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Review: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

27 Dec
rams review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

“We want Seattle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10for10 Game #6: U Mad Bro? (Patriots vs. Seahawks, 2012 Season)

15 Oct
Seahawks WR Sidney Rice hauls in the game winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Seahawks WR Sidney Rice hauls in the game winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter. Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

In 2008 the New England Patriots made their first trip to Seattle since the 1993 season. I was looking forward to seeing Tom Brady play in Seattle but unfortunately he missed the entire season due to a torn ACL. The Patriots re-appeared on the Seahawks home schedule in 2012, bolstering an already stacked slate of home games. With Tom Brady healthy this time around, I was hoping that a young Seahawks squad could knock off the AFC East incumbents to prove they deserved status as one of the better teams in the NFL. Little did I know that this would become one of the most thrilling Seahawks home games of all-time.

Gameday started like any other; 6am wake up call, breakfast, shower, and a little NFL Network thrown in. My friend Modris (yes the same Modris from the #9 #10for10 game) met at my house in Seattle and we along with my friend Jake (from #10for10 game #10) and his brother took an Uber into downtown Seattle. We started at McCoy’s Firehouse in Pioneer Square and each had a 36 ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon at 9am. Shortly thereafter we moved to a tailgate in a neighboring parking lot where we would drink and barbecue until close to game time. Modris even went into another bar close by and randomly took a tequila shot. When asked why, his response was “why not? It’s the Seahawks!” Couldn’t agree more my friend. I wish I would have gone with you and joined in. After several Bud Lights and hot dogs, we headed into the stadium around noon.

After getting out to a 3-0 lead the Patriots responded quickly when Tom Brady connected with wide receiver Wes Welker for a 46-yard touchdown pass to give New England their first lead of the game. The Seahawks re-took the lead later in the first quarter after Doug Baldwin reeled in a 24-yard floater from Russell Wilson in the endzone. The second quarter was all Patriots, as they put up 10 points and took a 17-10 lead into halftime.

After a Steven Gostkowski field goal made it 20-10 Patriots, then came one of the more notable plays of the afternoon. The Patriots got the ball back but their drive stalled when Brady tested Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Sherman leaped up in front of Deion Branch and intercepted the pass. This play eventually triggered the “U Mad Bro?” tweet following the game. With 9:21 left in regulation Gostkowski kicked another field goal to give New England a 23-10 lead. The Seahawks needed at least 13 points in the final 9:21 and against a team as good as the New England Patriots, that is a lot to ask for. Many 12’s believed the Seahawks were dead in the water at this point.

The Seahawks wasted no time on their next drive. Wilson completed a pass to Golden Tate on the first play of the drive for 51 yards and 15 additional yards were tacked on after an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Patriots. The Seahawks later faced a 4th down and needed to convert in order have a chance to stay in the game. Wilson threw a wobbly fade to the front-left corner of the endzone and the pass was somehow hauled in by Braylon Edwards, cutting the New England lead to 23-17. After three drives which resulted in no points, the Seahawks got the ball back with 2:38 remaining and had a chance to take the lead. After converting a huge 3rd down, the Seahawks had Sidney Rice lined up with 1-on-1 coverage. Russell Wilson dropped back 5 steps, and launched what I still believe to be the prettiest pass he has thrown to date. Sidney Rice caught Wilson’s beautiful rainbow and Modris and I went nuts. The Seahawks had somehow come back to take a 24-23 lead and all we needed to do was stop the Patriots next drive and we would walk out of CenturyLink Field victorious.

There have been several games over the years which have come down to the Seahawks defense having to stop the opposing offense to clinch the win. As a 12 this is what we live for, being able to get as loud as we can for one last drive to determine the outcome of the game. This final Patriots drive was no doubt the loudest it was at CenturyLink Field throughout the 2012 season. After an incomplete pass, Jason Jones sacked Brady and the crowd went wild. The Patriots were going to face a 3rd and long situation against one of the better defenses and loudest crowds in football. The pass fell incomplete and quickly the game came down to one final play, a 4th and forever from deep in Seattle territory. The Seahawks dialed up the pressure and although Brady was able to evade the pass rush, his conversion attempt came two yards short. The turnover on downs gave the Seahawks the ball and after two Wilson kneel downs, the Seahawks had completed the incredible comeback, knocking off the defending AFC champions 24-23.

Just like how the crowd celebrated in amazement 3 weeks earlier against Green Bay, the mood walking down the stadium ramp after the game was sheer amazement and joy. We honestly could not believe we came back from two scores down to beat the New England Patriots. THE New England Patriots.

Following the game we headed back to Pioneer Square and enjoyed more Bud Light at 88 Keys while watching the first part of Sunday Night Football. The joint was absolutely packed and it was one of the more festive atmospheres I have been a part of in all these years going to Seahawks games. Given who we beat and how we beat them, this game has definitely earned a spot on my #10for10 list.

#10for10 Game #8: Super Bowl Rematch (Broncos vs. Seahawks, 2014 Season)

24 Sep
The view from my seats for Broncos/Seahawks on September 21st, 2014

The view from my seats for Broncos/Seahawks on September 21st, 2014

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

When the NFL schedule comes out every April, I put all my close friends’ names into a hat and they get to pick which game they want to go to when their name is drawn. In 2014 my friend James was the second name to come out of the hat so he had a variety of available games to choose from. We had gone to Super Bowl XLVIII together two months earlier and when he saw that the Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos had not been picked yet, he made sure that 2014 would include a Broncos/Seahawks double dip.

The day could not have been any nicer. Crystal clear skies with the temperature in the high 80’s; perfect weather for early-season football in Seattle. We started the day at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill where several Bud Light’s were very necessary to battle the heat and mugginess inside the bar. After a few beers (and cups of water), we made our way inside the stadium.

The first offensive play of the game for Denver almost exactly replicated the start of Super Bowl XLVIII. Peyton Manning handed off to running back Montee Ball and he fumbled. The ball was recovered by K.J. Wright and all of the first half momentum had been handed to the Seahawks on a silver platter. The Seahawks took a 17-3 halftime lead thanks to two Russell Wilson touchdown passes. Unfortunately there was a second half to be played.

Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette caught a touchdown pass in the first half

Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette caught a touchdown pass in the first half

In the fourth quarter the Broncos recorded a safety and a touchdown pass from Manning to Julius Thomas to make it a 17-12 ballgame. Late in regulation the Broncos were driving to try to take the lead. On 3rd and 11 from the Seahawks 24-yard line, Manning’s pass was picked off by Kam Chancellor and was returned to the Denver 35-yard line. With 2:12 left to play all the Seahawks offense had to do was sit on the ball and they would win. The Chancellor interception felt like a game-clincher to James and I, even though the Broncos still had two timeouts and the 2-minute warning in their back pocket. The Seahawks kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 20-12. The Broncos had less than one minute to drive 80-yards to score a touchdown AND convert the 2-point conversion. To our amazement, they were able to execute. Manning connected with Jacob Tamme on a 26-yard touchdown and Demaryius Thomas made a ridiculous tip-toe catch on the back line to tie the game at 20-20. I was sick to my stomach. The Seahawks defense, a unit that had been ever so reliable, had collapsed in a similar fashion to their playoff loss in Atlanta two seasons prior. This game was headed to overtime, as James and I looked at each other flat out stunned.

The Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. After the defensive collapse that had just occurred and the emergence of Peyton Manning in the second half, we believed the Seahawks could not afford to have Manning see the field in overtime. We had to win it on our first drive. The Seahawks used Percy Harvin to move the ball in small chunks, eventually setting up first and goal to go from the Broncos 6-yard line. The Seahawks had three chances to punch it in and seal this victory. They only needed one. After pouring sweat in excitement and nervousness for over three hours, Marshawn Lynch lunged over the goal line for the game winning touchdown.  Just as I had the previous season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I put my arms up in the air then picked James up off of his feet in celebration. The win put the Seahawks at 2-1 and we headed uptown through Pike Place Market for a victory meal at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Seahawks/Rams Preview

12 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Site: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The preseason-long wait is finally over. The two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks begin their journey for a third straight Super Bowl appearance on Sunday when they take on their NFC West rivals, the St. Louis Rams. In their meeting in St. Louis last season, the Seahawks came close to completing a massive comeback. Unfortunately some Rams trickery and possibly some help from the officials was enough to doom the Seahawks as they lost 28-26. No matter how good or bad the Rams are, they ALWAYS play Seattle tough at the Edward Jones Dome. Since the Seahawks and Rams became rivals in 2002, Seattle has beaten St. Louis by more than one score only twice at the dome. Given that this is the first game of the season, this will be a much more evenly matched game than you may think. Here is what I will be looking for this week.

It may be only week one, but believe it or not this may be the toughest road test the Seahawks will face all season. It is crucial that our offense does not struggle. This week on offense I am looking for the Seahawks to break from their traditional offensive approach. What I mean is this. The Seahawks tend to formulate a game plan and for the first half they stick to their blueprint no matter what happens. This sometimes means the Seahawks struggle, fall behind, then in the second half they adapt to what the opposing defense is doing and in the process call plays that will take advantage of the defense’s weaknesses, thus moving the ball and scoring points. I would not be surprised at all if the Seahawks try to establish the running game early and struggle, allowing the Rams to control the momentum early. I believe stretch runs, screens, and quick slants are the best plays to call for the Seahawks to thrive this week due to the uncertainty of our offensive line play against the Rams superior front seven. Given this, Tyler Lockett could make a big impact out of the slot this week. If the offense can put at least two touchdowns on the board and Marshawn Lynch can run for at least 70 yards, Seattle will be in fantastic shape.

It should be obvious what my defensive focus is on this week. Half of our Legion of Boom starters have turned over from last year. Strong safety Kam Chancellor continues his holdout, which means that Dion Bailey will start in his place. Cary Williams will start at cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman. If Rams quarterback Nick Foles gets good protection I expect him to challenge our secondary early. It also would not surprise me if the Seahawks play a good amount of nickel coverage with Marcus Burley this week to take away the potential speed threat of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the slot.

The St. Louis Rams enter this week’s game somewhat of a mystery on offense. They are led by a new quarterback, Nick Foles, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia over the offseason. Running back Tre Mason is questionable this week and rookie Todd Gurley will be inactive as he is still rehabbing from a torn ACL he sustained while at the University of Georgia last year. At this point it is looking like Benny Cunningham will start at running back. To make things even murkier, St. Louis will start two rookies along the offensive line. For the first time ever I am putting my X-Factor Players to Watch spotlight on these rookie linemen, left guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein. Brown will have to deal with Brandon Mebane in the A gap while Havenstein will have his hands full with Michael Bennett on the outside. If Bennett can penetrate the line of scrimmage with ease the Rams could be in big trouble throughout the game. Short passes may be the best strategy for the Rams given the questions in pass protection and because of how poorly the Seahawks defended quick passes during the preseason, especially on third down. I believe Foles will look to his bigger receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick on the outside. Keep an eye on Quick in particular, as he will likely line up against Cary Williams.

If there is one thing the Seahawks should have learned in these games in St. Louis is to be on the lookout for special teams funny business. In 2012 the Rams successfully executed a fake field goal for a touchdown and the Seahawks lost by 6. Last season the Rams conducted a fake punt to perfection, baiting all the Seahawks special teamers to one side of the field with a decoy returner while Stedman Bailey fielded the punt on the other side of the field and ran straight down the sideline for an easy touchdown. Then late in the fourth quarter, punter Johnny Hekker lined up to punt but threw the ball for a first down, extending the Rams final drive. The Seahawks, as you know, lost by 2. I believe everything is fair game on special teams in this game. I believe three fake-outs in three years is enough for Pete Carroll and the coaching staff to finally put a heavy emphasis on trick plays in practice this week. The Seahawks will surely be on alert. I dare the Rams to try to catch us off guard on special teams.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are finally telling the fans in advance what their uniform combo will be. We will be wearing white jerseys and college navy pants this week. Hopefully the Seahawks will give this kind of notice every week this season… The Rams will wear navy jerseys. My guess is they will wear navy pants with them… Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have the call for FOX this week… The referee this week is Jeff Triplette. Since Bill Leavy has a new role with the NFL, I now believe Triplette is the worst referee in the league. Don’t be surprised to see many questionable and/or wrong calls this week… It will be nice to have a bunch of friends over for football this week. Barbeque and Bud Light all day long!… The Rams are yet another team threatening to relocate to Los Angeles next season and they may be in most dire need for hometown support. The Rams are struggling to fill seats at the Edward Jones Dome for this game and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the majority of the upper deck empty. Given the excitement around St. Louis for the Cardinals success and the fact that they play at the exact same time as the Rams on Sunday, support for the Rams will be visibly lacking, perhaps virtually nonexistent at the dome. Personally I would love to see the Rams move to Los Angeles because the NFL would kill two birds with one stone. The Rams moving to LA would mean that the NFL wouldn’t have to worry about division realignment (something that would have to occur if the Chargers and Raiders both moved to Los Angeles). In my mind a Rams move would also create a geographically perfect NFC West with teams in Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles.

