Review: Chiefs 24, Seahawks 20

16 Nov
Photo Credit: kcchiefs.com

Photo Credit: kcchiefs.com

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. This is one of those classic Seahawks losses where we could have won, and the inability to convert on offense or make a stop on defense when we absolutely needed to the most cost us at the most inopportune times. The Seahawks started the most important stretch of the season on the wrong foot, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 24-20 on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks fall to 6-4 on the season and currently sit in 3rd place in the NFC West. The Chiefs improve to 7-3 and are now tied for first place in the AFC West. This week I am breaking my review down into three main parts: an offensive review, a defensive review, and a mild rant on a subject that I feel must be addressed.

Offense: The Seahawks offense played well enough to win this game. We moved the ball efficiently but we were unable to score points when we absolutely needed to. The Seahawks finished the day with 372 total yards, outgaining the Chiefs by 74 yards. This included 204 rushing yards primarily from Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson who combined for 195 of those rushing yards. What number sticks out to me the most is the yardage we gained on non-scoring drives. The Seahawks had 5 drives which resulted in either punts or turnovers on downs. On those 5 drives we moved the ball for 119 yards which to me seemed like an exceptionally high number for coming away with no points. The offensive line did a good job creating room for Lynch to run and Beast Mode did a very good job of picking up yards after contact once again. The offensive line however failed to protect Russell Wilson on passing downs late in the game resulting in two second half sacks, which made it very difficult to convert late in the game.

Defense: Whenever the Seahawks offense was able to put points on the board and take any momentum away from the Chiefs, our defense allowed Kansas City to take that momentum right back by allowing scoring drives. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before we could not keep going blow for blow with the Chiefs. I do not know if the loss of Brandon Mebane was the only reason why Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had such a productive day on the ground, but it certainly did not help not having Mebane out there. I give a lot of credit to the Kansas City offensive line creating ample room for Charles and Knile Davis to run. I also applaud Charles’ running style, who I believe is the closest player to challenge Marshawn Lynch’s physicality when it comes to footwork and willingness to lower the boom to earn extra yards.

Alex Smith is the kind of conservative quarterback that will not throw interceptions unless he is facing intense pressure. Absent was the pass rush throughout the majority of Sunday’s game and as a result, we did not force Smith to throw any interceptions (even though we recovered two fumbles, winning the turnover battle 2-0).

I believe that the Seahawks defense is a broken unit plain and simple; a hollow shell of the 2013 record-setting defense. Injuries do not help and even though we had Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith back this week they did not have as big of an impact that I would consider to be normal contributions. Next week we will likely get Bobby Wagner back at middle linebacker but if we cannot stop the run moving forward we will be in big trouble.

Darrell Bevell: If it is not one thing that frustrates me about Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, it is another. In my game preview I called Bevell out. I did not want to see him try to outsmart the Kansas City defense and I wanted to see him keep his first down play-calling conservative by establishing the run. For the most part that is exactly what Seattle did, running the ball 61 percent of the time on first down (19/31). In this game it was not the first down play calling that has me hot, but two play calls on two separate fourth down plays that I believe cost us easy points and ultimately the game.

The first play came with 7:08 left in the game. On 4th and goal from the 2-yard line, Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson ran crossing routes and Russell Wilson tried to hit Baldwin on a fade to the corner of the endzone. Wilson overthrew Baldwin, who was slightly pushed off of his route, and the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs. Two plays earlier the Seahawks had the ball 2nd and goal from the 4-yard line and elected to throw to Baldwin, then run the ball with Marshawn Lynch on 3rd down, then threw that fade to Baldwin on 4th down. With the way we had run the ball all day long with the ball that close to the endzone, why on Earth would you not try to punch the ball in with Lynch three consecutive times?! Instead Bevell got cute and it cost us a touchdown.

The second play call came with 3:31 left in the game with the Seahawks facing a 4th and 1 from the Kansas City 36-yard line. This time around the call did go to Lynch but he was stopped short of the line to gain, and the Seahawks once again turned the ball over on downs. The Seahawks lined up with three receivers to the right. I think a screen to Jermaine Kearse should have been the call, as we had shown we could be successful on screen passes earlier in the game.

Two botched play calls, zero points, and a loss.

I understand that in crunch time if a play is successful the offensive coordinator is touted as a genius and if it fails he is widely criticized. This season however I feel like whatever play Bevell dials up in these situations, me along with the majority of Seahawks fans would have called the complete opposite play, regardless of whether we convert or not. Frankly I am absolutely sick and tired of Bevell’s play-calling in high pressure situations. I hope that Bevell is in a position to be interviewed and accept a head coaching job somewhere come seasons end. Whether he is offered a new job elsewhere or he is fired, I do not want him on this staff in 2015. Overreaction or not, I believe it is time for the Seahawks to move on from Darrell Bevell.

