Tag Archives: Carson Wiggs

Seahawks/Falcons Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

12 Jan

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Matchup: (5) Seattle Seahawks at (1) Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks enjoyed their first helping of playoff football by knocking off the Washington Redskins last week. Now it’s time to head back to the buffet for more. The Seahawks head to Atlanta to take on the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons in an NFC Divisional playoff. This is the first meeting between these two teams in the playoffs. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Falcons 8-5 but have lost three straight. Their last meeting was in week 4 of last season. The Falcons got out to a 24-7 halftime lead but a strong second half charge put the Seahawks in a position to come back and win. They could not however, falling to the Falcons 30-28. This is also Seattle’s first trip back to the Georgia Dome since week 17 of the 2007 season. There is lots to talk about this week so let’s get to it.

After the Seahawks beat Washington last week I immediately turned my attention to the team statistics of the Atlanta Falcons. The stat that caught my eye was their team rushing defense. The Falcons are ranked 21st in the National Football League in rushing yards allowed per game. That number is 123 yards per game. With Marshawn Lynch attracting lots of attention by the Falcons this week combined with the running threat of quarterback Russell Wilson, I think the Seahawks will have many prime opportunities to move the ball effectively and put up points. My key in the running game is getting off to a fast start and moving the ball while at the same time keeping the Atlanta defense on their feet and keeping their crowd silent. I will monitor Marshawn Lynch’s yards quarter by quarter while also taking a look at how well the zone-read option works early. It will be big for Atlanta if they can sniff out the zone-read and limit that dimension of our offense. I think if Lynch averages 25-30 yards per quarter and Wilson can run for a couple first downs per quarter the Seahawks offense will put many points on the board. The Falcons are also ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing yards given up and that will be a factor as long as Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over but the running game is the x-factor for the Seahawks effectiveness this week.

All of the talk in the national media this week has been the matchups on the outside. The Falcons boast arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league with Roddy White and Julio Jones. Across the line of scrimmage the Seahawks boast arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The wide receivers are very talented and have the capabilities to make plays. The cornerbacks are also fully capable of taking those big plays away. The thing to be watching for is potential penalties on Sherman and Browner. Depending on whom the referees are on the outside, they will either keep their flags in their pockets, allowing Sherman and Browner to be extra physical or if they look like they are making too much contact, they will be called for penalties. This fortunately or unfortunately will decide how effective both units are. The Seahawks may be in trouble if the cornerbacks are being called for holding or illegal contact especially early in the game.

With the season-ending injuries to defensive end Chris Clemons and kicker Steven Hauschka, the Seahawks have added two new players. The more recognized new face is Hauschka’s replacement; kicker Ryan Longwell. Longwell, 38, has spent the previous 15 seasons split with the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. Longwell is a Puyallup native and beat out a handful of kickers including former Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers and rookie Carson Wiggs for the job. Longwell has a stronger leg than Hauschka but has not kicked all season. I trust Longwell to make moderate field goals (21-45 yards) but field goals from 46+ yards are a mystery to me. The other new Seahawk is defensive end Patrick Chukwurah. Chukwurah has been absent from the NFL for four years. He has spent the last few years in the United Football League and led the league in sacks the past two seasons. He last played in the NFL in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but did not record any statistics. Although Bruce Irvin will start and take a lot of snaps, I expect Chukwurah to see between 10-20 plays this week in place of Irvin. Longwell will wear number 7 and Chukwurah will wear number 97 for those wondering.

The Georgia Dome may be a louder stadium to play in than FedExField was last week but the fan base may not be as tough to face as last week. There were over 5,000 tickets still available for Sunday’s game according to ESPN and the NFL. Combine that with the recent playoff woes of the Atlanta Falcons, I get the gist from the Atlanta media that it feels like there is not as much excitement over Falcons football as should be expected. I think the environment will be loud but manageable. If the Seahawks can get off to a fast start, the crowd will not matter. This is the first time I can remember that the field conditions and weather will not play a factor for a road playoff game. I think this gives us a hidden advantage that many other people would overlook. Nevertheless we are traveling across the country, playing the number one seed in the conference, and playing in a dome. Warning Seahawks fans, it should be normal to be cautiously optimistic and/or a little bit worried this week in regards to the environment.

