Archive | December, 2013

Review: Seahawks 27, Rams 9

29 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

As I sit here sporting my own 2013 NFC West champions hat, allow me to once again congratulate the Seattle Seahawks on clinching our division title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams 27-9 on Sunday in a game that may have felt close at the beginning but as the Seahawks continued to score and put the game away, you realized perhaps how big of a mismatch overall this game actually was. The Seahawks end the regular season tied for the best record in Seahawks history (13-3) and will host an NFC Divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field in two weeks. The Rams finish their season at 7-9 and are in surprisingly good shape heading into the offseason, given that they have the Washington Redskins first round pick in 2014 (#2 overall). Here are the noteworthy talking points I took out of this week’s game.

Run Defense Forces Clemens to Throw: At the end of the third quarter I was told to take a look at the stat board in the south end of the stadium. I couldn’t believe what it said; the St. Louis Rams had -1 rushing yards through the first 45 minutes of the game. One of the points in my Rams game preview was to eliminate the running game to force Kellen Clemens to throw. The Seahawks mastered this aspect of the game plan. When it was all said and done, the Rams only ran for 13 yards and running back Zac Stacy’s longest run of the game was a meager 7 yards. Bobby Wagner played a great game covering the run as he finished the day with 12 tackles. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel also made a significant impact at the line of scrimmage, combining for 9 tackles and 3 quarterback hits. What pleased me the most about the Seahawks run defense was the ability to stop Stacy up the middle. The Rams seemed to have a focus of running up the gut just like how the Arizona Cardinals ran against us last week. The Seattle defense clearly made the proper adjustments and Stacy could not get anything going all game long. The Seahawks were able to force Clemens to throw two interceptions including one that was returned by linebacker Malcolm Smith 37 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks now have recorded 11 interceptions in their last 3 games.

Shorthanded, Tate Steps Up: Although Jermaine Kearse was active against the Rams, he saw no playing time while nursing an ankle injury. The Seahawks started Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin at wide receiver this week with Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters also seeing a handful of plays. It was Tate however that stepped up and played a game that the Seahawks needed badly on the offensive side of the ball, also confirming the talent and potential depth the Seahawks will carry into the playoffs. Tate caught 8 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. How dominant was Tate’s performance on Sunday? When you crunch the numbers, Tate caught 75 percent of the yards thrown by quarterback Russell Wilson. I was pleased with the way the Seahawks used Tate this week as he was used in the screen game and in the deep vertical passing game. Even though it is likely Percy Harvin will be out for the playoffs, Golden Tate’s performance on Sunday should allow the 12th Man to rest easy. With Kearse likely back in time for our first playoff game, the Seahawks receiving corps may be in better shape than ever heading into January football.

Offensive Line Still a Weakness: One stat category that the Rams dominated over the Seahawks this week was sacks. St. Louis recorded 4 sacks on Russell Wilson, including Robert Quinn’s league leading 19th sack of the season. This week the interior offensive line played a much better game and from my seats it looked as though both tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini had a hard time stopping the outside pass rush of the Rams. The Seahawks had aspects of their offensive game plan to work around any potential struggles protecting Wilson but he was still hit way too often. I need to see more consistency in the playoffs because the Seahawks will have a hard time moving the ball if the offensive line cannot block the ferocious playoff-caliber defenses Seattle is sure to face.

Langford Seals the Win: With a Seahawks holding a 13-3 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter the game on paper seemed to be far from over. A 10-point deficit with over a full quarter left to play is surely enough time to overcome and take the lead. However, the stupidity of the Rams Kendall Langford cost the Rams a score, and the momentum of the entire game. After stopping Robert Turbin on a run for no gain, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on St. Louis linebacker Alec Ogletree, while explaining and arguing with the officials, Rams defensive end Kendall Langford accidentally stuck his arm out and knocked the hat off of one of the referee’s heads. Langford was flagged unnecessarily for unsportsmanlike conduct and was ejected from the game due to the physical contact with the official, even though it was clearly unintentional. While trying to plead his case to head referee Jeff Triplette, Langford threw his helmet to the ground in frustration and was once again penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. After these three consecutive dead-ball penalties, the Seahawks had the ball on the St. Louis 1-yard line. Two plays later Marshawn Lynch punched it in for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 20-3 lead. These penalties got the crowd fired up to a fever pitch that had not been felt or heard until this point in the game and it was obvious that the Seahawks were in the Rams heads from this point forward. The actions by Langford on this sequence virtually handed control of the entire game to the Seahawks and ultimately emotionally propelled Seattle to victory.

Thoughts on St. Louis: It is amazing that 3 years ago a 7-9 team would have been a division champion in our division. This year the 7-9 Rams finish in last place in the NFC West and I honestly believe they would have been division contenders in about half of the divisions in the NFL. With two top 15 draft picks on deck in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Rams will be able to plug some holes, primarily on offense, that could give them a significant chance to contend in the NFC West next season. Be on the lookout for a healthy Sam Bradford and a rested Rams defense that could also be one of the league’s best in 2014.

Random Thoughts: Congratulations to Earl Thomas who won the 2013 Steve Largent Award… I had a really great time with my sister throughout the day on Sunday and I could clearly tell that she was having a lot of fun also. Definitely something to remember for future seasons; that my sister is a fun guest to take… The randomly chosen season-ticket holders that got to be on the field for pregame introductions also got to run out of the tunnel prior to. I was extremely jealous. That would be a dream come true to get to run out of the tunnel in front of 68,000 screaming fans just like the players get to… The Seahawks Pro Shop was a madhouse following the game. Everyone wanted to get their hands on the 2013 division champion shirts and hats. They had plenty of both so I was happy I could get a hat. Thanks again for the early birthday present Kelle!… Seahawks halftime shows are still embarrassing to watch… 2 slices of pizza and a Bud Light inside the stadium is $23.75. I don’t think I need to explain how bad of a rip off that is. The price speaks for itself… I think the 12th Man should be rooting for the New Orleans Saints to beat Philadelphia next Saturday night. New Orleans is probably the easiest matchup for the Seahawks at home in the playoffs, at least for the Divisional round. I absolutely cannot wait for our first playoff game in 13 days. There is a distinct difference between a regular season game and a playoff game in regards to the overall stadium atmosphere. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very fun January.

Seahawks Divisional Playoff Outlook: With the win on Sunday, the Seahawks are the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs and will host an NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 11th. Kickoff is slated for 1:35pm. There are three teams the Seahawks could potentially face in the Divisional round, depending on how the following Wild-Card matchups play out:

The Seahawks will play the Green Bay Packers if…

Green Bay defeats San Francisco AND Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

The Seahawks will play the San Francisco 49ers if…

San Francisco defeats Green Bay AND Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

The Seahawks will play the New Orleans Saints if…

New Orleans defeats Philadelphia

I will jump back on the blog in the upcoming week if any notable Seahawks news breaks and once we know which team we will play in the Divisional playoffs. Enjoy the bye week and enjoy Wild-Card weekend everybody. Now the fun really starts. Go Hawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Seattle Seahawks have a third and final chance to clinch the NFC West division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs this week against the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 12-3 after last week’s loss and the Rams enter Seattle having won 4 of their last 6 games. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 19-12 and have won the last two games including a 14-9 win in week 8 in St. Louis on Monday Night Football. It is also noteworthy to point out that the Rams currently have an 8-game losing streak in Seattle. Their last win at CenturyLink Field came on January 8th, 2005 in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. This week’s game has become the biggest game of the season and I expect and anticipate a playoff-type atmosphere on Sunday. This is what will be in the way and what the Seahawks must do to be the 2013 NFC West champions.

Forget about how well the defense played. Forget about the bad calls that went against us. The primary reason why we were unable to win and clinch last week was the inept play by the Seahawks offense. Protecting quarterback Russell Wilson is by far the most important thing the Seahawks must do in order to be successful this week. J.R. Sweezy has been practicing this week and it is logical to believe he will be back starting at right guard, adding stability to a position that was a brutal weakness last week with Michael Bowie filling in. As important as the running game will be with Marshawn Lynch this week, it is the Seahawks passing game that will need to step up to move the ball in chunks, extend drives, and get into scoring range on a more consistent basis. Last week Arizona forced 7 Seahawks three-and-outs, which was a significant factor in Arizona being able to control the clock and tire our defense out. If the Seahawks offensive line does a sub-par job protecting Wilson, look for the Seahawks to utilize a screen pass package that could feature Golden Tate on bubble screens and Marshawn Lynch on conventional screens out of the backfield.

