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Seahawks at Raiders: Thoughts from the other side

Time once again for our Thoughts from the Other Side segment where we get the thoughts of a writer who covers the other team before the game. Today’s Seahawk writer is Chris Sullivan of Seahawkaddicts.com.

Chris took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about the Raiders one time AFC West rival, and I answered some questions for him about the Silver and Black.

Remarkably, his favorite Seahawk-Raider moment had nothing to do with Bo Jackson.

Thoughts from the Dark Side: What has been the difference under the Pete Carroll era after the Jim Mora, Jr year?

Seahawk Addicts: The Jim Mora experiment will go down as one of the darkest years in Seahawks history. Mora is the antithesis of Carroll. He was petty and unprepared, threw his players under the bus, and his personnel evaluation was just wildly off the mark. He had no central theme or objective, and seemed to be making things up as he went along. He lost the fanbase by about Week 8, and the players soon after that. To contrast, Pete Carroll has been a shot of energy for the fan base. He has a very clear “always compete / win forever” message that, while on the face of things seems shallow and borderline stupid, has been embraced by the team. He has brought in guys who love football and will play football the way it’s meant to be played. For a decade plus, the Seahawks were looked at around the league as “soft.” That is changing under Carroll and his 2nd ranked rush defense. Bringing in Marshawn Lynch to run the ball has already transformed the offense. Reclamation project Mike Williams (a former Raider) [editor’s note: we try to forget Mike Williams was in Silver and Black] has been incredible for his college coach. Basically, everyone on this team is playing like they love the game, and it’s resulting in victories.

TFDS: How much does Matt Hasselbeck have left in the tank? What happens if he goes down?

SA: That’s the million dollar quesstion. This is Hasselbeck’s contract year, and it seems unlikely that he’ll get more than a one-year extension if anything from the Seahawks. The team is winning right now, but the offense has almost nothing to do with that. To Hasselbeck’s credit, he has not been throwing as many interceptions in the last few weeks, but to his discredit, he appears terrified to throw the ball at all. He took three or four sacks last week purely because he held onto the ball for far too long (I counted 5.5 seconds on one sack).

If Hasselbeck goes down, off-season acquisition Charlie Whitehurst comes in. In a number of ways, Whitehurst is the better fit for OC Jeremy Bates’ offense. He has a sick arm, much better mobility than Hasselbeck, and is only 27 — not a spring chicken, but someone who could buy the Seahawks time if they need to develop a quarterback. Unfortunately, Whitehurst isn’t the second coming (despite looking enough like the Western conception of Christ to get the nickname “Clipboard Jesus”). His accuracy on short passes and especially screens is comical. He is not ready to win in the NFL based on his preseason appearances, but without real game time reps, it will be impossible to assess him. Fans are no longer terrified of Hasselbeck going down, but they’re not exactly calling for Whitehurst, either.

TFDS:  Who are the X factors on offense and defense?The X-Factors on offense have got to be Marshawn Lynch — who, since coming in two weeks ago, has completely transformed the look and feel of this offense — and Mike Williams. Williams, as alluded to earlier, is finally becoming the player he always should have been. He’s playing with purpose and passion, and is making catches that haven’t been made by a Seahawk in ten years.

On defense, Lawyer Milloy and Red Bryant are the X-Factors. Milloy was screwed by Jim Mora last year, who brought him on board and, despite him being easily the best safety on the team, relegated him to special teams for the first ten weeks. Even when he finally started getting playing time, Milloy was an after thought despite blowing every other defensive player away with his tackling and skills. Milloy is back this year and is the clear leader on the defense. Red Bryant, on the other hand, was a forgotten man before this year. Drafted two years ago as a DT, Bryant never had the raw strength or leverage (he’s 6’4″) to play 1-Tech DT. nor the mobility or pass rush skills to play 3-Tech. Carroll saw him and transformed young Bryant into the largest 4-3 DE in the league. He has been instrumental to the #2 rush defense and has actually managed to get some pressure on the quarterback, too.

TFDS: How have the ‘Hawks played against your expectations so far?

SA: They have wildly exceeded my expectations. I was expecting the Seahawks to be a 6-10 team that would pick up mid-season. Instead, they won a few unexpected games early and are now in the drivers seat to winning the NFC West (not, in and of itself a huge accomplishment, but after 9 wins in two years, we’ll take it). The team is in the midst of 5 of 7 games on the road, so it’s still very possible that they fall back to where we thought they would be before the end of this stretch.

TFDS:  What do the ‘Hawks have to do to win? What do the Raiders have to do to win?

SA: For the Hawks to win, they need to shut down the run on first and second down. The Seahawks’ success thus far has come from stopping the run and setting up obvious passing downs. We have a ballhawking defense who can exploit mistakes in the passing game, and both Campbell and Gradkowski have shown in the past that they can make those mistakes. Offensively, this one rests on the legs of The Priest and the Beast backfield (Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch, respectively).

The Raiders, defensively, need to stop the run and to stick Asomugha on Williams. Hasselbeck makes mistakes with the football, and he has been forcing the ball into places that are really not safe to throw towards. Against the Bears and Cardinals, he’s lived to see another day, but the Raiders DBs seem to have a better nose for the ball. With Mike Williams emerging as Hasselbeck’s top target, the Raiders need to stop him on third down. On offense, the Seahawks are incredibly vulnerable to screen passes. Go there regularly with McFadden and watch the Seahawks crumble.

*>Bonus score prediction<* Seahawks 20 – Raiders 16

History bonus: What is your favorite memory from Raiders-Seahawks matchups over the years?
Got to be Shaun Alexander running for 266 yards in 2001, sort of his breakout game, at Husky Stadium. Bonus: Matt Hasselbeck threw for about 180 yards, roughly the same I would expect from him on Sunday.