Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Sep 5, 2011

Or foornotes: A look at three things that went well in the win over the Raiders on Friday night, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday's regular-season opener against the 49ers.

At some point as Friday night was becoming Saturday morning, Tom Cable had to allow himself to finally smile.

Not one of those small-curls-at-the-corners-of-the-mouth smiles, mind you, but a full-blown Cheshire cat grin.

The Seahawks had not only just dispatched the Oakland Raiders in their preseason finale at CenturyLink Field, the offensive line that is coached Cable played a major – and positive – role after he issued his linemen an ultimatum during the week.

Cable was the Raiders’ coach the past three seasons, and he led them to an 8-8 record in 2010 after they had averaged four victories in the previous seven seasons. But rather then reward him, the Raiders decided to not renew his contract.

Cable has been able to block that out, just as his linemen blocked out the Raiders in Friday night’s 20-3 victory.

“I want to commend those guys for the pocket I had tonight,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said after the game, in which he was not sacked and rarely pressured – after being sacked five times the previous week in a loss to the Broncos in Denver.

“I had seven drop-backs, or something like that, and I didn’t get touched. So that was great. It was something that we wanted to hop on, and coach hopped on, and we wanted to work on and we got a pocket tonight – a clean pocket, and we were able to get some throws downfield.”

Jackson was 5 of 7 for 88 yards in directing two drives that produced 100 yards – and resulted in a field goal and an ill-advised pass being intercepted at the goal line.

“We protected very well,” coach Pete Carroll said. “The things that we did helped a little, and the guys played better.”

On the first two series, those guys included – from left tackle to right – Tyler Polumbus, Robert Gallery, Max Unger and the rookie right side of John Moffitt and James Carpenter. Later, Paul McQuistan came in after Gallery left with a sprained knee, while Breno Giacomini split time with Carpenter.

Each and every one of them gave Cable cause to finally crack that smile.

With that said, here’s a look at three things that worked against the Raider and three things that need work this week:

What worked

Pass protection. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Sometimes even four Mississippi. After a preseason of too few Mississippi’s, the state of Jackson’s protection improved enough that he was able to complete a 43-yard pass (to Golden Tate) to setup the Seahawks’ first field goal. His longest completion in the first three games was 23 yards – in the opener against the Chargers.

Golden Tate. In addition to teaming up with Jackson on that nice pitch-and-catch play, the second-year receiver/returner’s now-that’s-more-like-it performance included four more receptions for 36 yards, a 43-yard punt return and a 34-yard kickoff return. It was needed, after Tate had struggled in the first three games – especially with starters Mike Williams (toe) and Sidney Rice (shoulder) sitting out with injuries; but even more so for Tate’s confidence, and the coaches’ confidence in him.

“I think I got away from the game and having fun, so I had fun today – made some plays,” Tate said. “The coaches threw me the ball some. The quarterbacks, I felt like was a target today. Overall, not satisfied, but I’m content with the performance.”

The aggressiveness of the defensive backs. Yes, they were flagged for three pass interference penalties – one each by Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman – but even Carroll was able to look past that to the bigger picture.

“We played very aggressive,” he said. “Not so much a technique problem as much as an aggressiveness problem. But that’s not a bad thing for me to see right now. I like that they were challenging so much. But we need to fix some things, of course.”

What needs work

Penalties. The Seahawks had nine more against the Raiders, giving them 35 in four preseason games. It simply can’t continue in the regular season, when the outcome of the games count and that many penalties will affect the outcome.

Picks in the red zone. There was only – the pass Jackson threw to end the Seahawks’ first series that he shouldn’t have. But it cost the Seahawks at least three points, and possibly seven.

“Tarvaris tried to jam a touchdown pass in there, but he knows he made a mistake there,” Carroll said. “He did a classic thing of trying to do a little bit more. … We don’t need him to play like that. We just need him to play within the system and not try too hard.”

The running game. Now that the pass protection is better, let’s work on those lanes for the backs. The Seahawks averaged 3.1 yards on 35 rushing attempts against the Raiders. The plan is to set up the play-action passing game with a strong running game, so the per-carry average and total yards (101) need to improve as the line continues to improve.