ganther and Chester Pitts to name a few, are willing to compete in the program without a guaranteed spot. Even though most outside the organization questioned the roster moves at the end of the pre-season, most notably the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Milloy explained the clear vision Carroll and General Manager John Schneider have for this team; the certain types of guys they wanted. Even though many faces are fresh, the team is coming together to find ways to win. Milloy, to the Seattle Times' Steve Kelley, "And the thing about it is, that no matter what position we're in, the thing I'm happiest about is that this team understands that if we play our ball we can beat anybody. And that's the bottom line." Milloy made it very clear there is a universal understanding inside the organization as to how the program runs and what it takes to be a part of its success, and this understanding has been growing stronger throughout the pre-season and through 1/3 of the regular season; the more each individual invests in representing this Seahawks organization, the stronger the team and the collective energy surrounding the team can become. This program doesn't cater to individuals; it breeds the success of the collective. The focus is on breeding a team that plays every snap to protect the Seahawk logo on Sunday. To further understand the potential associated with this approach to team building, let me introduce you to the idea of the Totem.

In his work The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Emile Durkheim, the founder of the science of Sociology, explains the Totem as a symbol of expression. "It is a flag. It is the sign by which each clan distinguishes itself from others, a visible mark of personality and embodiment." The flag is a universal representation of any individual who is fully associated with the culture of the flag. The conscious respect of the flag "automatically stimulates or inhibits behavior regardless of any relative consideration of its practical or harmful effects. When one obeys a moral authority we recognize him because a psychic energy immanent to the idea we have of this person makes us bend our will and incline to compliance." The stronger the belief of those most intimately involved with group that is solely responsible for representing the Totem, in this case a football team, the more infectious the spread the "Totemic principle" of that symbol will be; the end being a  "Collective Effervescence." To rein this abstract idea to concrete ground, a recent NFL example is the New Orleans Saints. The city of New Orleans ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, grabbed onto this organization, its fresh faces and most importantly, Hope. (The link is footage of the first post Katrina game in the Superdome vs. Atlanta. Unofficially, the loudest noise ever produced by a sports crowd. <>. Seahawks fans, you will be rewarded for watching the full 1:40.) The organization made it their responsibility not just to represent the team, but to have that Saints logo represent the city as a whole; The Saints logo ultimately represented a city of people outside the organization caring just as much about the success of the team as the players and staff working towards a collective success, the "Collective Effervescence" that was the nation wide celebration of the Saints victory in Super Bowl XLIV.

The comparison to note here is the similarity in the type of organization the Saints built and the Seahawks are building. While I cannot say if the Seahawks will win a championship this year, or any year, I can say that this team and organization have built a rock solid foundation, mentally and physically. The "psychic energy" Pete Carroll has brought, look no further than the high five parade Sunday, is defining how the Seahawks operate; that everyone involved understands that to win a team championship it takes continually working to develop a team and staff devoted to representing, and distinguishing, itself to the fullest. Milloy's post game comments show me that, as I noted previously, GM John Schnieder said, "It's not a patching thing. It's not a rebuilding thing. It's continuously building as we go." The Hawks are now sitting above the division, and the thing I'm happiest about is that this organization believes there is only one direction to keep flying; up.

In week 8 of the 2010 NFL season, the Seahawks fly into Oakland to face the Raiders in an unfamiliar position. Going into the Chicago game, the Hawks focus was bringing a "home" energy on the road and competing like hell; bringin' it on the road. The focus of the Arizona game was protecting our turf and taking over the division. The matchup versus Oakland carries a very different theme. For the first time all season, the first time under the new regime, we are no longer the "in rebuilding mode," underdog football team that most outside the organization expected; we now have the targets on our backs. There is an expectation sitting on this team to win in Oakland; we are expected to come fully prepared and ready to compete every week. This week's theme is focused on protecting our flag, taking care of our business, and building the anticipation of winning, wherever we play. We fly into Oakland looking to thrust above the gray skies, avoiding the pull of the black hole along the way.

