Archive | November, 2015

Review: Seahawks 39, Steelers 30

29 Nov
steelers review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Last week the Seahawks were fueled by rookie power. This week it was the veterans who stepped up huge. Doug Baldwin caught a career high 3 touchdowns and Jermaine Kearse added a pair of touchdown catches to help propel the Seahawks to a much-needed 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The win gives the Seahawks a 6-5 record, their first winning record of the season. It was great to see the Seahawks finally close out a close game in the fourth quarter after it looked like Pittsburgh would make a late charge. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s victory.

Happy Birthday Russell: On his 27th birthday Russell Wilson went out and had the best game he could have possibly asked for. Wilson completed 21 of his 30 passes for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. The best part? He did not turn the ball over once. Seattle’s offensive line did a tremendous job protecting Wilson. It also felt like the offensive game plan was designed to help Russell out in the pocket, meaning he may not have had as many progressions on each play which is a big factor in how long Wilson holds onto the ball. Wilson was also able to do something that has not been done all season. The Seahawks trailed two separate times in the fourth quarter and we were able to score 19 points in the final frame to re-take the lead twice and hold on to it. Our offense as a whole had played their best game of the season and could provide some serious momentum moving forward.

The Good News and the Bad News: The good news is that the Seahawks finished the game +4 in the turnover department. Those four turnovers, all of which interceptions, led to three Seahawks touchdowns. As much as I want to praise the Legion of Boom for forcing these turnovers, the bad news is that the Seahawks defense gave up 480 yards through the air and 538 total yards. According to this statistical category it was the worst outing for our defense all season. A lack of a pass rush directly contributed to our defensive struggles. In my game preview I emphasized the importance of putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger or else he would have time to make deep throws, something which he thrives on. Roethlisberger threw deep several times on Sunday including a high-arching 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. I think DeShawn Shead played a decent game in place of the inactive Cary Williams and it would not surprise me to see him start in Williams’s place once again next week.

Graham’s Injury and Moving Forward: The Seahawks were dealt a huge blow in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard pass to the back corner of the endzone intended for Jimmy Graham. Graham fell to the ground and immediately grabbed his right knee. After the game it was reported Graham tore his right patellar tendon, an injury that will require surgery and end his 2015 season. Many people have gotten on Graham’s case for not being the offensive machine he was in New Orleans but keep in mind that entering Sunday’s game Graham led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. Luke Willson will start in Graham’s place for the rest of the season and Cooper Helfet will likely see expanded playing time. As devastating this injury is I believe it is positive to stay optimistic. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on all three drives following Graham’s injury. Perhaps with Graham out some of our offensive chemistry from last season will be rediscovered.

Thoughts on Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense can be one of the best in the league but if they want to compete for a wild-card spot their defense must play better than they did on Sunday. Unfortunately a lot of their talent is young which may not translate to a deep playoff run. This team is good enough to make the playoffs now but I would wait a couple more years before I would consider them legitimate super bowl contenders.

Random Thoughts: I was surprised that the fog did not completely burn off this afternoon. Sitting in the 300 level, I love when it is foggy because since you cannot see any surrounding buildings it feels like the stadium is in its very own cloud… There were way too many terrible towels but only a couple around me fortunately. No incidents between Steelers and Seahawks fans in my close vicinity also so that was good… Let me talk for a minute about that Steelers fake field goal/pooch punt formation/pass which was executed horribly and intercepted by Jeremy Lane. What in the world was that?! Why are you going for a fake that early in the game? A field goal would have given the Steelers a 6-0 lead but instead it led to Seattle’s first touchdown and a 7-3 Seahawks lead. Good on Lane for not biting and staying with eligible receiver Alejandro Villanueva on the outside. Worst play call I have seen from any team all season… NBA hall of famer and former SuperSonic Spencer Haywood raised the 12 flag on Sunday. I love when they honor former Sonics because it feels like they are keeping the spirit of the Sonics franchise alive… Two huge road games coming up. Two must-wins. Minnesota’s first up.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the Seahawks win and losses by Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks are 3 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s crucial game against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday morning.

