Archive | September, 2014

Review: Seahawks 26, Broncos 20 (OT)

21 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

If we have any more games like Sunday’s game I am sure to have a full head of gray hair by the end of the season. In a game I felt the Seahawks needed to win, they displayed shades of many different games over the past couple of years en route to a wild 26-20 overtime win over the Denver Broncos. With the win the Seahawks improve to 2-1 on the season and currently hold sole possession of 2nd place in the NFC West. The Broncos now also sit at 2-1 and are tied with the San Diego Chargers for first place in the AFC West. As even as this game may have been on the stat sheet and even though the Seahawks won, they struggled in some areas which could definitely be improved before we play our next game in two weeks. Here are my takeaways from Sunday.

Thoughts on Russell Wilson: There were parts of Russell Wilson’s game I liked and other parts that I thought were not very normal. I said in my Broncos preview that Wilson was going to face two different Denver cornerbacks from what he saw in the Super Bowl and he took advantage of the new matchups. Specifically, Wilson hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 39-yard touchdown with 3:05 left in the second quarter over cornerback Aqib Talib. Wilson also showed a side of his game that had not been seen before as he caught a 17-yard pass from Jermaine Kearse after Wilson lateraled to Kearse. Opening the playbook up like that shows a versatile side of Wilson’s game that I think the Seahawks could use to their advantage in select situations throughout the rest of the season. There was one facet of Wilson’s game that I did not particularly like. Wilson has been labeled a “game manager” in the past by several members of the media and today was the first time I felt like he played to that title. Until overtime, Wilson seemed to stay inside the pocket to try to wait for his receivers to open up rather than scramble for positive yardage if a play is blown. In addition, on the final two Seahawks drives of regulation with the Seahawks holding a 17-12 lead it felt as though the tempo and the play calling set the Seahawks up to chew as much clock as possible rather than trying to score more points for insurance. It may have been by design but I hope that Wilson gets back to what I consider to be his “normal self” because Wilson’s game did not seem that normal to me on Sunday.

First Half Defense: The Seahawks defense held Peyton Manning and the Denver offense to only 3 points in the first half. A lot of the credit goes to the run defense. The Seahawks run defense which has struggled at times so far this season held Broncos running back Montee Ball to 19 yards on 10 carries in the first half, including a fumble recovered by K.J. Wright on the Broncos first offensive play from scrimmage. In the passing game the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom held Manning to 87 first half yards through the air as he completed 11 of his 17 first half throws. More importantly the defense was able to get off the field and rest as the Broncos were only able to convert 3 of their 7 third down chances. This is the kind of defense that the Seahawks should have been able to play consistently throughout the game and it is a shame that the end of the game overshadowed the dominant performance of the Seattle defense through the first 30 minutes of play.

Manning’s Game Management Questionable: If Peyton Manning had been able to move the Broncos offense in the first three quarters as well as he did on Denver’s two fourth quarter touchdown drives, we would be talking about a totally different outcome. In those two touchdown drives the Broncos sped down the field in a combined 2:23, running 11 plays for 99 total yards. In these situations Manning used no huddle which is something I speculated about before the game. I thought it may have been a good idea for Denver to use a no-huddle offense sporadically throughout the game to try to take the 12th Man out of the game. Instead Manning managed the game similar to how Russell Wilson managed the game and it may have ultimately cost Denver the game.

Shades of Atlanta: After Steven Hauschka kicked a field goal to give the Seahawks a 20-12 lead the Broncos had only 0:59 to go the length of the field to score a touchdown and convert a two-point conversion to tie the game. They did just that and from my seat in section 340 it screamed a reminder of the Seahawks collapse in the 2012 playoffs to the Atlanta Falcons. After being held to only one touchdown the Broncos offense seemed to simply flip a switch and suddenly they could go through even the toughest defense like a hot knife through butter. That Denver drive to tie the game this week combined with the ineffectiveness to stop San Diego on third down last week scares me into believing that perhaps this 2014 Seahawks team may play more like the 11-5 Seahawks of 2012 rather than the Super Bowl champion Seahawks of 2013.

