Archive | December, 2015

Review: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

27 Dec
rams review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

“We want Seattle.”

It was the phrase that flooded Twitter late Saturday night from Washington Redskins fans who, like many Seahawks fans, assumed their team was destined to host the #5 seeded Seahawks in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs. For Seattle it seemed simple; take care of business against the St. Louis Rams and the Seahawks would seemingly have the fifth seed wrapped up. Pump the brakes because those plans are absolutely on hold. The Seahawks had numerous chances to take control of Sunday’s game but could not overcome three huge turnovers and several self-inflicted mistakes. The Rams came into CenturyLink Field and shocked the Seahawks 23-17. The loss drops Seattle to 9-6 and the Seahawks temporarily hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Now instead of Washington, the Seahawks could wind up playing one of three potential opponents in the first week of the playoffs depending on how next week’s slate of games plays out. For now however, here are my brief thoughts on today’s stunning defeat.

Offensive Line and Running Game: Talk about knocking a house down. After weeks of solid chemistry and play from our offensive line the group caved against a superior Rams front line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times and he was constantly under pressure and flushed out of the pocket. To make matters worse, the Seahawks running game could not get anything going all day long. Our leading rusher not named Russell Wilson was Fred Jackson who tallied up an extremely underwhelming 11 yards on the ground. Bryce Brown saw only 7 carries and last week’s feature back Christine Michael only touched the ball 6 times. Could it be time to hit the panic button if Marshawn Lynch does not return soon? After Sunday’s performance I find it hard to believe we will have better success against an even better Arizona Cardinals defense on the road next week. We must decide on a feature back because the Jackson/Brown/Michael committee we threw out on the field against St. Louis will not be effective moving forward.

Thoughts on Officiating: On the whole I have no qualms about how this game was officiated. I do believe however that the referees messed up once, when Rams running back Benny Cunningham fumbled on third down with 13:37 left in the game. The ball looked to have been recovered by the Seahawks but was immediately ruled Rams ball. After a brief discussion the ruling was temporarily overturned to Seahawks ball on the field but was then changed back to the original call of St. Louis ball. Since the Seahawks had already lost both their challenges they did not have an extra challenge to their disposal. I believe if there is any debate about which team recovered a fumble the safest route is to give the ball to the defense because then the play is automatically reviewed since it is a turnover. Ruling Rams ball gave the Seahawks no chance to prove they in fact recovered the ball. Unfortunately the touchdown St. Louis scored later on in the drive was the difference on the scoreboard at the end of the game.

Turnovers: The Seahawks defense allowed only 207 yards to the Rams offense. You see that number and think “the Seahawks probably dominated them and won the game.” Wrong. At the end of the day three turnovers cost the Seahawks the game. Will Tukuafu fumbled a handoff in the first quarter which was picked up and run in by the Rams Akeem Ayers, giving St. Louis a 10-0 lead. Russell Wilson threw his first interception in 6 weeks at the end of the first half, and Wilson also fumbled late in the game which pretty much sealed the win for the Rams. This may have been the sloppiest game the Seahawks have played all season and it could not have come at a worse time. You will not win football games in this league when you end the day -3 in turnover differential. It was simply unacceptable.

Thoughts on St. Louis: Could this team finally be turning the corner for good? This kind of statement win could give the St. Louis Rams serious momentum heading into 2016. Todd Gurley looks like the real deal after having a chance to see him play firsthand. This team always gives us fits and I do not believe it will be easy for them to regress. There is a solid possibility this team could be wild-card contenders next season.

Random Thoughts: It was great to finish up the home slate of games with one more pregame at the Hawks Nest… Introducing the special teams during pregame may not have been the best move. It was supposed to be the offense’s turn to run out of the tunnel individually… Congratulations to Richard Sherman for winning the 2015 Steve Largent Award. Well-deserved sir… I believe I got 7 beers for the price of 4 inside the stadium throughout the game. Let me explain. My friend Jake and I entered the stadium and immediately got food. I asked for 4 slices of pizza and two Bud Lights for the two of us, a total of about $51. The concessions worker gave us 4 slices of pizza and 4 Bud Lights so we essentially got 2 extra beers at no charge. Then later on we stopped a beer vendor walking up the aisle and asked for two more Bud Lights. The total this time came to around $17. The vendor cracked open the first beer and handed it to Jake, then he cracked open a Red Hook Long Hammer IPA by mistake. He immediately recognized his blunder and cracked open two more Bud Lights for us. So we paid for two and got a third beer on the house. All in all that adds up to 7 beers for the price of 4. Talk about an unintentional fan appreciation special!… It sucks this is how I leave CenturyLink Field for the final time until August. This will surely leave a bad taste in my mouth throughout the offseason.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are several scenarios that could land the Seahawks either the #5 seed or #6 seed. Here are the scenarios for the final week of the season:

The Seahawks earn the #5 seed with a win over Arizona and a Green Bay Packers win over the Minnesota Vikings. In this scenario the Seahawks would play Washington in the wild-card round.

If the Seahawks lose to Arizona we will be locked in to the #6 seed. In this scenario if Green Bay beats Minnesota next week, the Seahawks will play Green Bay in the wild-card round. However if Minnesota beats Green Bay, the Vikings will win the NFC North and the Seahawks will travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings in the wild-card round.

What’s Next: The Seahawks close out the regular season next Sunday on the road as they take on the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals. Look for my game preview on Saturday morning.

