September 28, 2015

Seahawks 26, Bears 0

One of the striking things about living in Columbus is getting exposed to the largely negative and paranoid fan culture around the Ohio State football team. It seems like they are only happy for the most fleeting of moments: Immediately after beating Michigan (I'm with you there, Buckeye Nation- Fuck Harbaugh.) and immediately after winning the National Championship. The rest of the time, even when the team is winning- Winning conference championships, winning bowl games... There's a LOT of winning for tOSU, y'all - they seem enveloped by a shroud of gloom.

Last week after class I was talking to a student who was absolutely despondent about the prospects of his Buckeyes. His undefeated Buckeyes. I reminded him that they'd lost all of three games in 3+ seasons with Urban Meyer as Head Coach. I reminded him that they looked shaky early on last season and, you know, won the whole fucking thing at the end of a glorious post-season run. He replied "Yeah, but if they played Michigan State tomorrow, they'd get SMOKED."

I told him "But they aren't playing the Spartans tomorrow, are they? Have a little faith- You'll be happier,"

It struck me like a lightning bolt: I was happier with my 0-2 NFL team than he was with his 3-0 college football team. It seemed perverse, but I wonder who was more delusional- Him, or me?

The Seahawks hit the field yesterday in the midst of utter desperation: No 0-3 team has ever gone on to win the Super Bowl, and the last one to even make the playoffs was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. Any realistic hope for a trip to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50 would be snuffed out by a loss to the undermanned, woebegone Chicago Bears.

In the first half, there was plenty of fuel for the doomsayers: The offensive line allowed four sacks to a Bears defense that hadn't brought down the QB once in the season's first fortnight. Our front five also couldn't seem to create any daylight for Marshawn Lynch. For the first 28 minutes, the only points Seattle scored came on a field goal after a deception-boosted Richard Sherman punt return. The Hawks finally got some rhythm going on offense in the 2-minute drill, but the drive fizzled in the shadow of the Chicago end zone. Seattle led 6-0 at the half, but agitation levels for the Twelve Army were high- And they only increased with word that Lynch was out for the rest of the game with a hamstring injury.

At this point, it's fair to point out that we have seen this OVER AND OVER throughout the Carroll/Wilson era, particularly at home: The Hawks sputter through the first half, but in the second half all the tumblers fall into place and Seattle wins going away. The opposing defense gets worn down, the enemy offense gets harassed into some major snafu, and a game that was competitive at the half ends as a decisive Seahawks victory.

I knew all that, but I was still a jittery and twitchy 12 as the second half began.

Then, Tyler Lockett did his thing. 105 yards for a score, taking advantage of perfect blocking and his unparalleled speed to more or less settle things in Seattle's favor. A 13-0 lead against a Jimmy Clausen-led Bears side felt fairly safe, and it was. While Clausen avoided turnovers, all 10 Chicago possessions under his command ended in a punt, and the Bears offense never got closer than 45 yards away from a touchdown. With Kam Chancellor back on the field, the overmatched and shorthanded Windy City visitors faced an impenetrable secondary and could only muster 48 yards through the air. Yeah, you can grade the Legion of Boom on a curve and say the competition was weak sauce- But an NFL shutout is an NFL shutout, and Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard deserved every drop of his Gatorade shower as time wound down.

Those holes did open up in the Bears' defensive line in the second half, but it was undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls who sailed through them, for 104 yards on 16 totes. Russell Wilson ended up having a respectable day of his own- Avoiding turnovers, posting a triple-digit passer rating, and finding Jimmy Graham for his second touchdown of the young season. For all the fretting about Graham's role in the Seattle offense, he's on pace for 11 touchdowns- Which would end up tied for the second best season of the All-Pro's career, scoring-wise. It's far too early to lump Graham in with the likes of Deion Branch and Percy Harvin, y'all.

So Seattle choked out Chicago. That's cause for relief more than anything. A vastly more explosive Detroit attack visits for Monday Night Football on October 5, and then a trip east to face the unbeaten Bengals in an (ugh) 10 am pacific kickoff looms. If the Hawks play the way they did yesterday, they'll lose one or both of those contests,

Even more concerning? The Arizona Cardinals are taking a blowtorch to every team unlucky enough to wander into their path. It's easy to say that we've seen this before: The Cards run out to a hot start, but then sputter into irrelevance. This feels different, though, and we can't just assume that another Carson Palmer injury will be our salvation. If we faced the Cardinals next Sunday, we'd lose.

But we don't face them next Sunday, do we? The Hawks that will host Arizona on Sunday Night Football in mid-November will be battle-tested and ready for the challenge - But it might take a pair of XLVIII-esque efforts to fend off Arizona's siege upon our NFC West fiefdom.

For now? Be happy and hope Shawn has a quick-healing hamstring. We can't play Rawls Ball indefinitely.

What do you think, sirs?

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