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Steelers/Seahawks Preview

28 Nov

 

steelers preview 2015

The Seahawks host the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since Super Bowl XL. Screenshot from Youtube.com

Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

On February 5th, 2006 the Seahawks played in their very first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XL in Detroit. We were the NFC champions and we faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In what felt to be a Steelers home game, the Seahawks lost their first chance to win the Lombardi Trophy. Steelers 21, Seahawks 10. The game will forever be remembered for several questionable officiating gaffs which many Seahawks fans still believe may have cost us a championship. Ever since the 12’s have had a justified hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, 3,585 days later, comes the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting for ever since. The 6-4 Steelers make their first trip to CenturyLink Field since Super Bowl XL to take on the 5-5 Seattle Seahawks. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-8 including 21-0 and 24-0 Steelers shutouts in our last two meetings in 2007 and 2011 respectively. The last time the Seahawks scored on the Steelers was Jerramy Stevens’s touchdown in Super Bowl XL. This game could have significant playoff implications for both teams. This is what I will be watching for.

If there is one thing I am always looking for from the Seahawks offense it is consistency. Running back Marshawn Lynch will not play again this week so Thomas Rawls will see the majority of the carries for the second straight week. Unlike San Francisco which sports the 27th ranked run defense in the league, Pittsburgh comes into this week’s game as the 5th best run defense. Rawls may have a difficult time getting going and I certainly do not expect him to put up the record-breaking numbers of a week ago. Note however that Rawls leads the league in yards per carry with an average of 6 YPC. If Rawls can run for at least 80 yards I believe the Seahawks will be in good shape. You cannot count on Rawls alone to carry the offense. I want to see the same type of good decision making from quarterback Russell Wilson that made our passing game wildly effective last week. In our 5 wins this season Wilson has thrown only 3 interceptions. Pittsburgh is good at forcing turnovers. So far this season the Steelers have 18 takeaways including a +5 giveaway/takeaway ratio which is tied for 6th best in the league. The Seahawks can and will win this game if Wilson takes care of the ball.

During last week’s win cornerback Cary Williams was benched in favor of DeShawn Shead, who made 4 tackles and forced two fumbles. With Jeremy Lane activated from the physically unable to perform list, I believe we will see change at Williams’s spot against the Steelers. Head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that there would be an open competition for the right cornerback job during practice this week. If Williams starts expect him to be on a short leash with Shead and Lane sharing playing time if Williams struggles. If Williams does not start altogether I expect Shead to get the nod since it is likely the Seahawks would like to ease Lane into the defensive game plan. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger averages 315 passing yards per game so the Legion of Boom will surely be tested this week. In addition, opposing quarterbacks have a 120.6 passer rating when throwing towards Cary Williams. Being able to cover deep passes will be huge, as Pittsburgh likes to throw deep. As a skilled veteran, it would be no surprise at all to see Roethlisberger test Williams, Shead, or Lane early and often.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a unit that has changed quite a bit over the years. The one constant is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be playing in his first career game at CenturyLink Field. My focus for the Steelers offense is how well they handle the crowd noise as well as Roethlisberger’s pass protection. The Steelers will start two offensive linemen who did not start the season with the first group. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will have a big test in front of him as he will line up across from Cliff Avril, who has been on fire as of late. Center Cody Wallace is a 6-year veteran who has been playing in place of Maurkice Pouncey all season. If the Seahawks can put pressure on Roethlisberger it will take away the most effective facet of his game, stepping up and throwing the deep ball. Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton will all make a major impact this week if Roethlisberger has time to go through his progressions. Look for Big Ben to throw several deep passes on Sunday.

The Steelers have lost many big names on the defensive side of the ball since the last time these two teams played. Gone are the days of Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu and the Steelers have replaced these names and more with great talent. Veterans James Harrison and William Gay have made a big impact this season, combining for 60 tackles. Rookie Bud Dupree leads all Steelers defenders in sacks with 4. I will be focused on the guy who statistically has had the best season of any defensive player. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Steelers this week is inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons has locked down the middle of the field for Pittsburgh since 2007 and although he is a seasoned veteran his numbers are very impressive. Timmons leads the team in tackles with 73. He can also rush the passer which could make for a long day for Seahawks linemen Justin Britt and Patrick Lewis. Timmons can also drop back into coverage. He has recorded 6 passes defensed and one interception. If Russell Wilson decides to throw short or intermediate passes expect Timmons to be in on the play.

