Tag Archives: Chris Clemons

#10for10 Game #3: The Fail Mary (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2012 Season)

25 Nov

*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*

10for10 fail mary

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Typically the University of Washington schedules the first day of fall quarter on the last Wednesday of September. In 2012 however they changed protocol. The first day of classes was scheduled for Monday, September 24th and because both of my Monday classes took place in the late afternoon, I skipped the first day of class in order to attend the only Seahawks Monday Night Football game of the 2012 season.

The day started fairly routinely and my afternoon was somewhat uneventful. At about 3:30 my friends Jake, Alan, and I left our house in Wallingford via Yellow Cab and we made our way downtown. When we got to the international district we parted ways. Jake and Alan were heading to the bar for a couple of quick pregame beers while I made my way into the bus tunnel to meet my friend Elliott who I was taking to the game. Elliott had come straight from work and his attire proved it. He donned a dress shirt and slacks with a Marcus Trufant Seahawks jersey over the shirt. Probably the most ridiculously awesome wardrobe I have seen any of my friends wear at a Seahawks game. Since he was running a little late we decided to head straight into the stadium at around 4:15. The pregame giveaway was rally towels which were awesome but interesting given it was only the third week of the season (normally the Seahawks save towels for the postseason or crucial games late in the regular season).

The game started slowly on the scoreboard but the Seahawks gave the 12’s plenty to cheer about in the first half. Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, and Brandon Mebane combined for 8 first half sacks. Seattle’s incredible ability to put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped keep Green Bay off the scoreboard through two quarters. With each sack the crowd became louder and louder. I can remember laughing hysterically with Elliott because of how easily our defense dominated the line of scrimmage. Other than the sack barrage the biggest play of the first half came with 6:29 remaining in the second quarter. After four drives resulting in punts, the Seahawks put together a 7 play drive culminating in a long 41-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

In the second half the Packers adjusted well. Their first two drives went for field goals which cut the Seattle lead to 7-6. What was frustrating late in the game was our pass rush went from dominant to nonexistent. We could not put any pressure on Rodgers which contributed to Green Bay’s ability to put together lengthy drives and score points. After another Seahawks punt the Packers got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. The Packers drove 82 yards in just over 6 minutes and things got interesting. Rodgers hit receiver Greg Jennings for a touchdown but the Seahawks challenged that Jennings stepped out of bounds before the ball crossed the plain. The call was reversed and it brought up 3rd down and 1 at the 2-yard line. On the next play Rodgers scrambled and was marked short of the first down marker but the Packers challenged this play. Once again the call on the field was reversed giving the Packers a first down at the 1-yard line. On the next play running back Cedric Benson punched the ball in. After failing to convert the two-point conversion the Packers had their first lead of the game, 12-7 with 8:44 remaining in the game.

On our next possession we were able to drive down inside the red zone to the Green Bay 7-yard line. Unfortunately we could not settle for a field goal. On 4th down with 2:00 remaining Wilson threw a fade pass to the left corner of the endzone which looked to be intended for Sidney Rice. Instead Golden Tate jumped in front and tried to make the catch but he ball hit off his hand and fell incomplete. The Packers would get the ball back with 1:54 remaining but the Seahawks had two timeouts left. If they could force Green Bay into a three-and-out, the Seahawks would get the ball back and have one more chance to win the game. The Seahawks were able to force the Packers into a three-and-out which backed them up to their own 4-yard line. Green Bay punted back to Seattle, giving the Seahawks the ball on the Packers 46-yard line with 46 seconds left.

After a first down incompletion Wilson fired down the middle and connected with Sidney Rice for a 22-yard gain. With the clock ticking the Seahawks hurried up to the line of scrimmage and instead of spiking the ball they went for the win. Wilson floated a pass into the endzone but the ball deflected off of Golden Tate’s fingertips. The clock was stopped with 18 seconds left. The Seahawks had the ball on the 24-yard line. After two more incompletions the game came down to one final 4th down play with 8 seconds left. Wilson dropped back and scrambled to his left, buying time for his receivers to get into the endzone for the Hail Mary. Wilson lofted a pass into the left corner of the endzone which was caught “simultaneously” by Packers safety M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate. From my view it looked like Tate had outjumped the mass of bodies and made the catch cleanly. When the side judge ruled it was a touchdown Elliott and I went bonkers. The team stormed the north endzone and in the stands we all jumped up and down with wide eyes, seemingly not being able to believe what had just happened. I can remember tossing Skittles at a few Packers fans sitting around us; Packers fans that had been trash talking the Seahawks throughout the second half. When head referee Wayne Elliott came out from under the replay hood and ruled that the call on the field stood, the fans erupted one more time. The Seahawks improved their record to 2-1 and it made for a jubilant rest of the night.

10for10 eric and elliott

Elliott and I going crazy in the postgame craziness

Upon walking down to the upper concourse we ran into Jake and Alan and we walked down the stadium ramp screaming and cheering. I can even remember Alan exclaiming “this is the best night of my life!” When we exited the stadium Elliott and I parted ways because we were heading home in different directions but the night was just starting for Jake, Alan, and I. We took a bus back to the University District which was filled with happy Seahawks fans. While standing on the bus Jake agreed with Alan’s prior declaration that it was the best night of his life. This caused one bitter Packers fan standing next to us that “that was sad. Graduation or getting married would probably be the best night of my life.” Once we got off the bus we walked back to Wallingford but not before picking up a fallen tree branch off of the sidewalk randomly. We jokingly waved the branch all the way back home and we decided that it would be our house “victory branch” which we placed on the porch. It stayed there for the remainder of our lease.

We cooked up six chicken top ramens in a giant pan and we watched SportsCenter where for the first time we realized what had actually happened on the final play of the game. We had no idea how questionable the final touchdown ruling was and we could not believe he had witnessed one of the most controversial games in NFL history. It is the greatest regular season Seahawks game I have attended in the 10 years I have been a Seahawks season ticket holder and it rightfully has a spot near the top of my #10for10 countdown.

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Review: Rams 28, Seahawks 26

20 Oct
Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

No matter how good or bad the Seattle Seahawks are, we always struggle against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. That is exactly what happened on Sunday. Thanks in large part to special teams, the Rams defeated the Seahawks 28-26 in a game that was frustrating to watch due to both the Seahawks play and the officials. The Seahawks fall to 3-3 on the season while the Rams improve to 2-4. Here are my thoughts on Sunday’s disappointing loss.

