Tag Archives: Alex Smith

Review: Chiefs 14, Seahawks 13

21 Aug
Photo Credit: Chiefs.com

Photo Credit: Chiefs.com

Although we showed improvement in every area of the game, the Seahawks could not squeak out a victory in Kansas City. The Seahawks fall to 0-2 on the preseason after a hard-fought yet disappointing 14-13 loss to the Chiefs on Friday night. Here are my thoughts following this week’s game.

Offense Warms Up: Things started very slowly for the Seahawks starting offense but they improved as the first half went on. In their first two drives, the Seahawks came out and played similarly to the uninspiring performance of a week ago. Russell Wilson could not get anything going and the Seahawks only gained 4 total yards. Things greatly improved later in the first quarter when Seattle put together an 8 play, 30 yard drive highlighted by a 20-yard pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Unfortunately no points were scored on offense until the second quarter when Wilson led a 59-yard drive resulting in a Steven Hauschka field goal. This drive included 22 rushing yards from Christine Michael and three completions to tight end Jimmy Graham. The performance from the starting offense has me a little more optimistic after the first half of the preseason, however the fact that after two games the starters have failed to score a touchdown is still rather concerning. With Wilson and the starters likely playing into the third quarter next week, I still expect to see significant improvement which hopefully includes us being able to move the ball better and faster at the start of the game.

Defense Improves, With One Exception: The defense in the first half played a really good game Friday night. The pass rush immediately stuck out as the Seahawks did a great job getting into the backfield. Seattle recorded five plays for negative yards, including two sacks of starting quarterback Alex Smith by Brandon Mebane and Michael Bennett. The first half was punctuated by the pick six by linebacker Bobby Wagner which gave the Seahawks a 10-7 lead. The secondary is still a worrisome unit to me at this point. I saw a handful of soft coverages and miscommunications. There was one Seattle defender that stuck out to me for all the wrong reasons. Safety Dion Bailey had a combination of missed tackles and miscommunications among his secondary mates, specifically with cornerback Cary Williams. Bailey was seen visibly upset by his poor play. If he cannot improve next week in San Diego, it would not surprise me if Bailey is a part of the first round of roster cuts.

Thoughts on Archer: I thought backup quarterback R.J. Archer played a much better game this week than last week. What I like the most about Archer’s game is the poise he displays while in the pocket. Archer does not panic when he drops back and he makes his throws with a lot of confidence. For a guy who has been out of the NFL since 2011, I was very impressed with his play on Friday and his improvement throughout training camp. Archer is still a light-year away from catching Tarvaris Jackson for the #2 quarterback job but my confidence in him as a serviceable backup has grown tremendously thus far.

Penalties: For the second consecutive week the Seahawks committed double digit penalties. Half of those penalties were procedural. Sadly this is no surprise to me because at practice on Wednesday the Seahawks had a very difficult time on the line of scrimmage before the snap. By my count the Seahawks committed 7 procedure penalties in 11-on-11 drills on Wednesday. On Friday we committed 5 total; 2 false starts and 3 offsides. This issue is a broken record. It is completely repetitive of me to sit here and write that these errors must be corrected but penalties have become an epidemic with this team that has stretched back multiple seasons. Our failure to correct these mistakes makes me beyond mad and once again I am forced to share my opinion that these penalties must improve. If we can cut our penalties in half next week that will show me that maybe we can take a step forward to correct this before the regular season starts.

Random Thoughts: I liked the Wolf Grey pants we wore this week. Even though it is our unluckiest uniform combination since our Nike uniform overhaul, it reminded me of the 30 point beat down we put on the Chiefs in the preseason three years ago when we wore the same uniform combination… It could be a lot worse but still, I am not a fan of the local television broadcasts during the preseason. I wish Steve Raible would do the TV play-by-play in the preseason. I would even settle for a TV/Radio simulcast… We get a national television broadcast next week so yippee!… Laurelwood beer is fantastic. I have been an advocate of their workhorse IPA for quite some time but I also recommend their “Free Range Red”… The Arrowhead Stadium PA announcer is very annoying. The way he announces Chiefs first downs with his wavy voice makes me want to watch the game on mute. Oh well whatever.

Check back next Friday for my preview of next week’s preseason dress rehearsal against the San Diego Chargers. Thanks for reading. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Chiefs Preview

20 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

Site: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

Last season our game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium was season-defining. Although we lost on that bitterly cold November afternoon, it was a game that ultimately wound up turning our season around. I hate to say it because it is still so early, but the Seahawks are in need of some serious rejuvenation after a disappointing outing last week. What better place to motivate this team than Arrowhead? The Seahawks take on the Chiefs in their second preseason game Friday night. The Chiefs defeated the Arizona Cardinals last week 34-19 in their preseason opener. The starters may see a little bit more playing time this week. Here is what I am hoping to see out of the Seahawks in Kansas City.