A post outlining keys to the game will come Saturday; we just learned Jason Campbell is likely starting at QB for the Raiders. However, as a bay area resident who watches a lot of Raider football, I want to share three quick thoughts on the Raiders performance last week at Denver and the week before at San Francisco. First, the football team that dropped a record setting 59 point bomb on the Denver Broncos last Sunday was not the same team that lost the week before against the 49ers, San Francisco's first win. The Raiders are a very inconsistent football team that struggles to find its identity, especially at quarterback, and bring a consistent energy weekly. Last week, The Raiders took advantage of having an unexpectedly healthy and impressively explosive Darren McFadden, walloping a disinterested and thoroughly unprepared, mostly for McFadden's health, Denver team. Second, in the game against San Francisco, the 49ers were able to use formations and motion to get Michael Crabtree into coverage against second corner Stanford Routt, not stud Nnamdi Asomugha; The 49ers mainly used motioning out of Trips into a standard 1 RB-4WR set to get the matchup's they wanted. Matchups are critical for Seattle Sunday. Matt Hasselbeck acknowledged in his post game press conference last week that Arizona used more double coverage than expected, even with the presence of Pro Bowl corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, to contain Mike Williams early. Asomugha's role is often to play one side of the field, not one man, in coverage. The Seahawks can take advantage of that tendency. My last thought; Lynch and Forsett, The Beast Mode Back Field, is back in the bay. Memorial stadium is 20 minutes from The Oakland Coliseum. I can't wait. I am confident Coach Carroll and his staff is fully preparing the team for all of the possibilities come Sunday, and whatever the game plan, it will surely be focused on executing it not as 53 pieces, but one unit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hawks Flyin’ High

This is an article I wrote for the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. In the interest of keeping readers up to date with themes that I have developed before the launch of this journal, I plan to periodically post previously written entries. Look for a post on the Seahawks' victory over the Cardinals in the next day or two.

Written 9/11/10

Approximately one year after Jim Mora led the Seahawks into one of the least successful seasons in recent Seattle sports memory, and that's saying something, the 2010 Seahawks look to take flight on a new path. Mora's firing, an unborn blessing at the time, yielded perhaps one of the NFL's most dynamic General Manager/Vice President/Coach tandems, who happen to parallel the recent movie I love You, Man; Pete Carroll and John Schneider have began to completely, and successfully, rebuild a cooked organization. Furthermore, the grand plan that was Pete Carroll's desire to run his own pro program, after 10 years of dominating the collegiate ranks, are now the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, team "buy in."

The un-official team leader of program "buy in" is none other than General Matt Hasselbeck. As important as it is to acknowledge that The Hass MUST stay healthy this season for this team to succeed, it is possibly more important to note Pete endorsed him from day one, and Hasselbeck returned the enthusiasm buying in to every bit of this new regime. To me, the Charlie Whitehurst acquisition was simple; 2 years, 8 million dollars to a 3 year veteran who has learned under a good QB coach (Norv Turner). Whitehurst was a third rounder coming out, so trading a late 2nd equivalent makes sense. It's an audition. Whitehurst is not ready to be a starting QB. Anyone who thought that Hasselbeck was going to give away the QB job is not fully aware of how competitive The Hass truly is. On Jim Rome is Burning, The Hass stated, "I'm trying to have the best offseason of my life, trying to be pushed, buy in, go for it. That's the mindset everyone on this team has to have." He even stressed the importance of buying in on Chris Mortonsen's ESPN camp tour, basically hinting at the team attitude of buy in or get out; and his sentiments seem to be spot on.

To grab a seat on team "buy in," you have to compete like hell. We have all learned this simple principle. And by buying in, one must believe Carroll & Schneider are one step, maybe four, ahead. Progressing, changing and adapting are qualities of the most innovative people. The most aware and informed people are willing to change on the fly because they understand adaptation breeds survival, and eventually success. "The most exciting part of it is if you have a coach and a coaching staff that is willing to move forward and teach and put in the extra time to get new players ready, it can be an extremely exciting period to add players," the Seahawks general manager said last week. "This is not something we're trying to patch. We're trying to build. It's not like a rebuilding thing; it's not like a patching thing. It's a continuously building this thing as we go." The awareness is shown in the roster moves made when approximately 700 new players became available after final cuts, creating an opening day roster that has only half of last year's roster. It has become clear the merry go round will spin with 53 guys who buy in, and if someone wants to buy out, there is another punched ticket waiting. Just ask T.J. Houshmanzadeh.

81, 95, and 30.You should know those numbers as the amount of receptions Mike Williams had in his 2 seasons at USC, and his total TD catches. Fast forward nearly 7 years and to most, those numbers are irrelevant. Williams has admitted he's changed a lot of bad habits replacing them with an infatuation with results. As he told Pete Carroll, 'I want to see how far I can take it'; I tell the truth when I say I truly believed Mike Williams would have a spot on the opening day roster over the hometown Reggie Williams, and that he was more fit to be the guy in this offense over Houshmanzadeh. Better size, similar speed, suction cup hands and a quiet work ethic; a man who wants to prove the "something" hanging on his back. Realize how important this organization believes the success of Mike Williams is to this Seahawks team. Given his body of work this offseason, I think he realizes how important he is, too.