The Seahawks defense has not allowed more than 20 points in a game since before the bye week. This week, in an effort to improve exposed aspects of our defensive game plan last week, it is imperative that the Seahawks must be able to stop Rams running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has been on a tear as of late, running for 133 yards and 104 yards in the last two weeks respectively. Stacy also ran for his season high 134 rushing yards against the Seahawks back in October. Although St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens has been playing decent football since starting quarterback Sam Bradford got hurt that does not diminish the fact that Clemens will have to play in front of a revved up 12th Man that will be at full roar on Sunday hoping to boost the Seahawks into the division title. The Seahawks have intercepted 9 passes in their last two games and putting pressure on Clemens could significantly up that number this week. This is why Stacy becomes such a viable weapon for St. Louis and by eliminating Stacy’s production and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw will give the Seahawks a tremendous advantage this week. Look for the Seahawks pass rush to also make an impact on the left side of the Rams offensive line, as starting left tackle Jake Long is out for the season. Rodger Saffold will start in place of Long this week.

The last time these two teams played, the St. Louis Rams defense did a surprisingly incredible job of shutting down a Seahawks offense that had been rolling in their previous few games. It was this game that the Seahawks were unfortunately introduced to defensive end Robert Quinn. Quinn is currently the NFL leader in sacks with 18, racking up 5 sacks in his last two games, thus he comes into Seattle very hot. The way the Rams control this game is to make life miserable for Russell Wilson. And the way Seattle blocked against Arizona will not cut it this week as the Rams pass rush may be one of the league’s best right now. The Rams like to use pressure early and they will use packages that include Quinn, defensive end Chris Long, defensive end William Hayes, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Quinn will be the primary focus of the Seahawks offensive line and it would not surprise me to see Quinn line up at defensive tackle to try to penetrate the soft spots in the Seahawks offensive line. Double teaming Robert Quinn will be necessary at times but being able to harness the rest of the Rams pass rushers will make it easier for the Seahawks to take care of Quinn.

On offense for the Rams there will be a gigantic emphasis on the running game because St. Louis averages less than 200 passing yards per game this season. If the running game cannot pick up steam, quarterback Kellen Clemens will be forced to throw. Much like how I think Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense can effectively run screen passes this week, I think the same goes for the Rams. Kellen Clemens does not want to throw into the Legion of Boom and being able to play conservatively in the passing game could benefit the Rams offense overall. Using screen passes could be the best way to move the ball through the air this week and my X-Factor player to watch this week is a man who has suddenly become Clemens’s most popular target; wide receiver Stedman Bailey. Bailey is a rookie wide receiver from West Virginia and was taken two rounds after his college teammate Tavon Austin was also taken by St. Louis. With a season-ending injury to Austin, Bailey has seen significant playing time and has seen an increasing number of targets over the past 4 weeks. Last week Bailey led all Rams receivers in targets with 5, catching 3 of them for 44 yards. Bailey is short yet quick and I consider him a possible Doug Baldwin/Golden Tate hybrid. Using Bailey in the quick passing game is what I will look for this week while the Rams are on offense. If the Rams decide to throw bubble screens, expect Bailey to be the top target on the outside.

Like I previously stated earlier in this post, after last week’s loss the sense of urgency this week has blossomed from easy comfort to overblown panic. To all of the fans, especially those attending this week’s game, I remind you that we still control our own destiny but the Seahawks need us to do our part now more than ever. The 12th Man needs to enter CenturyLink Field on Sunday with the belief that this is a playoff game. I expect an extremely loud atmosphere (even for a Sunday afternoon game) that will make St. Louis struggle as badly as San Francisco and New Orleans did in primetime atmospheres. Plain and simple, this is a playoff game. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare during pregame and cheer and yell like it is a playoff game.

Random Thoughts: This week’s game theme is fan appreciation and the Seahawks will be giving away tons of prizes throughout the game. I haven’t won anything on fan appreciation day since 2008… Last season the Seahawks chose 60 season ticket holders randomly to be on the field for player introductions. If they are doing it again this year I didn’t get picked. Oh well… The Seahawks will wear all blue this week and the Rams will likely wear white jerseys and white pants… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will broadcast their final Seahawks game of the season this week on FOX… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee. Triplette’s crew has been rather controversial this year. In a Sunday night game between the Giants and the Redskins a few weeks ago, Triplette’s crew incorrectly told Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that they moved the chains for a first down but they really had not gained enough yards for a first down. The Redskins could not convert and the Giants won the game… This week I am taking my sister to a Seahawks game for the first time since her birthday in 2008. This is also the first time I’ve taken a family member other than my Dad to a game since then. She recently turned 21 so I will be able to show her what a normal gameday is like when I take my friends. Pregame at the Hawks Nest Bar starts at 9am… Shortly after the afternoon slate of games the NFL usually releases the schedule for both Wild-Card weekend and Divisional weekend. The Seahawks will likely know what day and what time they play their first playoff game by 5pm Sunday night. Congratulations to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas for being named to this year’s Pro Bowl and congratulations to Russell Okung, Golden Tate, and Steven Hauschka for being named Pro Bowl alternates. However, hopefully they trade their trip to Hawaii for a trip to New York to play in the Super Bowl instead.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As we enter the final week of the regular season there are 3 scenarios that could determine the Seahawks road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Scenario #1: A Seahawks win clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #2: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers loss to Arizona clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #3: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers win over Arizona clinches the NFC West for San Francisco; the Seahawks would be the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

The NFC North and NFC East division titles will be decided by win-or-go-home games that will determine who will be the #3 and #4 seeds.

The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South and the #2 seed with a win over Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tampa Bay. New Orleans wins the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss.

Here are this week’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3)

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11)

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5)

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5)

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)

Prediction: This game will feature shades of our first game against St. Louis and last week’s game against Arizona. The Seahawks offense will struggle to get going and the Rams will have the lead at halftime. A couple of big gains in the passing game and a touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch from just outside the goal line will give the Seahawks a late lead. The defense will play a consistent game throughout the day and they will step up when we need them to the most. The Rams will need to put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to win the game but Richard Sherman will pick off Kellen Clemens, giving the Seahawks the win, the NFC West title, and home field advantage.

Seahawks 21, Rams 16

Check back for my Rams/Seahawks review as well as a brief outlook on the start of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

Review: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10

22 Dec
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Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Well that did not go the way I thought it would.

The NFC West division championship celebration is on hold for one more week after the Arizona Cardinals came into CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon and stunned the Seattle Seahawks 17-10, giving the Seahawks their first loss at home since Christmas Eve 2011. The Cardinals improve to 10-5 on the season and their playoff hopes are still alive heading into the final week of the season. The Seahawks fall to 12-3 and are now only up by one game on San Francisco for the NFC West lead. What’s even scarier is the reaffirmation that it is in fact possible for a visiting team to come in to the hardest place to play in the NFL and beat one of the best teams in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals have created a blueprint for other teams to come to Seattle and give the Seahawks a run for their money. This game was very frustrating to watch in multiple aspects and extremely difficult to think about after the fact but this is what I took out of it.

A Hot Knife Through Butter: This is the only comparison to describe the Cardinals running game through the Seahawks defense. Running backs Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, and Stepfan Taylor ran for a combined 139 yards on Sunday and the Seattle defense could not stop runs through the middle of the field if their life depended on it. After watching a replay of the game the Cardinals offensive line did a great job blocking and creating room to run but the Seahawks defensive line and linebackers were quite undisciplined in regards to their gap assignments. The Seahawks gave up 10 rushes of 5 yards or more, including two first down runs late in the fourth quarter that were of 10 yards or more. Whenever the Seahawks needed a crucial stop, it seemed like the Cardinals countered with a gain that extended their drives. What frustrated me the most was how easy it looked for the Cardinals to run the ball. On many of their long rushes the ball carrier went untouched until he got to the second level of the Seahawks defense. It was a very uncharacteristic performance by the Seattle defense but I give credit to the Cardinals offensive line for being able to create those humongous holes for their running back to run through.

Michael F**king Bowie: From a broad perspective the Seahawks offense played their worst game of the season. Russell Wilson only threw for 108 yards, one touchdown, and one “interception” and Marshawn Lynch added 71 yards of his own. But to truly understand just how poorly the Seahawks offense played on Sunday, you have to zone in on what was occurring in the trenches. Me and the guys around me nicknamed starting right guard Michael Bowie “Michael F**king Bowie” on Sunday because he stepped in for the concussed J.R. Sweezy and struggled mightily keeping the pressure off of Russell Wilson. I kept tabs on Bowie for three consecutive second half drives and this is what I noticed. In 11 total plays, Bowie was only able to successfully contain his man once, on a 27 yard scramble by Wilson. Defensive tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Darnell Dockett were able to collapse the right side of the offensive line and Wilson was under constant pressure during this span. In this three drive sequence, Wilson went 2/6 passing for 9 yards. The Cardinals have an incredibly talented front 7 and they flat out embarrassed Bowie on Sunday. Bowie is still very raw and I think it was a mistake to start him at a position that he has not played consistently this season. It got to the point that the Seahawks were substituting Bowie for rookie lineman Alvin Bailey to try to get some offensive momentum going. Hopefully Sweezy will be back next week because with another talented defense coming to town next week, Bowie may be in for another tough day at the office, assuming he starts once again over James Carpenter if Sweezy cannot go.

