Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys

Browns/Seahawks Preview

19 Dec
browns preview 2015

Photo Credit: seattlepi.com

Matchup: Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

The Cleveland Browns are one of three NFL teams I have never seen play live. After Sunday that number decreases to two. On Sunday the Browns visit Seattle for the first time since 2003 when they take on the Seahawks. Talk about a tale of two teams. The Seahawks are soaring, sitting at 8-5 on the season and are currently on a 4-game winning streak. The Browns on the other hand are 3-10 and are one of a small handful of teams vying for the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The all-time series between these teams is 11-6 in favor of the Seahawks. This record includes the seasons prior to the Browns being reborn as an expansion franchise in 1999. Our last meeting with Cleveland in 2011 remains one of the hardest Seahawks games I have ever watched. With Charlie Whitehurst making only his third career start at quarterback, the Seahawks were inept at moving the ball on offense. Amazingly Cleveland was not much better yet they edged the Seahawks by a score of 6-3. Here is what I will be watching for in this week’s game.

Of course the number one question everyone has been asking the past few days is “who is going to start at running back?” There are more questions that still need to be answered however. What kind of split will our offense have in regards to running vs. passing? Will Russell Wilson take more initiative trying to move the ball on the ground? Are we going to abandon the run altogether? I am going to try my best to answer these questions right now. I would not be surprised to see Fred Jackson start at running back and see the majority of the work especially since the Seahawks released DuJuan Harris earlier this week. Christine Michael, who was cut by the Seahawks and spent limited time with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins this season, was re-signed on Wednesday. Bryce Brown was also re-signed after a cup of coffee with the team earlier in the year but has a limited understanding of our playbook. Both Michael and Brown have had issues fumbling the ball over the course of their careers so they may be on an equally short leash. As far as our offensive balance goes I think we will stick to establishing the run early on. If the running back, whoever it may be, struggles to move the ball efficiently I think we could see Russell Wilson throwing way more than we are accustomed to. Read option is a possibility but Cleveland is an opponent that can be beat without having to use read option a lot. I think the threat of read-option keepers by Wilson are best kept hidden until January. The only way the Seahawks would abandon the run entirely is if we are trailing late in the game when we would be forced to throw the ball.

Let’s talk about the Cleveland Browns offense. This is a squad that ranks in bottom three rushing units in all of football but are ranked 11th in passing yards per game, mainly because they trail in all their games and are forced to throw the ball. After gaining the starting job then losing it due to off-the-field troubles, the Browns will once again start second year quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel has focused on making more conservative passes and his completion percentages of 73.3 and 67.7 percent the past two weeks respectively speak towards this notion. Because of this he does not throw many interceptions (3 total this season). Travis Benjamin is Cleveland’s bang-or-bust weapon down the field and he leads all Browns receivers in targets the past two weeks with 18.  My focus will be on the Browns most consistent receiver. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cleveland Browns is tight end Gary Barnidge. Barnidge signed a lucrative three-year contract extension last week and he is well deserving of it. Barnidge is no doubt a game changer and has been one of the lone bright spots on a porous Browns team. He leads the team with 901 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Barnidge will see his share of receptions this week and given the Seahawks struggles with tight ends there is potential for him to have yet another big day on Sunday.

The Browns defense ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per game but they feature some talented players. Their defensive line is led by defensive end Desmond Bryant but keep an eye on rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton who will have a big impact in shutting down the Seahawks running game. Veteran linebackers Paul Kruger and Karlos Dansby lead the second level of the defense. The secondary is a unit that has big play potential but they have been unable to stay healthy as a unit. Cornerback Joe Haden is on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after suffering a concussion in week 8. Justin Gilbert, the 8th overall pick by the Browns a season ago, has become irrelevant and if you asked Browns fans they might tell you he is not even worth a roster spot. With former Packer Tramon Williams leading the defense with 9 passes defensed and third on the team in tackles with 47, it will be up to left corner Charles Gaines to have a big game because it is likely Russell Wilson will test him often.

