Friday, December 10, 2010
The mystique clears and confidence rolls in as Hawks’ fly towards the bay
The Seahawks enter week 14 of the NFL season focused on maintaining the momentum created in the comeback victory against the Carolina Panthers, looking to build on 30 minutes of football that is exemplary of what Head Coach Pete Carroll believes his team is capable of; the challenge for the Seahawks is to maintain that attitude throughout the week and bring it to San Francisco.
Representing the symbol: The change in attitude the Seahawks showed after halftime last Sunday was a result of tough times, hard work and brutal motivation. Coach Carroll challenged his players to harness the mindset of the "formula," the championship mentality he is working so hard to build, and represent, in Seattle.
In my October post On top of the NFC West but looking up at the ceiling, I explained Sociologist Emile Durkheim's theory of the Totem: In short, the Totem is a universal symbol of expression, a flag for example, that is a representation of a "clan;" there is no obligation towards following a particular culture of beliefs and practices, but each clan possesses a moral authority that emanates a psychic energy associated with the totem; the stronger the energy of the leader, the more inclined the members of the clan are to bend their will in compliance towards the "totemic principles" surrounding the toem; the more infectious the spread of the principles, the stronger the "Collective Effervescence" surrounding the totem can become. The New Orleans Saints provide a current, concrete example of Durkheim's theory in the modern NFL (for a full explanation of the Totem and its application to the New Orleans Saints and Seahawks: http://howlseahawks.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-top-of-nfc-west-but-looking-up-at.html).
At halftime, Coach Carroll's power as the Seahawks' moral authority was realized when he projected his frustrated, yet active tone onto the group; it's important to understand the collective force of the group comes from two places: the disciplined principles of the orator and the collective desire of the group. During halftime last Sunday, Carroll reoriented his team's mindset, elevating and enlarging the team's capabilities. "We've had a tough month. It took its toll. I didn't do a good enough job of keeping ahead of that, maintaining the mindset. I had to convince these guys of their capabilities until they owned their potential; the moment of the challenge was obvious and then it snapped." The past six games have been a rough road for the Seahawks, going 2-4 and continually searching for the right identity. The breakthrough against Carolina isn't a springboard for Coach Carroll. It's the result of hard work; the payoff of continually fighting to "hang around" and wait for the opportunity.
16 Quarters, 16 games: The Seahawks final four games is a new season for the team, a season that has the same goal as when these two teams met in week 1. A decisive win in the first game of the 16 quarter stretch is crucial if the Seahawks hope to build on the 31 unanswered points they scored to close out the "pre-season," which began after "eight game training camp" that concluded with the week 9 bludgeoning by the Giants. The main cause of the Seahawks' six losses have been the result of opponents jumping out of the blocks as the Seahawks stumble through the first quarter; they have been down 10 points or more at halftime in five of six losses. The theme of this week is start where the Seahawks finished, 31 points and counting.
Questions closer to being answered
A change in the secondary: Coach Carroll noted in his Monday presser that rookie Cornerback Walter Thurmond would receive increased playing time going forward; when asked if that meant less for Kelly Jennings, Carroll defended Jennings noting the Panthers unexpectedly went to Jennings' side of the field early and often, but was evasive to the topic of Jennings ensuing playing time all together. My hope to see Kennard Cox getting an opportunity at Cornerback stems from his exceptional Special Teams play, not logic; the increased usage of the rookie Thurmond shows a concerted, bold effort to get better at a crucial time in the season.
The likely return of Colin Cole: The Defensive Tackle is expected to be active this weekend after missing the last five games, one of the two missing pieces from the defense that was 2nd in defending the run after six games this season. Cole's size, 6'2 and 330 pounds, allows for greater flexibility in using Junior Siavii, possibly placing Junior in the strong side defensive end spot, and enhances the Seahawks defensive play calling capabilities; I wouldn't be surprised to see coordinator Gus Bradley loosely experiment using five lineman, or four lineman and a roaming Aaron Curry, coupled with various combinations in the defensive backfield. Furthermore, Cole's return removes some of the strain being placed on Lofa Tatupu, who has done his best in directing the defensive line during the absences of Cole and Red Bryant. Cole will provide support for the entire defense and help regain some consistency defending the run.
The fab five: The Seahawks offensive line played with tenacity against the Panthers that had been hard to find this season due to injuries. Coordinator Jeremy Bates noted before the week 10 game in Arizona that the offense needed to "find five guys" who could earn starting positions up front by competing hard and remaining healthy. For the third game in a row, the first time all season, the offensive line will have the same five men starting; From Left Tackle to Right: Okung, Gibson, Spencer, Andrews, Locklear. Last week Okung and Gibson displayed displayed toughness and continuity on the left side, sealing backside blocks and creating cutback runs for Marshawn Lynch, especially dominating the line of scrimmage inside the Panther 10 yard line. Center Chris Spencer stated after the Chicago game in week 6 the offensive line was gelling; he let the whole line do the talking in week 13 and if this group can remain healthy, there will be a whole lot of chatter the rest of the season.
Questions that still remain
The status of Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu: Both receivers are hopeful to practice Friday, but more than likely the game plan is being designed assuming one, or both, will not play. As noted in my previous post, Bates successfully adjusted to the personnel and focused on using the lack of depth at receiver to create an explosive running game against Carolina. This week, Bates has time to integrate Tight End Cameron Morrah into the game plan to help replace some of the size and dependability lost by missing Williams and Obomanu; John Carlson is expected back too, adding some of the toughness after the catch that is lost without the team's top two receivers. Bates would be wise to use the Tight Ends down the middle of the field, with the intention of opening the sidelines for the backs and receivers in the short and intermediate passing games.
A continually changing 49ers offense: The change in Quarterback, from Troy Smith to Alex Smith, alters the defensive game planning for Seattle; Troy Smith is a strong armed quarterback that excels using play action and throwing the deep ball, especially on third down, while Alex Smith is a smart, veteran Quarterback that uses his IQ and accuracy to outsmart the defense. If Alex smith gets into a rhythm, he can get hot. Smith is accustomed to having the injured Frank Gore as a safety valve out of the backfield, often a key piece for Smith in finding that rhythm. The Seahawks need to apply pressure on first down and make Smith uncomfortable, forcing the 49ers into 3rd and long situations, not a strength of the 49ers offense.
Friday's practice will help provide the final answers as to which direction to point the game plan, especially on the offensive side of the ball. A combined 19 players and staff, including Pete Carroll, have ties to the Bay area or 49er organization and are fully aware of the environment the Seahawks will compete in on Sunday. Coach Carroll has his team ready for the challenge they will face; the task that remains is making sure the right Seahawks team flies to the bay on Saturday.