Tag Archives: Colin Kaepernick

#10for10 Game #1: The Tip (Seahawks vs. 49ers, 2013 NFC Championship Game)

24 Dec

*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 sherman tip

Photo Credit: seahawksdraftblog.com

The Seahawks 2013 season was one nobody in the Pacific Northwest will ever forget. After going 13-3 in the regular season, we advanced all the way to Super Bowl XLVIII. There we defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 to claim our first NFL world championship. If it wasn’t for the events of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl however, the Seahawks would still be Lombardi-less today. The 2013 NFC Championship had it all: Action, suspense, and when it was all said and done, a storybook ending. This is the story of the best Seahawks game I have ever been to.

The day was January 19th, 2014. The Seahawks were hosting the second NFC Championship Game in franchise history and we were one win away from a trip to New York City for the Super Bowl. Game time was slated for 3:30pm and I was taking my dad to the game, so we decided to skip the bar scene on this pivotal Sunday. We headed downtown around 10am and went straight to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch. The place was already packed so we stood at a table inside the bar. I sipped on a few Pyramid Hefeweizens and enjoyed a plate of fish and chips. We watched the first half of the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos and were joined in the late afternoon once again by my friend James and his brother Lane. James and I had airfare and hotel reservations to New York already booked just in case the Seahawks won. As we watched the game we talked about how excited we were to potentially head east for the Super Bowl and we briefly discussed things we might want to do when back there. I don’t call this overconfidence but when the opportunity presented itself we couldn’t help but talk about our potential vacation. We left Pyramid shortly before 2pm and headed straight into the stadium. Once we got our tickets scanned were all given a white “We Are 12” rally towel. My dad and I departed James and Lane and the two of us headed straight up to my seats.

10for10 james eric nfc champ

James and I on the main concourse prior to kickoff

When we hosted the NFC Championship Game 8 years prior I distinctly remember every fan being in their seats before the Seahawks had even ended pregame warmups and this game was no different. The Seahawks huddled up before heading back to the locker room one last time and 68,000 fans hollered to ear-shattering levels while waving their towels. We were ready. The Seahawks went the extra mile to pump up the crowd. Before the Seahawks were introduced, they played the Derrick Coleman Duracell commercial on the video screens. Towards the end of the commercial Coleman, who narrates the commercial says “and now I’m here with the loudest fans in the NFL cheering me on… and I can hear them all.” The video got the fans even more crazed. To this day I have scoured YouTube and various video websites to try to find video of the Coleman commercial played before the game and I have not been successful. It is a moment that will be difficult for me to forget.

After the 49ers took the field the Seahawks were introduced and the starting defense got their chance to run out of the tunnel individually. Richard Sherman was the first member of the Legion of Boom to take the field and deafening roar of the crowd lasted through the introductions of Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. After Heart’s Ann Wilson performed the national anthem, owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag just like he did before the ’05 NFC title game. The Seahawks were going to start the game with the ball.

On the first play of the game the Seahawks wanted to go for it all. The call was a play action pass. Russell Wilson faked the handoff to Marshawn Lynch and dropped back seven, looking deep down the field. He scrambled to his left and as he tried to tuck the ball away it was stripped and recovered by the 49ers Aldon Smith. After one play the Seahawks had turned the ball over deep inside San Francisco territory. I remember having a blank stare on my face and everyone around me had the exact same expression. “What the f**k was that?” was what was on my mind and multiple people in my vicinity shouted that exact same thought for everyone to hear. Fortunately Colin Kaepernick could not put the 49ers in the endzone following the turnover. We held the 49ers to a field goal and they took a 3-0 lead. Things did not get any better for the Seahawks on our next possession as San Francisco forced us into a 3 and out. After trading punts San Francisco got the ball again to start the second quarter. A 58-yard scramble by Kaepernick gave the 49ers a goal-to-go situation. After three failed attempts to get the ball into the endzone the 49ers elected to go for it on 4th down. In front of a raucous 12th Man Kaepernick handed the ball to Anthony Dixon who plowed ahead into the endzone. The touchdown gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead with 10:03 left in the first half. The Seahawks cut the lead to 10-3 on their next drive thanks in part to a 51-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Seattle headed into the locker room at halftime down by 7 and although it was disappointing we were not leading there was renewed optimism when, of all things, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage for a halftime performance.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played their hits singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” and at the end of the show Macklemore declared that “Seattle sports history will be made tonight.” This declaration left the 12th Man including myself jacked up. We as fans were ready to do everything we possibly could to help push the Seahawks to a comeback and a victory.

10for10 macklemore

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After forcing the 49ers to punt on their first possession of the second half the Seahawks got the ball with excellent field position. On the fourth play of the drive the Seahawks were facing 3rd and 1. Darrell Bevell called up “17 power,” the same play as the Marshawn Lynch Beast Quake run. Marshawn shed two blocks and broke away towards the front right corner of the endzone. As soon as he got out of the second tackle I could see the space he had to run and immediately went crazy. At about the 10-yard line Lynch tripped but his momentum carried him into the endzone anyway for the score. Skittles rained down in all corners of the stadium and I jumped up and down in unison with my dad and the folks around me. The game was tied 10-10 and it felt like a whole new football game was about to start.

The 49ers took the next drive 83 yards and with 6:29 left in the third quarter the Seahawks faced yet another deficit, 17-10. After this the Seahawks took full control of the game. After a Steven Hauschka field goal made it a 17-13 ballgame, the Seahawks forced another San Francisco punt. Heading into the fourth quarter the Seahawks had the ball on the 49ers 35-yard line facing 4th down. The following sequence will never be forgotten as a pivotal cog in the Seahawks 2013 Super Bowl season. Hauschka lined up for a field goal but with the kick heading into the wind, he was hesitant to go through with the attempt. Pete Carroll called timeout to go over their options and ultimately decided to send the offense back on the field to go for it. With the Seahawks in the huddle I sat down in my seat briefly, leaned over, and said a quick prayer. The Seahawks broke the huddle and I jumped up to stand. Wilson was able to draw San Francisco offsides and knowing he had a free play, Wilson launched a pass into the endzone which was caught by Jermaine Kearse. The stadium went crazy. For the first time all afternoon the Seahawks had the lead 20-17. There was still 13:44 left in the game and a lot could happen but what has happened time and time again at home, once we corral a lead, the 12th Man will make it awfully difficult for the opposing team to come back.