This week could be a huge week for the 12’s. Johnny Manziel has never played at CenturyLink Field and I have a strange feeling in my gut that he is the most likely quarterback to fail miserably at handling our crowd noise in recent years. I have never made a prediction as to how many false starts the opposing team will have but I strongly believe the Browns will have at least 5 false start penalties on Sunday, which would be the most of any opposing team in 2015.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will go all college navy at home. No surprise there. The Browns redesigned their uniforms over the offseason and they now have three different jersey, pant, and sock colors (white, brown, and orange). This week they will go with a clean look: White jerseys, white pants, and brown socks… For the second straight week Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, and Tony Siragusa are on the FOX broadcast. I hope fans sitting close to the field give Siragusa a hard time about the whole “Russell Williams” incident last week. He’ll be sure to say his name right this week. Wouldn’t be surprised if he brings it up on the broadcast either… Gene Steratore is the referee… I’m taking a friend of mine to the game who I went to school with but currently lives in San Francisco. He is driving home and is currently on the road as we speak. Hopefully he’s not too tired for a full day down at the stadium tomorrow… 1:05pm start this week so for those attending make sure you make it into the stadium a little earlier than normal… My goal was to have my Christmas shopping done and my presents wrapped by the time this game rolled around. Mission accomplished.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are numerous scenarios that involve the Seahawks clinching a playoff spot this week. The easiest of which I will discuss here. With the Rams win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win AND a loss by either the New York Giants or Washington Redskins. With a win Seattle will also maintain the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks fall to the #6 seed if they lose and the Minnesota Vikings win. The Arizona Cardinals clinch the NFC West with a win over Philadelphia Sunday night or if the Seahawks lose. Here are the games to keep track of. Teams to note are bolded.

Carolina (13-0) at New York Giants (6-7)

Buffalo (6-7) at Washington (6-7)

Chicago (5-8) at Minnesota (8-5)

Arizona (11-2) at Philadelphia (6-7)

Prediction: This game is going to get ugly fast. Russell Wilson will throw 4 touchdown passes and Christine Michael will also run for a touchdown. The Browns only score will come in garbage time when Johnny Manziel hits Travis Benjamin for a touchdown. The Seahawks will clinch a playoff spot by the end of the day and we will head into the Christmas week with a 9-5 record.

Seahawks 38, Browns 7

#10for10 Game #5: Romo’s Botched Snap (Seahawks vs. Cowboys, 2006 NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

12 Nov

*To commemorate my 10th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, I am telling the stories of the top 10 home games I have attended in the past 10 years*

Photo Credit: espn.com

Photo Credit: espn.com

By the time the 2006 postseason rolled around, playoff games at Qwest Field started to become a surefire thing. Add in the fact that the Seahawks had made it to the Super Bowl the year before, a trip to the 2006 NFL Playoffs was surely a guarantee. What was disappointing however, was how the Seahawks 2006 regular season played out. After winning 13 games and earning home-field advantage in 2005, the Seahawks battled injuries and lost several hard-fought games in 2006 resulting in a 9-7 record. Thanks to a very weak NFC West, we won the division title but were the 4 seed in the playoffs. The Seahawks were going to host an NFC Wild-Card playoff game and on Saturday, January 6th, 2007 we took on the 5 seeded Dallas Cowboys.

Once we clinched the division in week 16 I immediately knew who I was going to invite to this playoff game. My friend Brent had never been to an NFL football game so what could be better than making your first ever game a playoff game? We discussed our plan for game day at school every day the week leading up to the game.

Kickoff was scheduled for 5pm and Brent and I headed downtown rather early. We got down to the stadium around 12:30 and we hung out at Touchdown City in the stadium event center until the Qwest Field gates opened at 2. We were two of the first fans in line and once the gates opened we headed straight to the upper deck. It remains the earliest I had arrived at my seats for any game since I became a season ticket holder and we filled the time walking around and taking pictures. As a couple of 16-year old kids, it did not matter how early we arrived. We didn’t need to tailgate or hang out at the bars (even though we legally couldn’t). Just being inside the stadium and in the atmosphere of a building about to host playoff football, that was more than enough to the both of us.

Brent and I entered the stadium three hours early and were two of the first people in line at the gates.

Brent and I entered the stadium three hours early and were two of the first people in line at the gates.

As the sun went down, the stadium started to fill up and by the time it was dark it was time for football.