It’s All About the Ball: Well, usually it’s all about the ball. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-2 on Sunday but walked away on the losing end for only the fourth time under Pete Carroll (the Seahawks are now 26-4 when winning the turnover battle). The Seahawks pressure on Carson Palmer was very good early on and it seemed as though if we could keep up the pass rush, Palmer would continue to make mistakes. Richard Sherman took the league lead in interceptions after intercepting two more passes on Sunday. Sherman now has 8 interceptions on the season. Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith also added interceptions off of tipped Palmer passes.

Defense Can’t Hold: Last season the Seahawks failed to hold leads late in the fourth quarter of four different games. All of those losses came on the road. This week the Seahawks blew a fourth quarter lead at home for the first time since the last game they lost at home in 2011. After scoring a touchdown to take a 10-9 lead, the Seahawks kicked off and the Cardinals had 7:26 to go roughly 55 yards to get into at least field goal range to have the opportunity to take the lead. The Cardinals went the length of the field, culminating in the deciding 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. The two-point conversion attempt was successful and Arizona took a 17-10 lead. This was one of the most unusual feelings I have had at a home game in a long time. Usually once the Seahawks take a lead late in a game, the crowd gets louder and the defense is able to feed off of the energy to step up and stop the opposing offense rather quickly. It has happened time and time again when playing at home over the past two seasons. Today the Cardinals were able to successfully finish their final drive and ultimately walked away victorious.

The Bad Calls: Fair warning, I am not trying to make excuses but I feel there were a handful of calls made by Scott Green and his officiating crew that may have shaped the outcome of Sunday’s game. There are 4 rulings that I felt were bad calls which killed our momentum and extended crucial Arizona drives.

The first questionable call came with 12:39 left in the game. Richard Sherman was called for pass interference on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Seahawks 16-yard line. From my seats it looks like Sherman’s feet got tangled with Fitzgerald’s, resulting in incidental contact. After watching the game film it looked more ticky-tacky on television but I still saw no interference on Sherman. Questionable call number two came on the very next play. Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall rushed for no gain but the ball was recovered by Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett. It was ruled on the field that Mendenhall was down by contact but the Seahawks challenged the play. The ruling on the field was upheld even though one angle seemed to show that the ball was coming loose before Mendenhall’s arm hit the ground, however the referee saw no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. That drive ended in a Cardinals punt.

The third questionable call made me madder than any of the other bad calls. With 5:04 left in the game Malcolm Smith was called for defensive holding on a 3rd down and 5. Instead of forcing the Cardinals to punt, the penalty gave the Cardinals a first down and they scored the game-winning touchdown later on in the drive. What made me mad was the extremely long delay between the end of the play and the penalty flag being thrown. The official that threw the flag on Smith had waved his arms to signal an incomplete pass THEN reached for his pocket to throw the flag. How in the world can you call the play incomplete then suddenly change your mind several seconds later to call a penalty? That long delay tells me that the referee actually may have been unsure what to rule and went with the “safer” decision. The play did not look like a defensive hold to me and the Seahawks should have gotten the ball back up by one with a chance to close the game out. Instead, the Seahawks got jobbed.

To add icing on top of the cake one last questionable call was made at the two-minute warning. A Russell Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin was ruled a deflection and an interception but the replay showed that the ball hit the ground before popping up into the air, which should have made it an incomplete pass and kept the Seahawks potential game winning drive alive. Baldwin said after the game that he knew the ball hit the ground and the referees made the wrong call. The replay angles show the ball hitting the ground with the field turf rubber popping up into the air but head referee Scott Green explained after the game that he “did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field.” This final bad call gave the Cardinals the ball back and they ran out the clock to win the game.

Thoughts on Arizona: If the Arizona Cardinals can make it into the playoffs, they are certainly a dark horse candidate to make a deep run. They certainly proved that they can win in an extremely hostile environment and their defense may be one of the best overall units in all of football. This team will certainly be a power in the NFC West moving forward in the coming years even if they fail to qualify to make the playoffs this season.

Random Thoughts: I cannot remember the last time I felt so tired throughout a Seahawks gameday. I need to get more sleep the night before home games… Or take a 5-hour energy… I couldn’t believe how foggy it was in downtown Seattle during the game. My seats offer a view to the south of I-5 and the fog was so thick you could not see past the outside of the stadium. It was almost as if we were in the middle of a cloud… Shout out to Ebenezer from Georgia who was a random stranger we drank and chatted with at the bar before the game. He seemed out of it before even getting there (if you know what I mean) and his commentary was very erratic and contradictory. He provided quality entertainment for us though… Just to reiterate how badly our section is patrolled by frickin’ boobs, the seating host for our section once again proved how he takes his job unnecessarily seriously. He talked to the group sitting to my left that they were behaving inappropriately but I did not hear or see any kind of behavior that could confirm that claim. The run-ins with the seating hosts and security our section has endured this season continue to get more and more ridiculous… I haven’t walked down the ramps of the stadium following a loss in a very long time. That was a strange and upsetting feeling. I am very worried about the possibility of the Rams coming to Seattle next week and beating us. Next week’s game must have a playoff feel to it in the stands. Or we could just hope for a 49ers loss either Monday night or next Sunday.

Instead of clinching the division this week and resting our starters against the Rams, next week’s game has suddenly become extremely important. Check back for my Rams/Seahawks preview next Saturday. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas everybody. Go Hawks!

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 23, Giants 0

15 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Don’t get me the least bit wrong, I LOVE the outcome of Sunday’s game, but this 20-burger with cheese should have been at least a 40-burger with cheese (if you’re confused try to look it up). The Seahawks defeated the New York Giants 23-0 on Sunday in a game that featured an unstoppable Seattle defensive unit, a shaky yet functioning offensive unit, and perhaps a preview of the Seahawks getting their feet wet in the stadium that may house the biggest game in Seahawks history on February 2nd. The Seahawks are now 12-2 and are one win away from clinching the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants fall to 5-9 on the season and nothing was improved on their side except for their slot in next year’s draft. There is so much good to go over in this game (with a little “just okay” to go over as well) but let me start with the obvious.

Defense Plays Best Game of the Season: In general let’s not ignore this undeniable fact; the Seattle Seahawks defense played their best all-around game of the season. But honestly, how can you not when you shut out your opponent? The Seahawks held the Giants to 181 total yards and New York did not have an offensive play in Seahawks territory until the fourth quarter. The run defense looked particularly dominant, holding Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis to 25 total rushing yards. The pressure the Seahawks front seven put on Giants quarterback Eli Manning started early with a sack by Bobby Wagner and did not let up, even when the Giants were able to get small drives going. Two interceptions by Richard Sherman and an interception by Earl Thomas are examples of what I preached in my Giants game preview. If the defense could force New York into mistakes the Seahawks offense would control the game. That is exactly what happened. Constant pressure on Manning forced him into bad throws which resulted in interceptions. Sherman and Thomas played a great game but it was one other Seahawks defender that really opened my eyes.

Brandon Who? Walter Who?: There is a very special feeling fans get when they see a backup player get his chance, make an immediate impact, and display his “star-of-the-future” potential. Byron Maxwell played the best all-around game of his young career on Sunday, recording 3 passes defensed and also intercepting 2 passes. In three starts in place of the injured Brandon Browner and the suspended Walter Thurmond, Maxwell now has 3 interceptions and 8 passes defensed. Maxwell’s play is making it incredibly difficult for the Seahawks defensive coaches to justify replacing him once Thurmond returns from his suspension. With Maxwell playing well on the outside, that also helps cornerback Jeremy Lane, who can focus strictly on playing nickel cornerback instead of having to switch between different positions in different packages if Maxwell was struggling to hold down the second cornerback spot. Although Maxwell is taking over a starting spot, regardless of who is the second starter when Browner and Thurmond come back, the Seahawks will have a proven idea of just how deep they are in the secondary for the playoffs.

Pass Rush Forces Mistakes: Eli Manning threw a career high 5 interceptions this week and it was due in large part to the effectiveness of the Seahawks pass rush. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks of Manning and additional pressure forced bad passes which ultimately stopped drives. Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett stuck out in my mind this week, as both had phenomenal performances. Wagner and Bennett combined for 14 tackles and 2 sacks. Over the past few road games the Seahawks pass rush seemed to be lacking. The last time the Seahawks defense recorded at least 4 sacks in a road game was back in week 7 at Arizona and the 4 sacks Seattle had against the Giants this week is the second highest total on the road this season. This was the game that the 12th Man knew the Seahawks had in them. The focus now will be to carry this defensive momentum into two dominant performances to end the regular season.

