Review: Seahawks 29, 49ers 13

22 Nov
49ers review 2015 #2

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What a way to kick off the push towards a wild-card berth. The Seahawks were fueled by rookie power on Sunday en route to an impressive 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The win gives the Seahawks a 5-5 record and sole possession of second place in the NFC West. The 49ers fall to 3-7 and sit in last place in the division. Here are the bullet points I took out of today’s win.

Offensive Impact: In regards to his statistical presence it has been a “boom or bust” rookie season for receiver Tyler Lockett. Seahawks fans have been waiting for him to break out on offense and he finally made a significant impact in today’s game. Lockett caught 4 passes for 48 yards and also caught two touchdowns. The first of his touchdowns was the more impressive score. On first down the Seahawks used a 5 receiver set and out of the shotgun Russell Wilson connected with Lockett on the outside for a 24-yard touchdown. What was noteworthy about this formation and this touchdown was the Lockett looked to be Wilson’s first read. Wilson had the confidence that Lockett would run his route and get separation on his way to the endzone and Wilson trusted his first look. All three of Lockett’s receiving touchdowns this season have come against the 49ers, but hopefully his performance this week will propel him to more consistent production on offense for the rest of the year.

The Future: When I checked the list of Seahawks inactive players before the game I was surprised to see Marshawn Lynch’s name on it. Although listed as questionable, his presence on the field last week combined with no report that his physical condition had worsened led me to believe that he would be available against San Francisco. Instead Thomas Rawls got the bulk of the work and boy did he make his presence known. Rawls carried 30 times for 209 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 3 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. This adds up to 255 all-purpose yards. His 209 yards rushing also set a Seahawks franchise record for rushing yards in a single game by a rookie. Rawls’ mark broke Curt Warner’s rookie record of 207 rushing yards set in 1983. After today’s game rumors started circulating that the Marshawn Lynch era may end after this season. Right now I tend to agree. Like I said after Rawls ran for 169 yards against Cincinnati six weeks ago, we have found the heir apparent to Lynch. The fact that Rawls has three 100-plus yard games and is the team’s leading rusher after making only three starts should speak for itself. The future is definitely bright with Thomas Rawls lined up behind Russell Wilson.

Thoughts on San Francisco: I challenge you to go on the 49ers website and listen to five minutes of any Jim Tomsula press conference. The man sounds like he is in way over his head and the team he is coaching also plays like they are in way over their heads. The longer this season drags on the more likely it feels that Tomsula will be fired after just his first year.  With Colin Kaepernick on injured reserve it is also likely his 49ers career is over. If I’m 49ers CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke I am strongly considering tearing this roster down and rebuilding. It would not surprise me to see the San Francisco 49ers struggle for the next few seasons.

Random Thoughts: Breakfast at Lil Jon’s in Bellevue hit the spot. A cinnamon roll and a side of bacon was the perfect amount of food… Hawks Nest was awesome before the game and it didn’t get too crowded and stuffy. Got there plenty early and was able to grab a table so that helped… Randy Johnson raising the 12 Flag was perfect. He got a fantastic ovation and it was great to see him being honored in Seattle once more considering he entered the baseball hall of fame not as a Mariner but as an Arizona Diamondback… Thought I was playing against Tyler Lockett in fantasy this week. It took me until after Lockett’s second touchdown to notice that my opponent actually substituted Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess in for Lockett before the game. Caught a break there. To make things even sweeter Thomas Rawls got me 34.5 points… I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

What’s Next: With Thanksgiving on Thursday I will publish game #3 of my #10for10 series on Wednesday, a day earlier than normal. Next week is the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting nine years for. Look for my preview of next week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

49ers/Seahawks Preview

21 Nov
49ers preview 2015 #2

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is amazing to think how far this rivalry has fallen in a mere 24 months. Two years ago these two teams were arguably the two best teams in football, battling for not only the NFC West division title but for supremacy in the National Football Conference. We now sit here in November of 2015 and our matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers is a game that will be largely overlooked by the entire country, possibly for good reason. The Seahawks sit at 4-5, needing a win to avoid being virtually eliminated from playoff contention altogether. The 49ers are 3-6, and have not improved since these two teams met four weeks ago in Santa Clara. In fact San Francisco’s season has gone so far south that head coach Jim Tomsula has benched franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 19-15. Here is what to watch for on Sunday.

Patrick Lewis will start his second consecutive game at center on Sunday. I believe that our running game and Russell Wilson’s ability to find open receivers (as evidenced from the first time we played San Francisco) will be fine as long as we can control the tempo; something we were not able to do last week. My primary focus on offense this week will be how well the offensive line blocks. After making small progress in prior week’s our offensive line regressed significantly against Arizona last week. Along with the inability to protect Russell Wilson we were also called for numerous holding penalties which did not allow us to do what we wanted to do in the offensive game plan. What I would like to see this week is for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to put together a game plan that can take the pressure off the offensive line. The Seahawks have played 10 games and it should be obvious that we cannot have Wilson drop back five or more steps, have the time to go through his progressions, and make confident throws down the field. I would like to see more read option as well as quick passes and screens against the mediocre 49ers defense. Putting each play in Marshawn Lynch’s hands or in the hands of the receivers close to the line of scrimmage will help our offense thrive in this matchup.

