Week 12: Seattle vs. The Ghosts of the Sunday Before Thanksgiving Past — Bye Week Olio

Bye week.  So how about a list of incredibly insightful and entertaining Seahawks-related commentary?

  • Since this upcoming Sunday is the one before Thanksgiving, I thought I’d rehash this past RAG (randomly awesome game) from the Sunday before Thanksgiving a decade ago.  I remember quite well watching this game.  The Seahawks offense torched a Ravens D that was the best in the league.  Matt Hasselbeck threw five touchdown passes, and the ‘Hawks had a 41-24 lead with under seven minutes left in the game.  But Ed Reed returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, and then the legendary Ravens QB Anthony Wright connected with Marcus Robinson for a touchdown (Their fourth of the second half!) to bring the Ravens within three with 1:27 remaining.  A failed onside kick looked to seal the deal for Seattle, but the referees made a clock error*, and the Ravens D held on a fourth-and-inches sneak attempt by Hasselback, giving them the ball back with 39 seconds (correctly timed the game would have been over).  A long Marcus Trufant PI penalty and a Matt Stover field goal sent the game to overtime, when Stover won it with a 42-yarder.  I remember being furious, not only at the official, but also at Mike Holmgren.  He didn’t notice the clock wasn’t running when it should have been, so he didn’t say anything to the officials, a gaffe that gave the Ravens 40-extra seconds.  A schmo watching the game from his friend’s living room shouldn’t have a better handle on the situation than the coaches on sidelines.  And yet I feel at least 75% of NFL head coaches would make that same mistake today.
  • The ‘Hawks haven’t yet clinched the division, but the probability they do so eventually is damn near 1.  The most likely scenario in which San Francisco steals it is they win out, including a win over Seattle, and Seattle also loses to New Orleans and one of the Rams or the Cards.  Probably not happening.  An interesting tidbit is that the ‘Hawks can clinch just by beating the Rams and the Cards.  Even if they lose their next three games, two wins to close things out will be enough.**
  • Speaking of winning the division.  This is my ranking of the teams in the postseason hunt I’d be most trepidatious of the ‘Hawks playing in playoffs (least to most).
    Green Bay (without Rodgers)
    Dallas
    New York
    Arizona
    Philly
    Chicago
    Detroit
    Green Bay (with Rodgers)
    San Francisco
    Carolina
    New Orleans
  • Looking for an unsung hero on the ‘Hawks offense?  Try Doug Baldwin.  (Or maybe he is sung, and I just haven’t been paying attention.)  He’s been a top-10 wide receiver this year in terms of total effectiveness (DYAR) and a top-5er in terms of per-play efficiency (DVOA).  And as anybody who has watched the ‘Hawks this year knows, this isn’t just a bunch of egghead stat stuff.  He’s looked great all year.  Off the top of my head, I can name three huge plays he’s made: the two sideline toe-tappers (Houston and Tampa Bay) and the touchdown catch against Minnesota last week just before the end of the half.
  • You might notice in the link above that Jermaine Kearse has been even better on a per-play basis than Baldwin.  Four of his thirteen receptions have gone for touchdowns.  He left Sunday’s game with a concussion, which hopefully won’t keep him on the shelf too long.  He’s an excellent fourth receiver and contributor on special teams.  Remember, he’s the one who blocked the punt in the Indy game that put them up 12-0 (nearly 17-0 and if that happened, the ‘Hawks are probably undefeated right now).
  • Quick comment on refereeing, the impetus being the controversial calls in the 49ers-Saints and Panthers-Patriots games.  Because all penalties are binary decisions by the refs making the calls (penalty or not), we have a tendency to think of questionable plays as being objectively binary as well (it should’ve been a penalty or it shouldn’t have).  I don’t think this is the right way to think about it.  Instead we should look at questionable calls as being somewhere on the “penalty spectrum”.  Like if we asked a million unbiased people, who understand the rules of football, if a play was a penalty of not, what percentage of them would say it was?  This percentage is where the play would fall on the penalty spectrum.  (Note: this can be applied to any type of close call, not just penalties.)  Inevitably there will be plays that are close to 50% on the spectrum, in which case there is no a “right” call.  But on the flip side there is no “wrong” call either.  I think both of the big calls this weekend were 50-50 calls.  If you’re a Niners fan or a Pats fan, it sucks, but it sucks in the same way losing a coin flip sucks.  There’s no injustice.
  • The narrative I keep hearing from NFL talking heads is that the ‘Hawks are almost unbeatable at home, but suspect on the road.  Using expected record, they’ve played like a 14-2 team at home and an 11-5 team on the road.  Definitely better in The Clink, but pretty damn good anywhere.

-DJG

*As I recall, the refs threw a flag on a Shaun Alexander run, stopping the clock, but then they waived it off without ever restarting the clock. Infuriatingly boneheaded mistake, even ten years later.

**If you’re curious why that’s the case, it’s because at worst the ‘Hawks would finish tied for first with the 49ers in that situation. The division would then be determined by the third tie-breaker “Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games”, and the ‘Hawks would win since they beat the Panthers who beat the 49ers, but the 49ers would not have beaten any team who beat the ‘Hawks.