Rams/Seahawks Preview

26 Dec
rams preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks wrap up the home portion of their 2015 season on Sunday against a familiar December opponent. Seattle concludes their home slate against the division rival St. Louis Rams for the fifth time in the last six years. The Seahawks are 9-5 and have a playoff berth already wrapped up. The Rams are at the tail end of yet another mediocre season under head coach Jeff Fisher with a record of 6-8. Seattle leads the all-time series 21-14 but the Rams bested the Seahawks in week one, coming back to defeat the Kam Chancellor-less squad in overtime 34-31. 15 weeks later the Seahawks are a completely different team and the Rams have added a dynamic force on their offensive unit. Here is what I will be watching out for on Sunday.

Look for the Seahawks offense to try to mirror what it accomplished last week against Cleveland. Christine Michael will likely be the lead back and will see anywhere from 15 to 20 carries. The talk of the town has been the phenomenal play of quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin. If Wilson can continue to avoid turning the ball over I believe our offense will put the team in good position to win. On defense my number one focus will be to watch how well our starters match the speed of the Rams offense. On the ground the combo of Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin has combined for 1,413 yards and 13 touchdowns. St. Louis likes to use Austin in the backfield and on end arounds so the Seahawks must be quick on the outside. The presence of Kenny Britt at receiver also equips St. Louis with an explosive downfield threat. Richard Sherman will likely cover Britt on Sunday. If the Seahawks can hold the Rams to under 300 yards of total offense it will be a successful day.

As I previously mentioned, the Rams have a weapon on the offensive side of the ball that was not available when these two teams faced off back in September. He is the guy I will keep my focus on more than any other Rams offensive player. Since his debut in week 3, running back Todd Gurley is on pace for 1,200 yards, has been named to the Pro Bowl, and is the front runner to win offensive rookie of the year. He is the closest thing to Marshawn Lynch that has come into the league in recent years and he has the talent to make even the toughest run defenses look silly. I believe Gurley will see at least 20 carries and if the Rams find success in the running game they will continue to feed him the ball. Getting solid production out of Gurley in this game will take a ton of pressure off of quarterback Case Keenum.

The mystery of the St. Louis Rams comes from their defense. Over the past few seasons the Rams have been hyped to be potential contenders for the NFC West crown. I believe a lot of this hype comes from the talent they possess on the defensive side of the ball. Yet somehow the pool of talent cannot seem to band together to help the team win football games. They remind me of the pre-Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers; they have the talent but it is not being utilized correctly. The Rams defense will be represented in the Pro Bowl by defensive tackle/interior pass rusher Aaron Donald who leads the team with 11 sacks and also has the fourth most tackles on the defense with 64. The middle of the defense is anchored by veteran James Laurinaitis but the secondary is what I will have my eye on. Safety Mark Barron leads the team in tackles and cornerback Janoris Jenkins has recorded 14 passes defensed. The Rams other starting cornerback also has 14 passes defensed but has also done more on the stat sheet. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the St. Louis Rams is cornerback Trumaine Johnson. In just his fourth season, Johnson has emerged as one of the Rams best players. This season he has already shattered his personal best for interceptions in a single season with 6. He has intercepted a pass in each of his last three games and one of his interceptions occurred against the Seahawks in week one. Johnson will likely shadow the red-hot Doug Baldwin and with the trust Russell Wilson has had going to Baldwin over the past 5 weeks, particularly on third down, Johnson will absolutely see opportunities to make an impact in this game.

Random Thoughts: College navy jerseys and pants for the Seahawks. The Rams will wear white jerseys and will likely wear navy pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber will lead the broadcast on FOX… The referee for this week’s game is John Hussey… The gameday theme is fan appreciation which means the Seahawks will be giving away a wide array of prizes to the fans in attendance. In all the years I’ve been a season ticket holder I’ve only won something on fan appreciation day once; a 12 car flag in 2008… The Steve Largent Award will also be presented during pregame festivities. Russell Wilson won it last year and it is possible he could win it again… It’s disappointing this final regular season home game will be a goodbye to everyone I sit around until August of next year. I’ve been so used to having home playoff games to look forward to the past couple of years that this year feels slightly abnormal… If the Seahawks win they will have reached the 10-win mark. If that’s the case the Seahawks will have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. What an amazing feat that would be.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West last week, meaning at best the Seahawks can be the #5 seed. With a win over the Rams the Seahawks will maintain their position as the #5 seed. The Seahawks can clinch the #5 seed with a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss. The Seahawks will fall to the #6 seed if they lose and the Vikings win. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Washington (7-7) at Philadelphia (6-8) (Game to be played Saturday night)

Green Bay (10-4) at Arizona (12-2)

New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota (9-5)

Prediction: The Rams have not won in Seattle since my 15th birthday. That draught will continue on Sunday. The game will be tied at halftime due to a strong first half by Todd Gurley but Russell Wilson will come out of the intermission on fire, throwing for touchdowns on our first two second half possessions. The Seahawks will get to 10-5 and will send the 12’s home happy one last time this season.

Seahawks 27, Rams 16

#10for10 Game #1: The Tip (Seahawks vs. 49ers, 2013 NFC Championship Game)

24 Dec

*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 sherman tip

Photo Credit: seahawksdraftblog.com

The Seahawks 2013 season was one nobody in the Pacific Northwest will ever forget. After going 13-3 in the regular season, we advanced all the way to Super Bowl XLVIII. There we defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 to claim our first NFL world championship. If it wasn’t for the events of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl however, the Seahawks would still be Lombardi-less today. The 2013 NFC Championship had it all: Action, suspense, and when it was all said and done, a storybook ending. This is the story of the best Seahawks game I have ever been to.