Offensive Line Must Improve: As joyous as it was to watch the Seahawks dismantle the Giants there was one gigantic concern that stopped the hearts of me and my friends during this game. Russell Wilson gets hit too much. Even when Russell does not get hit, more often than not he is scrambling trying to make a play because he has to. Wilson was sacked 4 times on Sunday which is definitely too many in my opinion. Many of Wilson’s short to intermediate throws also came out of the pocket. This has been a problem throughout the season and things must change in order to keep Wilson clean and limit the chances of him getting hurt. Because the Seahawks are winning and the offense has been productive throughout the season many fans tend to ignore any potential problems within the team but I see an issue on the right side of the offensive line that needs to be corrected. Second year right guard J.R. Sweezy seems to be having a hard time pass blocking and Breno Giacomini is quite hit-or-miss in pass protection. I would be interested to see an offensive line combo that puts Paul McQuistan at left guard, moving James Carpenter to right guard to replace Sweezy. Like I said at the beginning of this review, the Seahawks should have been able to put up at least 40 points in this game and the main reason why it was a closer score I believe can be ultimately traced back to the spotty play of the Seahawks offensive line.

Moving Forward, Turn Field Goals into Touchdowns: There were several third down and short opportunities that were squandered this week, leading to field goals instead of touchdowns. Kicker Steven Hauschka ranks 6th among all NFL kickers in field goals made and he has connected on a career high 7 field goals in the 20-29 yard range this season; kicks where the drive stalls inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. The Seahawks need to do a better job of punching the ball in the endzone in these short yardage situations. Marshawn Lynch was stopped on a goal line run today on a drive that resulted in a Lynch touchdown a couple of plays later, however the ineffectiveness of getting the ball into the endzone from just outside the goal line makes me question the blocking schemes drawn up in the red zone. Simply put, the Seahawks need to prove to me that they can score a touchdown in positions where anything but a touchdown is a complete disappointment. Being able to finish off drives with 7 points instead of 3 will help greatly later on in the game.

Thoughts on the Giants: The New York Giants are a team that may be close to a light rebuild. Their core group of talent is getting older and it is apparent that they need to re-make the offense in order to take pressure off of Eli Manning in both the passing game and the running game. I would not be surprised to see the Giants use their first couple of draft picks next year on offensive linemen because that is where I believe the Giants were the weakest on Sunday. Getting veterans healthy and adding solid, young talent could put the Giants in the running for a typical 8 or 9 win season in 2014, which may or may not put them in a position to make the playoffs.

Random Thoughts: I am sick of stupid penalties. 8 penalties for 50 yards on Sunday and many of them were procedure fouls, aka the simplest, most fundamental aspects of football. This needs to change. It is amazing that we can be the 2nd most penalized team in the league, yet we are good enough to be 12-2. If we had played cleaner football throughout the season, it may not be overly impossible to think we could be 14-0 right now… Bill Leavy didn’t screw us over this week. Thanks Bill! However, I refuse to fully forgive you for Super Bowl XL until we finally win a championship… I watched the game down at my friend Jake’s house and it was a really fun time with all of my best friends… Didn’t get to watch RedZone so we flipped between Kansas City/Oakland and Green Bay/Dallas in the afternoon, while also being able to sneak in a quick catnap… 6 month old Bud Light still tastes fine. I don’t see a problem with drinking old beer as long as it doesn’t taste bad. There’s no problem with that right?… The Seahawks were wearing white jerseys and blue pants this week so my prediction was correct… With two home games left I think it is impossible to lose out on the division but honestly I am looking a bit ahead to the St. Louis game week 17 because if we win and wrap everything up next week against Arizona, I think we will treat the Rams game like a preseason game by resting all of our important starters. My point: Our 14 (15 if you count a win next week over the Cardinals) game home winning streak could be in jeopardy. That would be devastating.

The Seahawks will now come home for the final two games of the regular season. Next week we host the Arizona Cardinals. Check back on Saturday for my preview of next week’s game. Enjoy this win everybody. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Giants Preview

14 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants

Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

Kickoff: 10:00am

After failing to clinch the NFC West last week the Seahawks will have another chance to get the job done this week as they take on the New York Giants. The Seahawks are 11-2 while the Giants have struggled throughout this season. The Giants have a 5-8 record and with their loss last week to the San Diego Chargers, New York has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The Giants lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-6 but it was Seattle who was on the winning end of their last meeting; a 36-25 Seahawks victory over the eventual world champion Giants in New Jersey in 2011. Traveling across the country and playing in the 10am Pacific Time slot is always a difficult challenge for the Seahawks but the motivation of coming off a loss last week makes this Seahawks team a group no team would like to get in the way of. In order to take care of business this week this is what the Seahawks need to do, as well as what the Giants need to do in order to upset this Seattle team.

Playing sound defensive football, especially after allowing 19 points in a losing effort last week is the first thing I need to see out of the Seahawks this week. Earl Thomas made it known after last week’s game that the entire team felt angry because they let that game get away from them so I would expect the Seahawks defense to come out completely motivated and they will look to make big plays early. It may be hard for Eli Manning to make deep throws because of the Legion of Boom likely looking to take their anger out by playing a phenomenal game this week. My main focus is something that has been improving on a week-by-week basis and that is the interior pass rush. Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions with 20. The Legion of Boom will make the long passing game hard for Manning this week but if the Seahawks can be consistent rushing the passer this week Manning will surely be forced into making bad throws especially if the Giants are trailing. Brandon Mebane and Clinton McDonald are two Seahawks defenders to watch this week. Mebane is overdue to get involved in the sack department since he has not recorded a sack yet this season, and McDonald was able to make Colin Kaepernick uncomfortable last week, sacking him once. Add effectiveness from Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin as well and the Seahawks defense will spend a good chunk of game clock on the sidelines while they watch the offense work.

Last week against San Francisco Marshawn Lynch ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Lynch has not run for more than 100 yards in a game since playing Atlanta in week 10 so this week it will be very important to keep feeding the beast. There should be a primary focus this week on the run not just because of Lynch but because of the weather forecast which is calling for potential snow during the game. The Giants defense has been improving each week and their passing defense now ranks in the top half of teams in the league in yards allowed per game. Although we will see Russell Wilson make plays this week I think Marshawn Lynch is due for perhaps his biggest workload of the season this week. A 100-plus yard rushing performance by Lynch could send the Seahawks well on their way to a victory this week. 25-30 carries is the range I expect to see Lynch get against the Giants.

Like I stated earlier, Giants quarterback Eli Manning ranks first in the NFL in interceptions thrown and this week poses a daunting challenge for Manning and the New York offense. In order for the Giants offense to be successful against the Seahawks this week I think Manning needs to play similarly to how Colin Kaepernick played the Seahawks last week; by going conservative. Out-routes will be Manning’s best friend this week and I anticipate that he will not try to test the Legion of Boom down the middle of the field, much like the way Kaepernick effectively played last week by throwing along the sidelines. Wide receiver Victor Cruz will be Manning’s most reliable target this week but also keep an eye out for Hakeem Nicks who caught 5 passes for 131 yards against San Diego last week because he may emerge as a dangerous sideline threat this week.