Offense, and Getting Wilson Involved: The Seahawks offense struggled to put points on the board in the first half this week and I personally questioned the play-calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell throughout the game. I was happy about the way running back Marshawn Lynch was used even though his production was not ideal, as he ran 18 times for 52 yards. What upset me were the first down pass plays and the second down run plays, which set the Seahawks up for third down and long multiple times this week. I think Bevell dropped the ball in this regard and if the Seahawks were able to stick to a running attack in the first half, the Seahawks would have come away with more than 6 points in the first 30 minutes. At halftime I called upon the Seahawks to make the necessary adjustments to get quarterback Russell Wilson more involved in the running game which is exactly what happened. In the second half Wilson ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. In addition Wilson took more shots down the field in the second half which helped the Seahawks score 20 second half points. On offense we need to avoid slow starts moving forward. If we can play a full game like how we played in the second half this week we can fix this problem and become more consistent.

Defensive Struggles: The primary struggle the Seahawks are facing is putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, which in effect is allowing opposing offenses to easily convert on third down. After sacking Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo only once last week, the Seahawks struggled once again to put pressure on Rams quarterback Austin Davis. Davis was not sacked on Sunday and on third down plays the Seahawks did not send more than 4 rushers until the very end of the game. I never thought I would miss the presence of Chris Clemons so much. I am not saying Clemons alone makes the difference in last year’s defense compared to this year’s defense but on the whole the Seahawks defense has struggled mightily this season thus far. Including this loss the Seahawks have allowed 25 points in their first three road games this season. We are 1-2 in these games. Last season the Seahawks allowed an average of 20 points through their first 3 road games and went 2-1. If the Seahawks can improve the pass rush, pressure will be taken off the linebackers and the Legion of Boom and we will have a chance to be comfortably ahead in our games.

Thoughts on the Rams Front Seven: Coming into this game the St. Louis Rams had only recorded one sack on the season. Today the Rams sacked Russell Wilson 3 times. I warned about the potential of the Rams defense penetrating our offensive line to get to Wilson and my fears became reality. Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Eugene Sims among others bullied the depleted Seahawks offensive line all day long and Russell Wilson rarely had a clean pocket to throw from. I thought that it was only a matter of time before the Rams defense had a breakthrough performance and that is exactly what happened on Sunday. This unit is one of the best in the National Football League. As a Seahawks fan I just wish we had a healthy Max Unger and a fully healthy Russell Okung. If we had our entire starting offensive line, perhaps our offense would have been more effective and we would have been able to tame the Rams defense easier.

Rare Special Teams Gaffs Kill Seahawks: There were three huge special teams plays this week that cost the Seahawks points and could have cost us the game. First, Benny Cunningham of the Rams returned a first quarter kickoff 75 yards to instantly put St. Louis into Seahawks territory and into scoring range. The drive resulted in 6-yard touchdown run by running back Tre Mason. The second mistake came on a second quarter punt. Jon Ryan punted to Rams return man Stedman Bailey who returned the punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The only problem was that the St. Louis special teams unit tricked the Seahawks special teams unit into covering decoy return man Tavon Austin. This gave Bailey a wide open field and he was easily able to return it for a touchdown. 14 points in the first half came on special teams breakdowns and in hindsight could have made the difference between the Seahawks winning and losing. The cherry on top of the cake was a fake punt pass from Rams punter Johnny Hekker to Cunningham on 4th down deep in Rams territory. The play had to be executed perfectly, as a screw up would have resulted in a turnover, Seahawks ball deep in St. Louis territory down by 2 points, and an easy opportunity for Seattle to re-take the lead. Instead the Rams executed the fake punt flawlessly and the Rams were able to run out the clock to preserve the victory. Of all these mistakes the fake punt irritates me the most, simply because the Rams have had recent history of fooling the Seahawks on special teams. Two years ago Rams head coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake field goal deep in Seahawks territory. Hekker found an uncovered and completely wide open Danny Amendola for a touchdown. It is this play that should have had Pete Carroll and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider’s attention this time around. I believe the Seahawks should have been more aware of the potential of St. Louis trickery, and the Rams caught us off guard and capitalized once again.

The Fumble: Let me make this last point short and sweet. Regardless of whether or not the Seahawks recovered that fumble at the end of the game, the fact that there was no booth review to confirm who had possession of the ball infuriates me. With as close of a call that was in as close of a game that was, there should have been a booth review. I personally believe Richard Sherman fell on the fumble but there was no 100 percent conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field. After a full game of questionable officiating this play put it over the top. I am not blaming the referees by any means necessary; the Seahawks put themselves in this position and lost the game. However the fact that no booth review was called on this crucial play is enough to make every Seahawks fan mad.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks need to retire the white jersey/wolf grey pant combination. Since the Seahawks updated their uniforms in 2012 the Seahawks are 0-3 in this uniform combo. I hope we do not see it on the road for the rest of the season and definitely not in the postseason… I liked the Rams helmet logo on the 50-yard line. It looked slick… I am not a fan of referee Brad Allen. For that being his first Seahawks game as a head referee he did not make a good impression from a Seahawks fans perspective… We always struggle in St. Louis. Period… It is hard to think of random thoughts for a 10am road game when you watch on television from home. I guess I’ll stop here.

Thanks for reading everyone, even in defeat. Check back next week when I preview the Seahawks week 8 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Broncos Preview

6 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Denver Broncos

Site: Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver, Colorado)

Kickoff: 6:00pm

Six months ago the Seahawks wrapped up the best season in franchise history, winning Super Bowl XLVIII. The 2014 season starts against the same team that we ended our 2013 season against as the Seahawks head to Denver Thursday night to play the Broncos in the 2014 preseason opener. The Seahawks defeated the Broncos in the preseason last year, winning in convincing style 40-10 at CenturyLink Field. This will be the first of two games against the Broncos in 2014; the Seahawks and Broncos will meet in week 3 of the regular season in Seattle. Although this is only a preseason game there are many things to keep an eye on. Here are a few of the things I will be focusing on this week.

