Tag Archives: Bobby Wagner

Seahawks/Panthers Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

16 Jan
panthers divisional preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:05am

We meet again. For the second consecutive season the Seahawks will take on the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional playoffs. This time around however the tables have been turned. The Panthers enter this game after a 15-1 regular season, an NFC South division title, and earning home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. With their win last week the Seahawks advanced to the NFC Divisional round for the fourth straight season but instead of hosting like they did last season they have to travel across the country to take on the Panthers this January. The Seahawks won games against the Panthers in Charlotte in three consecutive seasons from 2012-2014. In their 2015 meeting in Seattle earlier this season however the Panthers bested the Seahawks 27-23. This will be an extremely difficult matchup for the Seahawks but I believe we match up well with what the Panthers will put onto the field. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Marshawn Lynch mystery drags on for at least one more week. The star running back has practiced all week and proclaimed to ESPN that he is “ready to go” but it will come down to a game-time decision if Lynch actually suits up and plays. If Lynch cannot go it will be Christine Michael who starts at running back once again. For the rest of the Seattle offense, much improvement needs to be shown in order to compete with the Panthers on the scoreboard. Quarterback Russell Wilson must improve on his accuracy because there is little doubt the fantastic play of the Minnesota defense last week rattled him. Limiting turnovers will also be a big key in the way this game plays out. Carolina leads the league in turnovers with 39, which are 10 more than any other team. They also lead the league in turnover differential with a mark of +20. The Seahawks offense will need to take the majority of their drives deep into Carolina territory in order to stay in this game.

Many people may not realize this but the Seahawks defense will play this game with a couple of big-name players who did not play against Carolina back in week 6. Back in October K.J Wright moved from outside to inside linebacker in place of Bobby Wagner who missed the game with an injury. This week Wagner will be back starting at middle linebacker and will be a tackling machine in the middle of the field. In 3 career games against the Panthers, Wagner has averaged 7.3 tackles per game and has also sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton once. In addition to Wagner, Jeremy Lane will start at cornerback. Cary Williams, who is no longer on the team, started at cornerback against the Panthers earlier this season. Lane’s primary job will be to cover Panthers wide receivers Philly Brown and Devin Funchess. Last week the Seahawks only forced one turnover. If the Seahawks defense can force at least two turnovers in the game we will be in decent shape.

The Carolina Panthers offense is one of the very best in the National Football League. Quarterback Cam Newton is considered to be a most valuable player candidate this season. All year long Newton has had fantastic on-field chemistry with tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen is Newton’s number one target and his numbers correlate to this notion. 26 percent of Newton’s passes were completed to Olsen this season. That percentage translates to 77 catches for 1,104 yards (both team highs) and 7 touchdowns. Olsen’s second best game of the season came against the Seahawks back in October. There is much more to the Carolina offense however and there are two other players whose presences cannot go unnoticed. My X-Factor Players to Watch for the Panthers are Pro Bowl running backs Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. I put my X-Factor spotlight on these two guys not because of their production on the ground, but the role they can play in the Carolina passing game. Stewart and Tolbert have combined for 253 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns this season. After watching film I see the possibility of Newton targeting these backs on screen passes and wheel routes/rollout passes inside the redzone.

Each level of the Carolina defense features incredible talent. Four Panthers defenders have been named to the Pro Bowl. The middle of the field will be a risky place for Russell Wilson to throw into as the Panthers are led by veteran linebackers and tackling machines Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Cornerback Josh Norman has had a meteoric rise to being one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His 4 interceptions and team-leading 18 passes defensed defend this reputation. The matchup that may have the most say in the Panthers season continuing on to the NFC Championship Game will be defensive tackle Kawann Short against the Seahawks offensive line. Short recorded 11 sacks this season and is considered one of the best pass rushers in football. Short is averaging one sack in each of his last 5 games and he was also able to bring Russell Wilson down in the backfield twice earlier this year. In short (no pun intended), this Panthers defense is scary good and it will take a monster effort to take them down.