Everyone was back in the game. With Lil Jon’s “Outta Your Mind” on full blast before the next kickoff, every fan was screaming, waiving their rally towels, and jumping up and down. On the 7th play of the series and facing third down, Colin Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket to his left. As he tried to cock the ball back it was stripped out of his hand by Cliff Avril and picked up by Michael Bennett. Bennett returned the ball to the 49ers 6-yard line. This was the loudest it had gotten inside CenturyLink Field all day. The 49ers were unraveling and if the Seahawks could score a touchdown and go up by 10 points, the game may be out of reach. Unfortunately the drive resulted in no points, as Russell Wilson fumbled a 4th and goal attempt from the 1-yard line, turning the ball over to the 49ers. After an interception by Kam Chancellor which was translated into a field goal the Seahawks held a 23-17 lead with 3:37 remaining. If Seattle could stop the 49ers one more time, they would be the NFC champions.

The Seahawks forced San Francisco into a 4th and 2 situation with 2:01 left in the game. The 49ers converted on a pass from Kaepernick to Frank Gore for 17 yards. After the next play, a 4 yard run by Kaepernick, the 49ers elected to let the clock run. After two more completions the 49ers had the ball 1st and 10 from the Seahawks 29-yard line. 55 seconds remained. After a pass to Vernon Davis the 49ers let the clock run down once more. With every second off the clock came more and more stress. The 49ers were getting dangerously close to the endzone and with them draining the clock, a touchdown would pretty much seal San Francisco’s second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. The fans tried to stay loud to try to throw the 49ers off but you could hear the worry and panic in the noise, a feeling that has never happened in my 10 years as a season ticket holder. There have been stressful moments but not like this; not with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Then everything changed. Then came the single greatest play in the history of the Seattle Seahawks.

1st and 10 for the 49ers. 18-yard line. 30 seconds remaining. Colin Kaepernick drops back and throws a fade into the right side of the endzone. The ball is tipped into the air by Richard Sherman and falls right into the waiting hands of Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks had made the tip drill a common routine throughout 2013 and with no other 49ers receiver in the area, from my angle as soon as the ball was tipped I knew it was going to be intercepted. It was the most emotional I had ever been at a Seahawks game. I dropped to my knees because I was emotionally drained. With everyone in the stadium going crazy, after a few moments I got back up, hugged my dad, and the reality of the moment really started to settle in. “WE’RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!” I exclaimed as Russell Wilson took three knees to win the game. With “Can’t Hold Us” playing over the speakers the teams met in the middle of the field and as the clock hit zero I pulled out my phone. I had a text I needed to send to James. That text, which I will never forget, simply said “PACK YOUR BAGS, BROTHER.” We were going to New York for the Super Bowl.

John Nordstrom, the original owner of the Seahawks, presented Paul Allen with the George Halas trophy and after several on-field speeches the fans left the stadium one last time to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s classic hit “New York, New York.”

10for10 nordstrom allen

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The rest is history. The Seahawks went on to win their very first world championship two weeks later. Without Jermaine Kearse’s 4th down touchdown and Richard Sherman’s tip, there is a very good chance the Seahawks would still be a championship-less franchise. From 2006-2012 the Seahawks season came to an end short of us being able to host an NFC Championship Game, the biggest game a team can host. Those long years waiting made this day absolutely worth it. There is no doubt this is the greatest Seahawks home game I have ever attended and going forward it will be extremely difficult to top.

Seahawks/Vikings Preview

5 Dec
vikings preview 2015

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Raise your hand if you had this game as the Seahawks most important game of the season when the schedule came out. After three consecutive games at home the Seahawks hit the road for two straight games. Up first is a huge conference matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh a week ago. The Vikings were a team that many experts said to keep an eye on at the start of the season and they are proving the experts right. Minnesota holds an impressive 8-3 record and are currently the leaders of the NFC North. Seattle leads the all-time series 8-5. In their last meeting the Seahawks crushed the Vikings 41-20 in Seattle and the Seahawks eventually went on to win the super bowl. This could very well be a preview of a potential playoff matchup next month. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Minnesota defense allows an average of only 17.6 points per game, second best in the league. It is imperative for the Seahawks offense to be able to stay on the field and drive deep into Vikings territory. Thomas Rawls will face his biggest challenge of the season and I will be keeping close tabs on his yardage coming on first down opportunities. If he can gain at least 4 yards on first down it will put the offense in a good position to gain first downs and keep drives alive. In the passing game I will be focused on the blocking by left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Justin Britt. The right side of the Vikings front seven consists of lineman Everson Griffen as well as linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These three players have combined for 14 of Minnesota’s 25 sacks this season (56 percent). I expect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to take care of the ball just like how he did a week ago against Pittsburgh but he must be more aware of his blindside in this game. If Okung and Britt struggle to block it would not be surprising to see Wilson get hit and fumble the ball multiple times. Quick passes to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Luke Willson may be the best way to attack the Vikings through the air this week.

If there was one game this season where I wish we still had Red Bryant it would be for this game. Priority number one for the Seahawks defense this week will be to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It will be up to Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to lock down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Given the solid play of Minnesota’s offensive line penetrating the line will be difficult. Good fundamental tackling will go a long way to limiting Peterson’s production. One guy on defense that may see more playing time than usual is Jordan Hill. In an attempt to limit Peterson’s presence it may not be surprising to see Hill, Mebane, and Rubin all play on the line at the same time.

The Minnesota Vikings have the top ranked rushing offense in the league. In contrast they also sport the league’s second worse pass offense. At age 30 Adrian Peterson is still as productive as ever and the Vikings offense is only as effective as he is. Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 1,164 and has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season. The Vikings are 6-0 in those games. My worry is that the Vikings will use other ways to move the ball on the ground in an attempt to avoid throwing towards the Legion of Boom. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Vikings this week is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and the man that makes the entire Minnesota offense work, Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater has not thrown for many touchdowns, he is a very conservative passer who tries to move the ball in small chunks to wear out the opposing defense. Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of over 65 percent in six games. In those games he has thrown only two interceptions. The main reason why he is my X-Factor this week is the threat of him keeping the ball and running. Although he has not nearly put up the type of rushing stats as Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick of seasons past, Bridgewater is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league and he will scramble and take off if he feels the pressure and does not have any open receivers. Peterson may be the number one priority of the Seattle defense but Bridgewater also contributes to that top ranked rushing attack. Plain and simple, shut Peterson and Bridgewater down on the ground, win the game.