Random Thoughts: All navy once again for the Seahawks uniform wise. The Steelers will wear white jerseys and yellow pants… This is the national game of the week on CBS and the entire country except for the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to see this game on local television. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines… The referee will be Walt Anderson… The gameday giveaway is flags which will be distributed to the first 44,000 fans… Don’t fall asleep again this year Alan. I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened last year… I am expecting to be disappointed in regards to the number of Pittsburgh fans in attendance. Steelers fans probably travel the best of any NFL franchise… To those attending please be smart when engaging with opposing fans. I know it may be difficult to holster any trash talk towards Steelers fans given our bad blood towards their franchise… I am kind of surprised there hasn’t been any news this week bringing up Super Bowl XL and specifically what kind of ovation the Steelers will likely receive upon running out of the tunnel… I have been waiting years to have the opportunity to boo this team. I will certainly savor every second.

Prediction: Expect a nerve-racking back-and-forth game. The Seahawks will have a 23-21 lead with 5 minutes left to play. Ben Roethlisberger will lead a Steelers drive deep into Seahawks territory but will have to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal. With the Steelers leading 24-23 the Seahawks will have one last opportunity to drive into field goal range to win the game. Two big gains by Thomas Rawls and a huge completion from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett will put Seattle inside the Pittsburgh 35-yard line. Steven Hauschka will knock through a game winning 50-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. The Seahawks will improve to 6-5 and will lock down their first winning record of the season.

Seahawks 26, Steelers 24

#10for10 Game #3: The Fail Mary (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2012 Season)

25 Nov

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

10for10 fail mary

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Typically the University of Washington schedules the first day of fall quarter on the last Wednesday of September. In 2012 however they changed protocol. The first day of classes was scheduled for Monday, September 24th and because both of my Monday classes took place in the late afternoon, I skipped the first day of class in order to attend the only Seahawks Monday Night Football game of the 2012 season.

The day started fairly routinely and my afternoon was somewhat uneventful. At about 3:30 my friends Jake, Alan, and I left our house in Wallingford via Yellow Cab and we made our way downtown. When we got to the international district we parted ways. Jake and Alan were heading to the bar for a couple of quick pregame beers while I made my way into the bus tunnel to meet my friend Elliott who I was taking to the game. Elliott had come straight from work and his attire proved it. He donned a dress shirt and slacks with a Marcus Trufant Seahawks jersey over the shirt. Probably the most ridiculously awesome wardrobe I have seen any of my friends wear at a Seahawks game. Since he was running a little late we decided to head straight into the stadium at around 4:15. The pregame giveaway was rally towels which were awesome but interesting given it was only the third week of the season (normally the Seahawks save towels for the postseason or crucial games late in the regular season).

The game started slowly on the scoreboard but the Seahawks gave the 12’s plenty to cheer about in the first half. Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, and Brandon Mebane combined for 8 first half sacks. Seattle’s incredible ability to put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped keep Green Bay off the scoreboard through two quarters. With each sack the crowd became louder and louder. I can remember laughing hysterically with Elliott because of how easily our defense dominated the line of scrimmage. Other than the sack barrage the biggest play of the first half came with 6:29 remaining in the second quarter. After four drives resulting in punts, the Seahawks put together a 7 play drive culminating in a long 41-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

In the second half the Packers adjusted well. Their first two drives went for field goals which cut the Seattle lead to 7-6. What was frustrating late in the game was our pass rush went from dominant to nonexistent. We could not put any pressure on Rodgers which contributed to Green Bay’s ability to put together lengthy drives and score points. After another Seahawks punt the Packers got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. The Packers drove 82 yards in just over 6 minutes and things got interesting. Rodgers hit receiver Greg Jennings for a touchdown but the Seahawks challenged that Jennings stepped out of bounds before the ball crossed the plain. The call was reversed and it brought up 3rd down and 1 at the 2-yard line. On the next play Rodgers scrambled and was marked short of the first down marker but the Packers challenged this play. Once again the call on the field was reversed giving the Packers a first down at the 1-yard line. On the next play running back Cedric Benson punched the ball in. After failing to convert the two-point conversion the Packers had their first lead of the game, 12-7 with 8:44 remaining in the game.