The day was January 19th, 2014. The Seahawks were hosting the second NFC Championship Game in franchise history and we were one win away from a trip to New York City for the Super Bowl. Game time was slated for 3:30pm and I was taking my dad to the game, so we decided to skip the bar scene on this pivotal Sunday. We headed downtown around 10am and went straight to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch. The place was already packed so we stood at a table inside the bar. I sipped on a few Pyramid Hefeweizens and enjoyed a plate of fish and chips. We watched the first half of the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos and were joined in the late afternoon once again by my friend James and his brother Lane. James and I had airfare and hotel reservations to New York already booked just in case the Seahawks won. As we watched the game we talked about how excited we were to potentially head east for the Super Bowl and we briefly discussed things we might want to do when back there. I don’t call this overconfidence but when the opportunity presented itself we couldn’t help but talk about our potential vacation. We left Pyramid shortly before 2pm and headed straight into the stadium. Once we got our tickets scanned were all given a white “We Are 12” rally towel. My dad and I departed James and Lane and the two of us headed straight up to my seats.

10for10 james eric nfc champ

James and I on the main concourse prior to kickoff

When we hosted the NFC Championship Game 8 years prior I distinctly remember every fan being in their seats before the Seahawks had even ended pregame warmups and this game was no different. The Seahawks huddled up before heading back to the locker room one last time and 68,000 fans hollered to ear-shattering levels while waving their towels. We were ready. The Seahawks went the extra mile to pump up the crowd. Before the Seahawks were introduced, they played the Derrick Coleman Duracell commercial on the video screens. Towards the end of the commercial Coleman, who narrates the commercial says “and now I’m here with the loudest fans in the NFL cheering me on… and I can hear them all.” The video got the fans even more crazed. To this day I have scoured YouTube and various video websites to try to find video of the Coleman commercial played before the game and I have not been successful. It is a moment that will be difficult for me to forget.

After the 49ers took the field the Seahawks were introduced and the starting defense got their chance to run out of the tunnel individually. Richard Sherman was the first member of the Legion of Boom to take the field and deafening roar of the crowd lasted through the introductions of Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. After Heart’s Ann Wilson performed the national anthem, owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag just like he did before the ’05 NFC title game. The Seahawks were going to start the game with the ball.

On the first play of the game the Seahawks wanted to go for it all. The call was a play action pass. Russell Wilson faked the handoff to Marshawn Lynch and dropped back seven, looking deep down the field. He scrambled to his left and as he tried to tuck the ball away it was stripped and recovered by the 49ers Aldon Smith. After one play the Seahawks had turned the ball over deep inside San Francisco territory. I remember having a blank stare on my face and everyone around me had the exact same expression. “What the f**k was that?” was what was on my mind and multiple people in my vicinity shouted that exact same thought for everyone to hear. Fortunately Colin Kaepernick could not put the 49ers in the endzone following the turnover. We held the 49ers to a field goal and they took a 3-0 lead. Things did not get any better for the Seahawks on our next possession as San Francisco forced us into a 3 and out. After trading punts San Francisco got the ball again to start the second quarter. A 58-yard scramble by Kaepernick gave the 49ers a goal-to-go situation. After three failed attempts to get the ball into the endzone the 49ers elected to go for it on 4th down. In front of a raucous 12th Man Kaepernick handed the ball to Anthony Dixon who plowed ahead into the endzone. The touchdown gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead with 10:03 left in the first half. The Seahawks cut the lead to 10-3 on their next drive thanks in part to a 51-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Seattle headed into the locker room at halftime down by 7 and although it was disappointing we were not leading there was renewed optimism when, of all things, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage for a halftime performance.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played their hits singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” and at the end of the show Macklemore declared that “Seattle sports history will be made tonight.” This declaration left the 12th Man including myself jacked up. We as fans were ready to do everything we possibly could to help push the Seahawks to a comeback and a victory.

10for10 macklemore

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After forcing the 49ers to punt on their first possession of the second half the Seahawks got the ball with excellent field position. On the fourth play of the drive the Seahawks were facing 3rd and 1. Darrell Bevell called up “17 power,” the same play as the Marshawn Lynch Beast Quake run. Marshawn shed two blocks and broke away towards the front right corner of the endzone. As soon as he got out of the second tackle I could see the space he had to run and immediately went crazy. At about the 10-yard line Lynch tripped but his momentum carried him into the endzone anyway for the score. Skittles rained down in all corners of the stadium and I jumped up and down in unison with my dad and the folks around me. The game was tied 10-10 and it felt like a whole new football game was about to start.

The 49ers took the next drive 83 yards and with 6:29 left in the third quarter the Seahawks faced yet another deficit, 17-10. After this the Seahawks took full control of the game. After a Steven Hauschka field goal made it a 17-13 ballgame, the Seahawks forced another San Francisco punt. Heading into the fourth quarter the Seahawks had the ball on the 49ers 35-yard line facing 4th down. The following sequence will never be forgotten as a pivotal cog in the Seahawks 2013 Super Bowl season. Hauschka lined up for a field goal but with the kick heading into the wind, he was hesitant to go through with the attempt. Pete Carroll called timeout to go over their options and ultimately decided to send the offense back on the field to go for it. With the Seahawks in the huddle I sat down in my seat briefly, leaned over, and said a quick prayer. The Seahawks broke the huddle and I jumped up to stand. Wilson was able to draw San Francisco offsides and knowing he had a free play, Wilson launched a pass into the endzone which was caught by Jermaine Kearse. The stadium went crazy. For the first time all afternoon the Seahawks had the lead 20-17. There was still 13:44 left in the game and a lot could happen but what has happened time and time again at home, once we corral a lead, the 12th Man will make it awfully difficult for the opposing team to come back.