Something that is not garnering the attention that I believe it should is one fairly significant advantage the Seahawks have in this game. Gone are the days of playing the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. It would be a tougher challenge for the Seahawks if we were playing at the Metrodome. Instead the Vikings are playing the second of two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota while their brand new stadium is under construction. The stadium seats just over 51,000 which is the smallest capacity of any current NFL stadium and crowd noise will hardly be a factor.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants. Seattle is 0-4 all-time in this combination. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the play-by-play and commentary respectively on FOX. Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines… Terry McAulay will be this week’s referee… I briefly considered hitting the road for this game but ultimately decided to go to Dallas instead. The reason behind that decision was the potential weather in Minneapolis. Being a December game I thought there was a realistic possibility of it being below freezing and snowing. Hindsight is 20/20 and in that vein it looks like it will be a nice day for football. The high temperature on Sunday will be in the low 40’s and it will be sunny. That is exactly the kind of weather we have experienced in Seattle the past two weeks… After this week the combined record of the Seahawks next three opponents is 10-23. Translation: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings, you will be extremely hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle will miss out on the playoffs.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs and with a win we are locked into this spot for at least another week; we cannot move up but a loss may knock us out of the current playoff picture. Seattle is three games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Here are games to keep track of that may have NFC playoff implications this week. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7)

Atlanta (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6)

Prediction: The Seahawks are 12-2 in games played in December with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Each of the prior three seasons our December success has carried us to the playoffs. With the win last week we will be riding some serious momentum into this game. Thomas Rawls will run for over 125 yards and score two touchdowns. Wilson will also throw a touchdown to Luke Willson. The game will come down to Minnesota’s final drive. After a punt by Jon Ryan pins the Vikings at their own 2-yard line, Bridgewater will have to drive 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. On the first play of the drive Minnesota will be penalized for holding in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a safety and in-turn, clinching the game for Seattle. We will improve to 7-5 and be in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

Review: Seahawks 29, 49ers 13

22 Nov
49ers review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

What a way to kick off the push towards a wild-card berth. The Seahawks were fueled by rookie power on Sunday en route to an impressive 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The win gives the Seahawks a 5-5 record and sole possession of second place in the NFC West. The 49ers fall to 3-7 and sit in last place in the division. Here are the bullet points I took out of today’s win.

Offensive Impact: In regards to his statistical presence it has been a “boom or bust” rookie season for receiver Tyler Lockett. Seahawks fans have been waiting for him to break out on offense and he finally made a significant impact in today’s game. Lockett caught 4 passes for 48 yards and also caught two touchdowns. The first of his touchdowns was the more impressive score. On first down the Seahawks used a 5 receiver set and out of the shotgun Russell Wilson connected with Lockett on the outside for a 24-yard touchdown. What was noteworthy about this formation and this touchdown was the Lockett looked to be Wilson’s first read. Wilson had the confidence that Lockett would run his route and get separation on his way to the endzone and Wilson trusted his first look. All three of Lockett’s receiving touchdowns this season have come against the 49ers, but hopefully his performance this week will propel him to more consistent production on offense for the rest of the year.

The Future: When I checked the list of Seahawks inactive players before the game I was surprised to see Marshawn Lynch’s name on it. Although listed as questionable, his presence on the field last week combined with no report that his physical condition had worsened led me to believe that he would be available against San Francisco. Instead Thomas Rawls got the bulk of the work and boy did he make his presence known. Rawls carried 30 times for 209 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 3 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. This adds up to 255 all-purpose yards. His 209 yards rushing also set a Seahawks franchise record for rushing yards in a single game by a rookie. Rawls’ mark broke Curt Warner’s rookie record of 207 rushing yards set in 1983. After today’s game rumors started circulating that the Marshawn Lynch era may end after this season. Right now I tend to agree. Like I said after Rawls ran for 169 yards against Cincinnati six weeks ago, we have found the heir apparent to Lynch. The fact that Rawls has three 100-plus yard games and is the team’s leading rusher after making only three starts should speak for itself. The future is definitely bright with Thomas Rawls lined up behind Russell Wilson.

Thoughts on San Francisco: I challenge you to go on the 49ers website and listen to five minutes of any Jim Tomsula press conference. The man sounds like he is in way over his head and the team he is coaching also plays like they are in way over their heads. The longer this season drags on the more likely it feels that Tomsula will be fired after just his first year.  With Colin Kaepernick on injured reserve it is also likely his 49ers career is over. If I’m 49ers CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke I am strongly considering tearing this roster down and rebuilding. It would not surprise me to see the San Francisco 49ers struggle for the next few seasons.

Random Thoughts: Breakfast at Lil Jon’s in Bellevue hit the spot. A cinnamon roll and a side of bacon was the perfect amount of food… Hawks Nest was awesome before the game and it didn’t get too crowded and stuffy. Got there plenty early and was able to grab a table so that helped… Randy Johnson raising the 12 Flag was perfect. He got a fantastic ovation and it was great to see him being honored in Seattle once more considering he entered the baseball hall of fame not as a Mariner but as an Arizona Diamondback… Thought I was playing against Tyler Lockett in fantasy this week. It took me until after Lockett’s second touchdown to notice that my opponent actually substituted Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess in for Lockett before the game. Caught a break there. To make things even sweeter Thomas Rawls got me 34.5 points… I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

What’s Next: With Thanksgiving on Thursday I will publish game #3 of my #10for10 series on Wednesday, a day earlier than normal. Next week is the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting nine years for. Look for my preview of next week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

49ers/Seahawks Preview

21 Nov
49ers preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is amazing to think how far this rivalry has fallen in a mere 24 months. Two years ago these two teams were arguably the two best teams in football, battling for not only the NFC West division title but for supremacy in the National Football Conference. We now sit here in November of 2015 and our matchup this week against the San Francisco 49ers is a game that will be largely overlooked by the entire country, possibly for good reason. The Seahawks sit at 4-5, needing a win to avoid being virtually eliminated from playoff contention altogether. The 49ers are 3-6, and have not improved since these two teams met four weeks ago in Santa Clara. In fact San Francisco’s season has gone so far south that head coach Jim Tomsula has benched franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of backup Blaine Gabbert. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 19-15. Here is what to watch for on Sunday.

Patrick Lewis will start his second consecutive game at center on Sunday. I believe that our running game and Russell Wilson’s ability to find open receivers (as evidenced from the first time we played San Francisco) will be fine as long as we can control the tempo; something we were not able to do last week. My primary focus on offense this week will be how well the offensive line blocks. After making small progress in prior week’s our offensive line regressed significantly against Arizona last week. Along with the inability to protect Russell Wilson we were also called for numerous holding penalties which did not allow us to do what we wanted to do in the offensive game plan. What I would like to see this week is for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to put together a game plan that can take the pressure off the offensive line. The Seahawks have played 10 games and it should be obvious that we cannot have Wilson drop back five or more steps, have the time to go through his progressions, and make confident throws down the field. I would like to see more read option as well as quick passes and screens against the mediocre 49ers defense. Putting each play in Marshawn Lynch’s hands or in the hands of the receivers close to the line of scrimmage will help our offense thrive in this matchup.