The Seahawks lost outside linebacker Bruce Irvin to a sprained MCL late in last Sunday’s loss and he will not play in this game. My focus on defense will be how we replace Irvin both in coverage and in pass rushing situations. Mike Morgan will likely start in his place and play the majority of the snaps. Look for Morgan’s main contribution to be in pass coverage. On third down head coach Pete Carroll said this week that Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will see expanded snaps in place of Irvin. With both of these players defensive ends, it would not surprise me to see the Seahawks play more of a “52” defense with five defensive linemen. If the Seahawks can sack Blaine Gabbert at least three times I think our defense will but us in good shape to win the game.

The San Francisco 49ers look like a completely different team on offense from the unit we saw back on October 22nd. As I previously mentioned Colin Kaepernick has been benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Two weeks ago Gabbert was able to do just enough to squeak out an impressive upset victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Gabbert at quarterback, starting running back Carlos Hyde has been sidelined with a foot injury. Two weeks ago the 49ers used a running back by committee system. Shaun Draughn saw the majority of carries against Atlanta while Kendall Gaskins got the goal line carries. These two backs will likely split time again if Hyde does not play. One thing to always keep an eye on is which skill position players are favorited by which quarterbacks. My X-Factor Player to Watch is a guy who is favorited by Blaine Gabbert, tight end Garrett Celek. According to the official 49ers depth chart following the trade of Vernon Davis to Denver the starting tight end is now Vance McDonald. Celek however was the offensive star of Gabbert’s first and only start of the season. He caught both of his only targets for 12 yards but both were also touchdown catches. Given the Seattle defense’s ineffectiveness in covering tight ends down the seam it would make sense for Celek to see a fair share of targets if the 49ers can drive the ball deep into Seahawks territory. Celek will be Gabbert’s favorite target in red zone situations.

Commentary on Russell Wilson: There has been talk over the past week about the recent performance and perception of Russell Wilson. Some have blasted his bye week vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend Ciara. The idea of whether or not Wilson is a “tool” was also debated on local sports radio. Seriously. Here are my thoughts on all this noise. Wilson came to Seattle as a 3rd round pick and had to earn his spot as our starting quarterback with Matt Flynn presumably already our starter. His performance during training camp and the 2012 preseason earned him the job. Three years later he is the winningest quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history and has led the Seahawks to three playoff appearances, two conference championships and one world championship. So what’s the problem? I believe, fair or unfair, that his work ethic was so intense and admirable that it became the expectation. What I believe we are seeing now is Wilson taking his foot only the slightest bit off of the gas in regards to his daily routines and because he is not seemingly spending every waking moment in the film room like he may have been doing in seasons past if feels like he is being punished by Seahawks fans who are ready to blame Wilson for our 4-5 record. I just do not believe that this is fair. Would I had loved to see Wilson use the bye week to stay in Seattle, get healthy, and use the extra time to prepare even more intensely for the Arizona game? Absolutely. But the man is human after all and I believe he has been overly criticized for how he spent his week off.

Random Thoughts: All blue everything for the Seahawks on Sunday. The 49ers will sport white jerseys and gold pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber have the call for FOX this week. This is the first Seahawks game Myers will do play-by-play for since week 17 of the 2013 season. I believe when the schedule came out this game was going to be “America’s Game of the Week” with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman but because San Francisco and Seattle is not a nationally appealing matchup anymore, combined with the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings playing host to the 6-3 Green Bay Packers at the same time we play, we are stuck with Myers and Barber. To those watching on television I am sorry. It is going to be a brutal game to watch… This week’s referee is none other than Ed Hochuli… The annual wiener dog races is the halftime show! It is probably the only halftime show I enjoy watching… There’s also a giveaway this week! “We Are 12” gloves. Those will certainly come in handy as the game-time temperature is predicted to be in the low 40’s… Breakfast in Bellevue and pregaming at the Hawks Nest for the first time since week 3. Out of the house by 7:15am.

Prediction: This week will be a domination that could springboard the Seahawks into a run towards a wild-card spot. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns; one to Jermaine Kearse and one to Tyler Lockett. San Francisco will struggle so bad that Blaine Gabbert will be benched in the third quarter in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will lead a garbage time scoring drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. The Seahawks will go to 5-5 and head into the Thanksgiving weekend happy.

Seahawks 31, 49ers 10

#10for10 Game #4: Beast Quake (Seahawks vs. Saints, 2010 NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

19 Nov

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

Marshawn Lynch

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There are many reasons why I love playoff football but one of those reasons is very unique to me. My birthday falls during the first part of January, and it has been proven possible that NFL playoff games can fall on my birthday, January 8th. It happened on my 15th birthday, a 27-20 Wild-Card loss to the St. Louis Rams. Six years later it happened again, this time on my 21st birthday. What better way to ring in my alcohol legality by enjoying Seahawks playoff football? I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach he led the Seahawks to a 7-9 record; a two game improvement from the previous season but due to an extremely weak division and a win over St. Louis in the final week of the season dubbed the “NFC West Championship,” the 2010 Seahawks became the first team in modern NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record.

