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49ers postgame analysis

Post by News Tribune Staff on Oct. 1, 2007 at 8:40 am with 35 Comments »
October 1, 2007 8:40 am

I’m trying to get home from a crowded SFO but am taking the time out to offer up some analysis before this afternoon’s Mike Holmgren news conference.

The Seahawks’ defense in the 23-3 victory was stellar, particularly since it came against a much larger offense line that looked completely discombobulated at times. Matt Hasselbeck tried to be diplomatic about it in his postgame presser, and caught himself when he started talking about it, but basically said Trent Dilfer’s pass protection simply was not there. Even when the D line was not sacking Dilfer, it was harrying him to a noticeable degreee. I thought Darryl Tapp was very active, Patrick Kerney got in a few times, Rocky Bernard was strong and Julian Peterson obviously was pumped about playing his former team, against which he didn’t do especially well last season.

It’s hard to say whether the pass defense was good because of the rush or the rush was good because of the pass defense, but I tend to think both were pretty good on this day and they simply fed off one another. Alex Smith may have done a little better because he was more mobile but I think any QB would have struggled against the Seahawks on this particular day.

Now, you have to wonder what this means in a revenge game for the second consecutive week. Certainly last year’s two losses to the Niners was a vivid memory that played into how the Seahawks prepared for Sunday’s game. Is the loss to Pittsburgh two years ago in the Super Bowl still so acute that it will be a factor. Fans certainly remember it. But remember, Deon Grant, Brian Russell, Patrick Kerney, Peterson, Brandon Mebane, Josh Wilson, Marcus Pollard, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson were not even with the team. They know about the game, of course, but I can’t imagine it resonates as much with them as it does with Hasselbeck, Alexander and others. And, Pittsburgh has something to play for now that it was beaten by Arizona on Sunday.

The offense in the Niners game obviously still has issues. I thought that could easily have been a 37-3 game. Hasselbeck missed Will Heller on an open route along the goal line, Mike Holmgren made a few conservative calls inside the 10, the results of which would have really embarrassed the Niners. Still, Hasselbeck was very sharp, as he has been pretty much all season, Alexander was unable to get going and got 80 yards from the mere fact that he ran the ball so often. It will be interesting to see what Holmgren says today about the run game. He was taking the blame for it yesterday, saying he has to come up with a strategy to get it going better. I think that is coach-speak after a satisfying win, but the last time he said that it was pertaining to Deion Branch getting no catches and that has turned out pretty well once he committed to getting Branch the ball more.

Leonard Weaver got a lot more playing time this week and I think you are starting to see the transition from Mack Strong to Weaver. And the Seneca thing adds an interesting wrinkle that teams have to game plan for now. I wonder if Holmgren put it in this week so give the Steelers something to think about given some of the plays that unfolded in the Super Bowl.

All three primary wide receivers were strong, and I don’t recall any dropped passes, a topic of conversation the past few weeks. That pump-and-go play that allowed Branch to get past Nate Clements is a staple, but they went to it once too often because that also was the play on which Clements got the interception. But Branch and Hasselbeck clearly are forming a nice tandem and that pass that Hasselbeck dropped in to Engram was about as pretty as they get, given the location of the linebacker. We had a weird angle in the press box, but from there it looked like the ball was sailing out of bounds and then it just dropped into Engram’s hands. Boling and I looked at each other and just said, ‘Wow."

OK, that’s all for now.

Game coverage
Leave a comment Comments → 35
  1. doubledink says:

    By the way, you’re doing great Frank.

  2. dmcclaran says:

    Frank, Thanks for the update and it seems you are really hitting your stride here with the blog!

    Incidentally, Hugh Millen said after the game that Heller’s route was designed to be run directly at the sideline (Where Matt threw the ball) instead of the angle Heller ended up with, FWIW.

  3. Frank, you should do a column or a blog entry on our run game. I don’t pretend to completely understand these things, but I believe we use a zone-blocking scheme which is fairly complex. Is our erratic run game due to the development of Spencer and Sims into zone-blocking? If so, it seems like it will eventually come together. If you can break-down this topic it would be great.

  4. pabuwal says:

    Very strong analysis. Especially the part about Weaver and Strong. I thought Weaver even started the game.

