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Hawkblogger Weekly

2013 - Week 15

Table of Contents

Injuries Highlight Some Rare Seahawks Personnel Missteps

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"It's Allen Bradford [who can deliver the hardest hit]. It's not even close. He's the most explosive guy in the group. He will run right through you," Ken Norton Jr said. "I will say, 'Allen, bring me his head. Detach his body parts and bring them to me.' He will do it, by any means necessary. He's the guy." - Source

There are a precious few decisions that John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made with their personnel that have come back to bite them. Their success rate is remarkable given the variety, volume, and often contrarian aspects of their moves. Nobody is perfect, and some choices the Seahawks front office made early in the season has left them more vulnerable than necessary when it matters most.

Two players: Allen Bradford and Sean McGrath had strong training camps. Only one made the week one roster before being waived, but there is reason to believe both should still be here. In fact, the decision to leave one of them off the week one roster almost certainly cost the other his job in Seattle.

McGrath was a solid, if not spectacular, tight end that was undrafted last season and was promoted from the practice squad late in the year. He battled with rookie Luke Willson for time as the second tight end during camp, but they had different strengths. Willson was the more gifted receiver and McGrath was a more gifted blocker. Seattle quietly had a strong trio of well-rounded tight ends that could be mixed and matched based on match-up and situation.

Late in the pre-season, the Seahawks started to experiment with tackle Mike Person as a blocking tight end. They thought they saw enough in the final two weeks to take a risk that would allow them to keep a player in Person who could swing to tackle so they would have depth at multiple spots. That decision led to the surprise cut of McGrath out of camp.

It took all of one week for the Seahawks to realize they had made a mistake. An injury to one of their tight ends in the season opener left them unable to run the plays they wanted because Person was not really a third tight end. He was a tackle that could come in as an extra blocker. McGrath had been claimed right away by the Kansas City Chiefs, so the front office scrambled to find a third tight end.

They landed on veteran Kellen Davis. Davis is two years older than McGrath and makes about $300K more money. The team was still attached to Person, so instead of cutting their losses, they compounded the problem by trimming elsewhere on the roster: Bradford. The Giants were quick to scoop up the talented linebacker off of waivers.

Bradford was the best option to back-up middle linebacker Bobby Wagner should he go down with injury. K.J. Wright was more than capable of doing the work, but Bradford was the emerging as a starting-caliber middle linebacker in the Seahawks system. He was also capable of playing the other two linebacker positions. In particular, he had experience as a weakside linebacker, the position Wright plays.

It did not have be a decision between Person and Bradford. Mike Morgan was another linebacker, same age as Bradford, and ahead of him on the special teams depth chart. Morgan does not have the value of Bradford as a linebacker, but the team had convinced itself that he was helpful depth at the LEO position while Bruce Irvin was suspended, Cliff Avril was injured for the first week, and Chris Clemons was still not back from his knee injury. The upside of Bradford is higher than that of Morgan. Bradford was rumored to be one of the best special teams players USC had seen under Carroll, and was a plus backup for at least two of the linebacker positions who could start. Morgan is a plus special teams player who is a subpar backup at each position he has been utilized in this far.

Heath Farwell was another option. The special teams captain is a big part of what appears to be the best special teams unit in the NFL. He is also 31, and making a seven figure salary. He is a capable middle linebacker against the run, but would be a major liability in pass coverage. Seattle has excelled in turning over their roster by allowing younger, cheaper, players to push older and more expensive veterans. Because the team chose to follow that route with Derrick Coleman over Michael Robinson, they likely felt handcuffed when it came to letting any more of their experienced special teamers go in favor of more youth.

Stephen Williams, the wide receiver, was let go just two weeks after Bradford when Irvin was activated. Ricardo Lockette has been a fine addition to the team, but Williams provided elements the receiving corps just does not have that would be pretty darn valuable right about now. That aside, if the team was that close to being ready to move on from Williams, it is curious that they decided not to jettison him earlier instead of Bradford.