Shades of Chicago and Houston: As disappointing as it was to see the Seahawks defense let Denver tie the game at the end of regulation, the resiliency of the Seattle offense in overtime had me breathing a heavy sigh of relief. The ability of Russell Wilson to lead an 80-yard drive in overtime to win the game had me thinking back to past overtime wins over the Chicago Bears in 2012 and the Houston Texans in 2013. In both of those games Wilson was forced to use his arm and his legs to move the ball into scoring position and that is exactly what he did again on Sunday. After playing rather conservative for the first four quarters Wilson was more willing to take the game into his own hands in overtime. He proved this by rushing 4 times for 22 yards. The final drive of the game showed a perfect combination of run and pass as Wilson added 4 completions for 35 passing yards. Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks now have a 4-0 record in overtime games.

Thoughts on Denver: It is tough to come into a hostile environment and play good consistent football. Although the Broncos struggled at times they are still a strong contender to challenge for another AFC Championship. Although the Broncos are not scoring points at the record-setting pace that they did last season, they need to be more effective finishing drives. All three of their games have been decided by one score, something that is uncommon especially when compared to their average win margin of 16 points a season ago. The Broncos defense has shown dramatic improvement and I believe they are very close to being categorized in the same level as some of the dominant defenses in the NFC.

Random Thoughts: It was a hot one today. Off the top of my head I cannot remember a past game where it has been that warm throughout the entire game. Good thing is by the time our next home game rolls around in 3 weeks it should be in the high 50’s or low 60’s or as I like to call it, comfortable… All blue uniforms for the Seahawks and all white uniforms for Broncos this week just as I predicted… Nate Robinson raised the 12th Man flag this week. I always like it when the Seahawks bring in a celebrity with ties to the opposing team to raise the flag. I am sure Denver Nuggets fans were thrilled to see their point guard representing his hometown team… At halftime the Seahawks introduced an updated look of our mascot, Blitz, as well as Blitz’s new sidekick/friend named Boom. Personally I don’t understand the concept of changing the look of a mascot but the new Blitz looks more like our logo which I guess is cool… Here is a funny story that had me thinking “true Broncos fan from Denver.” I was enjoying a Bud Light at the Brougham Beer Hall before heading up to my seat and a Broncos fan wearing an orange Peyton Manning jersey went up to the bartender and asked if they had Coors Light (for the small handful of people who somehow do not know, Coors is a Colorado brew). When the bartender said no and all they had as far as light beer goes was Bud Light, he politely declined and walked away. I thought that was pretty funny…. To my surprise there was not nearly as much “we won the Super Bowl” banter hurled toward the Broncos fans in attendance… That was really cool to see that DeShawn Shead proposed to his girlfriend following the game. Congrats 35!… Happy Birthday to Doug Baldwin as well! As early as our bye week comes this year, I think it comes at a really good time. Let’s rest up, reload, and get ready for a big primetime road game in two weeks.

With the bye week coming up my next game preview will come in about a week and a half before we take on the Washington Redskins in week 5. I am traveling to Washington D.C. for the game and I have not decided whether or not to take my computer with me. If I do, look for my preview the day before the game. If not, my preview will be published a few days early. Be on the lookout.

If any big news breaks from now until then I will hop back on to give my take. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!

Broncos/Seahawks Preview

20 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

This Sunday marks one of the most anticipated matchups at this point in the young 2014 NFL season. For only the 6th time in NFL history the two teams that squared off in the previous year’s Super Bowl meet in the regular season. This time around it is the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks playing host to the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 1-1 and are coming off a 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are 2-0 and are coming off a win at home over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 38-20 but by now you already know what happened the last time these two teams met in a meaningful game, a 43-8 Seahawks win in Super Bowl XLVIII. Of those previous 5 Super Bowl rematches, the defending champion is 3-2. Here is what I will be focused on from section 340 this week.

