While driving to my buddy’s place to watch the game, I was listening to the radio for pre-game updates and heard the news that DT Brandon Mebane was inactive for the game. I nearly swerved into oncoming traffic. On purpose.
There goes any semblance of pressure, I thought. I started to see horrific visions in my head: Craig Terrill in Mebane’s place being easily turned by the Bears’ center, a guard and fullback cleanly pulling into the second level paving way for Matt Forte to gash us over and over again. Chris Clemons being stonewalled by double teams. Jay Cutler visibly yawning in the backfield between 30 yard completions. Nauseated doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.
But. BUT! My horrific visions didn’t happen. Kentwan Balmer created pressure. Clemons wasn’t double teamed. And best of all (time for a little horn tootin’), creative defensive play calling created unpredictable pressure as I’d hoped, with all kinds of success. The sack total speaks for itself: 3.5 by defensive backs, 1.5 by defensive ends and 1.0 from a linebacker. Hell, the kitchen sink nearly got one, too.
Chicago’s offensive play calling was predictable: Cutler threw the ball four times for every rushing attempt. That strategy was sound; Seattle’s secondary has been woeful. However, the Seahawks countered with unpredictable pressure and solid secondary play. The former is great, but the latter is far more important, in my mind.
Seattle’s secondary has been near bottom of the league in both EPA and WPA in 2008, 2009 and in 2010 prior to week 6. After week 6, the Seahawks have posted a Pass EPA of 23.2 (19th in the league) and a pass WPA of .48 (18th in the league). This is up from the mid 20s before the win over Chicago. I have to say, Earl Thomas had a hell of a game. Instead of peppering blown coverage with the occasional big play, he recognized deep routes and played generally solid, smart coverage. This is what we need from him. Cutler rarely passed over the middle, and ofter overthrew receivers streaking down the sidelines. Many of those passes had Thomas quickly flying in to assist.
And how about that offense, eh?
Aside from being gifted great field position most of the game, the Seahawks offense looked very capable versus a solid Bears defense. Marshawn Lynch made an early statement, running hard, though defenders for solid yards. On two occasions the defense had him dead to rights in the backfield for large losses, but he fought through contact back to the line of scrimmage. His stat line wasn’t good. But his presence was felt, and the Bears were forced to counter: safety in the box, less linebackers dropping into coverage. This helped open the passing game for Matt. This helped Justin Forsett gain yards on ‘obvious’ passing downs.
Lastly, Russell Okung is something special. Julius Peppers has to be nothing short of embarrassed. Okung received a little help to start the game, but was often left alone to fend for himself. The result? A clean pocket, one tackle, one assist, zero QB hits, zero sacks, zero holding penalties on Okung. I had a feeling Okung would do well, but I expected a few costly rookie mistakes. There were none. Hell, Okung even pushed the pile to help Forsett score his first touchdown of the season. Can you split TDs like you can sacks? If so: Forsett 0.5 TD, Okung 0.5 TD.
That was one of the most convincing, pleasurable road wins I’ve seen in a long time. Our defense looked not only capable, but unpredictable and hungry; our offense looked prepared, opportunistic and balanced. A balanced offense will lead to touchdowns; it led to three versus a capable Bears defense (at home).
People say that Dramamine cures nausea. I say a good Seahawks win cures all ailments.