The Seahawks and Cowboys exchanged field goals in the first quarter, and after another Josh Brown field goal for the Seahawks, the Cowboys responded with a long touchdown drive culminating in a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. Dallas took a 10-6 lead into the locker room but it seemed as though an entirely different Seahawks team emerged from the halftime break. The highlight of the first half was when Romo threw over the middle to his intended receiver, superstar Terrell Owens. Owens was running a crossing route. The ball hit him right in the hands and was dropped. The crowd erupted into cheers and in our area of the stadium the chant “T.O. SUCKS” started. The cheer started to move around the stadium just like how “the wave” moves around, and within a matter of seconds all 67,000-plus fans in attendance were chanting “T.O. SUCKS” in unison. The cheer was so loud it could be clearly heard on the television broadcast.

The 12th Man had not been given one huge play to go crazy for until the third quarter. The Seahawks were driving on their opening possession of the half and had moved the ball into the red zone looking to take the lead. Matt Hasselbeck faked a handoff to Shaun Alexander and fired a pass down the middle to Jerramy Stevens. Stevens caught the pass and crossed the goal line for a touchdown. The score gave the Seahawks a 13-10 lead with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter. The fans really got fired up but that momentum was gone in a heartbeat. On the ensuing kickoff Dallas kick returner Miles Austin returned the kick 93 yards for a touchdown. The score gave the Cowboys the lead right back and just like that it was 17-13 Dallas. The fourth quarter scoring started with a Martin Gramatica field goal extending the Cowboys lead to 20-13. The Seahawks needed to orchestrate a comeback but things looked bleak when the Cowboys got the ball back inside their own 5-yard line with just over 6 and a half minutes left in regulation. This is when the game completely changed.

Romo fired a bubble screen to Terry Glenn but the ball was jarred out of his grasp by rookie cornerback Kelly Jennings and bounced into the end zone. The Seahawks looked to have recovered the ball inbounds for a touchdown but upon review it was determined that Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom had touched the ball with one foot out of bounds. Instead of a touchdown, the Seahawks were awarded a safety. The score was now 20-15 Cowboys with the Seahawks about to get the ball back again. Hasselbeck found Stevens once again for a 37-yard touchdown and even though we failed to convert the two-point conversion, the Seahawks had taken the lead back, 21-20.

It came down to one last stop. If the Seahawks could prevent the Cowboys from scoring on their final drive, the Seahawks would move on to the NFC Divisional playoffs. Our chances looked extremely grim when Dallas successfully moved the ball all the way to the Seattle one-yard line. Facing a 4th down with 1:20 left in the game, all that stood in the Cowboys way of their first playoff victory since 1996 was a chip-shot 19-yard field goal attempt. The snap was perfect and as Tony Romo moved his hands to spot the ball, the ball slipped right out of his hands. Brent and I had a crystal clear view of the entire play unfolding directly in front of us. I saw the ball slip out of his hands but in the heat of the moment, I was naïve enough for a split second to think the Cowboys had called some sort of trick play. As Romo got up flustered and tried to run the ball in it was clear this was not a trick, but a simple field goal try gone horribly wrong. As Romo ran around the left side, he was being chased by Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux tripped him up short of the line to gain and Romo fell to the ground. To me it looked as if someone had tied Romo’s shoes together and he fell on his face after trying to get up and walk.

When Romo hit the ground we went crazy. I remember jumping up and down, jostling with Brent in the process while screaming “WE’RE GOING TO THE DIVISIONALS! WE’RE GOING TO THE DIVISIONALS!” We could not believe that such a simple play could go so wrong. We were elated but the game was not yet over. The Seahawks tried to run out the clock but after a punt, enough time was left for one last play for the Cowboys. With the ball at the 50-yard line the only play the Cowboys could run was a Hail Mary. After buying some time to let his receivers get positioned in the endzone, Romo flung up a prayer but the pass was batted down. The crowd erupted into one last cheer and the Seahawks had officially punched their ticket to the next round of the playoffs.

This photo was taken seconds after the Cowboys final play of the game.

This photo was taken seconds after the Cowboys final play of the game.