Prediction: I expect rust. I expect penalties. What I do not expect is for the Seahawks to lie down. Marshawn Lynch will catch a touchdown out of the backfield in the red zone and Jermaine Kearse will add a deep touchdown of his own. Steven Hauschka will miss one extra point but will redeem himself in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard field goal. The game will come down to a 57-yard field goal attempt off the foot of Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, which he will hook wide right. The Seahawks will survive and start the season 1-0 for the third straight season.

Seahawks 16, Rams 14

Review: Cowboys 30, Seahawks 23

12 Oct
Photo Credit: dallascowboys.com

Photo Credit: dallascowboys.com

Over the past few years the Seattle Seahawks have played games on the road where the defense could not get off the field on third down. Never had I seen those kinds of defensive failures in a game played at CenturyLink Field.

Until today.

The Seahawks lost only their second home game since 2011 on Sunday, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 30-23. While the Cowboys maintain a share of the NFC East lead with a 5-1 record, the Seahawks are now 3-2 and by the end of Monday night’s game they could be sitting in 3rd place in the NFC West. The Seahawks struggled mightily in multiple aspects of this game while still being able to score 23 points. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s game.

Offensive Talking Points: There are few positive notes this week on offense. Russell Wilson played a very safe game, throwing for only 126 yards and one interception. Wilson also added the Seahawks only offensive touchdown of the game, scrambling for 9 yards to tie the game at 17-17 at the start of the third quarter. Jermaine Kearse led all receivers with 3 catches for 62 yards but Wilson had a difficult time connecting with his receivers, leaving the pocket to try to create space for the majority of the game. One major disappointment was the ineffectiveness of the running game and Marshawn Lynch. Feeding the beast is more often than not the reason why the Seattle offense is so successful, so to see Lynch with a stat line consisting of only 10 carries for 61 yards, it is frustrating. If you take away Lynch’s 32-yard scamper, he ran the ball for an average of only 3.2 yards per carry. Looking ahead to next week is scary, as the Seahawks and Lynch will face a front-7 even better next week when they take on St. Louis.

What Did I Say About the Dallas Special Teams?: In my preview post I noted how the Dallas Cowboys always make a crucial mistake on special teams that costs them points when playing in Seattle. Sunday was no different as Doug Baldwin blocked a Chris Jones punt and Mike Morgan returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 10-0 lead. At that point it looked like the Seahawks were going to run away with this game and it is shocking that we could have that much momentum and lose it the way we did. The Seahawks also recovered a Dwayne Harris muffed punt which led to a touchdown in the third quarter. My hope is that the Seahawks can expose future opponents on punt formations as well as they did on Sunday, as it could pay dividends later on in the season and could also lead to scoring opportunities.

Cowboys Offensive Line Better Than Advertised: DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys running game was very hard to stop throughout the game, thanks in large part to the play of the Dallas offensive line. The line paved the way for 162 total rushing yards and a Murray touchdown in the fourth quarter. The line also did a magnificent job of protecting Tony Romo as he was only sacked once. In the trenches it was Dallas that bullied the Seahawks defensive line throughout the game and at the end of the day the leading tackler along the Seattle defensive line was Tony McDaniel with 4. What scares me about the Cowboys success in the running game today is that it gives future Seahawks opponents a game’s worth of film as a blueprint to designing a game plan to run the ball just as effectively.

Third Down Woes: The Seahawks simply could not get off the field on third down this week. The Cowboys converted 9 of their 15 third down attempts (60%) with 5 of them coming with 8 yards to go or more. The Seahawks could not get to Tony Romo as he had a comfortable pocket to throw out of for the entire game. Putting pressure on Romo would have been a sure-fire way to create turnovers and although the Seahawks won the turnover battle this week, the plays Dallas were able to convert ultimately cost us the game.

The Play That Could Have Changed the Game: Among the many opportunities that slipped through the Seahawks fingers this week, one play literally slipped through the fingers of Byron Maxwell and it could have changed the entire outlook on the game. With the Cowboys facing a 2nd and goal in the first quarter Tony Romo fired a pass to the left side which was nearly intercepted by Maxwell. From my view Maxwell had 100 yards clearly in front of him and if he could have held onto the ball he would have returned it the length of the field for a touchdown, giving Seattle a 17-0 lead and the chances of us keeping our foot on the throat of the Dallas Cowboys would have been much greater. Instead Maxwell dropped the potential interception and Romo connected with Gavin Escobar for a touchdown on the very next play; a 14-point swing just like that.

The Play that Did Change the Game: The Cowboys faced an improbable 3rd and 20 late in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks held a 23-20 lead at the time and a stop on this play would have forced Dallas to punt and the Seahawks would have had time to try for insurance points on their next drive. Instead, after escaping the wrap of Bruce Irvin, Romo found Terrance Williams for a toe-tapping 23-yard reception. The spectacular catch by Williams extended the Cowboys drive and DeMarco Murray was able to score later on in the drive to give the Cowboys a lead that they would hold onto for good. As great of a catch as it was by Williams, how in the world could the Seahawks secondary play so soft to even allow Williams to have a chance at making the catch?! Simply frustrating.