It’s time for me to throw some numbers out there! This might make the 12th Man feel better about what to expect on Sunday. The Falcons went 7-1 at home in 2012. Their only loss was in week 17 to Tampa Bay when they had already clinched home-field advantage and played their second stringers for most of the game. The Falcons either trailed or held a one-score lead at halftime in 5 of their 8 games this season. Of their 7 victories, 5 of them ended as one-score wins. The scary thing though was that their 10-point win over New Orleans and their 34-0 shutout of the New York Giants occurred in the second half of the season. Of their 5 one-score margin of victory wins, they went into the half either tied or trailing three times. Based on these numbers the conclusions I have drawn are that the Falcons have shown they could get off to a slow start but have improved in the first half of games as the season has progressed. The Seahawks are the best defense the Falcons have faced all year and they have not played a team that qualified for the playoffs since playing the Redskins in week 5. This game could definitely be close at halftime and that is exactly what I expect to happen.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are going to wear white jerseys again this week. I don’t think you can mess up a winning combination, thus I hope the Seahawks wear white pants again… The referee this week is Walt Coleman. We will see if his all-star crew (the NFL puts together the best referees into different “all-star” crews for the playoffs) will be calling a tight game for Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner this week… The Seahawks only won one 10am kickoff game this season. Not going to lie this worries me a little bit… Don’t sleep on Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez will most likely see a lot of Kam Chancellor in the middle this week and he has the best hands of any tight end in the league. Last week a lot of short passes caught the Seahawks defense off guard early and if Matt Ryan can connect with Gonzalez he can make some catches he is hard to bring down. He will definitely be a challenge that cannot go unnoticed… Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick have the call for FOX this week with Laura Okmin and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines. It should be a good broadcast because I am a fan of Brennaman and Billick does a good job offering his very educated commentary… I’m having another group of friends over to my house Sunday morning for the game. Hopefully more show up than last week but it will be tough to beat since we had a good number of people over last week… It feels like it’s about time to get over this divisional playoff hump. We have been stopped in this round our last three trips to the playoffs. It feels like it should be time to break the barn door down and get back to the NFC Championship game.

Prediction: This kills me but like I always try to preach, I try to be a realist. Although the Seahawks have the best defense the Falcons have faced all season I just feel that Atlanta’s offense is too powerful for us to handle. I think since there has been expanded speculation in the media this week about the way the refs will call the game along the outside, the game will be called tight and the Seahawks will suffer. Those penalties will come at the most inopportune times and will keep Atlanta drives alive and unfortunately translate into points. The better overall team will unfortunately not win this game as mistakes and one more turnover than the home team will doom us. The game will be close but those penalties and mistakes will cost us a trip to the NFC title game. DO NOT get me wrong, I hope to God that I am completely wrong and hopefully we will advance to either San Francisco or Green Bay to play for the NFC Championship but unfortunately I think there is a slightly better chance that we will come up short.

Falcons 35, Seahawks 31

Win or lose, check back hopefully Sunday night (It might be published in the early morning hours on Monday) for my review of Sunday’s game. Hopefully I will have at least one more preview to write for next weekend also. Enjoy the game everybody. I’M IN! Go Hawks!

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Review: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14

6 Jan

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The Seahawks fell behind early and play-by-play announcer Joe Buck mentioned that it was the largest deficit the Seahawks have faced all season long. So what? The resiliency the Seahawks showed in their come-from-behind 24-14 playoff win over the Washington Redskins should show the entire country that we are a force to be reckoned with and nothing is impossible for this team. The Seahawks advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs next week while the Redskins will watch the rest of the playoffs play out from their couches at home. I am not going to lie I was extremely worried yet calm throughout the first quarter because I knew this team was capable of mounting a comeback, even more so because of the mobility and throws by Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. I know you’re probably dying to read my opinions and thoughts of our first playoff win on the road since 1983, so here we go!

First Quarter: Bad: I was relieved to see the Redskins start the game with the ball. I always am for two reasons. First, it lets us make a statement on defense by shutting their offense down and forcing them to punt. Second, in the event the Seahawks struggle in the first half we get the opportunity to score points right off the bat in the second half. The Redskins made our defense look mediocre on their first two possessions of the game. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris combined for 61 yards rushing in the first quarter and Griffin III threw two touchdown passes and it looked like things were going to get out of control in a hurry. Redskins 14, Seahawks 0. With 2:26 left in the quarter. With seemingly no way to figure out how to stop the duel running threat of the Redskins. Two plays before Griffin III’s second touchdown pass he scrambled to the right, threw across his body and fell to the ground in pain because of the sprained LCL in his right knee. I knew RG3 would not be as effective as usual but little did I know just how much it was bothering him and what kind of effect his knee injury would have on the Washington offense through the rest of the game.

Second Quarter: Good: The story of the second quarter was the effectiveness of the Seahawks offense. Russell Wilson seemed to turn a corner after Washington’s second touchdown. Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch led the offense to 156 yards in the second quarter alone and scored on three different drives. The result? 13 points and a 1-point deficit heading into halftime with Seattle receiving the second half kickoff. Russell Wilson was the most successful in the zone-read looks which kept the momentum going and allowed us to kill some clock before putting points on the board. One of the underlying stories of the second quarter however was the corner the defense turned in stopping Washington’s offense. The Redskins only ran 6 offensive plays in the second quarter which resulted in a mere 13 yards. In this quarter you could start to tell two things. As the game wore on, Griffin III became less and less mobile as well as the Seahawks defense figuring out how to stop the rushing attack. Alfred Morris had 11 of the Redskins yards on three carries in the second quarter. Only one of his rushes was longer than 3 yards. It was good to see the Seahawks adapt. Head coach Pete Carroll said after the game that “the defense made no significant adjustments in stopping the run and that the defense just played better football.” That was great to see and it proves the common saying, “just give it time and it always works.”