Random Thoughts: At the start of the playoffs I assumed since the Seahawks would have to play three straight road games to get to the Super Bowl, that we would be wearing white throughout January. Instead the Panthers have elected to wear white jerseys and white pants this week. This means the Seahawks will wear college navy jerseys. The Seahawks will pair these jerseys with wolf grey pants. The Seahawks won in this combination in Carolina in both 2012 and 2013… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX’s only broadcast of Divisional weekend… The referee this week is Tony Corrente… Nothing and I mean NOTHING would make me happier than to see all the Seahawks players “dab” on the sideline and take a group photo if we win. For those not familiar these are the hijinks the Panthers have participated in all season long at the end of their games and it would be a tremendous troll job if the Seahawks came away victorious and stuck up the proverbial middle finger in this way. If this happens look for Michael Bennett and perhaps Richard Sherman to lead the way… Brunch n’ ball for the final time this season. I’m glad this is the final 10am game of the season… Speaking of 10am starts, a random thought unrelated to this game. I am thrilled the Rams have relocated to Los Angeles. We know better than any other city what greed and corruption happens behind the scenes when it comes to franchise relocation (SuperSonics, duh) and from this perspective it is sad to see the Rams leave St. Louis. The reason I am thrilled however is because it benefits the Seahawks. Instead of traveling to the middle of the country each season we will now fly to Southern California. This eliminates one 10am kickoff each season and the Seahawks never have to play at the Edward Jones Dome again. The Seahawks went 7-7 in St. Louis dating back to 2002. Instead these road games against the Rams will be played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the next three seasons which is a stadium not known for having an intimidating home field advantage. It is still a little weird to see “Los Angeles Rams” in print. It will take a little while to get used to.

Prediction: The Seahawks have lost 6 straight Divisional playoff games played on the road. Although I hope I am wrong I believe that streak continues on Sunday. The first half will be an entertaining defensive battle with Carolina taking a 13-10 lead into halftime. In the second half however the Panthers defense will shut the Seahawks offense down. Carolina will score a touchdown (with a missed extra point), and two field goals on their first three possessions of the second half. The Seahawks will have opportunities to claw back into the game but Russell Wilson will throw two interceptions and the Carolina defense will also force a fumble near the end of the third quarter. The Seahawks season will end and the Panthers will move on and host the Arizona Cardinals in next week’s NFC Championship Game.

Panthers 25, Seahawks 13

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Seahawks/Vikings Preview (NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

9 Jan
vikings wild card preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (3) Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:05am

On December 6th the Seahawks rolled into Minneapolis and delivered a monumental beat down to the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. One month later the Seahawks will look to do the same thing in order to keep their season alive. The Seahawks travel to TCF Bank Stadium once again on Sunday as they take on the NFC North champion Vikings in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. The Seahawks enter as the number 6 seed and a win will punch their ticket to Charlotte for the NFC Divisional playoffs. The Vikings are the number 3 seed and a win will send them to Arizona to play the Cardinals next week. Of course the loser of this game sees their 2015 season come to an end. The theme in this game is “different.” There will be multiple things that will be different this week from the last time these two teams faced off 5 weeks ago. For the Vikings, several things will have to be different in order to advance to next weekend. Here are a small handful of differences I will have my attention on in this game.

Last time around Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 78 percent of his passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Seahawks also added 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground by running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls is on injured reserve and this week the Seahawks will start someone who was not even on the roster back in week 13, running back Christine Michael. Michael will be thrust into the starting role after the unexpected breaking news Friday night that Marshawn Lynch, who practiced all week and seemed ready to go, ruled himself unable to play. Michael has an opportunity to completely change critic’s opinions of him as an NFL player with a strong performance in Minnesota. Establishing the run on first down will remain important but do not be surprised to see more passes called on first down than runs. If Michael can get going early and be able to put up at least 80 yards on the ground it will take pressure off of the passing game and the Seahawks offense will be able to control time of possession, putting Minnesota at a disadvantage.

In my preview of our regular season matchup against the Vikings I talked about how important it was for the Seahawks defense to corral Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. This is the one and only constant I will be focused on this week. It is the same story as last time: shut him down, win the game. Peterson was held to his worse stat line of his season against the Seahawks, rushing 8 times for 18 yards. In the 4 games to end the season after playing Seattle Peterson averaged 21 carries for 76 yards and recorded 3 touchdowns. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright combined for 17 tackles against the Vikings in the regular season so look for Kris Richard to stuff the box to help defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, and Jordan Hill out.

