Don’t get me the least bit wrong, I LOVE the outcome of Sunday’s game, but this 20-burger with cheese should have been at least a 40-burger with cheese (if you’re confused try to look it up). The Seahawks defeated the New York Giants 23-0 on Sunday in a game that featured an unstoppable Seattle defensive unit, a shaky yet functioning offensive unit, and perhaps a preview of the Seahawks getting their feet wet in the stadium that may house the biggest game in Seahawks history on February 2nd. The Seahawks are now 12-2 and are one win away from clinching the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants fall to 5-9 on the season and nothing was improved on their side except for their slot in next year’s draft. There is so much good to go over in this game (with a little “just okay” to go over as well) but let me start with the obvious.
Defense Plays Best Game of the Season: In general let’s not ignore this undeniable fact; the Seattle Seahawks defense played their best all-around game of the season. But honestly, how can you not when you shut out your opponent? The Seahawks held the Giants to 181 total yards and New York did not have an offensive play in Seahawks territory until the fourth quarter. The run defense looked particularly dominant, holding Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis to 25 total rushing yards. The pressure the Seahawks front seven put on Giants quarterback Eli Manning started early with a sack by Bobby Wagner and did not let up, even when the Giants were able to get small drives going. Two interceptions by Richard Sherman and an interception by Earl Thomas are examples of what I preached in my Giants game preview. If the defense could force New York into mistakes the Seahawks offense would control the game. That is exactly what happened. Constant pressure on Manning forced him into bad throws which resulted in interceptions. Sherman and Thomas played a great game but it was one other Seahawks defender that really opened my eyes.
Brandon Who? Walter Who?: There is a very special feeling fans get when they see a backup player get his chance, make an immediate impact, and display his “star-of-the-future” potential. Byron Maxwell played the best all-around game of his young career on Sunday, recording 3 passes defensed and also intercepting 2 passes. In three starts in place of the injured Brandon Browner and the suspended Walter Thurmond, Maxwell now has 3 interceptions and 8 passes defensed. Maxwell’s play is making it incredibly difficult for the Seahawks defensive coaches to justify replacing him once Thurmond returns from his suspension. With Maxwell playing well on the outside, that also helps cornerback Jeremy Lane, who can focus strictly on playing nickel cornerback instead of having to switch between different positions in different packages if Maxwell was struggling to hold down the second cornerback spot. Although Maxwell is taking over a starting spot, regardless of who is the second starter when Browner and Thurmond come back, the Seahawks will have a proven idea of just how deep they are in the secondary for the playoffs.
Pass Rush Forces Mistakes: Eli Manning threw a career high 5 interceptions this week and it was due in large part to the effectiveness of the Seahawks pass rush. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks of Manning and additional pressure forced bad passes which ultimately stopped drives. Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett stuck out in my mind this week, as both had phenomenal performances. Wagner and Bennett combined for 14 tackles and 2 sacks. Over the past few road games the Seahawks pass rush seemed to be lacking. The last time the Seahawks defense recorded at least 4 sacks in a road game was back in week 7 at Arizona and the 4 sacks Seattle had against the Giants this week is the second highest total on the road this season. This was the game that the 12th Man knew the Seahawks had in them. The focus now will be to carry this defensive momentum into two dominant performances to end the regular season.
Offensive Line Must Improve: As joyous as it was to watch the Seahawks dismantle the Giants there was one gigantic concern that stopped the hearts of me and my friends during this game. Russell Wilson gets hit too much. Even when Russell does not get hit, more often than not he is scrambling trying to make a play because he has to. Wilson was sacked 4 times on Sunday which is definitely too many in my opinion. Many of Wilson’s short to intermediate throws also came out of the pocket. This has been a problem throughout the season and things must change in order to keep Wilson clean and limit the chances of him getting hurt. Because the Seahawks are winning and the offense has been productive throughout the season many fans tend to ignore any potential problems within the team but I see an issue on the right side of the offensive line that needs to be corrected. Second year right guard J.R. Sweezy seems to be having a hard time pass blocking and Breno Giacomini is quite hit-or-miss in pass protection. I would be interested to see an offensive line combo that puts Paul McQuistan at left guard, moving James Carpenter to right guard to replace Sweezy. Like I said at the beginning of this review, the Seahawks should have been able to put up at least 40 points in this game and the main reason why it was a closer score I believe can be ultimately traced back to the spotty play of the Seahawks offensive line.
Moving Forward, Turn Field Goals into Touchdowns: There were several third down and short opportunities that were squandered this week, leading to field goals instead of touchdowns. Kicker Steven Hauschka ranks 6th among all NFL kickers in field goals made and he has connected on a career high 7 field goals in the 20-29 yard range this season; kicks where the drive stalls inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. The Seahawks need to do a better job of punching the ball in the endzone in these short yardage situations. Marshawn Lynch was stopped on a goal line run today on a drive that resulted in a Lynch touchdown a couple of plays later, however the ineffectiveness of getting the ball into the endzone from just outside the goal line makes me question the blocking schemes drawn up in the red zone. Simply put, the Seahawks need to prove to me that they can score a touchdown in positions where anything but a touchdown is a complete disappointment. Being able to finish off drives with 7 points instead of 3 will help greatly later on in the game.
Thoughts on the Giants: The New York Giants are a team that may be close to a light rebuild. Their core group of talent is getting older and it is apparent that they need to re-make the offense in order to take pressure off of Eli Manning in both the passing game and the running game. I would not be surprised to see the Giants use their first couple of draft picks next year on offensive linemen because that is where I believe the Giants were the weakest on Sunday. Getting veterans healthy and adding solid, young talent could put the Giants in the running for a typical 8 or 9 win season in 2014, which may or may not put them in a position to make the playoffs.
Random Thoughts: I am sick of stupid penalties. 8 penalties for 50 yards on Sunday and many of them were procedure fouls, aka the simplest, most fundamental aspects of football. This needs to change. It is amazing that we can be the 2nd most penalized team in the league, yet we are good enough to be 12-2. If we had played cleaner football throughout the season, it may not be overly impossible to think we could be 14-0 right now… Bill Leavy didn’t screw us over this week. Thanks Bill! However, I refuse to fully forgive you for Super Bowl XL until we finally win a championship… I watched the game down at my friend Jake’s house and it was a really fun time with all of my best friends… Didn’t get to watch RedZone so we flipped between Kansas City/Oakland and Green Bay/Dallas in the afternoon, while also being able to sneak in a quick catnap… 6 month old Bud Light still tastes fine. I don’t see a problem with drinking old beer as long as it doesn’t taste bad. There’s no problem with that right?… The Seahawks were wearing white jerseys and blue pants this week so my prediction was correct… With two home games left I think it is impossible to lose out on the division but honestly I am looking a bit ahead to the St. Louis game week 17 because if we win and wrap everything up next week against Arizona, I think we will treat the Rams game like a preseason game by resting all of our important starters. My point: Our 14 (15 if you count a win next week over the Cardinals) game home winning streak could be in jeopardy. That would be devastating.
The Seahawks will now come home for the final two games of the regular season. Next week we host the Arizona Cardinals. Check back on Saturday for my preview of next week’s game. Enjoy this win everybody. Go Seahawks!