D'Anthony Smith was a spot-play defensive tackle the team had added from the Jaguars right before the season started. He was waived a couple weeks after Bradford, and was another player the team could have parted with before Bradford.

Person was waived as well, and was scooped up by the Rams. Ironically, the team probably would have loved to have him back days later when Russell Okung was injured, and they were forced to go with Paul McQuistan for a few months at left tackle.

Meanwhile, the player they had waived in favor of Person, McGrath, was enjoying a strong season in Kansas City. Before starter Anthony Fasano returned from injury a month ago, McGrath had better receiving numbers than any tight end on the Seahawks roster. Had the front office decided to just play it straight--something they struggle to do at times--McGrath would still be a Seahawk under club control for another two years and Bradford very well might still be in Seattle, reducing the angst about linebacker depth with the Wright injury.

Managing the back-end of a roster is like walking a tight rope. Those players need to versatile to help fill gaps that appear as unavoidable attrition occurs through the brutal NFL season. The best front offices find a way to stock that back of their roster with players who not only can be jacks-of-all-trades, but also have the potential to be masters of one in time. There is little-to-no chance that a veteran like Farwell or limited linebacker like Morgan will ever become a starting-caliber player. Players like Allen Bradford and John Lotulelei have that upside, and have the ability to contribute on special teams, while also being affordable. Seahawks fans remember well the pain of needing to stick in a player like Etric Pruitt at the worst possible time because the team did not have proper depth at the position. Seattle is now razor-thin at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker. There is no debate that having talent like Bradford and Lotulelei still around would change that, while it is debatable how much of a drop-off there would have been in special teams play without guys like Morgan and Farwell. These are the choices general managers are faced with as they assemble rosters for today that must endure tomorrow. Schneider and Carroll have been among the best in the league at doing exactly that, but even the best make mistakes.

Hidden Yards Costing Seattle

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Points win football games. Yards are nearly always necessary to score points. This is part of why when analysts and many fans have habitually referred to total yards per game gained and surrendered when talking about the best offenses and best defenses in the NFL. The more accurate measure of offensive and defensive proficiency is yards gained or yielded per play. That is a fundamental aspect of the Power Rankings I have developed over the years. That formula is meant to measure the efficiency of a team based on how hard it is for opponents to stop their offense or move the ball against their defense. But there are yards gained and lost that do not show up there. These are yards that are hidden, and often overlooked in the box score, but matter just as much as a yard taken or given away any other way. Seattle has dominated the glamour stats, but there is room for improvement in a few of the hidden ones.

Penalties have received plenty of attention after they played a tipping point role in the loss to the 49ers last week. Those are the types of games that can be won or lost based on these nuances. So just how many yards are penalties costing the Seahawks this year?

Seattle surrenders 75.1 yards per game in penalties. That is the second-worst number in the league. Only the Bucs at 76.9 are worse. Indianapolis leads the league at 38.4 penalty yards per game. That is a 37 yard difference from Seattle to the best team in football in penalty yards. Consider how much harder it would be to score on the Seahawks if opponents had to gain 37 more yards without the aid of penalty flags, or how much easier it would be for the Seahawks to score if they had 37 yards less to gain on offense per game. And those numbers do not account for the yardage lost on plays called back due to penalty.

Seahawks opponents are penalized as well, but at a much smaller rate of 54.5 yards per game. That means Seattle is losing 20.6 yards per game in penalty yard differential. It would take the average offense facing the Seahawks defense more than four plays to gain 21 yards (the Seahawks yield an NFL-best 4.6 yards per play on defense). It would take the Seahawks offense an average of four plays to gain more than 21 yards, based on their 8th-ranked yards per play rate of 5.9. One could argue the Seahawks penalties are costing the team a full set of downs each game on either offense or defense, or some combination. That adds up, and is avoidable.

Kickoffs are another way to help or hurt your offense and defense. Seattle is 27th in the NFL in kickoff return yardage and 25th in opponent kickoff return yardage. They have given opponents a 309 yard advantage on kickoffs over the course of the season. That works out to -23.8 yards per game, the 27th-ranked kickoff differential in the league. Toss that in with the penalty yard differential, and you are talking about a nearly 50 yard per game deficit that the Seahawks offense and defense must overcome every game.