One of the biggest reasons this game will be different for the Minnesota Vikings is unlike in our last meeting, Minnesota’s defense is close to full strength. Multiple players who were inactive or hurt during our matchup five weeks ago will be on the field this Sunday. This includes safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr. I am putting my X-Factor spotlight on another one of those players who may be back on the field on Sunday. My X-Factor player to Watch for the Vikings this week is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph’s absence was a contributing factor in the Seahawks being able to accrue 173 total rushing yards on December 6th. He is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and I believe he is extremely underrated, much like Brandon Mebane is for Seattle. Right before he got hurt he was putting up big numbers in the tackles category, averaging just over 6 tackles per game in his last 5 games. He has also recorded 7 tackles for loss this season. Against an average Seahawks offensive line Joseph could be poised for a huge game statistically. If the Seahawks run Christine Michael up the middle look for Joseph to make a big impact.

Something else that must be talked about is the weather conditions for Sunday’s game. In our last meeting in Minnesota the temperature was in the high 30’s; an abnormally warm temperature for that time of year. This week brings a completely different story as the Seahawks will be playing in the coldest game in franchise history. The temperature at kickoff is projected to be no higher than 3 degrees but I have seen reports from the national weather service over the past few days that claim the temperature at kickoff could be as low as -20 degrees plus wind chill. It will be painfully cold and the weather could absolutely play a factor in how the game plays out. I remember two seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay to play the Packers in an NFC wild-card game. The 49ers were no doubt the better team but because the temperature was so low it allowed the Packers to play San Francisco tough almost to the point of them upsetting them. It will be harder to throw, harder to tackle, harder to kick, and harder to score. These circumstances could give the Vikings an advantage that is difficult to overlook.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants this week. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for a rare NBC matinee broadcast this week… Walt Coleman is our referee in this game… I find it very interesting the NFL decided to have both NFC wild-card games on Sunday rather than one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. It makes sense going from week 17 into the postseason but one team playing this weekend will lose a day of preparation for next week because they will have to play Arizona the following Saturday… Many people approached me over the past week and asked me if I was going to Minneapolis for the game. I would love to be there even with the weather being what it is, but unfortunately I will not be there. Hopefully I get to make at least one more road trip before the end of our season… I am not a fan of the morning start in the playoffs. That’s the price we pay for going on the road I guess.

Prediction: It will not be a blowout and the weather will be a factor, but I still believe the Seahawks will punch their ticket to the Divisional round. Russell Wilson will throw touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. A late touchdown run by Adrian Peterson will keep things close but the Seahawks will be able to convert third down opportunity with under two minutes left to seal the win. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for an NFC Divisional playoff against the Carolina Panthers.

Seahawks 27, Vikings 17

Seahawks/Ravens Preview

12 Dec
ravens preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

Site: M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Maryland)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Before the regular season started I picked the Baltimore Ravens to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 50. With this game originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football many people including me thought this game could shape the postseason picture for both teams. As it turns out only the Seahawks are vying for playoff position heading into this week. Seattle heads to Baltimore for the first time since 2003 to take on the Ravens. After a 38-7 thrashing of the Minnesota Vikings last week the Seahawks are 7-5 and are in prime position to make a serious push for the #5 seed in the NFC. The Ravens however struggled out of the gate and never recovered. Poor play and a wide array of injuries to key players have put the Ravens at 4-8 on the season. The all-time series between these teams is tied 2-2 with Seattle taking the last two meetings. These two teams last met in Seattle in 2011 where the Seahawks upset the Ravens 22-17. Here is what I will be watching out for in this game.

The main offensive key for the Seahawks this week is to remain consistent in order to carry over the success from last week. In the games we have won in recent weeks the running game led by Thomas Rawls has been superb. The Seahawks will likely establish the run again but it is only a matter of time before Rawls has an off game. Could this week could be that game? Baltimore ranks 10th in run defense allowing only 97.5 rushing yards per game. This may be a game where Russell Wilson has to do more through the air to score points instead of relying on Rawls for big pickups. With the emergence of wide receiver Doug Baldwin as Wilson’s go-to target over the past two weeks it would not surprise me to see Baldwin receive extra coverage from the Ravens secondary. This should open up looks for our other receivers. With the Ravens only allowing 39 yards receiving to tight ends per game look for Jermaine Kearse to make a significant impact in the passing game.

