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Seahawks review: Three likes and dislikes about the 24-23 victory over New England
Related column: Seahawks turn into a complete team during furious rally
It's impossible to whittle all the drama of Sunday's game down to six discussion points, but we'll attempt to do it anyway. Here's the good and the bad from the Seahawks-Patriots game.
As usual, we'll start with the bad and end on a good note.
1. New England pinpointed and exploited the Seahawks' few weaknesses on defense. I'm not sure the Patriots created a blueprint for attacking the Seahawks because no other team plays the way New England does. But in a matchup that pitted the NFL's No. 1 offense against its No. 1 defense, the Patriots gained 475 yards, about 220 more than what the Seahawks were allowing. Tom Brady threw for 395 yards, attacking the Seahawks with a quick passing game to nullify the pass rush and completing 10 passes to Wes Welker, the best slot receiver in the league. The Patriots did most of their damage by going to Welker and their tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but receiver Brandon Lloyd (six catches for 80 yards) was productive, too, though the Seahawks can live with a receiver catching passes on just half of the 12 times he was targeted. If you're going to have any success against the Seahawks defense, you have to nibble at it, and that's what the Patriots do best. It's hard to see the Seahawks yielding 475 yards to another team.
2. Despite their offensive improvements, the Seahawks still had a 21-minute lull that almost cost them a chance to come back. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Seahawks had gained only 35 yards on offense. That was a big reason the Patriots were able to separate. Seattle couldn't run the ball, and Russell Wilson struggled a bit at the start of the second half. As a result, an offense that gained 203 of its season-high 368 yards in the first half, sputtered and almost lost the opportunity to be in the game at the end.
3. The Seahawks failed to gain 100 rushing yards for the second straight game. It was their worst rushing performance of the season. The Seahawks amassed only 85 yards and 3.3 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch ran for 41 yards, his worst performance since a 42-yard performance last December in Chicago. Are the Seahawks regressing in the run game? Probably not. It's just two games. Opposing defenses are challenging Wilson to beat them, and now that he's having success, things might change a little. The Seahawks need to get back to producing their customary 140-150 yards on the ground.
1. Russell Wilson may have just slammed the door on any notion of a quarterback controversy. At last, you saw it. Wilson was electric again, just as he had been during the preseason when he beat out Matt Flynn to win the starting job. He used his legs to get in position to make big plays down the field, completing a 51-yard pass to Golden Tate, 50-yarder to Doug Baldwin and, of course, the game-winning 46-yard throw to Sidney Rice. Wilson threw for a career-high 293 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't throw an interception. He posted a 133.7 quarterback rating. With the run game struggling, with Brady throwing for nearly 400 yards, Wilson had to counter with his best game. He did, and for the second straight week, you saw significant progress. It doesn't mean that Wilson should be bulletproof now. Scrutiny is still warranted. But the next time he struggles, which may very well be Thursday against San Francisco (which is now No. 1 in the NFL in total defense), there shouldn't be a major controversy over whether Flynn should get playing time. Wilson and the offense might be on the verge of a long-lasting breakthrough. Now, there's ample reason for patience.
2. The Seahawks' weekly emphasis on specific areas of the passing game is yielding impressive results. In preparation for last week's game against Carolina, they focused on third-down conversions, and the team responded. Before the New England game, they emphasized explosive plays and scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on two of three red-zone trips, and we've already mentioned the explosive plays in the passing game. Again, the Seahawks are clearly making progress by challenging their players to be better.
3. When the Seahawks needed their defense the most, it was available and effective. New England's 475 yards created the drama, but the real story of the No. 1 offense vs. No. 1 defense showdown was this: The Patriots made it to the red zone six times and wound up with only one touchdown and three field goals. Sixteen points out of a possible 42. In the most crucial situations, the Seahawks showed why they have a good defense. They didn't get frustrated when New England moved the ball. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas came up with huge interceptions. In the fourth quarter, the Seahawks stopped the Patriots three straight times to create opportunity for the comeback and then to shut the door on a last-minute Brady miracle.
If you'll excuse me quoting myself, I think this excerpt from today's column says exactly how I feel about where the Seahawks stand today:
It all happened, in the most stunning, galvanizing and unifying manner possible. These are the kinds of improbable victories that launch teams. And for the Seahawks, defensively dominant but offensively opaque, an all-in rally against an elite team could help redefine the possibilities this season.
"Growth. That's what this was about -- growth," fullback Michael Robinson said. "A comeback like this wouldn't have happened around here the last two years."
Maybe Year 3 of coach Pete Carroll will live up to expectations. The Seahawks are 4-2 and growing. With Wilson improving at a rapid pace, they are progressing on schedule.