It is obvious that this week I want to see better play out of our offensive line. After a hideous performance last week the Seahawks have done some shuffling along the starting line. Justin Britt moves from right tackle to left guard replacing Alvin Bailey. Garry Gilliam has been plugged in at right tackle while Drew Nowak replaces Lemuel Jeanpierre as the starting center. I am equally nervous and optimistic about tinkering with the line but now is the right time to do it. In addition to looking for Russell Wilson to have more time inside the pocket to throw, I will be focused on the running game. It is unclear if Marshawn Lynch will see any playing time this week. If not, Robert Turbin will start. I want to see how effective Lynch and Turbin are on the ground. If the running backs struggle to gain positive yards and if Wilson continues to be rushed, it may be time to start to panic with only two preseason tune-ups left before the season opener in St. Louis.

Expect to see a lot of backup quarterback R.J. Archer this week. He is my X-Factor player to Watch for the Seahawks on offense this week. Newly signed quarterback Jake Waters may also see limited time late in this game, but given his unfamiliarity with the playbook it would not shock me if we do not see him at all. With Tarvaris Jackson battling a high ankle sprain, it will be Archer’s show once Russell Wilson exits the game in the first quarter. Archer has shown noticeable improvement in practice this week and his chemistry with the plethora of Seahawks receivers is also growing. Archer will play the majority of this week’s game and I would love to see him put together a couple of touchdown drives. If the Seahawks can score 14-17 points with Archer on the field, I believe that will be enough to win the game.

On defense this week I would like to see all of our pass rush specialists get work in early on in the game with the starting unit. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will start at defensive end with Bruce Irvin starting at outside linebacker. I want to see Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark get reps with the starters to see how they fit among the starters. Last week against Denver both Marsh and Clark saw all of their playing time come against the Broncos backups in the second half. To me this does not give them the best opportunity to showcase what they can bring to the starting defense. Getting to Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel must happen continually this week. If we can record at least three or four sacks I will be able to breathe easier moving forward.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. No word on pants color yet. The Chiefs will rock their red jerseys and will likely pair them with white pants… Once again Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call on Q13 FOX… I need to make it out to Arrowhead sometime. Wasn’t going to go in November last year because it was too cold. Unfortunately we’re probably not going to play in Kansas City again in the regular season until 2022… No injuries please… I feel like it’s very unusual that we keep playing preseason games on Friday’s. Thursday’s and Saturday’s are good days for football. Friday’s are just weird.

Prediction: The Seahawks starters will be able to deliver one touchdown but we are still going to be unsatisfied heading into week 3. Penalties are going to be a major problem and will be drive killers on offense and drive extenders on defense. Chase Daniel and the Chiefs defense will play a much more complete game than R.J. Archer and the Seahawks defense. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for the San Diego Chargers with and 0-2 preseason record.

Chiefs 24, Seahawks 15

Review: Chiefs 24, Seahawks 20

16 Nov
Photo Credit: kcchiefs.com

Photo Credit: kcchiefs.com

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. This is one of those classic Seahawks losses where we could have won, and the inability to convert on offense or make a stop on defense when we absolutely needed to the most cost us at the most inopportune times. The Seahawks started the most important stretch of the season on the wrong foot, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 24-20 on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks fall to 6-4 on the season and currently sit in 3rd place in the NFC West. The Chiefs improve to 7-3 and are now tied for first place in the AFC West. This week I am breaking my review down into three main parts: an offensive review, a defensive review, and a mild rant on a subject that I feel must be addressed.

Offense: The Seahawks offense played well enough to win this game. We moved the ball efficiently but we were unable to score points when we absolutely needed to. The Seahawks finished the day with 372 total yards, outgaining the Chiefs by 74 yards. This included 204 rushing yards primarily from Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson who combined for 195 of those rushing yards. What number sticks out to me the most is the yardage we gained on non-scoring drives. The Seahawks had 5 drives which resulted in either punts or turnovers on downs. On those 5 drives we moved the ball for 119 yards which to me seemed like an exceptionally high number for coming away with no points. The offensive line did a good job creating room for Lynch to run and Beast Mode did a very good job of picking up yards after contact once again. The offensive line however failed to protect Russell Wilson on passing downs late in the game resulting in two second half sacks, which made it very difficult to convert late in the game.

Defense: Whenever the Seahawks offense was able to put points on the board and take any momentum away from the Chiefs, our defense allowed Kansas City to take that momentum right back by allowing scoring drives. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before we could not keep going blow for blow with the Chiefs. I do not know if the loss of Brandon Mebane was the only reason why Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had such a productive day on the ground, but it certainly did not help not having Mebane out there. I give a lot of credit to the Kansas City offensive line creating ample room for Charles and Knile Davis to run. I also applaud Charles’ running style, who I believe is the closest player to challenge Marshawn Lynch’s physicality when it comes to footwork and willingness to lower the boom to earn extra yards.