This could be a fairly easy day for the Seattle defense. We will not be facing regular Ravens starters Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, and Steve Smith. There are two keys to victory on defense I will be focusing on. The first will be to put pressure on whichever Ravens quarterback starts. I believe the slightest bit of pressure will throw either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen off and he could be more prone to forcing the ball and throwing bad passes. The second key is to make sure we tackle well and do not give up yards after contact. With a backup quarterback comes the very high probability of them throwing a lot of high percentage passes. High percentage passes means the ball carrier or receiver will have space to make big plays potentially happen. Look for linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to make a huge impact in the middle of the field.

Like I previously mentioned the Baltimore Ravens have one of the more depleted offenses in the league. On the offensive side of the ball running back Javorius “Buck” Allen will have to have a big game to take the pressure off of either Matt Schaub or Jimmy Clausen in the passing game. If Baltimore has any shot to win this week it will come on the shoulders of an extremely impressive defensive performance. Similarly to the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple weeks ago, the Ravens have lost dynamic leaders on the defensive side of the ball over the past few years. Future hall of famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone. All-Pro linebacker Terrell Suggs is also injured and out for the season. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil leads all Ravens defenders in sacks with 6 but my focus will be on the second level of their defense. There are two guys I will have my eye on in particular and they are both responsible for defending the middle of the field. My X-Factor Players to Watch are inside linebackers Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley. Smith is in his 12th NFL season and is on pace for the best statistical season of his career. Mosley is in his second season after being drafted in the first round by the Ravens last season. These two guys have combined for 174 tackles so far this season which is good for nearly one quarter of the Ravens total tackles. They can also get to the quarterback and drop into coverage. They each have 3 sacks this season while Mosley has dropped back to record 5 passes defensed. Watch out for how these two players attack Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, Luke Willson, and all the Seahawks receivers on short crossing routs to the middle of the field.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants. No word on what color jerseys the Ravens will wear but there is this stat: The Ravens have only worn their black alternate jerseys once this season. With three home games remaining including this week and one more eligible opportunity to wear their alternates, there is a 33 percent chance the Ravens will sport black in this game… Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis have the call for FOX with Tony Siragusa commentating from the sidelines. Many complain about other announcers such as Joe Buck and Chris Myers but I think Seahawks fans will be really annoyed with the broadcast this week. Why? Siragusa is a former Raven who could have a biased loyalty towards the home team. If you watch this game and get frustrated because the commentators are not giving the Seahawks proper credit this is probably why… Walt Coleman is the referee for this week’s game… It looks like it will be another abnormally warm week weather wise. The game-time temperature is slated to be in the low to mid 60’s and cloudy. It’s funny because that is pretty much the same weather the Seahawks had in Washington D.C. for a game in early OCTOBER last season… Quite frankly I am glad this game got flexed out of Sunday Night Football and the reason I am glad is because of the players. A primetime game on the east coast starts at 8:30pm which means the game won’t end until close to midnight. After meeting with the media, driving to the airport, and a cross-country flight, the Seahawks likely would not land back in Seattle until about 5:00am pacific time. This would make for an epically cruel and tiring Monday. Having the game start at 10:00am pushes that itinerary back. Now the Seahawks will likely land back in Seattle around the same time Sunday Night Football ends, which is about an 8 hour difference… Fantasy playoffs start this week and I made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Shoutout to my starting lineup: Aaron Rodgers, Amari Cooper, Marvin Jones, Jonathan Stewart, T.J. Yeldon, Thomas Rawls, Gary Barnidge, Graham Gano, and the Carolina Panthers defense.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With a win the Seahawks take control of the #5 seed in the NFC. If the Seahawks lose they will still hold the #6 seed if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also lose. The Seahawks fall out of the playoff picture if they lose and the Buccaneers win. Here are other games this week with playoff significance. Teams to note are bolded.

New Orleans (4-8) at Tampa Bay (6-6)

Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0)

Prediction: This game will not be as close as the score indicates. Both Husky receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Smith will catch touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, Smith’s being the first of his career. Thomas Rawls will also gallop for a 52-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The Ravens will score two garbage time touchdowns but the Seahawks will have the game wrapped up. The Seahawks will head home 8-5 with two straight home games on deck in the middle of the holiday season.