  5. hermann22 says:

    I think its not only the bad run blocking but defenses are taking away the run. Of course that leaves the passing game open and thus why you see Matt having a great year. Not the only reason he’s having a good year but a big one.

    If you start playing more in zone covearage you leave the lanes open a little more for Shaun and then its more open field…just my two cents…

  6. dyoshida says:

    Is it time for the Seahawks to become a true pass first team? The offensive line sure seems to be strong in pass protection. The two sacks given up yesterday looked to be Matt holding on the ball too long or stepping up in the pocket (Jones thought Hass was going to be at the seven step drop depth). Run blocking seems to inconsistent at best. It doesn’t look like Seattle’s o-linemen are able to get up to the second level like they did two years ago. How much of this is the loss of Hutch? How much of this is due to the loss of Tobeck’s experience? Has Alexander lost a step? I for one did not like to see Alexander get the ball yesterday on the third and short calls. I had more confidence in the passing game getting the first down.

  7. SnakeDoctor says:

    Good call on the game Frank. You were spot on. Just need the O to come around.

    Your prediction on the game.
    “Just for the record, I disagree with Brock Huard and think this is going to be a blowout Seahawks victory. I think they understand the affect of losing both those games last year, and I think Holmgren has gotten that ingrained in the players this week.”

  8. mikew177 says:

    Good point about the Steelers this week Frank, but just as you pointed out how many players we have now that didn’t play in that game, look at the story lines from that game, Stevens (gone) and Porter (gone) trash talking, D-jack’s (gone) offensive pass interference, Polomalu (injured?) is always a part of the game plan, Hines Ward (injured?), Casey Hampton (injured). The Steelers are still a great team even Bill Cowher is gone along with the stupid bus. I think the Hawks come out just as fired up and get it done in a nail biter. Both teams are drastically different now but I think we’re playing them at just the right time in our schedule. Sadly this is the only game I’m worried about until we see Cleveland after our BYE week. What a weird season so far.

  9. IDHawkman says:

    The zone blocking works okay for 1st and 10 or 2nd down situations but for 3rd and short or 4th downs, you need to drive block and we just don’t do that well yet. If Spencer, Sims and Big Walt (throw in a TE tooif you want) all got shoulder to shoulder and fired out, they’d move any defensive line backwards at least 2 yards. Someone needs to get O-line coach to work on this aspect now that he has the pass blocking going well.


  10. TheSchillings says:

    I agree about the the Hasselbeck to Ingram throw catch. To see the route from behind as they show on TV from Matt’s perspective. Bobby cleared the line and then circled back around behind the linebacker. Matt instinctively knew where Bobby was going and dropped it in there with one of the most prettiest passes of his career. What a play. (Shades of Montana to Rice. I wich Lockeer would have had that touch on Sat. They would have/should have beat USC.)

    Lastly, the team must get Shawn A. going, but as Warren Moon was saying on the radio broadcast, they should maybe start with pass to set up the run and not the other way, at this point. The O Line obviously doesn’t have the push it once did. Tony Saragosa & Darryl J. pointed that out on the TV anaylsis. They mentioned the hesitation to punch it in on 3 and 1, just muscle it to get one yard. I agree and think that the O line and the coaches need to have a stronger mentality that way.
    Go HAWKS!!!!

  11. JimWilke says:

    Great game plan by the defensive coaching staff, terrific job of mixing up the coverages and rushes.

    As I noted yesterday, Seattle is now #2 in the NFC in points allowed per game; the only team better is Tampa Bay who we all know lost to the ‘Hawks in week one. FINE job, defense.

  12. Heraclitus says:

    Alexander is most likely on the downhill slope of his career (I wouldn’t count on him setting the NFL touchdown record again), but even so the problems with the running game are mainly blocking issues with the offensive line. I know the run numbers were down this week, but they were able to break a few good runs much earlier than in previous games, so it would seem that the run blocking is beginning to gel somewhat. Besides, Alexander has plenty left in those thirty year old legs of his, Morris is doing just fine, and Weaver’s play is stepping up. I can hardly wait to see what the Seahawks will do to the Steelers next week.

  13. aelliott11 says:

    I think its not only the bad run blocking but defenses are taking away the run.