Alex Smith is the kind of conservative quarterback that will not throw interceptions unless he is facing intense pressure. Absent was the pass rush throughout the majority of Sunday’s game and as a result, we did not force Smith to throw any interceptions (even though we recovered two fumbles, winning the turnover battle 2-0).

I believe that the Seahawks defense is a broken unit plain and simple; a hollow shell of the 2013 record-setting defense. Injuries do not help and even though we had Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith back this week they did not have as big of an impact that I would consider to be normal contributions. Next week we will likely get Bobby Wagner back at middle linebacker but if we cannot stop the run moving forward we will be in big trouble.

Darrell Bevell: If it is not one thing that frustrates me about Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, it is another. In my game preview I called Bevell out. I did not want to see him try to outsmart the Kansas City defense and I wanted to see him keep his first down play-calling conservative by establishing the run. For the most part that is exactly what Seattle did, running the ball 61 percent of the time on first down (19/31). In this game it was not the first down play calling that has me hot, but two play calls on two separate fourth down plays that I believe cost us easy points and ultimately the game.

The first play came with 7:08 left in the game. On 4th and goal from the 2-yard line, Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson ran crossing routes and Russell Wilson tried to hit Baldwin on a fade to the corner of the endzone. Wilson overthrew Baldwin, who was slightly pushed off of his route, and the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs. Two plays earlier the Seahawks had the ball 2nd and goal from the 4-yard line and elected to throw to Baldwin, then run the ball with Marshawn Lynch on 3rd down, then threw that fade to Baldwin on 4th down. With the way we had run the ball all day long with the ball that close to the endzone, why on Earth would you not try to punch the ball in with Lynch three consecutive times?! Instead Bevell got cute and it cost us a touchdown.

The second play call came with 3:31 left in the game with the Seahawks facing a 4th and 1 from the Kansas City 36-yard line. This time around the call did go to Lynch but he was stopped short of the line to gain, and the Seahawks once again turned the ball over on downs. The Seahawks lined up with three receivers to the right. I think a screen to Jermaine Kearse should have been the call, as we had shown we could be successful on screen passes earlier in the game.

Two botched play calls, zero points, and a loss.

I understand that in crunch time if a play is successful the offensive coordinator is touted as a genius and if it fails he is widely criticized. This season however I feel like whatever play Bevell dials up in these situations, me along with the majority of Seahawks fans would have called the complete opposite play, regardless of whether we convert or not. Frankly I am absolutely sick and tired of Bevell’s play-calling in high pressure situations. I hope that Bevell is in a position to be interviewed and accept a head coaching job somewhere come seasons end. Whether he is offered a new job elsewhere or he is fired, I do not want him on this staff in 2015. Overreaction or not, I believe it is time for the Seahawks to move on from Darrell Bevell.

Thoughts on Kansas City: Make no mistake this is a very good Kansas City Chiefs team. I believe you can make the argument that this team is better than the Chiefs team that went 11-5 last season. The Chiefs pass defense is as good, if not better, as advertised however the run defense needs some work. The run defense could be the difference between the Chiefs earning a wild-card berth and them challenging the Denver Broncos for the AFC West title. On offense, as long as Jamaal Charles can stay healthy this team will continue to control the momentum of their games, will put points on the board, and win. Alex Smith has only thrown 4 interceptions this season and his interception number will remain low as long as their offensive line can continue to adequately protect him. I believe this Chiefs team will make the playoffs and if their core players can avoid the injury bug this team could make a push deep into January.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white jersey/blue pants uniform combination this week, the first time they have worn said combo in a meaningful game since Super Bowl XLVIII… I had brief discussions with a friend of mine at the beginning of the season about maybe traveling to Kansas City for this game. Good thing we didn’t make the investment. Not because we lost, but because of the weather. Sitting outdoors for over 3 hours in 19 degree weather is not my idea of a good time. Hopefully I am able to make a trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the not-so-distant future… Chiefs fans are loud. That was evident on the broadcast but the Seahawks did a good job of handling the crowd noise… The Seahawks are now 5-21 all-time playing at Arrowhead. Ugh… Seahawks tight end Tony Moeaki has one catch so far this season; a 1-yard touchdown catch today. It’s funny yet cool that his one catch was a touchdown scored against his former team… There were two things that needed to happen for the Seahawks to be within one-game of the NFC West lead by the end of Sunday. Those two things were a Seahawks win over the Chiefs and an Arizona Cardinals loss to the Detroit Lions. Neither of those things happened. Instead of being one game out of first place the Seahawks now sit 3 games back of Arizona with the Cardinals coming to town next week. From where I am sitting with the remaining schedule the Seahawks have it is highly unlikely we will be able to challenge Arizona for the division title. A loss to the Cardinals next week puts us 4 games out of first place with 5 games left, making our shot at the division title borderline impossible. We NEED a win next week no doubt about it.