Thoughts on Kansas City: Make no mistake this is a very good Kansas City Chiefs team. I believe you can make the argument that this team is better than the Chiefs team that went 11-5 last season. The Chiefs pass defense is as good, if not better, as advertised however the run defense needs some work. The run defense could be the difference between the Chiefs earning a wild-card berth and them challenging the Denver Broncos for the AFC West title. On offense, as long as Jamaal Charles can stay healthy this team will continue to control the momentum of their games, will put points on the board, and win. Alex Smith has only thrown 4 interceptions this season and his interception number will remain low as long as their offensive line can continue to adequately protect him. I believe this Chiefs team will make the playoffs and if their core players can avoid the injury bug this team could make a push deep into January.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white jersey/blue pants uniform combination this week, the first time they have worn said combo in a meaningful game since Super Bowl XLVIII… I had brief discussions with a friend of mine at the beginning of the season about maybe traveling to Kansas City for this game. Good thing we didn’t make the investment. Not because we lost, but because of the weather. Sitting outdoors for over 3 hours in 19 degree weather is not my idea of a good time. Hopefully I am able to make a trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the not-so-distant future… Chiefs fans are loud. That was evident on the broadcast but the Seahawks did a good job of handling the crowd noise… The Seahawks are now 5-21 all-time playing at Arrowhead. Ugh… Seahawks tight end Tony Moeaki has one catch so far this season; a 1-yard touchdown catch today. It’s funny yet cool that his one catch was a touchdown scored against his former team… There were two things that needed to happen for the Seahawks to be within one-game of the NFC West lead by the end of Sunday. Those two things were a Seahawks win over the Chiefs and an Arizona Cardinals loss to the Detroit Lions. Neither of those things happened. Instead of being one game out of first place the Seahawks now sit 3 games back of Arizona with the Cardinals coming to town next week. From where I am sitting with the remaining schedule the Seahawks have it is highly unlikely we will be able to challenge Arizona for the division title. A loss to the Cardinals next week puts us 4 games out of first place with 5 games left, making our shot at the division title borderline impossible. We NEED a win next week no doubt about it.

I will be back on next Saturday when I preview next Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chiefs Preview

15 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

Site: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

42-21. This is the combined record of the remaining 7 opponents on the Seahawks schedule. The next seven weeks will be an all-out bloodbath and if the Seahawks can survive they will likely be playoff bound, perhaps even as the NFC West champions. This week starts arguably the toughest stretch of the rest of the season; 3 out of our next 4 games will be played away from CenturyLink Field. It starts this week in front of one of the toughest crowds in all of sports. The Seahawks head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on their former division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks are 6-3 and are coming off an impressive 38-17 win over the New York Giants. The Chiefs are red hot coming into this week, sitting at 6-3 having won their last 4 games in a row. Kansas City leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 32-18. The Seahawks have not beaten the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium since 1999. In their last meeting the eventual AFC West champion Chiefs came into Seattle and beat the Seahawks 42-24 in 2010. Here are my thoughts and what I will be looking for in this game.

This week on offense I ask one simple favor of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Please do not overthink your play calls in order to outsmart the defense. Too many times this season the Seahawks have passed the ball on first down, tried to run the ball on second down, and set themselves up for third and moderate or third and long, oftentimes resulting in fourth down and a change in possession. Personally I get very frustrated when this happens. Call me conservative but when you have weapons on the ground like Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson there should be no reason not to establish the run on first down. I believe controlling the clock and the tempo of the game via the running game is crucial this week. Specifically I would like to see the Seahawks continue to call designed runs for Wilson. Opposing defenses have been burned on Wilson quarterback keepers and bootlegs the past few weeks. The Seahawks have averaged 10 first half points in their road games this season but in their last 2 games on the road they have failed to score a touchdown. Having Wilson as a threat on the ground could translate into early game points, something that could make the difference between the Seahawks winning and losing this game. Last week the Seahawks broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a single game. I believe that if we can rush for at least 175 yards this week, we can come away victorious.

The Seahawks are getting healthier on defense this week with the return of safety Kam Chancellor. Unfortunately we take two steps back along the defensive line as starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is lost for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring. This week on defense I believe the most important position group to watch is the linebackers, mainly because of the quarterback they will be facing. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been known to be a very conservative pocket passer. Even dating back to his days in San Francisco, Smith will rarely take shots down the field for large chunks of yards. With Malcolm Smith returning from injury this week, our linebacker corps is bolstered but I will have my eye on how Alex Smith plays the middle of the field patrolled by K.J. Wright and rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis who will make his first career start this week at outside linebacker. Keep an eye on the potential matchup between Wright and Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, who has played a big role in the Chiefs offense in recent weeks. We must make sure we tackle well and not give Smith room to make easy completions.

There is one last thing the Seahawks offense must take into account. Does the number 142.2 mean anything to you? That is the new Guinness world record for “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium” which was once again broken last month by Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium. This week for the first time in a very long time, crowd noise could play a significant factor in the effectiveness of the Seahawks offense. Seattle has played in loud environments in the Russell Wilson era and we have done an exceptional job of handling the noise. If the Seahawks have several pre-snap procedure penalties this week, this could be a very long and frustrating game.

