Tag Archives: ESPN

Saints/Seahawks Preview

1 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:40pm

The Seahawks kick off the final five games of the 2013 regular season this week on Monday Night Football as they host the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks are 10-1 and currently hold a one game lead on the top seed in the NFC playoff race. Enter the 9-2 Saints, who are the ones that trail the Seahawks in the NFC standings. The winner of this game will have the edge for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 6-6. Their last meeting came in a 2010 NFC Wild-Card playoff game when the 7-9 Seahawks upset New Orleans 41-36. Of course the iconic moment of this game was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that essentially cemented the Seahawks with the victory. There is a lot on this line this week and a nationally televised audience will witness one of the more highly anticipated games of the second half of the season. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Saints in this game.

I start with the Seahawks defense because we will be without a key starter in the secondary. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy thus he will not play this week. Byron Maxwell will start and Jeremy Lane will also see playing time opposite of Richard Sherman. The main key on defense this week is to play smart and to not give up big, game-altering plays. Facing an elite quarterback such as Drew Brees, it will be likely that the Saints offense will try to stretch the field and with younger players filling in in the secondary, the chances of coverage’s being blown could be greater than if Thurmond or Brandon Browner were playing. In order to prevent Brees from having time to make deep throws our pass rush needs to have one of their best games of the season. The Saints offensive line ranks 5th in the NFL in sacks allowed so it will be necessary to send various blitz packages to confuse New Orleans and to force Brees into sacks and bad decisions. I have full confidence in Lane and Maxwell to step up and play well but their matchups this week are not favorable, especially after having a long break following the bye week.

After scoring 41 points against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Seahawks offense is primed to breakout starting on Monday night. It all starts with the running game. If the Seahawks can get Marshawn Lynch going early, control the ball, and control the clock, the Seahawks will be well on their way to a victory. The problem is that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is one of the best coaches in the game and he will certainly be orchestrating a gameplan that will put a focus on stopping the Seahawks running game. It will be very important for the Seahawks offensive line to protect Russell Wilson so he can utilize all of the weapons around him, especially since wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play due to a hip injury. Golden Tate will be Wilson’s go-to guy this week and Jermaine Kearse could also make a big impact this week. Keep your eye out for those two playmakers to get the ball in their hands often this week.

The New Orleans Saints boast one of the league’s most dominant offensive units. They are good because of a two-headed monster; the interchangeable and underrated running game featuring running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and the powerful passing game led by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees is 353 yards away from becoming the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 this season. The Saints passing game ranks second in the league overall and it will be the primary emphasis for the Seahawks defense this week. After studying the Saints on film I took away an interesting statistic. In the “first 15” (the first 15 plays previously scripted for an offense to run) the Saints threw the ball at nearly a 2:1 ratio, more than any other team the Seahawks have played so far this season. Drew Brees is known for picking apart the weaknesses of opposing defenses and he does an excellent job doing so, which is why I believe he will try to throw to wide receiver Kenny Stills often this week since Stills will line up opposite of either Byron Maxwell or Jeremy Lane. There is also a big matchup to watch in the middle of the field, literally. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is Brees’ favorite receiver and it takes multiple players to bring Graham down. Look for Kam Chancellor to shadow Graham on passing plays, as Chancellor is the biggest defender in the third level of the Seahawks defense.

The Saints dominant offense has been around for a long time but it is the Saints defense that has helped turn the team into an elite power. The Saints defense ranks in the top half of the league in both passing yards allowed (3rd) and rushing yards allowed (15th). When looking at the Saints defensive stat sheet there is one column that worries me greatly this week: the Saints do an incredible job of rushing the passer. The intimidating pass rush threat could force Russell Wilson into bad throws this week. Wilson must know where cornerback Keenan Lewis is lined up on the field, as Lewis leads New Orleans defenders in interceptions with 3. In regards to the Saints pass rush, 14 different players have recorded sacks this season and 7 of those players have recorded 2.5 sacks or more. Cameron Jordan leads all Saints defenders in sacks with 9.5 but my X-Factor player to watch this week is linebacker Junior Galette. Galette has 6 sacks so far on the season and has forced one fumble. Galette is New Orleans’s Bruce Irvin; a pass rush specialist who sees most of his playing time in third down situations. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can move the ball effectively in early down situations Galette could become a non-factor much like how he was against Atlanta last Thursday night.

