The Seattle Seahawks may not have played in Super Bowl 51, but that doesn’t mean there lessons to be learning from watching the Falcons and Patriots.
Super Bowl 51 was highly entertaining, as long as you weren’t a fan of the Atlanta Falcons. For the Seattle Seahawks the game was yet another reminder that they came up short this season. It was also a chance for reflection on ways the team could improve before next season.
Here are five takeaways for the Seahawks from Super Bowl 51:
1. You have to play four quarters
Perhaps the most annoying Pete Carroll cliche is “It is not how you start. It is how you finish.” Sure, there is some truth there. Leading in the first quarter doesn’t matter if you lose the game, just ask the Falcons.
At the same time, it wasn’t the early lead that led to the Falcons’ downfall. It was the fact that they didn’t put together four quarters of good football. They only played about two and a half, which simply wasn’t enough.
Slow starts have been a major problem for Seattle. When the Seahawks have lost games over the last few seasons, it has mostly be a case of the comeback attempt coming up short. That wouldn’t have been an issue if they hadn’t dug a hole in the first half.
Other times the Seahawks have failed to close out an opponent, much like the Falcons yesterday. Seattle dominated Atlanta for 3 out of 4 quarters when they played early this season, but fell asleep defensively in the third quarter and it almost cost them the game.
2. The Seahawks miss Dan Quinn
With no disrespect meant for Kris Richard, who is a good coach in his own right, but the Seattle Seahawks have missed Dan Quinn. Atlanta’s defense looked fast, physical,l and they attacked the football, at least until they got tired.
The Seahawks defense looked like that under Quinn. Since Quinn left for Atlanta, Seattle defense has being more passive and reactive. They don’t attack as much, and consequently they don’t collect turnovers in the same way.
The Seahawks averaged 32 takeaways per year under Quinn. They averaged 21 per season since he left.
There are a lot of factors involved there, but the loss of Quinn should not be overlooked. His young Falcons defense looks a lot like Seattle’s used to look. In last night’s game, it was the turnovers created by the defense that led to Atlanta’s big lead early in the game.
Ultimately, Quinn’s team was undone by a lack of depth on defense and some poor clock management by his offense. He’ll learn and get better, and his team will be back in contention next season.
3. Offensive lines are important
The Patriots struggled to run the football. The also let Brady get pummeled. As a result, their offense sputtered and stalled. Brady became inaccurate and then threw that pick 6.
Conversely, Atlanta did a good job overall of protecting Matt Ryan. They opened holes for Devante Freeman in the running game. The Falcons were able to build a big lead.
The script flipped in the second half. The running lanes disappeared for Atlanta, and Brady had more time in the pocket. That happened, and then the Patriots came roaring back.
Skill position players and run stuffers on the defensive line are nice to have, not they don’t matter much if you cannot block anyone up front on offense. This is a lesson that the Seahawks seem to have forgotten.
When the Seahawks won Super Bowl 48, they had the highest paid offensive line in the NFL. 3 seasons later they have the least expensive. It is no surprise that Seattle’s offense has regressed even as their receiving talent has improved.
4. Inside pass rushers are irreplaceable
He wouldn’t have won the award, but a case could be made for Grady Jarrett to be the Super Bowl MVP if the Falcons had hung on to win. His ability to get pressure up the middle was a huge part of why the Falcons were able to keep the Patriots from getting their offense going until midway through the third quarter.
Jarrett had three sacks, and was a one-man wrecking crew in the middle of that defensive line. His impact cannot be overstated.
All three defensive tackles that played significant minutes in 2016 for Seattle were run stuffers. It showed every time the Seahawks needed to get stop late in games and they couldn’t get pressure on the QB.
The Seahawks haven’t had a player like Jarrett at defensive tackle in the Pete Carroll era. The closest thing on Seattle’s roster would be Clinton McDonald, and he was never the same caliber of player to Jarrett.
The Seahawks need to find an inside pass rusher if they ever to hope to have their defense dominate the way in did in their Super Bowl years.
5.Situational football is king
After an amazing catch by Julio Jones, the Falcons had the ball at the Patriots 22 yard line with under 4 minutes left in the game and an 8 point lead. Had they run the ball three times and kicked a FG, they would have won the game.
Instead they ran it only once. Then Matt Ryan was sacked for a loss of 9 yards. That was followed by a holding penalty and an incomplete pass. The Falcons not only failed to eat up the clock, but they also backed themselves completely out of field goal range.
That sequence cost them the game, and cost them the championship. Kyle Shanahan did a lot of great things this season with that offense, but that series was a terrible mistake that will haunt him.
Unfortunately, we see the Seahawks make these types of makes on a regular basis. End-of-half clock management is not a strength of Pete Carroll. Hopefully, watching one of his disciples make this mistake will help Carroll recognize the importance of clock management.
Here’s to 2018! I honestly can’t wait.