Everyone was back in the game. With Lil Jon’s “Outta Your Mind” on full blast before the next kickoff, every fan was screaming, waiving their rally towels, and jumping up and down. On the 7th play of the series and facing third down, Colin Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket to his left. As he tried to cock the ball back it was stripped out of his hand by Cliff Avril and picked up by Michael Bennett. Bennett returned the ball to the 49ers 6-yard line. This was the loudest it had gotten inside CenturyLink Field all day. The 49ers were unraveling and if the Seahawks could score a touchdown and go up by 10 points, the game may be out of reach. Unfortunately the drive resulted in no points, as Russell Wilson fumbled a 4th and goal attempt from the 1-yard line, turning the ball over to the 49ers. After an interception by Kam Chancellor which was translated into a field goal the Seahawks held a 23-17 lead with 3:37 remaining. If Seattle could stop the 49ers one more time, they would be the NFC champions.

The Seahawks forced San Francisco into a 4th and 2 situation with 2:01 left in the game. The 49ers converted on a pass from Kaepernick to Frank Gore for 17 yards. After the next play, a 4 yard run by Kaepernick, the 49ers elected to let the clock run. After two more completions the 49ers had the ball 1st and 10 from the Seahawks 29-yard line. 55 seconds remained. After a pass to Vernon Davis the 49ers let the clock run down once more. With every second off the clock came more and more stress. The 49ers were getting dangerously close to the endzone and with them draining the clock, a touchdown would pretty much seal San Francisco’s second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. The fans tried to stay loud to try to throw the 49ers off but you could hear the worry and panic in the noise, a feeling that has never happened in my 10 years as a season ticket holder. There have been stressful moments but not like this; not with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Then everything changed. Then came the single greatest play in the history of the Seattle Seahawks.

1st and 10 for the 49ers. 18-yard line. 30 seconds remaining. Colin Kaepernick drops back and throws a fade into the right side of the endzone. The ball is tipped into the air by Richard Sherman and falls right into the waiting hands of Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks had made the tip drill a common routine throughout 2013 and with no other 49ers receiver in the area, from my angle as soon as the ball was tipped I knew it was going to be intercepted. It was the most emotional I had ever been at a Seahawks game. I dropped to my knees because I was emotionally drained. With everyone in the stadium going crazy, after a few moments I got back up, hugged my dad, and the reality of the moment really started to settle in. “WE’RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!” I exclaimed as Russell Wilson took three knees to win the game. With “Can’t Hold Us” playing over the speakers the teams met in the middle of the field and as the clock hit zero I pulled out my phone. I had a text I needed to send to James. That text, which I will never forget, simply said “PACK YOUR BAGS, BROTHER.” We were going to New York for the Super Bowl.

John Nordstrom, the original owner of the Seahawks, presented Paul Allen with the George Halas trophy and after several on-field speeches the fans left the stadium one last time to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s classic hit “New York, New York.”

10for10 nordstrom allen

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The rest is history. The Seahawks went on to win their very first world championship two weeks later. Without Jermaine Kearse’s 4th down touchdown and Richard Sherman’s tip, there is a very good chance the Seahawks would still be a championship-less franchise. From 2006-2012 the Seahawks season came to an end short of us being able to host an NFC Championship Game, the biggest game a team can host. Those long years waiting made this day absolutely worth it. There is no doubt this is the greatest Seahawks home game I have ever attended and going forward it will be extremely difficult to top.

Review: Seahawks 30, Browns 13

20 Dec
browns review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

It was not quite the blowout we all thought was possible but at the end of the day there should be no room for complaints. The Seahawks took care of business as expected on Sunday, defeating the Cleveland Browns 30-13. With the win the Seahawks improve to 9-5 and thanks in part to the New York Giants loss earlier in the day Seattle has clinched a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season. Cleveland’s record falls to a dismal 3-11. Here now are some brief thoughts following today’s win.

Wilson Stays Hot: For the fifth straight game quarterback Russell Wilson avoided throwing an interception. He finished his day 21/30 for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns before turning the reigns over to Tarvaris Jackson late in the game. In the last 5 weeks Wilson has thrown for 1,420 yards, 19 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Once again two of his touchdown tosses went to Doug Baldwin who continues his own hot streak of 10 touchdown receptions over the past 4 games. Last week I briefly talked about how Wilson’s performance is coming at the best time and with two more games before the playoffs this is a perfect time for this wave of momentum to continue. Unfortunately I believe the only thing that is keeping his name out of the MVP race is the Seahawks record. Wilson may be the quarterback opponents do not want to face the most, especially at this point in the season.

The Upper Hand: Bryce Brown had the longest run of the game but he was not the more consistent running back. Christine Michael led all Seahawks running backs in carries with 16 and he made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 84 yards and a 5.3 yards per carry average. I had a feeling Michael would make the bigger impact because of his experience in our offensive system and his knowledge of the playbook. Ball security was something that also had me smiling, as neither Michael nor Brown coughed up the ball. Moving forward I expect Michael to be the Seahawks lead back and it would not surprise me to see Brown phased out of our game plan entirely for our final two regular season games.

