Tag Archives: Cary Williams

Seahawks/Panthers Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

16 Jan
panthers divisional preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

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

Kickoff: 10:05am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panthers 25, Seahawks 13

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Review: Seahawks 39, Steelers 30

29 Nov
steelers review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Last week the Seahawks were fueled by rookie power. This week it was the veterans who stepped up huge. Doug Baldwin caught a career high 3 touchdowns and Jermaine Kearse added a pair of touchdown catches to help propel the Seahawks to a much-needed 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The win gives the Seahawks a 6-5 record, their first winning record of the season. It was great to see the Seahawks finally close out a close game in the fourth quarter after it looked like Pittsburgh would make a late charge. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s victory.

Happy Birthday Russell: On his 27th birthday Russell Wilson went out and had the best game he could have possibly asked for. Wilson completed 21 of his 30 passes for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. The best part? He did not turn the ball over once. Seattle’s offensive line did a tremendous job protecting Wilson. It also felt like the offensive game plan was designed to help Russell out in the pocket, meaning he may not have had as many progressions on each play which is a big factor in how long Wilson holds onto the ball. Wilson was also able to do something that has not been done all season. The Seahawks trailed two separate times in the fourth quarter and we were able to score 19 points in the final frame to re-take the lead twice and hold on to it. Our offense as a whole had played their best game of the season and could provide some serious momentum moving forward.

The Good News and the Bad News: The good news is that the Seahawks finished the game +4 in the turnover department. Those four turnovers, all of which interceptions, led to three Seahawks touchdowns. As much as I want to praise the Legion of Boom for forcing these turnovers, the bad news is that the Seahawks defense gave up 480 yards through the air and 538 total yards. According to this statistical category it was the worst outing for our defense all season. A lack of a pass rush directly contributed to our defensive struggles. In my game preview I emphasized the importance of putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger or else he would have time to make deep throws, something which he thrives on. Roethlisberger threw deep several times on Sunday including a high-arching 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. I think DeShawn Shead played a decent game in place of the inactive Cary Williams and it would not surprise me to see him start in Williams’s place once again next week.

Graham’s Injury and Moving Forward: The Seahawks were dealt a huge blow in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard pass to the back corner of the endzone intended for Jimmy Graham. Graham fell to the ground and immediately grabbed his right knee. After the game it was reported Graham tore his right patellar tendon, an injury that will require surgery and end his 2015 season. Many people have gotten on Graham’s case for not being the offensive machine he was in New Orleans but keep in mind that entering Sunday’s game Graham led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. Luke Willson will start in Graham’s place for the rest of the season and Cooper Helfet will likely see expanded playing time. As devastating this injury is I believe it is positive to stay optimistic. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on all three drives following Graham’s injury. Perhaps with Graham out some of our offensive chemistry from last season will be rediscovered.

Thoughts on Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense can be one of the best in the league but if they want to compete for a wild-card spot their defense must play better than they did on Sunday. Unfortunately a lot of their talent is young which may not translate to a deep playoff run. This team is good enough to make the playoffs now but I would wait a couple more years before I would consider them legitimate super bowl contenders.

Random Thoughts: I was surprised that the fog did not completely burn off this afternoon. Sitting in the 300 level, I love when it is foggy because since you cannot see any surrounding buildings it feels like the stadium is in its very own cloud… There were way too many terrible towels but only a couple around me fortunately. No incidents between Steelers and Seahawks fans in my close vicinity also so that was good… Let me talk for a minute about that Steelers fake field goal/pooch punt formation/pass which was executed horribly and intercepted by Jeremy Lane. What in the world was that?! Why are you going for a fake that early in the game? A field goal would have given the Steelers a 6-0 lead but instead it led to Seattle’s first touchdown and a 7-3 Seahawks lead. Good on Lane for not biting and staying with eligible receiver Alejandro Villanueva on the outside. Worst play call I have seen from any team all season… NBA hall of famer and former SuperSonic Spencer Haywood raised the 12 flag on Sunday. I love when they honor former Sonics because it feels like they are keeping the spirit of the Sonics franchise alive… Two huge road games coming up. Two must-wins. Minnesota’s first up.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the Seahawks win and losses by Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks are 3 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s crucial game against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday morning.

Steelers/Seahawks Preview

28 Nov

 

steelers preview 2015

The Seahawks host the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since Super Bowl XL. Screenshot from Youtube.com

Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

On February 5th, 2006 the Seahawks played in their very first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XL in Detroit. We were the NFC champions and we faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In what felt to be a Steelers home game, the Seahawks lost their first chance to win the Lombardi Trophy. Steelers 21, Seahawks 10. The game will forever be remembered for several questionable officiating gaffs which many Seahawks fans still believe may have cost us a championship. Ever since the 12’s have had a justified hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, 3,585 days later, comes the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting for ever since. The 6-4 Steelers make their first trip to CenturyLink Field since Super Bowl XL to take on the 5-5 Seattle Seahawks. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-8 including 21-0 and 24-0 Steelers shutouts in our last two meetings in 2007 and 2011 respectively. The last time the Seahawks scored on the Steelers was Jerramy Stevens’s touchdown in Super Bowl XL. This game could have significant playoff implications for both teams. This is what I will be watching for.

