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Two Explanations Of The Difference From Last Year

Posted by Matt Terl on October 11, 2010 – 12:22 pm

My initial reaction to the final score of Sunday’s overtime thriller against the Packers was that “this was not a game the 2009 squad would’ve won”. At about the same time as I was posting that, London Fletcher was giving a locker room speech that focused on much the same message. And it’s been a recurring theme in columns and game-stories today, with folks from Mike Wise to Rich Campbell to the Associated Press and more sounding that note.

Most of those stories have player quotes — Fletcher, Reed Doughty, etc. — expressing and trying to explain the change, and I was no different. I discussed it with Chris Wilson in the locker room, and he suggested the primary difference was that the team was growing up.

“You got young guys that are making plays — as well as getting wins — in clutch situations,” Wilson said. “When we need it like that and you show up, that’s big. That’s maturity. Same thing with [LaRon] Landry. Landry’s a heck of a player. Nobody’s ever gonna question his type of effort. But when you make plays like that when we NEED it? That’s the difference right there. So as we continue to mature and give the same type of effort, I think we’re gonna be a pretty hard team to deal with in the future.”

Someone asked whether a simple change in defensive mentality could account for the plays being made by the new defense, and Wilson stuck to his point: “I think it’s more maturity than mentality, because everybody WANTS to make plays.”

But Wilson — and Fletcher, and Doughty, and most of the other people I had seen quoted on the subject — have all been here as this change has taken place. It’s like watching someone you live with grow out their hair: you never notice that it’s getting longer, but one day they look like Logan Paulsen.

So I went to the one player in the locker room who saw last year — was at the center of some of the oddest of last year’s oddities, in fact — and was part of yesterday’s game, but was NOT around while the changes were taking place: punter Hunter Smith.

And he thought there might be even more to the change:
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Mike Sellers Explains His Enormous Special Teams Tackles

Posted by Matt Terl on October 11, 2010 – 10:36 am

Mike Sellers came into this game with his eyeblack painted on in the shape of two crosses for some reason (see pic below), which was the kind of thing I naturally asked about in the postgame locker room. “Switching it up,” he explained, shrugging. “A little something different.”

Which didn’t make for a particularly exciting blog post, but does make a convenient metaphor for Sellers’ contributions to yesterday’s game. Because after making a notable impact as a receiver over the first four games, Sellers’ biggest impact yesterday was, in fact, making big impacts — two big hits on special teams coverage.

Lorenzo Alexander has become the go-to comparison for those kind of hits, and Sellers made at least two tackles that were OneManGang-esque. And, in fact, one of the factors that motivated Sellers to bring the lumber was concern that people might have forgotten just how much ability he has in that area. Read more »

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