A Long Wait: When people think of what makes a game “ugly” the first thing that usually comes to mind is turnovers. I thought this game would be a perfect opportunity for the Legion of Boom to feast on multiple Cleveland mistakes. At least that was the assumption. Unfortunately it took 47 minutes and 43 seconds for the Seahawks to record their first and only takeaway of the game, an interception by cornerback Marcus Burley. With strong safety Kam Chancellor inactive Seattle’s defense was not at full strength. Nevertheless forcing only one Browns turnover was disappointing. My hope is that the defense just had an off game. Here is something to keep in mind going forward. The Seahawks have recorded multiple takeaways in only 6 of our 14 games. Going up against another conservative quarterback next week it may be hard to force turnovers yet again.

Thoughts on Cleveland: On Sunday I could see Johnny Manziel’s potential playing out on the field. Unfortunately he will likely be one of only a handful of players that will continue their careers with the Browns in 2016. This franchise is once again in need of a complete overhaul. Mike Pettine is not a good fit to be the head coach of this team and Ray Farmer has not done enough in his limited time as general manager to prove to owner Jimmy Haslam he deserves more time to put this team together. Even Haslam may not be the best owner for this franchise and that really says something about just exactly how bad it is in Cleveland. This team needs to put together a couple of solid draft classes in the next couple of seasons before I can consider them a team ready to challenge for a playoff berth.

Random Thoughts: It’s semi-disappointing we gave up any sort of lead to the Browns. Cleveland’s early 7-0 lead didn’t last and that didn’t surprise anyone. The mood inside the stadium was still one of unwavering confidence that we would get the job done… For the most part I am not the type of person that boos opposing fans but seeing the few Cleveland Browns fans in the stadium, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for them and their fandom. I would be more inclined to hug a Browns fan instead of boo them, just because of all the pain and suffering they have endured throughout their lives… It was nice to see Michael Sinclair raise the 12 Flag. I thought Sinclair would be big enough of a name to raise the flag on alumni day (the home opener) the past couple of years but I guess not. His presence at the stadium today brought back great memories of him, Cortez Kennedy, and Chad Brown along the defensive line in the late 1990’s… One more home game next week before the long 8 month break before the 2016 preseason. Unless of course the Seahawks somehow get to host the NFC Championship Game for the third straight year.

What’s Next: The number one game in my #10for10 series will be published on Christmas Eve. Look out for my preview of next week’s game against the St. Louis Rams on Saturday morning. I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas. Go Seahawks!

Browns/Seahawks Preview

19 Dec
browns preview 2015

Photo Credit: seattlepi.com

Matchup: Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Cleveland Browns are one of three NFL teams I have never seen play live. After Sunday that number decreases to two. On Sunday the Browns visit Seattle for the first time since 2003 when they take on the Seahawks. Talk about a tale of two teams. The Seahawks are soaring, sitting at 8-5 on the season and are currently on a 4-game winning streak. The Browns on the other hand are 3-10 and are one of a small handful of teams vying for the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The all-time series between these teams is 11-6 in favor of the Seahawks. This record includes the seasons prior to the Browns being reborn as an expansion franchise in 1999. Our last meeting with Cleveland in 2011 remains one of the hardest Seahawks games I have ever watched. With Charlie Whitehurst making only his third career start at quarterback, the Seahawks were inept at moving the ball on offense. Amazingly Cleveland was not much better yet they edged the Seahawks by a score of 6-3. Here is what I will be watching for in this week’s game.

Of course the number one question everyone has been asking the past few days is “who is going to start at running back?” There are more questions that still need to be answered however. What kind of split will our offense have in regards to running vs. passing? Will Russell Wilson take more initiative trying to move the ball on the ground? Are we going to abandon the run altogether? I am going to try my best to answer these questions right now. I would not be surprised to see Fred Jackson start at running back and see the majority of the work especially since the Seahawks released DuJuan Harris earlier this week. Christine Michael, who was cut by the Seahawks and spent limited time with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins this season, was re-signed on Wednesday. Bryce Brown was also re-signed after a cup of coffee with the team earlier in the year but has a limited understanding of our playbook. Both Michael and Brown have had issues fumbling the ball over the course of their careers so they may be on an equally short leash. As far as our offensive balance goes I think we will stick to establishing the run early on. If the running back, whoever it may be, struggles to move the ball efficiently I think we could see Russell Wilson throwing way more than we are accustomed to. Read option is a possibility but Cleveland is an opponent that can be beat without having to use read option a lot. I think the threat of read-option keepers by Wilson are best kept hidden until January. The only way the Seahawks would abandon the run entirely is if we are trailing late in the game when we would be forced to throw the ball.

Let’s talk about the Cleveland Browns offense. This is a squad that ranks in bottom three rushing units in all of football but are ranked 11th in passing yards per game, mainly because they trail in all their games and are forced to throw the ball. After gaining the starting job then losing it due to off-the-field troubles, the Browns will once again start second year quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel has focused on making more conservative passes and his completion percentages of 73.3 and 67.7 percent the past two weeks respectively speak towards this notion. Because of this he does not throw many interceptions (3 total this season). Travis Benjamin is Cleveland’s bang-or-bust weapon down the field and he leads all Browns receivers in targets the past two weeks with 18.  My focus will be on the Browns most consistent receiver. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cleveland Browns is tight end Gary Barnidge. Barnidge signed a lucrative three-year contract extension last week and he is well deserving of it. Barnidge is no doubt a game changer and has been one of the lone bright spots on a porous Browns team. He leads the team with 901 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Barnidge will see his share of receptions this week and given the Seahawks struggles with tight ends there is potential for him to have yet another big day on Sunday.