I think a lot of Seahawks fans are thinking “if we play the Broncos exactly like how we did in the Super Bowl we should win easily again.” I am adamant that this approach will not work and it not what I expect the Seahawks offense to do this week. In the Super Bowl Russell Wilson only threw for 206 yards and this week I think it is crucial for him to take advantage of the third worst passing defense in the league so far this season. If he is healthy Marshawn Lynch will see his share of opportunities but I believe that Seattle must rely on the passing game to move the ball down the field and score points. If the defense struggles like they did against San Diego more will be required of Wilson to throw the ball to go blow-for-blow with the Broncos offense. Percy Harvin will have a big impact in this game but look for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to have a significant impact on the outside. The Broncos will start Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at cornerback this week, two players who did not play in the Super Bowl hence they do not have the experience of going up against Seattle’s receivers. Look for Baldwin and Kearse to make a large impact throughout this week’s game.

After being picked apart by Philip Rivers last week, the challenge does not get any easier with Peyton Manning coming into town this week for the Seahawks defense. There are a couple of specific things on the defensive side of the ball I am looking for. First I want the Seahawks enforcers to come out and make a physical statement early in the game. A lot of players in the locker room believe that when strong safety Kam Chancellor hit Demaryius Thomas on a crossing route early on in Super Bowl XLVIII the game was already over; that the Broncos were intimidated and that threw them off their game for the rest of the night. Laying the wood early could do the exact same thing this time around, especially at home. I’m calling on Chancellor and our entire linebacker corps to make hard, clean hits on Denver’s skill position players to take away any momentum the Broncos may have. Secondly I want to see how the Seahawks defense handles a potential no-huddle offense led by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. It would not surprise me the least bit to see Manning try to get to the line of scrimmage fast to try to silence the crowd. If the Broncos offense is successful in the no-huddle, I could see the Seahawks struggling, at least in the early part of the game.

The defense of the Denver Broncos sports many new faces this year. After the butt-kicking they endured in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made large financial commitments to high-profile free agents to help their defense become more competitive, especially in big games. My X-Factor player to watch this week is one of those new players, defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Ware leads all Broncos defenders in sacks so far this season with 1.5 and after watching film of last week’s game Ware’s presence on the field cannot go unnoticed. Although he is 32 years old, Ware proved in the preseason against the Seahawks that he can still chase down even the most mobile quarterbacks, sacking Russell Wilson once in the first quarter. For the entire Denver pass rushing unit, the key will be to try to contain Wilson inside the pocket. If you let Wilson scramble he will find ways to get away and make throws which will kill the Broncos defense. If the Broncos are going to be successful in putting pressure on the Seahawks offense, much like how San Diego was successful last week, you must stop the run, force third downs, and keep the quarterback in the pocket.

There is one matchup that I rank above all else this week: Peyton Manning versus the 12th Man. As surprising as it may be, this week will be the first time Manning plays a full game at CenturyLink Field. His prior two trips to the Clink include a preseason game last season and a game in December 2005 where Manning played in a preseason capacity. In that game, Manning’s Colts had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Manning only played the first couple of series before turning the game over to backup Jim Sorgi. This will be Manning’s first “true” dose of the 12th Man and I have no idea how he will handle our crowd. Other than Peyton Manning, the last 10 opposing Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are a combined 5-12 playing at CenturyLink Field. The last of these quarterbacks to beat the Seahawks in Seattle was Eli Manning’s New York Giants all the way back in 2010. With the complicated snap counts the Broncos use and the silent counts they will have for this specific game it will be crucial for the 12th Man to be constantly deafening to try to frustrate Manning and confuse the entire Denver offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy jerseys and navy pants while the Broncos will wear white jerseys and white pants this week… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS this week with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines. This is the Sunday afternoon game of the week and the majority of the country will get to see this game on television. The only major cities that will not see Broncos/Seahawks on CBS are Phoenix, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Miami… Bill Vinovich is this week’s referee… In addition to this being a Super Bowl rematch, this will also be a Super Bowl reunion. I will be taking my friend James to this week’s game. James and I both went to New York for the Super Bowl back in February so we are both excited to see two meaningful Broncos/Seahawks games in two different seasons, but only 7 months apart of each other… I know this sounds crazy but hear me out. What if instead of booing the Broncos when they run out of the tunnel, the 12th Man gives them a roaring cheer? All the Broncos did was be the final team on our way to our first Super Bowl championship. It probably won’t happen but I think that would be an interesting way to maybe throw Denver off guard. Kind of a “thank you for our first Lombardi Trophy, Denver”… Speaking of tunnels, it is rumored that the Seahawks may run out of the tunnel as a team for every game for the rest of the season. I personally do not like this idea because one of the main parts of pregame is to get the 12th Man fired up. The best way the Seahawks do this is by introducing the individual members either the starting offense or defense. Introducing the entire team kind of takes the fun out of all the pregame festivities in my opinion… Looks like it will be a hot one on Sunday with a game time temperature in the mid-80’s. Dress appropriately… With an early bye week this year this week’s game is of even greater importance. It would be terrible start the season 1-2 with 13 straight games ahead of us following the bye week.

