Seahawks look like the best in the NFL 12/22, 12:07 AM
Seahawks are close to completing a stunning turnaround 12/20, 10:18 PM
Seahawks review: Likes and dislikes about the 28-7 victory over the Jets
Related column: Golden Tate puts on a show -- as usual
Here are my highs and lows from the Seahawks' 28-7 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday:
1. The Seahawks struggled with the Jets' pass rush in the first half. Jets coach Rex Ryan and his entire family are known for their aggressive and exotic pass-rushing tactics. They fooled the Seahawks a little in the first half and recorded three of their four sacks and most of their quarterback pressures. At times early on, it seemed like the Seahawks didn't know where the pressure was coming from, but the offensive line adjusted as the game progressed.
2. Russell Wilson resorted to abandoning the pocket too soon, and he didn't protect the ball well. This is a continuation of Dislike No. 1. Overall, Wilson enjoyed another quality performance at home. He finished with a 131 quarterback rating. But he ran his way into a couple of those sacks. In the first half, he tried to bail from the pocket too soon, and the Jets did an excellent job early of containing him, flustering him and making him look like he did in the first few games of the season. Wilson also fumbled twice, one of which he lost. He was too casual carrying the football, but as the game progressed and the Seahawks imposed their will, the rookie quarterback improved.
1. The defense returns to its dominant, overpowering form. It's not like the Seahawks had been playing terrible defense, but since rising to No. 1 in the NFL in total defense after Week 5, they've had some issues over the previous four games. They were gashed by San Francisco's run game and Adrian Peterson's greatness. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford exposed their issues handling the short-passing game. The Seahawks had managed to perform at an acceptable level overall despite the problems in three of those games, but loss to Detroit game, in which the Lions converted 12 of 16 third downs (another issue for the D), was by far the worst showing. Throughout it all, the Seahawks remained a top-five defense, but their standard is high, and they wanted to get back to it. Without question, they were at their best against the Jets' weak offense. New York managed just 185 total yards and converted only two of 11 third downs. Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed only 9 of 22 passes for 124 yards. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman intercepted a pass in the red zone and sacked Sanchez, forcing a fumble. The Jets mustered just 84 rushing yards. Bruce Irvin had two of the Seahawks' three sacks and took over the team lead with seven. The Seahawks did exactly what you expected them to do against the Jets offense.
2. Marshawn Lynch rushes for 124 yards and passes the 1,000-yard mark in just 10 games. So much for the notion that Lynch would lose a little fire after signing that big contract in the offseason. Beast Mode has been consistent all season. He has rushed for 100 yards in six of 10 games, including four in a row. He has rushed for less than 85 yards just once, a 41-yard effort against New England. He's now at 1,005 yards and on pace for more than 1,600. The Seahawks have a top-rate run-blocking offensive line, and Lynch has improved from a good back to one of the best in the entire league. As long as he remains healthy, the Seahawks won't have a problem running the football. They're averaging 142.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks seventh in the NFL.
3. Golden Tate and Sidney Rice make the most of just four receptions. The Seahawks threw just 20 passes, and Tate and Rice combined for just four receptions. But three of those went for touchdowns. Rice caught a 31-yarder from Wilson early in the fourth quarter, and then he caught a 23-yarder from Tate nearly six minutes later. Tate went airborne for both of his catches. He out-jumped Kyle Wilson to snag a 38-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Then, in the fourth quarter, he caught a bubble screen, hurdled a defender and ran 13 yards for a first down. Throw in his pass to Rice, and Tate made a lot happen in just three plays. The Seahawks don't throw enough for their receivers to ease into the game and get into a rhythm. They have to take advantage of every precious opportunity. Tate and Rice made big plays when they were available.
The Seahawks exited the take-care-of-business phase of their schedule in appropriate fashion. For their playoff hopes to maintain credibility, they needed to start the second half of the season with home victories over Minnesota and New York. Now, they enter a much-needed bye week with a 6-4 record.
They'll come off the bye with two difficult road games in Miami and Chicago. They need at least a split. They're 1-4 on the road this season, but they're not inept on offense anymore, which had been a huge problem away from CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks have averaged 27.3 points over their past three games. Their margin for error is wider than it used to be.
With so much at stake in the final six games, with the improvement they're showing, the Seahawks should be expected to play their best football after the bye.