Archive | January, 2013

2012 Season Review: My Top Ten

17 Jan

The 37th season of Seattle Seahawks football was a very special one for me and the rest of the 12th Man. From day one of training camp on July 27th to day 177 last Sunday, we were a part of a journey that had its ups and downs and showed us how far a group of men can come and improve in such a time span. Most importantly, this Seahawks team showed what is to come next year and for many seasons following. I attended 10 of our 16 regular season games this season; 8 home games from my 2nd home in section 340 at CenturyLink Field, and spent hundreds of dollars to make sure my voice was heard and body was present in Arizona and San Francisco. Instead of chronicling our season from start to finish in a traditional season review piece that many other people will do, I have compiled my top ten moments of the 2012 season. These moments are not only the moments I witnessed first-hand but also the moments that were the most exciting and the moments that contributed in how our season was shaped. Some will agree with my list, others will disagree. Maybe you agree on the moments but not the order I have placed them in. Nevertheless these are the moments I have chosen as worthy of our top ten of the 2012 season. Let the debate begin!

#10: Washington Ties Cribbs (Seahawks at Dolphins, Week 12)

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Leon Washington made history in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks loss to the Miami Dolphins in late November. After scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, Miami kicked off to Washington with 8 minutes left in the game. Washington took Dan Carpenter’s kickoff 98 yards and into the endzone for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead. The kickoff return touchdown was Washington’s 8th in his career and that number ties Cleveland Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs for first all-time in that category in NFL history. After coming back from a devastating leg injury three years ago, Washington has re-emerged as one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Although he is getting older I fully expect Washington to play a big role on special teams next year. He has a unique burst and you could tell he was close to breaking off a couple big runs in the playoffs. Hopefully next season Washington can claim sole possession of first place in kickoff return touchdowns.

#9: Defense Makes A Statement, Pummels Rodgers (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

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When you combine a national television primetime setting, a ferocious fan base, an extremely talented defense, and a sub-par offensive line, you get my number nine moment of the season. With the entire nation watching the Seahawks defense combined to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half alone. Chris Clemons led the attack with 4 sacks, rookie Bruce Irvin added 2 of his own, and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane also added 2 sacks. It was the most dominant span on defense this season and as I noted in my Packers review, it actually left me laughing in the stands because our play was so amazing and dominant. If only our pass rush could have been more consistently dominant over the course of the entire season. If that happened, we may still be playing football. I tipped my hat to the Seahawks defense on this night. I probably won’t see that many sacks recorded during a 30 minute span again in a very long time.

#8: Wilson Runs Into The Record Books (Seahawks vs. Bills, Week 15)

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The Seahawks debuted their wolf grey uniforms in Toronto against the Bills on December 16th and Russell Wilson looked especially good in them. The Seahawks were coming off a 58-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals the previous week and the offensive surge did not stall against the Bills. The Seahawks won the game 50-17 but Russell Wilson was the biggest factor in the final score. Wilson became the first quarterback in Seahawks history to run for three touchdowns in a game and he ran for all three in the first half. The zone-read option worked the best against the Bills in my opinion as Wilson and the running backs combined for 270 rushing yards.

#7 Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number One (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

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The Seahawks hosted the Dallas Cowboys in their home opener on September 16th and the game could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Cowboys. With the entire sellout crowd already in their seats for kickoff, the Seahawks kicked off to Felix Jones of the Cowboys to start the game. After making it out to around the Dallas 25-yard line, Jones was hit on his side which knocked the ball free from his arms. Earl Thomas recovered the fumble and the crowd erupted into chaos. Ten seconds into the game and the Cowboys had already turned the ball over, given the Seahawks excellent field position, and they gave the 12th Man something to go crazy about. In the stands the play was awesome and everyone around me was beyond excited. The drive culminated into just a field goal but luckily for the Seahawks and the fans, the Cowboys were not done with their special teams blunders yet.

#6: Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number Two (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

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After this play my friend Alan and I believed that the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit was cursed in Seattle. With the Seahawks forcing the Cowboys to punt on their first offensive drive of the game, defensive end Bruce Irvin penetrated the punter protection and got one of his hands on the kick. The ball took one bounce backward and right into the hands of Jeron Johnson inside the Dallas 5-yard line. Johnson walked the blocked punt into the endzone for a touchdown and the Seahawks took a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. This play was very fast since the block and score occurred within seconds of each other. Once again, the crowd went crazy and we now had full confidence that we could beat Dallas handedly on this day.

#5: U Mad Bro? Seahawks Stun Brady, Patriots (Patriots at Seahawks, Week 6)

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Coming off a win in Carolina the week before, the Seahawks came home with a 3-2 record and a home date with the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. The Seahawks trailed the Patriots 23-10 with 9:21 left in the game. Russell Wilson connected with Braylon Edwards for a touchdown on 4th down to cut the Patriots lead to 6 points. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:38 left in the game with a chance to take the lead. With 1:10 left in the game, Russell Wilson connected with Sidney Rice for a 46 yard touchdown pass which gave the Seahawks a 24-23 lead. It was the prettiest pass I saw Wilson throw all season long. The Seahawks defense came back onto the field for one last New England drive and successfully stopped the Patriots on four plays, giving the Seahawks the win. One other storyline of this game was the communicating (or trash talking) between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. During the game Sherman challenged Brady to throw in his direction while Brady told Sherman to see him after the game when the Patriots win. Brady did in fact challenge Sherman by throwing in his direction and Sherman picked off a pass in the 3rd quarter. After the game Sherman went up to Brady to tell him “you’re just a man. We’re a team.” The exchange was photographed and was given the caption “U Mad Bro?” with Sherman mouthing off to Brady while Brady tried to walk off the field. This moment tossed Sherman into the national spotlight. After this incident Seahawks fans started to love Sherman even more and fans of other teams started to loathe Sherman.