The Seahawks lost outside linebacker Bruce Irvin to a sprained MCL late in last Sunday’s loss and he will not play in this game. My focus on defense will be how we replace Irvin both in coverage and in pass rushing situations. Mike Morgan will likely start in his place and play the majority of the snaps. Look for Morgan’s main contribution to be in pass coverage. On third down head coach Pete Carroll said this week that Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh will see expanded snaps in place of Irvin. With both of these players defensive ends, it would not surprise me to see the Seahawks play more of a “52” defense with five defensive linemen. If the Seahawks can sack Blaine Gabbert at least three times I think our defense will but us in good shape to win the game.

The San Francisco 49ers look like a completely different team on offense from the unit we saw back on October 22nd. As I previously mentioned Colin Kaepernick has been benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. Two weeks ago Gabbert was able to do just enough to squeak out an impressive upset victory over the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Gabbert at quarterback, starting running back Carlos Hyde has been sidelined with a foot injury. Two weeks ago the 49ers used a running back by committee system. Shaun Draughn saw the majority of carries against Atlanta while Kendall Gaskins got the goal line carries. These two backs will likely split time again if Hyde does not play. One thing to always keep an eye on is which skill position players are favorited by which quarterbacks. My X-Factor Player to Watch is a guy who is favorited by Blaine Gabbert, tight end Garrett Celek. According to the official 49ers depth chart following the trade of Vernon Davis to Denver the starting tight end is now Vance McDonald. Celek however was the offensive star of Gabbert’s first and only start of the season. He caught both of his only targets for 12 yards but both were also touchdown catches. Given the Seattle defense’s ineffectiveness in covering tight ends down the seam it would make sense for Celek to see a fair share of targets if the 49ers can drive the ball deep into Seahawks territory. Celek will be Gabbert’s favorite target in red zone situations.

Commentary on Russell Wilson: There has been talk over the past week about the recent performance and perception of Russell Wilson. Some have blasted his bye week vacation to Mexico with his girlfriend Ciara. The idea of whether or not Wilson is a “tool” was also debated on local sports radio. Seriously. Here are my thoughts on all this noise. Wilson came to Seattle as a 3rd round pick and had to earn his spot as our starting quarterback with Matt Flynn presumably already our starter. His performance during training camp and the 2012 preseason earned him the job. Three years later he is the winningest quarterback through his first three seasons in NFL history and has led the Seahawks to three playoff appearances, two conference championships and one world championship. So what’s the problem? I believe, fair or unfair, that his work ethic was so intense and admirable that it became the expectation. What I believe we are seeing now is Wilson taking his foot only the slightest bit off of the gas in regards to his daily routines and because he is not seemingly spending every waking moment in the film room like he may have been doing in seasons past if feels like he is being punished by Seahawks fans who are ready to blame Wilson for our 4-5 record. I just do not believe that this is fair. Would I had loved to see Wilson use the bye week to stay in Seattle, get healthy, and use the extra time to prepare even more intensely for the Arizona game? Absolutely. But the man is human after all and I believe he has been overly criticized for how he spent his week off.

Random Thoughts: All blue everything for the Seahawks on Sunday. The 49ers will sport white jerseys and gold pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber have the call for FOX this week. This is the first Seahawks game Myers will do play-by-play for since week 17 of the 2013 season. I believe when the schedule came out this game was going to be “America’s Game of the Week” with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman but because San Francisco and Seattle is not a nationally appealing matchup anymore, combined with the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings playing host to the 6-3 Green Bay Packers at the same time we play, we are stuck with Myers and Barber. To those watching on television I am sorry. It is going to be a brutal game to watch… This week’s referee is none other than Ed Hochuli… The annual wiener dog races is the halftime show! It is probably the only halftime show I enjoy watching… There’s also a giveaway this week! “We Are 12” gloves. Those will certainly come in handy as the game-time temperature is predicted to be in the low 40’s… Breakfast in Bellevue and pregaming at the Hawks Nest for the first time since week 3. Out of the house by 7:15am.

Prediction: This week will be a domination that could springboard the Seahawks into a run towards a wild-card spot. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns; one to Jermaine Kearse and one to Tyler Lockett. San Francisco will struggle so bad that Blaine Gabbert will be benched in the third quarter in favor of Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick will lead a garbage time scoring drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. The Seahawks will go to 5-5 and head into the Thanksgiving weekend happy.

Seahawks 31, 49ers 10

“Pre-Review”: Seahawks 13, Cowboys 12

3 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

For the first time ever on the blog I made a critically stupid mistake. I forgot to post my game preview before I left for Dallas last Friday. I am sorry to those regular readers who I could not provide pregame analysis to. Rather than posting just a review of our exhilarating 13-12 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, I am taking what I had written prior to the game and reflecting on my pregame analysis. That’s right. I am combining my preview with my review to make my first ever “Pre-Review.” Here is how this will work. Everything below that is in standard font is my unaltered pregame thoughts. After each paragraph I will have a bolded italicized section of review in which I reflect on what I was successful discussing and where I was off. Let’s take a look at how accurate I was at discussing this week’s game.

Success on offense for the Seahawks means one thing primarily and that is to give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch. To prevent Russell Wilson getting beat up as much as he has been so far this season, giving the ball to Lynch will take immense pressure off of the passing game. This is the week to pound the rock because Lynch is riding a wave of momentum coming off his 122 yard performance in San Francisco last week. Lynch could be poised for another big game given the lackluster performance of Dallas’s run defense. With the exception of allowing only 7 rushing yards to Philadelphia back in week 2, the Cowboys allow an average of 120 rushing yards per game. Running Russell Wilson in read-option looks will also confuse the Cowboys defense and could help us control the momentum and time of possession. If the Seahawks allow Wilson to stay in the pocket and wait to go through his progressions he will surely be putting his body at risk. If the Seahawks cannot get the run game going it could make for a very long afternoon.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 71 yards on Sunday. Although it was not his most effective day running by any means, he was still able to take pressure off of Russell Wilson. Wilson was not sacked on Sunday, marking the first time he stayed perfectly clean since Super Bowl XLVIII. Read option was once again not present this week but the protection Wilson had allowed him to step up and make key throws including his touchdown pass to Luke Willson. These throws along with a couple of huge scrambles also allowed the Seahawks to move down the field rather easily on their final drive, leading to Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal. It was not the prettiest day on offense, but we were able to do just enough to win the game.

The Cowboys still have one of the better offensive lines in the league. Dallas quarterbacks have been sacked an average of only twice per game so far this season. Just like Marshawn Lynch riding momentum running the ball, the biggest key for the Seahawks on defense is for the pass rush to ride the wave of momentum they created last week. Seattle sacked 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick 6 times last week, a season high. In Dallas we must use the same package of rushers to confuse the Cowboys offensive line and get to quarterback Matt Cassel. I believe the only way the Cowboys can be effective on offense is to move the ball through the air, especially since starting running back Joseph Randle is out with a strained oblique. If the Seahawks can get to Cassel at least three of four times the defense will have what I consider to be a successful day.