There are two other added elements to keep your eye on this week. The first of which is the weather. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the mid to low 30’s and the last forecast I saw calls for a 40 percent chance of snow showers. The last time the Seahawks played a primetime game in the snow was in 2006 and the Seahawks were able to run for 235 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. Although it is unlikely, if snow becomes a factor this week I give the edge to the Seahawks, as the Saints do a better job stopping the pass than the run. The other thing to keep an eye on this week is the noise factor. I always emphasize that the 12th Man seems to have a bigger impact in primetime games and this week the intensity inside CenturyLink Field will definitely be higher. To make matters better, the 12th Man will be attempting to regain their status as the world’s loudest fans as they try to once again break the Guinness World Record for “loudest roar at a sports stadium” as was announced earlier in the week. Bad weather and noise could be the ultimate recipe for the Saints to struggle so the Seahawks must take advantage of these circumstances.

Random Thoughts: The blue jersey/blue pants combination will be seen once again this week. I expect the Saints to wear black pants with their white jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week… It would be cool to try to get a picture with the ESPN pregame crew consisting of Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and Ray Lewis. I tried to get a picture with Bob Costas back in 2011 when Sunday Night Football came to town but I failed… Expect to see an iconic Seattle sports figure raise the 12th Man Flag. It has become customary for a well-known Seattle icon to raise the flag before bigger games… Ray Dalton will sing the national anthem before the game. I guess he’s taking a break from the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis world tour… One of the coolest things to see at a primetime Seahawks game is when the video board says “ESPN, can you hear us?” If you’re going to the game on Monday night you should know what to do when you see this… The giveaway this week is roller banners that say “LOUDER” along with a Seahawks beanie. Can I get a rally towel one time Seahawks?!?! I guess they are saving towels for our home playoff games… Ed Hochuli is the referee this week. In my opinion Hochuli is one of the best referees in the NFL. He does a really good job of explaining his calls… I wonder if the weather will prevent Hochuli from showing off his trademark muscles. We’ll see… It’s going to be a long pregame on Monday before the game. Good thing we’ll be down there before traffic really gets bad… I love late season primetime games because it is dark by the time kickoff rolls around… I love the cold weather, also… I’m sure a lot of memories of the last time we played the Saints are going to run through my brain on Monday. It is hard to rank that game but that playoff game is no doubt in my top 3 of sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold a one game lead on New Orleans for the number one seed in the NFC playoffs and we hold a 3 game lead on San Francisco and Arizona for first place in the NFC West. If either Arizona or San Francisco loses on Sunday, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Here are the matchups to keep an eye on this week that could affect the NFC playoff race. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3)

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1)

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5)

St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4)

Prediction: The way I see it, if a 7-9 Seahawks team can beat Drew Brees and the Saints, a 10-1, Super Bowl contending Seahawks team can surely beat Drew Brees and the Saints. With the Saints in town and a healthy, rested Seahawks offense a lot of people may think this game will be an offensive shootout much like what happened in the playoffs three years ago. I do not believe this game will be as high scoring and both defenses will make their presence known. The Seahawks will make one or two bigger plays than New Orleans this week and that will lift Seattle to victory. Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate will score touchdowns for Seattle and linebacker K.J. Wright will intercept a Drew Brees pass in the fourth quarter that will seal the win. The Seahawks will go to 11-1 and will all but officially clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seahawks 27, Saints 17

Following Monday night’s game will start a very busy week on the blog. Check back Tuesday morning for a review of our game against the Saints. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 41, Vikings 20

17 Nov
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

It took the Seattle Seahawks 16 weeks to get to 10 wins a season ago. The Seahawks clinched their second straight 10-win season on Sunday with a 41-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings; 5 weeks ahead of last season. The Seahawks record-best start extends to 10-1 and the Vikings fall to 2-8 on the season. There is a lot to get excited about from around the league to what the Seahawks and the 12th Man have to look forward to upcoming, but let’s take a look back at some of the high points of Sunday’s win over Minnesota.