#4: RW3 > RGIII. Seahawks Win First Road Playoff Game Since 1983 (Seahawks at Redskins, NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

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The Seahawks finished ½ game behind San Francisco for the NFC West title but they still earned the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks faced the NFC East champion Washington Redskins in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs and things did not get off to a good start. Washington jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. At the time it was the largest deficit the Seahawks had faced all season long. The Seahawks came back thanks in large part to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks scored 24 unanswered points in the final 45 minutes to beat the Redskins 24-14 to advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs. This game was the only playoff game to feature two rookie quarterbacks. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was playing with a sprained LCL in his right knee and he was unable to finish the game after further damaging his knee. The Seahawks did a great job of containing Griffin III and their rookie running back Alfred Morris. It was one of the most exciting road games of the season and the Seahawks came back home not before winning on the road for the first time in the playoffs since Chuck Knox’s Seahawks beat the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff in 1983.

#3: The Two Drives That Changed Our Season (Seahawks at Bears, Week 13)

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After losing to Miami in week 12 the Seahawks hit the road again for a crucial game against the Chicago Bears. At the time the Bears held the NFC North lead while the Seahawks controlled their own destiny as an NFC Wild-Card. With the Seahawks trailing 14-10 with 3:40 left in the game the Seahawks had to drive 97 yards to take the lead. On the drive Marshawn Lynch racked up 21 yards and Russell Wilson also ran for 19 yards. Wilson hit Zach Miller to convert a 4th down which would have ended the game if the pass was incomplete, and then he found Sidney Rice for a gain 27 yards. With 24 seconds remaining Wilson hit Golden Tate on a slant. Tate juked two defenders before diving into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The Seahawks took a 17-14 lead. Game over right? Unfortunately not. Because of a breakdown in communication on defense, Jay Cutler found Brandon Marshall for a gain of 56 yards to put Chicago in field goal range. Robbie Gould knocked the kick through the uprights and the game was headed to overtime. In overtime the Seahawks won the toss and started their next drive on their own 20-yard line. Did Wilson have another game-winning drive in him? He proved that he could go down and win the game again. Thanks in large part to Wilson’s legs, he led the Seahawks into the red zone and connected with Sidney Rice from 13 yards out for the game winning touchdown. This was just the Seahawks second road win of the season but with the win we improved to 7-5. These two drives are considered to be the turning point in our season. In our next three games after the Chicago game the Seahawks scored a combined 150 points. Most importantly though, the Chicago game was the start of an impressive winning streak that did not end until the Divisional playoff loss to Atlanta.

#2: Sherman Steals The Show On Sunday Night (49ers at Seahawks, Week 16)

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I stepped into CenturyLink Field on Sunday Night December 23rd expecting to see a close, hard-fought game against the San Francisco 49ers. If we won we would clinch a playoff berth. I had no idea how bad of a mismatch and how big of a blowout this game would turn out to be. My number two moment of the season occurred with just over 12 minutes left in the second quarter. With the 49ers trailing 14-0, kicker David Akers lined up for a 21-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Red Bryant and the ball bounced right into the arms of Richard Sherman. Sherman returned the ball 90 yards to the house for a touchdown and a 21-0 Seahawks lead. The game was over at this point. Everyone in the stands felt confident we would handle San Francisco for the rest of the night. In the stands the play was wild, which justifies my reasoning for ranking this play as the second best of the season. Once I saw the ball blocked and picked up by Sherman, I knew he had the speed and separation to outrun both Akers and the holder Andy Lee. I started jumping up and down wildly and screaming at the top of my lungs while pulling and shaking the guys who sit below me. Once Sherman crossed the goal line I ran down the stairs of my aisle collecting high fives and hugging everybody in my vicinity. I could not have been happier and the last time I celebrated that wildly on any play was the Marshawn Lynch beast quake run in the 2010 playoffs. I guess there’s something about primetime football that brings out the wild child in me. The Seahawks won the game 42-13 and clinched a playoff berth. Not only that, we also beat the hated 49ers which always puts a smile on my face.

#1: The Monday Night Miracle (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

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As the season wore on a lot of Seahawks fans got the feeling we were developing as the most hated team nationally during the 2012 season. The reason why is because of what transpired on Monday night September 24th. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 with 8 seconds left, Russell Wilson threw up a Hail Mary into the north endzone. From my view it looked like Golden Tate out jumped three Green Bay defenders to make the catch. When one of the officials ruled touchdown, the stadium went absolutely crazy. Everyone around me started to jump up and down and we all embraced each other with looks of sheer amazement and non-belief in our faces. I had never seen a more epic finish then what had just happened. The play was reviewed by replacement official Wayne Elliott and the call on the field was upheld. The Seahawks won in what ESPN’s Mike Tirico called “the most bizarre finish you’ll ever see.” In the stands we couldn’t believe what had just happened and we headed out of the stadium under the impression that Golden Tate had cleanly made one of the greatest plays we had ever seen. I had never attended a football game that was decided by a Hail Mary on the final play so the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I collected a program after the game that was sitting on a picnic table because I wanted a piece of memorabilia from the most exciting game of the year. Nobody I was with had the slightest clue what had actually happened on the field. When my friends and I got home from the game we turned on SportsCenter and watched for two hours as they broke down the final play. As you well know, the play was not as clean as it looked like from my view inside the stadium. We won the game but the controversy over the replacement officials had just begun. The SportsCenter following this game was the most watched episode in ESPN history and within 48 hours of the game, the referee lockout was over and the real NFL referees were back on the field. Sports Illustrated named this play the most iconic sports moment of 2012 and it is definitely deserving of that title. I have a mini-shrine to this game in my room including my ticket stub, the program I picked up, the rally towel that was given away at the game, and the front page of the Seattle Times sports section from the day after with the headline “Last Call?” Although I will be attending many many more football games in my lifetime, I am confident in saying I will never see a more incredible finish then what happened on this crisp September night.