    I don’t actually think this is true. I don’t think we’re seeing a lot of 8 or 9 man fronts, which is typically what you mean when you say “taking away the run”. I think teams have been able to stuff our run with a normal front. We’ve faced a couple of 3-4 teams though, and that has been a factor.

    I don’t like to say this, but I think Mack Strong is not getting enough credit/blame for the lack of a running game. Shaun is not the type of back to create his own holes. He follows his blockers and then picks his way through. If he gets clear, he takes off. But he doesn’t plow his own way.

    I’ve seen several replays where the lineman are locked up on their guys, and Mack needs to take out the first free attacker. I’ve seen him either miss completely, or pick up the wrong guy. I love Mack, but he’s part of our blocking woes at the moment.

  14. I would like to see more Mo Morris. He seems to hit those holes so much faster than Alexander. Seems like Shaun is looking for huge holes to run through that aren’t always there and he ends up stutter stepping his way to a loss of yardage.

  15. aelliott11 says:

    Mo hits the whole harder, but not any more effectively. Remember, we saw Mo get extended playing time last year, and our run game was horrid. Not all his fault, but just because a back runs harder into a tackle doesn’t make the tackle not so. At least, not in Mo’s case.

  16. roddychops says:

    SOLID. that’s what i can say about this win.

    the D is really hitting its stride. Sacks! Picks! Fumbles! Hits!
    that’s two QBs and two RBs taken out of games. Pow!

    and the O is listening and learning. that’s nice to see.
    need to get the ball into branch’s hands? done.
    platoon the running backs! heard that, seeing more of weaver and liking it (not as nervous about his butterfingers anymore…)
    we want seneca! you got him.

    yup, the critique is accurate: need to fix the run-blocking and take advantage of opportunities in the red zone and after turnovers. score more!

    but things are coming together, it feels like things are clicking and improving each week, rather than regressing like the 9ers.

    solid. balanced. we’re not burning any barns or making the highlights, but finding ways to control and win games. a hand-off from 4-0.

    and look around the league this year. outside of the perennial top 2 in the AFC, what’s going on with everyone else?? green bay, lions, browns, tampa? san diego, chicago, baltimore, rams???

    it’s all up for grabs this year.

  17. Erik Larson, states, “The Seahawks 23-3 beat down of the 49ers on Bill Walsh field was that bad. And what made it even worse is that Seattle is not that good.”

    Frank’s analysis is much more objective IMHO.

  18. I’m feeling so much better about the SeaHawks today than last Monday! I’m all reved up and ready for the Pittsburgh game already.

    What a weekend for upsets. I got a blazing 11 on my Pigskin Picks entry. Who in their right mind would have picked KC over SD, or Detroit over Chicago? And the collage games… K St over Texas? Colorado over Oklahoma? Wow!

  19. LinerHawk says:

    It was great to see and meet so many Seahawks fans at the game yesterday! Game was awesome! (Caroline in CA – NorCal Sea Hawkers)

  20. Surf Hawk says:

    Great game coverage Frank.

  21. Calihawkfan26 says:

    Has anyone heard anything about Alvin Pearman? I thought I heard the knee was serious. Do we know if we are bringing in anyone on Tuesday? Possible bringing Weeks back? Wouldn’t that be ironic.

  22. berserker says:

    When is Babin going to play?

  23. Actually Morris was running pretty well towards the end of his stretch last year… The team looked sharp yesterday. Matt is in mid season form and the receivers were on their game. Shaun did look a little tenative and slow, but hopefully we’ll see more of Weaver and Mo. It was great to see Marcus T. get a couple of picks. I just hope it doesn’t raise his asking price too much.

  24. elgranderojo says:

    Any news on Ray Willis’ knee? That is the one I’m more concerned about.

  25. Sharpclaw says:

    Great work Frank. As the Seahawk players say, ‘you have stepped up’
    when our prior player went down. Congrats!

    A lot of 49’er fans are saying that the Seahawks are not a good team.
    So, they are saying that if their team got slammed by a poor team,
    that somehow then makes their team ‘better’? Go figure that logic.

