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Gastineau: Hawks And Graham Both Fight Through Adversity For Road Win

Six games into the NFL season Seahawks fans have come to learn two primary characteristics about the 2017 version of the team.

The offense seems to struggle each week to find consistency. Sometimes (in the second half of games versus Indianapolis and the Giants) they get going and can appear to be not exactly unstoppable but certainly quite good. Other times (against San Francisco and Los Angeles) they are like watching a car try to navigate an icy hill; all wheels spinning, bits of ice flying everywhere, two feet forward and three feet back.

Meanwhile the defense has emerged again as an absolute beast. The Hawks D has led the NFL in fewest points allowed four of the last five years and lead the league in that stat again this year. They are currently eighth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (they’ve finished the year in the top five in that stat for five consecutive years). They are quick to point out that were it not for a pair of long plays against Tennessee they would easily rank in the top five and likely will end up there anyway.

Add in the fact that the Seahawks employ one of the best punters in the game in Jon Ryan and a road map to success for Seattle begins to emerge. Suffocate the opponent with your defense, use your punter to keep the field balanced in your favor, and hope the offense continues to show enough improvement to give the defense the little bit of breathing room they need each week.

They will show improvement and they will get the D enough breathing room if something that happened in the second half of the game keeps happening.

Since they traded for him in the spring of 2015, Seahawks fans have been waiting for Jimmy Graham to emerge as the kind of productive threat he was in New Orleans where he had over 4700 yards receiving and caught 51 touchdown passes in five years. He’s never come close to those numbers in Seattle and those Seahawks fans who haven’t already given up on Graham could be excused if they did so at halftime of the New York game.

Graham’s first half was a nightmare. He was targeted three times in the Seahawks comically inept 10-play excursion inside the Giants 10 yard line. Two of the targets were misfires by Russell Wilson. The third was dropped by Graham on 4th and goal after it hit him right in the hands. Later in the second quarter he had a second drop on a pass that was perfectly delivered in the open field. The fifth time he was targeted in the first half he finally made his first grab and that 21 yard reception helped set up a field goal for the Hawks first points of the game.

Wilson looked to Graham twice in the second half. He caught a 29 yard pass on the Hawks first TD drive of the game. Then, in the fourth quarter with the ball on the one yard line the Hawks appeared to run the exact same play they called at the end of their 10 play sequence in the first half. This time, Graham caught the ball for the touchdown that put the game away. It was an interesting play call and completed a bounce back day for both Graham and the offense.

This isn’t to say that Graham catching three consecutive passes, two that set up scores and one that was a score, means he’s ready to emerge as the guy he was with the Saints. But the way his day went might be a catalyst as the Hawks search for just a little momentum on the offensive side of the ball.

This Hawks team has a third characteristic, one they’ve had for a while and one that was on full display against the Giants. They have a lot of big personalities. Earlier this year in Tennessee, we watched Richard Sherman rack up three penalties on one play as he screamed at teammates, opponents, and officials while swerving around the field like an angry, howling, dreadlocked tornado.

This past Sunday it was Doug Baldwin who ended up in an animated sideline shouting match with offensive line coach Tom Cable after Cable tried to give the offense some instructions per Pete Carroll’s request while Russell Wilson was doing the same. The frustration of the offense after being unable to score on 10 consecutive goal-to-go plays was on display as Baldwin and Cable exchanged shoves.

Such blowups frustrate and alarm fans and can lead to ugly accusations on social media. But the Seahawks under Pete Carroll have always been a loud, brash, in your face team. The idea that they’re going to be anything else (particularly with the number of loud, brash, in your face guys on the roster) is displaying a naivety that’s almost childlike.

As we noted in this space last week, the Hawks now face a friendly portion of the schedule. They’ll play four of their next six games at home against middle of the pack (or lower) NFL teams with the exception of the sixth game against Philadelphia. You don’t just show up and win those games. But the blue print is in front of them to roll into that game against the Eagles on a huge run which would make for a very fun first Sunday night in December at Century Link Field.

More from Mike Gastineau
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