Eminem Likes Mike & Ikes: What the Seahawks Need to do to Win the Super Bowl – Part 1
Six Flags Amusement Parks are great.
And I don’t only mean that they’re great because they like to use the word “great” in their park names (a la “Great Adventure” and “Great America” among many others). No, I also mean that they’re great places to visit. That is, they’re great places to visit if you’re a fan of obscure Warner Brother’s cartoon characters, mass produced frozen lemon cups and waiting in line for hours to get on rides which were nearly indistinguishable from each other. Like how the Shockwave, Iron Wolf and Batman roller coasters were identical but for the fact that in one you’re sitting, one you’re standing and one you’re hanging. And clearly all of these rides were created when we hadn’t invented liability for whiplash yet, because honestly, other than going home 10 pounds heavier because all you had to eat that day was a bucket of fries and some Mike & Ikes, the only other thing you went home with was whiplash. Which as kids we always thought was a badge of honor:
10 Year Old Me: Wow, that ride was so awesome that I can’t even move my head anymore!
My Friend Erik: Hey, didn’t you start off that ride with two arms?
10 Year Old Me: Oh snap, that’s going to make it tough to play Contra on Nintendo later.
Oh, and back then, “oh snap” was actually still a cool thing to say. But I digress.
The point is sometimes when you get caught up in the moment, you’re thinking this is the best thing ever, but later on when you look at it objectively, you realize that it wasn’t all that cool. Not me, mind you, I’m awesome at finding ways to validate the stupid things I do. But getting back to the topic, the same thing is true for NFL football. Watching the Seattle Seahawks come back from being two scores down with 5 minutes left and winning in overtime is quite the emotional roller coaster, even if you didn’t care for either team. And one might be lead to believe that the Seahawks actually played a good game. Looking back, that really wasn’t true at all. So let’s look now at two players that impacted (both positively and negatively) the NFC Championship game, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, and what Seattle has to do with respect to those two to win the Super Bowl.
Will the Real Russell Wilson Please Stand Up?
Yes, I am making a reference to an old Eminem song from 2000 and yes I am humming that song to myself at this very minute. If you’d like to hum along, feel free to check out the video here.
OK, now back to Russell Wilson. Bottom line is that Wilson was terrible for about 90% of the NFC Championship game. Everyone who watched the game can confirm that, but if you didn’t see it, you don’t have to take their word for it because the stats actually tell a compelling story. Let’s take a look at Wilson’s passing performance per quarter:
First Quarter – 0 for 3 with an interception
Second Quarter – 2 for 6 for 12 yards and 2 interceptions
Third Quarter – 4 for 6 for 49 yards
Fourth Quarter – 5 for 11 for 68 yards and an interception
Wilson’s total passing stats for the game before overtime was 11 completions from 26 attempts with 129 yards and 4 interceptions. Wilson had the dubious distinction of having a QBR rating of 0 at the half, completing more passes to the Packers than his own team, only improving slightly by the end of regulation. But in overtime, Wilson went a perfect 3 for 3 for 80 yards and a touchdown, making his final stat line, 14 of 29 for 209 yards and a TD, look passable. And that touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse for the win? Not only was it Kearse’s first and only catch of the game, but it was an audible called by Wilson at the line. How did this happen? How does Wilson go from NFC disappointment to NFC hero? Well, take a look at Wilson’s rushing stats and let me know what you see:
First Quarter – 0 rushes for 0 yards
Second Quarter – 1 rush for 2 yards
Third Quarter – 1 rush for 0 yards (aborted play due to fumble)
Fourth Quarter – 5 rushes for 23 yards and a TD (including one kneel down for -1 yard)
So, of Wilson’s 7 rushes for 25 yards and 1 TD, 99% of that was in the fourth quarter. What happened you ask? Zone read offense happened.
The Seahawks run one of the most effective zone read offenses in the NFL, with Marshawn Lynch as a bruising between the tackles runner that’s hard to take down, consistently making defensive ends over commit to the run and take themselves out of play if Wilson decides to keep. Wilson is a master of reading the defensive end and deciding whether to hand the ball to Lynch or to keep it and make a play, whether it be with his legs or down field. It’s amazing that it took over three quarters to get going, but once it did, there was no looking back. Not only did Wilson pick up yards on the ground from the zone read, but so did Lynch, as his production picked up dramatically when the Packers’ defense had to concern itself with a mobile Wilson in the backfield (case in point: Lynch’s 24 yard touchdown run with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter). In turn, the Packers secondary became antsy and crept up, leaving Wilson the ability to go play action and to call audibles. Like, for instance, Kearse deep down the middle. Touchdown. Game Over.
The Real Russell Wilson is certainly zone read Russell Wilson. In reality, 90% of the Seahawks production during the NFC Championship game was due to the zone read offense. Wilson will have to keep calm and stick to the gameplan, even if the Seahawks get down early in this one. Getting Rob Ninkovich to bite on zone read will be tough, but crucial, as Wilson definitely doesn’t want to depend on vertically beating Darrelle Revis (who’s currently playing at a high level) and Brandon Browner (who has familiarity with Wilson and the Seahawks offense from 2011 through 2013). The primary danger, of course, is that in the last 8 games, the Patriots have been number one at limiting scoring in the second half of games. What that means is that late game heroics may not be as likely against the Pats as it was against the Packers.
OK, enough about Wilson. Next time, we talk about Mr. Chunky Soup himself, Richard Sherman. And perhaps if you’re good, I’ll hum another old Eminem classic for you.
By Ha Kung Wong