  26. Once again, Frank, you too are starting to “nail it” yourself in this job–much thanks, keep it up please!

  27. John_Morgan says:

    The Hawks don’t use a zone blocking scheme. In a zone scheme linemen are given a specific zone to block. In its most basic iteration that would mean each lineman would block the yard or so radius around them. The zone blocking scheme was made fashionable by Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. It is valuable mostly because it asks less of linemen, allowing iffy talents to still be effective. Mike Holmgren employs a drive blocking scheme, with pulling linemen and line routes. On any given run play the linemen are asked to do specific things, chip this guy or pull in the flat, etc. That’s one of the reasons Seattle needs top shelf line talent.

    Seattle’s run blocking has not been bad at all, nor has it faced an abundance of eight man fronts. Regarding the former, it’s Alexander’s inability to hit anything but gaping holes that makes the run blocking look bad. When he dances in the backfield, or attempts to cut everything wide, linebackers close in, d-linemen shed blocks, and what should be positive yardage turns into the buffet of 1 and 2 yard runs that have plagued Seattle’s rushing attack. Think of it like this, it’s pretty counterintuitive to think our blockers are dominating whilst pass blocking but not cutting muster whilst run blocking. The simpler solution is almost always the best one and the simpler solution is that Alexander, post 370 carries, post injury, and post 30 is declining rapidly.

    WRT Eight man fronts, with the way Beck is playing, what defensive coordinator in the world would stack the box against the run? That would be suicidal. The Hawks are facing no more eight man fronts than any team that has a lead entering the second half. Specifically, two plays illuminate how opposing defenses are not at all worried about the run. Hasselbeck’s two sacks both came on 3rd and 6 plays, plays that are primarily pass plays, but force a defense to at least think run. Further, in a typical Walsh style offense, a third and six would be a fine time to throw a swing pass to the halfback. On both plays San Francisco dropped blanket coverage, and both sacks were coverage sacks. That is, the Niners didn’t simply shred the Hawks’ offensive line, but finding no one open, Beck held the ball so long eventually the pocket broke down. San Francisco was not at all worried about Seattle running the ball. Rarely do you see a team dominate so completely defensively and still never get the running game going. That blame, again, falls primarily on Shaun Alexander.

    Finally to put a cap to this long post, and not to call Frank out here, but I think it was pretty clear that the front seven was responsible for the sacks and not at all the secondary. If the secondary forced sacks they would be of the aforementioned coverage variety. They would be slow to develop, they would be the product of no receiver getting open. Seattle’s sacks were quick and decisive. The Hawks front seven shredded the Niners line. If you watched the game intently, there was absolutely no ambiguity about which unit should be credited with the Hawks six sacks.

    Also, the junior psychology stuff is kind of lame. These are professional athletes. Do we honestly think they just don’t try in some games and are "pumped" in others? Why would Julian Peterson be particularly more "pumped" this year than last year when he recorded 0 sacks against the Niners? Was Darrell Jackson not "pumped" to play Seattle? This kind of analysis seems apocryphal and insulting. Judging a team’s performance based on their excitement level seems kind of beneath us in the 21st century. I think it’s fair to say that teams look more or less excited based on how they are performing. The Hawks clearly dominated this game and so they looked and felt excited; the Niners were being dominated and therefore looked and felt demoralized. Correlations does not equal causation and all that jazz.

  28. doubledink says:


    Are not momentum shifts psychological shifts? Does not leadership affect teams psychologically as well? my 2 cents.

  29. aelliott11 says:

    Morgan – well written post, up until the end. Even professional athletes are human, and if you are trying to convince us that they always play the same level all the time, you are dead wrong. Even pros get pumped up for certain games more than they would others. Which is not to say they are sand-bagging it, but that they do, in fact, find another gear for those epic battles.

    But to your point, some players come through in those situations. Some do not. A WR can not make his own destiny – he has to have the ball sent to him and then make a play. Thus, Djack couldn’t perform at the level he may have wanted. Then again, I would call into question whether DJack wanted it all that badly.

    As for blocking versus running, it’s a combination of both. Shaun does not appear to have lost a step – he’s the same guy he was before, running the same way. He’s hurt, but otherwise, same ol Shaun. Age would not be a factor on him the way it is on other backs because of his ability (or preference) to avoid contact. Ergo, it’s partly the offensive line, partly the fullback, and partly the running back.

    Nyah, nyah, nyah.