Seahawks 30, Ravens 17

Review: Cardinals 39, Seahawks 32

15 Nov
Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks/49ers Preview

21 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California)

Kickoff: 5:25pm

For the second time in as many years the Seahawks head to Silicon Valley for primetime football. The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers face off under the Thursday Night spotlight at Levi’s Stadium. After another heartbreaking loss last week the Seahawks sit at a very underwhelming 2-4. After one of the worst offseasons in NFL history, the 49ers have also jumped out of the gate slowly as they too sit at 2-4. San Francisco however enters this week’s game coming off a win over the Baltimore Ravens last week. The Seahawks lead the all-time series against the 49ers 18-15 including a 17-7 victory in their last meeting last season. This is must-win for the Seahawks since they cannot afford to lose any more ground in the division race. Here is what I’ll be watching for.

While I was busy putting offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on blast in my game review, I completely failed to mention that there has been a change along the Seahawks offensive line. Patrick Lewis got the start at center in place of Drew Nowak and although I saw improvement in interior blocking and pass protection last week, the play of the unit as a whole continues to be an issue. Lewis got hurt in last week’s game so Nowak will likely be back in the starting lineup this week with the newly re-signed Lemuel Jeanpierre as his back up. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked four more times against Carolina. Although the San Francisco defense has lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, they have managed to record 9 sacks so far this season, over half of them coming from their linebackers. This week it will be necessary for Jimmy Graham, Will Tukuafu, and Marshawn Lynch to block in order to help give Wilson time to make throws. The primary keys to a successful day on offense mirror what I said about Carolina’s offense a week ago. If Marshawn Lynch can run effectively he will take immense pressure off the passing game. Also, if Wilson uses misdirection regularly it will create space to make big plays. Although Seattle has not used read option much at all so far this season, do not be surprised to see it make an appearance in this game, especially if we are trailing in the second half.

With the shaky play in the third level of our defense in recent weeks, the best way to attack the 49ers offense on Thursday is to force quarterback Colin Kaepernick into short and intermediate throws only. If the Seahawks cannot put consistent pressure on Kaepernick that may actually be a good thing, as he has thrown the ball well deep down the field when forced to scramble outside the pocket, including a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith last week. Smith will line up across from Cary Williams, the matchup that will garner the most attention from me outside the numbers. I think the presence of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will be the most important aspect of our defensive game plan. Although we played a solid game with Kevin Pierre-Louis in place of Wagner against Carolina, it will help greatly to have Wagner back to lock down the middle of the field.

No team may have lost more over one offseason than the San Francisco 49ers did over this past offseason, especially on the defensive side of the football. It is hard to believe that only two defensive starters from the 49ers 2012 NFC Championship team, linebackers Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman, remain on the roster. Over the course of the last 10 months the 49ers released outside linebacker Aldon Smith after a series of run-ins with the law. They also lost nose tackle Justin Smith and middle linebacker Patrick Willis to retirement. To make matters even worse the man they drafted last season to be the heir apparent to Willis, Chris Borland, also retired due to future health concerns. The loss of Borland was particularly unfortunate because he was a tackling machine in place of the injured Willis a season ago.

This season San Francisco has allowed an average of just about 27 points per game, a number that greatly correlates to the 49ers record thus far. The 49ers linebacker corps will have my full attention as they sport the two leading tacklers on the team in Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. However given the below-average pass protection Russell Wilson has received this season my 49ers X-Factor spotlight goes to the man most effective at getting to the quarterback. My X-Factor Player to Watch this week is outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. Lynch has recorded 3 sacks this season; a third of San Francisco’s total and all three coming at Levi’s Stadium. Lynch is also coming off his most productive day in coverage, recording a season high 5 tackles and one pass defensed this past Sunday. Keep an eye on how left tackle Russell Okung handles Lynch on the outside.