The New York Giants defense is a mystery to me as a unit this season. Although they are one of the older, more experienced defenses in the league they still have playoff caliber talent. Mental lapses, ineffectiveness, and injuries have doomed the Giants all season long. The Giants give up an average of 337 yards per game to opposing offenses and in their 8 losses they allow close to 34 points per game, certainly one of the worst averages among all NFL teams. Justin Tuck continues to be the most well-known and most productive defender New York has to offer. Tuck has recorded a team high 8.5 sacks this season but the lack of production by the rest of his defensive teammates allows opposing quarterbacks to stand in the pocket, make throws, and continue drives. Fundamental tackling and forcing Russell Wilson turnovers will help the Giants prevail with a win this week. Having said this, my X-Factor player to watch for the New York Giants this week is Safety Antrel Rolle. Rolle leads all Giants defenders in tackles with 79; about 6 per game. Rolle has also intercepted 5 passes which also leads all Giants in that category. Rolle has been New York’s best all-around player on defense this week and it will be important for him to tackle smart to prevent big gains of yardage and to fly around in the secondary, similarly to Earl Thomas, in order to confuse Russell Wilson and have a chance to take advantage of any potential Seattle offensive mistakes.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. Pant color has become a total crapshoot on the road but if I have to make a prediction, I say we will wear blue pants… The Giants will wear blue jerseys and I would not be surprised to see them wear their new white pants again this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the call for FOX this week and Erin Andrews will patrol the sidelines. It was just announced this week that the Burkhardt/Lynch/Andrews team has earned the right to call one of two NFC Divisional playoff games on FOX on either January 11th or 12th. Good for this team. I would agree that they deserve this opportunity. I have enjoyed their broadcasts on Seahawks road games this season… Expect all questionable calls to go against the Seahawks this week. That’s right friends you guessed it. The referee for this week’s game is Bill Leavy. You know, the guy who helped prevent us win our first Super Bowl 8 years ago. Yeah. That guy… My cousins are going to be at this weekend’s game. I’m jealous. Oh well, maybe I’ll get the chance to go to the next Seahawks game at MetLife Stadium!… This will be the first game of the season that I get to watch with my best friends/roommates from last year. That will be a lot of fun. Looking forward to it Jake, Alan, and Clayton… I would love to see it snow during this week’s game. Not like the Detroit/Philadelphia game from last week but a light dusting would do for me… It’s really cool to think that if things go as planned in the coming weeks this will be the last Seahawks road trip until Super Bowl XLVIII should we make it. Let’s take care of business this week so we can maintain the wiggle room to clinch sooner rather than later. I do not want to see us lose, essentially thrusting our final two games into must-win games.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and a first round bye with a win over the Giants and a 49ers loss to Tampa Bay. The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Giants, a 49ers loss to Tampa Bay, and a Saints loss to St. Louis. Here are this week’s games to watch that could affect the entire NFC Playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Seattle (11-2) at New York Giants (5-8)

San Francisco (9-4) at Tampa Bay (4-9)

New Orleans (10-3) at St. Louis (5-8)

Philadelphia (8-5) at Minnesota (3-9-1)

Chicago (7-6) at Cleveland (4-9)

New York Jets (6-7) at Carolina (9-4)

Green Bay (6-6-1) at Dallas (7-6)

Arizona (8-5) at Tennessee (5-8)

Baltimore (7-6) at Detroit (7-6)

Prediction: There is a sense of urgency and the team knows it. They let last week slip away and I believe that this week they will not let the Giants get anything going to start. The Seahawks will build a lead and although New York may make it close, this game will be the Seahawks game to lose. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns and Kam Chancellor will force a fumble which will be recovered by Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks will win but with a predicted San Francisco win, the Seahawks will have to wait one more week to clinch the NFC West at home against Arizona.

Seahawks 26, Giants 17

Check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my Giants review. Thanks for reading and Go Seahawks!

My Weekend in San Francisco 2013

12 Dec
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From left to right: Eric, Grant, Jeff, James

Saturday: My friends James and Grant and I arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly before 8am. As I passed through security I encountered the most interesting set of TSA officers I have ever had the pleasure to deal with.  First, the officer who checked my boarding pass and driver’s license noticed my Seahawks hat and Seahawks coat and when she saw that my destination was San Francisco she knew I was heading to the game. Upon highlighting my boarding pass and sending me over to the security checkpoint she said to me “make sure the Seahawks kick their ass” to which I smiled and assured her I’d let them know where I was from. Second, after going through the screener, the officer who waved me through was probably the most attractive TSA official I have ever encountered. Lastly as I was scrambling to get all of my personal effects off of the conveyer belt, a third TSA agent jokingly gave me a hard time about how flustered I seemed based on how fast I was trying to get my things and get out of the way. It was certainly the coolest airport security experience I have ever been through.

After passing through security I grabbed breakfast and we headed towards the gate at the north satellite. Our Alaska Airlines flight was probably the most fun I have ever had on an airplane. Over half of our flight was Seahawks fans heading down for the game and the mood on the flight was excitement with lots of humor and stories being shared around the cabin. About halfway through the flight the flight crew requested at that everybody take out any Seahawks gear they had in the overhead compartments because they wanted to take some pictures of everybody on the plane in their Seahawks gear to post online. This got everybody excited and the flight got really loud. Even the passengers who were not Seahawks fans going to the game seemed to have a fun time or at least I assume so because nobody complained.

Our first stop upon arrival In San Francisco was lunch at In-N-Out burger which was conveniently about a half a mile south of the airport and was directly across the highway from our hotel. We definitely hit the lunch time rush because the entire parking lot was full along with a drive thru line about 20-25 cars long, almost stretching all the way across the parking lot and into the street. In-N-Out is customary to be a tradition upon all of my visits to California and this burger really hit the spot, keeping all of us full and satisfied until dinner time. After lunch we headed across the highway to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Burlingame, and checked in but not before being confused by the roads surrounding the hotel, making numerous wrong turns and detours. I dropped my luggage off at my room overlooking the southeast and relaxed for a couple of hours, allowing me to charge my phone and tour the hotel along with the amenities it offered. After this brief rest it was time to head downtown to the ultra-touristy part of San Francisco, the Embarcadero and Pier 39.

We got downtown with about an hour of sunlight left in the day. This allowed us to take pictures of the surrounding views from the back of Pier 39 such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and various buildings in downtown San Francisco. I definitely came downtown underdressed as the cool breeze from the water added with the chilly air temperature made it feel absolutely freezing. A knit hat would have done a much better job keeping me warm than a visor. Oh well. Let me say this about pier 39, it can be fun to peruse but you run out of things to do and see very quickly. After looking through a few shops and grabbing an utterly terrible cup of coffee from a Mrs. Fields cookie stand, we decided to stand at the front of the pier where a large contingent of Seahawks fans were meeting for a “takeover of San Francisco.” This event was hyped on Facebook but did not really live up to my expectations because there was simply no space inside the Hard Rock Café (the primary meeting place) for all the Seahawks fans to fit. We wound up killing about another 45 minutes of time around Pier 39 before walking north to meet our friend Lauren for dinner at Boudin Bakery.

I was first introduced to Boudin by my friends Josh and Amanda on my trip to San Francisco last October and although I was not a fan of sourdough bread I decided to give Boudin’s sourdough chili bowl the ol’ college try. I was blown away. The chili was amazing and the bread was so fresh and warm that you couldn’t even taste the sourdough flavor that I disliked so much. It was one of my favorite meals on my trip last year so I felt that another visit was in order this year to expose James and Grant to this great restaurant that they too had never visited. After dinner James, Grant, Lauren and I walked through the bitter cold north to Ghirardelli Square. Here we looked through the original Ghirardelli chocolate shop and stopped for James and Grant to split the famous Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae, as Lauren and I enviously watched them devour it. After driving around downtown and dropping Lauren off at home we headed back to the hotel and we decided to head down to the hotel bar to have a drink before calling it a night.

Typically, much like going through security at the airport or your flight experience, having a drink in the hotel bar seems like pretty textbook stuff. You go, you talk, you drink, and you go back to your room. Not on this trip, however. Once again a mundane part of a typical vacation was turned upside down thanks to a group of knucklehead Seahawks fans staying at our hotel. We took a seat in a booth in the hotel bar/restaurant and it took forever to get served by the one server/busser hybrid. Once we got our drinks (and James’s humongous chicken Caesar salad) after a long wait the mayhem really began. The front of the restaurant is lined with glass windows. One end of the front hallway leads to a stairwell and the other end leads towards the elevators and the front desk. All of a sudden we heard some sort of ruckus outside of the restaurant over by the stairwell. Our server and the main bartender ran outside to break up what turned into a fistfight that had been led down the hallway close to the entrance of the restaurant. We turned around to see a struggle between a small group of Seahawks fans and another couple of people. Hotel security is almost immediately on the scene and they make it known that the police have been called. Once the police arrived they started to question each person that was involved in the fight and word started to spread among the guests dining and drinking in the bar that the instigators (the group of Seahawks fans) were going to be arrested, charged with assault, and would spend the night in a San Francisco jail. After about 15 minutes with the police right outside the bar, we decided to close out and head back to our rooms before the scene potentially started to escalate again. It was a really bizarre experience but one we would joke about for the rest of our trip.

I headed back to my room and called it a night. We had a very big day ahead of us on Sunday. My gameday wake-up call was set for 6am.