The Browns defense ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per game but they feature some talented players. Their defensive line is led by defensive end Desmond Bryant but keep an eye on rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton who will have a big impact in shutting down the Seahawks running game. Veteran linebackers Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby lead the second level of the defense. The secondary is a unit that has big play potential but they have been unable to stay healthy as a unit. Cornerback Joe Haden is on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after suffering a concussion in week 8. Justin Gilbert, the 8th overall pick by the Browns a season ago, has become irrelevant and if you asked Browns fans they might tell you he is not even worth a roster spot. With former Packer Tramon Williams leading the defense with 9 passes defensed and third on the team in tackles with 47, it will be up to left corner Charles Gaines to have a big game because it is likely Russell Wilson will test him often.

This week could be a huge week for the 12’s. Johnny Manziel has never played at CenturyLink Field and I have a strange feeling in my gut that he is the most likely quarterback to fail miserably at handling our crowd noise in recent years. I have never made a prediction as to how many false starts the opposing team will have but I strongly believe the Browns will have at least 5 false start penalties on Sunday, which would be the most of any opposing team in 2015.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will go all college navy at home. No surprise there. The Browns redesigned their uniforms over the offseason and they now have three different jersey, pant, and sock colors (white, brown, and orange). This week they will go with a clean look: White jerseys, white pants, and brown socks… For the second straight week Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, and Tony Siragusa are on the FOX broadcast. I hope fans sitting close to the field give Siragusa a hard time about the whole “Russell Williams” incident last week. He’ll be sure to say his name right this week. Wouldn’t be surprised if he brings it up on the broadcast either… Gene Steratore is the referee… I’m taking a friend of mine to the game who I went to school with but currently lives in San Francisco. He is driving home and is currently on the road as we speak. Hopefully he’s not too tired for a full day down at the stadium tomorrow… 1:05pm start this week so for those attending make sure you make it into the stadium a little earlier than normal… My goal was to have my Christmas shopping done and my presents wrapped by the time this game rolled around. Mission accomplished.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are numerous scenarios that involve the Seahawks clinching a playoff spot this week. The easiest of which I will discuss here. With the Rams win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win AND a loss by either the New York Giants or Washington Redskins. With a win Seattle will also maintain the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks fall to the #6 seed if they lose and the Minnesota Vikings win. The Arizona Cardinals clinch the NFC West with a win over Philadelphia Sunday night or if the Seahawks lose. Here are the games to keep track of. Teams to note are bolded.

Carolina (13-0) at New York Giants (6-7)

Buffalo (6-7) at Washington (6-7)

Chicago (5-8) at Minnesota (8-5)

Arizona (11-2) at Philadelphia (6-7)

Prediction: This game is going to get ugly fast. Russell Wilson will throw 4 touchdown passes and Christine Michael will also run for a touchdown. The Browns only score will come in garbage time when Johnny Manziel hits Travis Benjamin for a touchdown. The Seahawks will clinch a playoff spot by the end of the day and we will head into the Christmas week with a 9-5 record.

Seahawks 38, Browns 7

#10for10 Game #2: Championship Comeback (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2014 NFC Championship Game)

17 Dec

*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 kearse catch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After overtaking the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West lead and eventual division championship late in the 2014 season the Seahawks earned the number one seed in the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive season. All it would take was a win in the divisional round and the Seahawks would host the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year. We did just that, and on January 18th, 2015 the Seahawks hosted the Green Bay Packers with the winner earning a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.

The day started a little different than any other Seahawks home game in my 10 years as a season ticket holder simply because of what time the game was scheduled to start. The AFC and NFC alternate kickoff times for championship weekend each year; one game starts at 12:00pm while the other kicks off at 3:30pm. In 2014 the NFC title game was a noon kickoff Pacific Time which meant the game would start one hour earlier than an afternoon regular season Seahawks home game. After a 5:30am wake up call, I got myself ready to go and I was out of the house by 6:30. I met my friend Jake at a Pioneer Square Starbucks shortly before 7am and we grabbed a cup of coffee before walking over to our pregame destination, the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill. The bar usually opens at 8am for Seahawks home games and they did not open earlier to accommodate the earlier start time. Because of this there was a line about 75 people long waiting to get in at 7:30. We met a couple of Jake’s brother’s friends and when the doors opened at 8 o’clock we headed straight for the L-shaped mini-bar-looking spot in the back of the building.

For the next two and a half hours we watched the various NFL pregame shows on the televisions surrounding our spot while eating and drinking merrily with all the Seahawks fans sitting and standing around us. Over this time I was paid visits by my Dad and uncle who were attending the game together, as well as my friend James and his little brother Lane who had also won tickets through the Seahawks.

10for10 packers pregame

James (left), Jake (right), and I at the Hawks Nest before the game

After a few beers Jake and I left the bar at around 10:30 and headed into the stadium. We got our rally towels at the gate and headed straight up to my seats. We were met with a stadium getting fuller by the minute and by the time the Seahawks headed into their locker room after pregame warmups CenturyLink Field was nearly completely full. The Seahawks defense was introduced to a raucous ovation and after Paul Allen raised the 12 Flag for the third time ever with a sea of white towels waving all around, Steven Hauschka kicked off to the Packers to get the game underway.

