Before the regular season began, I hoped the Seahawks could be 4-4 halfway through the season. They could have very well been 3-5, or 2-6 -- They played five games on the road; their three home games were against Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady; plus they were starting a rookie at quarterback.
I figured they would win in St. Louis and Arizona, and hoped they would win at least one of the three home games. San Francisco, Detroit, and Carolina all seemed to be tough road opponents, but I hoped the Seahawks coudl beat one of them to get them to four wins. Instead, they've mostly lost the games I thought they'd win and won the games I figured they'd lose, but somehow they still wound up 4-4. I consider that to be a successful first half of the season.
So, what have we learned? Looking ahead, the next eight games look to be more favorable to the Seahawks, with five home games and only three on the road. They should win at home against the Jets, Rams, and Cardinals, plus at least one of the road games (against either Miami or Buffalo). If they do that, to finish the season 10-6 they would still need to beat either the 49ers in Seattle or the Bears in Chicago. A 6-2 second half of the season is not out of the question. 10-6 should be good enough to get them into the playoffs, but 9-7 would most likely not.
We've also learned that the defense is not perfect. Third down has been their Achilles' heel this season. The short passing game on third and long has killed them at times, but the tradeoff is that long completions against this defense have been rare.
The defense was stout against Brady, Rogers, Romo, and Newton. Brady put up some passing yards, but when doesn't he? They dominated Romo, and Rodgers didn't have a very good hair day in Seattle. The D stopped Brady and Rodgers in the 4th quarter when they had to, which helped the Hawks win both games. In Detroit, Matthew Stafford tore them up and Titus Young had a party in the Seahawks secondary. San Francisco ran all over the defensive line in the second half of their game.
This may be difficult for Seahawks to admit, but the defense is manned and coached by mere mortals. It was the defense who lost the game in Detroit -- who would have thought? But even with that being the case, the Seahawks woudl be 1-7 or worse right now were it not for the high level of play from the defense.
What else have we learned? The offense is getting better every week. Maybe by the end of the season, the offense will significantly narrow the gap between their level of play and that of the defense. The 24 points scored in Detroit were all produced by the offense, nor did the defense contribute anything toward them. The offense had no short fields due to turnovers or long kick returns, and the passing game looked solid.
As everyone learned last season, the Seahawks running game is amongst the best in the NFL. In Detroit, Lynch had trouble running inside most of the game, but his 75 yard TD run made up for that. He also had some success running wide. Scatback Marshawn Lynch, who would've thought?
The o-line is improving one step at a time, especially in pass protection. They did a decent job against one of the best defensive lines in football last Sunday. That, along with moving the pocket around, allowed Wilson to be effective by giving him time to throw. When Carpenter gets more games under his belt, the left side of the line will be solid. The right side can be tweaked, but Moffitt's return should help.
The receiving corps is also improving steadily. They played well against New England, and they played very well against Detroit. Rice is looking like a #1 receiver -- the game-winning TD he caught against the Patriots was beatiful. Miller finally caught a TD pass. Tate has also improved. He made a few nice plays in Detroit and has contributed all year. I hope Baldwin can get healthy soon, because his production in the slot is sorely missed. Dropped passes most likely cost the team a win in San Francisco, but we already knew the receivers were mere mortals.
It's no secret that I believe Russell Wilson is the Seahawks' quarterback of the future, and by the end of the season it should be clear to everyone that he's also their quarterback of the present, too. He's got a strong, accurate arm, and he is slowly taking command of both the offense and the field of play.
The way he moves around in the pocket makes his size an advantage. Modern defensive ends are used to sacking tall, lanky quarterbacks, most of whom are taller than 6'3" and run around on extra-long legs. Wilson is much shorter at 5'11" and ducks under pass rushers with relative ease. He even seems to befuddle them on occasion. Carroll and Co. are just beginning to figure out how to use his unique talents.
One person who was at the New England game said to me that Wilson "owned the pocket. He also had a game-winning drive in the 4th quarter of that game and a potentially game-winning drive in the 4th quarter against Detroit (unfortunately, Stafford had two game-winning drives in that game). Wilson was effective passing the ball in both of those games, and against San Francisco the only thing more he could have done after throwing a number of dropped passes on the money was run down the field and catch the ball himself.
I'm looking forward to the second half of the season. Let the games begin.