Thoughts on Dallas: If they can keep up this dominant offensive pace, the Cowboys could be a very dangerous team going forward. The NFC East will come down to either Dallas or Philadelphia and barring injury I think the Cowboys are fully capable of winning the division. They know they can come into Seattle and win, so that makes Dallas a dangerous team if they make the playoffs as a wild-card team also. I do not think this team is capable of making a Super Bowl caliber run in the playoffs but they could certainly make January football interesting and intriguing.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks in navy, Cowboys in white just as expected… 5 Bud Light’s in a bucket for $20 is the best pregame deal at the bars. Can’t beat that value… Don’t blame this game on the officiating. I still hold a grudge against Bill Leavy as most other Seahawks fans do as well but the Seahawks beat themselves on this day… The starting offense was introduced this week. Good to see Jermaine Kearse get the opportunity to run out of the tunnel individually for the first time in his career… There were no intriguing morning games this week with the Cardinals playing in the afternoon and the 49ers and Rams playing on Monday night… A lot of Seahawks fans bailed after we failed to score at the end of the game, even with one timeout and the two-minute warning left. Did the Broncos game not teach you anything about leaving the stadium early???… There were a good number of Cowboys fans at the game this week so that was a little discouraging. I wonder how long it took the bandwagon to get here… I thought we would win this game, and when we did I thought we would be in good shape to split our next two games, both on the road. Now with this loss I think it is necessary for us to win both of our next two games. It will be tough but I think we can do it.

Check back on Saturday for a preview of the Seahawks week 7 matchup with the St. Louis Rams. Thanks for reading and Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 26, Broncos 20 (OT)

21 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Seahawks 27, Rams 9

29 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

As I sit here sporting my own 2013 NFC West champions hat, allow me to once again congratulate the Seattle Seahawks on clinching our division title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks defeated the St. Louis Rams 27-9 on Sunday in a game that may have felt close at the beginning but as the Seahawks continued to score and put the game away, you realized perhaps how big of a mismatch overall this game actually was. The Seahawks end the regular season tied for the best record in Seahawks history (13-3) and will host an NFC Divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field in two weeks. The Rams finish their season at 7-9 and are in surprisingly good shape heading into the offseason, given that they have the Washington Redskins first round pick in 2014 (#2 overall). Here are the noteworthy talking points I took out of this week’s game.

Run Defense Forces Clemens to Throw: At the end of the third quarter I was told to take a look at the stat board in the south end of the stadium. I couldn’t believe what it said; the St. Louis Rams had -1 rushing yards through the first 45 minutes of the game. One of the points in my Rams game preview was to eliminate the running game to force Kellen Clemens to throw. The Seahawks mastered this aspect of the game plan. When it was all said and done, the Rams only ran for 13 yards and running back Zac Stacy’s longest run of the game was a meager 7 yards. Bobby Wagner played a great game covering the run as he finished the day with 12 tackles. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel also made a significant impact at the line of scrimmage, combining for 9 tackles and 3 quarterback hits. What pleased me the most about the Seahawks run defense was the ability to stop Stacy up the middle. The Rams seemed to have a focus of running up the gut just like how the Arizona Cardinals ran against us last week. The Seattle defense clearly made the proper adjustments and Stacy could not get anything going all game long. The Seahawks were able to force Clemens to throw two interceptions including one that was returned by linebacker Malcolm Smith 37 yards for a touchdown. The Seahawks now have recorded 11 interceptions in their last 3 games.

Shorthanded, Tate Steps Up: Although Jermaine Kearse was active against the Rams, he saw no playing time while nursing an ankle injury. The Seahawks started Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin at wide receiver this week with Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters also seeing a handful of plays. It was Tate however that stepped up and played a game that the Seahawks needed badly on the offensive side of the ball, also confirming the talent and potential depth the Seahawks will carry into the playoffs. Tate caught 8 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. How dominant was Tate’s performance on Sunday? When you crunch the numbers, Tate caught 75 percent of the yards thrown by quarterback Russell Wilson. I was pleased with the way the Seahawks used Tate this week as he was used in the screen game and in the deep vertical passing game. Even though it is likely Percy Harvin will be out for the playoffs, Golden Tate’s performance on Sunday should allow the 12th Man to rest easy. With Kearse likely back in time for our first playoff game, the Seahawks receiving corps may be in better shape than ever heading into January football.

Offensive Line Still a Weakness: One stat category that the Rams dominated over the Seahawks this week was sacks. St. Louis recorded 4 sacks on Russell Wilson, including Robert Quinn’s league leading 19th sack of the season. This week the interior offensive line played a much better game and from my seats it looked as though both tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini had a hard time stopping the outside pass rush of the Rams. The Seahawks had aspects of their offensive game plan to work around any potential struggles protecting Wilson but he was still hit way too often. I need to see more consistency in the playoffs because the Seahawks will have a hard time moving the ball if the offensive line cannot block the ferocious playoff-caliber defenses Seattle is sure to face.

Langford Seals the Win: With a Seahawks holding a 13-3 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter the game on paper seemed to be far from over. A 10-point deficit with over a full quarter left to play is surely enough time to overcome and take the lead. However, the stupidity of the Rams Kendall Langford cost the Rams a score, and the momentum of the entire game. After stopping Robert Turbin on a run for no gain, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called on St. Louis linebacker Alec Ogletree, while explaining and arguing with the officials, Rams defensive end Kendall Langford accidentally stuck his arm out and knocked the hat off of one of the referee’s heads. Langford was flagged unnecessarily for unsportsmanlike conduct and was ejected from the game due to the physical contact with the official, even though it was clearly unintentional. While trying to plead his case to head referee Jeff Triplette, Langford threw his helmet to the ground in frustration and was once again penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. After these three consecutive dead-ball penalties, the Seahawks had the ball on the St. Louis 1-yard line. Two plays later Marshawn Lynch punched it in for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 20-3 lead. These penalties got the crowd fired up to a fever pitch that had not been felt or heard until this point in the game and it was obvious that the Seahawks were in the Rams heads from this point forward. The actions by Langford on this sequence virtually handed control of the entire game to the Seahawks and ultimately emotionally propelled Seattle to victory.

Thoughts on St. Louis: It is amazing that 3 years ago a 7-9 team would have been a division champion in our division. This year the 7-9 Rams finish in last place in the NFC West and I honestly believe they would have been division contenders in about half of the divisions in the NFL. With two top 15 draft picks on deck in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Rams will be able to plug some holes, primarily on offense, that could give them a significant chance to contend in the NFC West next season. Be on the lookout for a healthy Sam Bradford and a rested Rams defense that could also be one of the league’s best in 2014.

