In position to prove themselves worthy of being considered one of the NFC's best teams, the Seahawks had a haunted Halloween in Oakland on Sunday; the team's performance was the most disappointing of the season thus far. Lawyer Milloy's post game sentiments: It's disappointing to see your team take two bye weeks during an NFL season, as there is only one on the schedule. We just didn't show up.
Head Coach Pete Carroll, frankly, agreed: "We didn't get anything done on either side of the line of scrimmage. The only redeeming thing is that half way through the third quarter it was still close enough where we even had a chance after really not playing very well…." My interpretation: we got blown off the ball on both sides, dominated actually. Somehow, we hung in there for a good portion of the game. Then we got our butts kicked. We got nothing accomplished.
The offensive performance by the Seahawks was the opposite of the unpredictable and sharp execution I believed was necessary for the Seahawks to be competitive in this game. Mike Williams sums it up best when explaining what a good offensive performance, and more importantly a win, would have meant to this team: "We (receivers) had a chance to step up as a group, take some pressure off the offensive line…It's frustrating. Three wins in a row — it would've been big for us, big for our fans, for our organization." An average of 2.7 Yards per play; 1 for 16 on third downs; Carlson led the team with three catches and Tate was the only other player with multiple catches; watching our offense felt like walking to work during a bone chilling November storm. The unit had negative offensive yardage into the second quarter. Hasselbeck was guilty of holding on to the ball at times en route to 8 sacks allowed, but he took care of the ball Ok, throwing only 1 Interception; it is not time for Charlie Whitehurst.To have a successful passing game with the power running game you, need to use the tight end in the intermediate passing game; it keeps the safety a little deeper, out of the box and attracts the attention of the line backers in coverage. As I noted last week, Carlson needs to be more involved in this offense. His 35 yard catch on an intermediate corner route toward the sideline was his season long, and is a sound example of how we can use him, taking advantage of a matchup on the linebackers. Hasselbeck and Carlson have a very solid relationship; Hasselbeck trusts Carlson more than some of the newer receivers. Carlson needs more targets, simply put.
Another man whose role in the game plan grew a little is Leon Washington. ESPN's Mike Sando noted the following in his "Silver Linings" column; "Leon Washington had punt returns covering 43, 19, 19 and 9 yards. He had kickoff returns for 45 and 37 yards. He gained 21 yards the first time he carried the ball. In short, Washington was the best thing Seattle had going for itself against the Raiders." I highly approve of the decision to put Washington back to receive on punt returns and giving him garbage playing time to rip off a 21 yard run, as I have been advocating for increasing his role on this team. He is carrying momentum into practice this week and, especially with Tate nursing an injury, this is the Coaching Staff's best opportunity thus far to get him further involved in the offense, both running and receiving.
"These guys were on fire, everything off the charts for them" and "we got big played" is how Coach Carroll described the Oakland offense after the game: Seattle gave up 10 plays of 20 yards or more. "Their offense is built around speed, speed and more speed," Milloy said. "I thought we were ready for it. And even when they hit some early, I thought we answered the call, especially with our red zone defense, which has been tough all year. But we just didn't get it done as a team, period. Point blank." The Raiders beat the Seahawks with reverses, play-action screens and misdirection runs, taking advantage, as Coach Carroll noted in his post game conference, of the Seahawks inability to contain the backside of the play, they did not show a combination of discipline in maintaining assignments and energy in successfully getting to the ball carrier; Carroll fully believes it is possible to be both aggressive and fundamentally sound, we just haven't done them well in unison.
While the Seahawks were able to contain Tight End Zach Miller, the Raiders Darren McFadden ran for 111 yards on 21 carries; additionally, backfield companion Michael Bush added 51 yards and a touchdown. As I noted in the pre game column, the left side of the Raider offensive line was extremely effective against Denver; after Red Bryant was injured, the Oakland line found its rhythm. McFadden's slippery 49 yard run was possible due to the impressive pull blocking of the left side of their line, sealing an alley for McFadden to explode through; a poor angle by Aaron Curry, who still does not look like an NFL starter, and a late, unsuccessful tackle by Lofa Tatupu contributed in helping McFadden to the second level. This play shows the importance replacing Bryant, who is possibly out for an extended period. Who steps up, competes their way into this spot? Kentwan Balmer, E. J. Wilson, possibly even Colin Cole who himself is nursing a sprained ankle. Someone needs to emerge through competition, because a large role in this defense is most likely open.
Injuries played a role going into this football game and as noted above, the list of wounded only grew as the game went on. The injuries in the Seattle secondary proved to be the most costly, as Quarterback Jason Campbell threw for 310 yards on only 15 completions with a 120.9 passer rating. Kennard Cox made two big plays, including the shoe string tackle on McFadden's scamper, in increased playing time. Nate Ness surrendered the double move that led to the 65 yard Darius Heyward Bay touchdown. As much of a role that injuries played on both sides of the ball for Seattle in this game, you didn't hear Pete Carroll use them as an excuse for his team's poor performance. His philosophy thus far has been built on preparation and competition, he believes the reserves should be ready to come in and compete in any game. Carroll admitted post game, "I told these guys this starts with me; we didn't get ready, we didn't play right." He put it on himself, showing me it's not just the players who buy in, and compete, in this organization. As decimating and potentially season changing as the defeat in Oakland appeared, it is clear to me Coach Carroll's attitude going forward isn't changing, but progressing.
A comment by a reader in the ESPN NFC West blog mentioned how Carroll was tagged as a rah rah, over the top kind of guy, but has showed nothing but reason, humility and logic in his post game interviews. As Pete Carroll took the blame for the performance in Oakland, he also fully shouldered the responsibility for improving the team's preparation, discipline and energy going forward. He is explaining to his boys that success is not a reward that comes on steady incline in all situations. Overcoming adversity is a vital part in creating a winning formula; we need to have situations, good and bad, as a team that allow us to enjoy an appreciation for buying into this program. As Coach Carroll said on Sunday, "the best thing to do is get out of here. Go home and start tomorrow and put this one behind us; but not forget about the things we do need to fix." Luckily for Pete Carroll, his admirable work done thus far on the organization has yielded a foundation in player personnel and coaching that have been through adversity, won championships; Milloy, Raheem Brock, Linebacker Coach Ken Norton Jr. as a member of the 49ers and Cowboys to name a few. This game was just a stepping stone, as luckily the team was allowed to leave, to the disappointment of the Raiders, the black hole.
The New York Giants come to Qwest next Sunday with possibly the NFC's most experienced and only worthy squad of owning the title of the NFC's best team. The last time the Giants came to Qwest, the Seahawks organization asked the fans to step up, as a New York source accused the Seahawks of piping noise into the stadium; we led 35-3 at halftime. As an attendant of that game, I can personally say it was possibly the loudest stadium I have ever been in, and that includes the 2006 NFC Championship game vs. the Panthers and the 2008 Super bowl. Pete Carroll wrote the following in a tweet last week: "Hey 12th man, you all are extraordinary ... but how much crazier can we make Qwest? What can we do to raise the bar?" Early in Wednesday's practice, Coach Carroll would be wise to end his introduction to the team with the very same question.