I will be back on next Saturday when I preview next Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chiefs Preview

15 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

Site: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

42-21. This is the combined record of the remaining 7 opponents on the Seahawks schedule. The next seven weeks will be an all-out bloodbath and if the Seahawks can survive they will likely be playoff bound, perhaps even as the NFC West champions. This week starts arguably the toughest stretch of the rest of the season; 3 out of our next 4 games will be played away from CenturyLink Field. It starts this week in front of one of the toughest crowds in all of sports. The Seahawks head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on their former division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks are 6-3 and are coming off an impressive 38-17 win over the New York Giants. The Chiefs are red hot coming into this week, sitting at 6-3 having won their last 4 games in a row. Kansas City leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 32-18. The Seahawks have not beaten the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium since 1999. In their last meeting the eventual AFC West champion Chiefs came into Seattle and beat the Seahawks 42-24 in 2010. Here are my thoughts and what I will be looking for in this game.

This week on offense I ask one simple favor of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Please do not overthink your play calls in order to outsmart the defense. Too many times this season the Seahawks have passed the ball on first down, tried to run the ball on second down, and set themselves up for third and moderate or third and long, oftentimes resulting in fourth down and a change in possession. Personally I get very frustrated when this happens. Call me conservative but when you have weapons on the ground like Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson there should be no reason not to establish the run on first down. I believe controlling the clock and the tempo of the game via the running game is crucial this week. Specifically I would like to see the Seahawks continue to call designed runs for Wilson. Opposing defenses have been burned on Wilson quarterback keepers and bootlegs the past few weeks. The Seahawks have averaged 10 first half points in their road games this season but in their last 2 games on the road they have failed to score a touchdown. Having Wilson as a threat on the ground could translate into early game points, something that could make the difference between the Seahawks winning and losing this game. Last week the Seahawks broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a single game. I believe that if we can rush for at least 175 yards this week, we can come away victorious.

The Seahawks are getting healthier on defense this week with the return of safety Kam Chancellor. Unfortunately we take two steps back along the defensive line as starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is lost for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring. This week on defense I believe the most important position group to watch is the linebackers, mainly because of the quarterback they will be facing. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been known to be a very conservative pocket passer. Even dating back to his days in San Francisco, Smith will rarely take shots down the field for large chunks of yards. With Malcolm Smith returning from injury this week, our linebacker corps is bolstered but I will have my eye on how Alex Smith plays the middle of the field patrolled by K.J. Wright and rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis who will make his first career start this week at outside linebacker. Keep an eye on the potential matchup between Wright and Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, who has played a big role in the Chiefs offense in recent weeks. We must make sure we tackle well and not give Smith room to make easy completions.

There is one last thing the Seahawks offense must take into account. Does the number 142.2 mean anything to you? That is the new Guinness world record for “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium” which was once again broken last month by Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium. This week for the first time in a very long time, crowd noise could play a significant factor in the effectiveness of the Seahawks offense. Seattle has played in loud environments in the Russell Wilson era and we have done an exceptional job of handling the noise. If the Seahawks have several pre-snap procedure penalties this week, this could be a very long and frustrating game.

Believe it or not, the Kansas City Chiefs currently sport the best pass defense in the NFL, allowing an average of only 205 passing yards per game. The Seahawks offensive line will have their hands full with defensive end Justin Houston but I am afraid that the intense pressure from the Kansas City front seven will force Russell Wilson into bad throws. This could give the Chiefs secondary great opportunities to make plays and force turnovers. My X-Factor player to watch for Kansas City this week is cornerback Sean Smith. Smith is in the middle of his second season with the Chiefs and this season he leads all Kansas City cornerbacks in passes defensed with 10. He also has one of only 4 Chiefs interceptions on the year. Smith will likely face a lot of Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson on the outside, as he matches up better with them being 6-foot-3. The stats may not be there, but after watching film the Chiefs have a very underrated ball-hawking secondary on the whole. If the pass rush steps up and flusters Wilson, they will likely be given every opportunity to make game altering plays.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have one more opportunity to wear wolf grey this season and there is a 25% chance it will happen this week. However since we wore wolf grey in our last road game my guess is that we will wear white this week. The Chiefs will likely wear white pants with their red jerseys… Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and Tony Siragusa have the call for FOX this week… Bill Leavy is the referee this week and that really makes me mad. Leavy has already officiated one Seahawks game this season, our 30-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys 5 weeks ago. There were some pretty questionable calls in that game. That scares me for what could be in store this week… The game time temperature in Kansas City is supposed to be in the high 20’s or low 30’s. Good thing we had that cold front come through Seattle this week. I’m glad the Seahawks prepared for the cold by practicing outside… I need a win in fantasy football this week. I believe a win would lock me into the playoffs. Among the guys in my starting lineup is Doug Baldwin. I would not mind a Baldwin touchdown at all this week (obviously)… I am glad the city of Seattle gets Lions/Cardinals in the 1pm time slot this week. I may have to skip RedZone in the afternoon so I can watch that game in its entirety… We need this win. A big load will be taken off of this team and the 12th Man if we can come away victorious. Add a Seahawks win with a Cardinals loss and that sets up the biggest game of the season next week at CenturyLink Field. Hopefully we can make it happen.