Random Thoughts: Congratulations to Earl Thomas who won the 2013 Steve Largent Award… I had a really great time with my sister throughout the day on Sunday and I could clearly tell that she was having a lot of fun also. Definitely something to remember for future seasons; that my sister is a fun guest to take… The randomly chosen season-ticket holders that got to be on the field for pregame introductions also got to run out of the tunnel prior to. I was extremely jealous. That would be a dream come true to get to run out of the tunnel in front of 68,000 screaming fans just like the players get to… The Seahawks Pro Shop was a madhouse following the game. Everyone wanted to get their hands on the 2013 division champion shirts and hats. They had plenty of both so I was happy I could get a hat. Thanks again for the early birthday present Kelle!… Seahawks halftime shows are still embarrassing to watch… 2 slices of pizza and a Bud Light inside the stadium is $23.75. I don’t think I need to explain how bad of a rip off that is. The price speaks for itself… I think the 12th Man should be rooting for the New Orleans Saints to beat Philadelphia next Saturday night. New Orleans is probably the easiest matchup for the Seahawks at home in the playoffs, at least for the Divisional round. I absolutely cannot wait for our first playoff game in 13 days. There is a distinct difference between a regular season game and a playoff game in regards to the overall stadium atmosphere. I have a feeling that this is going to be a very fun January.

Seahawks Divisional Playoff Outlook: With the win on Sunday, the Seahawks are the #1 seed in the NFC Playoffs and will host an NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 11th. Kickoff is slated for 1:35pm. There are three teams the Seahawks could potentially face in the Divisional round, depending on how the following Wild-Card matchups play out:

The Seahawks will play the Green Bay Packers if…

Green Bay defeats San Francisco AND Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

The Seahawks will play the San Francisco 49ers if…

San Francisco defeats Green Bay AND Philadelphia defeats New Orleans

The Seahawks will play the New Orleans Saints if…

New Orleans defeats Philadelphia

I will jump back on the blog in the upcoming week if any notable Seahawks news breaks and once we know which team we will play in the Divisional playoffs. Enjoy the bye week and enjoy Wild-Card weekend everybody. Now the fun really starts. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 23, Giants 0

15 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Don’t get me the least bit wrong, I LOVE the outcome of Sunday’s game, but this 20-burger with cheese should have been at least a 40-burger with cheese (if you’re confused try to look it up). The Seahawks defeated the New York Giants 23-0 on Sunday in a game that featured an unstoppable Seattle defensive unit, a shaky yet functioning offensive unit, and perhaps a preview of the Seahawks getting their feet wet in the stadium that may house the biggest game in Seahawks history on February 2nd. The Seahawks are now 12-2 and are one win away from clinching the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Giants fall to 5-9 on the season and nothing was improved on their side except for their slot in next year’s draft. There is so much good to go over in this game (with a little “just okay” to go over as well) but let me start with the obvious.

Defense Plays Best Game of the Season: In general let’s not ignore this undeniable fact; the Seattle Seahawks defense played their best all-around game of the season. But honestly, how can you not when you shut out your opponent? The Seahawks held the Giants to 181 total yards and New York did not have an offensive play in Seahawks territory until the fourth quarter. The run defense looked particularly dominant, holding Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis to 25 total rushing yards. The pressure the Seahawks front seven put on Giants quarterback Eli Manning started early with a sack by Bobby Wagner and did not let up, even when the Giants were able to get small drives going. Two interceptions by Richard Sherman and an interception by Earl Thomas are examples of what I preached in my Giants game preview. If the defense could force New York into mistakes the Seahawks offense would control the game. That is exactly what happened. Constant pressure on Manning forced him into bad throws which resulted in interceptions. Sherman and Thomas played a great game but it was one other Seahawks defender that really opened my eyes.

Brandon Who? Walter Who?: There is a very special feeling fans get when they see a backup player get his chance, make an immediate impact, and display his “star-of-the-future” potential. Byron Maxwell played the best all-around game of his young career on Sunday, recording 3 passes defensed and also intercepting 2 passes. In three starts in place of the injured Brandon Browner and the suspended Walter Thurmond, Maxwell now has 3 interceptions and 8 passes defensed. Maxwell’s play is making it incredibly difficult for the Seahawks defensive coaches to justify replacing him once Thurmond returns from his suspension. With Maxwell playing well on the outside, that also helps cornerback Jeremy Lane, who can focus strictly on playing nickel cornerback instead of having to switch between different positions in different packages if Maxwell was struggling to hold down the second cornerback spot. Although Maxwell is taking over a starting spot, regardless of who is the second starter when Browner and Thurmond come back, the Seahawks will have a proven idea of just how deep they are in the secondary for the playoffs.

Pass Rush Forces Mistakes: Eli Manning threw a career high 5 interceptions this week and it was due in large part to the effectiveness of the Seahawks pass rush. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks of Manning and additional pressure forced bad passes which ultimately stopped drives. Bobby Wagner and Michael Bennett stuck out in my mind this week, as both had phenomenal performances. Wagner and Bennett combined for 14 tackles and 2 sacks. Over the past few road games the Seahawks pass rush seemed to be lacking. The last time the Seahawks defense recorded at least 4 sacks in a road game was back in week 7 at Arizona and the 4 sacks Seattle had against the Giants this week is the second highest total on the road this season. This was the game that the 12th Man knew the Seahawks had in them. The focus now will be to carry this defensive momentum into two dominant performances to end the regular season.

Offensive Line Must Improve: As joyous as it was to watch the Seahawks dismantle the Giants there was one gigantic concern that stopped the hearts of me and my friends during this game. Russell Wilson gets hit too much. Even when Russell does not get hit, more often than not he is scrambling trying to make a play because he has to. Wilson was sacked 4 times on Sunday which is definitely too many in my opinion. Many of Wilson’s short to intermediate throws also came out of the pocket. This has been a problem throughout the season and things must change in order to keep Wilson clean and limit the chances of him getting hurt. Because the Seahawks are winning and the offense has been productive throughout the season many fans tend to ignore any potential problems within the team but I see an issue on the right side of the offensive line that needs to be corrected. Second year right guard J.R. Sweezy seems to be having a hard time pass blocking and Breno Giacomini is quite hit-or-miss in pass protection. I would be interested to see an offensive line combo that puts Paul McQuistan at left guard, moving James Carpenter to right guard to replace Sweezy. Like I said at the beginning of this review, the Seahawks should have been able to put up at least 40 points in this game and the main reason why it was a closer score I believe can be ultimately traced back to the spotty play of the Seahawks offensive line.