Stopping Peterson: Who would have thought that it would be Toby Gerhart, NOT Adrian Peterson, who led the Vikings in rushing yards this week. The Seahawks held the reigning NFL MVP to 65 yards rushing, while in the process proving that last week’s run defense in Atlanta was not a fluke performance. Peterson’s longest run on the day was a 13 yard run midway through the 3rd quarter. There is no question the Seahawks defense emphasized stopping the run during practice this week but even with a week of preparation to hold the most powerful running back in the league to 65 yards is something to be proud of. Like I talked about in my Vikings preview, the only way realistic way the Vikings could win is if Peterson rushed for a couple hundred yards and multiple touchdowns. Holding him out of the endzone made it very easy for the Seahawks to take control of the game as early as they did. On the whole, the Seahawks defense were successful in making Minnesota’s offense one-dimensional and when Christian Ponder was forced to throw, he made the kind of mistakes that he is known for making (see “winning the turnover battle”).

Harvin’s Debut Goes as Expected: In his postgame interviews, Percy Harvin said he recruited his teammates to go up to Head Coach Pete Carroll to convince him to put him in to return kickoffs. Harvin made the most of his single special teams opportunity. With under a minute remaining in the first half, Harvin returned a kickoff 58 yards to set up a 19-yard touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin. Harvin was very explosive and he is incredible at squeezing through blocks. His return got the 12th Man completely fired up and for me personally, it left me pondering what our return game and offense is going to look like in our final 5 regular season games. Harvin’s spark on special teams gives us a huge weapon moving forward but I would not be surprised to see opposing teams either attempt to kick it through the endzone or pooch kick to avoid putting the ball in Harvin’s hands.

As a receiver, Harvin only made one catch for 17 yards but he definitely earned style points. Harvin’s catch was tipped one-handed and hauled in as he was falling to the ground to give the Seahawks a first down, continuing a touchdown drive in the second quarter. I expected to see Harvin play 12-15 plays total but he was on the field for 10 offensive plays in the first half alone. Harvin met my expectations I had of him in today’s game and it will be fun to see him on the field full-time for the rest of the season.

Lynch Scores 3 Times, Screws My Fantasy Team: Even though I am having a terrible fantasy season, the fact that Marshawn Lynch scored over 24 fantasy points this week did not help me at all. Reality always trumps fantasy however and without Lynch’s performance the Seahawks would have struggled mightily. I would have been out of Skittles by the time Marshawn Lynch was done scoring Sunday. Lynch found the endzone three times and also ran for 54 yards this week. Lynch is currently 2nd among all running backs in rushing yards this season and with a two week break before the end of the regular season Lynch could be primed to make a push for the NFL rushing title. Lynch is currently projected to run for 1,267 yards this season but will most likely need more to claim the rushing title. His motivation towards that feat will directly parallel how we function on offense in the coming weeks.

Winning the Turnover Battle: You know how I said that if you can make Christian Ponder throw the ball mistakes are bound to be made? You saw exactly what I was talking about this week. Ponder threw two interceptions and probably should have thrown a third. After dropping a pass thrown right to him, Bobby Wagner made up for that mistake by picking off Ponder later on in the game. Ponder also threw a pick-six right to cornerback Walter Thurmond; his first interception return touchdown of his career. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-0 on Sunday and they scored 20 points as a result of those turnovers. The Seahawks now have a plus-11 turnover margin this season which is tied for 2nd best in the league.

Thoughts on Minnesota: The Minnesota Vikings have talent but they have a serious need to upgrade the quarterback position. I do not believe Christian Ponder has a successful future in Minnesota and with this lame-duck season coming to an end in 6 weeks, I think Josh Freeman should get an opportunity to start to give the Vikings front office and coaching staff a glimpse to see if Freeman has a future in Minnesota next season and beyond. The Vikings defense has potential to be a really good unit but it doesn’t help when the offense turns the ball over and gives us excellent field position. I do not expect a serious bounce-back from the Vikings next season but they will most likely be primed with a top-5 draft pick in 2014 and I think if one of the elite college quarterbacks is available the Vikings may want to consider drafting the potential future quarterback of their franchise.