10for10 79pride

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We were the 2010 NFC West champions which guaranteed us a home playoff game. Our opponent? The 11-5, defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

After a night of drinking with my then-girlfriend Lisa the night before, game day started a little on the slow side. We left her apartment in the U-District relatively early for a 1:30pm kickoff and stopped for a coffee at the international district Starbucks. We happened to run into my dad and my dad’s friend Steve at Starbucks and they graciously offered to take us out to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch before the game to celebrate my birthday. I distinctly remember that we were seated and I immediately put my hungover head down on the table to rest. After assuring the waitress that I was in no mood for a beer, I ordered fish and chips and she then brought me two glasses of water. Lunch was not particularly noteworthy, however I did excuse myself twice to answer a couple of different phone calls from family and friends wishing me a happy 21st birthday. After lunch Lisa and I headed into the stadium.

One of the disadvantages of drinking in or around the stadium is that the bars and concession workers do not accept vertical driver’s licenses. Because of this fact Lisa had to order my first legal beer inside the stadium, something that still irks me to this day but it is what it is. We ran into my friend Ned at his seats on the lower level during pregame warmups and after a brief chat we headed up to my seats. I may not have had a more epic rally in my life. In a mere 5 hours I went from hungover to “ready to party it’s game time” mode. By kickoff I physically felt great!

The Seahawks offense was introduced as 67,000 fans waved their white rally towels; a scene that still gives me goosebumps when the Seahawks give away rally towels. Walter Jones raised the 12th Man flag and as kickoff approached I prayed the Seahawks could pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. I did not expect a win to be honest, but I knew that we always have a shot to win when we play at home. The start of the game went pretty much how fans across the country thought it would. The Saints took their opening drive down into red zone and settled for a field goal. After an interception by Matt Hasselbeck (which was deflected mind you), the Saints found the endzone when Drew Brees hit fullback Heath Evans for a 1-yard touchdown pass. We were not even 9 minutes into the game and the Saints already had a 10-0 lead. Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy pulled the entire defense together after this touchdown and told them how important it was for them to stick together. It was at this point that the momentum started to shift.

The next Seahawks possession took the ball down to the New Orleans 11-yard line. On 1st and 10 Matt Hasselbeck fired a play-action pass down the seam which was caught by tight end John Carlson for a touchdown. The score cut the Saints lead to 10-7 and the energy from the fans had fully returned. The Saints would not be denied on their next possession however, leading to a short touchdown run by Julius Jones which re-gave New Orleans a 10 point lead. The next Seattle drive featured a 39-yard fade from Hasselbeck to Cameron Morrah. On the very next play Hasselbeck found an uncovered Carlson in the endzone for his second touchdown of the game. The Saints led 17-14 but it was clear the Seahawks were going to be able to be competitive, so long as they could go blow-for-blow with the most explosive offense in the league. The way New Orleans was playing on defense, we in the stands believed it was going to be possible.

After a Seahawks field goal tied the game 17-17, the Seahawks got the ball back and were driving late in the first half. With 1:23 left in the half Hasselbeck connected with wide receiver Brandon Stokley for a 45-yard touchdown. The score gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game, 24-17, and Lisa and I along with everyone else around us went crazy. It felt as if  the common narrative in the stands was “we thought we could be competitive but actually take a lead??!! I cannot believe this is happening!”

The Seahawks got the ball to start the second half and immediately extended their lead. Hasselbeck connected with Mike Williams on yet another long bomb and the Seahawks suddenly had a 31-20 lead. After a mediocre regular season and dealing with a broken wrist, Matt Hasselbeck was having the game of his life. It was his finest hour in his final home game as a Seahawk. The scoring continued on our next drive as an Olindo Mare field goal extended our lead to 34-20.

A 34-20 lead in 2015 would probably mean the end of this game but unfortunately the Legion of Boom was two or three years late to this party. Two punts led to 10 New Orleans points and with 9:16 left in the game the Seahawks lead was down to 34-30. The Seahawks punted the ball back to the Saints with 5:36 left and the Saints had to drive 94 yards to score touchdown and take the lead back. I distinctly remember the game going into a television timeout and they played a pump up video on the video screens. It was a video that synced select Seahawks players and clips of the fans screaming to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” (something that has since become a Seahawks playoff tradition for select playoff games). This fired up the 12th Man to a level that had not been seen or heard at any point during the game. With an ultra-motivated crowd the Saints did nothing on their next drive, punting the ball back to Seattle with 4:20 left to play. All the Seahawks need to do was score a touchdown to virtually seal the upset. What happened next earned this game a spot on my #10for10 list.