Review: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28

14 Jan

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Let me tell you one thing I hate about watching Seahawks football in the playoffs. When they lose they don’t just lose. They raise it into some kind of an art form. In 2003 the Seahawks lost on a pick-six in overtime to the Green Bay Packers. In 2006 the Seahawks held a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the Chicago Bears, blew it, and lost on a Robbie Gould walk-off field goal in overtime. Add Sunday’s game to the list of heartbreakers. The Seahawks defense could not hold the Atlanta Falcons offense with 25 seconds left in regulation and a Matt Bryant field goal erased the 2nd biggest comeback in NFL playoff history. Atlanta wins. Atlanta plays San Francisco for the NFC championship next week. Seattle heads home and starts thinking about 2013. It’s simple as that. As a fan I have held myself together after this loss way better than in past postseason heartbreakers. Maybe it hasn’t settled in just yet. Maybe I’m just more mature and can handle these games better. Nevertheless I am extremely frustrated in our defense and I am extremely disappointed overall. I have broken my analysis and thoughts down into 3 parts; the first 3 quarters, the first 14:29 of the 4th quarter, and the final 31 seconds of the season.

The First 45: After getting off to a slow start in Washington last week I was prepared to be calm and not to worry if the same thing were to happen against Atlanta. It did. The Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and in the second quarter after Matt Bryant’s second field goal of the day, the Seahawks had the ball deep in Atlanta territory and rather than kicking a field goal to cut the lead to 13-3, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll elected to go for it to gain some offensive momentum. On 4th down and 1, the Falcons stacked 8 men in the box, assuming a quick handoff. They were right on the money. The Falcons stuffed Michael Robinson on the fullback dive for a loss of one and a Seahawks turnover on downs. There is no doubt in my mind they saw that play on film, as the Seahawks have ran it in their last two games. Matt Ryan then connected with wide receiver Roddy White for a 47-yard touchdown on Atlanta’s next drive with 4:16 left in the half. This was a 10 point swing and gave the Falcons a 20-0 lead, the largest deficit for the Seahawks all season long. On the Seahawks next possession the Seahawks drove deep into Falcons territory but due to poor clock management and a mistake by Russell Wilson taking a sack on 3rd down, the Seahawks ran out of time and went into the half trailing 20-0.

The Seahawks got the ball to start the second half and went right down the field and scored on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Golden Tate. 20-7 Atlanta. That score was huge for the Seahawks because without it I firmly believe Atlanta would have taken the ball and scored again making it a 4-score game early in the second half. Instead, the Seahawks were able to put their first points on the board and this drive sparked some serious offense momentum to come later on in the game. In an ideal situation, the defense can piggy back on the momentum being brought by the offense but they proved they still had trouble stopping the powerful Atlanta offense early in the second half. After Tate’s touchdown the Falcons drove 80 yards in 7:36 culminating in a 5-yard pass from Ryan to Jason Snelling. 27-7 Atlanta. After this scoring drive everything seemed to change. Little did we know that the Seahawks would come back from the 2nd largest deficit in NFL playoff history.

The Next 14:29: The tables turned in the fourth quarter thanks to great offensive play and a couple big plays by our defense. Big catches by Golden Tate and Zach Miller along with a couple solid runs by Robert Turbin set up a Russell Wilson touchdown run to cut the lead to 27-14 Atlanta. Earl Thomas then came up with a big interception on the Falcons next possession and to be honest I had a feeling that we were going to come back. Nothing was certain, but I could see our defense was drastically improving. If they kept it up and the offense stayed steady, I thought we would be in great shape to come back. Wilson found Miller in the endzone with 9:13 left in the game and the Seahawks cut the lead to one score; 27-21 Atlanta. After an Atlanta 3-and-out and a Seahawks drive which stalled at midfield, the next crucial play was a 3rd and 8 on Atlanta’s next drive. Ryan fired to his right and the ball was low and ahead of Roddy White, forcing the Falcons to punt and would give Seattle the chance to take the lead with a touchdown. The key plays on this final Seattle drive in my mind were a 19-yard pass to Golden Tate, and a 24-yard pass to Marshawn Lynch on a 3rd and 5 to keep the drive alive. That Lynch catch-and-run put the ball inside the Atlanta 5-yard line with under a minute to go. Lynch punched it in on the next play and with 31 seconds left, the Seahawks held their first lead of the game, 28-27.

Hindsight is 20/20 but I wish there was a way the Seahawks could have taken another 15 or so seconds off the clock. With a one point lead, 31 seconds left, and 2 Falcon timeouts available, I immediately thought back to the Chicago game in week 13. Nothing is guaranteed, I thought. One blown coverage and it could spell trouble. That game against the Bears should have never gone to overtime. Bad defensive coverage allowed Brandon Marshall to catch a long pass to put the Bears in field goal range. They tied the game but the Seahawks held on to win in overtime. The Miami and Detroit games also flashed in my mind, as in these two games all we needed was our defense to protect the entire length of the field to hold on for the win. They couldn’t in either game and we lost both.