Prediction: Although this game will not be as lopsided as the Super Bowl, I am still confident in the Seahawks bouncing back to beat the Broncos this week. Russell Wilson will outgain Peyton Manning through the air and will throw two touchdowns to Jermaine Kearse and one to Zach Miller. The Seahawks will go to 2-1 heading into their early bye.

Seahawks 33, Broncos 24

Check back late Sunday night for by Broncos review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Review: Chargers 30, Seahawks 21

14 Sep
Photo Credit: chargers.com

Photo Credit: chargers.com

For the first time since last December, I am writing a game review following a meaningful Seahawks loss. The Seahawks fell to the San Diego Chargers 30-21 on Sunday, dropping to 1-1 on the season. The Seahawks are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams for 2nd place in the NFC West. The Chargers improve to 1-1 and currently have sole possession of 2nd place in the AFC West. This loss marks the first game since November 6th, 2011 that the Seahawks have lost by more than one score. As resilient as the Seattle offense appeared to be at moments, it was the defense that failed to step up to stop the powerful Chargers offense. This is what I took out of this week’s game.

Offense Played Well Enough to Win: The Seahawks offense scored 21 points and in any other game that would probably be enough to hold on for the win. Throughout the entire game I held the confidence that if the defense struggled, the offense could go down the field and get us right back into the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson had a very solid game going 17/25 for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite a lack of pocket awareness which Wilson showed at untimely moments, he did not turn the ball over which was great to see. The only Seahawks turnover came on special teams when Percy Harvin fumbled a kickoff in the second quarter. I was impressed with the way Robert Turbin stepped in for Marshawn Lynch, gaining 45 yards and scoring his first career touchdown at the end of the first half. As a team Seattle was able to pound out 108 rushing yards against a stout Chargers defense which is definitely an optimistic sign. Ultimately and unfortunately, our offense simply could not hang with a Chargers offense that proved that their performance last week in Arizona could be considered a fluke.

Offensive Line Showed its Weaknesses: Although San Diego only sacked Russell Wilson twice on Sunday the Seahawks quarterback was constantly under pressure. The right side of the offensive line was not able to withstand a barrage of San Diego pressure especially on passing downs later on in the game. J.R. Sweezy was called for a crucial holding penalty on a first-down conversion. The penalty nullified the gain and the Seahawks eventually punted back to the Chargers. The left side of the San Diego defense, like I highlighted in my game preview, clearly found holes in the game of rookie right tackle Justin Britt and later in the game the majority of the Seahawks offensive plays went to the left side of the line to try to take some of the pressure off of Sweezy and Britt.

Penalties a Problem: On Sunday the Seahawks were called for 8 penalties totaling 53 yards. I consider the number of penalties to be above average with the penalty yardage decent. The reason why I bring up this point is that in this game like some of our close losses in the recent past, our penalties seemed to come at the most inopportune of times. The majority of our offensive penalties occurred on first down conversions while defensive penalties came on 3rd down stops which would of halted San Diego drives. Instead, defensive penalties directly led to 14 of the Chargers 30 points.

