Sunday, January 12, 2014

Barry Federovitch: Seahawks' wide receivers are team's weak link

Saints Seahawks Football.JPG
The Seahawks will need a better performance in the passing game if they're going to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. (Associated Press)

Barry Federovitch/The Times

As expected, the Seattle Seahawks advanced to next week’s NFC title game, but if the team that has never won a Super Bowl wants to win its first, it will have to do a lot more in the passing game than it did yesterday.

Quarterback Russell Wilson completed only nine of 18 attempts for a lackluster 103 yards during a 23-15 win over the Saints that got hairier than it should have.

Led by Kam Chancellor’s 14 tackles, the Seattle defense kept the high-flying Saints attack off the scoreboard until the fourth quarter, which under most circumstances would have been only window-dressing.

But not this time and if you’re Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, you have to be concerned by the lack of production from the receiving corps. Wilson had to run three times and was limited in the passing game, because his receivers failed to get separation most of the afternoon.

When they did, they struggled to hold onto the ball, adding Golden Tate’s botched onside-kick reception late in the game to their ineptitude.

Incredibly, Seattle got 65 of its 103 passing yards on three plays (a 24-yard reception by Doug Baldwin, a 25-yard snag by Jermaine Kearse and 16-yarder by Percy Harvin).

Take away those three plays and the New Orleans defense completely neutralized Seattle’s passing game, holding it to an anemic 38 yards, which can partially be attributed to the Saints’ excellence, partially to the poor weather conditions, but primarily due to Seattle’s mediocre receivers.

Behind a superb defense, Seattle has been able to hide this major weakness in an era dominated by the pass; the Seahawks have the top-ranked pass defense by many metrics, but incredibly were ranked only 26th in the league in passing during the regular season.

It bears mentioning that two of the six teams below the Seahawks in the passing stats are today’s two NFC combatants, the Panthers and Niners, so winning with the pass is not always a pre-requisite.

But you won’t always get 140 yards rushing from Marshawn Lynch, either.

Both the Panthers and Niners can stop the run, which means the Seahawks better find more receiving options or find their championship dreams go by the wayside.

DOING THINGS THE RIGHT WAY: The Pro Football Hall of Fame continued to show why it is one of the best shrines going, reducing its list of candidates from 25 to 15 finalists (not counting two Veterans Committee nominees, ex-Eagle Claude Humphrey and the game’s best punter ever, Ray Guy). Note that the Pro Football Hall is judged by only 46 voters or about 93 percent fewer than baseball.

The Pro Football vote is done in a crowded room of experts, who state their respective cases, and then add as few as four, but as many as five of the final 15. This year, the most likely inductees include ex-Giant Michael Strahan (who narrowly missed being chosen last year), one of the greatest offensive tackles ever Walter Jones and 11-time Pro Bowler and linebacker Derrick Brooks. The discussions?

Which of the following wide receivers belong in: Marvin Harrison, Tim Brown or Andre Reed? Is this finally the year that five-time Super Bowl winner Charles Haley (a two-time Defensive Player of the Year) gets the call?

Unlike baseball, the focus is kept on the nominees, which is the way it should be.


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