Moving Forward, Turn Field Goals into Touchdowns: There were several third down and short opportunities that were squandered this week, leading to field goals instead of touchdowns. Kicker Steven Hauschka ranks 6th among all NFL kickers in field goals made and he has connected on a career high 7 field goals in the 20-29 yard range this season; kicks where the drive stalls inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. The Seahawks need to do a better job of punching the ball in the endzone in these short yardage situations. Marshawn Lynch was stopped on a goal line run today on a drive that resulted in a Lynch touchdown a couple of plays later, however the ineffectiveness of getting the ball into the endzone from just outside the goal line makes me question the blocking schemes drawn up in the red zone. Simply put, the Seahawks need to prove to me that they can score a touchdown in positions where anything but a touchdown is a complete disappointment. Being able to finish off drives with 7 points instead of 3 will help greatly later on in the game.

Thoughts on the Giants: The New York Giants are a team that may be close to a light rebuild. Their core group of talent is getting older and it is apparent that they need to re-make the offense in order to take pressure off of Eli Manning in both the passing game and the running game. I would not be surprised to see the Giants use their first couple of draft picks next year on offensive linemen because that is where I believe the Giants were the weakest on Sunday. Getting veterans healthy and adding solid, young talent could put the Giants in the running for a typical 8 or 9 win season in 2014, which may or may not put them in a position to make the playoffs.

Random Thoughts: I am sick of stupid penalties. 8 penalties for 50 yards on Sunday and many of them were procedure fouls, aka the simplest, most fundamental aspects of football. This needs to change. It is amazing that we can be the 2nd most penalized team in the league, yet we are good enough to be 12-2. If we had played cleaner football throughout the season, it may not be overly impossible to think we could be 14-0 right now… Bill Leavy didn’t screw us over this week. Thanks Bill! However, I refuse to fully forgive you for Super Bowl XL until we finally win a championship… I watched the game down at my friend Jake’s house and it was a really fun time with all of my best friends… Didn’t get to watch RedZone so we flipped between Kansas City/Oakland and Green Bay/Dallas in the afternoon, while also being able to sneak in a quick catnap… 6 month old Bud Light still tastes fine. I don’t see a problem with drinking old beer as long as it doesn’t taste bad. There’s no problem with that right?… The Seahawks were wearing white jerseys and blue pants this week so my prediction was correct… With two home games left I think it is impossible to lose out on the division but honestly I am looking a bit ahead to the St. Louis game week 17 because if we win and wrap everything up next week against Arizona, I think we will treat the Rams game like a preseason game by resting all of our important starters. My point: Our 14 (15 if you count a win next week over the Cardinals) game home winning streak could be in jeopardy. That would be devastating.

The Seahawks will now come home for the final two games of the regular season. Next week we host the Arizona Cardinals. Check back on Saturday for my preview of next week’s game. Enjoy this win everybody. Go Seahawks!

My Weekend in Houston

2 Oct

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*A detailed summary of my trip to Houston, Texas for the Seahawks game against the Houston Texans*

Saturday: Our flight left Seattle at 10:15 Saturday morning. After getting my Sea-Tac staple meal (Wendy’s breakfast) and enduring a long wait at the gate, I took my aisle seat in 25D and we were in the air shortly thereafter. The plane ride was full of Seahawks fans and a couple Seattle news personalities. Seahawks play-by-play man Steve Raible sat in first class and Paul Silvi of King 5 was seated about 10 rows in front of me. I’ll spare you the details of my flight, as it was, well, a flight. Pretty standard stuff. The only thing worth noting was the beverage service, as the flight attendants took about 30-40 minutes to get to our row. I joked with the guys sitting next to me that we would probably make it into Texas before we got our first round of drinks.

After we landed we took a bus to the off-site rental car facility and got our car. Let me say here that when we walked out of the airport towards the bus the Houston humidity really hit me. I hadn’t felt humid conditions like this since going to New York in the summer of 2006. The drive from the airport to our hotel in south Houston took us right past the downtown Houston skyline and shortly after passing downtown we exited the freeway and were at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza at Reliant Park. The hotel is located right off the I-610 freeway and is a 5 minute walk from what is called “Reliant Park” which includes Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Astrodome, and Reliant Arena. Last season in Arizona I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was located about the same distance away from University of Phoenix Stadium that the Crowne Plaza is from Reliant Stadium and I think that the Crowne Plaza was the exact opposite in all facets compared to the Renaissance:

The rooms are small, the ceiling in the bathroom was about two inches taller than my head, the ceiling above the shower was moldy, the bathroom mirror hung at breast level, meaning taller people like me have to bend down in order to see themselves in the mirror, our room faced the highway instead of the stadium, not only was there no free breakfast but there was also no complimentary coffee in the lobby in the morning, and there was only one vending machine in the entire building.

After checking-in we headed to a Buffalo Wild Wings near the campus of Rice University for the UW/Arizona game and to participate in a 12th Man rally. The restaurant was packed with Seahawks fans, thus it was standing room only and it truly felt like I was back at home. After ordering a glass of St. Arnold’s Oktoberfest (a local brew) and a few wings it came to our attention that a cameraman from Kiro 7 news was among the 12th Man faithful. He announced to the crowd that we were going live on TV in Seattle within 5 minutes so I got in prime position to be right in front of the camera. Even with a minimal warning to friends back home on Facebook, my friend Alan confirmed that I was “looking good as always” right in the middle of his TV screen. Success! At least somebody saw me on TV. After watching the Huskies knock off Arizona we picked up breakfast and beer at a local Kroger, headed back to the hotel, and called it a night. My wake-up call for Sunday morning: 7am.

Random Thought: There was a poster hanging at the bar for spicy Bloody Mary’s which included pepper flavored Absolut vodka. You read that right. PEPPER flavored vodka. As in salt and pepper. I have never heard of pepper flavored vodka before and the thought of it makes me want to gag. It must be a Texas thing.

