ReFo: SEA @ CAR, Week 1
I’m not quite as high on this Seahawks team as most (I just think they are missing too many key personnel for too long) but there’s a lot to admire about an offense that gets beaten up for three quarters but still manages to make the plays it needs down the stretch to win.
Russell Wilson didn’t play with the same certainty that marked his late season displays last year but neither did he display the nerves he showed in Week 1 last year (a performance that ultimately cost Seattle a win) and he has the benefit of knowing he won’t face many defensive lines as good as the Panthers’ again this year.
Carolina can only wish their secondary matched their front seven; giving away 320 yards when you only bring extra rushers 10 times and yet still get pressure on 38% of passing plays (only four offenses surrendered that much last year) suggests this is not a good unit.
Seattle – Three Performances of Note
New Kid on the Block
While the Seahawks didn’t get a lot going on the ground (20 halfback runs for 60 yards with almost half of those coming on two runs) do not blame the new fullback. Derrick Coleman (+2.4) consistently dominated in the hole on lead blocks and also threw in three receptions netting 30 yards for good measure. However, it was his work in his prime role that stood out. He was only in for seven running plays but on three of those he clearly won the battle in the hole.
While Robert Turbin may not have gained any yards on the play, watch the movement he gets on Quintin Mikell in the right “B” gap with 1:32 gone in the first quarter.
The only note of negativity came when he failed to stay in bounds after picking up a first down late in the fourth, but this is small stuff and the gentle post-play talking to he got from offensive line coach Tom Cable will probably have the desired effect.
If you didn’t watch the game and saw Russell Wilson’s (+2.2) grade you may be surprised it’s not higher. If you did, you probably already realize this was a display that ran the full gamut of performance. In his defense he was under a lot of pressure, but he won’t give that excuse, so neither should we.
Let’s start with the good. He made at least five top quality throws –some of which came after escaping pressure and throwing on the run – many of which few other quarterbacks would have been able to even get in a position to attempt. The burst to escape the pocket and then the velocity he gets on the ball while scrambling right (Q2 14:22) is a movement of lethal grace but he needs to temper these with a little more circumspection on other plays.
The almost-interception thrown from the end zone nearly made a bad position worse and a couple of overthrows on relatively easy passes suggest room for the improvement he’ll definitely need next week against the 49ers.
Pushing a Lost Cause?
Not for one minute am I saying the Seahawks should cut James Carpenter (-2.3) tomorrow, but I do think they need to invest a little bit next offseason in upgrading their position at guard. At the moment he’s really not much worse than the other players at their disposal but he’s still closer to a bust than a viable left guard.
In order to get the 2011 first-rounder some playing time, the Seahawks decided to rotate him on a quarter-by-quarter basis with Paul McQuistan (-2.2) and it really was a case of pick your poison. Carpenter was a slightly more effective pass protector while McQuistan had the edge in run blocking, but both these are relative terms; the combined result was not a good one. The ease with which Greg Hardy swims by Carpenter (Q4 12:58) to make the tackle for loss is an example of the issues that still need to be resolved.
Carolina – Three Performances of Note
Star of the Show (I know – apologies – it had to be done)
It was fairly obvious during the preseason the Panthers at last had a stud defensive tackle for the first time since Kris Jenkins left Charlotte. Now, while this wasn’t a totally dominating performance from Star Lotulelei (+3.3), it was still very good indeed and for a rookie on his debut – extremely impressive.
As a pass rusher he picked up a couple of hurries (one was numerically negated on an illegal shift by Seattle) and also drew a holding penalty from McQuistan, but it was his work in run defense that stood out making four tackles, three of them for 1 yard or less.
He only played 61% of snaps which is low by the standards of the premier DTs (Geno Atkins averaged 74% last year) but that will build and, for now at least, Panther fans can look forward to a significantly improved run defense in the middle.
Hold onto the Ball
So we all know about “that” fumble. Down five points and with 5:34 left in the game the Panthers had a 2nd-and-2. After making another mazy run down to the eight, DeAngelo Williams (-2.3) was first hit by Richard Sherman which seemed to loosen the ball for Earl Thomas to finish the act and knock it out. When Tony McDaniel recovered it was the last action the Panthers would see on offense as Seattle ran out the clock.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the only fumble Williams had, but the fact the first one bounced out of bounds (after a strip by Byron Maxwell) means it’s a lot less memorable.
It was a shame because fumbles aside he played well and 76 yards at 4.8 without much help from the offensive line is a good return. Not surprisingly, however, he didn’t put a single run into either “A” gap and his average return increased the closer he ran to the edge of the line.
There was some fairly poor play from guards in this game but no one suffered quite the way new left guard, Chris Scott (-5.7) did. He had a lot of difficulty even staying on his feet on occasion and much of the time I saw him losing his balance and falling over. A hit, hurry and a holding penalty allowed wasn’t the worst of it, though, and a steady stream of errors at the point of attack built to a -2.9 run blocking grade.
It’s sometimes difficult to get a feel for a performance from one play, but if you watch the way McDaniel manages to take him two ways on 2nd-and-2 before still making the tackle short of the first-down marker, it’s a good start.
– Given the extremely high quality of the punting by Panthers Brad Nortman (+5.2), one of the most understated parts of this game was Golden Tate averaging 12 yards per return on four attempts.
– It’s very early but Doug Baldwin’s 3.64 Yards Per Route Run is very good (the best in the NFL last year was Andre Johnson with 3.01) and possibly an indication that he’s due more than 55% of snaps.
– Cam Newton only threw a half dozen passes beyond 10 yards. Of those throws he completed five of the six for 71 yards. The other? Well that 23-yarder was dropped by Greg Olsen.
PFF Game Ball
It’s coming to something when you criticize Russell Wilson before giving him the PFF game ball. I guess that’s the measure of him these days – his average is better than many quarterbacks very best.
Follow Neil on Twitter: @PFF_Neil