Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Seahawks at the Halfway Point

We're 6-2 baby, and it's time to look at why. This has been a pretty fun year so far, having taken about five years off my fragile frame already, and I'm looking forward to more stress added to my overloaded immune system in the weeks to come (like on Sunday).

For all those who care, here are the games I'll be at:
Sunday vs St Louis - I was at the game last year, this sure as hell better improve
Dec. 5 at Philadelphis - That's right fellas, I'm going to the Monday Night game at Philly...
Dec. 11 vs San Fran - I wanted to go to one easy game, this sounded as good as any.

So far I'm 2-0, having seen wins over Atlanta and at Arizona.

Why are the Hawks 6-2? Why were Colin and I so awesomely correct about this team?

It comes down to Tim Ruskell. That's right... Tim Ruskell. He gave us what I would like to call "depth". In the NFL every team deals with injuries, some major. While we are still shaky at the backup QB position (seriously, do we want Seneca Wallace to do more than mop-up duties?) our depth has taken us through some serious injury bugs.

In fact, our Defining Moment of the First Half was five weeks ago. We were coming off a reeling gut wrenching loss to the Washington Redskins (more on that below) and went into St Louis, a house of horrors, without Bobby Engram or Darrell Jackson. It did not look good. Colin and I both predicted a loss and a 2-3 start to our season. Instead, Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander annihilated the Rams defense, using Joe Jurevicius, who was one of our favorite offseason acquisitions. That receiving depth, so lacking last year, helped propel us to start our current 4 game winning streak.

More on the depth: Marquand Manuel steps in for Ken Hamlin and has two extremely capable games. Jerheme Urban is our leading receiver last week. DJ Hackett gets us down to the goal line against Dallas. Jordan Babineaux has two game ending interceptions.

Ruskell had a plan... he has followed through with it, and there is sustainable success in his approach.

On to the awards!

Midseason MVP: This is actually a pretty tough choice. My heart says Matt Hasselbeck, but the stats say Shaun Alexander. I'm going to go with Alexander simply because of the number of games he has been able to close out on the ground. Singlehandedly he is erasing years of poor clock management by being able to pick up third-and-two with eight men in the box. He has been a delight to watch, and although he does have the gift of a terrific offensive line (also worthy of MVP honors) he is making the second level miss and is keeping opposing offenses off the field. There's a reason we continue to crank out 80 yard drives. You can't do it without a running game.

Worst Loss: Can there be any discussion on this one? That Washington loss encapsulated everything that was rotten about Seahawk football in 2004. The defense couldn't get off the field, the offense couldn't make enough plays, and yet we still had a chance to win that we blew. Mike Holmgren had an awful day as a head coach, not letting the #1 offense in football try and move the ball 10 yards closer for Josh Brown.

Best Win: Outside of the Defining Moment Rams game, it has to be the end of the Dallas game. I think about it and still get shivers down my spine. It was the type of game we always used to lose (see above). Our defense won it (name the last time that happened) hands down. Josh Brown nails the 50 yarder, I jump out of my seat, dance around a lot, look goofier than normal, read all the great post-game Dallas "we lost to a worse team" quotes, and loved life.

Best Offseason Acquisition: Bryce Fisher. Not many people liked getting him at the expense of Chike Okeafor, apparently because they liked people who could get 8 sacks and disappear for the remainder of games. Bryce has done nothing but get to the quarterback, already approaching his career high. He is feeding off the extra attention given to Grant Wistrom and is helping our pass rush blow through our preseason expectations (2nd in the NFL in sacks). Honorable mention to Jaime Sharper, who hasn't been brilliant, but who has been solid. He will be sorely missed this Sunday.