The Final 31 Seconds: This should really be “the final 26 seconds” since Atlanta started their final drive from the Seattle 28-yard line after the kickoff and that is how much time was left after the kickoff. Matt Bryant’s season-long field goal was from 55 yards out, meaning if he got to about the 37-yard line, the Falcons would have been in field goal range. By these numbers, the Seahawks had 26 seconds to protect 35 yards. Play number one was a 22-yard completion to Harry Douglas and an Atlanta timeout with 19 seconds left. The Seahawks now had to protect 13 yards with 19 seconds left. The next play is a 19-yard completion to Tony Gonzalez, putting Atlanta into field goal range. How in the world can you play as soft of coverage to let two Falcons receivers catch 20-yard passes each in a 13 second span? This is so perplexing it gives me a headache and just adds to the heartbreak that is now settling in as I write this. Matt Bryant lined up for the field goal to give Atlanta the lead back and Coach Carroll called a timeout to ice the kicker. The ball was snapped anyway and Bryant hooked the kick wide right. Carroll was seen upset on the sideline because he didn’t think Bryant should have been able to kick the ball before the actual kick. This was no doubt a mulligan and Bryant made sure his second kick would be more accurate. Unfortunately it was. The kick sailed right down the middle and in a 23 second span, the Seahawks went from epic comeback and a date with San Francisco to trailing once again. Atlanta 30-28. With 8 seconds left the Seahawks were given a gift. Bryant’s squib kick was batted and covered by Mike Morgan of the Seahawks and with 6 seconds left with the ball at mid-field, the Seahawks had a chance for a miracle. After a quick sideline pass to Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary into the endzone. I thought to myself “what are the chances of having two Hail Mary’s go our way in one season?” The thought was too good to be true. The Falcons subbed in wide receiver Julio Jones to play defense and the Hail Mary was intercepted by Jones in the endzone. Game over. Season over. Seahawks lose in heartbreaking fashion to conclude their season once again.

Random Thoughts: I really thought we had this game. I was ready to book airfare and buy tickets to San Francisco for the NFC Championship game next week. Instead, I have to save my money for road trips in 2013… I started to get a little tired of Richard Sherman on Sunday. He played great defense for the majority of the game but do you really need to run your mouth and give the psycho gesture after EVERY pass defensed? I love you Sherm, but that was a little much in my opinion… Good broadcast by FOX this week… Rob Riggle’s picks segment during the FOX pregame show was the funniest of the season in my opinion. I wasn’t surprised at all when he picked the Seahawks to win since he has personal ties with Coach Carroll… The Seahawks will pick 25th in the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft… Looking at our opponents next season I think we can easily challenge for 12+ wins, win the NFC West, and be legitimate contenders for home-field advantage in next year’s playoffs… Here’s a quick draft chat. I hope we can draft either a tall wide receiver or a young run-stuffing defensive tackle in the first round, like a young Alan Branch… I was disappointed with the play of Bruce Irvin today. Opposing offensive lines did a good job this season of pushing Irvin to the outside and making him a non-factor and Atlanta was no different on Sunday. That gives Bruce something to work on and improve at during the offseason… I liked the blitz packages with Earl Thomas, Marcus Trufant, and Winston Guy that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley dialed up on Sunday. I just wish we would have done more of it. It is a gamble but seemed to work when enabled on Sunday… Zach Miller really impressed me today. He had the best game of his Seahawks career; 8 catches for 142 yards and one touchdown… I wanted this one so bad. It really stings knowing we were 31 seconds away from playing for the NFC title and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. How we weren’t able to stop the Falcons offense in such a short period of time is beyond me. Back to the drawing board to get ready for 2013.

Well folks the season has unfortunately come to an end. Thank you to everyone who took their time to read my blog this season. I genuinely appreciate your support and feedback. I will say though that even though this is a wrap on the 2012 season does not mean that this is a wrap on the blog. Over the next few days I will put together a list of my top-10 moments from this season in a season review post. I hope to have it published sometime next weekend. After that I’ll take a break until after the Super Bowl but I’ll hop on if any Seahawks news breaks between now and the Super Bowl. Once again thank you so much for reading. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Falcons Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

12 Jan

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Matchup: (5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks enjoyed their first helping of playoff football by knocking off the Washington Redskins last week. Now it’s time to head back to the buffet for more. The Seahawks head to Atlanta to take on the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons in an NFC Divisional playoff. This is the first meeting between these two teams in the playoffs. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Falcons 8-5 but have lost three straight. Their last meeting was in week 4 of last season. The Falcons got out to a 24-7 halftime lead but a strong second half charge put the Seahawks in a position to come back and win. They could not however, falling to the Falcons 30-28. This is also Seattle’s first trip back to the Georgia Dome since week 17 of the 2007 season. There is lots to talk about this week so let’s get to it.