Seattle only sacked Matt Cassel once but it may have been the biggest play of the game. Bruce Irvin’s sack of Cassel on 3rd down on the Cowboys final drive of the game virtually sealed the win for the Seahawks. With Dallas needing to go about 60 yards to get into manageable field goal range to win the game, it is logical to think that Cassel could have taken four shots down the field and hope for a pass interference call or a penalty that would have given Dallas a huge chunk of yards. Fortunately the indecisiveness of Cassel allowed the Seahawks pass rush to wear down the Cowboys offensive line and Irvin was able to chase him down, creating a 4th and 16 with less than 30 seconds left. Give credit to the Cowboys offensive line but with our next three games coming at home, I expect to see huge improvement in our pass rush coming off our bye week.

There are several things to keep your eye on when the Cowboys offense is on the field. Given their quarterback situation they will surely try to establish the run with running back Darren McFadden. If the Seahawks do a good job in shutting down the Cowboys rushing attack, it will be in Matt Cassel’s best interest to throw high percentage passes instead of trying to stretch the field. The purpose for throwing short would be to limit turnovers. Matt Cassel threw 3 interceptions in New York last week, two of which traveled 20 yards or more in the air. One final thing to watch out for is how the Cowboys will use wide receiver Dez Bryant if he is active. Bryant has been recovering from a fractured foot since the first week of the season but he may be rushed back into action this week given the progress in his recovery and the desperation Dallas is feeling to save their season. I believe if he plays Bryant will primarily be used as a decoy to confuse the Legion of Boom. Do not expect Bryant to make a big impact in the passing game.

Darren McFadden had a very nice outing on Sunday. McFadden finished the day with 64 yards rushing on 20 carries and also added 49 yards receiving out of the backfield. It felt as though his performance single-handedly kept the Cowboys in the game. Dez Bryant’s production was just about what I thought it would be. Richard Sherman blanketed Bryant the entire game and he had 4 passes defensed; one of which could have been easily intercepted. Bryant finished the day with two catches for 12 yards but given Sherman’s stat line it was clear Cassel was trying to throw in Bryant’s direction often. Bryant was not a “decoy” per se, but given that the most productive receiver was Terrance Williams with 20 yards receiving just goes to show how inept the Dallas passing game was.

The Dallas Cowboys defense features some well-known names at each level.  They include defensive end Greg Hardy, linebacker and leading tackler Sean Lee, linebacker Rolando McClain, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. My focus will be on the Dallas pass rush and the middle level of their defense. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cowboys is outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Hitchens is a phenomenal tackler and also makes an impact getting to the quarterback. So far this season Hitchens has recorded 20 tackles, which is good for third on Dallas’s defense. He is also one of only four Cowboys with multiple sacks on the year. Only Hardy and defensive tackle Jack Crawford have more. Along with Hardy on the left side it is Hitchens’s presence that leads me to believe the Seahawks will throw more towards the right side of the field.

Greg Hardy gets the headlines this week because of his tipped interception. Anthony Hitchens was my X-Factor Player to Watch and he did virtually nothing this week. The only thing he was credited for was one quarterback hit on Russell Wilson. Barry Church had probably the best day of any Cowboys defender in my eyes, racking up a season-high 10 tackles.

Random Thoughts: None

Prediction: I think the Cowboys have enough fire power to keep this game close. In the end however the fact that Matt Cassel is their starting quarterback gives the overall edge to the Seahawks. Both Cassel and Russell Wilson will throw a pair of interceptions but the Seahawks running game will blow Dallas’s out of the water. Marshawn Lynch will run for 105 yards and a touchdown and Tyler Lockett will also return a punt for a touchdown. The Cowboys will play a sloppy game on both sides of the ball and will not be able to get going until late into the second half. The Seahawks will head into the bye 4-4 and will have a week off before we play the first of three straight home games to kick off the second half of the season.

Seahawks 23, Cowboys 14

As it turns out the Cowboys did have enough fire power to keep this game close and as it turns out the presence of Matt Cassel did ultimately give the edge to the Seahawks. In hindsight if Tony Romo had played in the game the Seahawks would probably have gotten blown out. The game did not turn out to be as sloppy as I predicted but once again the Seahawks won even though they lost the turnover battle 1-0. At the end of the day the Seahawks are heading into the bye with a 4-4 record and on the whole I am satisfied.

Review: Seahawks 20, 49ers 3

25 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

What a way to set the foundation for an incredible vacation to the Bay Area. Without question the Seahawks played their most complete game of the season on Thursday night, dominating the San Francisco 49ers all night long. The result was a 20-3 victory where in all honesty the 49ers never were competitive. The Seahawks improve to 3-4 on the season and the 49ers now hold a record of 2-5. Here are my thoughts on Thursday’s game.

Running Game Gets Going and Russell’s Good Throws: The very first Seahawks offensive drive of the game set the tone for the rest of the evening and they did not look back. Running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 32 yards on the opening drive culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run. The offensive line protection allowed quarterback Russell Wilson to convert two first downs through the air on passes to Tyler Lockett and Fred Jackson. Offensively, Russell put the game away on his beautiful 43-yard touchdown pass to Lockett in the second quarter. Late in the game we were able to chew clock thanks in large part to the wonderfully basic play calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. After roasting Bevell almost every week thus far this season, I must say he called a great game on Thursday. We now have a good blueprint to run with for future games. Another day like this in Dallas next week and we will be very hard to beat.

Have A Day, Michael Bennett: After recording just 13 sacks in our first 6 games, the Seahawks came out and had a sack party in Santa Clara. Leading the way was defensive end Michael Bennett who singlehandedly recorded 3.5 sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. To make matters even better, Bennett made no mental mistakes that he has become known for so far this season. The production of our defensive pass rushers leaves me very optimistic about our upcoming games. Even though we did not force any 49ers turnovers it feels like our entire defense has turned a corner. I understand that the San Francisco offense is not very good but hopefully our ability to successfully close out a game in the fourth quarter will give us momentum heading into next week.

The Bad: There were two things I did not like on Thursday night. The first thing was the Russell Wilson’s decision making on the two interceptions he threw. The first one was a ball thrown at the very end of the first half. He saw Doug Baldwin in the back of the endzone but did not see Tramaine Brock. Brock stepped in front of the pass and made the interception in the endzone. A score of any kind would have given the Seahawks at least a 20 point lead heading into halftime. Wilson’s second interception was thrown into double coverage intended for Jermaine Kearse. From my view in the corner at Levi’s Stadium I saw Wilson had Doug Baldwin wide open and could have hit him in stride if he threw the ball a second or two sooner. Luckily that second turnover only resulted in the only 3 points the 49ers scored all night. The second thing I did not like was the continuing shaky play of the Seahawks offensive line. Their performance was buried among the big plays and the way the game played out overall. It was until after the game I realized the offensive line played a subpar game when I saw that the unit allowed another 5 sacks of Russell Wilson. Next week in Dallas may be a greater challenge. A similar offensive approach however may work well against the Cowboys.