Best Rookie: Lofa Tatupu, with an honorary mention to Leroy Hill. Together they have helped solidify a linebacking corps that John Clayton panned. Tatupu is leading the team in tackles, he is always around the ball, and he can actually get to a quarterback on the blitz. In fact, that's something that should be stated... our blitzing is far superior this year to last year's Kacyvenski "run straight into a blocker" mess. They time the rush better, take smarter routes, and play far beyond their years. Hill is going to replace DD Lewis sooner or later. He is Anthony Simmons without the attitude. Both backers can also cover the short crossing patterns which are not destroying us like last year, making Ray Rhodes/John Marshall look a lot smarter.

Best Coaching Job: John Marshall, for the difficult job of replacing Ray Rhodes midstream and handling it with aplomb. The defense has been younger, faster, and meaner.

Still Needs to Step it Up Award: Marcus Tubbs, who did get a sack last week but in general hasn't quite lived up to what he displayed in the preseason. We have been hit by the running game a couple of times (that stupid Dallas game for one) and we need him and Chuck Darby to seal the middle.

Underrated Performer: The entire offensive line, who have flat out dominated opposing fronts. Walter Jones mashes people, same with Steve Hutchinson, who has to be resigned. Robbie Tobeck has quit holding people each week, which is nice. Chris Gray is a weak link and Sean Locklear has been quietly solid. In fact, Alexander has almost as much success running to the right side (Locklear) as to the left, as evidenced by his 88 yard jaunt to Colin and my waiting arms last week. With Pork Chop Womack as a great reserve, we will continue to have offensive line production for the remainder of the season.

Matt Hasselbeck Watch: Hasselbeck has been quietly effective. Outside of an abysmal opening day effort he is making good decisions, reading defenses effectively, and is as accurate as I've ever seen him on the West Coast routes. It helps that the receivers are actually catching the balls he throws them too.

Best Game of the 2nd Half: With all respect to our home game against the Colts, it has to be our showdown with the NY Giants. The winner of that game, in my opinion, gets home field advantage in the playoffs. Since Eli Manning is still struggling on the road, I feel pretty good about our chances. Still, it will be pretty cool to see how we stack up against the insane offensive attack of Indianapolis. If we can see the Peyton Manning Sad Face a few times I'll be pleased.

Why is Gavin on Crack Award: Yes, I did pick them yesterday to go to the Super Bowl, even if my preseason pick, Carolina, is also 6-2. Why is that? Because it's a toss-up now and I'm a homer. Deal with it. Also, Carolina hasn't had many impressive wins lately... they seem to be playing down to the opposition a lot (although not last week against Tampa Bay). My preseason thinking could still be right, but I have to go with the Hawks.

Quick Picks: I could completely change these when I preview the games, but here goes...
St Louis, win... San Fran, win... NY Giants, win... Philly, loss... San Fran, win... Tennessee, win... Indy, loss... Green Bay... win. End up at 12-4, baby.

On to Colin!

Hey, I get to talk too! Rock solid!

Colin's Biggest Mistake: Underrating Shaun Alexander's performance for this season. Sure, I knew the guy was touchdown magic, but I didn't expect him to turn into perhaps the best player in the NFL. He is blocking, he is picking up the tough yards.... he is doing absolutely everything we ask him too. If he continues this kind of performance, we would be ready for a playoff run.

Defining Moment of Season: Bledsoe rolling out, passing into triple coverage.... INTERCEPTED!! Seahawks ball on the Cowboys 33 yard line, Brown coming out for a chance to win.... GOOD!!

Favorite New Player: Lofa Tatupu. Man, you gotta love this guy's heart and smarts out on the football field. He also leads the team in tackles with 52 with 2 sacks and a pick! Tim Ruskell deserves huge credit for making this pick when most people were ripping on him for overhyping this player out of USC. Remember, Matt Leinart isn't the only reason why the Trojans have been so good the past few years.

Worst Moment of Season: That would be Ken Hamlin getting hit by a street sign after the win over the Texans. The Hawks lost one of the leaders of their defense in a horrible event that shouldn't have happened. As of now, no one has been charged with anything, but thankfully Hamlin is out of intensive care. Forget football. Here's hoping the Hammer gets his full health back with no serious side effects.