Seahawks training camp has been going on for two weeks. With the first live game action since February on deck, it is reasonable to expect that the first team offense and defense may come out a bit rusty. That is what the preseason is for after all; to shake the rust off and get ready for the regular season. I am very interested to see a couple of different things on offense. First I am interested to see what kind of protection Russell Wilson gets in the passing game. If the unofficial Seattle Times depth chart is accurate, the Seahawks will start 3 linemen that did not start in 2013. Alvin Bailey is projected to start at left tackle with Caylin Hauptmann at left guard and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle. With this questionable offensive line, I could see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell using wide receiver Percy Harvin on quick throws or sweeps, especially if Wilson is feeling the pressure at the beginning of the serie(s). The second thing I want to see on offense is how running plays will be split between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. I do not expect to see Marshawn Lynch until maybe next week against San Diego, so Turbin and Michael will see expanded playing time on Thursday. Turbin is listed ahead of Michael on the depth chart but it would not surprise me to see an alternating committee instead of Turbin playing with the second team offense and Michael playing strictly with the third team offense.

The Seahawks defense has made a name for themselves as being one of the deepest units in the NFL as a whole. Over the past couple of seasons backups such as Malcolm Smith and Byron Maxwell have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to them while solidifying themselves as reliable starters. On Thursday defensive backups will get their first opportunity to make a name for themselves and for some, prove that they are simply capable of making the 53-man roster. The Seahawks are projected to start Mike Morgan at outside linebacker and rookie Brock Coyle from Montana at middle linebacker. Coyle will start over incumbent special teamer Heath Farwell, which shows how far Coyle has progressed during training camp.

This will also be the first time the Seahawks show off their (semi) new look defensive line. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are now in Jacksonville, which opens up both starting defensive end spots to 2013 rotational players Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The Seahawks pass rush package now consists of Avril, Bennett, Bruce Irvin (who will not play on Thursday) and rookie defensive end Cassius Marsh.

The Denver Broncos are coming off one of the most impressive statistical seasons of any offensive unit in NFL history. After breaking numerous passing records, yet getting embarrassed by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, Denver spent a large amount of money in the offseason upgrading their defense with veteran talent. After the Seahawks defense only allowed 8 points to Denver in the Super Bowl, the Broncos made these moves in free agency to counter select NFC powers such as Seattle and San Francisco. The Broncos signed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib among others to improve the Broncos pass rush and secondary respectively. From a Seahawks perspective, I view this game as a hollow preview of what could be coming when we play Denver in the regular season. I am curious to see just how improved the Broncos defense is compared to last season. My X-Factor player to watch for the Broncos this week is rookie cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby is the Denver’s 2014 first round draft pick and is currently slotted behind Aqib Talib on the depth chart. Roby has been playing really well during training camp and will likely see significant playing time on Thursday, especially later in the game.

Random Thoughts: This will be a mini uniform rematch from Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and the Broncos will wear orange jerseys with white pants. The Seahawks pant color has yet to be announced but it would not surprise me at all if we wear blue pants just like in the Super Bowl… I am glad we get Denver at home in the regular season. We will see three of our preseason opponents in the regular season and in each instance the location of the game is different from the preseason to the regular season… I am curious to how the Seahawks will be received in Denver as the team that just beat the home team in the Super Bowl mere months earlier. I imagine it will be as hostile an environment as possible for a preseason game… Tony Corrente is the referee for this week’s game… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week. Menefee and Huard will call all 4 Seahawks preseason games on television this year. As always, the score and the outcome in the preseason does not matter. The only thing that truly matters is that we can fly home injury-free. If the Seahawks can avoid sustaining any major injuries we will have already won heading into another week of training camp.

Prediction: I think that the Broncos will be as fired up as possible coming into this game. They want to stick it to us after we embarrassed them back in February. I could see the Seahawks starting the game with the ball and struggling early. If the Seahawks win this game, I expect it to be on the arm and legs of a much improved Terrelle Pryor. The Seahawks have not lost a preseason game since 2011 but I believe our 10-game preseason winning streak will come to an end this week. The final score will be close but the Broncos will be able to do just enough more on offense to walk away with the victory.

Broncos 27, Seahawks 17

Check back on Friday for my review of our preseason opener, as well as an early preview of the week ahead as we get set to host the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Broncos Preview (Super Bowl XLVIII)

29 Jan
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion) vs. Denver Broncos (AFC Champion)

Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

Kickoff: 3:25pm

The Seahawks made sure that the terrible feeling that followed their Divisional playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons last season would not happen again. After earning a 13-3 record, an NFC West championship and their second NFC championship, the Seahawks are heading to what FOX Sports has dubbed the “biggest, boldest, and coldest event in history.” The Seahawks will face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon. With a victory the Seahawks will earn their first ever world championship along with the Vince Lombardi trophy. The Broncos lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 34-19. Their last meeting game in 2010 in Denver where the Broncos crushed the Seahawks 31-14 in what has remained the hottest (temperature) regular season home game in Broncos history. That meeting in 2010 was Pete Carroll’s second ever game as Seahawks head coach. In the 68 regular season and postseason games since, the Seahawks hold a .603 winning percentage. This is also Seattle and Denver’s second ever meeting in the playoffs. This is what to look for and what the Seahawks must do in order to become world champions.

Many wondered if Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning would choke once again in this year’s playoffs but when you are not sacked through your first two playoff games it obviously makes it easier to complete your throws, move the ball, and score points. This is the primary reason why Denver’s offense has been so successful in this year’s playoffs and it is up to the Seahawks defense to change this narrative on Sunday. Putting consistent pressure on Manning will be a big priority. In Seattle’s two playoff games this season defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has used both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on one side of the ball while using linebacker Bruce Irvin as a spy to read where the quarterback may be looking to throw. This strategy will be used on Sunday but I would like to see an addition to our pass rush. Chris Clemons has gone unnoticed over the past few games and he has not recorded a sack since playing San Francisco in week 14. The Seahawks cannot afford to let Peyton Manning have ample time to make his throws so a heavier dose of pass rush could make it challenging for Manning to get comfortable.

It is time for Percy Harvin to make his $12 million salary this week. Harvin, who was sidelined in the NFC Championship Game while recovering from a concussion, is listed as probable this week and head coach Pete Carroll has said Harvin will be a full go. Harvin will not be limited on offense and he will also return kicks for the first time this season. There is one example of Harvin’s explosiveness that really gets me excited to wonder about his impact in Super Bowl XLVIII. Before he exited the NFC Divisional playoff game against New Orleans, the Seahawks ran a fly sweep with Harvin with the ball deep in New Orleans territory. Harvin took the snap from Russell Wilson and ran around the right side of the line for 9 yards before stepping out of bounds. It was the fastest I have seen a Seahawks receiver run all season long. This play has truly opened my eyes to what our potential on offense is this week. Throwing in Harvin’s direction is a tactic that I do not believe Denver is ready for. Look for Harvin to be a major player in the bubble screen game this week and I also would not be surprised to see him line up at obscure position such as at running back. As far as kickoffs go, I really hope Harvin gets a chance to return one, unlike against the Saints when Shayne Graham’s kickoffs went for touchbacks. If Harvin busts a kickoff return for a large gain, it will send positive shockwaves throughout the entire team and will put the Seahawks in great position for Russell Wilson to lead scoring drives.