Believe it or not, the Kansas City Chiefs currently sport the best pass defense in the NFL, allowing an average of only 205 passing yards per game. The Seahawks offensive line will have their hands full with defensive end Justin Houston but I am afraid that the intense pressure from the Kansas City front seven will force Russell Wilson into bad throws. This could give the Chiefs secondary great opportunities to make plays and force turnovers. My X-Factor player to watch for Kansas City this week is cornerback Sean Smith. Smith is in the middle of his second season with the Chiefs and this season he leads all Kansas City cornerbacks in passes defensed with 10. He also has one of only 4 Chiefs interceptions on the year. Smith will likely face a lot of Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson on the outside, as he matches up better with them being 6-foot-3. The stats may not be there, but after watching film the Chiefs have a very underrated ball-hawking secondary on the whole. If the pass rush steps up and flusters Wilson, they will likely be given every opportunity to make game altering plays.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have one more opportunity to wear wolf grey this season and there is a 25% chance it will happen this week. However since we wore wolf grey in our last road game my guess is that we will wear white this week. The Chiefs will likely wear white pants with their red jerseys… Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and Tony Siragusa have the call for FOX this week… Bill Leavy is the referee this week and that really makes me mad. Leavy has already officiated one Seahawks game this season, our 30-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys 5 weeks ago. There were some pretty questionable calls in that game. That scares me for what could be in store this week… The game time temperature in Kansas City is supposed to be in the high 20’s or low 30’s. Good thing we had that cold front come through Seattle this week. I’m glad the Seahawks prepared for the cold by practicing outside… I need a win in fantasy football this week. I believe a win would lock me into the playoffs. Among the guys in my starting lineup is Doug Baldwin. I would not mind a Baldwin touchdown at all this week (obviously)… I am glad the city of Seattle gets Lions/Cardinals in the 1pm time slot this week. I may have to skip RedZone in the afternoon so I can watch that game in its entirety… We need this win. A big load will be taken off of this team and the 12th Man if we can come away victorious. Add a Seahawks win with a Cardinals loss and that sets up the biggest game of the season next week at CenturyLink Field. Hopefully we can make it happen.

Prediction: I get this feeling watching the Seahawks play on the road that we have a 50/50 shot at coming away with the win. This week the individual matchups are in our favor from a physical perspective but I am not sold that the Seahawks can play a complete game. Although I think we will score a touchdown in the first half I think our offense will struggle early. With the Seahawks battling the crowd noise and both teams battling the cold I could see this being a relatively low scoring game. At the end of the day, the Chiefs will hold a 3 point lead and will be able to hold the Seahawks without points on their final drive of the game. The Chiefs will win and the Seahawks will fall to 6-4 (fingers crossed I am wrong).

Chiefs 20, Seahawks 17

Check back on Sunday night as I review this week’s game. Go Hawks!

Flex Appeal: Week 12 Cardinals/Seahawks Deserves Sunday Night Spotlight

10 Nov
Photo Credit: The Associated Press, via seahawks.com

Photo Credit: The Associated Press, via seahawks.com

The NFL has until Tuesday to determine whether to use flexible scheduling to move the Seahawks matchup against the Arizona Cardinals on November 23rd into Sunday Night Football and I believe they should do so because, simply put, both teams deserve it.

Let’s look at the cases for both the Cardinals and the Seahawks to be on Sunday Night Football. Arizona currently sits at 8-1 and in the standings they are the best team in football. When the schedule came out back in the spring the Cardinals had only 3 games scheduled on national television. NFL rules allow any individual team to play a maximum of 6 games per season in primetime, so the Cardinals would qualify to play on Sunday night week 12. The Seahawks are also eligible as they were only scheduled 4 primetime games when the schedule came out.

Personally I feel that the NFL owes the 12th Man one more primetime home game. As the defending world champions, many Seahawks fans were upset that we were only scheduled one primetime home game in 2014. Many felt that we deserved the opportunity to play in primetime more than once and this opportunity would surely make up for that original scheduling snub.

This game could also have major division implications. If the Cardinals and Seahawks both win this week, the Seahawks could have the opportunity to cut the Cardinals division lead down to one game in week 12. If the Cardinals lose this week to Detroit and the Seahawks win in Kansas City, that game will be for the NFC West lead, something that I would think NBC would love to have in primetime.

One reason why flexing this game could be unlikely is because these two teams are already scheduled to play on Sunday Night Football in Arizona week 16. It may be considered unlikely that NBC would be allowed to broadcast both Cardinals/Seahawks games this season. It also seems unlikely that FOX would miss out on the opportunity to broadcast the game in Seattle even though FOX did not protect the week 12 matchup. It has happened before however. FOX missed out on both Seahawks/49ers games in 2012; one went to NFL Network for Thursday Night Football and the other matchup, which was played in Seattle, was flexed to NBC to be played on Sunday Night Football.

