New Orleans Saints 28,
Seattle Seahawks 17
Sunday, October 14th, 2007
Qwest Field, Seattle, WA
For the second straight week, Mike Holmgren has been horrible with his playcalling.
For the second straight week, Matt Hasselbeck looked like a deer in the headlights
when he encountered the blitz. For the sixth straight week, this team has
come out looking flat to start the game. These problems aren't magically going
to go away. Six weeks into the season, at least a few of these problems look
like your 2007 Seattle Seahawks, not random aberrations.
Handouts to the Standouts: The wide receivers did a really good job.
Bobby Engram caught 9 passes for 120 yards. Nate Burleson caught 6 passes
for 63 yards, including a very acrobatic touchdown. Ben Obomanu looks like
he could become a decent receiver, catching 4 passes for 72 yards. Leonard Weaver is the only truly exciting player on this offense, ripping off a 37-yard
run and making several impressive catches. Yeah, this is a short section.
Things that made me go, "Blech!": It
would be a bit of a cop-out to say "The entire game", though that
may be correct. Specifically, this team can't run the ball, pick up the blitz,
convert on 3rd down, stop other teams on 3rd down, call decent plays on either
side of the ball, or even play adequet special teams.
Even more specifically, CB Kelly Jennings had his worst night as a pro yet,
making bad plays againt the run and against the
pass. The defensive line got absolutely zero pressure
on the Saints, a team that has had issues keeping their QB upright. QB Matt
Hasselbeck looks afraid every time the defense blitzes, and seems to think
that our receivers are actually a foot taller than they really are. The offensive
line allowed the Saints to notch five sacks, when they have four games with
one sack. Sadly, the offensive line did a better job in pass-protection than
run-blocking, but what else is new?
Offense: Usually when somebody says "My grandmother can do (X)
better than (highly paid professional)!" I tend to roll my eyes. In this
case though, I am fairly confident than any of our grandmothers could've called
a better game than Mike Holmgren did. I'm pretty sure that I've seen better
offensive strategies in sandlot football games, and it's hard to imagine anyone
doing a worse job at clock management - again. Running your fullback (admittedly,
perhaps our best runner) on 4th and 3, when your line has shown no ability
to open up holes? Going for it on 4th down with less than 2 minutes to go
when you're positive you'll need to kick a field-goal anyways? To be fair,
Holmgren wasn't alone. Hasselbeck seems to believe that the best way to counter
the blitz is to turn to your horrible running game, with almost zero big play
ability. Way to burn the blitz, guys!
Most frustrating about the halfback isolation run when you see the blitz is
that it might be our most effective strategy against the blitz. Given Hasselbeck's
reaction to pressure, those 2-yard runs might be our best blitz-counter. I
enjoy watching Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans. Vince Young barely knows
how to drop back from the pocket - he spent his college career using the shotgun
formation. What's scary is that Matt Hasselbeck could have easily passed as
a second-year quarterback who spent most of his career in the shotgun. For
example, on two consecutive 3rd quarter passing plays
I noted drops where Matt was holding onto the ball with one hand, below his
chest, while he was dropping back. That's, more than anything, described how
our offense felt. We passed for 360 yards (amazingly misleading statistic),
but we did it scared and with horrible fundamentals. Which really sums up this offense.
Sadly, if we could consistently crank out those 2-yard blitz-pickup runs,
that might raise our yards per carry average. I have several thoughts on the
black hole that is our running game:
A.) Chris Gray is cooked. Done. Washed up.
Pick the adjective of your choice, he's no longer
an effective guard.
B.) Walter Jones can still mirror guys while pass-blocking, but the days of him pushing
defensive ends 20 yards downfield are over. He's an average run-blocker at
best, though I remain fairly impressed with his pass-protection.
C.) Shaun Alexander is several steps slower than in '05. He's
not the problem - it's really hard to run when you have guys in the backfield
while also having no holes to run through - but he isn't the solution either.
Give him a decent running game, and he might produce. He's not running any
softer than in previous years. But he's slower, and even with good blocking
he isn't going to be a good NFL back.
