Saturday, January 14, 2006

So This Is What It's Like
By Zach

There have been any number of firsts in my life: first day of school, first kiss, first, time having sex, first all-nighter, first time staggering up University Place absolutely hammered at 5 am...but this was the first time I've ever seen my Seattle Seahawks win a playoff football game. Of course, up until today, they'd only played 3 since I was less than a year old. I, and the rest of the Seahawks fanbase, had suffered through two of the most heart-breaking losses in football history each of the last two postseasons: Al Harris and his dreadlocks running down the sideline with a game winning INT return, and then Bobby Engram dropping the tying TD at the end of last year's game against the Rams.

Today, there would be no trilogy of pain. Despite losing NFL MVP Shaun Alexander in the first quarter, and despite allowing the Redskins to hang around, in the end the Seahawks emerged on top. And while I missed the first half of the game because I was busy announcing the NYU basketball games (and boy, they were great games. The NYU women beat the #2 Brandeis team on a last-second shot, and the NYU men hung on for a win over Brandeis as well).

The main difference between this year's team and the incarnations of the previous few years manifested itself in three key areas. The first was on offense, where the Seahawk receivers again did a great job catching almost everything thrown their way. Game MVP (in my mind) Darrell Jackson made several huge catches, including a tremendous TD grab in the second quarter. As a whole, Seattle avoided the crushing drops that absolutely killed them the last few years. As a result, they were able to mount several long drives and put 20 points on the board against a very good Redskins defense.

The other two differences were on defense. First, the Seahawks did another great job stopping the run. This season, they only let one back get over 100 yards rushing, and Tiki Barber needed an overtime period to get there. In 2004, they were the 25th ranked rush defense accoring to Football Outsiders. This year? 7th. Yet again today, they did a great job stuffing Clinton Portis, Sheriff He Gonna Getcha, Doctor I Don't Know, Southeast Jerome, and even Ladell Betts.

The Seahawks also have done a good job all year generating a pass rush. It's odd, the loss to the Redskins in Week 4 was in many ways a turning point for the defense, especially the playcalling. In that game, the Redskins converted numerous third-and-longs, often when the Seahawks were blitzing. If you've been reading this blog for long, you know if there's one thing I hate in the NFL, it's blitzing on third-and-long. From that game on, the Hawks did far less of it. Not surprisingly, the defense played better and the team won 11 straight games. Today, at least what I saw, Seattle didn't blitz much, but they still did a good job of rushing and flushing Brunell, even if they didn't sack him much.

Credit the Redskins. They had their own injury problems, and for the most part defensive co-ordinator Gregg Williams did a good job limiting the Seahawks rushing attack. Of course, Mack Strong did rip off a 32-yard run which just about clinched the game, and of course Matt Hasselbeck was fantastic picking apart the defense. Who knows, maybe Coach Janky Spanky might have done better?

Now it's time to play the waiting game. The Seahawks will host the winner of the Bears/Panthers game tomorrow. If I had my druthers, I'd probably prefer to face the Bears, but at this point, I just want to see Shaun Alexander back on the field. If that happens, maybe I'll get to achieve another first: first time actually caring who wins the Super Bowl.


Blogger Todd said...

see you in the NFC Championship game!

12:54 AM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Todd, it looks like you and I might need to do something about this...

1:19 AM  

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