After running back Marshawn Lynch was stopped for no gain, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called the now-famous play, “17 Power.” Hasselbeck snapped the ball, turned around and handed to Lynch who somehow escaped 4 tackles at the line of scrimmage, and two more in the second level of the New Orleans defense. Lynch was off to the races. After shedding a fifth tackle, he delivered the nastiest stiff arm I have ever seen to Tracy Porter which launched Porter five yards backwards. It was at this point I thought Lynch could go all the way. After shedding a seventh tackle he cut it back inside and he had a clear path to the endzone. During the entire run the stands were going crazy and after Lynch stiff armed Porter I held on to Lisa on my left while grabbing at the two guys sitting in front of me. As soon as Lynch cut it back inside I knew he was going to score. I did not see him cross the goal line and I did not see him do his now-famous “hold mah dick” because I ran up the stairs on the aisle, waving my arms in exhilaration. I high-fived and hugged probably about 20 or more people and upon running back down the stairs back to my seat Lisa had a look in her eyes and an expression on her face I will never forget; a look of “you are absolutely crazy.” It was later revealed that this touchdown run was recorded as seismic activity close by the stadium and will forever be known as “Beast Quake;” the defining run of Marshawn Lynch’s career. The score gave the Seahawks a 41-30 lead and with 3:22 left in the game we all now believed we would be victorious.

10for10 holdmahdick

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The Saints were able to drive down the field and score which cut the lead to 41-36 but New Orleans could not successfully execute the following onside kick. The Seahawks ran out the clock and the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks had remarkably punched their ticket to the NFC Divisional playoffs. I remember the fans stuck around for a while after the game and as the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” blared over the sound system on repeat, Lisa and I embraced for what felt like forever. To this day this is probably my most memorable birthday ever, and there is no question it rightfully deserves a place on this countdown.

Review: Cardinals 39, Seahawks 32

15 Nov
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I will keep this brief because I will probably just get angrier and more frustrated the more I type. After getting off to an embarrassingly slow start the Seahawks found a way to come back and take a lead late in the game. The Seahawks unfortunately squandered the opportunity to put the Arizona Cardinals away. Penalties kept Arizona drives alive late and the Cardinals came away with a 39-32 win over the Seahawks. The win is Arizona’s second win in Seattle in a three year span. The victory also gives the Cardinals a 7-2 record and a three game lead in the NFC West, which is essentially a four game lead if you count the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks. Seattle falls to 4-5 and has lost a fourth quarter lead in an NFL record six consecutive losses dating back to Super Bowl XLIX. After building momentum in our last two games, everything seemed to unravel. Here is what I took out of this game.

Penalties the Primary Culprit: The Seahawks committed 14 penalties for a staggering 131 yards and not only were some of them inopportune, but the holding penalties on our offensive line were the foundation of our horrible first half of football. At the start of three of our first 4 drives the Seahawks were called for offensive holding. Two of those drives resulted in punts and one resulted in a Cardinals safety. On the ensuing Arizona possessions the Cardinals scored each time, jumping out to an early 19-0 lead. These penalties took the juice right out of the Seahawks offense for pretty much the entire night. If it wasn’t for our defense the Seahawks would have been dead in the water. Unfortunately the penalty bug came back to bite Seattle in the butt again twice in the fourth quarter.

The first call came on 3rd and 4 from the Seattle 39. With the Seahawks clinging onto a 29-25 lead, Carson Palmer threw left intended for Brittan Golden and it fell incomplete which would have brought up 4th down and forced Arizona to punt. Instead free safety Earl Thomas was called for illegal contact which gave the Cardinals a fresh set of downs. Five plays later Palmer threw deep in the direction of Golden again which fell incomplete. Instead of 4th and 10 and a short punt or long field goal attempt coming, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was called for a very ticky-tacky illegal contact penalty, giving the Cardinals yet another first down. Two plays later Arizona took the lead for good on a touchdown pass from Palmer to tight end Jermaine Gresham (which looked to be the same play Seattle was burned on against both Cincinnati and Carolina). Take either of those two penalties away and the Seahawks may have escaped with the win.

From Munster to Swiss: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was kept completely clean in our last game against Dallas. The performance two weeks ago from our offensive line led many including myself to believe that we were making steady progress and that our chemistry was finally coming together. This notion took several giant steps backwards on Sunday Night. Wilson was sacked only twice but was consistently under pressure. It never felt like he had a clean pocket to work from. Wilson’s protection correlates directly to his production; 14/32 (43.7 completion percentage), one touchdown, and one interception. Proper credit goes to Arizona’s pass rush for being able to penetrate the line of scrimmage so effectively but matters along the offensive line must go back all the way to the meeting rooms early this upcoming week. I am running out of things to talk about in regards to this position group. The long and short of it is this, we simply do not have the talent to be able to adequately protect the quarterback on a consistent basis.

The Positives: Our defense deserves a lot of credit for forcing three Cardinals turnovers, two of which lead to touchdowns. The defensive player of the game goes to Cliff Avril who recorded three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss, and one sack. The resiliency our defense showed in the second half leaves me feeling remotely optimistic going forward. On offense Doug Baldwin did a great job getting separation down the field. Baldwin finished the night with 7 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Those catch and yardage marks are season highs for Baldwin.