Thoughts on San Francisco: This 49ers team is a disaster and the saddest part may be that their fans definitely know it. They have a banner hanging the length of the press box that says “home of the faithful” but the fans were anything but faithful on Thursday night. This team has talent but they are in need of a partial rebuild to get back to where they were a mere two years ago. With the future of Colin Kaepernick uncertain and the defense lacking experience it may take another couple of seasons for the 49ers to contend for even a division title. Let’s see if ownership is willing to give head coach Jim Tomsula that long of a leash.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks wore wolf grey and improved their all-time record wearing wolf grey to 6-0… Levi’s Stadium is an absolutely gorgeous facility. The fans of the two teams who make it to Super Bowl 50 will certainly enjoy the gameday experience in that building. The tailgating in Blue Lot #1 was a lot of fun, even though the lot was gravel and we got there so early that the tailgates around us were not fully raging until shortly before we made the walk over to the stadium. Next time I head to Levi’s I’ll probably try to get a parking pass in the green lot since it is closer… The 12’s really traveled well this week and we were certainly heard. 49ers fans didn’t even seem to care that their stadium had been taken over by the enemy. It was kind of bizarre and nothing like what I had experienced at Candlestick Park in years prior… Beer and food prices were a little steep but the variety was hard to beat. I bought a couple of hot dogs but two of my friends enjoyed curry, which they generously let me taste test. It was delicious… The view was great but the sun beat down on us for about the first quarter which was both hot and annoying. I consider it lucky that this game was in primetime. We would have been baking and extremely uncomfortable if it was a Sunday afternoon game… After the game we tried to go down to the NFL Network postgame show but the seating hosts would not let the large contingent of Seahawks fans down to the lower level seating, most likely because they did not want to show just how many Seahawks fans took over Levi’s Stadium. Take my word, if they had let all of us down there it would have challenged the number of fans who were waiting around after the Seahawks beat Arizona on Thursday Night Football in 2013… As we waited for traffic to die down after the game we decided to continue our tailgate. A group of 7 of us enjoyed a few celebratory beers before heading back to downtown San Francisco where we were staying… I will definitely want to go back to Levi’s Stadium with friends in future years. I had a great time and I know the other two guys I stayed with did also… Fight on.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s game against the Dallas Cowboys on Friday evening, a day earlier than normal.

Seahawks/49ers Preview

21 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

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

Kickoff: 5:25pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 27, 49ers 13

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

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (2) Green Bay Packers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach, the Seahawks were one divisional playoff win over the Chicago Bears away from hosting the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately we fell short but now four seasons later the Seahawks now have that matchup set. The Seahawks and Packers meet in Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. The loser goes home. Green Bay leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-7. The Packers have had Seattle’s number in the playoffs but the Seahawks have had the better luck as of late, winning the past two games including a 36-16 win over Green Bay earlier this season for NFL Kickoff 2014. This is what I believe must happen for the Seahawks to successfully defend their NFC Championship and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

In their first meeting back in September running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers defense for 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This week could be more of the same. The Seahawks will once again attempt to establish the running game with Lynch in an effort to control the clock and the tempo of the game. A successful day running the ball I believe will lead to a Seahawks victory. In the passing game the Seahawks could benefit due to the fact that our number one weapon in our first meeting this season, Percy Harvin, is no longer on the team. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson combined for 5 catches for 23 yards back in week one. Given that these three guys were not primary features in our offensive game plan in that game, I believe this adds a wrinkle in our offense this week that the Packers have not seen. Quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to throw down the seam to Kearse and Willson against Carolina last week and I believe both could be primed for big games yet again this week.

The very first play of the 2013 NFC Championship Game was a Russell Wilson fumble recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. That play ultimately resulted with 3 San Francisco points. Three Colin Kaepernick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the 49ers. See where I am going here? The Seahawks number one priority in this championship game must be to protect the ball. I am fully confident that the Legion of Boom can force Green Bay turnovers so it is imperative that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch among others hold onto the ball to prevent extra offensive opportunities for the Packers. We will not win if our offense turns the ball over multiple times because Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of extra opportunities, especially short yardage opportunities. The Seahawks did not turn the ball over last week and we won by two scores. Another clean game and the Seahawks could be cruising to Arizona.

The number one storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played last week with a strained and possibly slight torn left calf, an injury that limited his mobility but not necessarily his ability to make plays. Immediately following last week’s game Rodgers came out and said that his calf was not feeling as good as in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game. It is likely that Rodgers’s mobility will once again be a question mark this week. The best way to rattle the ailing likely league MVP is to send pressure from all directions, whether this results in sacks or forces Rodgers to retreat from the pocket. Rodgers has been sacked 11 times by the Seahawks in his last two games in Seattle. Bruce Irvin and O’Brien Schofield are the two guys I expect to see on the field a lot this week. I will consider it a success if Irvin and Schofield can quickly penetrate the Packers offensive line and get to Rodgers at least one time each. If Green Bay struggles to protect Rodgers early on, it could be a very long game and the threat of Rodgers injuring his leg worse will absolutely increase.

With the majority of the attention on the Packers offense, the fact that Green Bay ranks 10th in the league in pass defense has flown under the radar. Four members of the Packers secondary rank among the six best tacklers on the team. Only one of those guys has recorded double-digit passes defensed, and that is why cornerback Tramon Williams is my X-Factor player to watch for the Packers this week. Williams has recorded 61 tackles this season with 13 passes defensed. Williams is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. I expect to see Williams line up across from Jermaine Kearse for most of the game but do not expect to see him also go up again Ricardo Lockette and Kevin Norwood in dime packages.

Normally this last point would be worthy of a note in “Random Thoughts” but given the circumstances I feel that this is important to point out on itself. Seahawks fans are not used to early starts. In fact, this is the first time since CenturyLink Field opened that the Seahawks have hosted a game that starts at noon. To everyone attending Sunday’s game, BE IN YOUR SEATS AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO KICKOFF. When we go live to the nation on FOX at noon, I want to see 68,000 people all in their seats waving their rally towels as the Seahawks get ready to be introduced. Please plan accordingly.