The mood was complete jubilation. On the way out of the stadium we walked down the ramp, a walk that still sticks in my mind today. As we walked we joined in on a “DAL-LAS SUCKS” chant. I also happened to turn around to see the most vulgar sign I have ever seen at a sporting event; a man carrying a simple white poster board with “F**K T.O.” written in black permanent marker on it. So simple, so awesome. On the way home we listened to the post game show on 710 KIRO and all they could talk about was the final play and how the Dallas Cowboys choked so bad. For his first ever NFL game, it was a memory that was probably going to be hard for Brent to top. For me, this night still goes down as one of the best Seahawks games I have ever witnessed firsthand.

“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.

Seahawks 2015 Schedule: Predicting the Primetime Matchups

20 Apr
Photo Credit: Fansided.com

Photo Credit: Fansided.com

Tomorrow night the NFL will release the 2015 regular season schedule. This is a day many fans and season ticket holders look forward to, as we will know when we play our opponents and when we may be heading on the road for away game road trips during the fall.

Any given team can be scheduled a maximum of five primetime games at the time of the schedule release and can earn one additional game flexed into primetime during the season. The Seahawks are the defending NFC Champions and will likely play at least four games in primetime this season. Usually a team who had that much success during the previous season would be a lock to have five games scheduled in primetime however as the defending Super Bowl champions last season, the Seahawks only played in four nationally televised games. This season I believe the Seahawks will be scheduled five primetime games. These are the matchups I predict will be shown under the lights on national television.

Cardinals at Seahawks

The San Francisco 49ers have faded into mediocrity and the Arizona Cardinals have emerged as the primary threat to dethrone the Seahawks as NFC West Champions. The Seahawks have played the Cardinals in primetime each of the last two seasons however both of those games were played in Arizona. The Seahawks have never hosted the Cardinals in primetime since moving to the NFC West in 2002 and this upcoming season may be the best opportunity for this matchup to happen on national television. I could see this game being played on either Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football, however I believe SNF is more likely.

Lions at Seahawks

If Detroit had defeated Dallas in last year’s Wild-Card playoff game the Lions would have come to Seattle to play the Seahawks in the Divisional round. The Cowboys won instead, and instead of the Lions coming to town the Seahawks hosted the Carolina Panthers. The Lions are one of four 2014 playoff teams to play the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in 2015. They are an up-and-coming team that I believe could challenge Green Bay for the NFC North crown this season. On top of the talent Detroit possesses on both sides of the ball, the homecoming of former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate is a storyline that would not go unnoticed in the days leading up to the game. I believe this game is best suited for Monday Night Football on ESPN.

Seahawks at Cowboys

Any Dallas Cowboys game is a candidate to be scheduled into primetime but let’s look at the resumes of both teams. Both the Seahawks and Cowboys won their divisions last season, they came one Dez Bryant non-catch away from meeting in the NFC Championship Game, and the Cowboys delivered the only blemish to Seattle’s home record in 2014, a 30-23 loss last October. Although they have lost key production on offense, specifically at running back, the Cowboys are primed to be a serious contender in 2015. If the Seahawks had not played on Thanksgiving last season I would think this game could definitely be worth scheduling as the afternoon matchup on turkey day. The reality is the NFL will not schedule a team on Thanksgiving back-to-back seasons on the road. NBC will likely get this matchup for one of the better Sunday Night Football matchups of the season.

Seahawks at Packers

This is another matchup that could be destined for Sunday Night Football even though it may be more appropriate on Monday Night Football. Think about the three matchups against Green Bay dating back to 2012: the Fail Mary, the Seahawks 20-point blowout win on NFL Kickoff 2014, and the miracle comeback in the NFC Championship Game three months ago. This is the Seahawks first trip to Green Bay in the regular season since 2009 and given the recent history between these two teams, it will certainly be a hostile environment for the Seahawks to handle. I would be stunned if this game is not scheduled in primetime. If it is not it will certainly be “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX in the 1:25pm time slot.

Seahawks at Rams

Only 6 teams do not get one of their games scheduled on Thursday Night Football each season. Any team’s odds of playing one game on TNF are high but the Seahawks chances are exceedingly high in 2015 given that they were one of the 6 teams who did not play on TNF last season (last year’s Thanksgiving game was an NBC game, not an NFL Network/CBS Thursday night game). 13 Thursday Night games in 2014 were division rivalries. I believe the Rams would be the most likely opponent for the Seahawks to play on Thursday Night Football.