The point of flexible scheduling is to replace a lesser matchup with one of significant importance. The current SNF matchup week 12 has the 7-3 Dallas Cowboys heading to New York to take on the 3-6 New York Giants. Honestly you cannot tell me a matchup featuring a combined record of 10-9 deserves to be on Sunday Night Football over a matchup featuring the 9-1 Cardinals and the 6-3 Seahawks. The only argument the National Football League can make to keep Cowboys/Giants in primetime is the “media market argument.” Rarely does the NFL want to flex out a matchup featuring one of the most popular franchises in football and the number one media market in the country. The league may find this reason to be completely valid but if you ask football fans around the country I am sure the majority would disagree. I believe it would be completely hypocritical of the NFL to keep this game in primetime, as it goes against what they state flexible scheduling is all about, for “teams to play their way into primetime.” That is exactly what I believe the Cardinals and Seahawks have done. They absolutely deserve the right to play on Sunday Night Football in week 12 instead of the Cowboys and Giants.

Review: Seahawks 38, Giants 17

9 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

It was not perfect but it was a close to a complete game as the Seahawks have played in a long time. In front of 68,352 raucous fans the Seahawks came back from a 17-14 halftime deficit to beat the New York Giants 38-17. The Seahawks set a franchise record with 350 rushing yards including 5 touchdowns on the ground. With the win the Seahawks are now 6-3 and remain 2 games back of the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The Giants fall to 3-6 and continue to struggle to be relevant. Here is what I took out of today’s victory.

Have a Day, Beast Mode: Today the Seahawks established the running game with Marshawn Lynch and then some. Lynch ran the ball 21 times for 140 yards and 4 touchdowns; by far his best game of the season. As I previously mentioned the Seahawks broke a franchise record running for 350 yards on Sunday. Associated categories favored the Seahawks as well, especially time of possession as the Seahawks controlled the ball 7 minutes longer than the Giants. It is not a secret that if you are successful running the ball the chances of you winning are greater. That is not my main point. What is important is that this performance should silence any speculation of Lynch’s possible lack of motivation. Robert Turbin and Christine Michael saw their touches this week but this performance showed loud and clear that Lynch is still out go-to guy in the backfield. Leave any talk about his future on the sidelines for now. For now, let him go out there and be the player we all know he is, the player that showed up big time on Sunday.

First Half Defense: In the first half the Seahawks defense gave up 17 points, 7 of which coming off of turnovers. After the first 30 minutes it looked like Eli Manning was going to pick the Seahawks defense apart all game long. The worst part was that it looked like Seattle was going to let him, as once again we could not establish a solid pass rush. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was not sacked in the first half and the New York offensive line gave Manning a clean pocket for the majority of the half. In the first half Manning threw for 192 yards and a touchdown; a stat line that should be unacceptable especially at home. Fortunately the defense stepped up in the second half, preventing any chance of a New York sized upset.

Second Half Defense: On paper the Seahawks defense played a near-flawless game in the second half. The Seahawks sacked Eli Manning twice, picked him off once, and best of all allowed 0 points. The momentum tilted Seattle’s way for good after Manning’s interception, a pass which was tipped by Richard Sherman to Earl Thomas in the endzone and brought out to the Seahawks 42-yard line. Seattle then went on to score 21 points in the final 15:39 of the game. If the defense can play a complete game we will be a very dangerous team moving forward. The inconsistency of Seattle’s pass rush is what could prevent us from closing out any potentially close games in the coming weeks. I believe we are about to turn a corner, but Dan Quinn needs to take the risk and dial up more early down pressure. Two sacks of Eli Manning is simply not okay in my eyes.

Turnovers and Ball Security Issues: Today was a rare example of the Seahawks losing the turnover battle but finding a way to win the game. The Seahawks committed 3 turnovers this week while only forcing 2 of their own. Seattle also fumbled two more times but they were able to get back on top of the ball both times. The Seahawks have not had consistent turnover problems so I do not expect this to be the start of a negative trend. This is an area that we can patch up in practice this week. Having said this we do go on the road next week into a very hostile environment. If we struggle to maintain possession of the ball again next week, this topic may be brought to the forefront as we enter the NFC West gauntlet after our game in Kansas City.

Thoughts on the Giants: Let’s start with the obvious; the Giants run defense played an absolute terrible game. The Seahawks were able to get to the second and third levels of New York’s defense several times on Sunday and the Giants did not help themselves along the defensive line, as they were extremely unsuccessful in patching up holes for Marshawn Lynch to run through. On offense the Giants have good young talent in receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. and perhaps having Victor Cruz could have helped the Giants passing attack. Eli Manning made a couple very pretty completions where he arched the ball right into the chest of his receiver. The Giants simply need to stock up more young talent. Their 2014 season is virtually over, but in the unpredictable NFC East it is not unreasonable to think the Giants could get right back into playoff contention in 2015.