Prediction: I get this feeling watching the Seahawks play on the road that we have a 50/50 shot at coming away with the win. This week the individual matchups are in our favor from a physical perspective but I am not sold that the Seahawks can play a complete game. Although I think we will score a touchdown in the first half I think our offense will struggle early. With the Seahawks battling the crowd noise and both teams battling the cold I could see this being a relatively low scoring game. At the end of the day, the Chiefs will hold a 3 point lead and will be able to hold the Seahawks without points on their final drive of the game. The Chiefs will win and the Seahawks will fall to 6-4 (fingers crossed I am wrong).

Chiefs 20, Seahawks 17

Check back on Sunday night as I review this week’s game. Go Hawks!

Commentary: A Tribute to Candlestick Park

4 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: pro32.ap.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Seahawks 14, Rams 9

29 Oct
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Three hours of stress was relieved when the Seahawks defense held the Rams offense on the Seattle 1-yard line with 4 seconds left as the Seahawks escaped on the road once again. This week, an ugly and frustrating 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams. As ugly as this game was we got out of there injury-free and with the win. It’s over 12th Man. No need to worry about what-if’s or should-have’s. Regardless of how it looked the Seahawks improve to 7-1 and continue to hold a one game lead over San Francisco for first place in the NFC West. The Rams fall to 3-5 and are in last place in the division. There is a lot to discuss after this one. Here are my thoughts.

Back to the Drawing Board (Offensive Line): After how they played on Monday night, if I was Paul McQuistan or Michael Bowie I would be seriously worried about my short-term job security. McQuistan and Bowie alone allowed 6 of the Rams 7 sacks of quarterback Russell Wilson. These sacks developed because Rams defensive linemen Chris Long and Robert Quinn had the speed to simply run around the edge and collapse the pocket within a split-second. Russell Wilson had no time to throw and after his first 20 plays, only one was not considered to be either a quarterback pressure or a sack. It was a way worse performance than the first half in Houston. I was in Houston and trust me, if you think that game looked bad this one looked way worse. If I am the Seahawks I think I would at least consider starting Alvin Bailey in place of Bowie next week. McQuistan is stuck at left tackle until Russell Okung comes back in a few weeks. One more thing that must happen is for the Seahawks not to panic by trying to rush Breno Giacomini back on the field. We can survive (sometimes barely) without him over the next couple weeks but our offense will improve once we get healthy.

Back to the Drawing Board (Run Defense): Zac Stacy recorded his first 100+ yard rushing performance of the season and the Seahawks run defense allowed 200 total rushing yards to the Rams on Monday night. It was my belief that with Kellen Clemens at quarterback the Rams would try to keep the ball on the ground to take the pressure off the passing game and it worked. Between Stacy, Clemens, Daryl Richardson, and Chris Givens, the Rams averaged 5.4 yards per carry; a 2-yard improvement of their YPC average in their previous games. If it wasn’t for solid defense deep in our territory the Rams would have traded their field goals for touchdowns and we would have lost. This performance by our defense left me scratching my head because their inability to stop the Rams on the ground was very abnormal and uncharacteristic of a unit that came into Monday night as the 5th best run defense in the league. With a home game coming up and facing a backup running back, the Seahawks defense will have a great chance to reboot and get back to the way they are used to playing.

Turnover Battle Has Minimal Impact: The Seahawks won the turnover battle 2-0 and we wound up winning the game but did winning the turnover battle have as big of impact on the outcome of this game as our other wins? Not really in my eyes. Our two turnovers were interceptions by Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman. In the two offensive drives following those interceptions, the Seahawks could only score 7 total points. Those points did determine the outcome of the game but considering that the Seahawks were only 2/11 on third down and recorded 6 offensive three-and-outs the frustration of our offense throughout the game seemed to negate those much-needed turnovers. On the other side the Seahawks did not turn the ball over in this game and that also helped in keeping the Rams to only 9 points. Regardless of our offensive line play, turning turnovers into points on our next offensive possessions could have blown this game wide open and the Seahawks could have given themselves some breathing room heading into the waning minutes of the game.

