With the Seahawks moving on to Green Bay, it’s time for a special divisional-round playoff edition of the mailbag. Here we go.
A: The question references coach Pete Carroll saying Monday that Lynch is “deserving of seeing some more reps” Sunday at Green Bay.
It also references Lynch’s low production, as far as raw stats go — he has 41 yards on 18 carries.
Fifteen yards came on one run against the 49ers, meaning he’s gotten 26 yards on his other 17 attempts. And he’s had three other runs of 8, 5 and 5, one of which was a touchdown against the Eagles.
So, yes, break that down, and 14 of Lynch’s 18 carries have gone for a combined 8 yards.
But rookie Travis Homer is Seattle’s only other option at this moment.
Homer had a nice game against the 49ers, with 62 yards on 10 carries. But he had the same struggles Lynch did against the Eagles, getting just 12 yards on 11 carries. Lynch had 7 yards on six carries.
That indicates, as Carroll said, the larger issue against the Eagles was getting beaten up front by one of the better run defenses in the NFL.
Interestingly, all but one of Lynch’s runs have come on first or second down, other than the failed fourth-and-one against the 49ers.
He’s also only gotten the ball three times in short-yardage situations, with less than 5 yards to go. But he got a first down or a touchdown on two of those three.
I think the Seahawks feel having Lynch as a threat in the backfield is meaningful.
One of the biggest plays Sunday was a third-and-one Seattle faced at its own 28 on the first series of the third quarter after the Eagles had scored on their first possession of the second half to cut the lead to 10-6. The Eagles crowd was waiting for something to get excited about, and with Lynch in the game, everyone probably figured he was getting the ball.
He did, but not in the way anyone expected, with Wilson instead faking a handoff to Lynch, then dumping it off to him for a 20-yard gain. Two plays later, Seattle scored on a 53-yard pass to DK Metcalf, and the Seahawks were on their way.
Carroll referenced that play when asked Monday if he thinks teams are playing Seattle differently when Lynch is in the backfield.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “We haven’t had enough reps to know. But they should. You think they would. Just look at the way he ran on the goal line. It’s a wonderful factor to have. Chris Carson was very much the same. They knew that he was going to get the football in those situations. They knew that Marshawn is going to get the football in those situations. They’re coming after you. So, you have to do the things to keep them honest.”
So yes, Carroll thinks it can matter greatly that Lynch is in the backfield, whether or not he is handed the ball. And that alone, in his view, may merit Lynch being in the backfield more.
A: Yeah, that’s a really good call.
To recap, Ziggy Ansah played just 14 snaps Sunday before suffering a stinger in the second quarter. Ansah has had issues with stingers already this season — he suffered one late in the win over the Vikings and missed the next two games.
Carroll on Monday said only that he had no additional word on Ansah. But the fact he was almost immediately declared out of the Eagles game after suffering the injury wouldn’t appear to be a good sign.
Seattle signed Dekoda Watson on Dec. 17 at a time both Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney were dealing with injuries, and Watson has played the past two games on special teams, including 11 special-teams snaps against the Eagles.
A 10-year veteran who has played almost solely as a strongside linebacker/rush end, Watson has 77 NFL starts and has played in four postseason games. So he does seem like a natural to get up to speed on the defense and be a pass rusher this week if Ansah is out.
Against the Eagles, the Seahawks also used Shaquem Griffin as a pass rusher on 10 snaps after he was not used at all against the 49ers in the regular-season finale.
Some combination of those two things may be needed this week if Ansah sits.
Watson is an interesting guy. He told me after he signed that he became good friends while he played in Tampa Bay from 2010-13 with punter Michael Koenen, who is from Ferndale, and often attended Koenen’s football camp, which was co-hosted by Jake Locker, with whom Watson also became friends.
So Watson was pretty familiar with the area before joining the Seahawks. All of this makes him the perfect candidate to become an unlikely postseason hero.
It obviously should be noted that if Ansah can’t play, 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier also will have to play. Collier doesn’t really play the rush-end spot, so he’s not a direct replacement in general. But all the DE roles will be impacted by a starter no longer being out there.
Collier was inactive Sunday and played just 152 snaps this season. After a season-high 37 snaps against Carolina — when neither Ansah nor Clowney played — he’s gotten just 12 since. There will be lots of time in the offseason to review why it hasn’t really worked out for Collier as a rookie so far. But he may get another shot Sunday to put a happier ending to the story of this season.
A: Referee Clete Blakeman has indeed been assigned Sunday’s game.
As the questioner references, on paper, that might seem like a bad omen for Seattle.
Blakeman became a referee the same year Carroll became Seattle’s head coach. He’s worked 10 Seahawks games in that time, and Seattle is just 4-6 in those, including one of the Seahawks’ only three losses the 2013 Super Bowl season.
But Seattle also has won the past three games Blakeman has refereed, including two this year — victories over Atlanta on the road and Minnesota at home.
Somewhat mitigating those stats is that playoff games are officiated with mixed crews, so many of the members of Blakeman’s crew during the regular season will be different Sunday (that’s well explained here by FootballZebras.com).
But here’s a key part of that story relevant for Sunday’s game: “There are no all-star crews in the first two rounds of the playoffs; mixed crews is a more accurate term. The crews are assigned by individual merit, rather than a crew score, to prevent lower-graded officials from getting unearned assignments or negatively affecting superior crewmates.”
The fact that this is a crew of officials who did not work together during the regular season makes it a bit difficult to know what to make of Blakeman’s regular-season trends.