That first drive could not have been any better. After letting the Packers drive into Seahawks territory, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a third down pass into the endzone which was picked off by Richard Sherman. All the momentum shifted in the Seahawks favor. If we could take our first possession and turn it into a touchdown, it may be an easy day en route to the Super Bowl. Those dreams ended real fast. On the third play of our first drive Russell Wilson was intercepted by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. For some reason everything that followed for the next three quarters fell out of sync. That interception led to a field goal and a 3-0 Green Bay lead. Doug Baldwin fumbled the ball back to the Packers on our next offensive play and that turnover turned into another Packers field goal. Then a three and out gave the ball back to the Packers and they in turn scored a touchdown. After the first quarter the Packers had over 4 times as many points as the Seahawks had yards. Packers 13, Seahawks 0.

The Seahawks started the second quarter with another three and out. The Packers turned their next drive into another field goal and a 16-0 lead. By this point all the fans were silent and discouraged beyond belief. We could not believe that a team so good playing at home on a stage so big could come out so flat. Our next drive did not make matters any better. Another Wilson interception to Clinton-Dix gave Green Bay the ball back but we were able to take the ball back from the Packers when Byron Maxwell intercepted Rodgers. We needed to go down the field and score a touchdown to have any confidence moving forward. We got the ball all the way down to the Packers 18-yard line. Unfortunately we could not capitalize. Wilson targeted Jermaine Kearse on the left side of the endzone but was intercepted by Sam Shields. Packers ball 1st and 10 up 16-0 with 1:55 left in the half. I was in a state of such shock and disbelief I needed to decompose and catch my breath. I abandoned an equally-shocked Jake at my seats for a short period of time and I decided to take a walk down the concourse and use the restroom at the halftime break.

I sit in section 340 at CenturyLink Field which is in the northwest corner of the stadium. I walked all the way down to the 12 Flagpole in the south end of the stadium and waited in a bathroom line that stretched about 100 feet down the concourse. I did not even care about the Alice in Chains halftime performance going on right next to me. I just stared into space, thinking about the 30 minutes of atrocious football I had just witnessed. I was not physically sick but just thinking about how poorly we played made me want to puke once I got in there. I walked back to my seats with a renewed hope that the Seahawks could come back and make this game competitive. Luckily I made it back just in time for the start of the second half.

After trading drives resulting in punts the Seahawks got the ball back and drove down to the Green Bay 19-yard line. Steven Hauschka lined up for a 38-yard field goal but the ball was picked up by holder Jon Ryan who scrambled left and lobbed up a rainbow to eligible receiver Garry Gilliam for a touchdown. The fake fooled everyone in the stadium and when the pass fell complete the stands went nuts. The gutsy play call put us back in the game. We knew we had a long way to go but we thought this score could spark a comeback. Packers 16, Seahawks 7.

After exchanging punts once more the Packers drove down the field to kick a field goal which extended their lead to 19-7 with 10:53 left in regulation. The Seahawks got the ball back with just over 5 minutes left to go needing a touchdown. On the first play of the drive Wilson was picked off for the fourth time, once again intended for Jermaine Kearse. Many fans gave up on our chances and decided to head for the exits including Marc and Mike, the two guys who sit in front of me. After forcing the Packers to punt the Seahawks got the ball back with 3:52 left in regulation. The following 7 minutes and 11 seconds earned this game the number two spot on my countdown.

The Seahawks drove 69-yards down the field culminating in a 1-yard read-option keeper by Russell Wilson. The score cut the Green Bay lead to 19-14. It was a huge score but we still needed to recover an onside kick to have any shot at taking the lead. Steven Hauschka kicked the ensuing onside kick which bounced off the helmet of the Packers Brandon Bostick. Chris Matthews jumped to snare the ball out of mid-air and the remainder of the crowd went insane. I bear hugged Jake and the guys sitting next to us. I immediately turned to my left to look down at all the fans who decided to leave stop in their tracks. Instead of walking away from the building they stood frozen, hearing the distant cheers inside the stadium; honestly one of the most satisfying sights I have ever seen at a Seahawks game. After an 8-yard pass to Luke Willson, Marshawn Lynch took a handoff 24 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden with 1:25 left in regulation the Seahawks had their first lead of the game 20-19. We could not believe it. After screaming in celebration I bent over to catch my breath, not before letting out one last yelp. The Seahawks had to go for two to try to extend the lead to 3. Wilson rolled to his right and when the play did not develop he was chased backwards and after spinning around he chucked up a prayer of a pass across his body where it was somehow hauled in by Willson. The Seahawks miraculously had a 22-19 lead but the game was not yet over. The Packers were successfully able to drive into field goal range and kicked a game-tying 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. After 60 minutes: Seahawks 22, Packers 22.

The Seahawks won the toss to start overtime and I immediately wanted to yell “WE WANT THE BALL AND WE’RE GONNA SCORE!” in reference to the infamous Seahawks/Packers Wild-Card playoff game in 2003. Jake could tell by the look on my face and before I even had the chance to open my mouth he looked at me and with a dead straight face said “don’t you even dare say it.” Facing a third down Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 35-yard gain and the Seahawks were a mere 35 yards away from a second straight NFC championship. On the next play Wilson saw the Packers were lined up with a single high safety so he audibled. He dropped back and floated a beautiful pass right into the arms of Jermaine Kearse as he crossed the goal line. When the pass left Wilson’s hand I screamed “FOR THE WIN….” And sure enough when the pass dropped into Kearse’s bread basket I jumped into the air. Jake jumped into my arms and the guys surrounding me in turn jumped onto us World Series style, as if we were the ones who had just won the game. The Seahawks players and coaches stormed the field and pig-piled Kearse in the south endzone. We were the NFC Champions and if felt so good. Daft Punk’s “One More Time” blared over the sound system as the trophy presentation stage was being set up in the middle of the field.