Random Thoughts: There was a lot of camouflage around CenturyLink Field on Sunday. Everywhere you looked you saw it, similar to how in past seasons you couldn’t walk around without seeing a barrage of pink during breast cancer awareness month… As delicious as that egg nog latte I got from Starbucks was, I might have to cool it on the coffee before future prefunctions. Definitely battling a headache and the jitters right now which could only come from a coffee/beer mix… Thank God I have undercover seats. This has been one of the more indefinite weather home slates in recent memory… We had a Giants fan walking up our aisle who acted like he owned the place. Made me believe he was truly from New York. Good thing he sat several rows behind me because he may have gotten into a shouting match with the characters that sit around me… One pet peeve that I have never talked about is that there is never a good time to take a bathroom break. Either we are on defense and I want to stay in my seats to make noise, or we are on offense and I want to see if we can move the ball. Honestly, it is best to take a bathroom break when we are on offense in my opinion… With Carson Palmer out now is the time for the Seahawks to take advantage and regain ground in the division race. A win in Kansas City would be HUGE for our chances to retake the division.

Check back next Saturday morning as I preview our week 11 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Go Hawks!

Giants/Seahawks Preview

8 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After finishing the first half of the regular season at 5-3 the Seahawks open up the second half of the season at home this week against the New York Giants. The Seahawks, with their 5-3 record, currently sit in second place in the NFC West while the Giants stumble into CenturyLink Field this week. The Giants are 3-5 and are coming off a brutal 40-24 blowout loss to the Indianapolis Colts at home. To make matters worse, they played the Colts last Monday night which means they will play this game on a short week. New York leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-7 but the Seahawks have most of the recent success, beating the Giants 23-0 at the Meadowlands last season. The Seahawks have also won 2 of the last 3 meetings played at CenturyLink Field, including the famous 2005 matchup won by the Seahawks (more on this later). We cannot afford to let this game slip away. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

This week on both sides of the ball my primary focus is how we can improve our play with key players returning from injury. On offense I am looking for Marshawn Lynch to carry over his success from last week on the ground and I am looking for Russell Wilson to make clean throws from inside the pocket, thanks to the return of center Max Unger. Unger has not played since week 5 against Washington when he injured his foot late in that game. In the 4 games Unger missed, the Seahawks have averaged 326 yards of offense per game and Lynch has only run for an average of 61 yards per game. Lynch has not had a 100 yard rushing game since week 1. This week could be the week Lynch tops that plateau once more as the Giants allow an average of 119 rushing yards per game. This week do not be surprised to see Wilson throw Jermaine Kearse’s way a lot. With Doug Baldwin nursing a groin injury that may or may not limit his physical ability, Kearse may be the receiver Wilson is most comfortable with. After rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood combined for only 31 receiving yards last week, I believe that Wilson’s comfort level with these guys is not where they would like it to be just yet. I would not be surprised if Kearse is Seattle’s leading receiver this week.

Although linebacker Bobby Wagner has been ruled out, the Legion of Boom may be back at full strength this week. Safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Byron Maxwell have both been participants in practice this week and will likely play. The LOB is my primary focus on defense this week, considering the success they had forcing 5 Eli Manning interceptions in their matchup last season. After intercepting his first pass of the season last week I believe Richard Sherman is a guy to watch and it will be interesting to see if Manning is willing to test Sherman or if he will try to avoid him for the majority of the game. The front seven must put pressure on Manning to take pressure off of the Seattle secondary. Bruce Irvin has stepped up in recent weeks and I hope to see him step up again in this game. Also keep an eye on Brock Coyle and K.J. Wright. Wright stepped up big to help Coyle out last week, recording 13 tackles however more should be expected of Coyle this week in the middle of the field.

The New York Giants are kind of a mystery to me on offense. Eli Manning has shown that he can be a great quarterback but they have not played at a high level consistently the past couple of seasons. Plain and simple, this is not the same Giants team that won the Super Bowl a mere three seasons ago. In a hostile environment, I believe that New York must establish the running game to have any success on offense. My focus this week however is on the Giants defense. Gone are the days of a strong veteran pass rush anchored by Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. Instead the Giants have gotten younger and they have shown to have very good talent. The only problem is that like the Seahawks, the Giants have been depleted by a rash of injuries. Certain players have been thrust into starting roles that they were nowhere near close to holding at the beginning of the season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Giants this week is one of those kinds of players, cornerback Jayron Hosley. Hosley has found himself starting at cornerback this week after Prince Amukamara was placed on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending biceps tear on Monday night. Hosley began the season on New York’s practice squad and he was suspended for the Giants first 4 games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. 3 of Hosley’s 4 tackles this season came after replacing Amukamara against Indianapolis and he also added a pass defensed against the Colts. Given the uncertainty of the Seahawks wide receiver situation this week, Hosley will likely line up on both sides of the field. Hosley vs. Jermaine Kearse will be an interesting matchup to watch given the height advantage Kearse will have. Keep an eye out this week for how the Seahawks attack Jayron Hosley and if he can step up to prevent the Seahawks from moving the ball in large chunks.