Penalties Become a Problem Again: Some penalties were inopportune and were simply bad calls. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 83 yards and two of these penalties grabbed my attention because they extended St. Louis drives and turned into points for the Rams. The first occurred late in the third quarter. It was a holding call on Brandon Browner on a 3rd and 17. The penalty gave St. Louis an automatic first down and Greg Zuerlein ended the drive with a 27-yard field goal with 12:51 left in the game. The second penalty was a personal foul on K.J. Wright that was considered a hit on a defenseless receiver (even though I don’t believe it was). Wright’s shoulder pad made slight contact with Austin Pettis’s facemask and the Rams were rewarded an automatic first down. Fortunately the drive stalled when Zuerlein missed a 50-yard field goal wide right. I thought that the Seahawks had fixed their penalty problems after the first couple of games but Seattle seemed to relapse against St. Louis. We need to make penalties and smart play a point of emphasis this week in practice because we need to clean this up. We may have won this week but in order to give us a better and less stressful chance to win it will surely help to play mistake-free football in the coming weeks.

Grow Up, Golden: On Golden Tate’s 80-yard touchdown catch he taunted the Rams secondary by waving safety Rodney McLeod with about 25 yards left to run. Tate was told by Coach Carroll on the sideline that we are better people than that and that taunting is unacceptable. After the game Tate admitted his mistake while calling himself and the action “immature.” I understand the “heat of the moment” excuse but I agree with Carroll in that there is no place for that on the field. Tate is not Deion Sanders or even Terrell Owens. I remember an interview NFL Network conducted with Andrew Luck before the 2012 season while touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The visit made Luck take a step back and realize that he is “just a scrub rookie quarterback who hasn’t accomplished squat” so far in the league. In my opinion Tate has not earned the right to show off in the fashion he did on Monday night. Maybe he needs to take a step back much like Luck did and realize that there are much more important parts of being an NFL player than being flashy. He attracted mass amounts of negative attention from people around the league and he will lose the respect of those people if he keeps up this kind of behavior. I am a believer that Tate will not let this happen again and keep the emotions to himself when he makes a game-altering play moving forward.

Rams Pass Offense Goes Conservative: A little earlier I noted that I thought the Rams would try to keep the ball on the ground to take the pressure off Kellen Clemens, which they did effectively. The Rams passing game also played conservative just like I thought they would. Kellen Clemens did not throw a pass that traveled more than 20 feet in the air. He took advantage of Seattle’s oftentimes soft zone coverage and was able to pick up moderate chunks of yardage that wound up extending drives. Clemens ended the night 15/31 for 158 yards along with his 2 interceptions. Clemens did not do anything flashy and overly spectacular and quite frankly he didn’t need to. His conservative play nearly won the game for St. Louis. Clemens’s play reminded me a lot of how Alex Smith plays quarterback in Kansas City. It might be beneficial for the Rams and Clemens to open up the playbook a little bit because if they do and are effective they could win a few more games, especially the way their defense is playing.

Thoughts on St. Louis: Overall the Rams did not look anything like the team that lost badly to Carolina in week 7. Without Sam Bradford the Rams may be stuck in mediocrity for the rest of the season but their defense is impressive and their pass rush is scary good. Making a playoff push may not be likely this season but just like they were projected by some to challenge for a playoff berth this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar hype surrounding this team to start the 2014 season.

Random Thoughts: I must say I am disappointed that on the Rams last drive of the game that the Seahawks defense did not blitz as much as I thought they should. In those kinds of situations I think you should be sending the dogs on all-out blitzes to either sack the quarterback or try to force him into committing a turnover. If I were Dan Quinn I would have definitely put extreme pressure on Clemens on that last drive… Right at the end of “Monday Night Countdown” ESPN’s Suzy Kolber stated that there were more Seahawks fans in attendance than Rams fans. Props to everyone who flew down from Seattle for yet another strong showing on the road… Game 5 of the World Series ended at the start of the 4th quarter. I was worried some St. Louis Cardinals fans would walk over to the Seahawks/Rams games in the final quarter and would give the Rams more of a home-field advantage down the stretch. Luckily that factor did not seem to make much of a difference… I heard through Twitter and television that the Rams were offering free hot dogs and 2 for 1 beers at the game. Too bad I wasn’t there because I would have definitely taken advantage of that promotion… Was it just me or did Jon Gruden make the broadcast kind of awkward?… Let me tell you barbeque pulled pork marinated with root beer in a crockpot is one delicious recipe. I highly recommend it… I recommend everyone go listen to Eminem’s new song “The Monster.” You’ll understand why I mention it once you hear it… The Seahawks have won more regular season road games so far this season than they did all of last season. The Seahawks can be no worse than 4-4 on the road this season and I have my sights on at least a 6-2 record on the road this season… Our reward for winning these road games is getting to play at home in January… Taking the rest of the season one game at a time may be difficult challenge with the possibility of home-field advantage looking us square in the face… It will be nice to get back to CenturyLink Field this week. Half of our season is in the books and 5 of our remaining 8 games are at home. That makes us one of the most dangerous teams in the league going forward. Don’t doubt that.