Random Thoughts: The Packers will wear their classic white jersey/yellow pants combo this week. The Seahawks in all-blue per usual… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines… This will be the first time the Seahawks host the earlier conference championship game. Both of Seattle’s previous trips to the NFC Championship Game kicked off at 3:30pm… Tony Corrente is the referee this week. Corrente previously officiated the Seahawks win over San Francisco on Thanksgiving… This is going to be one of the earliest wake-up calls for a Seahawks home game I have ever had. Definitely planning on being downtown with a drink in hand by 8am… As previously mentioned, the giveaway this week once again is rally towels… The National Anthem will be sung by 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee… The Seahawks announced Friday that the halftime show will be Seattle band Alice in Chains. That will be pretty cool but in my opinion not as cool as Macklemore last year… I would love to see former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren raise the 12th Man flag this week, especially since it would come against his other former team, the Packers. I doubt it will happen but I would love to see it happen. There has been a lot of talk about letting Paul Allen raise the flag again. I personally think we should let somebody else do it. It would become super predictable for potential future NFC title games if Mr. Allen gets to raise the flag for every single one. My dark horse candidate to raise the flag is Randy Johnson… In the 24 or so hours following this game should we win, will be the shopping spree loading up on Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX merchandise… Why does this game feel like no big deal? Have we become spoiled? Is it because we are not playing the arch-rival 49ers again? Something just feels a little more relaxed about this year’s NFC Championship Game. My guess is that all changes once we all get down to CenturyLink Field.

Prediction: This game will be an instant classic and will see-saw until the very end. The Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal with the Packers adding a field goal of their own. A Seahawks second quarter touchdown pass to Luke Willson will give them a 10-3 lead with Green Bay tying the game just before halftime. There will be two more instances in the second half where the game gets tied up; 17-17 and 24-24 respectively. The Seahawks will take the clock down to the wire and Steven Hauschka will kick the biggest field goal in Seahawks history; a 42-yard field goal as time expires to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX.

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my NFC Championship review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Seahawks!

Panthers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

9 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (4) Carolina Panthers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:15pm

I love the city of Seattle in the month of January. Everyone has a pep in their step in preparation for the NFL Playoffs. After an eventful Wild-Card weekend we know which of the surviving teams gets the opportunity to play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional playoffs. That team is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks Saturday night. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. The loser goes home. Last week the Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their first playoff game after entering the postseason with a losing record. Including that win last week over the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers enter this game 8-8-1. The Seahawks are 12-4 and are looking to make it back to their second straight NFC title game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Carolina 6-2. Their last meeting came earlier this season when the Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 in Charlotte. The Seahawks went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. The Seahawks are also 3-0 all-time against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, including a 34-14 win over the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith led Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. There are a lot of storylines to take note of this week. Here is what I will be looking for.

In last season’s divisional playoff game against New Orleans, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effectiveness in the running game allowed the Seahawks to control the tempo of the game and there was never any significant threat of the Saints taking the game over. The same must happen this week. Seattle’s ability to run the ball is crucial this week since they are facing a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since October 30th (Week 9). If Lynch himself can run for at least 80 yards it will lead me to believe that we can control the clock and control the game. If the Panthers do a solid job stopping the Seahawks running game my number one guy to watch in the passing game is wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In three career games against Carolina he has 189 receiving yards and in his last two games against the Panthers, Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. In addition to playing on the outside look for Baldwin to spend a lot of time in the slot this week, as quick throws and routes down the seam could be effective.

Just like how the running game is priority number one on offense, stopping the Panthers running game is priority number one on defense. This will be difficult, as Carolina will use feature back Jonathan Stewart and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton scrambling gives the Seahawks an additional element to focus on. The Seahawks have faced Carolina each of the last three seasons. In each of those games I thought there was a serious threat of Newton running wild if the going got tough for the Panthers offense. In each of those games Newton rushed for only 42, 38, and 24 yards respectively. In a playoff situation I think now is as good a time for the Panthers to let Newton run wild if the Seahawks play great defense. Newton’s build and strength will make it difficult to wrap him up and get him to the ground. If there is a player you must keep a close eye on when Carolina has the ball, it is Cam Newton.

Over the past few weeks the Carolina Panthers defense has been playing similarly to how they played all of last season, suffocating. If could be a difficult challenge for the Seahawks to get their offense going as the Panthers sport two tackling machines at the linebacker position in Thomas Davis and pro-bowler Luke Kuechly. Davis and Kuechly have combined for 253 total tackles so far this season, by far the best of any tandem in the NFL. The Panthers do come into this game a bit banged up however, as it was announced Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured foot. Lotulelei will not play for the rest of the season. As important as Carolina’s front seven is for the Seahawks to be aware of, I will be keeping a close eye on the play of the Panthers secondary. One of Carolina’s starting cornerbacks was inactive when these two teams met back in October so I have decided to put my X-Factor player to watch spotlight on that player, cornerback Bené Benwikere. Benwikere, a 5th round rookie from San Jose State, is a physically small player who has shown he can play big in his limited playing time this season. Benwikere has recorded 24 tackles in 11 games and has also picked off one pass and forced one fumble. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will both likely line up across from Benwikere throughout the game and since he did not play in the first meeting, I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson throw in his direction multiple times in the first half.

This last point cannot be overlooked. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played in the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle, came out this week stating there is no way to prepare for just how loud the 12th Man is. It had been reported earlier in the week that the Panthers were having serious difficulties handling artificial simulated crowd noise during practice; a serious red flag. Over the past few years we have seen what kind of problems “Clink rookies” have had communicating in the huddle once they get lined up. Colin Kaepernick immediately comes to mind as his 49ers failed terribly at handling the noise in his first game in Seattle in 2012. This week the 12’s need to give everything they have to make life a living hell for Newton. I believe Newton has no idea what he is in for and it will be a harsh reality once kickoff rolls around Saturday night. The Panthers used no huddle for 22 plays last week against Arizona and they will likely use a similar dose of no huddle this week. To the 12th Man, stay loud all game long, even between plays. Our voices could be the difference between advancing to the NFC Championship Game and not.

Random Thoughts: The Panthers will wear all-white with the Seahawks wearing all-blue this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. This is not a surprise given the potential ratings of the other NFC Divisional game (Dallas at Green Bay). It makes sense that FOX would send their number one crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to Lambeau for that game instead… The referee this week is Terry McAulay. McAulay officiated the Seahawks divisional round game last season and Super Bowl XLVIII… Saturday is going to be a very long day but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love primetime football. This is going to be a very special game… The giveaway this week is “We Are 12” rally towels. I love it. Towels should be the giveaway for all playoff games and I am glad to see the Seahawks are fixing their mistake from last season (they gave away 12th Man flags vs. the Saints)… Even though this is an evening kickoff it is the playoffs, and it should be expected that everyone be in their seats by the time pregame ceremonies start. I want to see a full stadium waving their towels as the Seahawks run out of the tunnel… I believe that there is an incredibly strong possibility that former Mariners pitcher and 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson will raise the 12th Man flag this week. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet… One of my favorite postseason traditions is when the Seahawks play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” with a video encouraging fans to get loud as the television broadcast is coming back from a TV timeout. If they bring this back on Saturday night I am going to get super super pumped… This week marks the return of the Skittles in section 340. To everyone possibly sitting below me this is your warning to watch out. Streamers will also be making a re-appearance in these playoffs. Let’s make this playoff run a full on raging party in the stands… One win away from the NFC Championship and two victories away from Super Bowl XLIX. It’s on the tips of our fingers.