Thankfully, there is at least one set of hidden yards strongly in the Seahawks favor. Seattle punt teams have out-gained their opponents by and NFL-best 446 yards through 13 games. That works out to a +34.3 yards per game average.

NOTE: It is fair to point out that teams who score more often, like the Seahawks, kickoff more often and therefore surrender more gross kickoff return yards. It is also true that the Seahawks punt less often due to their strong offense, and have allowed only 13 punts to be returned all year. Neither of these realities change the fact that Seattle is at a -4 yard deficit per kickoff return, which ranks 29th in the NFL and have a +10.3 advantage per punt return, which ranks best in the league.

Combine that positive with the other hidden negatives from above, and it works out to -10.1 yards per game. Not exactly devastating, but imagine how much more difficult it would be to defeat the Seahawks without the penalty and kickoff return weights on their shoulders. This is the best punt return differential team in the league, and may end up being one of the best in history. Even a league-average penalty and kickoff return team would have the Seahawks in strong positive territory. The Seahawks are an aggressive team, and some penalties may be part of the package. Holding, encroachment, illegal formations, false starts have little to do with aggression, and should be eliminated. This team is talented enough to win in spite of these impediments, but there is no reason they should have to.

Seahawks Pound Giants


Tasers are meant to be a deterrent. They are used to stop a person from doing something harmful. You can see a demonstration here:

Eli Manning did his best "Fat Jesus" impersonation on Sunday. Getting stung repeatedly by Seahawks defenders, but refusing to learn his lesson. It reminded me of a scene from a show fittingly called Jackass:

Manning threw at Byron Maxwell. Zap! Then he tried Richard Sherman. Bzzzz! Well, let's try Maxwell again. Zzzzzap! When his receivers did manage to catch the ball, they realized electrocution may have been less painful. Trading cattle prods for being gored by bulls like Kam Chancellor is a losing proposition all the way around. Somewhere in the city of lights, Manning is walking a few steps and then lighting up himself with leftover electricity and tremors from the voltage administered to him by the Seahawks defense.

It was a dominant performance by a defense that never seemed to get out of neutral emotionally. There was little fire, but plenty of burning. The Giants offensive line is an embarrassment. Seattle defenders may actually be worse off for having faced them. It is not supposed to be that easy in the NFL. That may have been the Seahawks best defensive performance of the season, but it was impossible to tell because their opponents were so completely inept. The best blocking for New York on the day came when one Seattle defender got in the way of another Seattle defender.

At least some of the poor blocking can be attributed to the depressing reality of who they were blocking for. Manning went to the ground faster than Punxsutawney Phil. Their running back went Beast Mode, but his beast was form of field mouse. There was no greater juxtaposition than in the second quarter when Marshawn Lynch tore through seven thousand men to reach the goal line, and then Andre Brown threw up the white flag a split second after clearing the line of scrimmage before being hit. It seemed as if the entire Giants offense would have been happy to forfeit. Consider a team like the Jaguars, and the fight they have shown with little to fight for. Tom Coughlin and his offense should be ashamed.

The Seahawks secondary will get plenty of attention for their five picks, but it was the defensive line and linebackers that had my attention. Brandon Mebane set the tone early, just as he did against the Saints two weeks prior, by bulling his way through the middle of the Giants line. Michael Bennett was unblockable all day long. Bobby Wagner continued his recent stretch of torrid play, and now looks every bit the player he was last season.

Bobby Wagner has 59 tackles and 4.0 sacks in his last six games, good for 66% and 100% of his season totals, respectively.

Malcolm Smith was on point again, showing excellent gap discipline versus the run, and elite coverage ability. Some will say his opportunity to start at SAM the first four games of the year was his chance to shine, but it will be these games at his natural WILL position that will demonstrate his true colors.