After the Seahawks beat Washington last week I immediately turned my attention to the team statistics of the Atlanta Falcons. The stat that caught my eye was their team rushing defense. The Falcons are ranked 21st in the National Football League in rushing yards allowed per game. That number is 123 yards per game. With Marshawn Lynch attracting lots of attention by the Falcons this week combined with the running threat of quarterback Russell Wilson, I think the Seahawks will have many prime opportunities to move the ball effectively and put up points. My key in the running game is getting off to a fast start and moving the ball while at the same time keeping the Atlanta defense on their feet and keeping their crowd silent. I will monitor Marshawn Lynch’s yards quarter by quarter while also taking a look at how well the zone-read option works early. It will be big for Atlanta if they can sniff out the zone-read and limit that dimension of our offense. I think if Lynch averages 25-30 yards per quarter and Wilson can run for a couple first downs per quarter the Seahawks offense will put many points on the board. The Falcons are also ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing yards given up and that will be a factor as long as Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over but the running game is the x-factor for the Seahawks effectiveness this week.

All of the talk in the national media this week has been the matchups on the outside. The Falcons boast arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league with Roddy White and Julio Jones. Across the line of scrimmage the Seahawks boast arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The wide receivers are very talented and have the capabilities to make plays. The cornerbacks are also fully capable of taking those big plays away. The thing to be watching for is potential penalties on Sherman and Browner. Depending on whom the referees are on the outside, they will either keep their flags in their pockets, allowing Sherman and Browner to be extra physical or if they look like they are making too much contact, they will be called for penalties. This fortunately or unfortunately will decide how effective both units are. The Seahawks may be in trouble if the cornerbacks are being called for holding or illegal contact especially early in the game.

With the season-ending injuries to defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka, the Seahawks have added two new players. The more recognized new face is Hauschka’s replacement; kicker Ryan Longwell. Longwell, 38, has spent the previous 15 seasons split with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Longwell is a Puyallup native and beat out a handful of kickers including former Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers and rookie Carson Wiggs for the job. Longwell has a stronger leg than Hauschka but has not kicked all season. I trust Longwell to make moderate field goals (21-45 yards) but field goals from 46+ yards are a mystery to me. The other new Seahawk is defensive end Patrick Chukwurah. Chukwurah has been absent from the NFL for four years. He has spent the last few years in the United Football League and led the league in sacks the past two seasons. He last played in the NFL in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but did not record any statistics. Although Bruce Irvin will start and take a lot of snaps, I expect Chukwurah to see between 10-20 plays this week in place of Irvin. Longwell will wear number 7 and Chukwurah will wear number 97 for those wondering.

The Georgia Dome may be a louder stadium to play in than FedExField was last week but the fan base may not be as tough to face as last week. There were over 5,000 tickets still available for Sunday’s game according to ESPN and the NFL. Combine that with the recent playoff woes of the Atlanta Falcons, I get the gist from the Atlanta media that it feels like there is not as much excitement over Falcons football as should be expected. I think the environment will be loud but manageable. If the Seahawks can get off to a fast start, the crowd will not matter. This is the first time I can remember that the field conditions and weather will not play a factor for a road playoff game. I think this gives us a hidden advantage that many other people would overlook. Nevertheless we are traveling across the country, playing the number one seed in the conference, and playing in a dome. Warning Seahawks fans, it should be normal to be cautiously optimistic and/or a little bit worried this week in regards to the environment.

It’s time for me to throw some numbers out there! This might make the 12th Man feel better about what to expect on Sunday. The Falcons went 7-1 at home in 2012. Their only loss was in week 17 to Tampa Bay when they had already clinched home-field advantage and played their second stringers for most of the game. The Falcons either trailed or held a one-score lead at halftime in 5 of their 8 games this season. Of their 7 victories, 5 of them ended as one-score wins. The scary thing though was that their 10-point win over New Orleans and their 34-0 shutout of the New York Giants occurred in the second half of the season. Of their 5 one-score margin of victory wins, they went into the half either tied or trailing three times. Based on these numbers the conclusions I have drawn are that the Falcons have shown they could get off to a slow start but have improved in the first half of games as the season has progressed. The Seahawks are the best defense the Falcons have faced all year and they have not played a team that qualified for the playoffs since playing the Redskins in week 5. This game could definitely be close at halftime and that is exactly what I expect to happen.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are going to wear white jerseys again this week. I don’t think you can mess up a winning combination, thus I hope the Seahawks wear white pants again… The referee this week is Walt Coleman. We will see if his all-star crew (the NFL puts together the best referees into different “all-star” crews for the playoffs) will be calling a tight game for Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner this week… The Seahawks only won one 10am kickoff game this season. Not going to lie this worries me a little bit… Don’t sleep on Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez will most likely see a lot of Kam Chancellor in the middle this week and he has the best hands of any tight end in the league. Last week a lot of short passes caught the Seahawks defense off guard early and if Matt Ryan can connect with Gonzalez he can make some catches he is hard to bring down. He will definitely be a challenge that cannot go unnoticed… Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick have the call for FOX this week with Laura Okmin and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines. It should be a good broadcast because I am a fan of Brennaman and Billick does a good job offering his very educated commentary… I’m having another group of friends over to my house Sunday morning for the game. Hopefully more show up than last week but it will be tough to beat since we had a good number of people over last week… It feels like it’s about time to get over this divisional playoff hump. We have been stopped in this round our last three trips to the playoffs. It feels like it should be time to break the barn door down and get back to the NFC Championship game.

Prediction: This kills me but like I always try to preach, I try to be a realist. Although the Seahawks have the best defense the Falcons have faced all season I just feel that Atlanta’s offense is too powerful for us to handle. I think since there has been expanded speculation in the media this week about the way the refs will call the game along the outside, the game will be called tight and the Seahawks will suffer. Those penalties will come at the most inopportune times and will keep Atlanta drives alive and unfortunately translate into points. The better overall team will unfortunately not win this game as mistakes and one more turnover than the home team will doom us. The game will be close but those penalties and mistakes will cost us a trip to the NFC title game. DO NOT get me wrong, I hope to God that I am completely wrong and hopefully we will advance to either San Francisco or Green Bay to play for the NFC Championship but unfortunately I think there is a slightly better chance that we will come up short.