Honorable Mention

Although I did not predict the following matchups to be scheduled in primetime, I think these three games also carry potential to be scheduled on national television instead of the games I listed: 49ers at Seahawks, Steelers at Seahawks, Seahawks at Ravens

Review: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24

3 Feb
Photo Credit: Patriots.com

Photo Credit: Patriots.com

I can count the number of times I have been this heartbroken on one hand. I could use only a couple of fingers actually. After a game in which we saw alternating first half touchdowns and us grabbing a 10-point fourth quarter lead, two defensive lapses and a play call which will go down as one of the worst in NFL history ultimately cost the Seahawks a second world championship. The New England Patriots are the 2014 world champions after a 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX win which will go down as one of the greatest Super Bowls of all-time. Unfortunately for us 12’s, we come out on the short end of things. This review will be exclusively commentary. There are several topics on the way this game turned out that I would like to shed light on. No stats, no game analysis. Just me talking. My hope is by the end of this I myself will be feeling better. My hope is that my words will help you get over this incredible unexplainable heartbreak as well.

Seahawks Lost Game Well Before Final Play: The Seahawks defense had every opportunity to make sure this game would not come down to Russell Wilson’s game clinching interception. Instead they gave up 14 fourth quarter points, blowing a 10-point lead which normally would be enough for us to hold on and win. Tom Brady absolutely picked the Seahawks defense apart and the New England offensive game plan was executed exquisitely. It did not help that Seattle lost both Jeremy Lane and Cliff Avril to injuries but their replacements, especially backup cornerback Tharold Simon had an extremely difficult time staying with the Patriots receivers. The 28 points the Seahawks allowed is tied for the 3rd highest single game total allowed in 2014. Seattle lost all three of the other games in which they allowed 28 or more points (San Diego, Dallas, St. Louis). Our pass rush was ineffective and that allowed Brady time to step up and make some great throws. It is amazing however that considering how badly our defense played, we were still in a position to win the game. That should say something about the resolve and fight of this young group.

The Call: In regards to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and his play calling, let me rewind the clock for a minute. The following was taken directly from my review of the Seahawks loss to the Kansas City Chiefs back on November 16th:

”I understand that in crunch time if a play is successful the offensive coordinator is touted as a genius and if it fails he is widely criticized. This season however I feel like whatever play Bevell dials up in these situations, me along with the majority of Seahawks fans would have called the complete opposite play, regardless of whether we convert or not. Frankly I am absolutely sick and tired of Bevell’s play-calling in high pressure situations. I hope that Bevell is in a position to be interviewed and accept a head coaching job somewhere come seasons end. Whether he is offered a new job elsewhere or he is fired, I do not want him on this staff in 2015. Overreaction or not, I believe it is time for the Seahawks to move on from Darrell Bevell.”

Let me get this out of the way bluntly. I absolutely do not agree with the second down play call of a quick inside slant on the one-yard line. I doubt anybody agrees with it. My previous thoughts following the Kansas City game however raise an interesting point. If Ricardo Lockette catches that ball for a touchdown, the Seahawks repeat as world champions. The manner in which the play failed is greatly magnified because of the situation; one yard away from taking the lead with 20 seconds left, and the Seahawks likely going on to win the game and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. After taking the time to think about the situation this is what I would have done. You may agree or you may not. I would have called a run to Marshawn Lynch on second down. If we are stopped I would take our final timeout. On third down I would have called one of three plays: either a Russell Wilson roll out pass similar to the 2-point conversion play call in the NFC Championship Game, a fade to Chris Matthews in the back corner of the endzone (I would have confidence in him out-jumping either Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner to make the catch), or I would let Russell Wilson keep the ball on a read-option or a naked bootleg. If we are stopped here and the clock is dead, on fourth down I would line up with an extra offensive lineman on the right side, I would put fullback Will Tukuafu in motion to be an additional right-side blocker, then hand the ball to Lynch and let him plow his way across the goal line.

The timing of this play could not have been worse and it cost us a championship. This is not the first time Bevell has made questionable play calls within 5 yards of the endzone. Arizona in 2012 and Kansas City this year immediately come to mind. I stand by my opinion that the Seahawks need to move on from Darrell Bevell in 2015. Pete Carroll can fall on the sword and take the blame all he wants, but Bevell’s play calling has cost us games time and time again and his tendencies nipping us in the bud in the biggest game in franchise history should be the tipping point.