If there is one thing I am always looking for from the Seahawks offense it is consistency. Running back Marshawn Lynch will not play again this week so Thomas Rawls will see the majority of the carries for the second straight week. Unlike San Francisco which sports the 27th ranked run defense in the league, Pittsburgh comes into this week’s game as the 5th best run defense. Rawls may have a difficult time getting going and I certainly do not expect him to put up the record-breaking numbers of a week ago. Note however that Rawls leads the league in yards per carry with an average of 6 YPC. If Rawls can run for at least 80 yards I believe the Seahawks will be in good shape. You cannot count on Rawls alone to carry the offense. I want to see the same type of good decision making from quarterback Russell Wilson that made our passing game wildly effective last week. In our 5 wins this season Wilson has thrown only 3 interceptions. Pittsburgh is good at forcing turnovers. So far this season the Steelers have 18 takeaways including a +5 giveaway/takeaway ratio which is tied for 6th best in the league. The Seahawks can and will win this game if Wilson takes care of the ball.

During last week’s win cornerback Cary Williams was benched in favor of DeShawn Shead, who made 4 tackles and forced two fumbles. With Jeremy Lane activated from the physically unable to perform list, I believe we will see change at Williams’s spot against the Steelers. Head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that there would be an open competition for the right cornerback job during practice this week. If Williams starts expect him to be on a short leash with Shead and Lane sharing playing time if Williams struggles. If Williams does not start altogether I expect Shead to get the nod since it is likely the Seahawks would like to ease Lane into the defensive game plan. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger averages 315 passing yards per game so the Legion of Boom will surely be tested this week. In addition, opposing quarterbacks have a 120.6 passer rating when throwing towards Cary Williams. Being able to cover deep passes will be huge, as Pittsburgh likes to throw deep. As a skilled veteran, it would be no surprise at all to see Roethlisberger test Williams, Shead, or Lane early and often.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a unit that has changed quite a bit over the years. The one constant is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be playing in his first career game at CenturyLink Field. My focus for the Steelers offense is how well they handle the crowd noise as well as Roethlisberger’s pass protection. The Steelers will start two offensive linemen who did not start the season with the first group. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will have a big test in front of him as he will line up across from Cliff Avril, who has been on fire as of late. Center Cody Wallace is a 6-year veteran who has been playing in place of Maurkice Pouncey all season. If the Seahawks can put pressure on Roethlisberger it will take away the most effective facet of his game, stepping up and throwing the deep ball. Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton will all make a major impact this week if Roethlisberger has time to go through his progressions. Look for Big Ben to throw several deep passes on Sunday.

The Steelers have lost many big names on the defensive side of the ball since the last time these two teams played. Gone are the days of Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu and the Steelers have replaced these names and more with great talent. Veterans James Harrison and William Gay have made a big impact this season, combining for 60 tackles. Rookie Bud Dupree leads all Steelers defenders in sacks with 4. I will be focused on the guy who statistically has had the best season of any defensive player. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Steelers this week is inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons has locked down the middle of the field for Pittsburgh since 2007 and although he is a seasoned veteran his numbers are very impressive. Timmons leads the team in tackles with 73. He can also rush the passer which could make for a long day for Seahawks linemen Justin Britt and Patrick Lewis. Timmons can also drop back into coverage. He has recorded 6 passes defensed and one interception. If Russell Wilson decides to throw short or intermediate passes expect Timmons to be in on the play.

Random Thoughts: All navy once again for the Seahawks uniform wise. The Steelers will wear white jerseys and yellow pants… This is the national game of the week on CBS and the entire country except for the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to see this game on local television. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines… The referee will be Walt Anderson… The gameday giveaway is flags which will be distributed to the first 44,000 fans… Don’t fall asleep again this year Alan. I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened last year… I am expecting to be disappointed in regards to the number of Pittsburgh fans in attendance. Steelers fans probably travel the best of any NFL franchise… To those attending please be smart when engaging with opposing fans. I know it may be difficult to holster any trash talk towards Steelers fans given our bad blood towards their franchise… I am kind of surprised there hasn’t been any news this week bringing up Super Bowl XL and specifically what kind of ovation the Steelers will likely receive upon running out of the tunnel… I have been waiting years to have the opportunity to boo this team. I will certainly savor every second.

Prediction: Expect a nerve-racking back-and-forth game. The Seahawks will have a 23-21 lead with 5 minutes left to play. Ben Roethlisberger will lead a Steelers drive deep into Seahawks territory but will have to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal. With the Steelers leading 24-23 the Seahawks will have one last opportunity to drive into field goal range to win the game. Two big gains by Thomas Rawls and a huge completion from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett will put Seattle inside the Pittsburgh 35-yard line. Steven Hauschka will knock through a game winning 50-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. The Seahawks will improve to 6-5 and will lock down their first winning record of the season.