The free agent acquisitions, Bennett (7.5 sacks) and Cliff Avril (8.0) continue to pay off. Consider the dire straights the pass rush might be in without them. Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons have combined for 1.0 sack in the last six games, and have 6.5 combined on the season.

No two players acquitted themselves better in this game than Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Maxwell is not just making plays, he is making plays that most defenders do not make. Those interceptions were special. Wrestling the ball away from a receiver on one, and plucking another out of the air by undercutting the route are just not seen that often. His performance matters a lot, and not just for this year. Brandon Browner will be a free agent, as well as Walter Thurmond III. The Seahawks cannot afford to pay premium deals to Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and another starting corner. Maxwell is under club control until 2015. If he can maintain this level of play, or even improve, Seattle buys itself at least another year before needing to figure out who plays that spot.

Lane's play was similarly stellar. His speed was showing up all over the place. Pulling Giants lineman on a screen pass looked stunned to see a Seahawks player blur by them before they could even turn down-field to start blocking. That play is designed to get big lineman on smaller defensive backs. It is conceptually related to the play last week when San Francisco got their big lineman on small defenders on the big 3rd and 7 run late in the game. This time, Lane shot the gap and brought down the Giant receiver before the play ever developed. He flew up to support another wide play earlier in the game. And his coverage was solid again as well. He is starting to look like a viable nickel defender. As important as Maxwell's play has been, finding a guy who could be a nickel corner has far more wide-ranging impact for Seattle.

It was thought that they needed to either sign Thurmond, or spend a high draft pick on a nickel corner. This was not just a fan perspective. There was a reason the front office immediately went out and tried to sign Antoine Winfield after the Browner news hit. Lane's emergence gives them someone under club control through 2016, and gives the team even more leverage in any negotiation that happens with Thurmond.

Russell Wilson and the offense did not have a good day. The game plan was as uninspired as the players who were asked to carry it out. It appeared Darrell Bevell expected to be able to run for large chunks of yards versus the Giants, but the Seahawks offensive line had trouble blocking all day. They were not great in the run game or the pass game. It was disappointing to see such a poor performance after what appeared to be large steps forward against the Saints.

The running game is officially slumping. Seattle is averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry over the last four games. Wilson led the team in rushing with 50 yards. That is not a good thing. The offensive line had started to find a rhythm in the Tampa and Atlanta games. It is good to have Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini back, but it looks like it is taking some time for them to coalesce. No group needs to show more growth over the last two games than the offensive line. The Seahawks probability of winning takes a precipitous fall when they cannot establish the run. It is the foundation of their whole team philosophy. They need to get that right.

Passing yards were there for the taking. Wilson did not have a great day. He was inaccurate on a number of throws he normally makes. He was also not helped by some uncharacteristic missed opportunities from Golden Tate. There were at least three chunk plays that Tate normally makes that he was unable to secure. Doug Baldwin had a nice game, and in what is hopefully a good omen, has scored a touchdown every time he has played in New York.

This was a dominating defensive performance against a meek offensive unit, and an aggravating offensive performance against a mediocre defensive unit. Winning 23-0 on the road against a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback would be cause for celebration on most days and during most years. This is not most years. This is not most teams. Seattle turned in a good enough performance on Sunday to win in New York. Their offense must take steps forward if they want to win there in February.

2013 Power Rankings: Week 15

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This Week

The Seahawks extend to their largest margin between themselves and everyone else after a 23-0 whitewash. The 15.8 point difference means that the difference between Seattle and Denver is roughly equivalent to the difference between New Orleans and Pittsburgh. None of this guarantees victory, but Seattle's team efficiency is far and away the best in the NFL, and efficiency correlates strongly to win probability.

The NFC West has sent the Saints into a tailspin, as they have lost more team strength than any other group after facing Seattle and St. Louis. The teams gaining strength that figure into the playoff picture are Kansas City, Chicago, Indianapolis, and possibly Miami.

San Francisco continues to improve, but it would be a stretch to say they are hot.

Note: If you are having problems viewing the rankings below, try this link. (Leave a comment if it doesn't work for you!)