Random Thoughts: No word yet on the Seahawks uniform combination but do we have 5 road games remaining. We will don college navy for one of those games (Dallas). With two opportunities to wear wolf grey still available to us, that means there is a 50/50 chance we wear wolf grey in San Francisco. It’s basic math, people. The 49ers have elected not to wear their new all-black alternate uniform for this game. Instead they will wear their traditional look of red jerseys and gold pants… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call on the NFL Network/CBS simulcast with Tracy Wolfson covering the sidelines… The referee this week is Walt Anderson… Thursday will be an incredibly hectic and exciting day. I’m looking at a 4am wakeup call followed by a 7am flight to San Francisco which gets me into the Bay Area around 9 or 9:30am. Then comes a 4-hour window before the parking lots open at Levi’s Stadium. Tailgate will begin shortly after 1:30 then the game at 5:30. Then back to San Francisco after the game for the rest of the weekend… Should have waited to pull the trigger on tickets on Stubhub. I can’t believe prices have dropped as much as they have since the season started… I’ll be satisfied with at least two visits to In-N-Out Burger over the next 4 days… I love flying into SFO. The airport runway setup right off of the bay is unlike any other city I have flown into… Here is my history of being heckled at 49ers home games. In 2011 one drunken 49ers fan tried to sit on my lap and as he walked away he screamed “SEATTLE SEAHAWKS GINGER FRO” in reference to my incredibly long red hair. In 2012 I posed for a picture during a timeout and someone sitting above me in my section screamed “ginger on three! One, two, three!” In 2013 after posing for a picture a 49ers fan sitting a few rows above me threw a sandwich in my direction. It hit a 49ers fan sitting about 4 rows below me and he looked back and made eye contact with me. Because I was wearing Seahawks paraphernalia, he assumed I was the one responsible for the sandwich being thrown. He probably wanted to get security involved but the people around me seemingly convinced him I was not to blame. Granted all these incidents happened at Candlestick Park, but I have heard (and seen on Deadspin) that the Candlestick crowds make the drive down to Santa Clara every week. Hopefully the people around us are nice. I hope my friends and I are not the subjects of harassment. As long as we stay in our own lane and root for the Seahawks only, we should be fine.

Prediction: Due to the incredible sense of urgency after back-to-back devastating losses, I believe the Seahawks will come out with a vengeance. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Russell Wilson will both throw a touchdown and run one in from inside the redzone. The Seahawks defense will play an air-tight game, allowing only one 49ers touchdown. The Seahawks will come home 3-4 and will have an extra couple days off before we get started on the Dallas Cowboys.

Seahawks 27, 49ers 13

Programming Note: I will be leaving my computer in Seattle so I will not be able to post my game review until I get home. Look for my 49ers review either late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Review: Bengals 27, Seahawks 24 (OT)

11 Oct
Photo Credit: Bengals.com

Photo Credit: Bengals.com

One thing is for certain, the dominant Seahawks defense of 2013 is absolutely gone. After a long 69-yard touchdown run by Thomas Rawls and a fumble recovery and touchdown from Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks could not protect a 17 point 4th quarter lead. The Cincinnati Bengals offense scored 17 unanswered 4th quarter points to tie the game and in overtime, Mike Nugent deflected a 42-yard field goal off the left upright to give the Bengals a 27-24 overtime win. The Seahawks fall to 2-3 and are now two games out of first place in the NFC West. The Bengals win improves them to 5-0 on the year. Like our loss in St. Louis back in week one, you can go in several different directions to try to place the blame on this loss. Here are the goods and the very bads from this excruciatingly upsetting loss.

Rawls Has the Game of His Life: After failing to make a significant impact in place of Marshawn Lynch a week ago, rookie running back Thomas Rawls made a lot of noise in Cincinnati. Rawls averaged 7.3 yards per carry on his way to the most successful day rushing for a Seahawks running back since Shaun Alexander in 2006. Rawls finished with 169 yards and one touchdown; the aforementioned 69-yard touchdown run coming in the 3rd quarter. After this game I have become very optimistic that we may have found the eventual heir apparent to Lynch. Rawls ran with a purpose and did not go down easily. Given the result however it makes you wonder if Lynch would have had even greater success running on the Bengals defense. If Lynch misses his third straight game next Sunday, Rawls will have a very big role in our offense game plan against Carolina.