When the Seahawks take the field Sunday in one of the most monumental season openers in Seattle sports lore, expect to see a connection blossom that is exemplary of this team, this organization. In comparing Hasselbeck to Williams, you find two players buying in for seemingly different reasons; one trying to get back to the big game and another simply trying to have one big game. As different as these motives may seem, they are in line with the same cause; Competing for this team. One is simply trying to lead the other down the field, towards the same goal. The veteran leader of team "buy in" and the wasted talent that was USC's Mike Williams look to ignite something unexpected, and fuel the flight of the Hawks on a new path.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Bears to The Birds: Seahawks look to take flight atop NFC West

In week 6 against The Chicago Bears, The Beast Mode Back Field led by Marshawn Lynch was unleashed. "You could feel him playing," Carroll said. So could we. Enough said.

Not enough has been said, however, about the way the offensive line is beginning to gel, and how instrumental their sound performance was in executing a well rounded running game against Chicago. This unit's decision to end a season long media silence last week before the game resonated with me. After a tumultuous off season highlighted by both the jubilant hiring of Alex Gibbs and his early retirement combined with a constantly changing rotation in the preseason many wondered can the O-Line gel by week 1? Week 10? At 2-2 going into the bye week, the offensive line had the opportunity to gel at the most opportune time. With Okung finally healthy, flashing his potential, and Andrews proving to be another example of excellent front office scouting by this organization, they started to gel in practice. So when Chris Spencer, the leader of an O-line hoped to be on the verge of gellin', breaks the media silence to say they are gellin', I paid attention. I also paid attention to the continuity displayed in helping unleash TBMBF. The most consistent performance by our O-line of the year allowed for the Seahawks to display a glimpse of the answer to another major question mark through the bye week: what is our identity on offense.

The offense kept it simple, staying with the newly found personnel package to execute an offense that looked similar to the 2003-2005 USC Trojans: A power running game, scat back, both a big, physical possession receiver with a small, speedy complement and a well rounded tight end are all elements of previous successful offenses in Carroll's program. In his post game news conference, Carroll exclaimed "This is very reminiscent of the formula I have become accustomed to -- the big back hitting it hard, the flashy guy, the big receiver and the quarterback getting the ball to every guy," Carroll said. "That is what we have come in here to do. It has just taken us awhile." This is foreshadowing of our base package going forward, which would include Butler playing a USC Steve Smith type role. I still wonder, however, where Leon fits in this offense. We threw incomplete to him on third and long a couple times; I'd rather disguise his role and not advertise his presence in obvious throwing situations; Get him in space using wheel routes or power runs to the edge on first and second down to complement the physicality of lynch, just as we do with the versatility of Forsett on third down. The beast has the potential to be a three headed monster. A more dynamic running game, explosive on the edges, will ultimately open the middle of the field for Carlson, Stokely and co. This wrinkle in the scheme will add a dimension to the consolidated, post Branch trade base package on offense.

The Seahawks ability to maintain a dominant run defense on first and second down allowed Coordinator Gus Bradley to successfully attack the Bears on third down with a variety of defensive backfield blitzes from unorthodox formations, such as 3-1-7. There is an unusual flexibility built into this flourishing scheme that Carroll credits to learning during his time as defensive coordinator of the 49ers in the 1990s. In the offseason, it was clear Carroll was buying into the philosophy of if we can stop the run, we can attack against the pass. Carroll was giddy over the potential Red Bryant flashed to be dominant in this new defense as the space consuming centerpiece anchoring against the run. His hard work and solid play have allowed us to be dominant against the run with minimal run stopping personnel on the field, and aided the coaching staff's ability to feature the physicality of our secondary, putting 7 DBs on the field, as part of our aggressive attack; physicality that brought 4.5 sacks and a safety against The Bears. Furthermore, off season addition Chris Clemons' explosive play has been nothing short of impactful in the Leo position, ensuring that offenses have to game plan against solid play on both sides of the Seahawks defensive line. It's time to credit this organization for the effort put into retooling this 'Hawks defensive line; The first unit is backed by an equally solid rotation, the majority of which are new faces to this 2010 roster, such as experienced winner Raheem Brock, and potential laden Kentwan Balmer. Dominant run D and a versatile physicality are fueling this aggressive, competitive defense.