I am a firm believer in sticking with a game plan that carried you into a position like playing in the Super Bowl. However after watching film of the Denver Broncos I believe there is a facet of our offense that if we turn loose, could have significant positive consequences. Over the course of the regular season the Denver Broncos played 4 games against teams with running quarterbacks; 2 against Terrelle Pryor and the Oakland Raiders, one against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, and one against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins. In those 4 games, opposing quarterback kept the ball and ran a combined 26 times for 133 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. The Broncos played a limited number of games against running quarterbacks and the Denver defense practices on a daily basis against a quarterback who is the furthest thing away from a running quarterback. I think that this could be the right time for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to call a heavy read-option package for Russell Wilson to keep the Broncos defense guessing. If Wilson keeps at least 5 times the Seahawks will add solid numbers in the running game but if the Seahawks have Wilson run and the read-option continues to be highly effective, 5-10 rushes by Wilson would not be surprising to me. The read-option is an intriguing wrinkle in our playbook that could give us serious momentum and go a long way in controlling the tempo of the entire game.

The biggest storyline in regards to the Denver Broncos this week is their record-setting offense against the Seattle defense, in particular the Legion of Boom. The Broncos have four weapons at the skill positions in wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker, along with tight end Julius Thomas; all of which have proven to be reliable targets and they all have the potential to put up big numbers if they can get open. If they can get open. Even if the Seahawks can stop Knowshon Moreno and the Denver running game they still have to deal with Peyton Manning. The key for the Broncos offense is for the offensive line to give Manning time to make his reads and make his throws because if Manning has time he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when it comes to picking apart opposing defenses. This is why one of my three X-Factor players to watch for the Denver Broncos this week is left tackle Chris Clark. Clark started 14 of Denver’s 16 regular season games and both of Denver’s playoff games. Clark replaced an injured Ryan Clady shortly into the 2013 season but has emerged as one of the best pass blocking tackles in football, ranking in the top 10 in pass blocking efficiency according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos can beat the Seahawks solely through the air which makes Knowshon Moreno’s potential impact on the game an added bonus for Denver. If the Broncos can run the ball effectively against the Seattle run defense, this could put Denver in a great position to win the game.

The Broncos defense has one huge mission this week and that is to stop the Seahawks running game, especially running back Marshawn Lynch. The Broncos have the 8th best running defense in the league, holding opposing teams to just under 102 rushing yards per game. Given Seattle’s recent struggles in the passing game, stopping Lynch will likely determine the outcome of the game. In recent days many people have discussed the importance of the role Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton will have in stopping the run game but there are other players to watch out for that will also play key roles in stopping Marshawn Lynch. My first of two X-Factor players to watch on defense this week is the Broncos leading tackler, linebacker Danny Trevathan. From the linebacker position, Trevathan really can stretch the field and contribute in all facets of the defensive game plan. He leads the team in tackles with 128, he has 2 quarterback sacks, and when Trevathan drops into coverage he has 10 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. Although he is an outside linebacker, Trevathan is the Bobby Wagner of the Denver defense. He commands the huddle and his play on the field makes him one of the best linebackers in the league. My second X-Factor player to watch on the Broncos defense is a man that may not produce the flashiest stat sheet come Sunday night but he has had recent familiarity and success playing against the Seahawks, linebacker Paris Lenon. Lenon played the Seahawks twice last season while with the Arizona Cardinals and he recorded the second most tackles among all Cardinals defenders in the first of those two meetings in 2012. Lenon will rotate at middle linebacker with Wesley Woodyard and I think Lenon can contribute significantly to the Broncos figuring out how to stop Marshawn Lynch.

Along with playing in the Super Bowl come the distractions of playing in the Super Bowl. Many football players would argue about the importance of having a routine and staying in a routine game after game, week after week. This week the routines and tendencies those players have throughout the season change dramatically. They may not be noteworthy to a lot of people but to the players it could mean the difference between winning and losing the game. The most notable routine that will be altered this week is the halftime break. For all other NFL games during the season, halftime is a mere 12 minutes long, giving teams a short time to make small in-game adjustments and giving players a quick rest before heading back to the field for the second half. At the Super Bowl, halftime is 30 minutes long, so while Bruno Mars is on the MetLife Stadium stage entertaining the fans in the stadium and those watching around the world on television, the players are in the locker room trying to stay loose for the second half. Too long of a break can wear players bodies down so it is necessary to be able to stay loose while taking the extra time for second half adjustments. The team that comes out strong at the beginning of the second half may have the upper hand for the rest of the game, regardless of what the halftime score is. This was apparent in last year’s Super Bowl even though the longer intermission in that game was for the Superdome power outage; after the blackout break, San Francisco came screaming back and almost won the game. Be sure to pay close attention to the first few minutes of the second half to get an idea of which team will have the fire power to close out the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: Whether you have been following my blog since the beginning or if you’ve just stumbled on my page looking for any kind of Super Bowl XLVIII literature, of course I start with uniforms. The nice thing about the Super Bowl is that the uniform combinations are announced well before game day. The Seahawks have been designated the road team and will wear their white jerseys with their navy blue pants. This is the same combination they wore when they played at MetLife Stadium in December. The Seahawks are 2-0 in this combination this season and 2-1 all-time. The Broncos will wear their orange jerseys and white pants as the designated home team… Terry McAulay is the referee for Super Bowl XLVIII. He was also the referee in the Seahawks divisional playoff win over New Orleans… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines. Curt Menefee will anchor 4 hours of pregame coverage on FOX along with the FOX NFL Sunday crew both from inside and outside the stadium… The national anthem will be sung by renowned opera singer Renee Fleming… The halftime show for Super Bowl XLVIII is Grammy award winner Bruno Mars. Personally this is the most anticipated Super Bowl halftime show in my lifetime mainly since I am a big fan of Mars’ music. The fact that I will be in attendance to see this halftime show live is the cherry on top of the cake… Game time temperature is supposed to be clear and in the low to mid 30’s; manageable but cold nonetheless. Time to break out the layers… I am nervous and excited about getting to the game. I will be taking a train from Penn Station in New York City to Secaucus Junction, then transferring to a shuttle train that takes us straight to the Meadowlands. It’s cheaper than alternative modes of transportation and will likely get me to the game faster than if I took said alternative modes of transportation… This week is going to be nuts in New York City. I have 5 and a half days to try to do so much stuff. It will be interesting to see how crowded the city is compared to any other day… I am sure to see celebrities galore and I will post my encounters and updates on Twitter @EricHansman as much as possible so be on the lookout for those… If we win on Sunday, IF we win on Sunday my hope is to celebrate in the heart of New York City with a cigar in my mouth and a glass of champagne in my hand. That would be an amazing feeling… We are almost at 200 days since the start of training camp. It is amazing to think what has taken place since. We are one win away from the Lombardi Trophy and a world championship. Win or lose, we had a fantastic season and we should not discount that at all if we come out on the short end of this. I promise you this, Seahawks fans may be outnumbered around town and at the Stadium on Sunday, but we will certainly be louder. Take it to the bank.