Gates Unstoppable and Rivers Picks Defense, Legion of Boom Apart: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was thrown to 4 times on Sunday and in each instance Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw completions. Sherman however was never burned over the top for a big gain. All of the passes thrown in Sherman’s direction were zone coverage plays. On only one play do I distinctly remember Sherman turning the wrong way, leading to a completion from Rivers to Keenan Allen on a quick slant which resulted in a San Diego first down. The kryptonite for the Legion of Boom this week was tight end Antonio Gates who caught 7 catches for 96 yards and a career-tying 3 touchdown receptions. Other than Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, Gates may be the biggest matchup nightmare among tight ends in the NFL. His size advantage creates a problem even against the big, long, and physical style of the members of the Legion of Boom. Gates beat Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, and K.J. Wright on his three touchdown catches. Upon watching the film of Gates’ performance, I do not understand why the Seahawks were using our outside linebackers to cover Gates, especially after his second touchdown when it was proven Gates could easily beat our linebackers down the middle of the field. All in all the Seahawks defense allowed 276 passing yards, a number that we must work to decrease in practice this upcoming week, especially with Peyton Manning up next for the L.O.B.

Third Down Defense a Major Weakness: The Seahawks defense simply could not get off the field on third down this week. San Diego’s offense went 10/17 on third down on Sunday. The 59% third down efficiency of the Chargers is the worst percentage the Seahawks have surrendered in a loss since the Detroit Lions were 75% effective on third down in a 28-24 Seahawks loss in October 2012. 70% of San Diego’s third down conversions came through the air, with the majority coming in short to moderate yards to gain. At home next week I believe the Seahawks will recover and play a more sound game with the 12th Man behind their backs, but our inability to stop drives this week raises questions about our defense in a road environment, as the Seahawks have historically had trouble in this area on the road in seasons past.

Irvin Potentially Cost Us the Game: You look at the score and see that the Seahawks lost by two possessions but I believe that one bonehead play by defensive end Brice Irvin potentially altered the outcome of this game. The play in question came with the Chargers driving deep into Seahawks territory towards the end of the third quarter. With San Diego leading 20-14 and facing a 3rd down and 7, Seattle was successful in forcing Philip Rivers out of the pocket. Rivers scrambled to the right sideline short of the line to gain. As it was clear that Rivers was giving himself up on the play and stepping out of bounds, Irvin came in to give Rivers an extra small shove, drawing a personal foul late hit penalty. The Chargers would have likely lined up on 4th down to kick a field goal giving them a 23-14 lead with plenty of time for the game to be salvaged. Instead, the flag on Irvin gave San Diego a first down in the redzone and two plays later Rivers connected with Gates to make it a 27-14 ballgame. The touchdown also resulted in a  momentum swing to the home team for the remainder of the game, as the Chargers were successful in holding onto the lead for good. The penalty was completely unnecessary and in my opinion it is one of the dumbest plays Irvin has made in his career. Ultimately I believe that penalty is in essence handing the victory to San Diego on a silver platter.

Thoughts on San Diego: I underestimated the San Diego Chargers, plain and simple. I understand that it was their home opener, there was record setting heat down on the field, and that the home crowd was amped up but it all comes down to this point: If the Chargers can pick apart the best defense and best secondary in the league, they can pick apart any defense. Before the season started I did not think the Chargers were capable of making another playoff run but after Sunday, it is very possible to think that barring injuries San Diego can challenge for a wild-card spot for a second consecutive season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks matched their navy jerseys with grey pants this week. The last time they wore that combo was last season in Carolina. The Seahawks are now 2-2 in that uniform combo all-time… The all-white look of the Chargers is pretty cool. Although I love the fact that the Seahawks are the only NFL team to have never worn white at home, the idea of a white-out early on in the season is a cool possibility the Seahawks might want to consider for future seasons… I remember 4 years ago I went to see the Seahawks play the Broncos in Denver and the game time temperature inside the stadium flirted with the 100 degree mark. It was miserable. I am sorry for all the dehydrated, sunburnt, upset Seahawks fans who went on the road, sat in the heat for over three hours, and saw us lose. It is a miserable feeling… I want to give a lot of credit to the Chargers home crowd. They were clearly the louder voice this week after it was presumed that the 12th Man was going to have another very strong following to San Diego this week. To Chargers fans: Bring the kind of intensity you showed this week to Qualcomm for every home game. Match that intensity with the great play of the Chargers offense and you will be hard to beat at home throughout the season… Here are a couple of points to the “glass half full” Hawks fans out there. The last time the Seahawks gave up 30 or more points in a game, we went on to win our next 7 games. Also, of the last 10 seasons we have started 1-1, we have made the playoffs 7 times, won 4 division championships, went to 2 conference championship games, and made it to one Super Bowl (XL)… It helps that the 49ers also lost this week but immediately following our loss I was surprisingly not too upset. I think it has something to do with the fact that even though we lost, the Seahawks still have a Lombardi Trophy. That’s a feeling that perhaps comes given that the city of Seattle had been starving for a sports championship for so long and now that we finally have a Super Bowl win, it makes the sting of these regular season losses more bearable. Am I the only one out there that feels that way? It is an interesting yet prideful feeling in my opinion.

