As messy and bizarre as it was, the Seahawks’ 36-25 win over the Giants was the defining win in Pete Carroll’s short tenure. It was the kind of win that makes you want to believe in Carroll, even if he still doesn’t have a franchise quarterback.
Yeah, Carroll’s Hawks won in Chicago last season and pulled off a huge playoff upset of New Orleans, but this one was different. Those wins were engineered by Matt Hasselbeck, who is no longer in Seattle as the Hawks audition Tarvaris Jackson at the position.
This win was big for Carroll because the Hawks have had major problems winning on the East Coast over the last decade. They were double-digit underdogs, and almost no one gave them a chance to win, especially considering their recent road history — they lost six of eight road games by an average margin of 20 points last season.
This game didn’t win style points – thanks to the turnovers, penalties and injuries – but it should give Carroll’s young bunch the confidence that they can win on the road, especially in 10 a.m. starts that had seen the Hawks lose 12 of 17 over the last four years.
The Hawks won this game because their defense kept them in it for three quarters and then saved it with Brandon Browner’s pick six.
The defense, especially the front seven, played great through three quarters. They harassed Eli “Little Punk” Manning and forced five turnovers, and Anthony Hargrove blasted running back D.J. Ware into the end zone for a safety in the third quarter.
Special teams gave the Hawks the edge in field position all day. After a slow start to the season, Leon Washington is in a groove. He averaged 11.5 yards on six punt returns, and the Hawks started at their 45 or better six times. Jon Ryan averaged 44.6 yards on seven punts, putting four inside the 20, and the Giants didn’t start past their 41 all game.
The fast-break offense everyone wanted the Hawks to run worked fairly well, at least early on. Jackson found receivers quickly in the first quarter, staking Seattle to a 14-7 lead, and the line created some decent running lanes.
With all of that, the Seahawks should have blown out the Giants. But the Hawks’ three first-half turnovers in the Giants’ territory kept New York in the game. Instead of leading by as much as 28-7, the Hawks went to halftime tied at 14.
It was easy to think the Giants would get it together and dominate the second half. But they didn’t. And the Hawks somehow managed to overcome their own problems and win.
It was unexpected and promising, especially when combined with the second half of the Atlanta game last week.
“I really think that for the last three weeks — save two quarters — we’ve played pretty good football,” Carroll told reporters, referring to the win over Arizona and the furious second-half comeback last week against Atlanta. “We kicked it around for the first half last week, and then we got going and played like crazy and played championship football in the second half and then came out here today to do it again.”
But the Hawks still have a lot of issues.
While Jackson looked good at times, especially when he had time to throw, he also forced too many throws, like the ones into double coverage to his tight ends in the first quarter – he almost got Zach Miller decapitated – and the one that was picked off at the end of the half, leading to the Giants’ tying TD.
And then Jackson got hurt on a called QB keeper on which he chose not to go down and then got crushed in the shoulder.
The Hawks also hurt themselves with too many penalties (10 for 70 yards). Browner had three holding calls himself, continuing a trend of being overaggressive.
The defense, playing without Marcus Trufant, also gave up over 400 yards passing.
On top of those issues, the injuries are piling up. Already without Trufant and Mike Williams and playing with only two tight ends, the Hawks lost Jackson, Miller and Leroy Hill. Marshawn Lynch played through a sprained ankle, and Russell Okung seemed to hurt his ankle late, too.
But those guys all an extra week to rest up before the Hawks go to Cleveland to see if they can win back-to-back 10 a.m. games.
**It’s not surprising that Charlie Whitehurst was able to lead the Hawks to the win after Jackson got hurt. They are fairly similar quarterbacks, so you had to figure that Whitehurst could run the offense just as well as Jackson could. Jackson is more athletic but sometimes makes poor decisions that Whitehurst won’t make. However, Jackson also is a more dynamic player, and that obviously is what Carroll likes about him. If Jackson can get a little smarter in his play, the Hawks might be able to win with him and buy time for the quarterback they draft next year to develop.
**Forget the fact that he is an undrafted free agent: Doug Baldwin will be starting soon. The rookie receiver quite obviously is better than Mike Williams, who is a one-trick pony (relying on his size) who tends to get hurt and disappear from the offense way too much. Ben Obomanu is a solid No. 3, but Baldwin just has the instincts and ability to get open and catch the ball. He could join an elite group of undrafted free agents who have turned into great players for the Seahawks, led by Dave Krieg, Joe Nash, Eugene Robinson, Rufus Porter and Mack Strong.
**Baldwin is a pretty smart player, too. Asked about the success of the no-huddle attack, he said it seemed to be effective but was tiring and led to some of the mistakes the offense made.
**Marshawn Lynch made nice amends after fumbling on the Giants’ 11-yard line. The Hawks stopped the Giants, and on his next play Lynch burst around a block by James Carpenter on the right side for a 47-yard run to the 1. He scored on the next play. The Hawks’ line is starting to get a bit of a push in the running game. In fact, they didn’t run it enough in the fourth quarter (just three times).
**Carpenter has gotten better over the last three games, but he struggled against the Giants’ pass rush in the second half, giving up two sacks. A week ago, Carroll told reporters: “He’s improving, but he has more to go. And halfway through the season he should be a pretty accomplished right tackle for us. It’s going to take him a little while, but we’re certainly seeing good things.” That was evident in New York, with a solid first half and some problems in the second.
**We’ll say it again: The Hawks need to cut Michael Robinson. He’s the biggest waste of space on the team. He’s often injured and doesn’t do anything special to help the team when he isn’t hurt. This time he fumbled on the 1, costing the Hawks a touchdown. It was a horrible call by the coaches to give him the ball. That’s what Lynch is for. The Hawks should let Robinson go and just use Eddie Williams when they need a fullback.
**With their fast-break offense, the Hawks would be smart to use Leon Washington and Justin Forsett in the backfield at the same time, or with Marshawn Lynch in some pairings.
**Aaron Curry was not impressive in this game. He once again looked bad in coverage (another dropped pick) and also missed an open-field tackle in the fourth quarter. Of course, K.J. Wright had no impact either.
**The Hawks’ front four deserves tons of credit for keeping Seattle in the game despite the turnovers by the offense. Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons stuffed the Giants’ running game and made them one-dimensional enough that the Hawks picked off three passes. Seattle is tied for the league lead in fewest yards per carry surrendered (3.1). Imagine once their young secondary gets a little more seasoning and Walter Thurmond is starting instead of Browner.