Thoughts on Arizona: I knew it. You hopefully knew it. Knowledgeable football fans around the country hopefully knew it too. In a primetime atmosphere, up against the 12th Man, and against Seattle’s defense it was going to be difficult for Arizona to come away victorious. However they were still looked at by some as favorites to win this game. They came into town and took care of business. I hate to say it but Arizona is the superior team in the division and may be the team to beat for supremacy in the NFC. Barring a 2014-style injury barrage and subsequent collapse the Arizona Cardinals will win the NFC West in 2015. If they can keep winning and earn at least a first round bye in the playoffs we may be seeing these birds in Santa Clara come February.

Random Thoughts: Even though it was surprisingly sunny it was very cold on Sunday night. Probably the coldest I’ve been during a game for at least a few years… A word to the wise, always drink THEN eat. If you do it in reverse like I did on Sunday you will feel sick… Fun to share my pictures and stories from my trips to San Francisco and Dallas with the people around me. It makes me smile that they remembered I told them I was going and sincerely cared about hearing of my adventures… The Seahawks defense allowed 39 points for the first time since December 12th, 2010. That’s crazy.

What’s Next: The #4 game of my #10for10 series will be published on Thursday. Look out for my preview of next week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

14 Nov
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Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

What a way to kick off the second half of the season. There is little doubt that this game is the biggest game of our season thus far, given the opponent and the potential implications of winning or losing. In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks host the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. After two straight wins heading into the bye the Seahawks sit at 4-4. The Arizona Cardinals have jumped out of the gate to a 6-2 start and hold a two game lead on Seattle for the division lead. The all-time series with the Cardinals is tied 16-16. The Seahawks have won their last two games against Arizona including a 35-6 walloping of the Cardinals in week 16 last season to take control of the NFC West lead. The Cardinals are a tough opponent and have recent history of beating the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field so this game is certainly no gimme. Here is what I will be watching for on Sunday night.

The common narrative heading into this game has been the Seahawks lack of efficiency in the red zone so far this season. In our first 8 games the Seahawks have taken 18 drives into the red zone. Of those drives, half of them have resulted in field goals and only 5 have resulted in touchdowns. The last Seahawks red zone touchdown came on Marshawn Lynch’s one yard run in the first quarter against San Francisco two weeks ago. Our red zone touchdown percentage of 27.8 is the worst in the league. Seattle also only averages just over two visits to the red zone per game; also dead last in the league. The Seahawks need to capitalize on our trips deep into Arizona territory. Settling for field goals will make it tougher on us especially later on in the game. With the improving play of our offensive line, expect quarterback Russell Wilson to have more confidence throwing towards key red zone targets Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse. If Marshawn Lynch can also get going to extend drives the Seahawks will be in fantastic shape.

The Arizona Cardinals have a very good passing game, oftentimes using three or more receivers. On defense this week for the Seahawks I am looking at what our personnel will look like when we use nickel or dime packages, and just how often will we use at least 5 guys in the secondary. Of course the Seahawks are well known for playing a “cover 3” defense but given the talent Arizona has at the receiver position it may be necessary for DeShawn Shead or Marcus Burley to play more. Playing an extra member of the Legion of Boom may work to our advantage, especially if we can confuse Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in coverage. Forcing interceptions may be difficult this week though. Palmer has thrown over three times as many touchdowns as he has interceptions. Sacks may also come at a premium, as the Cardinals offensive line has done a great job protecting their quarterback. Arizona has surrendered only 11 sacks so far, an average of 1.4 sacks per game.

On offense the Arizona Cardinals have two of the most explosive units in football. The signing of running back Chris Johnson has propelled the Cardinals to the 9th best rushing unit in the league. My focus this week will be on Arizona’s fourth ranked passing offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Arizona averages 292 passing yards per game, and 66.3 percent of Palmer’s completions have been caught by the three headed monster of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd. My X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight will be on Fitzgerald this week as his role is the most interesting in my eye. Fitzgerald leads all Arizona receivers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The majority of Fitzgerald’s time however has been spent in the slot rather than on the outside. This is where a fifth Seahawks defender will come into play; to help cover Fitzgerald in the middle of the field. Fitzgerald catching passes means the Cardinals will be moving the ball in small chunks while tiring out the Seahawks defense at the same time.

Although Arizona leads the NFC West and they have good talent on the defensive side of the ball, after watching film I still consider this unit to be a “poor mans” Seahawks defense. The Cardinals are using the Seahawks blueprint to create their defense and it is working. The pass rush continues to be exceptional with Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, and Dwight Freeney. Linebacker Kevin Minter has great range as he is the second best tackler on the team and also leads all Arizona defenders in tackles for loss. What scares me the most though is the play of the Cardinals secondary. Patrick Peterson continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in football. Tyrann Mathieu is probably their most versatile defender doing everything from rushing the passer to playing in deep coverage. If there is one defender to watch it is strong safety Deone Bucannon. In his second year out of Washington State, Bucannon has gone from reserve safety to the leading tackler on the team with 56 through their first 8 games. Bucannon is a hard hitter in coverage and also displays impressing ball-hawking skills. If the Seahawks throw deep do not be surprised to hear Bucannon’s name on the broadcast.

