Monday metatarsal musings

Posted Oct 1, 2012

Or footnotes: In a disappointing loss to the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday, Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Mebane turned in winning performances – and did it in contrasting fashion.

One is a runner who does everything and then some to prevent being tackled. The other is a run-stuffer who does all things imaginable to tackle the ball carrier.

Just call them the Seahawks’ Cal Connection. Or Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Mebane, if you must.

There were a lot of reasons for the Seahawks’ 19-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday, but these former teammates from the University of California at Berkeley cannot be counted among them.

Lynch was a twisting, spinning, lunging force while running for 118 yards, a 5.9-yard average and the only offensive touchdown in the game. Mebane was a disruptive, penetrating, immovable force in making five solo tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage, to help limit the Rams to 75 rushing yards and keep them out of the end zone all afternoon.

“You can’t ask for more than Marshawn gave us today,” guard Paul McQuistan said in the locker room after the game. “The way he was running, it’s motivating as we’re blocking because he’s giving it all he’s got. So you try to keep giving him that one opportunity to spring him.”

That’s exactly what Mebane’s efforts prevented the Rams from doing, as 23 of Steven Jackson’s 55 yards came on one run. On his other 17 carries, the battering-Ram of a back averaged 1.9 yards.

On the five snaps where Jackson ran into Mebane, he totaled minus-6 yards. That’s right. Mebane stopped Jackson for 1 yard, no gain, no gain, a 5-yard loss and a 2-yard loss. No matter how you slice-and-dice those stats, that works.

Brandon Mebane“He’s playing very well,” defensive line coach Todd Wash said of Mebane before his Sunday performance. “He does a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. He plays with great effort. He’s a sideline-to-sideline nose guard, and there aren’t a lot of those out there.

“So give him credit for how hard he plays.”

Especially on Jackson’s 1-yard run, where Mebane got his 6-foot-1, 311-pound body into the gap to stone the 240-pound Jackson. That’s stoned, as in the instant Mebane hit him Jackson went down. Or on Jackson’s 5-yard loss, where Mebane got that same low-center-of-gravity body through the gap – in half-a-blink – to drop Jackson before he knew what had hit him.

Lynch on the run. Mebane stuffing the run. On Sunday, in a disappointing loss, these two turned in the kind of performances the Seahawks need to win games.

With that said, here’s a look at three other things that worked against the Rams and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for this week’s game against the Panthers in Carolina:

What worked

The defense on first and second downs – The Seahawks did so many things well to put the Rams into third-and-long situations, only to let them off the hook on five crucial third-and-long plays (see below). But even those maddening conversions don’t erase how well this defense is playing on mixed downs.

The Seahawks emerged from Sunday’s games ranked third in the league average yards allowed (275.8) and second in rushing yards allowed (62.8).  They’re also second in points allowed (58) – two more than the unbeaten Houston Texans – and the only TD the Seahawks allowed on Sunday came on a scoring pass off a fake field goal.

“We’ve just got to get better on third down and try to get off the field,” Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas said.

Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin – Count this as No. 2 and No. 3, and call it the Utah State Connection as the rookies who also were teammates in college made their presence felt. Again, in contrasting ways.

Wagner, the middle linebacker who was selected in the second round of April’s NFL Draft, led the Seahawks with seven tackles – all solo stops, and three behind the line of scrimmage for minus-8 yards. Turbin, who was drafted in the fourth round to give the running game a physical presence when Lynch needs a down or two off, averaged 7.5 yards on six carries and also caught two passes.

“There were a lot of really good runs, a lot of runs where guys made guys miss or bounced off tackles,” coach Pete Carroll said of the 1-2 punch of Lynch and Turbin producing 163 of the team’s 179 rushing yards.

“Both guys were very effective.”

What needs work

Third-down defense – The Seahawks held the Rams to five conversions in 13 plays on the pivotal down. Not great, but an improvement on their efforts from the first three games when opponents converted at a rate of 44.7 percent.

It was what happened on those five conversions: Sam Bradford to Brandon Gibson for 15 yards on third-and-13; to Austin Pettis for 17 yards on third-and-14; to Brian Quick for 19 yards on third-and-10; to Amendola for 15 yards on third-and-10; and to Lance Kendricks for 26 yards on third-and-12.

All five came in scoring drives, and those five completions accounted for 92 of the Bradford’s 211 passing yards.

“You can’t just point out one person. It was on everybody,” Thomas said. “It’s very disappointing, because we know we’re a way better team than this.”

Russell Wilson’s continuing development – Yes, the rookie QB threw three interceptions. But one went off wide receiver Doug Baldwin, one came when tight end Anthony McCoy slipped and fell on the play and one came as Wilson was being hit during his throwing motion.

But Wilson needs to work on stepping up in the pocket and delivering the ball when pressure comes off the edges, and also needs to be more decisive when rolling out and it’s apparent that he can run for more yards than he gets after slight hesitations to take one more scan of his receivers.

“It’s a disappointing loss. We felt like we should have won that game,” Wilson said. “We just learn from it. Grow from it. And be ready for next week.”

Red zone offense – The Seahawks got into the red zone only once in the first half, and Lynch delivered on that one play with his 18-yard TD run. But the Seahawks had seven snaps inside the Rams’ 20-yard line in the second half, with the game very much on the line, and settled for two Steven Hauschka field goals as the seven plays produced 14 yards.

“Hugely frustrating,” tight end Zach Miller said. “In a tight game like this, that’s what it comes down to. We score touchdowns in the red zone and it’s a different ball game.”

Different as in, it would have been the Seahawks’ third victory, rather than their second loss in as many road games.