Sunday: I woke up to a beautiful red sunrise and later we checked out of the hotel and were on our way to the stadium by 8am. What sucks is that we could have afforded to leave a little later than 8. I knew that the parking lot gates to Candlestick Park opened at 9am but with the inevitable traffic that was going to clog the areas around the stadium I was positive that the 9am opening time was simply a plucked time and the gates would be open before 9am. I was dead wrong and it left me scratching my head, flustered, and it required us to figure out how to kill some time. After driving around the outside of the stadium gates we drove through the bad part of San Francisco which neighbors Candlestick Park and we eventually found our way back onto the highway. We drove one exit south and waited in a Radisson hotel parking lot for about a half an hour before making another attempt to park at the stadium. As we were driving south however we saw numerous cars along the shoulder of the highway waiting for 9am to draw closer so they could finish their drive and get into the parking lot. At 9am we headed north on 101 once again and when we got back to Candlestick Park, the parking lot when from a ghost town a half an hour earlier to about halfway full by the time we arrived again. We hit our second snag of the morning when we re-arrived at the stadium. Candlestick Park has three entrances to the main parking lot and each gate had signs stating that the only people allowed to park in the main parking lot were fans that had purchased a pre-paid parking pass through the 49ers. This banished us to the outer gravel parking lots at the “Candlestick recreational area.” After walking back and forth between the car and the RV tailgating lot multiple times (because I forgot the tickets at the car and we could not take any outside alcohol into the Candlestick parking lot (the stupidest rule I have ever encountered on any of my road trips by the way)) we headed to the Northern California Seahawkers “Final Stompin’ at the Stick” tailgate in the northwest corner of the stadium lot. The tailgate was crowded with Seahawks fans but the lack of beer due to the “no-alcohol in the parking lot” rule put a slight damper on my personal pregame plan. Nevertheless I was still excited for the game.

A little more than an hour before kickoff we decided to head into the stadium and made our way to the seats in Section 51, row 1. I sat in the exact same section and row the previous year so I was familiar with how to get to our seats and I had previous familiarity with the view from the inside of the stadium. I will spare details of the game because I’m assuming you already saw it on television but the environment inside the stadium was probably the worst experience I have ever had at Candlestick in regards to the people around me. During a television timeout in the first half, James asked the people sitting behind us if they could take a picture of our group with our backs facing the field. When we posed the entire section booed and cussed at us and one fan through a whole sandwich in our direction. Although the sandwich did not hit any of us, it did hit a 49ers fan seated in the lower part of the bowl about four rows in front of us. The fan continued to look back in my direction for the next few minutes and it was not hard to jump to the conclusion that he thought I had thrown the sandwich just because I was wearing Seahawks gear. He seemed like he wanted to get security involved even though the people next to us and directly behind us signaled to him that we were not the sandwich culprits. Still though, he had a look on his face that he wanted to come up and punch me in the face. I was hit in the head by some other small object when Russell Wilson threw his game-ending interception at the conclusion of the game but it was not big enough of a deal for me to be angry or questioning what had just hit me. Overall the crowd was very hostile and although I stood up and cheered loudly when the Seahawks scored, I felt like it was in my best interest to subdue my cheering to prevent any incidents that could involve me or the rest of the guys I went with. The crowd in San Francisco this year only re-affirms how pleasant other opposing fan bases are to interact with on my previous road trips. Even for a brief moment upon reflecting on the day’s events it crossed my mind that maybe I should not pay another visit to another Seahawks/49ers road game for a few years.

After the game we grabbed one last bite to eat once again at In-N-Out before heading to the airport to conclude our trip. Overall I had a lot of fun on this trip but it is unfortunate we did not get the chance to win the division on our final visit to Candlestick Park. Although the outcome of the game was disappointing, I had lots of fun on another Seahawks road trip with friends and it was definitely a memory making experience.

Review: 49ers 19, Seahawks 17

9 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Although the NFC West championship and home field advantage is still all but certain, if for any reason we completely fall apart and miss out on either of these two scenarios this is the game the Seahawks and their fans will look back on as the turning point in the season. The Seahawks 7 game losing streak has come to an end and our quest for the division title must wait at least one more week as the Seahawks fell to the San Francisco 49ers 19-17 on Sunday. The Seahawks fall to 11-2 and now lead the 9-4 49ers by 2 games in the NFC West. There are a lot of frustrating moments that may have ultimately changed the outcome of the game. This is what I saw.

2nd Half Defense Does its Part: Over the past couple of seasons the Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the league when it comes to halftime adjustments and improvements. The defense stepped up and shut down the 49ers offense in the second half, holding them to only 3 points (for the sake of this section, forget those points were the ultimate difference in the game). The defensive pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was cranked up as Clinton McDonald and Chris Clemons each recorded a crucial sack on third down plays in the fourth quarter. Byron Maxwell once again stepped up in place of Walter Thurmond, recording 5 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and an interception. Overall the Seahawks defense only allowed 19 points to a solid 49ers offense which should be enough in order to win. Unfortunately the Seahawks failed to get any momentum going on offense to parallel the effort of the defense.

2nd Half Offense Fails to Show: When I went to Houston back in September the Seahawks were down by 17 points at halftime. Although I was surprised and disappointed I never gave up hope that the Seahawks could comeback because prior to that game they had proven that they could come back facing a deficit of at least 20 points. The Seahawks trailed the 49ers by 2 points at halftime and my overall feeling was that Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson would make the necessary adjustments for the offense to comeback, take the lead, and potentially blow this game wide open. That never happened. The Seahawks only scored 3 points of their own in the second half and missed opportunities denied Seattle the chance to extend drives and perhaps put points on the board. Marshawn Lynch only ran for 72 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and it felt as though the Seahawks number one priority this week was to move the ball through the air even though Russell Wilson only threw the ball 25 times for 199 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. I give lots of credit to the San Francisco secondary, especially cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Eric Reid for their impressive blanket coverage on all Seahawks receivers. As the game went along the belief remained that the Seahawks would make a run at taking control of the game because I knew they could but as the minutes ticked off the clock the worse our chances became and by the time we got the ball back for our final drive it was too little too late and the clock had struck midnight.

Penalties Doom Seahawks: While watching Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN in my hotel room prior to leaving for Candlestick Park, one analyst boldly predicted that this week’s Seahawks/49ers game would break an NFL record for most number of penalties in a single game. It sure felt like he was right but the calls that went against the Seahawks came at the worst times. Instead of extending drives, penalties backed the Seahawks so far back that the drives predictably stalled and the Seahawks were forced to punt, trading potential points for goose-eggs and a change of possession. In a nutshell, I strongly believe that the 49ers did not beat the Seahawks but that the Seahawks beat the Seahawks. Two Marshawn Lynch first down runs were called back for holding, a long completion to Golden Tate was called back for offensive pass interference because Tate pushed off of his defender, and on a 4th and 5 while in punt formation it appeared that a 49er defender jumped offside, which caused the Seahawks to point towards the other side of the line of scrimmage. Instead of a 5-yard offsides penalty and an automatic first down, it was ruled a false start and the Seahawks backed up 5 yards. In total, the Seahawks committed 9 penalties for 85 yards. About half of those penalty yards came on long, potential game altering plays.

The Gamble and the Two Plays that Changed the Game: After the Seahawks took a 17-16 lead the 49ers got the ball back with 6:20 left in the game. The Seahawks had two timeouts to work with and with the way the defense had been playing, I felt that it was entirely possible that we could force a quick drive and get the ball back to attempt to pad our lead. Instead, the 49ers gave the ball to running back Frank Gore who galloped 51 yards on the fourth play of the drive and all of a sudden the 49ers went from having the ball in their own territory to having the ball in the red zone, well within field goal range. After Kendall Hunter ran for one yard on the next play coach Carroll decided to take our second timeout and it was clear how he was going to play the end of the game; use both timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the 49ers with enough time to allow them to kick a field goal and for us to go down the field into field goal range for Steven Hauschka to win the game. Carroll used the Seahawks final timeout after a 2-yard run by Gore and all the Seahawks needed to do was stop San Francisco to set up a 49ers field goal with 2:00 left. Instead Carroll’s gamble backfired and the Seahawks allowed the second most important play of the game; a first down scramble by Kaepernick to give San Francisco a fresh set of downs and the ability to run the clock down under a minute, kick a field goal, and leave the Seahawks virtually no time to go down the field and score. If I was Pete Carroll I would have waited to use our timeouts after the two minute warning which would have given us about one extra minute of game clock. I do not blame Carroll for the decision he made because he had trust in a unit that had not given up any points in the second half up until this point in the game. Unfortunately it nipped the Seahawks in the bud.

49ers Played Like They Wanted it More: On Saturday night, Mitch Levy of Sports Radio 950 KJR tweeted that the attitudes and body language of 49ers players in interviews leading up to this week’s game showed a team that was uptight; so uptight that, as Levy stated “you can’t get a blade of grass up their asses.” San Francisco sure did not play like that at all. The 49ers came out firing with full confidence and I got the sense that they did a remarkable job preparing for what the Seahawks were going to throw at them on both sides of the ball.  They fed off the energy of their home crowd and scoring 16 points in the first half alone gave their defense extreme confidence to shut the Seahawks offense down. The 49ers did not play as an uptight team, but as a team that had a “we have nothing to lose” mentality when in reality this was a game they definitely needed to win to continue to control their own destiny in the NFC wild-card race.