Falcons 35, Seahawks 31

Win or lose, check back hopefully Sunday night (It might be published in the early morning hours on Monday) for my review of Sunday’s game. Hopefully I will have at least one more preview to write for next weekend also. Enjoy the game everybody. I’M IN! Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14

6 Jan

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The Seahawks fell behind early and play-by-play announcer Joe Buck mentioned that it was the largest deficit the Seahawks have faced all season long. So what? The resiliency the Seahawks showed in their come-from-behind 24-14 playoff win over the Washington Redskins should show the entire country that we are a force to be reckoned with and nothing is impossible for this team. The Seahawks advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs next week while the Redskins will watch the rest of the playoffs play out from their couches at home. I am not going to lie I was extremely worried yet calm throughout the first quarter because I knew this team was capable of mounting a comeback, even more so because of the mobility and throws by Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. I know you’re probably dying to read my opinions and thoughts of our first playoff win on the road since 1983, so here we go!

First Quarter: Bad: I was relieved to see the Redskins start the game with the ball. I always am for two reasons. First, it lets us make a statement on defense by shutting their offense down and forcing them to punt. Second, in the event the Seahawks struggle in the first half we get the opportunity to score points right off the bat in the second half. The Redskins made our defense look mediocre on their first two possessions of the game. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris combined for 61 yards rushing in the first quarter and Griffin III threw two touchdown passes and it looked like things were going to get out of control in a hurry. Redskins 14, Seahawks 0. With 2:26 left in the quarter. With seemingly no way to figure out how to stop the duel running threat of the Redskins. Two plays before Griffin III’s second touchdown pass he scrambled to the right, threw across his body and fell to the ground in pain because of the sprained LCL in his right knee. I knew RG3 would not be as effective as usual but little did I know just how much it was bothering him and what kind of effect his knee injury would have on the Washington offense through the rest of the game.

Second Quarter: Good: The story of the second quarter was the effectiveness of the Seahawks offense. Russell Wilson seemed to turn a corner after Washington’s second touchdown. Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch led the offense to 156 yards in the second quarter alone and scored on three different drives. The result? 13 points and a 1-point deficit heading into halftime with Seattle receiving the second half kickoff. Russell Wilson was the most successful in the zone-read looks which kept the momentum going and allowed us to kill some clock before putting points on the board. One of the underlying stories of the second quarter however was the corner the defense turned in stopping Washington’s offense. The Redskins only ran 6 offensive plays in the second quarter which resulted in a mere 13 yards. In this quarter you could start to tell two things. As the game wore on, Griffin III became less and less mobile as well as the Seahawks defense figuring out how to stop the rushing attack. Alfred Morris had 11 of the Redskins yards on three carries in the second quarter. Only one of his rushes was longer than 3 yards. It was good to see the Seahawks adapt. Head coach Pete Carroll said after the game that “the defense made no significant adjustments in stopping the run and that the defense just played better football.” That was great to see and it proves the common saying, “just give it time and it always works.”

Second Half Domination: The Seahawks defense made the Redskins offense look virtually nonexistent in the second half. There were several opportunities for both teams to put points on the board but failed to do so. For the Seahawks the big play was Marshawn Lynch’s fumble at the Washington 1-yard line. A score would have given us the lead earlier but instead we turned the ball over to the Redskins. Lucky for us we were able to stop the Redskins after they gained only 23 yards on the ensuing possession and we got the ball back. The Redskins offense only had 62 yards of offense in the second half and the dagger was put in Washington’s heart late in the fourth quarter. After Marshawn Lynch scored from 27 yards out and Zach Miller helped convert the two-point conversion to give Seattle a 21-14 lead, the Redskins got the ball back and in their next two plays it became quite clear who was in control and who would win the game. On first down, Bruce Irvin was able to sack Griffin III for a loss of 12 yards and on second down came the play many people have been talking about. A low snap caused Griffin III to try to bend down to pick the ball up but instead his knee gave in, he fell to the ground in agonizing pain, and Clinton McDonald of the Seahawks recovered the ball inside the Redskins 10-yard line. RG3’s night was over after that play and the Seahawks added some insurance points to extend the lead to 24-14. The defensive performance on Sunday was great and they were able to overcome some grave field conditions to play so well. I am excited to see what our defense throws at Atlanta next week. In terms of the offense, the zone-read worked like a charm and Marshawn Lynch always comes up clutch in clutch moments of need.

Unsung Heroes: There is an underlying stat that needs to be pointed out. The Seahawks offensive line did an incredible job blocking for Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Robert Turbin on Sunday amid the rotation at right guard. The offensive line helped block for 224 total rushing yards but what is more impressive in my mind is they played a perfectly clean game. No Seahawks offensive lineman was flagged for penalties on Sunday, which is extremely rare especially in the playoffs. I give tremendous props to the o-line for their performance. I don’t think there is any way we will have as clean of a game next weekend but now we know it is a possible accomplishment.