Sunday: I struggled tremendously in getting a good night’s sleep due to the anticipation of the game and the noise from the cars driving on I-610 right next to the hotel. I woke up at 7am, showered and got dressed, bought a cup of coffee downstairs, had a muffin and was watching pregame and drinking Bud Light by 8:45am. This was the third road game I have been to where the Seahawks play in the 10am Pacific Time slot so it is really weird to be in the hotel pre-gaming with pregame shows on instead of the early games. We left the hotel and walked to the stadium at 10:15am and were inside the stadium by 11am. Our seats were in section 523 which was the fourth row of the upper deck. The seats looked straight down the Seahawks sideline so they were about halfway between the goal post and the corner of the endzone.

On the whole, Texans fans were very nice. I only had one notable moment of heckling when I was in line to use the restroom at halftime. The Seahawks were trailing 20-3 and as I was in line I heard phrases like “Seahawks suck,” “Go back to Seattle,” and “who the hell is ‘Hansman?!” in reference to the customized Seahawks jersey I was wearing. The Texans fans around me were also very knowledgeable about their team. The lady who sat behind me was a Texans season ticket holder and she admired the fact that I was a Seahawks season ticket holder who was dedicated enough to travel to see them play on the road. She was the most realist fan I have ever met. Before the game she explained the feeling the Texans fan base has for certain players. As the game wore on she became less and less willing to talk and after the game I politely told her “maybe we’ll see you guys again in February [for the Super Bowl].” She hostilely and angrily replied “no we won’t. Not the way we played today” and walked away.

Random Thought: A lot of Texans fans do not like Matt Schaub. That was evident after the game when a handful of Texans fans burned his jersey in the parking lot. They do not have faith in his decision making at all and they think it’s time that the Texans move on from both Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak, who they believe is a package deal; they feel you have to get rid of both of them or neither of them. It reminded me of the last couple years of the Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle. The feeling with Hasselbeck seemed to be “we like you, you got us to the next level, but you’re past your prime and you make terrible in-game decisions now. It’s time to part ways.”

At the end of the game I went absolutely crazy. We stuck around at the seats to watch the Seahawks celebrate on the field and to wait until most of the Texans fans had left. We walked down the ramps of Reliant Stadium (which were a similar set-up to the ramps at CenturyLink Field) with a large group of Texans fans and they were all visibly frustrated. Nothing negative was said in our direction but it was a very hostile feeling. Myself, my dad, and the two other guys we went with couldn’t shake our feeling of amazement and disbelief; we couldn’t believe what had just taken place inside that building.

After the game we went out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant called Pappasitos Cantina and celebrated with a couple rounds of cervezas. If you are ever in Houston, I highly recommend going to Pappasitos and trying the chicken and beef fajitas. They were the best fajitas I have ever had. The meat was juicy and the onions, Pico de Gallo, and beans added flavor that I had never experienced at a Mexican restaurant before. After watching the San Diego Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys (to the delight of the Texans fans at the restaurant) we walked back to the hotel to relax and to see the highlights of the Seahawks/Texans game, something that we were hoping to see during halftime of the afternoon games but didn’t.

During the first part of Sunday Night Football I went for a walk around Reliant Stadium one more time to bask in the glory of seeing the Seahawks win live on the road for the first time since 2007. Upon my arrival back to the hotel, I somehow stayed awake for the rest of Sunday Night Football and shortly thereafter, I crashed. What a day.

Monday: I made up for the lack of sleep I had got the night before, as I slept in later than I had planned. After getting ready for the day we checked out of the hotel and headed for downtown Houston, where we would spend our afternoon before heading back to the airport to come home. We were contemplating different ideas on how to spend our Monday afternoon. A small road trip to the Gulf of Mexico, touring NASA headquarters, and touring Minute Maid Park (home of MLB’s Houston Astros) were among our ideas but we did not do any of these which was too bad.

After walking around the downtown core we ate lunch at Tejas Bar and Grill and drove over to Minute Maid Park to walk around the stadium. Even though we did not tour the stadium you could still see into the stadium from the outside. One cool thing about Minute Maid Park was that they incorporated a previous standing building on the property into the stadium; much like how the San Diego Padres incorporated the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field of Petco Park. The left field plaza was an old train station terminal building that they turned into a waiting lobby, the Astros team store, and a restaurant. Afterwards we headed back to the airport to fly home. From the end of the game to our arrival back home, I still could not believe that I witnessed one of the greatest comeback victories in Seahawks history.

All in all, Houston is a city that I would only visit again in special circumstances such as Super Bowl LI in February 2017. It was a fun trip and I was glad that I was able to come home happy.

My Weekend in Arizona

12 Sep

Friday: My flight to Phoenix left Seattle at 3:20 Friday afternoon. I was in an aisle seat about 25 rows back and to be honest my flight could have gone a lot better. Let me touch on the one bright spot; there were at least 20 Seahawks fans on my flight and when we started to descend towards Phoenix, most of them started to get riled up. That was a lot of fun to be a part of. Now to the annoying part of my flight. The guy sitting next to me was wearing a Seahawks shirt and Seahawks hat, which was nice. About an hour into our flight while I was listening to music, he wanted to start a conversation about Sunday’s game. I told him about my annual road trip and what my outlook on the game was and he told me about his thoughts. While he was talking I remembered one of my least favorite things about talking to strangers about football; I ALWAYS seem to know more about the game than they do, so I had to listen to amateur analysis that either didn’t make sense or was completely irrelevant. To make things even worse, he was boozing throughout the entire flight. As the drinks went down, the more annoying and belligerent he got. I tried to make it clear I wasn’t in the mood to talk by putting in my headphones but he just would not shut up. The icing on the cake was that he would try to get up to use the lavatory at the most inopportune times including right when the beverage cart was in front of our row, and once the flight landed and everyone seated on the aisle was standing and grabbing for their bags in the overhead storage bins. At least I can say I didn’t have the most frustrating flight, as one of the other guys I traveled with got a condensed life story from an elderly woman he was seated next to.