Random Thoughts: We got to the Hawks Nest Bar at 8:30 in the morning. Almost all of the tables were open when we got there but the place was standing room only by the time 9:45 rolled around… Thanks to the Tacoma guys we met and shared buckets with at the bar this week. One of the guys thinks he is on my flight down to San Francisco in 3 weeks so I’ll have to keep my eye out at the airport. Too bad I don’t really remember what he looks like… No giveaway again this week? C’mon Seahawks… The starting offense was introduced this week and I was hoping to see Percy Harvin get introduced individually. That did not happen though… One of the guys that sit in front of me sold his ticket on NFL Ticket Exchange and some random guy sat in his seat. He did not talk, he did not cheer, and he did not really engage in any celebratory behavior with the rest of us throughout the game. That was pretty odd. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a tourist who wanted to catch a Seahawks game. I find it pretty odd that someone would buy an individual ticket to a Seahawks game and actually attend rather than sell it to a scalper to try to make some pocket cash. Why would you want to go to a Seahawks game by yourself?… Although it’s expensive, Papa John’s makes really good in-stadium pizza… A guy at the top of our section got kicked out by alcohol enforcement. When I went down to the concourse to refill my water bottle I heard him drunkenly slur to a cop “why exactly am I being kicked out of here, sirs?” Couldn’t help but giggle walking back up to my seats… To the guy in the Charlie Whitehurst jersey, you need a hug bro?… I got to see the end of the San Francisco/New Orleans game in the windows of the Seahawks pro shop and the fans huddling around the windows erupted in cheers when Garrett Hartley kicked the game-winning field goal… The picture of Jim Harbaugh screaming a certain colorful four letter word after that game makes me so happy… We went to the Pyramid Alehouse after the game to grab some food and watch the first part of Sunday Night Football. The fish and chips are stellar but two pieces of fish is not enough for a big guy like me. That was slightly disappointing… I get to watch RedZone for the next two weeks without a Seahawks game on Sunday afternoons. Next Sunday with the ESPN playoff machine on my computer, an ice-cold beer in my hand and RedZone on in front of me, you know where to find me… After the bye: the New Orleans Saints in what is sure to be a raucous playoff-type environment at CenturyLink Field on Monday Night Football.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the win over Minnesota the Seahawks improve to 10-1. The New Orleans Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers 23-20 on Sunday, meaning the Seahawks currently have a 3 ½ game lead on San Francisco for first place in the NFC West. Here is what the NFC playoffs would like if the playoffs started at this very moment:

#1 Seed (First Round Bye): Seattle Seahawks (10-1)

#2 Seed (First Round Bye): New Orleans Saints (8-2)

#3 Seed: Detroit Lions (6-4)

#4 Seed: Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)

#5 Seed: Carolina Panthers (6-3, they play on Monday Night Football in week 11)

#6 Seed: San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

 

I will be taking a short break from the blog during the bye week but if anything important happens I will hop back on. If not, check back on Sunday, December 1st as I preview the Seahawks game against the New Orleans Saints. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 33, Falcons 10

10 Nov
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

I would like to be the first to welcome back the Seattle Seahawks that had been lost for the past couple of weeks. After I (stupidly) speculated and predicted that the Seahawks would fall into a trap and lose, the Seahawks played what I believe to be our most impressive win as we easily beat the Atlanta Falcons 33-10. The Seahawks improve to 9-1 on the season and with the results of other games around the league this week it may be time to start talking about playoff scenarios. The Falcons continue to sink further and further into a hole as they fall to 2-7. There are tons of positive things I have to touch on after a game like we played today. Here is what I saw.

Offensive Line Rotation Experiment Is a Success: When Michael Bowie was struggling through the Rams game two weeks ago I wondered why not substitute Alvin Bailey in at right tackle to try to shake things up. Today the Seahawks did that and then some. The Seahawks debuted a consistently interchanging offensive line lineup in today’s game and it worked very well, especially in the passing game. Russell Wilson’s confidence in the pocket grew as the game went on and the throws that he made were a reflection of that confidence as the Seahawks had 8 plays that went for 20 yards or more. Alvin Bailey saw playing time at left tackle, right guard, and right tackle while James Carpenter also saw time at both guard positions this week. The offensive line helped pave the way for Marshawn Lynch’s most productive game of the season on the ground (145 rushing yards and one touchdown) and only allowed one sack of quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks are expected to have at least two of their injured starting offensive linemen back next week (more information in “Flash Forward”) but if we run into health problems on the offensive line in our upcoming games there is now a much better idea of what needs to happen in order to achieve maximum productivity from both our offensive line and our offense as a whole.