Random Thoughts: With the aura of primetime football comes a primetime broadcast crew. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call on NBC. Michele Tafoya will report on both teams from the sideline. The Seahawks will wear all-navy and the Cardinals will likely wear white jerseys and white pants. I highly doubt we will see Arizona break out the red pants… Clete Blakeman is this week’s referee… Ah finally; primetime football after daylight savings time. It will be dark. It will be loud. It will be the most bonkers atmosphere of the 2015 season. I cannot wait… The game theme is military appreciation. 91-year old Corporal Clayton Pitre will raise the 12 flag prior to kickoff… No bars this week since I’m taking my dad. Lunch downtown then probably either Pyramid or Safeco Field for pregame beers most likely so that should be a nice little change of pace… This game is the biggest game because of the possible ramifications. A win and the Seahawks are one game behind Arizona and our hopes of a division title remain intact. A loss means we are three games behind Arizona, they will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and we can virtually kiss our chances at a division title goodbye. We will be solely focused on a Wild-Card berth if we lose this game and I am not ready to turn my attention to the 5 or 6 seed. A loss is not acceptable.

Prediction: In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 9-0 in primetime with a combined score of 245-94. I do not expect this game to be a blowout but I also do not expect a loss at home in primetime. Russell Wilson will be sacked 4 times but will make two deep throws to set up Marshawn Lynch touchdown runs. Carson Palmer will throw for one touchdown, Chandler Catanzaro will kick a field goal and the Arizona defense will also add a safety. In the end however, Steven Hauschka will kick two fourth quarter field goals and the Seahawks will win their third straight game, improving their record to 5-4.

Seahawks 24, Cardinals 12

#10for10 Game #5: Romo’s Botched Snap (Seahawks vs. Cowboys, 2006 NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

12 Nov

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

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By the time the 2006 postseason rolled around, playoff games at Qwest Field started to become a surefire thing. Add in the fact that the Seahawks had made it to the Super Bowl the year before, a trip to the 2006 NFL Playoffs was surely a guarantee. What was disappointing however, was how the Seahawks 2006 regular season played out. After winning 13 games and earning home-field advantage in 2005, the Seahawks battled injuries and lost several hard-fought games in 2006 resulting in a 9-7 record. Thanks to a very weak NFC West, we won the division title but were the 4 seed in the playoffs. The Seahawks were going to host an NFC Wild-Card playoff game and on Saturday, January 6th, 2007 we took on the 5 seeded Dallas Cowboys.

Once we clinched the division in week 16 I immediately knew who I was going to invite to this playoff game. My friend Brent had never been to an NFL football game so what could be better than making your first ever game a playoff game? We discussed our plan for game day at school every day the week leading up to the game.

Kickoff was scheduled for 5pm and Brent and I headed downtown rather early. We got down to the stadium around 12:30 and we hung out at Touchdown City in the stadium event center until the Qwest Field gates opened at 2. We were two of the first fans in line and once the gates opened we headed straight to the upper deck. It remains the earliest I had arrived at my seats for any game since I became a season ticket holder and we filled the time walking around and taking pictures. As a couple of 16-year old kids, it did not matter how early we arrived. We didn’t need to tailgate or hang out at the bars (even though we legally couldn’t). Just being inside the stadium and in the atmosphere of a building about to host playoff football, that was more than enough to the both of us.

Brent and I entered the stadium three hours early and were two of the first people in line at the gates.

Brent and I entered the stadium three hours early and were two of the first people in line at the gates.

As the sun went down, the stadium started to fill up and by the time it was dark it was time for football.

The Seahawks and Cowboys exchanged field goals in the first quarter, and after another Josh Brown field goal for the Seahawks, the Cowboys responded with a long touchdown drive culminating in a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. Dallas took a 10-6 lead into the locker room but it seemed as though an entirely different Seahawks team emerged from the halftime break. The highlight of the first half was when Romo threw over the middle to his intended receiver, superstar Terrell Owens. Owens was running a crossing route. The ball hit him right in the hands and was dropped. The crowd erupted into cheers and in our area of the stadium the chant “T.O. SUCKS” started. The cheer started to move around the stadium just like how “the wave” moves around, and within a matter of seconds all 67,000-plus fans in attendance were chanting “T.O. SUCKS” in unison. The cheer was so loud it could be clearly heard on the television broadcast.

The 12th Man had not been given one huge play to go crazy for until the third quarter. The Seahawks were driving on their opening possession of the half and had moved the ball into the red zone looking to take the lead. Matt Hasselbeck faked a handoff to Shaun Alexander and fired a pass down the middle to Jerramy Stevens. Stevens caught the pass and crossed the goal line for a touchdown. The score gave the Seahawks a 13-10 lead with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter. The fans really got fired up but that momentum was gone in a heartbeat. On the ensuing kickoff Dallas kick returner Miles Austin returned the kick 93 yards for a touchdown. The score gave the Cowboys the lead right back and just like that it was 17-13 Dallas. The fourth quarter scoring started with a Martin Gramatica field goal extending the Cowboys lead to 20-13. The Seahawks needed to orchestrate a comeback but things looked bleak when the Cowboys got the ball back inside their own 5-yard line with just over 6 and a half minutes left in regulation. This is when the game completely changed.