Monday afternoon I surpassed 20,000 all-time views on this blog. Thank you for everyone for reading. I appreciate all the comments and feedback. Look for my preview of our week 9 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday morning. Go Seahawks!

49ers/Seahawks Preview

22 Dec

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:20pm

When the 2012 schedule was released back in April a lot of people circled September 24th’s game against Green Bay and October 14th’s game against New England on their calendars as “must-see” games. I definitely saw those games as big games but this week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers was the game I looked at and got the most excited about. I had thoughts of two incredibly talented teams playing in week 16 with playoff implications and possibly the NFC West division title on the line. Although the division lead is not on the line at this time, the Seahawks have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win. The matchup is so intriguing, the National Football League flexed this game into Sunday Night Football two weeks ago making it the game of the week. The 49ers are 10-3-1 and beat the AFC East champion New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football last week by a score of 41-34. The Seahawks are 9-5 and are coming off an impressive 50-17 win over the Buffalo Bills in Toronto last week. San Francisco leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 14-13. In their last meeting back in week 7, the 49ers beat the Seahawks 13-6 in a defensive duel on Thursday Night Football. 9 weeks have passed since that October night at Candlestick Park and the Seahawks are a completely different team, especially on offense. Here is what I will be looking for on Sunday night.

Since installing a heavy zone-read look, this will be the toughest defense Russell Wilson and the zone-read will have faced all season. The biggest reason why is because San Francisco runs a similar offense. San Francisco’s defense will be practicing against as close to an accurate simulation of the Seahawks as humanly possible. Russell Wilson needs to make sure that the momentum carries over from the past two weeks. If he gets rattled in the pocket, he needs to take a deep breath and improvise. My concern is that if Wilson is flushed out of the pocket, the speed of the 49ers defense will catch Wilson behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in decent sized chunks of yardage lost. Russell Wilson will be the single reason that determines how effective our offense is this week. Marshawn Lynch could have a big impact but the run defense is the bread and butter of the San Francisco defense. I think using a plethora of receivers this week will benefit the offense. If Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Anthony McCoy, and Zach Miller can each catch a couple of passes, the offense will be highly effective. Spread the wealth this week Russell, and don’t be afraid to take shots down the field.

On defense this week, the Seahawks will be playing the cornerback shuffle once again. Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant have been held out of practice all week with injuries but Richard Sherman will be available after having his Adderall suspension ruling delayed until at least next week after his appeal on Friday. If Thurmond and Trufant are both inactive, our starting cornerbacks Sunday night will be Sherman and Jeremy Lane. Lane started last week and was tested early. He passed the tests Buffalo threw at him and he solidified the confidence Coach Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has in him. The defensive line is also banged up this week. Defensive tackle Jason Jones was placed on injured reserve this week, taking away a significant interior pass-rush threat. Greg Scruggs will see an expanded role at defensive tackle this week. The 49ers have a good offensive line but at home, the pressure put on a quarterback is significantly amplified. Add-in the primetime factor and I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 5 or 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick this week. Look for Chris Clemons to have an impact as usual but also have an eye on K.J. Wright this week. Wright is most effective in coverage but I predict he will have a sack early in Sunday night’s game.

The San Francisco 49ers have also seen significant changes in their offense since our matchup in October. For starters, Colin Kaepernick is the new starting quarterback after replacing a concussed Alex Smith in week 10. Kaepernick is 4-1-1 since week 10 and the 49ers have used a similar offensive scheme as the Seahawks. What is most impressive about Kaepernick in my mind is his arm strength. He is not afraid to sling the ball down the field. This was evident last week as he threw three touchdown passes of 24 yards or more; a 24-yard pass to Randy Moss, a 27-yard pass to Delanie Walker, and a 34-yard pass to Michael Crabtree. Add in the fact that he can take off and run provides an extra threat to the Seattle defense. The Seahawks must focus on play-action looks this week. The 49ers do a good job at disguising runs and throws and anything is fair game at any time. Like the Seahawks, San Francisco also has a wide variety of weapons at the running back and receiver positions. Expect Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis to all get involved in this game evenly. We held San Francisco to 13 points on the road in week 7. Although the 49ers average close to 27 points per game on the road, coming into CenturyLink Field, it is very possible to think they may struggle.