Bag of Tricks: The Seahawks opened up the playbook a little bit on Sunday with a gadget play that resulted in a second quarter touchdown. With 5:33 left in the second quarter Russell Wilson tossed the ball to Marshawn Lynch who appeared to run. Lynch then turned around and threw backwards to Wilson who then fired downfield and hit wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a 43-yard touchdown catch to give the Seahawks 13-3 lead. This play really seemed to change the course of the entire game. The Seahawks had dominated the game on both sides of the ball up to this point in the game but the scoreboard did not reflect it. This play gave the Seahawks a double digit lead for good and the Falcons did not seem to play with any intensity after this touchdown. Although it may not be entirely necessary in the weeks ahead, if the Seahawks offense seems to get stuck, this flea flicker showed what one play can do for an entire team.

Defense Dials up the Pressure, Stays off the Field: With a 6-3 lead the Seahawks forced a Falcons punt with 6:30 left in the first half. My feeling was that if we could take five minutes off of the clock, score a touchdown, and go to halftime with a 10 point lead we would be in great shape for the second half. We scored a touchdown but it only took us 57 seconds to do so. The Lynch-Wilson-Kearse flea flicker gave the Seahawks a 13-3 lead. Then after forcing an Atlanta punt the Seahawks drove another 2:01 and kicked a 44-yard field goal. 16-3 Seahawks. The Seahawks once again forced a Falcons punt and got the ball with 1:03 left in the first half and with one second left Russell Wilson threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate to give the Seahawks a 23-3 halftime lead. The hope of a five minute drive resulting in a touchdown going to halftime turned into 17 points on 3 separate scoring drives in under 6 minutes going into halftime. By the time halftime finally arrived, the Seahawks had a 20 point lead, complete control of the game, and all of the momentum heading into the second half.

You can thank the defense for giving the offense these opportunities. The Seahawks defense played one of their best games of the season in all phases against the Falcons. They held Atlanta to 4/12 on 3rd down conversions, they sacked quarterback Matt Ryan twice, Walter Thurmond recovered a fumble late in the game, and what is most impressive to me; after allowing 200+ rushing yards in each of their last two games the Seahawks defense held Atlanta to 64 total rushing yards on Sunday. Bobby Wagner led all defenders with 9 tackles and Thurmond stepped in for an injured Brandon Browner and recorded 7 tackles of his own as well as two tackles for loss. Falcons receiver Roddy White had only one catch for 20 yards and on that play he was not covered by Richard Sherman. Although Sherman did not do anything super flashy, he was very successful in covering and limiting separation of the Atlanta receivers. Sherman may have had his best game of the season from a pass coverage perspective. A defense performance like the one we had on Sunday could carry serious confidence into our next two games which happen to be at home.

Fast Forward: The Seahawks were able to dominate the Falcons without 5 starters. Max Unger and Red Bryant were inactive dealing with concussions and I expect them to be ready for next week. Breno Giacomini and Russell Okung are both eligible to play next week and both practiced with the team last week and will continue to do so this week. It is very possible that we will have our opening day offensive line back healthy for next week’s game. As if our team’s health could be any better, Adam Schefter of ESPN is also reporting that wide receiver Percy Harvin is expected to make his Seahawks debut next week as well. If all of these players are back I believe that the Seahawks are going to be too dangerous to stop in the coming weeks. Just imagine what today’s game would have looked like if we were completely healthy. I am starting to get very excited about what is on the horizon for this team. A dominant performance next week and I would not be surprised to see the Seahawks penciled in for the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Thoughts on Atlanta: How can a team go from being 10 yards away from the Super Bowl one season to being on the verge of a top-5 NFL Draft pick the next? The Atlanta Falcons have talent but they did not seem to play with any fire on Sunday. I think it is safe to say that the Falcons have mailed their season in. In Atlanta, fans, media, and Falcons personnel believe that Mike Smith is the best coach in Falcons history and to me it would be unfair to pull the plug on his tenure after this season, as he has taken the Falcons to the playoffs in 4 of his first 5 seasons. The Falcons could be right back to being one of the NFL’s elite teams next season and it would be wise to use their top draft pick next year on the best defensive player available as Atlanta is already quite loaded on the offensive side of the ball.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white jersey/ blue pants combination for the first time this season. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself… The Seahawks have now tied the 1983 Seahawks and the 2005 Seahawks for most regular season wins on the road. One more win on the road would give us the franchise single season record and I think would lead to us having the best regular season record in team history… The Falcons drum line was pretty annoying to listen to throughout the game. The microphone seemed to be right next to them. I don’t know if that’s just me or not but the drumming got to be more annoying as the game wore on… What was up with that unnecessary roughness penalty on Michael Bennett? Bennett sacked Matt Ryan but because he tackled him at the knees they awarded Atlanta with a 15-yard personal foul penalty instead of it going as a Seattle sack. So I guess you can’t tackle the quarterback anymore? Just another example of how questionable the officiating is and how the NFL is becoming continually sissified for player safety… Mac and Jack’s is one of the best beers out there. Glad we got a growler of it for this game… I have to give massive props to the Seahawks fans that traveled to Atlanta for this game. It seems like more and more fans are starting to travel with the team. San Francisco is our next road game and is the closest distance to Seattle of any other team. I can only imagine how many Seahawks fans are going to make the trip to Candlestick next month just like I am… I have to give even bigger props to the little kid who showed off his dance moves in the fourth quarter. I was very impressed and I got a really good laugh out of it. Even though I consider myself to be a pretty good dancer, I must say that kid could probably beat me in a dance-off… Thank god the 49ers lost to Carolina… With two straight home games coming up now is the time to create some serious space between us and San Francisco.

Seahawks Divisional and Playoff Outlook: For the rest of the regular season I will feature a Seahawks playoff outlook in my game previews and game reviews which will feature current projected seedings, matchups to watch, and potential clinching scenarios.

With the Seahawks win over the Falcons and the 49ers loss to the Carolina Panthers the Seahawks currently hold a 2 ½ game lead on San Francisco in the NFC West. Next week San Francisco travels to New Orleans to play the red-hot Saints while the Seahawks host the Minnesota Vikings. As it stands now, if the Seahawks win their next two games and the 49ers win their next three games heading into our week 14 matchup in San Francisco, the Seahawks could clinch the NFC West championship with a win over the 49ers. Things can and will change between now and the next three weeks however so do not get too excited just yet 12th Man.

Make sure to check back on Saturday as I preview our week 11 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 14, Rams 9

29 Oct
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks/Rams Preview

27 Oct

Image

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

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

Kickoff: 5:40pm

For the second consecutive the week the Seahawks hit the road for a nationally televised primetime game. The Seahawks share the Monday Night spotlight with the St. Louis Rams this week in the first matchup between these two teams this season. The Seahawks are 6-1 and are coming off a 34-22 win over the Arizona Cardinals in week 7. The Rams are 3-4 and not only did they lose to the Carolina Panthers last week, they also lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a torn ACL, which has ended his 2013 season. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 18-12. Their last meeting came in the final regular season game of 2012. The Seahawks struggled but persevered, beating St. Louis 20-13 to finish the 2012 season at 11-5. There are several things to think about and look for this week both on and off the field. Let’s take a look at what I am looking at in week 8.

As the weeks and wins have gone by the confidence in the locker room is as high as ever. My number one key to a victory this week is for the Seahawks to simply take this game one play at a time and not be overconfident. Before the season started I was ready to pencil in this game as a loss given the fact that it was a primetime game most likely in front of a sold out crowd in a place where we have struggled to win over the past few years against a team that could challenge for an NFC Wild-Card berth. Over the past 7 weeks these circumstances have changed dramatically and the Seahawks are now large favorites to win this game. I do not want to say this is a trap game but to show that we are a disciplined football team, we need to play just like how we played last week in Arizona; field-stretching offense, a dominating pass rush, and no turnovers.

On offense this week the buzz has been around the possibility of Percy Harvin being active and playing for the first time this season. We have invested $67 million dollars in Harvin and although he has been cleared to come back, it has been announced he will not be active against St. Louis. Realistically, I expect Harvin to make his Seahawks debut in two weeks against the Atlanta Falcons. Not only will Harvin not play but I am curious to see the role Golden Tate is able to play this week after injuring his shoulder last week. He has been practicing this week but if the injury is still nagging it could affect how Tate plays. Sidney Rice is primed to have a breakout performance this week. Rice made an impact last week catching a long touchdown from Russell Wilson. With the offense building momentum and Wilson trusting his receivers more, Rice could be Wilson’s primary deep threat should he decide to stretch the field against a St. Louis defense that gives up an average of 247 passing yards per game. An effective offensive performance may not be easy as the Rams have great talent throughout their defense and they play well at home given their 2-1 record inside the Edward Jones Dome. However they do boast the third-worst running defense in the league. Marshawn Lynch will be a focal point in our offensive gameplan and great production from Lynch will take the pressure off of Wilson and the passing game.