Seahawks 26, Steelers 24

Seahawks/49ers Preview

21 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

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

Kickoff: 5:25pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 27, 49ers 13

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

Review: Bengals 27, Seahawks 24 (OT)

11 Oct
Photo Credit: Bengals.com

Photo Credit: Bengals.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks/Bengals Preview

10 Oct
Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals

Site: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The onslaught of tough defensive lines continues for the Seahawks this week. The Seahawks head to the Queen City for the first time in 12 years on Sunday as they take on the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals. After winning last Monday the Seahawks are 2-2, tied for second place in the NFC West. The Bengals are 4-0 and they off to their best start since 2005. Cincinnati leads the all-time series with Seattle 10-9. In their last meeting back in 2011, the Seahawks started Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback but his dismal performance early in the game caused head coach Pete Carroll to substitute in an injured Tarvaris Jackson to finish it. The Seahawks never got going and the Bengals won easily by a score of 34-12. This will be the very first time Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom get to go against the Bengals, but Cincinnati poses difficult matchup problems with the talent they possess especially on defense. This will be an extremely tough challenge for the Seahawks. This is what to watch for.

After the struggles on offense a week ago, a lot must change in both the passing game and running game in Cincinnati. It would be in our best interest to exclusively run a package of quick passes and roll-outs. Given the shaky play of our offensive line recently, the Seahawks will run the risk of putting quarterback Russell Wilson in harm’s way if he stays in the pocket and tries to go through his progressions. Do not be surprised if Jimmy Graham has another lackluster outing on Sunday. Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin should be Wilson’s go-to guys if we stick to short passes. I believed that we could beat Detroit without running back Marshawn Lynch. Although we won with Thomas Rawls carrying the load, this week we will be in deeper trouble offensively with Lynch once again inactive and Rawls getting the start. A successful day on the ground should be a minimum of 70 yards rushing yards out of Rawls.

The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Gone are the days of Carson Palmer throwing to Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Now it is Andy Dalton, Cincinnati’s 5th year quarterback, who has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first 4 seasons. The Bengals have a plethora of talent at the skill positions but the interesting thing will be to see how well the Seahawks defense matches up against these players. Number one wide receiver A.J. Green has averaged 104 receiving yards per game over his first 4 games and he will garner the attention of Richard Sherman. Seattle cornerback Cary Williams will line up across from Marvin Jones. Expect Dalton to throw in the direction of tight end Tyler Eifert a lot, especially in red zone opportunities. Eifert has averaged just over 5 targets per game but co-leads all Bengals receivers in touchdowns with three. The Bengals also sport a two-headed monster in the backfield with running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Hill and Bernard combined have averaged 115 rushing yards per game but they will be facing the best front seven they have seen all season long.

If there is one stat to note about the Bengals offense it is this. Dalton likes to take shots down the field at any given time so be on the lookout for him to test the Legion of Boom, especially in the first quarter. Cincinnati has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the first quarter so far this season. An early lead has been the norm so if the Seahawks can hold the Bengals to less than a touchdown in the first quarter it will bode well for the rest of the game.

Given the horrible play of the Seahawks offensive line recently, this is the kind of matchup that probably makes the mouths of the Bengals defensive linemen drool. Cincinnati is tied for 6th in the NFL in sacks and they sport two of the game’s better defensive players along their line. Geno Atkins is a sack master who does a great job penetrating the interior line of scrimmage. So far this season he already has 3 sacks. My main focus however is the man that will likely go up across from Seahawks right tackle Garry Gilliam. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Cincinnati this week is defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap leads all Bengals defenders in sacks with 3.5. He has recorded at least one sack in 3 of their first 4 games but has yet to face an offensive front as weak as Seattle’s. His tackle numbers are not high and after watching film, Dunlap plays his best on passing downs. If the defense does a good job forcing the Seahawks into third downs, Dunlap’s presence on the field will definitely be felt. It will be up to the Seahawks to keep the tempo up and move the ball successfully in early down situations in order to make Dunlap’s impact minimal or obsolete.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks announced on Friday they will wear white jerseys and College Navy pants. Cincinnati wore their orange alternate jerseys last week so chances are very good they will wear black jerseys and white pants this week… This week FOX has the Sunday single-header, and Seahawks/Bengals is the most attractive matchup on their lineup, so Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will have the call… This week’s referee is John Parry… This next point I feel obligated to discuss. Andy Dalton is the only redheaded starting quarterback in the league. Watching him speak in his press conferences this week I cannot help but be jealous of how his hair looks. My red hair looks good short but once it starts to curl it gets disproportionate and all over the place. Dalton has wonderful-looking straight red hair. I would trade my red hair for his red hair 11 times out of 10… This is the last Seahawks game I’ll watch at home until we play the Minnesota Vikings in week 13. Crazy.

Prediction: Any road game is tough especially at 10am pacific time, but I think this will be a very long day for the Seahawks on offense. Russell Wilson will be sacked 5 times and will throw two interceptions on tipped balls. Marvin Jones will catch one touchdown from Andy Dalton and Jeremy Hill will run for two more. The Seahawks will head home 2-3 and will be pressured to make offensive personnel changes before we take on Carolina in week 6.

Bengals 24, Seahawks 16

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