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Monday metatarsal musings
First, there’s the name: Golden Tate. Then, there’s the game, which we finally got to see on Sunday.
Pete Carroll talked all last week about what a spark getting Tate back on the field could give the Seahawks in their home opener against the Dallas Cowboys. The third-year wide receiver then made his third-year coach look not only prophetic but astute with his efforts in the 27-7 victory at CenturyLink Field.
“You can see he needs to get the ball more. He’s on fire,” Carroll said of Tate after the Seahawks had evened their record at 1-1 as they start looking to next week’s matchup with the Green Bay Packers on “Monday Night Football.”
“He is so electric with the ball. We just have to find more ways to get him the ball. You get the ball in his hands and something good looks like it’s going to happen.”
Sunday, Tate didn’t even need the ball in his hands to make things happen. He had a drop-him-in-midstride block on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee to help spring quarterback Russell Wilson for a 14-yard gain on a second-and-12 play during the Seahawks’ 12-play, 88-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. And with the 12th Man getting a little too rambunctious as the Seahawks moved deeper in Dallas territory on their eight-play, 90-yard TD drive in the third quarter, it was Tate who emerged from the back of the huddle to calm the crowd with a couple silence-please waves of his arms.
Then there were the times the Seahawks got the ball in Tate’s hands. It was his 8-yard reception on third-and-4 that setup Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard TD run. It was his 10-yard reception that got the Seahawks rolling toward their first offensive TD. It was his 6-yard catch on third-and-3 that helped get Steven Hauschka close enough for chip shot on the first of his two field goals in the first half.
Little things that made a big difference in the Seahawks’ huge victory. Huge? Wilson’s postgame Q&A session was peppered with the adjective.
But the play that has been – and will be – discussed most was “the block.” As Lee whirled to chase Wilson when he broke from the pocket, he found Tate instead.
“I was looking at the quarterback. He was flushed out of the pocket and I was going to get him,” the 245-pound Lee said.
Until Tate got him.
“He’s an unbelievably fierce competitor, and he’s tougher than hell,” Carroll said. “He’ll show it time and time again. You’ll see it. We just have to get (the ball) in his hands more.”
With that said, he’s a look at what else worked against the Cowboys and what needs work as the Seahawks prepare for the Packers:
One. Pass protection. This was a major point of emphasis last week after Wilson was “under siege,” as Carroll put it, against the Cardinals. The Cowboys sacked him twice and hit him four other times, compared to three sacks and seven hits by the Cardinals. But the difference was greater than those stats would indicate.
Part of it was that Wilson threw fewer passes (20) against the Cowboys than he did against the Cardinals (34) and that he was generally passing when he wanted to rather than because he had to. Credit the special teams for staking the Seahawks to a 10-0 lead five minutes into the game. Credit the defense with stifling the Cowboys’ offense, holding Dallas to 85 yards in the second half. Credit the line with doing a better job of communicating, and therefore blocking.
“The protection was great,” Wilson said. “It all starts with Max (Unger, the center) and myself just communicating and making sure that we’re on the same page – recognizing the fronts, recognizing what they’re trying to do. Just trusting the whole process, the whole week.”
Two. Penalties. This was another hot topic last week, after the Seahawks were flagged 13 times for 90 yards in their opener. Against the Cowboys, it was five for 35 yards.
“The main thing is that we can’t hurt ourselves. That’s kind of what we did last week,” Wilson said.
Three. The NFC West. This is big picture, but worth a look nonetheless. All four teams in the division won Sunday for only the second time since realignment in 2002 – the other was in Week 10 last season. And watching the Cardinals’ defense hold Tom Brady and the Patriots to 18 points (one TD, four field goals) and 387 yards makes the Seahawks’ effort against Arizona in their opener (16 points, 254 yards) a little easier to accept.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
One. First-half offense. Carroll will tell you that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. But the Seahawks do need to start better than they have in the first two games. In 10 first-half possessions, they have generated 231 yards and nine points – compared to 338 yards and 27 points on 11 possessions in the second half.
Two. Third-down defense. On the Cowboys’ only scoring drive – a 15-play, 95-yarder – Tony Romo was 4 of 4 on third downs for 52 yards as Dallas converted on third-and-13, third-and-8 and third-and-6 (twice). In two games, opponents are converting 43.5 percent (10 of 23). The Seahawks need to be as good on this pivotal down as they are on first and second downs.
Three. The pass rush. Two sacks in two games isn’t the kind of improvement the Seahawks were looking for when the drafted rush-end Bruce Irvin in the first round and signed rush-tackle Jason Jones in free agency. But they split the only sack against the Cowboys, when the pressure was better than the one sack would indicate.