With the players off and the coaches compiling the game plan for Sunday’s rematch with the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field, we’ll use this space today to pass out some honors as the Seahawks have reached the three-quarter point of the season at 7-5:
Marshawn Lynch. If this was for the third quarter of the season, it would be rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to a 3-1 record with efficient, productive and constantly improving play. But this is for all 12 games, so Lynch remains the man. He is second in the NFL in rushing with 1,138 yards – 308 behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson – and fourth in total yards with 1,287. Again, it’s not just the yards that Lynch gains, it’s how he gains them. He almost never goes down at first contact and almost always gains yards even when they don’t appear to be there. One of the big reasons why the zone-read plays have been working so well for Wilson is that faking the ball to Lynch caused the defense to shift in that direction, leaving the gaps that Wilson is exploiting.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Russell Wilson. Here’s where we can point out just what Wilson has done in the past four games. In victories over the Vikings, Jets and Bears and a loss to the Dolphins, the rookie QB has fashioned a 120.4 passer rating by completing 67 percent of this passes (72 of 107) for 878 yards, with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Andrew who? RGIII what? During this stretch, Wilson also became the first rookie to compile a passer rating of 125-plus in three consecutive games and also complete 16 consecutive passes; and Sunday against the Bears he rushed for more yards in a single game (71) than any QB in franchise history.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Brandon Mebane. The defense had its ups and downs in the third quarter of the season. Not Mebane. The team’s nose tackle remained the most consistent player on the Seahawks’ No. 4-ranked defense. He is fourth on the team with 48 tackles, tops among the D-linemen, and also tied for third with three sacks. But what really stands out are the things that Mebane does to help others make plays. As fellow D-tackle Alan Branch said, “On the field, I’ve never seen a player like him. If he doesn’t go to the Pro Bowl, I’ll be surprised.” The last Seahawks’ defensive tackle to go to the Pro Bowl? It was Hall of Famer John Randle in 2001.
BEST SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER
Jon Ryan. Yes, the ball is back on Ryan’s court – and likely will be downed near the goal line. He was the pick after the first four games, only to give way to Heath Farwell at midseason. But it’s back to Ryan, because of his consistency – which continues to be at a consistently high level. Ryan is 12th in the league in punting average (46.9), but fifth in net average (41.9) and punts inside the 20-yard line (25). In the past two games, nine of his 12 punts have been downed inside the 20.
Defense: Bobby Wagner. He had 11 tackles against the Bears, giving him triple digits for the season (101). Wagner has had double-digit tackles four times, with a high of 14; and been the team’s leading tackler in the past five games and seven of the past nine. Oh, and he also has three sacks and an interception. When they start talking about NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, it’s time to start including Wagner in the conversation.
Offense: Wilson. It’s not just that he’s won seven games, it’s the other quarterbacks he has beaten in doing it: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Cam Newton. It’s also that he has thrown 19 touchdown passes, to lead all NFL rookies; and not thrown an interception in the past four games. But it’s also the command he has taken of the offense and the ability he has shown to win games in tight situations.
TREND THAT NEEDS TO CONTINUE
Long scoring drives. Against the Bears, it was 97-, 94- and 80-yarders for touchdowns. Against the Dolphins, it was a pair of 80-yarders for touchdowns. Against the Jets, they had an 84-yarder for a touchdown. Against the Vikings, it was 80-, 78- and 72-yarders for touchdowns. This after the Seahawks produced nine TD drives of 70-plus yards in their first eight games.
TREND THAT NEEDS TO STOP
Third-and-long conversions by the opposition. The Bears converted on third-and-12 and third-and-10, while penalties allowed them to convert on third-and-10 and third-and-7. The Dolphins converted on third-and-8 and third-and-7. It continues to be confounding that a defense that plays so well on first and second downs can give up so many drive-sustaining plays on third downs.
TREND THAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE
The pass rush. In the past two games, the Seahawks have two sacks – despite the Bears and Dolphins dealing with offensive line issues. Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin, who lead the team with eight and seven sacks, have 3.5 in the past six games. With the Cardinals, 49ers and Rams coming to CenturyLink Field and the Seahawks going to Toronto to play the Bills in the next four weeks, the Seahawks must find a way to generate more pressure on the opposing passer.
“He is amazing. He keeps believing. He believes in himself. He believes in this team. He believes in his preparation. And he prepares like no other. The kid gives us a chance every week.” – fullback Michael Robinson on Wilson after Sunday’s upset of the Bears in Chicago