Prediction: The Panthers and Seahawks will keep this game close until the closing minutes of the first half. With the Seahawks holding a 7-3 lead, Richard Sherman will intercept a Cam Newton pass and Marshawn Lynch will score a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the half, giving the Seahawks a 14-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks will carry that momentum into the second half as they will take the opening kickoff and drive the length of the field, culminating in a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, giving the Seahawks a 21-3 lead. Beast Mode will add one more score in garbage time and the Seahawks will cruise to the NFC Championship to face the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks 28, Panthers 10

Due to a belated birthday celebration for myself with all of my friends after the game I will not have my game review published until Sunday night most likely. By then we will know who we will face in the NFC Championship Game should we win on Saturday. Check back Sunday night for my take on Saturday’s game. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 17, 49ers 7

14 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The Seahawks could not be clicking at a better time. In a game that to me was too close for comfort for the majority of the afternoon, the Seahawks found a way to pull away from the San Francisco 49ers late, escaping with a 17-7 victory. The Seahawks improve to 10-4 and will play for the NFC West lead next week in Arizona. The 49ers fall to 7-7 and with this loss they have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The focus in Seattle is going to shift very quickly to next week’s game against the Cardinals but let me break down what I saw out of the Seahawks in this game.

Offensive Line Struggles: The Seahawks offensive line may be the most inconsistent group on the team. After keeping quarterback Russell Wilson clean the past two weeks, the Seahawks offensive line and a very difficult time stopping the pass rush of the 49ers. Wilson was sacked 5 times on Sunday and was hurried or flushed out of the pocket on the majority of plays that San Francisco blitzed 5 or more defenders. Justin Britt in particular had a hard time adjusting to calls at the line of scrimmage and picking up his blocks. In all honesty, the Seahawks played better in the second half after starting left tackle Russell Okung exited the game at halftime with a chest bruise. One silver lining is that the Seahawks offense rushed for 152 yards in this game, 91 of which coming from running back Marshawn Lynch. Looking ahead however, it will be extremely difficult for our offense to score points next week if the Arizona defense plays the way it did last Thursday in St. Louis. As dominating as our defense has played the past few weeks, 17 points on offense is not going to win us every game. With Max Unger hopefully back in the lineup next Sunday, I believe our offensive line can bounce back in a big way.

Unsung Heroes: Paul Richardson caught his first career touchdown pass on Sunday, a 10-yard slant route which extended the Seattle lead to 17-7. Richardson gets the spotlight because of the touchdown but don’t forget about the roles wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse played on Sunday. Baldwin and Kearse caught two-thirds of Russell Wilson’s completions and combined for 131 receiving yards, including a 47-yard reception by Kearse and a 35-yard catch by Baldwin. Both plays came on first half drives which should have ended in points. Instead the Seahawks came away empty handed. With the quality production from our top 3 receivers on Sunday it is possible that Russell Wilson is comfortable enough with his weapons to take more chances down the field.

Kaepernick, Hyde Fluster Defense: I was not the least bit concerned with 49ers running back Frank Gore coming into this game. Gore finished the day prematurely, leaving with a concussion after gaining 29 yards. Instead the quickness of Carlos Hyde and the willingness of quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run seemed to catch the Seahawks off guard. The Seattle defense gave up 140 rushing yards to the 49ers on Sunday, the most allowed at home since week 6 against Dallas. Hyde was on a roll until he too left the game with an injury, leaving fullback Bruce Miller and third string running back Alfonso Smith to carry the load late in the game. The Seahawks defense found an answer to stop Miller and Smith but that also begs the question of would this have been a closer game if Gore and Hyde did not get hurt. Many of San Francisco’s runs went off-tackle and the Seahawks adjusted accordingly as the game progressed. Moving forward it may be beneficial if we spread out our personnel earlier in the game, especially next week against an Arizona rushing attack that averaged 4.3 yards per carry this week.

Sacks for Everyone: The Seahawks team up with Jack in the Box and award a free Jumbo Jack to all fans if the Seahawks defense can record three sacks. For the first time, we the fans had our free burgers by the end of the first quarter and that was only a small sample of the dominance the Seahawks front seven displayed this week. The Seahawks dialed up the pressure all game long and it resulted in 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick. The interior pass rush had me very satisfied, as defensive tackle Jordan Hill recorded two sacks and defensive tackle Kevin Williams had a sack of his own. Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin also had sacks up the middle, which goes to show how bad of a game 49ers backup center Joe Looney played. In our last 4 games the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of just under 7 points per game, by far the best average in the league. To me however, the lack of offensive production overshadowed the performance of our defense. Upon reflection, when the Seahawks extended it to a two-score game it was definitely over. This defense needs to show up big next week. If the defense can stay on this path, it will be incredibly hard for Arizona’s third string quarterback to beat us next week.

Thoughts on San Francisco: This 49ers team seemed to have played this game inspired but their prideful effort was too much for the talent the Seahawks threw at them. This was most likely Jim Harbaugh’s last hurrah as the head coach of the 49ers and you have to wonder how this season would have played out if they could have stayed healthy throughout. The 49ers are capable of bouncing back in 2015 but just like how Harbaugh coached Mike Singletary’s talent to the best of their abilities when he arrived in 2011, the same must go for whoever the 49ers next head coach is. The way the NFC West has been built in recent years however, it may take more than one year for San Francisco to get back to playoff contention.

Random Thoughts: It was an earlier arriving crowd at the bar before the game. All tables were full by 9:15am. It was a very festive atmosphere that almost felt like a playoff game… That festive environment before the game seemed to dissipate real quick once the game started. It almost felt as though the 12th Man was taking it easy on the 49ers for the first part of the game. The intensity was not what I was hoping it would be but it got better later on once we took our first lead and the noise did not stop until the end of the game… In my opinion the Ebola ribbons handed out as the pregame giveaway was a huge failure. I saw no one wearing them. Literally no one… Great weather on Sunday. I love late season games with nothing but sunshine… John Olerud raised the 12th Man flag before the game; a legitimate candidate that I approve of… The blue endzones are back because the Sounders season is over. Thank goodness. I love the blue endzones. It gives the field a classic look… One of the highlights from the day was when they put 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on the video board complaining after the questionable roughing the passer call which favored the Seahawks. The entire stadium booed. It was one of the loudest moments of the day. It was awesome… If we win next week, holy moly. That’s all I can say.

This upcoming week is by far the biggest of the season. Check back Saturday when I preview our week 16 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!