There is one last thing to watch this week and hopefully true Seahawks fans already know what I am talking about given that the Giants are in town. In 2005 the 12th Man helped force the Giants into 11 false start penalties. The Seahawks went on to win that game in overtime and I believe that game was the unofficial start of what has become the most intimidating fan base in all of sports. Even in the 2 Giants/Seahawks games played in Seattle since, Eli Manning and the Giants have continued to struggle handling the crowd noise and I am confident this week will be no different. The Seahawks will definitely do their part to remind the fans in attendance on Sunday what has happened in past meetings and it will fuel the 12’s to be as loud as possible. Crowd noise may be a bigger factor this week than in any other Seahawks game so far this season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-navy once again this week. The Giants will wear white jerseys and gray pants. I find it funny yet interesting that the Giants (nicknamed Big Blue by the way) feature so much red on their away uniforms… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews reporting from the sidelines… Pete Morelli is the referee this week… This week is the Seahawks salute to service military appreciation game. Both teams will wear camouflage accessories and the national anthem will likely feature a field-sized American flag. In past years stadiums have also done a red, white, and blue card stunt during the national anthem but that will not happen this year. I bring this up because this is the only game where the 12th Man flag raiser is revealed in the days leading up to the game. This week’s flag raiser is Major Scott Smiley and according to seahawks.com Smiley is “the U.S. Army’s first blind active duty officer”… Having two consecutive home games is the best. It always has, and always will be… Go Saints, Go Rams.

Prediction: I believe the score will be close but it will feel like the Seahawks run away with this game. Marshawn Lynch will run for 80 yards while Russell Wilson puts up 275 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Eli Manning will throw a touchdown and a pair of interceptions with the Giants offense racking up 3 false start penalties as well. The Seahawks will win this game and go to 6-3 on the season.

Seahawks 24, Giants 16

Check back on Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 30, Raiders 24

2 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Usually when the Seahawks score 30 points in a game I am thrilled. It usually means we played a very sound game and should mean that we won fairly easily. Why is it then that I feel so shortchanged and worried? The Seahawks have yet to put together a complete victory and today they showed improvement in areas and showed regression in others. The Seahawks defeated the Oakland Raiders 30-24 on Sunday in a game that I believe should not have been as close as the final score indicates. Regardless, the Seahawks improve to 5-3 on the season, taking over sole possession of second place in the NFC West. With today’s loss the Raiders fall to 0-8. Here is the good and the bad that I took out of this week’s game.

Running Game Improves: Today offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell gave running back Marshawn Lynch a hefty dose of the ball and it paid dividends in controlling time of possession and making the difference on the scoreboard. Lynch ran the ball 21 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, his most productive game on the ground since week 3. Behind an offensive line missing two starters, Lynch did a great job finding running lanes and gaining yards after contact. What I also liked was the play calling which got Lynch, Robert Turbin, and Christine Michael involved on early downs. Russell Wilson handed the ball off to his running back on first down 48% of the time, a significant improvement from the past few weeks.

Wilson Still Having Trouble Making Throws: For the second straight week, Russell Wilson struggled to connect with receivers on throws he has proved he can make. Today, among the incomplete passes that stick out in my mind, he overthrew wide receiver Jermaine Kearse multiple times and also failed to hit tight end Luke Willson on a play-action shotgun pass which would have picked up a first down and significant yards after the catch. Perhaps today the weather played a factor in Wilson’s performance but against a defense like Oakland’s a 179-yard performance with no touchdowns or interceptions feels very unsatisfactory. This season Wilson has had only four 200-yard passing games and of those, he has only thrown for over 300 yards once. It seems as though we cannot put a complete offensive game together; we can either run the ball effectively and struggle passing or vice versa. Could it be that Wilson is not yet 100 percent comfortable with his targets, particularly the rookie wide receivers? Time will tell as he become more familiar with them on a weekly basis.

Special Teams Regresses Terribly: The Seahawks special teams allowed yet another touchdown on Sunday, when Denico Autry of the Raiders blocked a Jon Ryan punt which was recovered by Oakland’s Brice Butler in the endzone for a touchdown. Given the recent struggles of the Seahawks special teams unit I pose this question: is the absence of special teams captain Heath Farwell making the difference in the poor play of this year’s squad compared to the shutdown play of last year’s unit? There are several new players in different positions on special teams which led head coach Pete Carroll to label special teams “a circus” after today’s win but Farwell was the anchor of last year’s unit. This is scary to me. The inability for the offense and defense to run away with games this season makes me think that it may be only a matter of time before these special teams mistakes cost us yet another game much like what happened in St. Louis.

Plug-and-Play Defense Survives: Today the Seahawks defense was introduced during pregame ceremonies and there were three new names to the lineup. Brock Coyle started at middle linebacker while Tharold Simon and DeShawn Shead took Byron Maxwell and Kam Chancellor’s spots respectively in the Legion of Boom. They played adequately. Among these three players Shead led the pack with 4 tackles and Coyle only recorded 2 tackles of his own. Coyle was helped out in large part by outside linebacker K.J. Wright who played a very Bobby Wagner-esque game. Wright made 13 tackles and also added a pass defensed. Bruce Irvin also started in place of Malcolm Smith and had a big impact, intercepting and returning a self-tipped Derek Carr pass to the house for a touchdown. All in all, the defense forced two Carr turnovers and survived the game despite allowing 17 points. We simply need to get healthy. I do not think it is crazy to think that if we had played any other team today we may not have come out victorious.