The Seahawks now get back to work as they prepare for the AFC West leading Denver Broncos in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII. Check back Saturday for my Broncos preview. Have a good week 12th Man. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

13 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

It’s time to hit the road for the first time in 2014. After demolishing the Green Bay Packers in week 1, the Seahawks now hit the road to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 1-0 and are coming off a long break following their 36-16 win over a week ago. The Chargers however are in the opposite boat, losing last week to the Arizona Cardinals 18-17 and this will be a short week for San Diego as they played on Monday night. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with San Diego 26-23. Their last meeting came in 2010 when Seattle edged the Chargers 27-20 at CenturyLink Field thanks in large part to two Leon Washington kickoff return touchdowns and two Earl Thomas interceptions. Since this is an early season road game it will be very important for the Seahawks to come out strong and show that they are the better team early on in the game. This is what I will be looking for in this week’s game.

Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks have a 1-1 record in opponent home openers. In these two games the Seahawks have averaged only 14 points per game. On offense this week I believe it is imperative for the Seahawks to put early points on the board in order to silence the crowd. As always this begins with being able to run effectively with Marshawn Lynch but also keep an eye out for Percy Harvin and Russell Wilson to have a bigger impact in the running game. I believe that if the Seahawks use Wilson on the ground more this week we will be able to move the ball in huge chunks. San Diego gave up 109 rushing yards last week and 29 of them came from Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, one of the most immobile quarterbacks in the league. Read option and designed quarterback runs this week I think could give the Seahawks a great chance of exchanging potential field goals for touchdowns.

The adjective that best sums up the play of the San Diego Chargers offense last week: terrible. Against a solid Arizona defense the Chargers were only able to score 17 points, only 3 of which coming in the first half. There has been a lot of talk about Richard Sherman not seeing any action last week but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has come out and said he will likely test Sherman this week. After looking at the film of the Chargers game last week however, I think if the Seahawks pass rush can put constant pressure on Rivers this game will be over fast. On the Chargers final drive last week with the Cardinals sending 4, 5, and even 6 guys on blitzes, Rivers tried to make quick short throws that were either batted down at the line of scrimmage or were just flat out terrible throws. My defensive focus this week is on Bruce Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, and K.J. Wright. These three linebackers will rush the passer from the second level of the defense along with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett along the defensive line. Given that the Chargers offense is most effective passing the ball, adding additional pressure on non-passing downs could give the Seahawks many opportunities to force bad decisions by Rivers, hopefully resulting in turnovers.

As dangerous as the San Diego Chargers offense can be, I am interested to see how their young and talented defense plays with the home crowd behind their backs against the best offense they will likely face this season. The Chargers defense recorded 58 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 2 sacks last week and this week they face a challenge in game planning as they will have their hands full with Russell Wilson, especially right after playing a pocket passer such as Carson Palmer. I believe the best way to attempt to bully the Seahawks offense is to get to take advantage of matchups along the offensive line. Offensive tackle Justin Britt is the man on the Seahawks offensive line I am most concerned about in this respect. The man who will likely line up across from Britt this week is my X-Factor player to watch, defensive end Kendall Reyes. Reyes had a quiet night last week, recording one tackle. Even though Reyes’ stat line was not impressive, it must be noted that his 5 sacks in 2013 was second among all San Diego defenders, making him a concern for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to deal with. In order to overwhelm Britt, I would not be surprised if Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano uses Reyes and right side linebackers Jarrett Johnson and Manti Te’o in blitz packages to dial up extra pressure to try to collapse the right side of the pocket. This would force Russell Wilson to make throws against his body.