Prediction: *To start, keep in mind that the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than 7 points since November 6th, 2011.* In the first half, Percy Harvin will catch a touchdown pass from inside the redzone and Marshawn Lynch will also add a touchdown run. The Broncos will storm back with a quick touchdown drive capped off by a pass from Peyton Manning to Eric Decker. Matt Prater and Steven Hauschka will exchange field goals respectively in the second quarter; Hauschka’s coming in the final seconds of the first half. Halftime score: Seahawks 17, Broncos 10

In the second half the Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal before the Broncos have the 12th Man questioning the durability of our defense. A Manning pass to Julius Thomas will cut the Seahawks lead to 3. The Seahawks will once again exchange a series of field goals with the Broncos, the last of which coming with 4 minutes left to go in the game. In a hurry up offense with the Broncos down 26-20, Peyton Manning will drive to the Seahawks 40-yard line but the Seahawks defense will step up to produce the biggest play in franchise history. Chris Clemons will strip-sack Manning and Brandon Mebane will recover the fumble. The Seahawks will run out the clock and will win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Seahawks 26, Broncos 20

On the first day of training camp I posted the following status to Facebook:

“Never before has the anticipation for Seahawks football been so high. After the conclusion of last season, the moves made in the offseason, and each practice during OTA’s and minicamp, the expectations for this team placed by the media and the fans are at a “super bowl or bust” level. I am extremely confident in this team and I could not be more proud to call myself a member of the 12th Man. It all starts today. I have a feeling that this team is about to take all of us and this great city on a very special journey; a journey that we will not soon forget.”

As it turns out we HAVE made it to the Super Bowl and it HAS been a journey that we will never soon forget, which will be made even more memorable if we win on Sunday. Win or lose I am extremely proud of this team and to be a part of this amazing fan base.

To all of my friends and family know this: Even though you will not be joining me at MetLife Stadium physically, I will carry you with me in my mind and in my heart and I will surely scream my lungs out on behalf of everyone I know.

I will not have my computer with me in New York and I will not be home until late Tuesday night. I hope to have my Super Bowl review published by Wednesday night. Enjoy the Super Bowl everyone! Go Seahawks!

Saints/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

10 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) New Orleans Saints at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:35pm

The last time the Seattle Seahawks hosted a playoff game, Marshawn Lynch personified “Beast Mode,” Matt Hasselbeck broke a Seahawks franchise record for touchdown passes in a single playoff game, and the Seahawks won in perhaps the biggest upset in NFL Playoffs history. The opponent on that crisp January afternoon was the New Orleans Saints. On Saturday, the Seahawks hope to add the next chapter to the book of highly anticipated victories over the Saints. After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild-Card round, the Saints stamped their ticket to Seattle to play the Seahawks in an NFC Divisional playoff game. The winner of this game will play either the San Francisco 49ers or the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with New Orleans 7-6 and in their last meeting 6 weeks ago on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks annihilated the Saints 34-7 to take control of the top seed in the NFC. Although I personally believe that this is the best possible draw for the Seahawks in the Divisional round, this is NOT an automatic win by any means. This is what I will be looking for out of both teams on Saturday afternoon.

Even though Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was able to throw for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns on New Orleans back in week 13, the Saints still have the NFL’s second best pass defense, averaging 194 pass yards allowed per game. I expect to see the Seahawks come out and try to control the clock early in this game by running the ball. In their first meeting, the Seahawks ran the ball on 56% of their total plays. This week I think it is possible to see the Seahawks run the ball between 60% and 63% of their plays in order to control the clock and to keep Drew Brees and the Saints offense off the field. If Marshawn Lynch struggles early in the game I believe it would be better for the Seahawks to keep emphasizing the running game instead of panicking and having Russell Wilson throw, especially on first down. By running the ball, eating the clock by extending drives, and scoring on those drives, the Seahawks will be in good shape and the offense will be able to charge the 12th Man into staying loud when the Saints have the ball.

On defense this week the key to stopping the Saints from scoring is to do the exact same thing we did the last time we played; to make the New Orleans offense one dimensional. Stopping the run to make Drew Brees throw would be the stereotypically ideal way to minimize the Saints offensive attack but this week it is necessary to keep Brees from throwing in order to force the Saints to run the ball. I believe the Seahawks defense will be able to shut down Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram which will be extremely beneficial to the Seahawks but this is why I want to see the Seahawks prevent the Saints passing game. One stat that favors the Seahawks this week is the dramatic shift in the passing defenses Brees will face in back-to-back weeks. After facing the NFL’s worst rated passing defense last week, the Saints will face the top passing defense in the league this week. After putting up a season-low 147 yards passing against Seattle, Brees has bounced back nicely. In the final 4 weeks of the regular season and last week’s playoff game against Philadelphia, Brees has averaged 324 passing yards per game. He has also thrown 11 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions in this same span. Add the motivation of getting one more shot at the Seahawks and on paper, Brees is a weapon that the Seahawks must eliminate in order to be successful, just like they did in week 13.

New Orleans has the personnel on the offensive side of the ball to be successful. There is no questioning that. Drew Brees has the capability to make everyone around him better. In order for the Saints to be successful on offense this week, the offense needs to do something that they failed miserably at the first time around; they need to block much better. The Saints running game was a glaring weakness in week 13, as leading rusher Mark Ingram only ran for 22 yards. New Orleans only ran for 44 yards total in that game. Creating holes for Ingram to run through will keep the momentum of the game with New Orleans and the will be able to move the ball and keep the 12th Man quiet. In the passing game, the Saints will be in charge of stopping a Seahawks pass rush that will be charged up at home. There is one significant change in personnel from our last meeting to this week’s game. My X-Factor player to watch for the New Orleans Saints this week is left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead, a rookie lineman from Arkansas- Pine Bluff, will be starting just his fourth career game this week. Armstead made his NFL starting debut in week 16 following the benching of starter Charles Brown. In his 3 previous starts, Armstead has faced the defenses of the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Philadelphia Eagles. This week he will face arguably the toughest pass rushing group in the NFL while also playing in the league’s most hostile postseason environment. The Saints will need Armstead to step up as he faces the daunting task of protecting Drew Brees from Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin. I am also curious to see how Armstead handles the crowd noise this week, as rookie mistakes prior to the snap will put the Saints at a disadvantage trying to move the ball. If Armstead can successfully pass block for Brees, the Saints will have a much better day than they did 6 weeks ago.

A Public Service Announcement to Everyone Attending Saturday’s Game: There is a distinct difference in the stadium atmosphere between a regular season afternoon game and a regular season primetime game. There is an even greater difference in the stadium atmosphere between a regular season primetime game and a playoff game. When the Seahawks hosted the Washington Redskins in an NFC Divisional playoff game back in 2006 (2005 Super Bowl season), I distinctly remember that everyone (I mean EVERYONE) was at their seats at least 30 minutes prior to kickoff and no one in my section sat down for the duration of the game. I am hoping that the environment is the same this week. Everyone who is going, make sure to give yourself extra time to get into the stadium and in my opinion, be at your seats between 12:45pm and 1:00pm. Give 100% vocal participation when the Seahawks are on defense and wave your 12th Man flags (one of the confirmed giveaways) proudly and in unison to make a cool, spine-tingling sight. This, perhaps by default, will be the most exciting game of the season. Making sure you are early and loud will help make this game an experience that you will surely never forget.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week. My prediction is that the Saints will wear the same uniform combination they wore in Seattle last month; white jerseys and black pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines… As a late birthday present, it would be really cool to get a picture with Erin Andrews before the game. She didn’t respond to my tweet asking for a picture though. That won’t stop me from trying… Yes, my birthday was this past week and it is awesome if the calendar lines up right to where the Seahawks play in the playoffs on my birthday. It has happened twice before, the last time coming 3 years ago when we played the Saints… Terry McAulay is this week’s referee. It is possible that we could see McAulay in 3 weeks at Super Bowl XLVIII as well. It was announced this week that one of the 4 divisional playoff referees will earn the right to referee the Super Bowl… It is a mystery as to who will raise the 12th Man flag on Saturday but I might have an idea. In two of our previous home playoff games, the Seahawks have had current members of the team raise the flag; players that were hurt at the time of the playoffs (Ken Hamlin in 2005 and Marcus Trufant in 2006). If the Seahawks decide to go that route this week, I predict that K.J. Wright will raise the 12th Man flag… Here’s a stat that may come as reassuring to Seahawks fans. In the Seahawks 6 postseason games at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks have outscored their opponents by 50 points, going 5-1 in those games. The Seahawks also hold a +1 turnover differential in those 6 postseason home games (10-9)… The pregame starts early this week. Pregaming at the Nest starts at 8:30am before heading into the stadium a couple hours before kickoff… Good thing I sit undercover. The last weather forecast I saw called for a 100% chance of rain and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. Those conditions certainly would favor the Seahawks over a team that plays in a dome… Hopefully the Seahawks do something fun to pump the crowd up before introductions. They have played some sort of NFL Playoffs hype video in past home playoff games and they always get the crowd fired up… I will be screaming and streaming this week if you know what I mean. The Skittles might be gone but I think the NFL Playoffs calls for a new kind of touchdown celebration. Get ready #section340crew… We are one win away from the NFC Championship Game. Remember that on Saturday.

Prediction: Almost everyone in the national media has been talking this week about how the Seahawks won’t blow the Saints out just like they did last month. I agree with all their arguments but I still do not see how the Saints can come into CenturyLink Field in a playoff atmosphere and win. This game will be controlled by the Seahawks running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Percy Harvin will also be a difference maker, especially as a decoy receiver. Harvin will catch 3 passes while helping spring Golden Tate as the Seahawks leading receiver. The Seahawks defense will give up an early second half touchdown but will play a sound game overall. The Seahawks will win and they will get an extra day to rest as they wait for either San Francisco or Carolina.

Seahawks 29, Saints 17

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my Saints game review and potentially an early look at the NFC Championship Game next week. Enjoy the game everybody. We Are 12! Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Giants Preview

14 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants

Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

Kickoff: 10:00am

After failing to clinch the NFC West last week the Seahawks will have another chance to get the job done this week as they take on the New York Giants. The Seahawks are 11-2 while the Giants have struggled throughout this season. The Giants have a 5-8 record and with their loss last week to the San Diego Chargers, New York has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The Giants lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-6 but it was Seattle who was on the winning end of their last meeting; a 36-25 Seahawks victory over the eventual world champion Giants in New Jersey in 2011. Traveling across the country and playing in the 10am Pacific Time slot is always a difficult challenge for the Seahawks but the motivation of coming off a loss last week makes this Seahawks team a group no team would like to get in the way of. In order to take care of business this week this is what the Seahawks need to do, as well as what the Giants need to do in order to upset this Seattle team.

Playing sound defensive football, especially after allowing 19 points in a losing effort last week is the first thing I need to see out of the Seahawks this week. Earl Thomas made it known after last week’s game that the entire team felt angry because they let that game get away from them so I would expect the Seahawks defense to come out completely motivated and they will look to make big plays early. It may be hard for Eli Manning to make deep throws because of the Legion of Boom likely looking to take their anger out by playing a phenomenal game this week. My main focus is something that has been improving on a week-by-week basis and that is the interior pass rush. Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions with 20. The Legion of Boom will make the long passing game hard for Manning this week but if the Seahawks can be consistent rushing the passer this week Manning will surely be forced into making bad throws especially if the Giants are trailing. Brandon Mebane and Clinton McDonald are two Seahawks defenders to watch this week. Mebane is overdue to get involved in the sack department since he has not recorded a sack yet this season, and McDonald was able to make Colin Kaepernick uncomfortable last week, sacking him once. Add effectiveness from Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin as well and the Seahawks defense will spend a good chunk of game clock on the sidelines while they watch the offense work.