Big Blow To The Defense: The playing conditions at FedExField played a factor in two huge injuries. The one that is getting extensive media coverage is the knee of Robert Griffin III but the Seahawks may have lost one of the biggest pieces of their defense. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, defensive end Chris Clemons is feared to have a torn ACL. An MRI is scheduled for Monday and if there is structural damage, Clemons’s season is over. Clemons leads all Seahawks defenders with 11.5 sacks and is our primary pass rusher off the edge. As if our pass rushing ability hasn’t been poor enough over the past couple of weeks, this is a huge blow to our defense. I expect Bruce Irvin to step into Clemons’s role as the starter next week and if we do not try to pick up a temporary fix in off the waiver wire I think the Seahawks could use rookie Greg Scruggs in more pass rush packages. Surely the line will be switched up in practice this week and it will be interesting to see how the defense moves forward but without Clemons our more pressure is on our linebackers and secondary next week against one of the league’s top passing teams.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white/white uniform combination this week. I think it looks better than any other road combo. I predict we’ll wear white jerseys and grey pants indoors next week in Atlanta though… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman called a great game on FOX this week but some of Aikman’s commentary seemed pretty vanilla and obvious… Erin Andrews was assigned to the Seahawks sideline this week and did a great job. That lip gloss really made her look especially attractive this week. Just sayin’… I’m glad we’re playing on turf next week. That field was ridiculously dangerous looking. I heard there was almost no grass around the Redskins logo at mid-field. It was all dirt. It’s one thing if the Redskins think it is an advantage towards them but it’s dangerous nonetheless. The NFL might want to look at their regulations for field preparedness for the playoffs in the future… Russell Wilson is so humble. It’s awesome… My roommates and I had about a dozen people over for the game on Sunday. A great turnout in my opinion and the more the merrier… I like that Richard Sherman got shoved by Trent Williams at mid-field after the game. I want to know what he said to Williams that prompted a shove. I’m sure a lot of fans around the country think Sherman is a complete d**k but to the 12th Man he is one of the nicest guys on the team… Steven Hauschka pulled his left calf on Sunday. If Hauschka is iffy for next week I expect the Seahawks to sign Carson Wiggs to take his spot. Wiggs spent training camp with the Seahawks this season but failed to win a roster spot… With the win the Seahawks will pick no higher than 25th in the 2013 draft. Let’s get that draft pick in the 30’s guys… The Seahawks are now 3-0 against the Redskins all-time in the playoffs… With next week’s trip to Atlanta, the Seahawks will have traveled 9,000+ miles in a two week span. This stat includes both flights on the Washington trip and the flight to Atlanta. We have traveled over half of our regular season mile total in just three flights. That is pretty amazing… The Seahawks won their first road playoff game since 1983. That is amazing to think I wasn’t born for another 7 years after that. Let’s go for another next week in Atlanta!

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Once again, the Seahawks are now headed to Atlanta to take on the Falcons next week in an NFC Divisional playoff game. In the other divisional matchup the Green Bay Packers head west to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The winner of our game and the winner of the Green Bay/San Francisco game will face off in the NFC Championship game. I start my next quarter of school this week but I still plan to have my preview of the Falcons game published by Saturday morning. Happy playoffs, folks. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Redskins Preview (NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

5 Jan

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Matchup: (5) Seattle Seahawks at (4) Washington Redskins

Site: FedExField (Landover, Maryland)

Kickoff: 1:30pm

The “second season” kicks off on Sunday as the 11-5 Seattle Seahawks head to the Nation’s Capital to take on the 10-6 NFC East champion Washington Redskins in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. Both teams head into the playoffs with tons of momentum. The Seahawks enter the postseason riding a 5-game winning streak. The Redskins made a tremendous run to the postseason after starting the season 3-6. They ended on a 7-game winning streak and won their division. The Redskins lead the all-time series with Seattle 11-6 but the Seahawks hold a 2-0 advantage against the Redskins in the playoffs. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was after the 2007 regular season in Seattle. The Seahawks defeated Washington 35-14 after pick-six’s by Marcus Trufant and Jordan Babineaux sealed the game in the 4th quarter. These two teams met in the regular season last season in Seattle and the Redskins knocked off the Seahawks 23-17. There are many storylines that are being covered by the national media and storylines that have been swept under the rug that I will try to cover in this preview. Here are some things to be looking for this weekend.

14 months ago the quarterback matchup between these two teams was Rex Grossman vs. Tarvaris Jackson. Both teams used the draft to pick quarterbacks they thought could lead their teams for years to come. For Washington, they traded three future first-round picks to trade up to take 2011 Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III. The Seahawks kept their early round picks and maneuvered themselves in position to take Russell Wilson in the third round. Both teams have struck gold. Griffin led Washington to their first division championship since 1999 and Wilson led the Seahawks to their winningest season since 2005. Both are extremely quick and add an extra dimension to their teams running games, not to mention that they have combined for 46 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions passing.

For Washington, their main focus should be to put pressure on Wilson. I am sure the Redskins defense will be watching film of last week’s Seahawks game against the Rams to see how they can penetrate Seattle’s offensive line to hurry Wilson. J.R. Sweezy will start for the Seahawks at right guard this week but John Moffitt will also be rotated in and see playing time. I hope that Moffitt plays more than Sweezy. Keeping the continuity along the offensive line with Moffitt would be the best scenario because in our four wins before the Rams game the offensive line gave Russell Wilson plenty of time to make plays. With the amped crowd and a pumped up pass rush, the Seahawks could be in trouble this week if the offensive line plays like they did against St. Louis.