Injury Analysis: Linebacker K.J. Wright broke a bone in his foot on Sunday and there is an estimated recovery time of at least six weeks. If that is the case, Wright could make it back in time to play in Super Bowl XLVIII should the Seahawks make it. Wright however remains hopeful that he will be healthy enough to return in time for the start of the playoffs, as was portrayed on his Twitter shortly after Sunday’s game. Max Unger and Jeron Johnson also exited the game this week and both did not return. Unger is dealing with a strained pectoral muscle and Johnson pulled a hamstring. To my knowledge their statuses for next week against the New York Giants is unknown. Losing Wright, a starter on defense, hurts but Malcolm Smith stepped in for Wright and did a good job. Unger is the man I would be the most worried about. Unger is the anchor of the offensive line and if the Seahawks are going to be without him for any length of time, we may see shades of the Seahawks teams that struggled against St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

Thoughts on San Francisco: The 49ers looked like a team that could make the playoffs as a wild-card and make a run deep into the playoffs, assuming of course that they do not run into Seattle along that road. The defense played a really good football game and if Frank Gore is feeling it he is extremely hard to stop. The addition of Michael Crabtree back into the lineup also adds firing power to the cannon of Colin Kaepernick. If the 49ers have to come to Seattle in the playoffs they will most likely lose but I would not be surprised to see the 49ers make it to at least the divisional round if not the NFC Championship Game if they are able to play like they did on Sunday.

Random Thoughts: All of my random thoughts will come in an in-depth feature post on my entire weekend trip to San Francisco. I hope to have that post published by mid-week. Stay tuned!

In addition to “Weekend in San Francisco 2013” post in the middle of this week, make sure to check back on Saturday as I preview next week’s matchup with the New York Giants. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/49ers Preview

7 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Candlestick Park (San Francisco, California)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

In his weekly press conferences, Russell Wilson religiously states that each game “is a championship opportunity.” For the first time this season Wilson’s mentality can be taken literally. This week, in one of the more highly anticipated games of the week, the Seahawks have the opportunity to clinch the 2013 NFC West title and a first round bye in the NFC playoffs. In their way are their arch rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks are 11-1 and are coming off of a thrilling 34-7 win over the New Orleans Saints last Monday and will take on the 49ers in San Francisco on a short week for the second consecutive season. The 49ers enter this week’s game at 8-4 and they are coming off a 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams last week. Although coming back to win the division is highly unlikely, the 49ers are battling several teams for the final NFC wild-card playoff berth and a win this week would certainly help their case to make the playoffs. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 15-14 and Seattle defeated San Francisco 29-3 in their last meeting back in September. Here is what I will be looking for from my upper deck first row seat at Candlestick Park on Sunday.

Russell Wilson has started 29 career games for the Seahawks and the worst performance of his young career came last season in San Francisco. At that point last season the Seahawks had yet to unleash their entire playbook and I believe playing conservatively cost the Seahawks multiple scoring chances and ultimately the game. This year things are different. I believe that Pete Carroll will try to feed Marshawn Lynch the ball early but in the later parts of the game I expect to see the “Russell Wilson show.” I think that the read option will be a pivotal part of the Seahawks offense this week. I realize that the 49ers will be preparing for everything the Seahawks pose as a challenge but the read option has not be used on a regular basis over the past few weeks, simply because we have not had the need to use it. The read option has turned into an emergency package that is only used in excess when the Seahawks are struggling or trailing late in games. I could see the Seahawks struggle in the first half of the game and if Seattle is leading by one score or if they are trailing, halftime adjustments will be made with a serious attempt to unleash Russell Wilson and the read option. I believe that Wilson is just now starting to play his best football of the season and using him in read option this week could put the 49ers at a serious disadvantage.

When it comes to the Seahawks defense this week, there are several things that concern me. Seattle has faced 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice but never at Candlestick Park. That plus the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree from a torn Achilles adds a wrinkle that could put the Seahawks at a disadvantage because there is only one game’s worth of Kaepernick/Crabtree game film this season; last week against St. Louis. Forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down will be very important for the Seahawks defense this week but the main key to controlling the ball and preserving a victory will be to put excessive amounts of pressure on Colin Kaepernick. In preparation for this week, I suspect the Seahawks paid very close attention to the game film of the 49ers game against Carolina from four weeks ago when the Panthers were able to sack Kaepernick 6 times and held him to a career-low 91 yards passing. Although the sack totals have not been present over the past couple of weeks the Seahawks have been doing a much better job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Look for Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin to step up and have big games for the Seahawks on defense this week.

The San Francisco 49ers offense has proven to be a rather shaky unit this season. It seems as though they play well against average or bad defenses and they struggle immensely against good defenses. Although San Francisco has Michael Crabtree back I would not be surprised to see him make a minimal impact this week. In last season’s matchup in San Francisco, running back Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries. If the 49ers are to have any offensive success this week it starts with Gore. If Gore is effective against a Seahawks run defense that has vastly improved in their last three games, that opens up the offense and could help Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis get open, thus the 49ers offense will be two-dimensional. If the Seahawks shut Gore down, the passing game will become the focal point of the offense and the Legion of Boom will have an easier time creating confusion for Kaepernick in the passing game.

The 49ers defense has been consistently good all season long. A solid front seven is starting to gel with a young secondary to create a strong cohesive unit. Much like it is a key for the Seahawks defense to stop Frank Gore, it will be equally as important for the 49ers defense to be able to stop Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers allow an average of 105 rushing yards per game and I believe they will have keep Lynch to fewer than 100 yards rushing on Sunday in order to have a chance to win. For San Francisco to do this I put my spotlight on the middle of the 49ers defense. My X-Factor player to watch this week is 49ers defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. Prior to last week against St. Louis, Dorsey’s most productive game of the season came in Seattle in week 2 when he recorded 5 tackles. In San Francisco’s base 3-4 defense, Dorsey is mostly responsible for clogging running lanes on the interior of the offensive line, with the help of linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. On interior running plays it will be Dorsey’s responsibility to make initial contact with Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin to slow them down or to make the solo tackle. Lynch likes to pound the ball on the inside and run defenders over so Dorsey will have the chance to make a big impact in this game. A solid performance by Glenn Dorsey could help propel the 49ers to force turnovers, manage the game clock, and control the tempo of the entire game.

Random Thoughts: I am once again going to bank on the Seahawks wearing white jerseys this week. I think they have maxed out the number of times they can wear their grey alternate jerseys so I’m going to be packing my white one. Please wear white, Seahawks. I don’t want to wear the wrong color jersey on both of my road trips this year… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX… Clete Blakeman is the referee this week. Remember, Blakeman and his crew were the ones responsible for waving off pass interference at the end of the Patriots/Panthers Monday Night Football game… I have been looking forward to this weekend since I booked airfare and bought tickets to the game back in May. I am excited to experience a Seahawks road game for the first time with my friends James and Grant. Even though I have given them excessive information about what to expect on gameday in San Francisco, they really have no idea. They are just going to have to experience it for themselves. My gut feeling is that they are going to have a blast… To all Seahawks fans heading down to San Francisco with us this weekend, don’t forget about the 12th Man takeover at Pier 39 on Saturday night. The “attending” count on the Facebook event is currently at 900 so it is going to be very crowded… And very fun!… I’ll be tailgating in the southern part of the Candlestick Park parking lot most likely… The 49ers are giving away red rally towels this week so of course we are going to counter. We will be waving white Seahawks rally towels so be on the look for us. For those watching on TV, we are sitting on the Seahawks sideline on the north goal line in the first row of the upper bowl (left side of your screen)… I find it hilarious that the 49ers sent out their version of “Ram Rules” to their season ticket holders this week. If I were a 49ers fan I would be completely embarrassed and pissed off. I’ll be sure to use that in any friendly trash talk we engage in on Sunday… I’m also excited to see the Seahawks banner fly over the Stick before the game. It seems like the 12th Man is getting more and more creative when it comes to making an impression on road trips… Let’s clinch this division. I don’t want to sit at the airport gate unhappy after the game. It would be an incredible feeling to be en route home knowing we are the 2013 NFC West champions and I was there to witness it.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As previously stated, the Seahawks can wrap up the NFC West and lock up a first-round playoff bye with a win this week. San Francisco can boost their chances at earning a wild-card berth with a win. The winner of this week’s Sunday Night Football game between Carolina and New Orleans will have control of the NFC South. Here are this week’s games to keep an eye on with potential NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Seattle (11-1) at San Francisco (8-4)

Detroit (7-5) at Philadelphia (7-5)

St. Louis (5-7) at Arizona (7-5)

Carolina (9-3) at New Orleans (9-3)

Dallas (7-5) at Chicago (6-6)

Prediction: Although this game will be higher scoring than last year’s Seahawks/49ers game in San Francisco, it will still feel like more of a defensive battle. Russell Wilson will throw for one touchdown and will also run for a score. Frank Gore will score the only 49ers touchdown. I am 1-2 when seeing the Seahawks play the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The Seahawks will not only help improve my personal record to 2-2, but they will exit Candlestick Park for the final time in grand fashion; as champions of the NFC West.