On our next possession we were able to drive down inside the red zone to the Green Bay 7-yard line. Unfortunately we could not settle for a field goal. On 4th down with 2:00 remaining Wilson threw a fade pass to the left corner of the endzone which looked to be intended for Sidney Rice. Instead Golden Tate jumped in front and tried to make the catch but he ball hit off his hand and fell incomplete. The Packers would get the ball back with 1:54 remaining but the Seahawks had two timeouts left. If they could force Green Bay into a three-and-out, the Seahawks would get the ball back and have one more chance to win the game. The Seahawks were able to force the Packers into a three-and-out which backed them up to their own 4-yard line. Green Bay punted back to Seattle, giving the Seahawks the ball on the Packers 46-yard line with 46 seconds left.

After a first down incompletion Wilson fired down the middle and connected with Sidney Rice for a 22-yard gain. With the clock ticking the Seahawks hurried up to the line of scrimmage and instead of spiking the ball they went for the win. Wilson floated a pass into the endzone but the ball deflected off of Golden Tate’s fingertips. The clock was stopped with 18 seconds left. The Seahawks had the ball on the 24-yard line. After two more incompletions the game came down to one final 4th down play with 8 seconds left. Wilson dropped back and scrambled to his left, buying time for his receivers to get into the endzone for the Hail Mary. Wilson lofted a pass into the left corner of the endzone which was caught “simultaneously” by Packers safety M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate. From my view it looked like Tate had outjumped the mass of bodies and made the catch cleanly. When the side judge ruled it was a touchdown Elliott and I went bonkers. The team stormed the north endzone and in the stands we all jumped up and down with wide eyes, seemingly not being able to believe what had just happened. I can remember tossing Skittles at a few Packers fans sitting around us; Packers fans that had been trash talking the Seahawks throughout the second half. When head referee Wayne Elliott came out from under the replay hood and ruled that the call on the field stood, the fans erupted one more time. The Seahawks improved their record to 2-1 and it made for a jubilant rest of the night.

10for10 eric and elliott

Elliott and I going crazy in the postgame craziness

Upon walking down to the upper concourse we ran into Jake and Alan and we walked down the stadium ramp screaming and cheering. I can even remember Alan exclaiming “this is the best night of my life!” When we exited the stadium Elliott and I parted ways because we were heading home in different directions but the night was just starting for Jake, Alan, and I. We took a bus back to the University District which was filled with happy Seahawks fans. While standing on the bus Jake agreed with Alan’s prior declaration that it was the best night of his life. This caused one bitter Packers fan standing next to us that “that was sad. Graduation or getting married would probably be the best night of my life.” Once we got off the bus we walked back to Wallingford but not before picking up a fallen tree branch off of the sidewalk randomly. We jokingly waved the branch all the way back home and we decided that it would be our house “victory branch” which we placed on the porch. It stayed there for the remainder of our lease.

We cooked up six chicken top ramens in a giant pan and we watched SportsCenter where for the first time we realized what had actually happened on the final play of the game. We had no idea how questionable the final touchdown ruling was and we could not believe he had witnessed one of the most controversial games in NFL history. It is the greatest regular season Seahawks game I have attended in the 10 years I have been a Seahawks season ticket holder and it rightfully has a spot near the top of my #10for10 countdown.

Review: Seahawks 29, 49ers 13

22 Nov
49ers review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

49ers/Seahawks Preview

21 Nov
49ers preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 31, 49ers 10

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

19 Nov

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

Marshawn Lynch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

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

10for10 79pride

Photo Credit: nfltouchdown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10for10 holdmahdick

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

Review: Cardinals 39, Seahawks 32

15 Nov
Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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