Infamous Company: Shortly after the game I texted a friend of mine, pondering “is this how Titans fans feel?” The Seahawks join the 1999 Tennessee Titans as the two teams that came up one yard short of potentially winning the Super Bowl. However, the Seahawks loss is much worse for one big reason, the answer my friend and I agreed on: “The Titans didn’t even get the chance to screw it up.”

It is true. The Titans advanced the ball down to the one-yard line but the clock was not their ally. Tennessee ran out of time before they were able to snap one more play and the St. Louis Rams went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV. In this instance, the Seahawks got the ball to the one-yard line and potentially had three more opportunities to score. Instead, well, you know what happened. This is what makes this loss the most painful I have ever experienced. To know we were a mere 36 inches away from back-to-back championships makes me sick to my stomach.

Staying Positive: As tough as this loss may be to process right now here are some points to help us stay optimistic about the future. First, after the Seahawks lost to Atlanta in the 2012 playoffs we saw this team work as hard as possible over the next offseason to make sure they would not be in the same position again. That hard work resulted in a Super Bowl title in 2013. I believe this awful taste will stay in the mouths of all these players for the next seven months and we will be hungrier than ever come September. Second, this team is young. It is not like this group was aging and had only one shot to win a championship and the ship sailed. This core group is going to be around for a long time and I am certain we will be back in the Super Bowl very soon, maybe even again next season. The third and perhaps most important point is this. Even though we lost this time around we know what it feels like to be world champions. For the longest time the Seahawks were a franchise that had no championship history. We have been to the summit. We are not still in search of our first Lombardi Trophy. XLVIII will never be taken away from us. As nice as it would be to have two right now, remember we had zero for over 35 years. I am damn proud of the one championship that we do have and those are memories that will never ever go away.

Random Thoughts: Just one thought in regards to the overall gameday/stadium experience. I liked how spread out and convenient events seemed to be this year compared to last year. Although downtown Phoenix and Times Square were eerily similar, the gameday experience in and around the stadium in Glendale was much smoother this year. I liked being able to be dropped off in the Westgate Entertainment District, eat before the game, then get into the stadium within 10 minutes rather than take two trains to New Jersey, have 4+ hours of time to kill before the game, then take two trains after the game and get back to the hotel at 3 o’clock in the morning.

I have yet to decide if I will do a post chronicling my week in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX. If I do decide to write something, look for that likely this weekend. My hope is to be back in a couple weeks during the NFL Scouting Combine. By then I hope is to be fully over this devastation and be fully focused on the 2015 season. Thanks for reading and for the support throughout this season everybody. It means a lot to me. 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!

Commentary: Who Will it Be?

1 Jan
From L-R: Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Lions WR Calvin Johnson

From L-R: Panthers QB Cam Newton, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Lions WR Calvin Johnson

The Seahawks and the 12th Man will not know until late Sunday afternoon who we will play in our NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 10th. One of three teams will be traveling to Seattle for that playoff game. If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions this Sunday, the winner of Saturday’s game between the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers will play the Seahawks. If Detroit beats Dallas, the Lions will play the Seahawks on January 10th. Here is a brief breakdown of all three potential opponents including who I personally would like to play, and who I think the Seahawks will probably face in their first playoff game.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their division and enter the playoffs with a losing record. Unlike the 2010 Seahawks who went into their Wild-Card playoff game double digit underdogs to the New Orleans Saints, the 7-8-1 Panthers are 5.5 point favorites over the Arizona Cardinals this week. The Panthers are the team I believe the Seahawks will face next Saturday night. Carolina has won 4 straight games and getting to play at home against a backup quarterback gives them an advantage. With a win, the Panthers will record their first playoff win since defeating the Chicago Bears in the 2005 NFC Divisional playoffs.

The Pros: Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the only quarterback of the Seahawks potential opposing quarterbacks to have never played at CenturyLink Field. The fact that he would be playing in front of a playoff revved 12th Man makes the idea of the Seahawks advancing to the NFC Championship Game highly likely. The Seahawks are 3-0 against Carolina all-time at CenturyLink Field.

The Cons: I do not know how Bears fans felt when they hosted the 2010 Seahawks in the NFC Divisional playoffs but I would be a little worried that the 12’s would not treat this game like a true playoff game because of the Panthers record. The fact of the matter is that the Panthers were good enough to get into the playoffs. It shouldn’t matter what their regular season record says. At the end of the day, it’s still win or go home.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are making their first playoff appearance since 2009 but they are stumbling into the playoffs, having lost their last two regular season games with Ryan Lindley at quarterback. I think it is possible that if they can beat Carolina this week, Drew Stanton will be back as the starting quarterback by the time they would play Seattle. The Seahawks have beaten both Stanton and Lindley this season. Stanton played the game in Seattle and went 14/26 for 149 yards and one interception. The Cardinals defense is arguably the best of these three potential opponents and could give the Seahawks the closest game.

The Pros: Now that Jim Harbaugh has left the NFC West, the coach the Seahawks should now love to hate the most is Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Arians has stated that he believes the Cardinals can with the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton, but that was when the Cardinals controlled the division by 3 games over the Seahawks. Things have fallen on hard times in Arizona since and it would be awesome to beat this team and the likely NFL coach of the year for a third time this season. This is likely the beginning of an intense rivalry with the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cons: This may be the future of our division rivalries but it simply does not have as “hateful” of a feel that playing the San Francisco 49ers three times last year had. I think we would beat Arizona in this playoff game handedly, possibly making the later parts of the game kind of boring.

Detroit Lions: The Lions have not played in Seattle since 2009. They have a talented defense that is capable of stopping Marshawn Lynch. The Lions boast the most explosive offense of any of these three teams and would provide the best and most exciting challenge for the Seahawks defense and the Legion of Boom. I for one would love to see Richard Sherman go up against Calvin Johnson, and to see the return of former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate. This is the matchup that I would most like to see.

The Pros: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has played in Seattle before but that was when the Seahawks were not very good. He has only played in one playoff game and he lost. The playoff inexperience of the Lions could give the Seahawks a significant leg up in this matchup.

The Cons: None.

Rams/Seahawks Preview

27 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

It is a case of déjà vu for the Seahawks this week. Once again we end our regular season at home against the St. Louis Rams and once again a Seahawks win will clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks are 11-4, winners of their last 5 games. The Rams are 6-9, last place in the NFC West, and are looking to avoid their first double-digit loss season since 2011. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-13. St. Louis’s win over the Seahawks back in October is the only divisional blemish on the Seahawks record. This week the Seahawks and the 12th Man want to ensure the road to Super Bowl XLIX goes through CenturyLink Field. This is what must happen for the Seahawks to avoid an epic upset that could cost us the #1 seed.

Overall, I believe both the Seahawks offense and defense ae plenty capable of getting the job done this week. The only way I see Seattle losing is if we beat ourselves which is a big reason as to why we lost to the Rams earlier this season. There are three things we need to avoid doing in order to come away victorious. The first thing the Seahawks must do is not to commit penalties in excessive fashion. Last week penalties were a huge problem especially in the first half. The Seahawks are averaging 8.5 penalties per game and there have only been two games this season where Seattle’s opponent commits more penalties than the Seahawks themselves. If the Seahawks can hold their number of penalties to under their season average we will be in tremendous shape. Specifically, the Seahawks must show they have fixed their problem with procedure penalties. Seattle committed two false starts and two offsides penalties last week. Zero is my target number this week. Anything greater than zero is a failure in my eyes.

The second thing the Seahawks must do is not commit turnovers; something they have done an excellent job controlling the past few weeks. During our five game winning streak the Seahawks have turned the ball over only three times. The Seahawks have also averaged only one turnover per game at home this season. Ball security has been a huge strength of this team down the stretch and the Seahawks will absolutely secure a victory if they can continue to not turn the ball over.

The third thing, which is the broadest yet the most important thing that must happen, is to avoid major injuries. With the playoffs coming up, the worst thing that can happen is for the Seahawks to lose important pieces of the starting lineup especially on defense. The Seahawks have played as complete of football since the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and the re-emergence of strong safety Kam Chancellor. We are ready to make an impact in January. The only thing that could threaten our hopes of making a deep playoff push is injuries.