I have to be a realist. As much as it hurts me to admit, the San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the league. The San Francisco defensive line is my main focus this week. It may seem obvious, but the man the Seahawks MUST contain this week is Aldon Smith. Smith is tied for first in the league with 19.5 sacks on the season; 3 shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record. Smith will mostly line up against Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung. Okung has done a decent job shutting down edge pass-rushers this season but Smith will be Okung’s toughest challenge to date. Aldon Smith had one sack against the Seahawks in their first meeting. One thing to note is the health of nose tackle Justin Smith. With San Francisco leading New England 31-3 last week, Justin Smith left the game with an arm injury. Without Smith on defense in the second half, the Patriots scored 28 unanswered points and nearly came back to win. Early indications from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area point to Justin Smith being unavailable this week for San Francisco. This is where the Seahawks must take advantage. If Marshawn Lynch can do some damage up the middle, the 49ers will have a difficult time on defense.

We have played the San Francisco 49ers once already this season in primetime. This week it is our turn to remind the country that we have the best home-field advantage in the National Football League. As a fan, late season games are also more fun in primetime because the sun sets well before the game even starts. Ever since this game was flexed into Sunday Night Football a couple of weeks ago, I have been picturing what the scene will look like during pre-game and I can see it now: the Sea Gals performing to their annual Christmas routine, the San Francisco 49ers being introduced to a chorus of extremely loud boos, the bone-chilling bass that gets blasted over the public address system, the long pause between team introductions while SNF is on a television commercial break, the warning that the 12th Man is now live to the nation on NBC, the blasting of “Bittersweet Symphony” over the PA as we are welcomed to CenturyLink Field by PA announcer Randy Rowland, the epic pre-game video played right before the Seahawks are about to run on to the field, and the majestic green and blue fireworks that shoot off as the starters are introduced onto the field. The 12th Man will be going absolutely nuts during this sequence and I absolutely cannot wait.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. Pant color is TBD (most likely blue)… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week. I’ll be sure to set my DVR… The referee this week is Bill Vinovich. Vinovich has been absent from the sidelines since 2006 due to personal health reasons. He will be working with Bill Leavy’s crew… No pre-game giveaway this week. I’m disappointed that rally towels will not be given out. I thought this would be a big enough game to do towels… The starting defense will most likely be introduced this week since the offense was introduced against Arizona two weeks ago. I could see the offense being introduced though, since NBC would want to get a good shot of Russell Wilson running out of the tunnel… The people around me better be ready for a heavy Skittles shower, I plan to break my personal record for most Skittles brought (and thrown) when MoneyLynch scores. Please don’t let me down beast!… Sunday night’s halftime show: Mattress racing. #KillMe… There are rumors floating around Twitter about who will be raising the 12th Man flag before the game. I have heard it may be Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Shaun Alexander. I would be content with either of those choices but I think Alexander would be more epic… Sunday will be a 5-hour energy kind of day. My wake-up call will be set for 6am, a mere 11 hours before kickoff… For the second consecutive year I will be playing for my fantasy football consolation bracket championship. AKA, the “I don’t give a crap bowl”… This will be the 3rd primetime game between the 49ers and Seahawks in Seattle since I’ve been a season ticket holder. The first was in 2006 on Thursday Night Football when San Francisco dominated the Seahawks 24-14 in the midst of a monsoon (later known as the Hanukkah Eve Storm). The second was a 24-0 shutout win by the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in 2007… When the 49ers beat the Patriots last week, I was upset because that meant this week’s game would not be for the NFC West lead. However local sports radio has lifted my spirits because of the Seahawks playoff scenario generator. If we had been in position to win the division and did in fact win it, we would most likely host a wild-card game and then play the Packers in Green Bay in the divisional playoffs. That may be the hardest scenario for the Seahawks. If the Seahawks get the 5th seed which they are positioned to do, they would play on the road against the NFC East champion in the wild-card round, and then most likely play Atlanta at the Georgia Dome in the divisional playoffs. Although the former gets us a home playoff game, the latter is the easier path to the NFC Championship game in my opinion. With the momentum the Seahawks currently have, it may be for the best that we have to travel throughout the playoffs which actually gets me pretty excited.

Prediction: This will be a drama-filled game. No team will completely dominate the other and the scoring and stats will be pretty even. It will all come down to the last play of the game. With the Seahawks holding a 21-20 lead with 5 seconds left, San Francisco’s David Akers will line up for a 45-yard field goal. The kick will have the distance but will sail wide left, sending the Seahawks to the playoffs and the CenturyLink Field crowd erupting into complete pandemonium.

Seahawks 21, 49ers 20

I apologize if I do not publish my 49ers review on Monday since it is Christmas Eve. If I do not have the time Sunday night or Monday, expect my review to be posted on Wednesday afternoon after Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everybody. Thanks so much for reading. Go Seahawks!