D.) Maurice Morris isn't the answer either, fellas. Were our
offensive line able to open up holes, Shaun's lack of speed would be annoying
us all and Morris could help us. But Morris needs holes to run through even
more than Shaun - he'll be more effective when he gets those holes, but those
holes don't exist.
words, our running game is a wreck and while it should get better, it isn't
going to be good even if it improves... We can attempt to achieve mediocrity,
though sadly that may be out of our reach.
In all this well deserved negativity, it is worth noting that Bobby Engram,
Ben Obomanu, and Nate Burleson did an excellent job. If they were all a foot
taller and able to occupy several places at once, Hasselbeck might even be
able to hit them with his passes. Still, Engram is solid and still a master
at 1st downs, Obomanu sneaks right past defenses, and Burleson is one of two
players who actually bring excitement when they touch the ball (FB Leonard
Weaver being the other). While everyone else was mediocre at best, all three
had good games.
Defense: I've been asked by the Catholic Church to make something clear
- Reggie Bush is, in fact, not God. He did a pretty good imitation in the
first half, but he is actually a mortal. I felt it was needed to state that
because the Seahawks defense sure didn't make him seem like a mere mortal
- he pretty much had his way with the Seahawk defense in the first half, though
the defense stiffened in the second half. He ran all over the defense - inside,
outside, left, right... it didn't really matter. He also hurt the team in
the passing game, notching first down after first down.
is certainly athletic, several teams who are less athletic than Seattle have come up with game-plans that have
slowed Bush down and made him a minor nuisance. The blueprint already exists
on tape, Defensive Coordinator John Marshall doesn't need to get original,
he just needs to copy what other teams are doing - they make Bush an inside
runner. Aside from an early 22-yard run inside, he was only moderately effective
inside, but he decimated Seattle on outside runs. The lack of game-planning is truly inexcusable.
Similarly inexcusable is the team's inability to get off the field on third
down. While the offense certainly did not do it's
part in the 1st half to keep the defense fresh, the defense has a certain
amount of responsibility for getting themselves off the field, and the defense
didn't do that. Third downs in particular were a weakness - Drew Brees converted
on his first 7 third-down passes, a mind-boggling stat. This is, remember,
a defense that is meant to pressure the quarterback (yeah, right) and specialize
in coverage. In defense of the defense (hey, somebody has to be doing some
kind of defending), Marshall continued
to call zones despite Brees continually exploiting the holes of the defense.
Brees may be short and possess a weak arm, but he's smart, and certainly experienced
enough to pick apart zone coverage. Our man coverage wasn't much better, but
at least it matches up New Orleans ordinary wideouts against our secondary, instead of leaving
them wide open as they find the soft spots in coverage.
Speaking of man coverage... I'm as big a fan of Kelly Jennings as you will
find. I thought he was a good draft pick, was impressed last year, and I believe
he will be a good player when all is said and done. That said, he was the
worst player on the field (except when LS Boone Stutz played) against the
Saints. Not only was he beaten in coverage, but he also made a couple containment
mistakes early on in the game that lead to big runs by Bush. Ironically, his
tackling was the only thing he did right all game, but let us hope he has
a very short memory, because he will definitely want to forget about this
game. He was outrun by David Patten on a deep reception, outmuscled by Marques Colston on a short TD, and outsmarted
by Bush on a couple of runs. Just a really bad game.
Special Teams: Do you have one of those friends who says
special teams doesn't matter? Just mention to them this game, and maybe they
will understand. A competent performance on special teams could easily have
changed the game to a close victory. Karma extracted her revenge for cutting
Derek Rackley, the teams
former long-snapper, when Boone Stutz, the new long snapper, botched his first
snap - which New Orleans recovered for a touchdown. Combine that with a blocked
field goal, and the game becomes a close fought battle.
It'd be irresponsible to say Seattle would've won, but
Seattle definitely could've won if
the Special Teams had done a moderately decent job.
Summary: There are a few positive factors about this game. Nobody died,
the sun is still expected to rise in the east at the time of print, and the
team didn't give up. Sure, the entire team played flat in the 1st half, but
if a mildly competent play-caller took over the offense, we could very well
be talking about a comeback victory. Tim Ruskell may have destroyed the offense
and formed a talented but ineffective defense, but at least the team he has
helped create made sure the game was not over until Holmgren inexplicably
decided to go for it on 4th and long instead of kicking a field goal.
Seattle Seahawks: We may not be able to pick up a bltiz
to save our lives, but we will battle.