  30. dyoshida says:

    I will say it again. I would rather have a Maurice Morris in who hits the hole quickly on a third and short vs. Alexander who dances around. This sounds like the same stuff we have been debating about Alexander since he took over from Ricky Watters.

  31. SupaFreak says:

    Run blocking and Pass protection require completely different skillsets, so no, it’s not surprising or unusual for an O-line or a particular lineman to be good at one and not the other.

    I was an offensive lineman, and from a skill standpoint, was much better at run blocking than pass protection. Some of my fellow linemen were the opposite. So it’s not a more simple solution to say it’s the running back. In fact, it’s normal for linemen to have a dominant strength, and also for lines to need different amounts of time to improve one aspect of their teamwork together than another.

    Shaun seems to be running very much like he always has, which is to say, he is patient, looks for the hole, be it following the blockers to where the play was designed, or where a gap opens up because of how fast the defense flows. However, since on at least 50% of running plays defenders are in the backfield within 1-2 seconds, he doesn’t have time to find the hole or wait for it to develop. It seems we simply aren’t accounting for everyone when run blocking, and some guys are coming through virtually untouched too often.

    This should get better as they continue to analyze film and see where the missed blocks are coming from. They can do some coaching to fix it. Give Shaun, Mo, or Weaver a little time to find the hole, and they all do fine. Let guys into the backfield before a hole opens up, and they won’t, it’s as simple as that. Mo and Weaver are running for less yards per carry than Shaun this year so far, and while Mo had several good runs in a row, he was then stuffed twice in a row for lost yardage, same as Shaun has been.

    I agree Mo charges towards the line of scrimmage faster than Shaun, but it doesn’t lead to more yardage if there is no hole once he gets there or someone is already in the backfield dragging him down. In addition, because Mo is less patient, he is less likely to get the big gains that Shaun does. So it’s a double edged sword. The Seahawks line simply needs to do a better job holding blocks for longer and getting some push. When Shaun got stuffed on 3rd and goal down around the 3 yard line, they didn’t get any push or open any hole ahead or to the right (which was the way the play was blocked) so there was nowhere to go. At that point the backside pursuit from the LB and DE caught Shaun and dropped him for a 2 yard loss. Shaun tried to go right/center right and there was simply a wall, and not one moving forward, while 49’ers flooded in from the left, so he couldn’t cut back that way. Not good blocking, period.

  32. dyoshida says:

    Is it just holding blocks longer or is it the inability of this group to get to the second level consistently? One theory is that Alexander got away with his running style when he had a dominant offensive line in front of him but with the line as it is now, who is a better fit, Alexander or Morris? Tough question but it sure is getting frustrating watching a dozen runs for little gain or a loss every week.

  33. Oldslow says:

    Morgan, that was a well written post, and what you say about blocking schemes seems authorative, but I have some differences.

    First, I did not see any of those holes that you are saying that Shaun missed. His cutback lanes that he usually relies on were non-existent. And whether or not the other teams are stacking the box is also in question. Cincinnati came out in a 5 man line which is very difficult to run against, and SF, who usually are a 3-4 team, came out in a 4-3, and played a safety close. Teams continue to play Alexander first, and try to make Matt beat them. Fortunately, we can do that.

    Alexander averaged just over 3 yards a carry in this game, while Morris, Weaver, and Wallace averaged exactly 2 yards. No holes for them, either.

  34. aelliott11 says:

    The run game is an issue, Holmgren said, because of blown assignments. He said he understands bad technique or sometimes physical breakdowns, but just flat-out blocking the wrong guy or missing an assignment is something that really bothers him.

    From Frank’s latest post of Mike’s press conf. So Morgan, you articulated your points very well, but your conclusions are not accurate.

    SupaFreak, you totally nailed it:

    Shaun seems to be running very much like he always has, which is to say, he is patient, looks for the hole, be it following the blockers to where the play was designed, or where a gap opens up because of how fast the defense flows. However, since on at least 50% of running plays defenders are in the backfield within 1-2 seconds, he doesn’t have time to find the hole or wait for it to develop. It seems we simply aren’t accounting for everyone when run blocking, and some guys are coming through virtually untouched too often.

  35. blueshq says:

    Great read you guys!

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