Random Thoughts: This week is “White Hot Sunday” in San Diego. The Chargers wear white for their first home game of the season while encouraging all fans in attendance to wear white as well. The Chargers will wear white jerseys and white pants, forcing the Seahawks to wear their navy jerseys this week. Expect the Seahawks to wear either white or grey pants this week. If I were a betting man, I would say the Seahawks will wear grey pants. If you are lucky enough to be on the road and attending this week’s game remember to WEAR NAVY… I have the feeling that there will be a strong contingent of Seahawks fans in San Diego this week. It is an easy trip to make and the Chargers have had a history of difficulty selling out their home games. Could we see more Seahawks navy than Chargers white in the stands this week? I think it is more of a possibility than you might think… Thom Brennaman and David Diehl have the call for FOX this week… Pete Morelli is this week’s referee. Coincidentally, Morelli also officiated the Seahawks matchup with the Chargers in the preseason last month… This week is a 1:05pm start not a 1:25pm start. Not that it matters too much since it is a road game but this will be the first of only two 1:05pm kickoffs this season. The rest of our afternoon starts will be 1:25pm… RedZone in the morning and the Seahawks in the afternoon this week. I enjoyed watching 8 hours of only RedZone last week not having to worry about the Seahawks… Qualcomm Stadium is a dump. Plain and simple. Other than the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Qualcomm Stadium is the worst active NFL Stadium. Even though I went there to see the Mariners play two baseball games there in 2003, the difference in stadium experience between seeing a baseball game and seeing a football game is probably microscopic. Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated and theMMQB.com even called Qualcomm “an insult to dumps everywhere” in a well-written 2013 piece outlining the troubles with the stadium and the battle between the Chargers and the city of San Diego to build a new stadium. It is a good read that I definitely recommend… If the Seahawks beat the Chargers it will be the second consecutive season that the Seahawks start 2-0.

Prediction: The Seahawks and Chargers will both get off to a slow start offensively but the Seahawks will settle down in the second quarter. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Steven Hauschka will kick his 3rd field goal right before halftime. The Seahawks will take a 16-7 lead into the second half and while Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers back to within one score, Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns to put the game out of reach for good. The Seahawks will go to 2-0 with a big game against the Denver Broncos at home on-deck next week.

Seahawks 30, Chargers 17

Check back Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game people and go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

4 Sep
Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

What a way to start our title defense! In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers in decisive fashion on Thursday night by a final score of 36-16. The Seahawks start their 2014 season 1-0 while the Packers start their third straight season 0-1. Although the Seahawks won in dominating fashion I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, I believe we confirmed to any and every doubter that we are still a force capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions. Here are the positives and negatives I took from Thursday’s game.

Every Weapon Will Be Used: One of the reasons why the Seahawks have the potential to be so dangerous this season is that quarterback Russell Wilson will use every weapon in his arsenal. That was evident on Thursday night when he hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter and fullback Derrick Coleman for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There are probably few people who thought either Lockette or Coleman would have a touchdown in this game let alone both of them. Meanwhile Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, two receivers who see more playing time than Lockette, combined for 4 catches and only 22 yards. The Seahawks are not afraid to use every single offensive skill position player at any time during the game. This makes the Seahawks a very scary team to game plan around and try to prepare for moving forward.

Lynch Has Not Missed a Step: On the drive home from the game, Dave “Softy” Mahler, Dick Fain, and Hugh Millen of Sports Radio 950 KJR agreed that they thought Marshawn Lynch looked “like a guy playing for a contract” and that he has not slowed down at all. I agree completely. Lynch was the most effective player on offense this week rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch, like always, ran like a man on a mission and if there was any rumblings of a potential running back by committee if Lynch were to struggle, he quickly squashed them. Barring injury, Lynch will continue to be the feature back in this offense and from my perspective our running game has picked up right where it left off at the end of the 2013 season.

