Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
In the game of football, if a team controls the ball offensively for 42 minutes of a 60 minute game, it is very likely that team will win that game. It is also very likely, in such a circumstance, that the team is converting their third down opportunities. To sustain drives and eat up the clock, that is what a team must do; and that is exactly what the San Diego Chargers did in defeating the Seattle Seahawks 30-21 last Sunday at brutally hot Qualcomm stadium in San Diego.
When I say “brutally hot” I am actually understating things. According to the FOX Sports sideline reporter the on field temperature at Qualcomm was approaching 120 degrees at game time. I can tell you from personal experience, though I never played in anything close to 120 degrees, that it is miserable playing tackle football in pads in hot weather. Whatever motivation and spirit you may have at the start of the game, along with your bodily fluids, just gets sucked right out of you. I truly believe that by the 2nd half of this game, while they won’t admit it, the heat was affecting the Seahawks’ play on the field. You could see the obvious impact when players like Earl Thomas limped off the field with cramps. I believe the less obvious impact manifested in the unusually large number of Seahawks missed tackles in this game. By the end of the 3rd quarter I counted 14 as well as two missed sacks, one of which Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers turned into a touchdown pass to his tight end Antonio Gates. All those missed tackles contributed mightily to San Diego converting 10 of 17 third down attempts and controlling the ball for 42 minutes
Missed tackles and missed sacks? As we have seen, that is definitely NOT Seahawks football!
The heat notwithstanding, there is another reason the Chargers won this game, and that was the marvelous play of the aforementioned Rivers. The San Diego quarterback played what certainly was one of his finest games ever, completing 28 of 37 passes for 276 yards, no picks and 3 TDs, all to future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates. He masterfully executed the Chargers’ game plan of short, dink and dunk type passes to his backs while mixing in runs and the occasional longer throws to Gates and his other receivers. Seattle’s linebackers had a tough time covering the short throws and often had their tackles broken by the San Diego backs. The result was lots of 3rd down and short situations for San Diego which Rivers and Co. easily converted to keep their drives going; which in turn led to 42 minutes of ball possession time.
With the defense not able to stop San Diego, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense had limited opportunities; but for the most part they capitalized on them. Wilson led 3 scoring drives in the 18 minutes the Seahawks had the ball, throwing 2 short touchdown passes, one each to Robert Turbin and Marshawn Lynch, while Percy Harvin scampered 50 plus yards for another score. Despite these successes Seattle only had the ball for 40 plays—too few to really get Lynch (6 carries for 36 yds) and the running game established.
Uncharacteristically Seattle’s defense came up with no turnovers in this game. Despite the Chargers putting the ball on the ground three times, the Hawks were always a step late getting to it; and for their part Seattle gave the ball up once when Percy Harvin fumbled on a kickoff return. That mistake gave San Diego great field position and ultimately a TD on one of Gates’ scoring receptions.
As bad as all this was, a measure of Seattle’s greatness as a team can be taken from the fact that with all of the marvelous play of Rivers, Gates and the rest of the Chargers, and as hot as it was, the Seahawks still had the ball with 3 minutes to go in the game and trailing by only 6 points. I don’t think there was a Hawks fan watching who did not think that Wilson would drive his team to the winning score.
Alas, it did not happen…this time. Next time, if the two teams do meet again, I don’t think the Chargers will be so lucky.
The Seahawks need to learn from this game and then put it behind them. I think they will. Helping them do it is the fact that they have a Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos this Sunday in Seattle at the Clink. After the beating they took in the Big Game from the Hawks you know that Peyton Manning and the Broncos will be stoked for revenge.
There have been changes in both teams. Such is the way of the NFL, with its salary cap rules and regulations. For Seattle, wide receiver Golden Tate now catches passes for the Detroit Lions and defensive linemen Chris Clemons and Red Bryant have gone to other teams. The Broncos have added strength to their defense by signing former Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware, and star linebacker Von Miller, who missed the Super Bowl with an injury, is now healthy. Denver wide receiver Eric Decker (87 catches, 1288 yds and 11 TDs last year) is gone to the New York Jets, replaced by speedster Emanuel Sanders (67 catches in 2013 for the Steelers) and Manning still has slot receiver Wes Welker, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas to throw to. That group is likely the best receiving corp in the NFL, and with Manning calling the shots…wow! The Broncos will be tough to beat!
Nevertheless, and you know I’m a homer, I think the Seahawks will be up to the task. The game is at the Clink and the twelves will be their normal maniacal selves; that you can count on. The loss to San Diego, I think, has brought the Legion of Boom and Co. back to earth; and any illusion they may have had about how easy it will be to repeat as World Champs is, by now, thoroughly shattered. I think we will see a different Seahawks team this weekend, and you know it will not be 120 degrees at the Clink!
By season’s end we twelves may just look back at this San Diego loss as the “wake-up call” this team needed.
Copyright © 2014
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved