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Rams/Seahawks Preview

28 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After losing to the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Seattle Seahawks have a third and final chance to clinch the NFC West division title and home field advantage throughout the playoffs this week against the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks come into this week’s game at 12-3 after last week’s loss and the Rams enter Seattle having won 4 of their last 6 games. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 19-12 and have won the last two games including a 14-9 win in week 8 in St. Louis on Monday Night Football. It is also noteworthy to point out that the Rams currently have an 8-game losing streak in Seattle. Their last win at CenturyLink Field came on January 8th, 2005 in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. This week’s game has become the biggest game of the season and I expect and anticipate a playoff-type atmosphere on Sunday. This is what will be in the way and what the Seahawks must do to be the 2013 NFC West champions.

Forget about how well the defense played. Forget about the bad calls that went against us. The primary reason why we were unable to win and clinch last week was the inept play by the Seahawks offense. Protecting quarterback Russell Wilson is by far the most important thing the Seahawks must do in order to be successful this week. J.R. Sweezy has been practicing this week and it is logical to believe he will be back starting at right guard, adding stability to a position that was a brutal weakness last week with Michael Bowie filling in. As important as the running game will be with Marshawn Lynch this week, it is the Seahawks passing game that will need to step up to move the ball in chunks, extend drives, and get into scoring range on a more consistent basis. Last week Arizona forced 7 Seahawks three-and-outs, which was a significant factor in Arizona being able to control the clock and tire our defense out. If the Seahawks offensive line does a sub-par job protecting Wilson, look for the Seahawks to utilize a screen pass package that could feature Golden Tate on bubble screens and Marshawn Lynch on conventional screens out of the backfield.

The Seahawks defense has not allowed more than 20 points in a game since before the bye week. This week, in an effort to improve exposed aspects of our defensive game plan last week, it is imperative that the Seahawks must be able to stop Rams running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has been on a tear as of late, running for 133 yards and 104 yards in the last two weeks respectively. Stacy also ran for his season high 134 rushing yards against the Seahawks back in October. Although St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens has been playing decent football since starting quarterback Sam Bradford got hurt that does not diminish the fact that Clemens will have to play in front of a revved up 12th Man that will be at full roar on Sunday hoping to boost the Seahawks into the division title. The Seahawks have intercepted 9 passes in their last two games and putting pressure on Clemens could significantly up that number this week. This is why Stacy becomes such a viable weapon for St. Louis and by eliminating Stacy’s production and forcing Kellen Clemens to throw will give the Seahawks a tremendous advantage this week. Look for the Seahawks pass rush to also make an impact on the left side of the Rams offensive line, as starting left tackle Jake Long is out for the season. Rodger Saffold will start in place of Long this week.

The last time these two teams played, the St. Louis Rams defense did a surprisingly incredible job of shutting down a Seahawks offense that had been rolling in their previous few games. It was this game that the Seahawks were unfortunately introduced to defensive end Robert Quinn. Quinn is currently the NFL leader in sacks with 18, racking up 5 sacks in his last two games, thus he comes into Seattle very hot. The way the Rams control this game is to make life miserable for Russell Wilson. And the way Seattle blocked against Arizona will not cut it this week as the Rams pass rush may be one of the league’s best right now. The Rams like to use pressure early and they will use packages that include Quinn, defensive end Chris Long, defensive end William Hayes, and defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Quinn will be the primary focus of the Seahawks offensive line and it would not surprise me to see Quinn line up at defensive tackle to try to penetrate the soft spots in the Seahawks offensive line. Double teaming Robert Quinn will be necessary at times but being able to harness the rest of the Rams pass rushers will make it easier for the Seahawks to take care of Quinn.

On offense for the Rams there will be a gigantic emphasis on the running game because St. Louis averages less than 200 passing yards per game this season. If the running game cannot pick up steam, quarterback Kellen Clemens will be forced to throw. Much like how I think Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense can effectively run screen passes this week, I think the same goes for the Rams. Kellen Clemens does not want to throw into the Legion of Boom and being able to play conservatively in the passing game could benefit the Rams offense overall. Using screen passes could be the best way to move the ball through the air this week and my X-Factor player to watch this week is a man who has suddenly become Clemens’s most popular target; wide receiver Stedman Bailey. Bailey is a rookie wide receiver from West Virginia and was taken two rounds after his college teammate Tavon Austin was also taken by St. Louis. With a season-ending injury to Austin, Bailey has seen significant playing time and has seen an increasing number of targets over the past 4 weeks. Last week Bailey led all Rams receivers in targets with 5, catching 3 of them for 44 yards. Bailey is short yet quick and I consider him a possible Doug Baldwin/Golden Tate hybrid. Using Bailey in the quick passing game is what I will look for this week while the Rams are on offense. If the Rams decide to throw bubble screens, expect Bailey to be the top target on the outside.

Like I previously stated earlier in this post, after last week’s loss the sense of urgency this week has blossomed from easy comfort to overblown panic. To all of the fans, especially those attending this week’s game, I remind you that we still control our own destiny but the Seahawks need us to do our part now more than ever. The 12th Man needs to enter CenturyLink Field on Sunday with the belief that this is a playoff game. I expect an extremely loud atmosphere (even for a Sunday afternoon game) that will make St. Louis struggle as badly as San Francisco and New Orleans did in primetime atmospheres. Plain and simple, this is a playoff game. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare during pregame and cheer and yell like it is a playoff game.

Random Thoughts: This week’s game theme is fan appreciation and the Seahawks will be giving away tons of prizes throughout the game. I haven’t won anything on fan appreciation day since 2008… Last season the Seahawks chose 60 season ticket holders randomly to be on the field for player introductions. If they are doing it again this year I didn’t get picked. Oh well… The Seahawks will wear all blue this week and the Rams will likely wear white jerseys and white pants… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan will broadcast their final Seahawks game of the season this week on FOX… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee. Triplette’s crew has been rather controversial this year. In a Sunday night game between the Giants and the Redskins a few weeks ago, Triplette’s crew incorrectly told Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that they moved the chains for a first down but they really had not gained enough yards for a first down. The Redskins could not convert and the Giants won the game… This week I am taking my sister to a Seahawks game for the first time since her birthday in 2008. This is also the first time I’ve taken a family member other than my Dad to a game since then. She recently turned 21 so I will be able to show her what a normal gameday is like when I take my friends. Pregame at the Hawks Nest Bar starts at 9am… Shortly after the afternoon slate of games the NFL usually releases the schedule for both Wild-Card weekend and Divisional weekend. The Seahawks will likely know what day and what time they play their first playoff game by 5pm Sunday night. Congratulations to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas for being named to this year’s Pro Bowl and congratulations to Russell Okung, Golden Tate, and Steven Hauschka for being named Pro Bowl alternates. However, hopefully they trade their trip to Hawaii for a trip to New York to play in the Super Bowl instead.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As we enter the final week of the regular season there are 3 scenarios that could determine the Seahawks road to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Scenario #1: A Seahawks win clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #2: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers loss to Arizona clinches the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs.

Scenario #3: A Seahawks loss and a 49ers win over Arizona clinches the NFC West for San Francisco; the Seahawks would be the #5 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

The NFC North and NFC East division titles will be decided by win-or-go-home games that will determine who will be the #3 and #4 seeds.

The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South and the #2 seed with a win over Atlanta. The New Orleans Saints can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tampa Bay. New Orleans wins the NFC South with a win and a Carolina loss.

Here are this week’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3)

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11)

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5)

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7)

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5)

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7)

Prediction: This game will feature shades of our first game against St. Louis and last week’s game against Arizona. The Seahawks offense will struggle to get going and the Rams will have the lead at halftime. A couple of big gains in the passing game and a touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch from just outside the goal line will give the Seahawks a late lead. The defense will play a consistent game throughout the day and they will step up when we need them to the most. The Rams will need to put together a touchdown drive in the final minutes to win the game but Richard Sherman will pick off Kellen Clemens, giving the Seahawks the win, the NFC West title, and home field advantage.

Seahawks 21, Rams 16

Check back for my Rams/Seahawks review as well as a brief outlook on the start of the NFL Playoffs on Sunday night. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

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Review: Seahawks 14, Rams 9

29 Oct
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Three hours of stress was relieved when the Seahawks defense held the Rams offense on the Seattle 1-yard line with 4 seconds left as the Seahawks escaped on the road once again. This week, an ugly and frustrating 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams. As ugly as this game was we got out of there injury-free and with the win. It’s over 12th Man. No need to worry about what-if’s or should-have’s. Regardless of how it looked the Seahawks improve to 7-1 and continue to hold a one game lead over San Francisco for first place in the NFC West. The Rams fall to 3-5 and are in last place in the division. There is a lot to discuss after this one. Here are my thoughts.

Back to the Drawing Board (Offensive Line): After how they played on Monday night, if I was Paul McQuistan or Michael Bowie I would be seriously worried about my short-term job security. McQuistan and Bowie alone allowed 6 of the Rams 7 sacks of quarterback Russell Wilson. These sacks developed because Rams defensive linemen Chris Long and Robert Quinn had the speed to simply run around the edge and collapse the pocket within a split-second. Russell Wilson had no time to throw and after his first 20 plays, only one was not considered to be either a quarterback pressure or a sack. It was a way worse performance than the first half in Houston. I was in Houston and trust me, if you think that game looked bad this one looked way worse. If I am the Seahawks I think I would at least consider starting Alvin Bailey in place of Bowie next week. McQuistan is stuck at left tackle until Russell Okung comes back in a few weeks. One more thing that must happen is for the Seahawks not to panic by trying to rush Breno Giacomini back on the field. We can survive (sometimes barely) without him over the next couple weeks but our offense will improve once we get healthy.

Back to the Drawing Board (Run Defense): Zac Stacy recorded his first 100+ yard rushing performance of the season and the Seahawks run defense allowed 200 total rushing yards to the Rams on Monday night. It was my belief that with Kellen Clemens at quarterback the Rams would try to keep the ball on the ground to take the pressure off the passing game and it worked. Between Stacy, Clemens, Daryl Richardson, and Chris Givens, the Rams averaged 5.4 yards per carry; a 2-yard improvement of their YPC average in their previous games. If it wasn’t for solid defense deep in our territory the Rams would have traded their field goals for touchdowns and we would have lost. This performance by our defense left me scratching my head because their inability to stop the Rams on the ground was very abnormal and uncharacteristic of a unit that came into Monday night as the 5th best run defense in the league. With a home game coming up and facing a backup running back, the Seahawks defense will have a great chance to reboot and get back to the way they are used to playing.

Turnover Battle Has Minimal Impact: The Seahawks won the turnover battle 2-0 and we wound up winning the game but did winning the turnover battle have as big of impact on the outcome of this game as our other wins? Not really in my eyes. Our two turnovers were interceptions by Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman. In the two offensive drives following those interceptions, the Seahawks could only score 7 total points. Those points did determine the outcome of the game but considering that the Seahawks were only 2/11 on third down and recorded 6 offensive three-and-outs the frustration of our offense throughout the game seemed to negate those much-needed turnovers. On the other side the Seahawks did not turn the ball over in this game and that also helped in keeping the Rams to only 9 points. Regardless of our offensive line play, turning turnovers into points on our next offensive possessions could have blown this game wide open and the Seahawks could have given themselves some breathing room heading into the waning minutes of the game.

Penalties Become a Problem Again: Some penalties were inopportune and were simply bad calls. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 83 yards and two of these penalties grabbed my attention because they extended St. Louis drives and turned into points for the Rams. The first occurred late in the third quarter. It was a holding call on Brandon Browner on a 3rd and 17. The penalty gave St. Louis an automatic first down and Greg Zuerlein ended the drive with a 27-yard field goal with 12:51 left in the game. The second penalty was a personal foul on K.J. Wright that was considered a hit on a defenseless receiver (even though I don’t believe it was). Wright’s shoulder pad made slight contact with Austin Pettis’s facemask and the Rams were rewarded an automatic first down. Fortunately the drive stalled when Zuerlein missed a 50-yard field goal wide right. I thought that the Seahawks had fixed their penalty problems after the first couple of games but Seattle seemed to relapse against St. Louis. We need to make penalties and smart play a point of emphasis this week in practice because we need to clean this up. We may have won this week but in order to give us a better and less stressful chance to win it will surely help to play mistake-free football in the coming weeks.

Grow Up, Golden: On Golden Tate’s 80-yard touchdown catch he taunted the Rams secondary by waving safety Rodney McLeod with about 25 yards left to run. Tate was told by Coach Carroll on the sideline that we are better people than that and that taunting is unacceptable. After the game Tate admitted his mistake while calling himself and the action “immature.” I understand the “heat of the moment” excuse but I agree with Carroll in that there is no place for that on the field. Tate is not Deion Sanders or even Terrell Owens. I remember an interview NFL Network conducted with Andrew Luck before the 2012 season while touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The visit made Luck take a step back and realize that he is “just a scrub rookie quarterback who hasn’t accomplished squat” so far in the league. In my opinion Tate has not earned the right to show off in the fashion he did on Monday night. Maybe he needs to take a step back much like Luck did and realize that there are much more important parts of being an NFL player than being flashy. He attracted mass amounts of negative attention from people around the league and he will lose the respect of those people if he keeps up this kind of behavior. I am a believer that Tate will not let this happen again and keep the emotions to himself when he makes a game-altering play moving forward.

Rams Pass Offense Goes Conservative: A little earlier I noted that I thought the Rams would try to keep the ball on the ground to take the pressure off Kellen Clemens, which they did effectively. The Rams passing game also played conservative just like I thought they would. Kellen Clemens did not throw a pass that traveled more than 20 feet in the air. He took advantage of Seattle’s oftentimes soft zone coverage and was able to pick up moderate chunks of yardage that wound up extending drives. Clemens ended the night 15/31 for 158 yards along with his 2 interceptions. Clemens did not do anything flashy and overly spectacular and quite frankly he didn’t need to. His conservative play nearly won the game for St. Louis. Clemens’s play reminded me a lot of how Alex Smith plays quarterback in Kansas City. It might be beneficial for the Rams and Clemens to open up the playbook a little bit because if they do and are effective they could win a few more games, especially the way their defense is playing.

Thoughts on St. Louis: Overall the Rams did not look anything like the team that lost badly to Carolina in week 7. Without Sam Bradford the Rams may be stuck in mediocrity for the rest of the season but their defense is impressive and their pass rush is scary good. Making a playoff push may not be likely this season but just like they were projected by some to challenge for a playoff berth this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar hype surrounding this team to start the 2014 season.

Random Thoughts: I must say I am disappointed that on the Rams last drive of the game that the Seahawks defense did not blitz as much as I thought they should. In those kinds of situations I think you should be sending the dogs on all-out blitzes to either sack the quarterback or try to force him into committing a turnover. If I were Dan Quinn I would have definitely put extreme pressure on Clemens on that last drive… Right at the end of “Monday Night Countdown” ESPN’s Suzy Kolber stated that there were more Seahawks fans in attendance than Rams fans. Props to everyone who flew down from Seattle for yet another strong showing on the road… Game 5 of the World Series ended at the start of the 4th quarter. I was worried some St. Louis Cardinals fans would walk over to the Seahawks/Rams games in the final quarter and would give the Rams more of a home-field advantage down the stretch. Luckily that factor did not seem to make much of a difference… I heard through Twitter and television that the Rams were offering free hot dogs and 2 for 1 beers at the game. Too bad I wasn’t there because I would have definitely taken advantage of that promotion… Was it just me or did Jon Gruden make the broadcast kind of awkward?… Let me tell you barbeque pulled pork marinated with root beer in a crockpot is one delicious recipe. I highly recommend it… I recommend everyone go listen to Eminem’s new song “The Monster.” You’ll understand why I mention it once you hear it… The Seahawks have won more regular season road games so far this season than they did all of last season. The Seahawks can be no worse than 4-4 on the road this season and I have my sights on at least a 6-2 record on the road this season… Our reward for winning these road games is getting to play at home in January… Taking the rest of the season one game at a time may be difficult challenge with the possibility of home-field advantage looking us square in the face… It will be nice to get back to CenturyLink Field this week. Half of our season is in the books and 5 of our remaining 8 games are at home. That makes us one of the most dangerous teams in the league going forward. Don’t doubt that.

Monday afternoon I surpassed 20,000 all-time views on this blog. Thank you for everyone for reading. I appreciate all the comments and feedback. Look for my preview of our week 9 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday morning. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 20, Rams 13

31 Dec

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Well it wasn’t the prettiest game but the Seahawks got the job done. Seattle defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-13 in the regular season and home finale on Sunday. The Seahawks finish the regular season 11-5 and finish 8-0 at home for the first time since 2005. The Rams fall to 7-8-1 and finish in third place in the NFC West this season. The game was very close throughout and to be honest I left the stadium more frustrated and worried than happy that we won. I am looking at the pros and cons of this game and trying to shed some light on what needs to change against Washington next week. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s victory.

Sweezy’s Struggles: The Rams out-sacked the Seahawks 6-0 on Sunday and a lot of the Rams success getting to quarterback Russell Wilson came up the middle. At least four of their sacks came after dominating Seahawks right guard J.R. Sweezy. One of the guys who sits in front of me got my attention that St. Louis was using Chris Long in designed interior pass rushes, predominantly against Sweezy. Sweezy struggled throughout the majority of the game and Russell Wilson was under constant pressure. If Sweezy is slated to start next week against the Redskins, I am very scared that London Fletcher will be able to exploit the sub-par play of J.R. Sweezy. The Seahawks offensive line has not looked this perplexed all season and for the majority of this game they looked like the Seahawks offensive lines of 2008 and 2009 where they could not get the running game going and supply enough time for the quarterback to throw. I hope that John Moffitt will be available next week to start at the right guard spot. If Sweezy gets the start again next week, the Seahawks may have a difficult time moving the ball and scoring points.

Wilson Ties Manning: With Russell Wilson’s touchdown pass to Michael Robinson in the third quarter, he tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes by a rookie with 25. As incredible of an accomplishment as this is, it is too bad because Wilson had a chance to break Manning’s record. On the Seahawks final scoring drive of the game with less than three minutes left, the Seahawks had the ball on the St. Louis 1-yard line. Wilson ran a play-action fake and scrambled to the left into the endzone for the touchdown. Before crossing into the endzone he pumped because he saw Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin both covered so he decided to run it in. You could tell Russell wanted the record but settled for the rush touchdown when no passing options were available. I for one would have liked to see a touchdown pass. I can guarantee Wilson thought the same way but at the end of the day Wilson ran it in, gave the Seahawks a 7 point lead and held on to win the game, which is much better than any individual accolade.

Defense Needs To Improve Drastically: The Seahawks put virtually no pressure on Sam Bradford until the final drive of the game. The Rams also did a good job converting third downs and Steven Jackson was able to bust out for some significantly good sized runs. The silver lining of the day is that we only gave up 13 points and we were able to stop two St. Louis drives inside the 5-yard line and the Rams had to settle for Greg Zuerlein field goals. Next week the Seahawks cannot afford to have a defensive performance like they did today because the Redskins will rip us apart in the running game. I was hoping to see Bruce Irvin get more involved but he was a non-factor. The stars of the game on defense belong to Bobby Wagner for recording 10 tackles and Richard Sherman who picked off his 8th pass of the season. Sherman becomes the first player in NFL history to have 8 interceptions, three forced fumbles, one sack, and 20 passes defensed in a single season. If the Seahawks do not make it to Super Bowl XLVII, I fully expect Sherman to make the NFC pro bowl roster because those numbers are definitely worthy of a trip to Hawaii.

Rams Show Potential For The Future: Although the Rams finish with a losing record once again, they have quietly shown flashes of what NFL fans should expect out of them in the coming years. In 2013 Jeff Fisher will be in his second year in St. Louis and will have had more time to put together the roster he wants to build. The Rams have two first round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft and the young nucleus they have on both sides of the ball will continue to get better. In particular I look at the way their offensive line played in a hostile environment today and I think they will make Sam Bradford a pro bowl caliber quarterback very soon. Steven Jackson’s contract status is up in the air and it would not be surprising to see Jackson and the Rams part ways after the season. With Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead in the backfield the Rams may be looking at a couple of rising stars. On defense, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Cortland Finnegan, and the emerging Janoris Jenkins look like a solid core of defensive players. If they can add another big-time player on the defensive side of the ball over the offseason, St. Louis could challenge for a playoff spot. The Rams proved this year that they can compete against all the teams in the NFC West and were only a couple of losses away from being contenders for the playoffs this year. I still think Seattle and San Francisco are the royalty of the division but the St. Louis Rams could be serious contenders for at least a wild-card berth as soon as next season.

Random Thoughts: I believe the Seahawks were screwed out of 14 points this week. I did not see holding on Anthony McCoy on Zach Miller’s touchdown pass in the second quarter and I thought the 44-yard pass to Doug Baldwin in the fourth quarter should have stood because I did not see holding on the play by Breno Giacomini. The officiating as a whole was not very good this week. Shame on you Jeff Triplette… The Seahawks wore blue jerseys and blue pants this week… Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid rose the 12th Man flag this week… Russell Wilson was presented with the 2012 Steve Largent Award. My guess is that he will be a repeat winner no question about it… I was extremely disappointed about the level of excitement in the stands this week. I noted at halftime on Facebook that it felt like the intensity level was less than half of what it was last week against San Francisco. There were possible scenarios out of our control that could have given us a higher seed and a division championship if we had won. That alone should have been enough motivation for the fans to go all out but overall the noise was abnormally now. Very disappointing… I underdressed for the first time this season. I should have worn another coat under my jersey, worn gloves, and brought hand warmers. Either those things or maybe I should have drank more to get a warm beer belly going… The pregame giveaway was ponchos. What a ridiculous giveaway especially on a day where the skies were clear. I bought Mark, one of the guys who sits in front of me, a beer before the game as a token of appreciation for dealing with the behavior of my guest last week. He was extremely grateful… Good news. Mark and his friend Mike renewed their seats for the 2013 season so I will be sitting behind them for a fourth straight year which will be fun… All the season ticket holders around me made a promise that we would be back in three weeks for the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s all pray we will play for a trip to the Super Bowl at home against Minnesota!