Thoughts on Oakland: The Oakland Raiders have potential on offense but they are not there yet. Derek Carr needs talent around him to put more points on the board. A new running attack would not hurt either, as Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are not getting any younger. On defense the Raiders need to get younger. They are too old to stay consistently healthy although the play of second-year cornerback D.J. Hayden had me pretty impressed on Sunday. The Raiders will likely bring in a new head coach in 2015 to replace the current interim coach Tony Sparano. It seems like the Raiders are consistently rebuilding, and from where I am currently sitting, it may be a few more years before they can challenge for even a wild-card berth.

Random Thoughts: Jerseys were just like I thought for both teams. Moving on… Today Walter Jones’ 4 offensive line mates from the 2005 Super Bowl XL season raised the 12th Man Flag. It was great to see Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, and Sean Locklear back in Seattle all together. Personally I believe Hutchinson should get a turn to raise the flag by himself in the future. Also, I am assuming Locklear retired because he was in attendance today. How is that possible? He was a rookie in 2005, and even though he is currently 33 years old I think he could still be of service to a desperate team seeking offensive line depth. I guess that just goes to show you how short NFL careers are… I loved the Marysville-Pilchuck High School logo on the Seahawks touchdown flags and the moment of silence was nice also… The Ring of Honor ceremony for Walter Jones was awesome. Those navy blue blazers worn by all the Ring of Honor members look pretty good. Jones seemed to get more emotional for the ROH ceremony than he did for his jersey retirement 4 years ago… Another home game next week. I’m already looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading everyone. Check back next Saturday as I preview our week 10 matchup against the New York Giants. Go Seahawks!

Raiders/Seahawks Preview

1 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks begin the month of November at home this week as they renew their old AFC West rivalry, hosting the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks are 4-3 and are coming off a crucial win in Carolina last week. The Raiders have had a very lackluster season thus far and they are the only winless team left in the National Football League at 0-7. Last week the Raiders fell on the road to the Cleveland Browns 23-13. Oakland leads the all-time series with Seattle 29-24. In their last regular season meeting the Raiders demolished the Seahawks 33-3 in October 2010. That was head coach Pete Carroll’s first season in Seattle and since losing to the Raiders in 2010 the Seahawks hold a .606 winning percentage. Meanwhile in the exact same span, the Raiders winning percentage is a mere .317. Here are some things I will be looking for out of the Seahawks this week, as well as a special report on the Oakland Raiders.

I have pleaded for the Seahawks to get quarterback Russell Wilson more involved in the running game the past couple of weeks but this week I do not think it will be necessary for Wilson to run for the Seahawks offense to be effective. Instead, this may finally be the week that we see Wilson spread the ball around and get rookies Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood their most action of the season. Richardson and Norwood combined for 5 targets last week. Both Wilson and Coach Carroll have stated that they hope to get both of these receivers more involved this week, but I am interested to see if they use them to accentuate their specific abilities. Could Richardson be used on fly sweeps and bubble screens much like how Percy Harvin was used? I think it is definitely possible. Could we see Wilson try to stretch the field and let Norwood use his size as an advantage to catch deep balls? I think Wilson may look Norwood’s direction deep at least once this week. If these two receivers combine for 75 or more receiving yards I think the Seahawks are in for a very successful day through the air.

At the end of last week’s game the Seahawks dialed up the pressure on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton and it worked like a charm in preserving the victory. This week the Seahawks defense needs to stick to that blueprint. At home in 2014 the Seahawks have averaged just over 1.5 sacks per game. This number must improve. After three home games last season the Seahawks averaged just above 2.5 sacks per game. Expect to see Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright blitz on early downs this week and keep an eye on Wright who will be back starting at outside linebacker. If Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr has time inside the pocket it will be interesting to see how his reads progress in the middle of the field. The Seahawks will start rookie Brock Coyle at middle linebacker this week, who has seen little playing time on defense this season. Coyle is a solid tackler who tries to get in on every play but he has a long way to go to challenge for Bobby Wagner’s permanent starting job. It is not unreasonable to think Carr will try to throw short passes in the middle of the field to test Coyle and if Carr can catch the Seahawks off-guard, those passes could turn into large chunks of yards for the Raiders.

There is one major thing the Seahawks absolutely cannot do this week; overlook the Raiders. The Raiders may be 0-7, they may be the worst team in the NFL on paper, but there may be potential for this being a trap game. Remember what happened when the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into CenturyLink Field last season? The 12th Man thought we would just roll right over them. Instead, the Buccaneers jumped out to a stunning 21-0 lead putting all Seahawks fans on edge. The Seahawks cannot play relaxed this week and the fans must be just as loud and intense this week as our other games this season. The Raiders have only lost two games so far this season by more than two scores, including two close games against AFC powers New England and San Diego. Oakland will absolutely get up for this week’s game, the question is will the Seahawks force them to sit right back down or will Oakland be able to put up a legitimate fight.