#FireBevell: If you read my posts consistently you know by now that I am not a fan of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, yet here I am writing after another heartbreaking loss ready to unload my criticism of Bevell’s terrible play calling. Although I don’t believe he should be completely at blame for this loss, his fourth quarter and overtime play calling had me fuming mad. Bevell’s play-calling was extra conservative in the fourth quarter and the offense was forced into six punts to end the game. In the three Seahawks offensive possessions before the Bengals final three scoring drives in regulation, we were only able to take a combined 5:31 off the clock including two 3 and outs. In our final 5 drives we faced six 3rd down opportunities. Instead of trying to chew clock by running the ball, Bevell dialed up 4 passes (including a short screen pass in overtime to Fred Jackson on a 3rd and long) and Russell Wilson was sacked twice. To make things even more frustrating, Thomas Rawls was nowhere to be found late in the game when we needed him most. Why in the world would Bevell choose Jackson over Rawls in the most crucial situations when it was clear Cincinnati could not stop Rawls on the ground?! The long and short of it is this. It is as if we jump out to a 3 possession lead, the offense takes the rest of the game off, and Bevell has confidence in our defense, not his own unit, to be able to hold the lead. My opinion of Darrell Bevell stays the same, the Seahawks need to part ways with him. The sooner the better.

Offensive Line Thoughts: If football was a three quarter game, my overall thoughts on the play of our offensive line would be different. After doing a much better job protecting Russell Wilson for the first three quarters, including flawless protection of Wilson on his first quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse, the offensive line crashed and burned late in the game when we could not maintain a drive. Wilson was sacked 4 times on the day. Although the group showed growth and improvement it may be time to think about making changes. I mean think about it; our right three linemen consist of two defensive line converts (Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy) and a former college tight end (Garry Gilliam). Bengals defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap had their way with our line, combining for 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks. If I had the power to rebuild the line, this is what I would do. I would move Justin Britt back to right tackle, start the disgruntled Alvin Bailey at left guard, and replace Nowak with Patrick Lewis at center.

Defensive Collapse: How much time do you have? I’ll try to keep this segment as to the point as possible. Our defense played a terrible game. Kam Chancellor was beat by Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert on two touchdown passes and quarterback Andy Dalton kept throwing in the direction of Cary Williams, who had a difficult time with not only A.J. Green, but the entire Bengals receiving corps. Williams was also flagged for an obvious pass interference penalty on Cincinnati’s game-tying drive at the end of regulation. Once again we could not stop the Bengals on third down, as they converted 40 percent of their third down chances. What was also frustrating was how we attacked Dalton late in the game. After extending our lead to 17-7, it was clear Dalton was cracking under pressure and on the verge of a total meltdown which is something that he has been prone of over the years when facing a deficit. For a while it looked like we were doing a good job putting pressure on the Bengals offense but we were only blitzing three or four guys late in the game. That plus the excellent blocking by Cincinnati’s offensive line gave Dalton a good clean pocket to work with. It is clear our defensive has regressed, especially on the road. We have blown 4th quarter leads in each of our 3 losses, twice holding a lead of 10 points or more.

Thoughts on Cincinnati: The talent the Bengals have is as good as advertised. Andy Dalton is blossoming into a borderline-elite quarterback and the weapons they have on offense only help his case. Their defense may be one of the best units in all of football and they will continue to win games so as the unit stays healthy. This team is a lot better than I thought they would be before the season started. The common commentary however has been “making these wins happen in January instead of in the regular season.” The way I look at it after 5 weeks, this is the only team that can challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC championship.

Random Thoughts: It was awesome to have the guys over again this week. Too bad one of them made it over when we had a 24-7 lead. You’re definitely a jinx Jake. At least I didn’t guarantee victory like against the Rams… I hate when FOX cuts to the skycam for live plays. I think it is great technology to have for replays but the perception really changes live. There was one play in particular, an Andy Dalton bubble screen, where the camera had to move at a 90 degree angle to show it and by the time the camera whipped around the play was pretty much over… See what I mean about Andy Dalton’s hair???… This loss reaffirms my opinion that I would rather be blown out than lose a close game. I predicted we would lose but at the same time we had a 17 point lead, so because we put up a better effort than I thought we would does that mean I should feel better? This loss hurts way worse than if we had lost badly because in my eyes we had this game won and we just gave it away… Just once I want to have my fantasy team win and the Seahawks win in the same week. I started my fantasy football season 2-0 and the Seahawks went 0-2 in that span. Then I lost my next two fantasy matchups and the Seahawks won two straight games in those weeks. This week it looks like it will be the same old story. I win, Seahawks lose. I’m cursed.

What’s Next: The #6 game in my #10for10 series will be published on Thursday. Also, check back next Saturday when I preview our week 6 game against the Carolina Panthers.

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!