Seahawks 20, 49ers 13

My flight home leaves San Francisco around 9pm and I do not believe I will be home until at least 11:30 or midnight, barring a flight delay. Look for my Seahawks/49ers game review on Monday morning. I will also chronicle my weekend in San Francisco in a post that I hope to have published by the middle of next week. Let’s clinch this everyone! Enjoy the game and for those of you attending I hope to see you there. Go Seahawks!

Commentary: A Tribute to Candlestick Park

4 Dec
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Photo Credit: pro32.ap.org

*Sunday will mark the fourth and final Seahawks game I attend against the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The stadium is set to be torn down at the conclusion of the 49ers 2013 season. As a part of our second 49ers “hate week” of the season, I commemorate Candlestick Park with a special tribute post about the stadium from a Seahawks fan’s perspective*

Over the past decade-plus there have been many instances when my friends and I talk about the Kingdome. Those talks include topics such as what our most memorable experiences in the Kingdome were, what we miss about it, and how sometimes we even wish the Kingdome was still around today. On March 26th, 2000 the Kingdome was imploded and the most iconic part and the most special era of my childhood came tumbling to the ground.

The same is about to happen to San Francisco 49ers fans.

San Francisco sports fans have already gone through this once when the San Francisco Giants moved downtown to AT&T Park in 2000. However once the 49ers move out of Candlestick Park at the conclusion of the 2013 season, the clock will have struck midnight on the legendary building most famously known for hosting the final concert of the Beatles and hosting game 3 of the 1989 World Series when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the San Francisco area minutes prior to the start of the game, shaking the stadium and postponing the series for one week. Following this season, Candlestick Park will be torn down to make way for a proposed shopping center at the site of the stadium. Next season the 49ers are moving into Levi’s Stadium, their new state-of-the-art facility in Santa Clara and thus will shift into an era of playing their home games in a modern day football stadium they can call their own. After the final game at the end of this month, a remarkable run including 42 years of memories will come to an end.

Let me get this out of the way now. Personally I hate Candlestick Park. It is an absolute dump of a stadium. The seats are uncomfortable, the bathrooms are claustrophobic, and the concourses are so narrow that it takes forever to get out of the stadium after the game. Not only that but the sole fact that it housed the team I despise the most for 42 seasons gives me reason to hate the building by itself. On the inside it reminds me of a more cramped Kingdome without a roof. A lot of people would say the Kingdome was the same but many Seahawks fans including myself loved that building. That feeling of “home” for 49ers fans at Candlestick Park is the same feeling I miss about going to the Kingdome and the “home” of the “Niner Empire” will be permanently relocated which could come as a traditional shock for many 49ers fans. For those Seahawks fans that have never had the opportunity to attend a game at Candlestick Park, let me attempt to paint you a colorful picture of a 49ers gameday at the Stick.

The Drive: For my first two games at Candlestick Park, we drove north on highway 101 to get to the stadium. The Stick sits along the San Francisco bay just east of the highway. You know you are getting close once the highway curves past South San Francisco and you can see Candlestick Park in the distance on your right-hand side. Once you can see the stadium you hit a straight stretch of the highway and the stadium becomes larger as you drive closer, much like seeing the skylines of large cities become closer as you drive closer. The view is even better on a clear sunny day. The highway exit wraps around “Candlestick Point” and leads cars into multiple directions into the handful of parking lot entrances, which can be a big pain if you arrive closer to game time.

The Parking Lot and the Tailgating: The Seahawks are at a disadvantage when it comes to tailgating in Seattle because CenturyLink Field is located in the downtown core. There are limited parking lots surrounding CenturyLink Field and because of that fact many fans choose to drink at the surrounding neighborhood bars before the game. Candlestick Park does traditional tailgating the right way. The stadium is surrounded by roughly 8,800 parking spaces, housing the grand majority of fans attending each game. It is always best to arrive shortly after the gates to the parking lot open to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion that is promised both before and after the game. Once you park (around Seahawks fans of course) the fun really starts. As soon as you crack your car doors open you can smell the sweet aroma of meat being prepared on the numerous charcoal barbeques. You can see the different beautiful layouts of each car’s food and the large coolers stuffed with different types of liquor and beer. You can hear the mixed sounds of NFL pregame shows on the radio and the latest hip-hop/rap tracks blasting from car speakers. You can see the sights of fans playing beer pong, flip cup, beanbag toss, and throwing around footballs while engaging in friendly football banter. It is always a very merry atmosphere; an atmosphere that would get even the most bandwagon of fans excited for the rest of the day’s events.

The Walk: If you a 49ers fan this part would not be nearly worth talking about but as a visiting fan, the walk into the stadium is a very intimidating, yet very cool thing to experience. Most fans walk down a designated stretch of blacktop that leads straight to the gates of the stadium. Tailgating fans line the sides of the walkway and it is custom for 49ers fans to boo the Seahawks fans making their way into the stadium. I personally feed off of their energy, often signaling them to boo me louder. I absolutely love it and it is even better when the Seahawks are a better team on the field than the 49ers are. The walk into Candlestick Park serves as a preview of what to expect inside the stadium as an opposing fan.

The Concourses: Since I have sat in the same area of the Stick in each of my visits, I am not familiar at all with the lower level concourses. Once you enter the stadium, in order to get to the upper level you hop on an escalator that takes you right up to the upper deck. The concourse wraps around the entire stadium and they are very narrow, thus they can get very crammed as you get closer to kickoff. Concession stands and beer stands are continuously within spitting distance. The best part of the upper level concourse is the incredible view of the South San Francisco Bay, the downtown skyline, and the Bay Bridge along with the massive parking lot flooded with cars and people. It is a beautiful, picture perfect sight.

The Upper Bowl: Inside the bowl of the stadium, the first thing you see is the large Candlestick Point hill that neighbors the stadium. It is directly behind the stadium and provides a pretty backdrop to everyone that sits on the opponent’s side of the stadium. The seats are a bright orange color that are big but are very uncomfortable. It is a workout to even push your seat down and the seat stays down if you decide to stand up. Although I have sat in the same area of the stadium there is no bad seat in the upper bowl. The only problem I have is that the sun is constantly beating down on the entire stadium during day games, which has resulted in two terrible sunburns to my pale pigmented redhead skin.

After the Game: Leaving the stadium is a nightmare regardless of whether the Seahawks win or lose. 60,000+ people leaving the stadium all at the same time with one main road to get back onto highway 101 is the recipe for a long wait to exit the premises. Many fans go back to tailgate at their parking spaces to kill time while others try to get in the multiple car lines to leave the parking lot. It is very similar to the set up at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where they turn the neighboring golf course into a giant parking area. I waited in that parking lot for over two hours following the 2001 Rose Bowl. Most fans wait for upwards of one and a half hours to leave Candlestick Park which is a gigantic pain. In my experiences, I have left Candlestick postgame both in the light and in the dark and after a night game the stadium (like many other stadiums) looks cool with all the lights on, especially from a distance on the highway. As you leave the parking lot the reality sets in that your trip is over but in my past experiences, the anticipation of my next trip to Candlestick Park starts to set along with the sigh of relief that you survived the current trip, which is a very exciting feeling.

Sunday will be the fourth and final Seahawks/49ers game that I attend at Candlestick Park. I have been through both good and bad moments in the games I have attended there. From the Seahawks 23-3 thumping of the 49ers in 2007, to the sick feeling of witnessing Ted Ginn Jr. return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the 2011 season opener, I can say that I had the opportunity to watch NFL football in one of the more famous stadiums in America. People like talk about bucket list trips and stadium visits they would like to make before they die. Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Soldier Field in Chicago are a couple of NFL stadiums that instantly come to mind, but in my opinion Candlestick Park is the Lambeau Field of the west coast. This season, as part of a Candlestick Park celebration, the 49ers are counting down the top 10 moments in the stadium’s history which includes a halftime ceremony honoring each moment. In this week’s game against the Seahawks, the 49ers will honor the number two moment: “The Catch III” which occurred on January 14th, 2012 when quarterback Alex Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis for the game-winning touchdown in a Divisional playoff win over New Orleans.

Although I may not like the stadium, I have tremendous respect for the moments that occurred over the past four decades as well as the legacy that Candlestick Park will leave in the bay area.