Last week against San Francisco Marshawn Lynch ran for 72 yards and a touchdown. Lynch has not run for more than 100 yards in a game since playing Atlanta in week 10 so this week it will be very important to keep feeding the beast. There should be a primary focus this week on the run not just because of Lynch but because of the weather forecast which is calling for potential snow during the game. The Giants defense has been improving each week and their passing defense now ranks in the top half of teams in the league in yards allowed per game. Although we will see Russell Wilson make plays this week I think Marshawn Lynch is due for perhaps his biggest workload of the season this week. A 100-plus yard rushing performance by Lynch could send the Seahawks well on their way to a victory this week. 25-30 carries is the range I expect to see Lynch get against the Giants.

Like I stated earlier, Giants quarterback Eli Manning ranks first in the NFL in interceptions thrown and this week poses a daunting challenge for Manning and the New York offense. In order for the Giants offense to be successful against the Seahawks this week I think Manning needs to play similarly to how Colin Kaepernick played the Seahawks last week; by going conservative. Out-routes will be Manning’s best friend this week and I anticipate that he will not try to test the Legion of Boom down the middle of the field, much like the way Kaepernick effectively played last week by throwing along the sidelines. Wide receiver Victor Cruz will be Manning’s most reliable target this week but also keep an eye out for Hakeem Nicks who caught 5 passes for 131 yards against San Diego last week because he may emerge as a dangerous sideline threat this week.

The New York Giants defense is a mystery to me as a unit this season. Although they are one of the older, more experienced defenses in the league they still have playoff caliber talent. Mental lapses, ineffectiveness, and injuries have doomed the Giants all season long. The Giants give up an average of 337 yards per game to opposing offenses and in their 8 losses they allow close to 34 points per game, certainly one of the worst averages among all NFL teams. Justin Tuck continues to be the most well-known and most productive defender New York has to offer. Tuck has recorded a team high 8.5 sacks this season but the lack of production by the rest of his defensive teammates allows opposing quarterbacks to stand in the pocket, make throws, and continue drives. Fundamental tackling and forcing Russell Wilson turnovers will help the Giants prevail with a win this week. Having said this, my X-Factor player to watch for the New York Giants this week is Safety Antrel Rolle. Rolle leads all Giants defenders in tackles with 79; about 6 per game. Rolle has also intercepted 5 passes which also leads all Giants in that category. Rolle has been New York’s best all-around player on defense this week and it will be important for him to tackle smart to prevent big gains of yardage and to fly around in the secondary, similarly to Earl Thomas, in order to confuse Russell Wilson and have a chance to take advantage of any potential Seattle offensive mistakes.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. Pant color has become a total crapshoot on the road but if I have to make a prediction, I say we will wear blue pants… The Giants will wear blue jerseys and I would not be surprised to see them wear their new white pants again this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the call for FOX this week and Erin Andrews will patrol the sidelines. It was just announced this week that the Burkhardt/Lynch/Andrews team has earned the right to call one of two NFC Divisional playoff games on FOX on either January 11th or 12th. Good for this team. I would agree that they deserve this opportunity. I have enjoyed their broadcasts on Seahawks road games this season… Expect all questionable calls to go against the Seahawks this week. That’s right friends you guessed it. The referee for this week’s game is Bill Leavy. You know, the guy who helped prevent us win our first Super Bowl 8 years ago. Yeah. That guy… My cousins are going to be at this weekend’s game. I’m jealous. Oh well, maybe I’ll get the chance to go to the next Seahawks game at MetLife Stadium!… This will be the first game of the season that I get to watch with my best friends/roommates from last year. That will be a lot of fun. Looking forward to it Jake, Alan, and Clayton… I would love to see it snow during this week’s game. Not like the Detroit/Philadelphia game from last week but a light dusting would do for me… It’s really cool to think that if things go as planned in the coming weeks this will be the last Seahawks road trip until Super Bowl XLVIII should we make it. Let’s take care of business this week so we can maintain the wiggle room to clinch sooner rather than later. I do not want to see us lose, essentially thrusting our final two games into must-win games.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and a first round bye with a win over the Giants and a 49ers loss to Tampa Bay. The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Giants, a 49ers loss to Tampa Bay, and a Saints loss to St. Louis. Here are this week’s games to watch that could affect the entire NFC Playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Seattle (11-2) at New York Giants (5-8)

San Francisco (9-4) at Tampa Bay (4-9)

New Orleans (10-3) at St. Louis (5-8)

Philadelphia (8-5) at Minnesota (3-9-1)

Chicago (7-6) at Cleveland (4-9)

New York Jets (6-7) at Carolina (9-4)

Green Bay (6-6-1) at Dallas (7-6)

Arizona (8-5) at Tennessee (5-8)

Baltimore (7-6) at Detroit (7-6)

Prediction: There is a sense of urgency and the team knows it. They let last week slip away and I believe that this week they will not let the Giants get anything going to start. The Seahawks will build a lead and although New York may make it close, this game will be the Seahawks game to lose. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns and Kam Chancellor will force a fumble which will be recovered by Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks will win but with a predicted San Francisco win, the Seahawks will have to wait one more week to clinch the NFC West at home against Arizona.

Seahawks 26, Giants 17

Check back late Sunday night/early Monday morning for my Giants review. Thanks for reading and Go Seahawks!

Review: 49ers 19, Seahawks 17

9 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Although the NFC West championship and home field advantage is still all but certain, if for any reason we completely fall apart and miss out on either of these two scenarios this is the game the Seahawks and their fans will look back on as the turning point in the season. The Seahawks 7 game losing streak has come to an end and our quest for the division title must wait at least one more week as the Seahawks fell to the San Francisco 49ers 19-17 on Sunday. The Seahawks fall to 11-2 and now lead the 9-4 49ers by 2 games in the NFC West. There are a lot of frustrating moments that may have ultimately changed the outcome of the game. This is what I saw.

2nd Half Defense Does its Part: Over the past couple of seasons the Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the league when it comes to halftime adjustments and improvements. The defense stepped up and shut down the 49ers offense in the second half, holding them to only 3 points (for the sake of this section, forget those points were the ultimate difference in the game). The defensive pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was cranked up as Clinton McDonald and Chris Clemons each recorded a crucial sack on third down plays in the fourth quarter. Byron Maxwell once again stepped up in place of Walter Thurmond, recording 5 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and an interception. Overall the Seahawks defense only allowed 19 points to a solid 49ers offense which should be enough in order to win. Unfortunately the Seahawks failed to get any momentum going on offense to parallel the effort of the defense.