Best Offseason Move: Getting rid of Bob Whitsitt. The difference of the office management of this team has filtered to Holmgren and the team as a whole. It is amazing to watch this team gel together more and seem to possess a ton more character then in recent years. Meanwhile, Chad Brown has predictably struggled, Koren Robinson is a kick returner, Anthony Simmons is without a team, Chike Okeafor is passing out charms but not sacks, Orlando Huff is rediscovering the fact that he is not a playmaker, Antonio Cochran is ALSO with the Cardinals, and only Ken Lucas is a productive member of another team. Yeah. Terrible offseason, that.

My favorite player noone has heard of: Craig Terrill. This guy only has 6 tackles at his defensive tackle position, but also has 1.5 sacks, and, the last few weeks, has seemed to come up with a nice couple of plays. He just epitomizes the Tim Ruskell method of team building, where every roster spot is precious and goes to a productive player.

What happened in Jacksonville?: Worst performance of the season. Hasselbeck throws 2 picks and fumbles the ball twice. Lesson? The focus of the offense needed to go through Shaun and NOT through Matt. Holmgren actually learned his lesson, and the offense has been much better off from that moment onward.

Best catch of season: Jerramy Stevens, massive underperformer until this season, makes a diving 35 yard touchdown catch from Hasselbeck with 36 seconds left in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons to give us a 21-0 halftime lead. It was a thing of beauty, as Stevens finally began to use his massive potential for good instead of evil.

Best columnist ever to write about the Seattle Seahawks: Pete Prisco. First he predicts the Arizona Cardinals to whup us. Then he predicts us to be 3-5 at this point, even saying we would lose to the Cardinals last week. Then he calls us the most overrated team in the NFL before any pundit has BEGUN to talk about us. Pete, I love you. Thank you for the gift of laughter.

Honorary mention: Bill Simmons. First he picks us to finish 6-10, and he has yet to give us any credit whatsoever for this season.

Most satisfying win of the year: Hard to say, but for me it has to be the absolute pasting we put on the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3. The most annoying part of the offseason was having to listen to columnist after columnist, including John Clayton (!), just lap up the weird conclusion that the Cardinals were poised to take over the NFC West. This was based on no apparent evidence whatsoever, but we had to hear this tripe for months. It is the height of annoyance. The Seahawks had an early chance to prove the naysayers wrong, and they knocked Kurt Warner out and destroyed the Cardinals by the final score of 37-12. And I gloated.

Quick Picks (again, could be changed as we go through the season): St. Louis (win, we have to, right?), San Fran, win, NY Giants, loss, Philly, win, San Fran, win, Tennessee, win, Indy, loss, Green Bay, win.... 12-4, same as Gavin

Here's the thing. The road to 10 wins is evident. Beat San Fran (2-6) twice, Tennessee (2-7), and Green Bay (1-7). Any loss there would be monstrous.

That leaves 4 games that, if we can even go 2-2, leads us to 12 wins. The games against St. Louis, New York, and Indy are all at home, so you know that we will win at LEAST one of those, and hopefully two. Meanwhile, Philly is on a downturn, to the point that you would actually favor us in a head-to-head matchup at this point. How in the world can we NOT get to 12 wins?

Final note (Division champ?): Obviously, St. Louis (4-4) is our only main competition. Here is their remaining schedule: at Seattle, Arizona, at Houston, Washington, at Minnesota, Philly, San Francisco, at Dallas. They will need to go 6-2 to make the 10 win mark. Obviously you would expect them to get wins against Arizona, Houston, Minnesota, and San Francisco, though the Rams are known to lose at LEAST one game they shouldn't each half of a season. So, can they win two out of Seattle, Washington, Philly, and Dallas? They certainly can, but I would definitely expect at least losses at home against Washington and at Dallas. Basically, I think a 9 win season is in the cards for the Rams, which just won't be enough to catch the Hawks, even IF they beat us on Sunday.

posted by Gavin @ 2:29 PM  0 comments


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