Pass Rush Can Improve: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and O’Brien Schofield all recorded sacks on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week. Although the Seahawks pass rush looked effective, there is much room for improvement. The reason I say this is because of the Green Bay offensive line. With two players making their CenturyLink Field debut and right tackle Bryan Bulaga leaving the game with a sprained knee in the first half, I thought the Seahawks would be able to take advantage with a revved up 12th Man behind them to sack Rodgers in a similar fashion to the 8 sacks we recorded against the Packers two seasons ago. One of my main focuses going into this game was the interior pass rush and in this game the grand majority of the Seahawks defensive pressure came on the outside. I would like to see an improvement next week along the inside of the defensive line, using a 3rd down package with Bennett as well as young defensive tackle talent like Jordan Hill.

Did Thomas Lose His Job?: Before I go any further, no I am not talking about his free safety job. I am talking solely about his spot as the Seahawks punt returner. Forget that Richard Sherman may have been blocked into him, Earl Thomas muffed a first quarter punt which was recovered by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and eventually led to a touchdown to give Green Bay a 7-3 lead. The punt that Thomas muffed should definitely have been signaled for a fair catch but Thomas tried to make something out of what clearly looked to be nothing. Thomas returned one more punt for a 3-yard return later in the game. I no doubt believe that Thomas can make special plays happen on special teams but he simply needs to be smarter about the way he goes about handling his punt return duties. One more mistake by Thomas on special teams and I believe will see the next man up at punt returner, who happens to be Richard Sherman.

Where Are You Sherm?: It is going to be very difficult for Richard Sherman to hold the title of “best shutdown corner in the game” from a statistical perspective if teams continue to avoid him, much like what the Green Bay Packers did on Thursday night. Sherman was not targeted once against the Packers, which created opportunities for Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to take advantage of. Maxwell had 5 tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception on Thursday night while Lane recorded 4 tackles of his own in the nickel slot. This could be a common occurrence especially early in the season. Maxwell will be tested often and if he plays shutdown football, opposing defenses may have no choice but to throw in Sherman’s direction as well. Sherman’s chances will depend on the play of the rest of the receivers. Although he played well against the Packers, if Maxwell struggles he will be picked on constantly and it will be extremely difficult for Richard Sherman to see passes thrown his way.

Thoughts on Green Bay: Take away the fact that the Green Bay Packers had to come into the NFL’s most hostile environment on opening night to play the defending world champions in front of a 12th Man that may have been louder than I have ever heard. This Packers team has an offense that will be able to effectively move the ball and they gained solid defensive momentum early in the game when they held a short lead. The running game must improve however. Running back Eddie Lacy only ran for 34 yards on Thursday night and not being able to run the ball effectively could extremely limit the Packers offense, relying on Aaron Rodgers more than they would like. With a banged up offensive line this may be difficult but as long as Rodgers can stay healthy, I believe this team is still better than the Bears, Lions, and Vikings. This team is still my favorite to win the NFC North.

Random Thoughts: John Parry was the referee this week. I apologize I could not figure out the referee before the game for the second consecutive week. Parry and his crew went into Thursday’s game known for throwing the most defensive holding penalties during the preseason, which some believed could have hurt the Seahawks. The Seahawks were flagged 4 times throughout the game and none of them were for defensive holding… The Westlake Center Buffalo Wild Wings has by far the best service of any “B-Dubs” I’ve been to. Maybe it was because we were one of the first parties seated for the day and the restaurant was mostly empty. Nevertheless, great service and great food too… The atmosphere at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill never disappoints, especially before a primetime game. It was awesome in that building before the game… The pregame ceremony and celebration did not disappoint. There was one thing about pregame that I really liked and one thing that I really did not like. I liked how the Seahawks told everybody with tickets to be in their seats by 5pm for the pregame celebration but the pregame ceremonies did not start until NBC went live at 5:30. Smart thinking Seahawks. The thing I found slightly disappointing what that they unveiled the banner simultaneous to the team running out of the tunnel. I wish they would have waited until right before the game started to drop the banner… That may have been the most fun I’ve had at a Seahawks game ever. The crowd was so merry and confident. It was a truly special night all around.

The Seahawks take an extended break before getting to work on the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy this weekend’s games everyone. Go Hawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!