Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2007

Alas, the last of the playoff teams. And it was much like the first playoff team of this decade. Dominating at home, awful on the road. The defense was shocking in its inconsistency and despite putting up some gaudy numbers, was an atrocity on the road. They couldn't run the ball either, causing Holmgren to abandon the power running game, spread things out, and pass the ball nearly every down. Hasslebeck was incredible this year, that cannot be emphasized enough. It was a fun year, high scoring, exciting games with a surprising ending.

The first game of the season marked the emergence of Patrick Kerney and a fast, aggressive defense. The problems in the secondary were solved by the new veteran safeties, and Marcus Trufant was emerging as a shutdown cornerback. The Seahawks beat up the Buccanears in a thoroughly enjoyable game.

The next week the Seahawks lost when they couldn't complete a handoff on what looked to be the game winning drive.

The Bengals game was memorable, because it was such a battle. The Bengals hadn't self destructed yet and Houshmanzadeh had a huge game. This was really an outstanding game that I wish I had on tape.

They slaughtered the 49ers the next week. The 2007 meetings against the Niners were all about revenge, outscoring them 47-3 in the two meetings.

And then, things started to change. The Steelers trounced them 21-0 and the winless Saints came into Qwest and kicked their teeth in. The Saints are a tremendously well coached team and this was the first time I realized that the WCO under Holmgren was getting a little dated. Here's what I wrote at the time...

"I'm tired of the WCO. I've never been too big of a fan due to the fact that its more finesse and is based entirely on rhythm and timing. When they are thrown off rhythm they are screwed. Also, its the same signals and same checkdowns that they were doing three and four years ago.

Example 1: Sometime in the second half Sunday the Seahawks had a 3rd and 9. They lined up in their standard three wide set with one receiver to hasslebeck's left side. The Saints showed blitz, just as they had much of the game. Hasslebeck reads this, and checks down using the same hand signal that he did four years ago, which means, as it did then, for quick hook routes on the outside. The Saints know this, Hasslebeck takes three steps, has to pump fake cause no one is open and takes a sack.

Example 2: Fourth quarter, its third or fourth down, the seahawks are in a spread set with Weaver as the lone back. The Saints show a blitz that will hit all the inside gaps. Hasslebeck reads this and checks down to the hand off to the fullback that goes to the right side. The Saints showed this blitz to get to the check down, when the play is snapped they fall back and into the hole and Weaver is stuffed for a short gain. I knew this play was coming, and I have never studied film on the Seahawks. This is getting too predictable. Just like on fourth and short against a 3-4 defense the Seahawks will run a stretch play with the tackle pulling, the tight end blocking down and the fullback clearing the hole. Luckily for them, they don't encounter that situation enough for the opponent to catch on, yet.

Soon enough, they were 4-4 and I was losing hope on the season. The offense was looking old fashioned and the defense, for all of its bells and whistles and big hits, was getting its ass handed to them in road games.

Somewhere in all this Holmgren decided to start chucking the ball all over the place, some easy opponents stepped up on the schedule and the defense got its act together.

Five wins followed, some closer than necessary, some delightful blowouts, including an absolute annihilation of the Cardinals to lock up the division. The Seahawks stomped on the Cardinals throat early, overwhelmed them on defense, and gently informed them that the division was ours for at least one more year.

The Seahawks lost two out of their last three games, a lame duck performance against the Panthers(a game so boring I fell asleep) and a wacky, awful defensive performance against the Falcons. Sandwiched in between was a dominating victory over the Ravens in the first regular season game I had attended since the Rams playoff game in 2004.

Nonetheless, there was another playoff birth in store, and the inspired, red hot, physical Redskins sauntered in. This game shouldn't have been close, the Seahawks left a lot of points out there and the Redskins held a one point lead into the fourth quarter. Finally Hasslebeck pulled his head out of his ass, and Trufant sealed the deal with a dramatic, frenzy inducing interception return that holds its place on the list of great Seahawks moments.

Next up were the Packers, who I didn't consider legit, unlike the Bears the previous year. I hadn't seen the Packers play very much but counted on the Seahawks playoff experience to beat the new kids in green and their weathered qb.

Sure enough, it was 14-0 Seahawks in a snowstorm before anyone knew what happened.

Thats when all my complaints about the Seahawks came to fruition. I thought Green Bay might panic, I thought this would cause the Packers to force things offensively and continue to play out of place defensively. Instead they showed toughness I didn't know they had.

The Packers had a great game plan, their stretch running plays out of tight sets kept Kerney and the aggressive Seahawks defense from getting upfield. They stuck a tackle and a tight end on Kerney. They took advantage of the insane size advantage Greg Jennings had on Kelly Jennings. They took advantage of the fact that the Seahawks receivers, for all of their speed and quickness, couldn't handle physical coverage. Hasslebeck couldn't find open receivers, and when he did(Marcus Pollard) they promptly dropped the ball.
This was a very good Packers team. They were more balanced, more hungry and more physical than the Seahawks. I watched Patrick Kerney get erased, I watched Rocky Bernard quit, and I watched Kelly Jennings prove exactly why everyone thought he was a waste of a first round pick in the first place. Amist a furious snowstorm in Green Bay, the last contender of the Holmgren Era was buried.

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