When a football team possesses a physical, well coached and explosive defense it has a special capability to take a major element of sport at any moment; momentum. At home in week 5, the Cardinals beat the defending champs in rookie Max Hall's first career start, blistering into the bye week with an unassuming, sparkplug as their new leader at QB. The Seahawks are carrying the momentum of bringing it on the road like they do at home, a present theme in our locker room before and after the bye. Carroll has fully acknowledged the importance of building, and not reminiscing, on last week's victory, grabbing the momentum within the division. The home field advantage enjoyed by this defense when playing at Qwest is well documented; Carroll has made it clear the noise, energy and enthusiasm the home crowd brings is a factor in carrying that momentum this Sunday, especially against a rookie quarterback. Hall carries high praise and belief from within the Cardinal organization, and Carroll agrees praising him as "savvy, mobile, quick and resourceful." Hall leads the Cardinals into quest with attitude, and is a tougher assignment than meets the eye. The Hawks have to get to Hall; they have to get to him early. The defense needs to be aware of his mobility and the fact that the Cardinals will try to roll the pocket to slow down the Seahawks pressure. Bradley needs to do an effective job of disguising where the pressure is going to come from, attempting to confuse a raw Cardinal offense. We have the personnel and toughness up front to try and rattle the young QB early. Furthermore, letting Thomas play with his natural instincts and more freedom, after a disciplined performance last week, in the back half of the defense will give Hall something else to think about. Another element of the Cardinals offense to think about is the unusual struggles of Tim Hightower in pass protection. Hightower had maintained a role in the offense as the receiving and power back up until this season, and his inability to be sound in pass protection is an unwelcome new struggle. As I have noted earlier in the season, the Seahawks have struggled greatly against the screen and patterns out of opposing backfields. Seattle improved last week holding Forte under 50 yards receiving, and by attacking Hightower with blitzes this week we can neutralize their check down and screen game. Utilizing a man, Lofa or Lawyer, to both blitz at Hightower to exploit his recent struggles with delayed or overload blitzes and play a spy role to neutralize the screen, is crucial in eliminating the underneath dimension of this Cardinal offense. Marcus Trufant has played at a near elite level thus far and will be relied upon to keep Fitz relatively in check to execute this type of game plan. Ultimately forcing the Cardinals into a downfield offense will force Hall's decisions, create turnovers and capture momentum.

The offense must continue what it started last week in Chicago. As Carroll noted, the Cardinals "are much more multiple. Chicago is much more of a fundamental, beat-you-up defense and they are great at it. This is a defense that will take more chances and scheme more and more looks and things like that." The cardinals are more unpredictable and more aggressive than The Bears zone scheme, led this week by a double digit sack predicting Joey Porter. Our offensive scheme needs to neutralize the aggressiveness of the cardinals through screens, disguising formations and breaking tendencies. Furthermore, motioning receivers off the coverage of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will help our offense create matchups, especially for Williams, against a small, young secondary; our offense must continue to apply pressure down the field. Dictating the Cardinals defensive rhythm and forcing their blitzing defense to backpedal into coverage is paramount in executing the power running game and getting the ball vertically down the middle and to the sidelines. Furthermore, throwing on first and second down out of run base formations that were established with Lynch last week will keep the defense off balance; Part of this unpredictability could come in the form of receptions for both Lynch and Washington. Moving far from the offensive identity shown last week would be a mistake, but some added wrinkles should be expected as Pete Carroll tries to maintain offensive momentum.

When Pete Carroll was hired as our head coach, many questioned what direction he would lead the team. As depicted by the digitally composed, larger than life images on the side of Qwest, he has directed us with energy and passion towards competing, week in and week out. This week, we see if he can connect those dots, creating not just weekly competition but the anticipation of winning, week in and week out. While he has done a stellar job turning this organization around personnel wise with 219 roster moves to this point, some have questioned, including Pete himself, his ability to manage a different game in the NFL. After the debacle that was the end of the first half against the Chargers, Carroll said "I realized that after all those years at USC, with our offenses being so dynamic; I got a little bold about our situation. We need to take care of business better and I need to do a better job and make sure we get our points when we get our opportunities. They're not always going to come around the way it used to seem like it happened…We were too bold … so I'll take note of that." The next week against the Rams, a drive that ended with a poorly executed fake field goal and included a Michael Robinson to Leon Washington Flea flicker on third and short showed he hadn't truly re-evaluated his approach. Kicking to Devin Hester with just over 2 minutes left last week again raises red flags about game management. If the Seahawks are to gain the momentum and take over the division this week, Pete Carroll has to show the ability to manage and lead this team through momentous situations; he needs to channel those larger than life images this Sunday at Qwest.