St. Louis Rams fans got to sit back and watch two of their division rivals play in the divisional round of the playoffs over the weekend, and considering how those two teams played, their 2-1-1 record against those teams has to be encouraging for the future of the franchise. On the other hand seeing how Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to a blowout victory over the Green Bay Packers also had to have you a little bit worried. Kaepernick was sensational in his first ever playoff game, even setting an NFL record for most rushing yards by a QB (regular or post season). In fact his 181 yards nets him the 15th greatest rushing performance in playoff history, of course Kaepernick didn’t just use his legs to dismantle the Packers defense he also went 17/31 for 263 yards and 2 TDs with 1 INT to pair with the 2 rushing TDs. Kaepernick threw an early pick six but after that he was electric, congratulations to him and Harbaugh as the performance will surely help to silence critics of his decision to go with the QB switch. The Seattle Seahawks showed some grit and determination as they clawed their way back into the game against the Atlanta Falcons. Russell Wilson dazzled in the second half as he put together the first 300 yard passing game of his young career. The Seahawks came heartbreakingly close to making a trip to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in an all NFC West championship game. This article will be the last weekly edition of “Behind Enemy Lines” until the start of next season, although there may be special editions related to major offseason moves or the draft so lets get to the important topics Seahawks fans are buzzing about.
Russell Wilson. Wilson was impressive in the second half of the game as he lead the rally for the Seahawks, who trailed by 20 at halftime and at the start of the 4th quarter. In the first half Wilson went 10/17 for 148 yards and also contributed two runs for 26 yards, a bulk of those passing yards were to Zach Miller who had an incredible game for the Seahawks hauling in 8 passes for 142 yards and 1 TD. Wilson did take the big sack at the end of the first half of the game that prevented the Seahawks from getting on the board before halftime, but that was hardly his fault as the pressure was on him almost immediately after receiving the snap. One thing I noticed while watching this game, especially in the first half, is that Wilson’s accuracy seems to drop off considerably when there is a defender near his intended receiver. Perhaps I am being overly critical of him on this, but the completions I do remember seeing him make were to wide open defenders and not necessarily great throws like you saw from Aaron Rodger and Colin Kaepernick in the first NFC divisional round game. Wilson’s numbers picked up quite a bit in the second half, and especially in the 3rd quarter where he went 6/6 for 121 yards and a TD as well as two more runs for 19 yards. Of course his increased second half production may have had something to do with the fact that John Abraham, the Falcons best pass rusher, was out of the game the entire second half and the Falcons held a huge lead at home. Whether the lack of their best pass rusher or perhaps a softer defensive philosophy contributed to Wilson’s numbers he took full advantage of the situation and played well enough to earn the Seahawks a win. In the 4th quarter he went 8-13 for 116 yards with another TD, chipping in another 15 yards rushing and one rushing TD. Wilson’s box score will show that he threw an INT but that was the last second hailmary that was intercepted by Julio Jones in the end zone to seal the victory for the Falcons. Overall this season Wilson was impressive, especially for a rookie 3rd round QB that everyone said was too short to play NFL QB. Of all the plays I have seen Wilson make though I can’t remember seeing a single pass play that jumped out at me, where I said “that kid has a special arm” like we saw from Andrew Luck and RGII. I think Wilson is a terrific young QB with a bright future ahead of him, he is a great scrambling qb who can extend the play and give his receivers extra time to get open but he doesn’t have an elite arm and really seems to have struggled this season with the shorter routes relying too much on the “big play”. While its nice to have a QB with big play ability, NFL defenses will have a whole seasons worth of tape on him next year (and Craig Dahl isn’t likely to be a starting safety) and will work very hard to eliminate that big play and force him to beat them in other ways and I haven’t seen that ability from him this season.
Pete Carroll. Some people want to blame Pete Carroll for the Seahawks loss to the Falcons, and some people want to give him credit for keeping the team going in the face of a 20-0 halftime deficit. I would fall into the first category and have long been a Pete Carroll critic, while he and the front office staff in Seattle have built a very good young roster, he continually mismanages game situations that cost the Seahawks wins. The two big examples of this in the game against the Falcons would be going for it on 4th and 1 while in easy FG range, and terrible clock management at the very end of the half while in the red zone that cost the Seahawks another 3 points. The Seahawks had 6 points in their pockets against the Falcons in the first half and Pete Carroll just threw them away like he was coaching the USC Trojans versus the Montana Grizzlies. People will say that since the Seahawks only lost by 2 points that those 6 points would have guaranteed them a victory, I don’t buy that. I don’t believe that if the Falcons had only a 14 point lead instead of a 20 point lead late in the 3rd quarter they would have gone into such a soft defense, or have become so conservative/predictable on the offensive side of the ball. The Falcons would probably still have won that game because they were the better team and would have found a way to win, which is exactly what they did in spite of their horrid 4th quarter defense. Of course as a Rams fan I am very happy that the Seahawks are coached by Pete Carroll, because I know that no matter how talented his team is they will always be beatable because he is calling the shots.
Coaching Staff. Yes the Seahawks coaching staff consists of more than just Pete Carroll, in fact both of their coordinators are in the running to pick up head coaching positions elsewhere in the league. I do not know much about either of the coordinators but Gus Bradley the defensive coordinator lead the NFL’s #1 scoring defense, which is likely to draw some attention from any team looking for a defensive minded head coach. Meanwhile Darrell Bevell did a brilliant job bringing along Russell Wilson in his rookie season. One thing I noticed in most Seahawks games I watched (which was almost all of them since they are the “local team”) was that receivers were frequently “running free” with no defender within 5 yards of them at the time Wilson targeted them. I personally can’t remember more than a handful of plays where Sam Bradford was afforded the same luxury. One could argue that the Seahawks wide receivers are just that much better than the Rams receivers, and I would agree that as a whole their receiving corps is superior to the Rams, but its not an elite group and yet they seemed to generate at least 5 plays a game where defenders were nowhere near the receivers. I would have to give at least a little of that credit to the offensive coordinator. Rams fans should be rooting for at least one or both of the Seahawks coordinators to jump ship for a head coaching gig as we have seen first hand how a lack of consistency in coaching can affect a team.
The Seahawks had a great season this year even though it ended in devastating fashion, the NFC West as a whole improved considerably which is refreshing considering it had been the laughing stock of the NFL over the past 5 or 6 years. If the Cardinals can find themselves a solid coach to replace Ken Wisenhunt, and have a little better luck with the injury bug next season they too could compete for a playoff spot. The NFC West is full of physical, dominating defenses and talented young quarterbacks which should have it competing for title of toughest division in the NFL for years to come.