The Elephant in the Locker Room: How Upset Were You With Wilson’s Interception?
By Greg Wright
The setting: six and a half minutes left in the third quarter of a one-sided affair on the road against former arch-nemesis San Francisco. Seattle has pretty much been handing the 49ers their butts on a platter throughout, and are facing second down with six yards to go on their own 35 yard line.
Ordinarily, what do the Seahawks do in this scenario, particularly on a night when they’re running the ball at will? Well, if you’re Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell, most of the time you hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch so you can get yourself third-and-short… and if it’s Thursday night, most likely pick up a first down.
Not on this particular 2nd-and-6, not on this particular night. No. Instead, they ask Russell to drop back for a play-action pass.
He fakes a handoff to lone setback Lynch, and the line sets up for a passing pocket offset to the right. Baldwin and Kearse, who both are out wide left, take their routes decidedly downfield.
Tukuafu, who was initially lined up as a tight end on the right side, and Lynch both drift off into the right flat, and based on the blocking I’d say they are faking a screen pass setup to that side. Lynch never really looks like is expecting a pass to come his way. Did Wilson audible into this play call? Or was this a designed play? It’s hard to tell. I’d guess the latter.
In any event, San Francisco is not the least bit fooled by the play design… which is interesting, because it’s not one I recall seeing the Hawks run before. They send only three rushers, while one other down defender roams the line of scrimmage in something resembling a “spy” assignment on Wilson. Meanwhile, they drop seven into coverage, three deep with four linebackers shadowing Tukuafu and Lynch and whatever else might transpire up the middle.
The initial pocket starts to collapse, so Wilson adroitly takes a few steps to his left into the void left by the line shift and a very effective peel-back block by Britt. Still looking downfield, which is the only place he’s looked on this play, he decides to loft a very, very long ball to Kearse… who, mysteriously, seems to slow up on the ball after it’s in the air. Does he lose track of it? Hard to say, and no one’s particularly talking about the play.
Well, almost no one. And we’ll get to that in a second.
Kearse doesn’t get to the ball. He’s about a step and a half short of where Wilson throws it. Instead, two 49ers converge on the ball and Acker intercepts at the San Fran 7-yard line, where Kearse immediately touches him down.
Change of possession after an effective 58-yard premature punt. Really not bad for a change of possession.
After the game, and in more than one statement, Pete Carroll calls out Wilson for making a poor decision on that throw. “We don’t need to do that,” he declares.
Demonstrate to opponents that Wilson not only can huck the ball 65 yards in the air with ease, and with a good measure of accuracy, but also that he’s willing to, even if knows the coaches don’t like it?
Take a shot downfield rather than take a sack and another body-blow?
The film doesn’t lie. San Francisco had the play completely diagnosed and covered. The only other “good football decision” Wilson had open to him was to throw the ball away. And I suppose that’s the fine, safe thing to do when you’re leading by 17 on a second-down play in the third quarter.
But gosh darn it, the football fan in me loved the brashness of what Wilson did with that play. I loved his willingness to stretch the field, and put a few ideas in the minds of opposing DBs.
I love the idea of going for the jugular against a division opponent instead of just coasting into the 4th quarter.
Pete’s picking a really odd time to start calling out “mistakes” by his players, and particularly calling out his QB two games in row while giving a free pass to Michael Bennett’s egregious errors or “communication foulups” in the defensive backfield in prior weeks.
But maybe that’s the mind game he’s playing with Wilson now.
Maybe it’s time for Wilson to grow up, and for Carroll, too. No more mister nice guy.
Time for superstars to start playing like superstars.
And coaches to start coaching them.
How about some tough words from Mr. Allen about Mr. Carroll?
- I hate it when I’m right. But I don’t hate it when the Hawks do get their act together and start playing like a team again instead of like a bunch of superstars angling for fatter contracts. The loss to the Panthers was horrible, but in my book predictable. I hope the lesson sticks.
- The fact is, though, that it’s not just the players that are getting schooled. A hallmark of the Pete Carroll years, one that even my football neophyte wife was noticed, is that the coaching staff has always done a good job of making adjustments after halftime and winning the coaching war in the third and fourth quarters. Not this year. Carroll ultimately got “pantsed” by Belichick in the Super Bowl, and his staff has been regularly shown up the second half of games this year. It’s not just the players that haven’t finished, it’s been the coaches too. Depending on what happens on the road at Dallas next week, I may have more to say about that.
Back to the prognostications.
I didn’t get a chance for an official forecast for Week 7, but my call with Week 6 was almost dead on the mark.
And I did say that “a tough loss at home against a perennial playoff foe will finally wake the Hawks up.”
If I’d thought ahead and called a score for Thursday night, I probably would have said Seattle 21, San Francisco 10.
It was nice seeing the Hawks play their best road game in SF under Carroll, and beating that projection.
After two Super Bowl appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.