Seahawks fans watched their team take another tough loss this Sunday as the Seahawks fell 34-12 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Tough in the sense that the chances for an NFC West title are all but mathematically eliminated, but also in the sense that this was a game that could have been won.
I generally try not to be too critical of our favorite football team, but I’m noticing a trend beginning to divide many of our feelings about the Seahawks head coach.
One of the things I like most about Carroll is his genuine passion for the game and coaching with a lot of heart. But it is also one of the things that is starting to grind on me when it leads to some bad decisions. Watching Mike Holmgren coach for the better part of the last 10 years, there were so many times when I would want the Seahawks to go for it on a 4th-and-inches play and he very rarely went for it. It doesn’t matter where the team is on the field, as fans we always feel like our team should be able to make it a few inches.
It infuriated me at the time, but Holmgren always seemed to realize how much of an impact those plays had on a game, especially in the cases where the team doesn’t convert. No team makes it every time, and if you look at the statistics they are generally very low probability plays.
So the point I’m getting at is we’ve seen these two very different coaches in Seattle: the guy who coaches like fans feel in their hearts, and the guy who thinks it through and generally makes the smartest or at least the safest move. I’m starting to recognize that I appreciate the coach who is going to make the safe calls over the calls that I would make myself when I play Madden on the Xbox. I can hit the reset button on a game I’m losing if it means I’m going to miss the playoffs, but real NFL coaches don’t have that option.
This week the Seahawks were down 17-3 with less than two minutes to play in the first half. Tarvaris Jackson finally gets the offense clicking after coming in at the beginning of the second quarter and drives the team down to the 3-yard line. On 4th-and-2, with 14 seconds on the clock after taking their final timeout, the Seahawks run Marshawn Lynch up the middle and get the first down only to have the clock expire.
Fans will complain and say the defense was slow to get up off of offensive players on the ground and that kept them from getting in position to spike the ball, but that’s part of the game. Meanwhile, leading up to the play, I was screaming at the radio on fourth down saying “Take the easy points, Pete!” This way you go into the locker room down 11 points. Sure it’s not a touchdown, but Seattle was getting the ball back to start the second half.
Considering they generally play much better after halftime, I think it should have been the call. Everyone in blue, myself included, really wanted a touchdown on that drive. So I can understand a guy who coaches from the heart to want to make it happen, but I hope Carroll can recognize the instances where he needs to do what’s best for the team and not what most of us fans are cheering for at the moment. Jackson did a great job to lead the team down the field in under two minutes. It’s better to come away with three points than to come up empty going into halftime.
Which leads me to another point of contention. Jackson came in and threw for more yardage in three quarters than he has thrown for any full game in his career, yet Charlie Whitehurst got the start. I really like Charlie and I’ll never forget how he helped get the Seahawks to the playoffs last year with the win over the Rams. But Jackson has now clearly proven to be the better quarterback. If Jackson can jump into the game and throw for 323 yards coming off an injury, why is he not starting this game?
I recognize I’m making a big deal out of one play, but the Seahawks were only down 17-12 with about nine minutes left in the game. Let’s say everything goes well in that they take the field goal at the end of the 2nd quarter, kick a 53-yard field goal instead of punting for a net 16 yards in the 3rd quarter, and kick the PAT instead of go for two points after the Lynch touchdown.
If all that happens, then they are up 19-17 at that point. Seattle would have the momentum and a jacked up 12th Man behind them going into those last nine minutes.
Adding to the frustrating is knowing that the 49ers essentially have the division locked up after going to 6-1 following their 20-10 win over the Browns. The Seahawks are a distant second at 2-5 after this loss. St. Louis had an improbable and unexplainable 31-21 win over the New Orleans Saints, a team that scored 62 points last week. The win ties the Rams with the Cardinals at the bottom of the division at 1-6. Arizona looked like they might pull off a win over the Ravens, but watched a 24-3 lead in the second quarter disintegrate into a 30-27 loss.
Which reminds me that the Seahawks GM and coach Carroll really deserve a lot of credit for not bringing in Kevin Kolb, and I’m not just saying that because I really want this email to end on somewhat of a positive note. Well, I do want it to end positive, but that’s beside the point.
Anyway . . . Arizona looks pretty bad right now for spending a crazy amount of money, giving up one of their top corners, and a second-round draft pick in 2012 to get Kolb. All the while many of us were crushing the front office for letting Matt Hasselbeck go and picking up Jackson. After watching Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton play today, maybe they deserve criticism for not picking him up in the first round, but saying that would go against what I’m trying to do as I wrap this up.
If the choice is Hasselbeck, Kolb and Jackson and you put their numbers, abilities, and paychecks next to each other, I’m taking Jackson every time. Plus, seeing him get going in Hawks up-tempo offense is a lot of fun to watch.
The Seahawks have been making some good moves, selected solid draft choices, and generating a culture built around certain types of players the team is looking for, and that leaves me very optimistic about the team’s future. Rebuilding is tough, but hopefully it won’t be long before some of those personnel moves start translating into wins on the field. As soon as next week against the Cowboys perhaps?
Not your average recap from me this week. Usually I vent a lot of frustration via Twitter during games like these, so by the time I summarize the game, I’m pretty well over it. But being on the road yesterday and listening to the game on the radio, I didn’t have that option.