The St. Louis Rams offensive line has given up an average of just over 2 sacks per game. The Seahawks sacked Carson Palmer 7 times last week. It will be necessary to put large amounts of pressure on the quarterback this week because I believe after watching tape of Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens that pressure will force him into making bad throws more than your typical backup quarterback. That will be a focus of the defense this week; how to force Clemens to make bad decisions. Much like with the offense, in a game where we are heavily favored it will be crucial to play mistake-free football. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to stop the battered Rams offense this week so if we can avoid bad penalties and end drives without giving up large amounts of yardage and points we will be victorious.

The St. Louis Rams are in a big pickle on offense. With Sam Bradford out for the season with a torn ACL, Kellen Clemens will be the starting quarterback going forward. With Clemens suddenly thrown into the starting rotation it would be logical to think the Rams will want to run the ball to take the pressure off of the quarterback. The problem is that the Seahawks boast the 5th ranked run defense in the National Football League. Regardless, my X-Factor player of the Rams offense is running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has seen expanded playing time the past three weeks and has now surpassed Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead as the Rams starting running back. After two weeks gaining at least 78 yards, Stacy only gained 53 yards on 17 carries last week. His average yards per carry have also steadily decreased over the past 3 games. One thing that Stacy does extremely well is breaking tackles. It will be important for the Seahawks defense to wrap Stacy up to prevent him from gaining yards after contact; something that the Seahawks improved at greatly last week.

I do not expect the St. Louis wide receivers to have a major impact, especially first-round rookie Tavon Austin who has been a major disappointment so far this season. If Kellen Clemens plays a conservative game which I believe he will, I expect tight end Jared Cook will see the majority of the targets short and in the middle of the field.

Given the talent of the Seahawks and the worries of the Rams offense, the Rams defense has been greatly overshadowed in the days leading up to this game. St. Louis has a quite talented defense and they boast a solid mix of pass-rushing talent and good secondary play. Given the newfound confidence in Russell Wilson to stretch the field he will challenge the Rams secondary throughout the game. My defensive X-Factor player for the Rams is cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Johnson has the height of Legion of Boom cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner as well as using his body to record 31 tackles; 4th most of any St. Louis defender. Johnson also has one interception on the season. Given the height factor, expect Johnson to line up across from Sidney Rice for most of the game. If the Seahawks can avoid turning the ball over to this feisty Rams secondary and if the offensive line can protect Russell Wilson effectively we will be in good shape this week.

There is one final note that cannot go unnoticed. The Seahawks/Rams game will be taking place at the exact same time of game 5 of the World Series. What makes this even more interesting is that the Edward Jones Dome and Busch Stadium are only one mile apart. St. Louis has been known for a long time as a true “baseball city” and even when the Rams have shown the slightest bit of success not many people seem to notice or care. I have heard rumors that the Rams will struggle to fill half of the stadium’s capacity on Monday night which could turn out to be a huge advantage for the Seahawks. There is surely a large part of the greater St. Louis area that would rather watch the Cardinals play in the World Series on television then actually attend the Rams game. Not only could this negatively affect the Rams on Monday, a poor showing of Rams fans could also propel the NFL to look into the possibility of a potential relocation of the Rams to a city like Los Angeles; something that has been talked about by the league as a possibility for the past few years.

Random Thoughts: All bets are off but I expect the Seahawks to wear white jerseys this week… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN… The referee for this week’s game is Gene Steratore… A win will solidify the Seahawks first non-losing record on the road for the first time since 2005 and it’s only October! That is pretty crazy… A win would also improve the Seahawks record against NFC rivals to 3-0 on the season… As much as I am a fan of primetime games it will be nice to get back to Sunday games starting next week… Here’s a thought from the “It’s a small world but not really” department: Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens currently wears #10 but during his stint with the Washington Redskins in 2011 he wore #1 in honor of his longtime friend Andy Collins who passed away in August of 2011. Collins wore #1 playing quarterback for Occidental College from 2004-2006. Collins was married to current Indiana Pacers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam, whose father Dave was my speech teacher at Newport High School in 2005. What a strange yet interesting link between myself and Kellen Clemens… Hopefully the Seahawks can leave St. Louis injury-free. With our entire team getting healthier as a whole each week the last thing you want to see is a giant setback that could jeopardize our progress.