After watching the St. Louis Rams drop back-to-back games the previous two weeks I am reminded of our matchup against the Arizona Cardinals last week. I say that because of the temporary leader of the Rams offense, quarterback Shaun Hill. After a lackluster game against Arizona two weeks ago, Hill bounced back with a 75% completion percentage and threw for 290 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and an interception in a losing effort last week against the New York Giants. This tells me one thing; Hill is a very inconsistent quarterback where even his best effort is not enough to win. Like Arizona last week, if the Rams have any chance at winning this game it will have to come at the hands of their defense and special teams. The Rams sport a very talented defense with recognizable names at all three levels but my focus this week is on a player who does not get constant recognition. My X-Factor player to watch for the Rams this week is safety T.J. McDonald. Not many Rams defenders do multiple things really well but McDonald does a very good job getting to the ball carrier to make tackles and also does a good job tracking the ball in the passing game. McDonald ranks third among all Rams in tackles with 98 on the season. McDonald also gets to the quarterback when safety blitzes are dialed up, recording two sacks this season. In the secondary McDonald has seven passes defensed and one interception. I do not expect the Seahawks to air the ball out consistently this week so I expect McDonald’s biggest impact to be getting to the ball carrier. If McDonald can force a Seattle turnover it is possible that St. Louis can keep this game close.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks in all blue, Rams most likely in all white this week… Gus Johnson and Charles Davis have the call for FOX this week. This is the first and only NFL game Johnson and Davis call this season, as they normally are FOX’s number one broadcasting crew for college football. For those of you unfamiliar with Gus Johnson’s broadcast style you are either going to be wildly entertained or wildly annoyed. His nickname is “screamin’ Gus” for a reason. Just type his name in on YouTube and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I would love to hear a Gus Johnson call of a long Marshawn Lynch touchdown this week… We have played the Rams at home in week 17 four out of the past five seasons. Hey NFL, how about we switch the schedule up next year… Going to switch it up before the game. Pyramid Alehouse for lunch and perhaps a beer at Safeco Field before heading into the stadium. Looking forward to Pyramid’s fish and chips… The Seahawks are giving away “We Are 12” t-shirts at the gates this week. I hope they look cool. We’ll see if the Seahawks encourage the fans to wear the shirts or to use the shirts to wave like towels… The postseason schedule will likely be announced at halftime of Sunday Night Football between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. As excited as I am for the Seahawks game, I am almost more excited to see when and at what time the Seahawks will play their first playoff game. I am hoping we get to play on the Sunday of divisional weekend instead of Saturday like last year… Barring an epic collapse my hope is to be down at the Seahawks Pro Shop after the game getting my Seahawks 2014 NFC West champions gear just like last year!

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: A Seahawks win gives us the NFC West title and virtually guarantees we clinch the #1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The only way the Seahawks do not earn the #1 seed with a win is if the Lions/Packers game ends in a tie. If the Seahawks lose and the Cardinals lose, the Seahawks will still win the NFC West but could earn the #1, #2, or #3 seed depending on what Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas do on Sunday. A Seahawks loss and a Cardinals win would give Arizona the NFC West title and the Seahawks will be the #5 seed. Here are Sunday’s games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Dallas (11-4) at Washington (4-11)

Arizona (11-4) at San Francisco (7-8)

Detroit (11-4) at Green Bay (11-4): The winner of DET/GB wins the NFC North and clinches the #2 seed in the NFC. The loser clinches the #6 seed in the NFC.

Carolina (6-8-1) at Atlanta (6-9): The winner of CAR/ATL wins the NFC South and clinches the #4 seed in the NFC

Prediction: The Seahawks know what is at stake and they will not let anything prevent them from winning this game. Marshawn Lynch will score a pair of touchdowns and Russell Wilson will also throw for a pair of touchdowns. For the second straight week the Seahawks will not allow a touchdown and the Seahawks will coast into the playoffs as the 2014 NFC West champions. Seattle will wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC and will take a week off before getting ready to play either Atlanta, Arizona, or Detroit in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Seahawks 31, Rams 6

Check back late Sunday night as I review our regular season finale against the Rams. I will also take a first look ahead to the NFL Playoffs and who I believe the Seahawks will face in their first playoff game. Enjoy the game and Go Seahawks!