Second Half Domination: The Seahawks defense made the Redskins offense look virtually nonexistent in the second half. There were several opportunities for both teams to put points on the board but failed to do so. For the Seahawks the big play was Marshawn Lynch’s fumble at the Washington 1-yard line. A score would have given us the lead earlier but instead we turned the ball over to the Redskins. Lucky for us we were able to stop the Redskins after they gained only 23 yards on the ensuing possession and we got the ball back. The Redskins offense only had 62 yards of offense in the second half and the dagger was put in Washington’s heart late in the fourth quarter. After Marshawn Lynch scored from 27 yards out and Zach Miller helped convert the two-point conversion to give Seattle a 21-14 lead, the Redskins got the ball back and in their next two plays it became quite clear who was in control and who would win the game. On first down, Bruce Irvin was able to sack Griffin III for a loss of 12 yards and on second down came the play many people have been talking about. A low snap caused Griffin III to try to bend down to pick the ball up but instead his knee gave in, he fell to the ground in agonizing pain, and Clinton McDonald of the Seahawks recovered the ball inside the Redskins 10-yard line. RG3’s night was over after that play and the Seahawks added some insurance points to extend the lead to 24-14. The defensive performance on Sunday was great and they were able to overcome some grave field conditions to play so well. I am excited to see what our defense throws at Atlanta next week. In terms of the offense, the zone-read worked like a charm and Marshawn Lynch always comes up clutch in clutch moments of need.

Unsung Heroes: There is an underlying stat that needs to be pointed out. The Seahawks offensive line did an incredible job blocking for Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Robert Turbin on Sunday amid the rotation at right guard. The offensive line helped block for 224 total rushing yards but what is more impressive in my mind is they played a perfectly clean game. No Seahawks offensive lineman was flagged for penalties on Sunday, which is extremely rare especially in the playoffs. I give tremendous props to the o-line for their performance. I don’t think there is any way we will have as clean of a game next weekend but now we know it is a possible accomplishment.

Big Blow To The Defense: The playing conditions at FedExField played a factor in two huge injuries. The one that is getting extensive media coverage is the knee of Robert Griffin III but the Seahawks may have lost one of the biggest pieces of their defense. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, defensive end Chris Clemons is feared to have a torn ACL. An MRI is scheduled for Monday and if there is structural damage, Clemons’s season is over. Clemons leads all Seahawks defenders with 11.5 sacks and is our primary pass rusher off the edge. As if our pass rushing ability hasn’t been poor enough over the past couple of weeks, this is a huge blow to our defense. I expect Bruce Irvin to step into Clemons’s role as the starter next week and if we do not try to pick up a temporary fix in off the waiver wire I think the Seahawks could use rookie Greg Scruggs in more pass rush packages. Surely the line will be switched up in practice this week and it will be interesting to see how the defense moves forward but without Clemons our more pressure is on our linebackers and secondary next week against one of the league’s top passing teams.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white/white uniform combination this week. I think it looks better than any other road combo. I predict we’ll wear white jerseys and grey pants indoors next week in Atlanta though… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman called a great game on FOX this week but some of Aikman’s commentary seemed pretty vanilla and obvious… Erin Andrews was assigned to the Seahawks sideline this week and did a great job. That lip gloss really made her look especially attractive this week. Just sayin’… I’m glad we’re playing on turf next week. That field was ridiculously dangerous looking. I heard there was almost no grass around the Redskins logo at mid-field. It was all dirt. It’s one thing if the Redskins think it is an advantage towards them but it’s dangerous nonetheless. The NFL might want to look at their regulations for field preparedness for the playoffs in the future… Russell Wilson is so humble. It’s awesome… My roommates and I had about a dozen people over for the game on Sunday. A great turnout in my opinion and the more the merrier… I like that Richard Sherman got shoved by Trent Williams at mid-field after the game. I want to know what he said to Williams that prompted a shove. I’m sure a lot of fans around the country think Sherman is a complete d**k but to the 12th Man he is one of the nicest guys on the team… Steven Hauschka pulled his left calf on Sunday. If Hauschka is iffy for next week I expect the Seahawks to sign Carson Wiggs to take his spot. Wiggs spent training camp with the Seahawks this season but failed to win a roster spot… With the win the Seahawks will pick no higher than 25th in the 2013 draft. Let’s get that draft pick in the 30’s guys… The Seahawks are now 3-0 against the Redskins all-time in the playoffs… With next week’s trip to Atlanta, the Seahawks will have traveled 9,000+ miles in a two week span. This stat includes both flights on the Washington trip and the flight to Atlanta. We have traveled over half of our regular season mile total in just three flights. That is pretty amazing… The Seahawks won their first road playoff game since 1983. That is amazing to think I wasn’t born for another 7 years after that. Let’s go for another next week in Atlanta!

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: Once again, the Seahawks are now headed to Atlanta to take on the Falcons next week in an NFC Divisional playoff game. In the other divisional matchup the Green Bay Packers head west to take on the San Francisco 49ers. The winner of our game and the winner of the Green Bay/San Francisco game will face off in the NFC Championship game. I start my next quarter of school this week but I still plan to have my preview of the Falcons game published by Saturday morning. Happy playoffs, folks. Go Hawks!