The main focus for the Seahawks this week is definitely to stop the Redskins powerful rushing attack. Washington has rushed for 2,709 yards this season; the most total rushing yards by any team in the National Football League. Robert Griffin III plays a big role in the running game because of their similarly-designed zone-read option but rookie running back Alfred Morris is just as dangerous if not more dangerous than Griffin III. The Seahawks have the second best run defense in the league and the fourth best defense overall. The Redskins have not faced a top 10 defense all season. If the Seahawks can successfully stuff Morris and keep RGIII at bay, the Redskins will have to throw. Washington has minimal talent at the wide receiver position and with our secondary at full strength this week, I expect the Seahawks to be able to shut down the Redskins offense and will allow our defense to get extended rest on the bench.

The Seahawks head to Washington with no injuries of note and a huge piece of our starting defense back in the mix. After serving his 4-game suspension for Adderall the Seahawks will start Brandon Browner at cornerback this week. With Browner back, the “legion of boom” is back in full. This week Richard Sherman will line up against Washington wide receiver Pierre Garcon and Browner will line up against either Santana Moss or Leonard Hankerson depending on the situation. Like I previously stated, the Redskins do not have the advantage in terms of the wide receiver group this week. If the Seattle defense is successful in stopping Washington’s running game, Griffin III will be forced to throw. As a fan I am licking my chops at the possibility of this. In their 16 games this season, Griffin III has been the leading passer only three times and he has not faced a secondary as big and fast as the Seahawks. I would not be surprised to see a couple on interceptions this week if Griffin III has to throw. I think Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will have the biggest impact this week for the Seahawks. If those two guys can create turnovers by the Redskins, they will put us in good position to win the game.

Let’s talk about the Washington Redskins defense. They have good talent at each defensive level but I will put my spotlight and focus this week on the linebackers. The most notable player on defense for Washington is linebacker London Fletcher. Fletcher is the veteran leader of the Redskins defense. He played in the Redskins playoff game against Seattle in 2007 and was a part of the Rams squad that won Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999. Fletcher has not slumped off with age as he led the Redskins in combined tackles this season with 139. He also added 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Fletcher is mentoring and playing alongside two other noteworthy linebackers. Ryan Kerrigan is one of Washington’s starting outside linebackers. The second year man out of Purdue leads all Redskins defenders with 8.5 sacks this season and he does a good job of moving around and confusing the opponent’s offensive line. Kerrigan will be zoned in on by the Seahawks offense but my player to watch this week is linebacker Perry Riley. Riley may be the most consistent and balanced player on the defensive side of the ball for Washington. Riley finished the regular season second on the team in tackles with 129 and finished third on the team in sacks with 3.5. Playing in the middle next to Fletcher, Riley is a rising star on this team and in this league and he will be around many plays this week for the Redskins.

Random Thoughts: This is the first game the Seahawks have played at FedExField since week 4 of the 2005 season. In that game Seahawks kicker Josh Brown missed a field goal at the end of regulation and Nick Novak connected on a 39-yard field goal in overtime to win it for Washington 20-17. The Seahawks then went on an 11-game winning streak which helped take them to Super Bowl XL… The Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week with the Redskins wearing maroon tops. No word on pants yet. The Seahawks are 1-0 this season with the white jersey/white pants combination so I hope that’s what we go with this week… Expect things to be a bit chippy early between these two teams. Last year in Seattle, the captains of these two teams got into a verbal altercation at the coin toss and the first part of the game was very pushy. Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall has even come out this week and said these two teams hate each other. I would not be surprised to see some players get into it after some plays… This is the first Redskins home playoff game since 1999. Crowd noise will play a factor this week. I think Russell Wilson will control the offense with poise eerily similar to our win in Chicago earlier this season… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines. I really hope Andrews gets to cover the Seahawks sideline… Pete Morelli is the referee this week, I believe his first Seahawks game of the season… The Seahawks have not won a playoff game on the road since 1983 when they upset the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff. After the game the players carried head coach Chuck Knox off the field on their shoulders. As cool as that would be to see, the players know that as great of a win as it would be we still have work to do. Pete Carroll wouldn’t be carried off the field until we do further damage in the postseason… I am very surprised we are favorites in Las Vegas this week…. I think I would rather play in San Francisco in the Divisional playoffs if I had a choice in the matter. What is great though is no matter who we play in any round, the Seahawks should feel no pressure to perform well. We just need to go out and play football… I am glad they scheduled our game for Sunday. We are not screwed out of a day of preparation and our week of practice has not been changed… For the first time in recent memory weather will not play a huge factor in a Seahawks playoff game. Dating back to 2003, we have played 2 road playoff games in Green Bay and 2 games in Chicago. Snow and other bad weather always seem to work against us in these games. This Sunday in Washington they are calling for a daytime high of 40 degrees and sun. Perfect conditions for playoff football in my opinion.

Prediction: Our strength is our run defense. This week we will be able to hold Alfred Morris to under 80 yards and RGIII will have to throw especially because he is battling an LCL injury, which is causing him discomfort to move around a whole lot. The Seahawks will intercept two passes; one by Richard Sherman and one by Earl Thomas. Russell Wilson will struggle early but will settle down in the second half. After the Seahawks break a tie midway through the 4th quarter, the Redskins will drive for a game-tying touchdown but our defense will shut them down before they can even get into field goal range. The Seahawks will head home with their first playoff win on the road in 29 years and will start preparation for Atlanta (most likely).

Seahawks 27, Redskins 20

I hope everyone enjoys this game. There is nothing better than playoff football and I am extremely excited to see if the Seahawks can keep our momentum going. Check back Monday afternoon for a review of our game with Washington and hopefully a short preview of our potential NFC Divisional Playoff game. Go Seahawks!

“The separation’s in the preparation.”- Russell Wilson