1 Seattle 53.5 3.3 3.8


2 Denver 37.7 -4.5 -3.7


3 New Orleans 24.8 -5.8 -13.8


4 Kansas City 24.7 9.3 9.4


5 San Francisco 24.3 2.3 2.6


6 Philadelphia 17.5 -2.7 -1


7 Carolina 17.4 2.5 -3.3


8 Chicago 14.7 2.6 8.2


9 Cincinnati 14.5 -2.1 -2.9


10 Miami 10.5 1.7 5.9


11 Arizona 10.3 -0.5 2.2


12 San Diego 9.5 1.6 5.6


13 New England 8.9 -3.4 -5.1


14 Pittsburgh 8 0.9 0.1


15 Detroit 0.6 -1.3 1.4


16 Dallas 0.4 -3 -4.3


17 Indianapolis -1.3 5 7.3


18 Tennessee -1.5 -0.4 -9.1


19 Green Bay -2.7 3.3 0.2


20 Baltimore -7 2.2 1.8


21 Buffalo -8.4 2.7 -0.4


22 Tampa Bay -8.7 -3.1 -0.8


23 St. Louis -9.9 4.9 -4.7


24 Cleveland -11.5 -2 2.1


25 Atlanta -20.9 1.1 4.2


26 Minnesota -21.5 3.7 7.9


27 NY Giants -23.3 -5.4 -8.7


28 Houston -25.3 -2.4 -5.2


29 Washington -27.6 3.3 1.4


30 Oakland -35.9 -9.4 -9.1


31 NY Jets -38.2 -1 -1


32 Jacksonville -40.7 0.5 11.9

This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on.

Rankings Explained

Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach was simple, I measured offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" was as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)

The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success, but I am always looking for ways to improve it. I read a great article on There was one gem in there about predicting championship teams. The article mentioned passer rating differential as the "mother of all stats." A full 69 of 72 champions have ranked in the Top 10 in this statistic. It is a stat after my own heart, as I believe offensive and defensive efficiency is the key measurable outside of point differential. Turnovers would factor in there as well, but I am not convinced a team has as much control over that. My power rankings use YPA and YPC differentials. I went ahead and replaced the YPA with offensive and defensive passer rating, to give me this:

(YPC (offense) + Passer Rating (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (OPP YPC (defense) + OPP Passer Rating (defense)+ OPP Avg Pts/Game)

Seahawks 2013 Defense Historically Great

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Back in June and July, I published some research on some of the best defenses in the history of the NFL. The goal was to go beyond raw statistics, and try to measure defenses relative to the era and season they played in. The Steel Curtain is among the most famous defenses ever, but benefitted greatly from playing during the lowest scoring stretch of seasons in NFL history. As good as the Seahawks defense was last year, leading the league in opponent scoring (15.3) and finishing third in the NFL in opponent passer rating (71.8), the findings of my research indicated they had a long way to go before deserving mention with the all-time greats. Fourteen games into this season, the distance has closed.

Greatest Scoring Defenses

Scoring has reached an all-time high this season

My assumption when I started the research was that there would be a gradual rise in scoring throughout NFL history. Not so. The 60s had their share of points, but offenses went to pot in the 70s. calls this the "dead ball" era of the NFL. Things picked up in the 80s with the advent of the West Coast Offense, but stayed relatively flat until a couple years ago. There are plenty of guesses to be made about why scoring has picked up recently, but for our purposes, the only thing that matters is that scoring is going way up.

That matters because just taking a snap shot of the defenses who have help opponents to the lowest totals in history tells a tainted story.

Note that six of the top ten scoring defenses played in the 70s. To factor in the context for what types of offenses these defenses faced, I calculated the standard deviation for scoring in each season. Having that number allows us to see just how exceptional a defense was relative to the amount of scoring that was going on that year.

You can see from these numbers that a team like the 2002 Bucs jumps way up the charts because their accomplishment stood out more given the scoring that was happening that season. The mix of defenses from different decades is far greater when looking at things through this lens.