Romo fired a bubble screen to Terry Glenn but the ball was jarred out of his grasp by rookie cornerback Kelly Jennings and bounced into the end zone. The Seahawks looked to have recovered the ball inbounds for a touchdown but upon review it was determined that Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom had touched the ball with one foot out of bounds. Instead of a touchdown, the Seahawks were awarded a safety. The score was now 20-15 Cowboys with the Seahawks about to get the ball back again. Hasselbeck found Stevens once again for a 37-yard touchdown and even though we failed to convert the two-point conversion, the Seahawks had taken the lead back, 21-20.

It came down to one last stop. If the Seahawks could prevent the Cowboys from scoring on their final drive, the Seahawks would move on to the NFC Divisional playoffs. Our chances looked extremely grim when Dallas successfully moved the ball all the way to the Seattle one-yard line. Facing a 4th down with 1:20 left in the game, all that stood in the Cowboys way of their first playoff victory since 1996 was a chip-shot 19-yard field goal attempt. The snap was perfect and as Tony Romo moved his hands to spot the ball, the ball slipped right out of his hands. Brent and I had a crystal clear view of the entire play unfolding directly in front of us. I saw the ball slip out of his hands but in the heat of the moment, I was naïve enough for a split second to think the Cowboys had called some sort of trick play. As Romo got up flustered and tried to run the ball in it was clear this was not a trick, but a simple field goal try gone horribly wrong. As Romo ran around the left side, he was being chased by Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux tripped him up short of the line to gain and Romo fell to the ground. To me it looked as if someone had tied Romo’s shoes together and he fell on his face after trying to get up and walk.

When Romo hit the ground we went crazy. I remember jumping up and down, jostling with Brent in the process while screaming “WE’RE GOING TO THE DIVISIONALS! WE’RE GOING TO THE DIVISIONALS!” We could not believe that such a simple play could go so wrong. We were elated but the game was not yet over. The Seahawks tried to run out the clock but after a punt, enough time was left for one last play for the Cowboys. With the ball at the 50-yard line the only play the Cowboys could run was a Hail Mary. After buying some time to let his receivers get positioned in the endzone, Romo flung up a prayer but the pass was batted down. The crowd erupted into one last cheer and the Seahawks had officially punched their ticket to the next round of the playoffs.

This photo was taken seconds after the Cowboys final play of the game.

This photo was taken seconds after the Cowboys final play of the game.

The mood was complete jubilation. On the way out of the stadium we walked down the ramp, a walk that still sticks in my mind today. As we walked we joined in on a “DAL-LAS SUCKS” chant. I also happened to turn around to see the most vulgar sign I have ever seen at a sporting event; a man carrying a simple white poster board with “F**K T.O.” written in black permanent marker on it. So simple, so awesome. On the way home we listened to the post game show on 710 KIRO and all they could talk about was the final play and how the Dallas Cowboys choked so bad. For his first ever NFL game, it was a memory that was probably going to be hard for Brent to top. For me, this night still goes down as one of the best Seahawks games I have ever witnessed firsthand.

“Pre-Review”: Seahawks 13, Cowboys 12

3 Nov
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

For the first time ever on the blog I made a critically stupid mistake. I forgot to post my game preview before I left for Dallas last Friday. I am sorry to those regular readers who I could not provide pregame analysis to. Rather than posting just a review of our exhilarating 13-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, I am taking what I had written prior to the game and reflecting on my pregame analysis. That’s right. I am combining my preview with my review to make my first ever “Pre-Review.” Here is how this will work. Everything below that is in standard font is my unaltered pregame thoughts. After each paragraph I will have a bolded italicized section of review in which I reflect on what I was successful discussing and where I was off. Let’s take a look at how accurate I was at discussing this week’s game.

Success on offense for the Seahawks means one thing primarily and that is to give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch. To prevent Russell Wilson getting beat up as much as he has been so far this season, giving the ball to Lynch will take immense pressure off of the passing game. This is the week to pound the rock because Lynch is riding a wave of momentum coming off his 122 yard performance in San Francisco last week. Lynch could be poised for another big game given the lackluster performance of Dallas’s run defense. With the exception of allowing only 7 rushing yards to Philadelphia back in week 2, the Cowboys allow an average of 120 rushing yards per game. Running Russell Wilson in read-option looks will also confuse the Cowboys defense and could help us control the momentum and time of possession. If the Seahawks allow Wilson to stay in the pocket and wait to go through his progressions he will surely be putting his body at risk. If the Seahawks cannot get the run game going it could make for a very long afternoon.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 71 yards on Sunday. Although it was not his most effective day running by any means, he was still able to take pressure off of Russell Wilson. Wilson was not sacked on Sunday, marking the first time he stayed perfectly clean since Super Bowl XLVIII. Read option was once again not present this week but the protection Wilson had allowed him to step up and make key throws including his touchdown pass to Luke Willson. These throws along with a couple of huge scrambles also allowed the Seahawks to move down the field rather easily on their final drive, leading to Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal. It was not the prettiest day on offense, but we were able to do just enough to win the game.