Up Next: With San Francisco’s win over Arizona, the Seahawks are locked in to the 5th seed in the NFC. They head to the nation’s capital next week to take on the NFC East champion Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon.

I hope to have my preview of the Seahawks wild-card playoff game against Washington up by late Saturday morning. Also, don’t be surprised to see me hop on the blog later on in the week to share my thoughts about practice leading up to next week’s game. Go Hawks!

Rams/Seahawks Preview

29 Dec

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Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks are on a roll. There is no denying that. After winning their last 4 games by a combined score of 173-47, the Seahawks look to continue their impressive streak before heading into the NFL playoffs. To wrap up the regular season the Seahawks host the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks are 10-5 and are trying to get to 11 wins for the first time since they won 13 games in 2005. The Rams are 7-7-1 and a win this week would solidify their first winning season since 2003. This is the last regular season game of the season and there are a lot of different playoff scenarios in play on Sunday that will determine where the Seahawks will play in January. For now however, our focus is on St. Louis and this is what I’ll be looking forward to this Sunday.

After putting up at least 42 points in each of our last three games, I have no worry that our offense will be firing on all cylinders especially at home this week. Our main focus should be to keep our guys healthy for the postseason. Russell Wilson is two touchdown passes away from breaking the NFL record for most touchdown passes by a rookie, set by Peyton Manning in 1998. If Wilson breaks the record and the Seahawks are up by a substantial margin by the end of the third quarter, we will see Matt Flynn get some playing time in order to keep Wilson fresh for January. The same goes for Marshawn Lynch. I think we will see a good amount of Robert Turbin at running back this week. Keeping the offense healthy is the most important along the offensive line. Four of our five offensive linemen have started every game this season and having one or more of them get hurt one week before the playoffs would be a major blow. My player to watch this week is Doug Baldwin. He caught two touchdowns last week against San Francisco and he is seeing more playing time. With Sidney Rice nursing a knee injury and the playoffs right around the corner, we might see more of our depth at receiver which includes Baldwin.

At home the defense is always dominant. Against a solid but average St. Louis offensive line it is very real to think we can put a large amount of pressure on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Richard Sherman will be available this week after winning his appeal for performance enhancing drugs and his presence gives the Seahawks defense a confidence boost and his swagger and positive attitude seems to have a reverberating effect on the rest of the defense. My guy to watch on defense this week is Bruce Irvin. On an episode of Michael Robinson’s “Real Robinson Report” from rookie mini-camp in May, Irvin was asked how many sacks he would have in 2012. “I won’t give a specific number because I don’t want to jinx myself but I will say it will be at least double digits” was Irvin’s answer to the question. With one game left in the regular season Irvin sits at 8 sacks, two away from his preseason prediction and goal. Irvin will be especially hungry this week in order to reach double digit sacks. I would expect to see a lot of him this week and a lot more of him on first and second down. Irvin has three games this season with two sacks or more; his last coming in week 10 at home against the New York Jets so it is a definite possibility he will get to 10 sacks on the season this week.

It is hard to predict special teams plays but last week Red Bryant and Richard Sherman made a blocked field goal and touchdown return look easy. I would not be surprised at all to see something big happen in the special teams game this week. If this is to happen, look at pro bowler Leon Washington. Washington has only one kick returned for a touchdown this season but the Rams have had a history of special teams blunders in Seattle, most recently a blocked punt returned for a touchdown last season; blocked by Doug Baldwin, returned by Michael Robinson. Washington could be a dark horse factor this week and field position will be very important for both teams in this game.

Although the St. Louis Rams are 7-7-1 they have one big consistent strength this season. That is their play against NFC West opponents. The Rams have a 4-0-1 record against NFC West rivals this year and although they haven’t been dominant, the consistent factor in these games has been the play of their defense. The X-factor for St. Louis this week is cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The rookie from North Alabama has had a strong second half of the season. In his last 5 games Jenkins has recorded 25 tackles and three interceptions including one interception last week against Tampa Bay. One other St. Louis defender to keep an eye on is Chris Long. Long is always a consistent worry to opposing teams because of his ability to put pressure on the quarterback, however with Russell Okung playing his best football combined with Russell Wilson’s elusiveness, I do not see Long playing a big role in the St. Louis defense this week.

I am excited to see Greg Zuerlein kick for the Rams this week. The rookie kicker nicknamed “Legatron” is having a strong season and I for one am pumped to see him attempt a long field goal. I do not doubt he can nail a far field goal in Seattle and if he lines up for a 50+ yard field goal I think he will make it.

Congratulations to the Seahawks players participating in this week’s game who will be representing the NFC at the pro bowl next month. The representatives are Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas, Max Unger, Russell Okung and Leon Washington. Let’s all hope these guys will get the opportunity to skip the pro bowl because they will be preparing for the Super Bowl in New Orleans!

Random Thoughts: The gameday theme this week is fan appreciation. This game is always fun because the Seahawks give out a ton of random stuff. I have only won one thing on fan appreciation day since becoming a season ticket holder; a 12th Man car flag in 2008… The Seahawks are also dubbing this game a “blue-out.” They are asking all fans to wear blue to this week’s game (in case you don’t already). If you are going to the game this week, wear blue!… Sunday’s halftime show is the annual wiener dog races. I love this halftime show because at least one dog always seems to break loose and run all around the field which is incredibly amusing… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week, their first Seahawks broadcast since the Arizona game 3 weeks ago… Not confirmed yet but it looks like Jeff Triplette will be the referee this week… I am taking by friend Dylan to this week’s game. He was supposed to go to the Patriots game with me but had to reschedule because of school obligations. Sorry D, but I don’t think this week’s game will be as exciting as the New England game… This is most likely the final home game of the season this week. Unless the pieces fall in our favor and Arizona beats San Francisco, this will be the last time I see everyone around me until August which is always sad… I will definitely be scoreboard watching on Sunday. My first priority is the Arizona/San Francisco game and I do not expect the Cardinals to hold the lead for any amount of time in that game. My second priority is the Green Bay/Minnesota game as a Vikings win and a Cardinals win would give us the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs… Even though everyone around me at the San Francisco game did not take offense to the actions of my guest last week, I still feel I owe them a huge apology for what happened. Maybe I’ll even offer to buy a round of beers also. I’m still embarrassed but I can guarantee myself or my guest will not have a run in with security or alcohol enforcement this week.

Prediction: The Seahawks will end the season with their 3rd best regular season record in team history. The scoring will not be as dominant as past weeks but it will still be very impressive and will leave the 12th Man extremely confident heading to the playoffs. The Seahawks will win but the 49ers will win so we will settle for the 5th seed in the NFC playoffs. By 9pm Sunday night, the Seahawks will be prepping for a trip to Washington D.C. to play the Redskins in an NFC wild-card playoff.

Seahawks 38, Rams 14

Check back for my review of the regular season finale with the Rams on Monday afternoon. I will also share a brief mini-preview of the Seahawks NFC wild-card playoff game. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Rams Preview

29 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

It is time to get back to business. After last week’s thrilling win over Green Bay, the Seahawks travel to St. Louis to face the division rival Rams. The Seahawks enter this game at 2-1, tied for second place in the NFC West. The Rams are in last place in the division with a record of 1-2. The Seahawks lead the all-time series 17-11. Their last meeting was last season. On December 12th, 2011 the Seahawks defeated the Rams on Monday Night Football by a score of 30-13. Here is what I will be looking for and expecting out of the Seahawks this week.

On the road, it is imperative that the Seahawks focus on protecting the ball. I do not believe this will be an issue. Russell Wilson has done an outstanding job making sure there are no mistakes and no turnovers. Like I proposed last week, I think our best option on offense this week is to establish the running game with Marshawn Lynch. Although this is important I also would not be surprised to see some peculiar calls in certain situations. I think we might see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell split the 1st down play calls 50/50 between passing and rushing. Something else I would like to see the Seahawks run this week is more no-huddle. On our final drive against Green Bay, Wilson was effective in moving the ball in chunks without a huddle. If we can keep the Rams guessing, I would fully believe to see no-huddle formations called, especially early on in the game.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Golden Tate continue to emerge as our best overall receiver this week. Tate has arguably become Russell Wilson’s favorite target and it would not surprise me at all if Tate leads the Seahawks in receptions on Sunday. Having said this, it would be great to have Wilson spread the ball around more effectively then he has in the first three games. If the Rams defense can frustrate the Seahawks running game, the passing game becomes extremely necessary. I think Wilson will have his hands full and may throw a couple interceptions.