The 2012 Seahawks, despite playing in one of the highest scoring seasons in NFL history, were only -1.6 standard deviations off the norm. That is a solid showing, but not necessarily hanging with the best. The 2013 Seahawks defense has allowed 14.6 ppg through fourteen games. The league is scoring more than it ever has. Those two things combine to put Seattle at -2.2 deviations from the norm. That puts them right around the top ten in NFL history, and just a skosh behind the famous 1985 Chicago Bears (-2.3).

16 of the top 30 scoring defenses in history made it to the championship (not always the super bowl), with 12 coming away victorious

No team has ever allowed fewer points per game than the Seahawks current 14.6 in a season when the average league scoring was 22.5 or greater.

Greatest Pass Defenses

The Seahawks Legion of Boom gets plenty of publicity, and deservedly so. Each starter has either made the Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, and the three corners that come in as substitutions have proven themselves worthy of starting roles. There are plenty of advanced stat gurus that dismiss the classic passer rating as a flawed statistic. It does not take into account situation, rushing yards or sacks. The QBR stat that has become popular lately, does not go back far enough to be useful for this exercise, so passer rating will have to do.

Once again, offenses are on a tear. Passer rating follows a much more predictable and consistent climb as teams mastered the forward pass. It should come as no surprise, then, that any team that could field a great pass defense after 1980 stands a pretty good chance to rank among the greats in pass defense when factoring in standard deviation. The ugly chart below includes those results.

Seattle would have finished 44th on this list in 2012, as they were -1.52 deviations below the norm. Decent, but not great. This season's defense has made a sizable climb in the ranks at -1.70 deviations below the norm. That puts them just outside the top 30 at #32. Still not elite, but when added to the scoring numbers, it becomes clear that mentioning them with some of the all-time greats is not absurd.

The 2013 pass defense would rank far higher if not for what is the largest standard deviation (11.5) of any season in the NFL. The difference between the best passing teams and the worst passing teams has never been greater, and that makes it harder to separate yourself from the pack. If the deviation was the same 7.9 it was last season, this Seahawks unit would rate as one of the five best pass defenses in history.

Finishing Strong

Seattle has two games remaining, and can improve their standing in both aspect of their defense. If the Seahawks were able to hold the Cardinals and the Rams to 17 points combined, they would lower their points per game to 13.8, and push their rank near the top five in history in terms of standard deviations from the league average.

They could realistically lower their opponent passer rating near 60, and climb into the top ten, and possibly even the top five in NFL history.

People respect this Seahawks defense, and most refer to it as the best in the NFL this year. More people need to start recognizing their place in NFL history.

SMS Audio Steps Up For Seahawks Fans

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I have been sponsored by SMS Audio to write this post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. All proceeds go to Ben's Fund.

Seattle boasts the best fans in all of football. They have their own brand. They own the world record for noise in an outdoor stadium, and they impact the game like no other. Beats By Dre disagrees. They created a commercial for Colin Kaepernick that went live before the Seahawks faced the 49ers. It was inspired by Seahawks fans, they said. Watch it.

I don't remember the ever seeing a Seahawks fan urinate on an opposing team's bus. I don't remember Seahawks fans surrounding and threatening opposing players, or requiring a security to guard to hold them back. Colin Kaepernick has been hearing hate because he has not lived up to anyone's expectations this season. And that hate has been coming as much from his own fan base--who started to question the decision to trade away Alex Smith midway through this year--as it has from the 12s. San Francisco and Kaepernick were rendered largely irrelevant to Seahawks fans since week two of the season after Seattle held Kaepernick to a career low in passer rating. The 49ers managed to win by two points in San Francisco late thanks to Frank Gore, but Beats thought that merited a congratulations to Kaepernick.

Really? A 67.5 passer rating, an interception and 3.4 yards per carry is how you silence the haters? Haters are more easily mollified than me.

Seahawks fans have rightfully be interested in taking their money elsewhere when looking for stylish and powerful headphones. Giving money to a company that openly mocks your team and city, and supports your competition, doesn't sit well with me. That is why I am excited to announce SMS Audio is here to offer a great deal for 12s, and a terrific set of products.