The Cowboys still have one of the better offensive lines in the league. Dallas quarterbacks have been sacked an average of only twice per game so far this season. Just like Marshawn Lynch riding momentum running the ball, the biggest key for the Seahawks on defense is for the pass rush to ride the wave of momentum they created last week. Seattle sacked 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick 6 times last week, a season high. In Dallas we must use the same package of rushers to confuse the Cowboys offensive line and get to quarterback Matt Cassel. I believe the only way the Cowboys can be effective on offense is to move the ball through the air, especially since starting running back Joseph Randle is out with a strained oblique. If the Seahawks can get to Cassel at least three of four times the defense will have what I consider to be a successful day.

Seattle only sacked Matt Cassel once but it may have been the biggest play of the game. Bruce Irvin’s sack of Cassel on 3rd down on the Cowboys final drive of the game virtually sealed the win for the Seahawks. With Dallas needing to go about 60 yards to get into manageable field goal range to win the game, it is logical to think that Cassel could have taken four shots down the field and hope for a pass interference call or a penalty that would have given Dallas a huge chunk of yards. Fortunately the indecisiveness of Cassel allowed the Seahawks pass rush to wear down the Cowboys offensive line and Irvin was able to chase him down, creating a 4th and 16 with less than 30 seconds left. Give credit to the Cowboys offensive line but with our next three games coming at home, I expect to see huge improvement in our pass rush coming off our bye week.

There are several things to keep your eye on when the Cowboys offense is on the field. Given their quarterback situation they will surely try to establish the run with running back Darren McFadden. If the Seahawks do a good job in shutting down the Cowboys rushing attack, it will be in Matt Cassel’s best interest to throw high percentage passes instead of trying to stretch the field. The purpose for throwing short would be to limit turnovers. Matt Cassel threw 3 interceptions in New York last week, two of which traveled 20 yards or more in the air. One final thing to watch out for is how the Cowboys will use wide receiver Dez Bryant if he is active. Bryant has been recovering from a fractured foot since the first week of the season but he may be rushed back into action this week given the progress in his recovery and the desperation Dallas is feeling to save their season. I believe if he plays Bryant will primarily be used as a decoy to confuse the Legion of Boom. Do not expect Bryant to make a big impact in the passing game.

Darren McFadden had a very nice outing on Sunday. McFadden finished the day with 64 yards rushing on 20 carries and also added 49 yards receiving out of the backfield. It felt as though his performance single-handedly kept the Cowboys in the game. Dez Bryant’s production was just about what I thought it would be. Richard Sherman blanketed Bryant the entire game and he had 4 passes defensed; one of which could have been easily intercepted. Bryant finished the day with two catches for 12 yards but given Sherman’s stat line it was clear Cassel was trying to throw in Bryant’s direction often. Bryant was not a “decoy” per se, but given that the most productive receiver was Terrance Williams with 20 yards receiving just goes to show how inept the Dallas passing game was.

The Dallas Cowboys defense features some well-known names at each level.  They include defensive end Greg Hardy, linebacker and leading tackler Sean Lee, linebacker Rolando McClain, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. My focus will be on the Dallas pass rush and the middle level of their defense. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cowboys is outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens is a phenomenal tackler and also makes an impact getting to the quarterback. So far this season Hitchens has recorded 20 tackles, which is good for third on Dallas’s defense. He is also one of only four Cowboys with multiple sacks on the year. Only Hardy and defensive tackle Jack Crawford have more. Along with Hardy on the left side it is Hitchens’s presence that leads me to believe the Seahawks will throw more towards the right side of the field.

Greg Hardy gets the headlines this week because of his tipped interception. Anthony Hitchens was my X-Factor Player to Watch and he did virtually nothing this week. The only thing he was credited for was one quarterback hit on Russell Wilson. Barry Church had probably the best day of any Cowboys defender in my eyes, racking up a season-high 10 tackles.

Random Thoughts: None

Prediction: I think the Cowboys have enough fire power to keep this game close. In the end however the fact that Matt Cassel is their starting quarterback gives the overall edge to the Seahawks. Both Cassel and Russell Wilson will throw a pair of interceptions but the Seahawks running game will blow Dallas’s out of the water. Marshawn Lynch will run for 105 yards and a touchdown and Tyler Lockett will also return a punt for a touchdown. The Cowboys will play a sloppy game on both sides of the ball and will not be able to get going until late into the second half. The Seahawks will head into the bye 4-4 and will have a week off before we play the first of three straight home games to kick off the second half of the season.

Seahawks 23, Cowboys 14

As it turns out the Cowboys did have enough fire power to keep this game close and as it turns out the presence of Matt Cassel did ultimately give the edge to the Seahawks. In hindsight if Tony Romo had played in the game the Seahawks would probably have gotten blown out. The game did not turn out to be as sloppy as I predicted but once again the Seahawks won even though they lost the turnover battle 1-0. At the end of the day the Seahawks are heading into the bye with a 4-4 record and on the whole I am satisfied.


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