This week is a very special game for me. One of my best friends, Josh Gabel, is a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan. For the past several years I have taken him to every Raiders/Seahawks preseason game but we have never had the opportunity to see our teams play each other in the regular season. There may be no better person I know to give an in-depth analysis of the Oakland Raiders than Josh. Instead of me giving you a paragraph on the Raiders and giving you an “X-Factor player to watch” this week I have instead invited Josh to be a guest contributor in this week’s preview. Here is what Josh has to say about his Raiders, along with what he is looking for in this week’s game:

At 0-7, the Oakland Raiders head to Seattle in the midst of a 13 game losing streak and an all but assured 11th consecutive non-winning season. A trip to the Clink sure doesn’t seem to be the solution to the Raiders’ woes. After two years of salary cap hell, Oakland brought in proven winners and recognizable (albeit past-their prime) names – guys like defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew – but have yet to see a return on their investment. With 13 new starters on both sides of the ball, this group has failed to mesh, costing head coach Dennis Allen his job and leaving general manager Reggie McKenzie’s future beyond this season in doubt.

The O in Oakland has gone missing so far in 2014. The Raiders offense is putting up a meager 15.0 PPG, which is good for 31st in the league. Many of these struggles can be traced to an unwillingness to run the ball.  Oakland is averaging only 69.6 rushing yards per game, which should be attributed more play-calling than ineffectiveness. Despite Darren McFadden’s respectable 4.0 yards per carry, Oakland passes 67% of the time. On a team with no playmakers at the skill positions (save for the occasional Andre Holmes highlight), passing the ball at such a high rate is a recipe for losing. Rookies Derek Carr (leads all rookie QBs in passing yards, TDs, and QB Rating) & Gabe Jackson (7 starts on a top 5 pass blocking offensive line) along with the aforementioned Holmes are bright spots for the team’s future. The coaching staff may trust Carr with the keys to the offense, but Oakland will continue to stall without a commitment to the run. Things don’t get much better on the other side of the ball.

Oakland is near the bottom of the league in nearly every defensive category. They can’t stop the run (130.1 YPG) or get after the QB (7 sacks, tied for 29th). With all of the money McKenzie gave to Tuck, Woodley, and Antonio Smith, it is very disappointing to see such a lack of production. The lone bright spot on this defense is that number 5 overall pick Khalil Mack has lived up to his high draft so far, but not necessarily as expected. Coming out of the University of Buffalo, Mack was known being a disruptive force behind the line of scrimmage. Though Mack has yet to register a sack, he has been credited with 22 QB pressures and is Pro Football Focus’ highest rated linebacker against the run, with 8.5 tackles for a loss. It will be interesting to see if Mack can down Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. With the offense struggling, the Raiders defense has to get off the field more; Oakland is tied for last in the league on 3rd down, giving up a 48% conversion rate. The Raiders have to find a way to pressure Russell Wilson without losing containment, a task that is much easier said than done.

Whether it’s “Play like Carcass for Marcus [Mariota]” or (my preference) “Down the Pooper for [Amari] Cooper”, Raiders fans are looking forward to May’s draft earlier than ever before. A win in Seattle would do wonders for Reggie McKenzie’s future as head of football decisions. Is it likely? No. But, rest assured, Sunday is going to feel like a good old fashioned AFC West showdown.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants this week. Oakland will sport their classic white jersey/silver pants combo… Kevin Harlan will provide the play-by-play and former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon will provide the color commentary for CBS this week… Ed Hochuli and his gigantic biceps will do the officiating this week… This will be the first “cold” home game of the season. I recommend sweatshirts and jeans… Two reminders for the 12’s this week. First remember this weekend is daylight savings time. Turn your clocks back one hour and get an extra hour of sleep. Second, remember this week is a 1:25pm kickoff. Give yourself a little extra time to get to the stadium but shame on you if you are not in your seats by kickoff… Given the circumstances of this special Raiders/Seahawks regular season matchup, we have a full slate ahead of us on Sunday. Tentative schedule includes McDonald’s breakfast, being at the bar around the time they open between 8 and 8:30, the game, then dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s going to be a great day… Walter Jones will become the 11th Seahawk to be inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor. The ceremony will take place at halftime. What is interesting is that Jones will be the first player to have his number retired BEFORE having his name put in the Ring of Honor. This is the first Ring of Honor ceremony I will get to be a part of since I became a season ticket holder in 2006 (Cortez Kennedy Was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2006 but I was unable to attend the game). This season the Seahawks have had a pattern of having a 12th Man Flag raiser that is somehow associated to the opposing team or opposing city. With the Raiders in town I expect a former Seahawk from the 1980’s to raise the flag this week. I have no specific guess though… With a win the Seahawks will close out the first half of the season with a 5-3 record.

Prediction: Honestly, I see the Seahawks rolling in this game. Oakland may be able to keep it close in the first half but Seattle will eventually run away with this game. Marshawn Lynch will run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Russell Wilson will add two passing touchdowns and the Seahawks defense will force 3 Raiders turnovers. The Seahawks will get to 5-3 and we will get ready to face the New York Giants next week.

Seahawks 33, Raiders 14

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