Use the promo code "HAWKBLOGGER" and get 40% off any SMS Audio headphone

Head over to the SMS Audio page and pick up something you or someone you know will love. is pleased to welcome SMS Audio as a premium sponsor. Expect to hear more about this in the coming days and weeks.

Seahawks fans stand for most home games. They should not stand for treatment like this from Beats.

Marshawn Lynch On A Streak He Can't Like

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Marshawn Lynch has played 58 regular season games for the Seahawks since being acquired from the Buffalo Bills in 2010. He has rushed for 4,456 yards and 40 touchdowns. He has triggered an earthquake and made countless opponents quake in their cleats. It did not all start out so sunny. His failed to crack 100 yards rushing in any of his first 13 regular season games as a Seahawk. He broke out for 135 yards in Dallas, and never went more than two games without breaking the 100-yard mark after that. Until this season, that is. Lynch is currently on a streak of four games without crossing the century mark, and that is the second time that has happened to him this year.

Running is at the core of Pete Carroll's philosophy on how to approach football. He said as recently as yesterday that, "everything starts with the running game." It is why the team acquired Lynch. It is why Jeremy Bates was asked to leave after one season of throwing 40-yard fades Ruvell Martin on 3rd-and-1. It is why Tom Cable is the assistant head coach. The running game is the metronome of Seahawks football. It keeps all other parts on rhythm. Through the last four games, other parts of the team have had to compensate for a rushing attack that has been less than stellar. Going 3-1 in those games quiets most critics, but Seahawks fans that want the greatest probability of a championship run, should pay close attention to what happens the running attack over the next two games.

In a year when Seattle's passing attack has grown, their rush defense has improved, their pass defense and pass rush have improved, and even their special teams has gotten better, the core part of their team--the running game--has stepped back. The Seahawks averaged 161.2 yards rushing last year and 4.8 yards per carry. Over the final eight games of 2012, they averaged a gaudy 190.5 rushing yards/gm and 5.3 yards per carry. This year, the team is still #2 in the NFL in rushing yards, but are well off the standard they set a year ago. Despite averaging just one carry per game less than a year prior, the team is down 20 yards per game in rushing (141.0/gm) and a half-yard per carry (4.4). Lynch is down from a career-high 5.0 yards per carry last year to 4.2 (his career-average) this year.

Much of that can be attributed to the injury problems along the offensive line. Seattle has had four games all season when their starting offensive line has completed an entire 60 minutes. Not only did they lose three key lineman for long stretches, but Zach Miller missed a few games as well, and he is a key element to the run game.

Seattle, though, has had their starting line in place for three of the four games, and Max Unger left the San Francisco game late. That is part of what makes it puzzling/concerning that the team has compiled the worst four-game rushing total of the season during that stretch, averaging just 110 yards/game and 3.6 yards per carry.

The Seahawks face the NFL's top run defense this weekend when the Cardinals come to town. Seattle piled up 135 yards and over four yards per carry when they traveled to Arizona earlier in the year. Only San Francisco has put up more rushing yards against the Cardinals this year, but were rather inefficient in doing so at less than four yards per carry. Seattle did that without their two starting tackles.

Does this mean Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini are the problems? No. These two were a part of Lynch's fantastic success the past few years. More likely, this is a result of two things: continuity and opponent.

Running the ball effectively takes more coordination than most other parts of the offense. Lineman need to move in unison and establish a rhythm for how and when to work together. Keeping a line together across multiple seasons is crucial for any team that wants to compete year in and year out. Seattle has started so many line combinations this year, mostly out of necessity, that no group of five men can feel locked in. This is hopefully settling down.

Seattle also has faced a 49ers team that is among the best in the NFL at rush defense, a Giants team that ranks highly, and a Saints team that ranks as one of the best total defense in the league. But be careful how far you take this line of reasoning. Lynch had three straight games of 100+ yards rushing against the 49ers. The Seahawks run game fears no defense, and will defeat extra men in the box when operating correctly.