10for10 packers postgame

Jake and I with the championship celebration ongoing on the field in the background

Steve Largent presented Paul Allen the George Halas trophy and after speeches by Allen, Pete Carroll, and Russell Wilson it really started to sink in that we were going back to the Super Bowl. Jake and I left the stadium and walked up 1st avenue on our way to dinner where traffic was at a standstill. We high fived everyone we walked past on the sidewalk while also watching various fans run through the streets in celebration. This was the greatest comeback in the history of Seahawks football and not only were we fortunate to see it live, we were also smart enough not to leave when our chances to win seemed grave with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. This game will always be one of my favorites and it has rightfully earned the number two spot on my #10for10 countdown.

Review: Seahawks 35, Ravens 6

13 Dec
ravens review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

As far as the game goes it went as well as anyone would have wanted. But even though the Seahawks went into Baltimore and beat the Ravens 35-6 on Sunday, Seattle is now facing a bit of uncertainty going forward due to the injuries of key players on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. For now however the Seahawks improve to 8-5 and take over the #5 seed in the NFC. The Ravens fall to 4-9 and guarantee their first losing season since 2007. Here are my thoughts following today’s win.

Wilson, Baldwin Fuel Offense: After a slow start Doug Baldwin came out and had a huge day for the third straight week. Baldwin caught 6 passes for 86 yards, half of them being touchdowns. I am impressed the Seahawks and Russell Wilson found different ways to get Baldwin open. Given the success Baldwin had had the previous two weeks it was certainly going to be priority number one for the Ravens defense to shut him down. If there was any question going into this game I feel extremely confident now saying Baldwin is Wilson’s go-to guy. Not to be outdone, Wilson had himself a game as well. In addition to his three touchdowns to Baldwin, Wilson also threw two touchdown passes to Tyler Lockett who led the team in receiving yards with 104. Over the past four weeks Wilson has thrown for a whopping 1,171 yards, 16 touchdowns, and no interceptions. This is clearly the best four-game stretch of his career and with two straight home games coming up next this is a perfect opportunity to pad those numbers.

Defense Stands Tall: There were brief times when it was almost sickening how efficient Ravens quarterback Jimmy Clausen was moving the ball against the Seattle defense in big chunks, specifically at the end of the first half. When you look at the scoreboard and stat board however the day our defense had against Clausen tells a different story. Our defense did not allow a touchdown for the second straight week, we held Baltimore to 27 percent effectiveness on third down, and we won the turnover battle 2-1. This game was a textbook example of what a good pass rush can do for a team. Even though the Seahawks did not sack Clausen when we were able to penetrate the offensive line Clausen’s throws were off target and oftentimes incomplete. For the Seahawks to give up a combined 13 points in two straight games on the road that is a number that we should be proud of.

Injury Outlook: Three starters got banged up on Sunday, each one varying in severity. Michael Bennett jammed his toe late in the game but is expected to be fine. Kam Chancellor injured his tailbone early in the game and head coach Pete Carroll said in his postgame press conference he hopes Chancellor can bounce back and be ready for Cleveland next week. The most crushing blow comes in the offensive backfield. After gaining 44 yards on the first offensive drive Thomas Rawls appeared to injure his knee on a 2nd and 1 play deep inside Ravens territory. He was able to walk off the field gingerly under his own power which appeared to be a good sign. After the game however that good sign turned grave. Thomas Rawls broke his ankle on that play and he will be out for the rest of the season. This is a huge blow for an offense that shined ever so bright with Rawls carrying the ball. Losing a potential offensive rookie of the year candidate is burdensome but what pours even more salt into the wound is the fact the Marshawn Lynch will not be ready to return next week. It surprised me the Seahawks did not use a heavy dose of read-option in the second half but moving forward we may be forced to use Russell Wilson’s legs in the running game more than offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell would probably like to.

Thoughts on Harris: Barring a waiver wire pickup/plug n’ start next week against Cleveland, DuJuan Harris will likely see the bulk of the work load moving forward. This worries me immensely. After watching him work (and fumble on his 5th carry of the game) on Sunday I see a guy that does not come close to either Lynch or Rawls. The fact that Harris could not even outgain Rawls’s production on his only drive of the game speaks for itself. All it took was one play to formulate an opinion on Harris. On a 2nd and 6 in the third quarter Harris received the handoff from Wilson and cut left, running into Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw and gaining only one yard. If he had cut to the right Harris would have easily had a first down and possibly a little bit more. Harris uses all of his energy when he receives the handoff and has a difficult time reading his blocks. His largest run of the game was a 6-yard scamper on our first drive of the second half. His fumble also has me worried about his ball security because the way he carries the ball it moves up and down quite a bit. Let’s just hope Beast Mode can be back sooner rather than later.

Random Thoughts: The Ravens went with purple jerseys and black pants. I like that look much better than the purple jersey/white pants look. It’s more intimidating… Although the broadcast wasn’t as biased as I thought it may have been, it still was hard to listen to. There were several instances where they butchered the names of different players. For example, Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken was called “Kamar Aikman” multiple times by commentator Charles Davis. Also at the top of the broadcast sideline reporter Tony Siragusa called Russell Wilson “Russell Williams.” THAT one is inexcusable… Lots of 12’s in Baltimore but the broadcast tried to make the claim that they were pretty much all bandwagoners. I bet there were some but they do not understand just how many Seattle residents travel to our road games. I bet the majority of them were actually from Seattle.

What’s Next: The number two game of my #10for10 series will be published on Thursday. Look for my preview of next week’s game against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday morning.