If there is one thing I hope the Seahawks defense has done this week in preparation for this weekend’s game, it’s that I hope they took a good amount of time breaking down the Rams film from their game last week against Chicago. The Bears defense was able to sack Rams quarterback Sam Bradford 6 times. The Seahawks defense, coming off an 8 sack performance last week, can take a lot from the Bears approach on how to penetrate the Rams offensive line. I think the defense will have a very successful day. The defense and the special teams have had some of their best performances recently in St. Louis and I expect nothing less this week.

One potential head-to-head battle I will be keeping my eye on is Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan against Seahawks offensive lineman Breno Giacomini. When you think of head-to-head matchups you probably don’t think of a cornerback versus an offensive lineman but there is a reason why I bring up these two guys in particular. Finnegan is an outstanding player who is probably best known for his trash-talking abilities. Finnegan can get under the opponent’s skin very easily and it is this ability that helped earn him a spot of the player’s top 100 players of 2012. Through 7 games this season (both preseason and regular season) it is clear to me that Breno Giacomini is the one player that always is a candidate to draw personal foul penalties. I think Finnegan will be at full force trying to get Giacomini to snap and commit a penalty that could really hurt the Seahawks. Definitely be on the lookout this weekend for Finnegan vs. Giacomini.

The St. Louis Rams may not have one of the best defenses, but they have some of the best individually talented players in the league. Chris Long is one of the games most prolific and underrated pass rushers who could definitely take advantage on a Seahawks offensive line that continues to shuffle personnel in different situations. James Laurinaitis is another guy who will direct traffic up the middle. The linebacker out of Ohio State is also an underrated talent that makes his fair share of plays when given the opportunity. With Long, Laurinaitis, and Finnegan all on defense and each on different levels of this side of the ball, I could see St. Louis’s defensive packages and schemes to confuse Russell Wilson.

On offense, the Rams identity continues to be running back Steven Jackson. Jackson is one of the biggest and most athletic running backs the Seahawks will have to face this season. Given this I do not expect Jackson’s physicality to be a problem for our run defense. We have not given up a rushing touchdown to Jackson in St. Louis in the Pete Carroll era. This stat impresses me tremendously and this year our run defense is as strong as ever. There is a great chance that we will shut Jackson down once again in my opinion. A connection to look out for is Sam Bradford to wide receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola was Bradford’s favorite target in Bradford’s rookie season in 2010. An injury sidelined Amendola for all of 2011 but so far in 2012, the chemistry has picked up right where it left off in 2010. Expect Bradford to look in Amendola’s direction more than any other Rams receiver.

Random Thoughts: James Carpenter is back this week and will play. What an amazing comeback for a guy who tore his ACL and made a full recovery in only 10 months… Mike Carey will be the referee this week. Carey is my favorite ref and usually calls a good game. I say usually because last season he called the Seahawks game against the Browns where Carey’s crew made a couple big calls that may have altered the outcome of the game… Welcome back refs, glad to have you back… It is still a mystery what jersey the Seahawks will wear this week. My guess is white… This is the first of 5 games with a 10am pacific start. Perhaps I will make a full breakfast feast for me and my roommates. Maybe not… Our rivalry with the Rams has died off in recent years which is too bad. Still though, I always enjoy beating them… This game was our alternate choice for my annual Seahawks road trip. Given this, they will probably win. Don’t get me wrong of course I want to see the Seahawks win but it kind of sucks to think I could have been there… We need to limit our penalties. If we can limit our penalties to a range between 5 and 7, I think we will be in decent shape. NO 15-yarders though please!… Ron Pitts and Mike Martz are the play-by-play/commentary team for FOX this week for the Seahawks game. This will be the first week I listen to television commentary during the game. With Martz doing the commentary, I expect it to be a love fest for the Rams, as Martz won a championship as the Rams offensive coordinator in 1999 and took them to the Super Bowl as a head coach in 2001.

Prediction: The Seahawks defense is way too strong of a group and will pummel down on Bradford throughout the entire game. Russell Wilson will not have spectacular numbers but I see him throwing for at least 225 yards and a touchdown. Steven Jackson will be held to 40 yards or less by the Seahawks run defense. The Seahawks break away from the Rams in the second half, and head back to Seattle with a 3-1 record.

Seahawks 27, Rams 14

Look for my review post on Monday afternoon. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!