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Monday metatarsal musings
As Chuck Knox used to remind us, coaching football is not rocket science.
In fact, the formula to the Seahawks’ 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night was “eighth grade Sewickley” – Knox’s favorite phase for something that was elementary, and rooted in his hometown in western Pennsylvania.
Against the Eagles, the Seahawks ran the ball for a season-high 174 yards, including a 148-yard, two-touchdown performance by Marshawn Lynch; intercepted Vince Young four times, including two by cornerback Brandon Browner and another that middle linebacker David Hawthorne returned 77 yards for a touchdown; and got a continuation of the solid efforts from punter Jon Ryan, kicker Steven Hauschka and the coverage units.
“We’ve been trying to throw this game for some time now,” coach Pete Carroll said of the all-three-phases completeness of the victory.
But, as it turns out, there was a stroke of genius attached to the “eighth grade Sewickley” effort, as well.
“That man is awesome in in-game adjustments,” fullback Michael Robinson said after the game, referring to Tom Cable, the team’s assistant head coach/offensive line coach.
“I mean, seriously. He came up with some plays at halftime. We basically came up with new plays at halftime to run the ball. He’s an offensive genius when it comes to running the ball.”
The best thing Cable did, and has been doing, wasn’t as ingenious as it was insightful: He, along with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, continued to give Lynch the ball.
Lynch, the Seahawks’ Skittle-back, carried 11 times for 90 yards in the first half against the Eagles and 11 times for 58 yards in the second half. His quarter breakdown went like this: six carries for 44 yards in the first; five for 46 in the second; four for 25 in the third; and seven for 33 in the fourth.
Now that’s a balanced attack, with heavy emphasis on attack the way Lynch has been running the past five games.
During the team’s 2-6 first half, Lynch ran for 398 yards on 97 carries, for a 4.1-yard average, and four touchdowns. During the 3-1 surge to begin the second half, Lynch has 456 yards on 105 carries, for a 4.3-yard average, and five touchdowns (one receiving).
Lynch, like Shaun Alexander, is the kind of back who gets better as the game progresses, and needs 20-plus carries to be at his best. That happened once in the first eight games – and the eighth game at that, when Lynch carried 23 times for 135 yards against the Cowboys in Dallas. In the past four games, he has carried 32, 27, 24 and 22 times.
“When a guy like that is working that hard and you know what he can do, if we get on our guys and stay on them he’s going to do the rest of the work,” left guard Robert Gallery said. “He gives us a spark, and he doesn’t need much.”
With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked against the Eagles, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for their “Monday Night Football” matchup with the Rams to cap Week 14 in the NFL:
Lynch, and his blockers – Yes, we just indirectly gushed about the team’s Skittle-back in giving Cable his due. But no one worked harder – or better – than Lynch, who was playing with an upset stomach.
His disappearing/reappearing act on his 15-yard TD run was, well, one that has to be seen again to be believed. Then, Lynch flaunted his wheels on a 40-yard scoring run up the sideline.
And let’s not forget about his blockers – left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Robert Gallery, center Max Unger, right guard Paul McQuistan, right tackle Breno Giacomini, tight ends Zach Miller and Cameron Morrah and Robinson.
“The offensive line is doing a great job, too, pushing piles,” Robinson said. “You see guys, running to the pile. That’s how you run the football. That’s how you try to change our identity.”
Robinson, who played for the 49ers before signing with the Seahawks last season, continued by offering, “I’ve been playing against the Seahawks for four or five years, and the identity always used to be that they were soft. We’re trying to change that identity.”
Tarvaris Jackson – The flipside to Lynch getting 22 carries and the team 33 was Jackson throwing only 16 passes. The flip-the-switch side of that was Jackson completing 13 of those passes and not throwing an interception after being picked off seven times in the previous five games.
And, he did it on a short week with no time to rest the strained pectoral in his right shoulder.
Ball-Hawks – The Seahawks’ defenders knew Young would take some chances because, well, that’s just the way he plays. They also knew if they were on their coverages they’d have a chance for interceptions.
Knowing became notable as the Seahawks had four picks in a game for the first time since 2007, when they had four interceptions against the Eagles in Philly and then five against the Arizona Cardinals the next week. Hawthorne’s scoring return slapped an exclamation point on the effort, but two of the interceptions setup touchdowns – one each by Browner and strong safety Kam Chancellor – while the other came at the Seahawks’ 40-yard line.
“Getting four turnovers and not turning the ball over, I can’t even tell you how fired up I am about that,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks are now plus-4 in turnover ratio, after being as low as minus-5 earlier this season.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Handling prosperity – Remember the last time the players were feeling pretty good about themselves? Of course you do, it’s when they followed back-to-back wins over the Ravens and Rams to kickoff the second half of their season with that face plant of a fourth quarter in the fall-from-ahead loss to the Redskins.
The memories of that disappointing loss are fresh enough that it shouldn’t be a problem next Monday night against a Rams team the Seahawks already dispatched in St. Louis 24-7.
The run defense – Really. The Seahawks still rank 11th in the league in average rushing yards allowed (103.5) and are tied for third in average per carry (3.7). But teams have figured out that the best way to attack the Seahawks’ stoutness up front and aggressiveness from front to back is to spread them out and exploit gaps with cutbacks.
In their past five games, the Eagles had 132 yards and a 5.3-yard average; the Cowboys 163 yards and a 5.6-yard average; and the Redskins 110, but only a 3.8-yard average. This after the Seahawks had allowed only three of their first seven opponents to reach triple digits.
Golden Tate – Say what? The second-year wide receiver had perhaps his best game in his first NFL start, catching four passes for 47 yards on four targets and turning in a highlight-reel effort to go up and get an 11-yard pass in the end zone and then get his feet down.
That’s the point. With starters Sidney Rice out for the season and Mike Williams going the past two games, and three of the past four, without a catch, they need to continue featuring Tate. And Tate, in turn, needs to continue making the most of any opportunity that comes his way. Read