2nd Half Offense Fails to Show: When I went to Houston back in September the Seahawks were down by 17 points at halftime. Although I was surprised and disappointed I never gave up hope that the Seahawks could comeback because prior to that game they had proven that they could come back facing a deficit of at least 20 points. The Seahawks trailed the 49ers by 2 points at halftime and my overall feeling was that Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson would make the necessary adjustments for the offense to comeback, take the lead, and potentially blow this game wide open. That never happened. The Seahawks only scored 3 points of their own in the second half and missed opportunities denied Seattle the chance to extend drives and perhaps put points on the board. Marshawn Lynch only ran for 72 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and it felt as though the Seahawks number one priority this week was to move the ball through the air even though Russell Wilson only threw the ball 25 times for 199 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. I give lots of credit to the San Francisco secondary, especially cornerback Tramaine Brock and safety Eric Reid for their impressive blanket coverage on all Seahawks receivers. As the game went along the belief remained that the Seahawks would make a run at taking control of the game because I knew they could but as the minutes ticked off the clock the worse our chances became and by the time we got the ball back for our final drive it was too little too late and the clock had struck midnight.

Penalties Doom Seahawks: While watching Sunday NFL Countdown on ESPN in my hotel room prior to leaving for Candlestick Park, one analyst boldly predicted that this week’s Seahawks/49ers game would break an NFL record for most number of penalties in a single game. It sure felt like he was right but the calls that went against the Seahawks came at the worst times. Instead of extending drives, penalties backed the Seahawks so far back that the drives predictably stalled and the Seahawks were forced to punt, trading potential points for goose-eggs and a change of possession. In a nutshell, I strongly believe that the 49ers did not beat the Seahawks but that the Seahawks beat the Seahawks. Two Marshawn Lynch first down runs were called back for holding, a long completion to Golden Tate was called back for offensive pass interference because Tate pushed off of his defender, and on a 4th and 5 while in punt formation it appeared that a 49er defender jumped offside, which caused the Seahawks to point towards the other side of the line of scrimmage. Instead of a 5-yard offsides penalty and an automatic first down, it was ruled a false start and the Seahawks backed up 5 yards. In total, the Seahawks committed 9 penalties for 85 yards. About half of those penalty yards came on long, potential game altering plays.

The Gamble and the Two Plays that Changed the Game: After the Seahawks took a 17-16 lead the 49ers got the ball back with 6:20 left in the game. The Seahawks had two timeouts to work with and with the way the defense had been playing, I felt that it was entirely possible that we could force a quick drive and get the ball back to attempt to pad our lead. Instead, the 49ers gave the ball to running back Frank Gore who galloped 51 yards on the fourth play of the drive and all of a sudden the 49ers went from having the ball in their own territory to having the ball in the red zone, well within field goal range. After Kendall Hunter ran for one yard on the next play coach Carroll decided to take our second timeout and it was clear how he was going to play the end of the game; use both timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the 49ers with enough time to allow them to kick a field goal and for us to go down the field into field goal range for Steven Hauschka to win the game. Carroll used the Seahawks final timeout after a 2-yard run by Gore and all the Seahawks needed to do was stop San Francisco to set up a 49ers field goal with 2:00 left. Instead Carroll’s gamble backfired and the Seahawks allowed the second most important play of the game; a first down scramble by Kaepernick to give San Francisco a fresh set of downs and the ability to run the clock down under a minute, kick a field goal, and leave the Seahawks virtually no time to go down the field and score. If I was Pete Carroll I would have waited to use our timeouts after the two minute warning which would have given us about one extra minute of game clock. I do not blame Carroll for the decision he made because he had trust in a unit that had not given up any points in the second half up until this point in the game. Unfortunately it nipped the Seahawks in the bud.

49ers Played Like They Wanted it More: On Saturday night, Mitch Levy of Sports Radio 950 KJR tweeted that the attitudes and body language of 49ers players in interviews leading up to this week’s game showed a team that was uptight; so uptight that, as Levy stated “you can’t get a blade of grass up their asses.” San Francisco sure did not play like that at all. The 49ers came out firing with full confidence and I got the sense that they did a remarkable job preparing for what the Seahawks were going to throw at them on both sides of the ball.  They fed off the energy of their home crowd and scoring 16 points in the first half alone gave their defense extreme confidence to shut the Seahawks offense down. The 49ers did not play as an uptight team, but as a team that had a “we have nothing to lose” mentality when in reality this was a game they definitely needed to win to continue to control their own destiny in the NFC wild-card race.

Injury Analysis: Linebacker K.J. Wright broke a bone in his foot on Sunday and there is an estimated recovery time of at least six weeks. If that is the case, Wright could make it back in time to play in Super Bowl XLVIII should the Seahawks make it. Wright however remains hopeful that he will be healthy enough to return in time for the start of the playoffs, as was portrayed on his Twitter shortly after Sunday’s game. Max Unger and Jeron Johnson also exited the game this week and both did not return. Unger is dealing with a strained pectoral muscle and Johnson pulled a hamstring. To my knowledge their statuses for next week against the New York Giants is unknown. Losing Wright, a starter on defense, hurts but Malcolm Smith stepped in for Wright and did a good job. Unger is the man I would be the most worried about. Unger is the anchor of the offensive line and if the Seahawks are going to be without him for any length of time, we may see shades of the Seahawks teams that struggled against St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

Thoughts on San Francisco: The 49ers looked like a team that could make the playoffs as a wild-card and make a run deep into the playoffs, assuming of course that they do not run into Seattle along that road. The defense played a really good football game and if Frank Gore is feeling it he is extremely hard to stop. The addition of Michael Crabtree back into the lineup also adds firing power to the cannon of Colin Kaepernick. If the 49ers have to come to Seattle in the playoffs they will most likely lose but I would not be surprised to see the 49ers make it to at least the divisional round if not the NFC Championship Game if they are able to play like they did on Sunday.

Random Thoughts: All of my random thoughts will come in an in-depth feature post on my entire weekend trip to San Francisco. I hope to have that post published by mid-week. Stay tuned!

In addition to “Weekend in San Francisco 2013” post in the middle of this week, make sure to check back on Saturday as I preview next week’s matchup with the New York Giants. Go Hawks!