This Sunday is a perfect opportunity to get right on the ground. Playoff run defense will resemble what Seattle will see from Arizona. The yards will be hard to come by. Life will not get easier if San Francisco or Carolina comes to town in January. The Seahawks need to find their legs now. They need to close out the season with confidence in their ability to run the ball against any team and any scheme. They need to see this streak for Lynch end. Time to start gearing up, Seahawks.

Product Review: SMS Wows With Over-Ear ANC Headphones

Friday, December 20, 2013

I have been sponsored by SMS Audio to write this post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. All proceeds go to Ben's Fund.

Let's face it. I am an aging blogger. Married, with two boys, and closer to 40 than to 30. When 50 Cent went about designing the SMS Audio brand and the headphones that they sell, he probably did not have me in mind. Our paths crossed due to the obnoxious marketing of another headphone brand. After receiving a pair of their over-ear STREET by 50 - ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) headphones for testing, I am quite happy that we have been introduced.

SMS has both wired and wireless sets, and each offer on-ear and over-ear models. The wired also offers the ANC over-ear version (that I am testing), and DJ Pro Performance models. All are available at steep 40% discount for a limited time using the PROMO code: HAWKBLOGGER. You can find them here.

SMS sent my the ANC pair yesterday, and it was either a late Hannukah or early Christmas present. The box is impressive and large. Definitely something most kids would be thrilled to see under wrapping paper, would likely never guess what it was beforehand.

Slipping off the shell reveals an embossed SMS Audio logo on a matte blue box.

The IQ test begins when trying to figure out your next step. It is hard to imagine most teenagers waiting to find the door before just ripping a side off. The presentation is cool. These are high-end headphones, and the box feels like you are getting a luxury item.

Seahawks fans will be happy to know the neoprene case can double as a football in a pinch. It is sturdy with a some sort of insert to provide protection. You would not want someone to sit on the case, but it will hold up just fine in a backpack or if dropped. There is a zipper that lines the edge to gain access to the headphones.

The white and satin gray finish is striking against the black background. These are certainly more stylish than the Bose set most businessmen are wearing.

The ear covers fold snuggly inside the case, but they are not flimsy like so many folding headphones.

They snap into place when fully extended, and are lighter than I expected them to be. Really light, actually, but without feeling cheap.

There is a hidden compartment in the case that contains the accessories: the wire to connect to the whatever you are listening to, the USB charging cable for the ANC feature, one of those dual-pronged adapters I've used on some planes, and a dust-free cloth to keep them clean.

The wire is a not-quite-Seahawks blue. During my use, I found myself wishing it was just a bit longer, but realistically, I may just want a pair of the wireless.

My 12-year-old is already trying to convince me that he should get these. SMS knows their target market! He immediately swiped them and wore them while doing his math homework.

We had fun testing the noise-cancelling abilities. As someone who has used Bose headphones on a few occasions, I have to say these were far better. Even without the ANC turned on, ambient sounds were nearly silenced. Once switched on, I could not hear my son speaking to me from a few feet away. Nothing. Silence. If only I had these for the first twelve years of his life.

I finally wrestled the headphones away from my son after putting my youngest to bed, and sat down to write an article on the Seahawks rushing trouble lately. Pandora was playing, and the whole world melted away. I am not an audiophile, so I won't try to tell you about the lush midtones or full bass. As just a guy that likes music, these headphones made it feel like I was in studio with the artist. I could turn the sound on my laptop way down, and still hear every note. Life was good for those hours.

Doug Baldwin apparently felt likewise.

"Classy product," Baldwin told me. "Music to my ears, and the noise-cancelling is cool."

I did not tell him that I have the same pair for fear of reducing just how cool they really are.

The product manual says the ANC stays charged for 70 hours, which is amazing if that turns out to be true. Being able to re-charge the lithium ion battery with any USB charger is pretty handy as well.

If I did not already have a pair of the SMS headphones, I would be buying one. And with that 40% off PROMO CODE: HAWKBLOGGER, I may just nab a pair of those bluetooth wireless ones anyway.

Hawk Talk