After getting off the plane we headed for the rental car shuttle. Once we stepped outside it was like walking into a sauna. 90 degree temperatures at 6:00pm is uncomfortable but also add in the smelly Phoenix air and you are miserable, at least to start. I got used to it by the end of the weekend. After getting our car we drove about 20 minutes to Glendale, the site of both University of Phoenix Stadium and our hotel. We checked in to the Glendale Renaissance then drove to In-N-Out Burger for dinner. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I took a self-guided tour of the place. Let me tell you, I have never stayed in a more luxurious hotel than this place. Unfortunately I was only there for the weekend and since we were busy for most of the trip, I was not able to take advantage of any of the amenities the hotel offered which includes a beautiful outdoor pool with bar, state-of-the-art workout room, or the spa.

We then walked around what is called the “Glendale Entertainment District” which includes our hotel, University of Phoenix Stadium, Westgate shopping center, and Jobing.com Arena (home of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes). All of these buildings are within walking distance. We spent the rest of that night at a pub called McFadden’s. If I had to simply describe McFadden’s, imagine if Finn MacCool in the U-District had a baby with a place like Coyote Ugly or Cowgirls Inc. The women are incredibly attractive and the beer is expensive. All in all, the four of us had 12 Guinness’s total which racked up a tab close to $80. To a college aged man, McFadden’s is a place to go drink and observe the people around you. Our bartender may have had the most clothes on of any bartender and she was only wearing a bra-type tank top and shorts that were so short her buns were drooping from the base of them. I’m not going to lie though it was fairly awkward being at a place like that with my dad. This bar became a talking point among the four of us for the duration of our trip because each night we pondered the thought of going back to drink there. When we got back to the room we called it a night. Even though we had landed at 6 at night, we definitely made the most of our first night in Arizona.

Saturday: After pounding a coffee and a cinnamon roll, the four of us headed to downtown Phoenix to tour Chase Field; home of MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. We have done a baseball stadium tour for the past three road trips and this one was one of the best. Among the stops, a pool located beyond the right-center fence, the club level, a suite, the visitors’ clubhouse, and the Diamondbacks dugout. After the tour we had an appetizer and beer at TGI Friday’s which is located in the second deck in left field. It is a similar setup to the Hit it Here Café at Safeco Field but because this restaurant is a TGI Friday’s, the food is leaps and bounds better than what is served at the Hit it Here Café.

After leaving downtown Phoenix we headed towards Peoria. I stayed in Peoria for my three trips to Mariners spring training so it was nice to see how the area had changed in the last ten years; the last time I went to Arizona. We killed some time at a mall (the same mall I had bought Pokémon cards at in 1999) before heading over to Buffalo Wild Wings for the Washington Huskies game against LSU. After some bickering (by my dad) about which televisions the Husky game was going to be on, I enjoyed some classic buffalo and spicy garlic wings while watching my Dawgs get pummeled by LSU. We left at halftime because the game was so bad. On the way back to the hotel we stopped to get beer for Sunday morning and to get a poster and pens so I could make a sign for the game.

When I got back to the hotel I made this sign:

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And then I called it a night in preparation for a HUGE day on Sunday.

Sunday: My alarm went off at 6:30am and I was immediately alert with adrenaline flowing through my veins. I pulled back the curtains on the window and witnessed a spectacular view of the stadium and then I turned on NFL Network to watch NFL Gameday Morning. After watching Warren Sapp make his “bold” prediction that the Kansas City Chiefs would beat the Atlanta Falcons 41-0, I took a shower and got in my gameday attire. I went down to the lobby to get another cup of coffee and cinnamon roll, not before I high fived two young girls who were wearing Seahawks jersey’s. The prefunction started in my room at 9:30am. While flipping back and forth between the Colts/Bears game and the Redskins/Saints game, I drank a 6-pack of Bud Light and then at 11:30 we headed across the street to the stadium.

Imagine walking into Costco on a 100+ degree day and walking straight into the frozen produce section in the back corner of the building. That is the only example I can think of when comparing the difference in temperature between outside the stadium and inside the stadium. There was easily a 25 or 30 degree difference and it really hits you once you open the doors and enter the stadium. I held my sign for the duration of pregame warm-ups, hoping FOX would get it on camera to use when the coverage of the game started on TV. Unfortunately I was not informed that my sign made it on TV by any of my friends watching back home so I just assumed all of the work I had put into it came short of my ultimate goal. The Seahawks had a great turn out in Arizona. I had several Hawks fans around me and I saw many 12th Man flags around the lower bowl of the stadium. After the Seahawks ran out of the tunnel, it was the Cardinals turn to be introduced and the building went absolutely crazy. I can easily say that it was the loudest environment I have been a part of on the road. Of course the noise level was not even close to CenturyLink Field, but it definitely came the closest of all the places I have been. Add in 50,000 white rally towels and it felt like a playoff game. The game had its ups and downs. I can’t remember the last time I screamed so loud after Sidney Rice’s touchdown. I wanted to make sure Cardinals fans knew I was there representing the Seahawks. After Braylon Edwards’s dropped pass on 4th and goal, I immediately slipped into a state of frustration, anger, and disbelief. I went back to the hotel and sat in a chair upset while listening to the broadcast of Sunday Night Football. After grabbing another burger at In-N-Out for dinner, I returned to my chair and sulked until I fell asleep about an hour after the Sunday Night game.

Monday: I woke up at 6:30am again in order to get ready, pack up, eat breakfast, and drive to the airport. Because one of our group members was heading to Detroit instead of back to Seattle, we had to get to the airport early because his flight left an hour before ours. I sat at the gate for a little over an hour before boarding my flight and I tried my best to get over the painful loss from the day before and to start focusing on Dallas next weekend. I noticed that there were some media members on my flight home; Ian Furness of Sports Radio KJR sat in the fourth row of first class and the cameramen and production team from Q13 FOX sat three rows behind me. I sat in row 19 by the window. This time around, I sat next to another Seahawks fan returning home but we did not communicate at all. Upon our descent to Seattle, I had a breathtaking view of downtown Seattle. Unfortunately my camera was not working on my phone so I could not get a picture. If I could have taken a picture, I’m confident I would have gotten likes on Facebook that would tally into the 30’s or 40’s haha. I made it home just in time for the Monday Night Football doubleheader and told my roommates all about my great but painful weekend.

I had a ton of fun on this trip. I highly suggest going to Arizona to see the Seahawks play. It is a trip that is easy to make with friends especially if you are staying in the Glendale Entertainment District. I hope my friends and I can put a plan together so I can make that trip once again next season!