Prediction: The Rams defense will show its presence early but the Seahawks will move the ball effectively shortly thereafter. The Seahawks defense will completely shut down the Rams offense and the crowd will make a minimal impact on the game. Marshawn Lynch will run for 125 yards and a touchdown and Bobby Wagner will intercept a pass and record a sack of his own in his return to the lineup. The Seahawks will head home 7-1 and will start preparations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seahawks 31, Rams 9

Late Monday night or early Tuesday morning is when I will have my Rams preview up for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy Monday Night Football everyone. Go Hawks!

Rant: Seahawks 20, Titans 13

13 Oct

Image

Through all of the bumps and bruises, the Seahawks reached down deep on Sunday as they pulled out a 20-13 win over the Tennessee Titans. The Seahawks improve their record to 5-1 and still hold a one-game lead on the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West. The “average” Titans, as described by head coach Mike Munchak following today’s game, fall to 3-3 on the season. That seemed to be the only positive to come out of today’s events. On multiple different occasions today, both on the field and in the stands, I seemed to be extremely frustrated and was left scratching my head as well as being angry and extremely disappointed. I apologize in advance for the following rant folks. Let me explain…

Fumbles: I will get to the botched field goal a little bit later on but let me touch on the Seahawks inability to hold on to the ball from a broader perspective. The Seahawks fumbled the ball 4 times on Sunday. Two of these fumbles resulted in a turnover and/or points for the Titans. This number is beyond concerning and is absolutely unacceptable. The fumble by Derrick Coleman out of bounds and the fumble in the red zone by Marshawn Lynch (which was basically flipped right back to Russell Wilson by the Titans) illustrates a need to figure out how to carry the ball more securely, especially for Lynch, who has fumbled four times in scoring range dating back to last year’s playoffs. The Sidney Rice fumble and turnover is so baffling to me for a couple of reasons. First, from my view in the stands it looked as though Rice had gained enough yards for a first down. If that was the case, then why on Earth would you extend the ball out while it is mostly unprotected?! Secondly, I know it was next to impossible to see which direction the defender is trying to tackle you from but usually the receiver and defender are running towards each other. You are basically asking the defender to take the ball from you if you try to get fancy to gain extra yards. This fumble was a total brainfart by Rice and he needs to quit trying to be fancy and take the yards you have already gained. The risk definitely outweighs the reward. The risk? Turning the ball over deep into enemy territory. The reward? A gain of only ONE extra yard.

Really, Maragos?!: Steven Hauschka briefly left Sunday’s game with a concussion he suffered on kickoff coverage with 9:23 remaining in the second quarter. That injury ultimately led to a Titans touchdown and a mind-boggling switcheroo of personnel on the field goal unit. Typically the punter holds for the kicker on field goal attempts but when an injury occurs to the field goal kicker, it is common to see the punter replace the kicker and a quarterback (starter or backup) fill in for the punter as the holder. The best example I can think of this is Tony Romo in the 2006 playoffs. He started the 2006 season as the holder on field goal attempts because he was the backup quarterback at the time. Organically, I must raise the question, why was Chris Maragos the emergency holder?! It would make more sense in my opinion to have Tarvaris Jackson or B.J. Daniels hold for Jon Ryan but apparently (and unfortunately) that job belongs to Maragos. What is frustrating is that the snap did not slip out of his hands. He just simply dropped the ball. What is even more frustrating is the fact that Maragos tried to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. Why would you ever risk the possibility of turning the ball over and having the Titans run it back for a touchdown?! Maragos should have just fallen on the ball and gone to halftime with a 7-3 lead. Instead, Maragos tried to shovel pass the ball and make a miraculous play and it backfired to the max. Tennessee’s Jason McCourty returned the fumble 77 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 Titans lead. I cannot remember the last time I saw as boneheaded of a play as that one.

“Can You Win the Game in the First Quarter? Can You Win the Game in the Second Quarter? Can You Win the Game in the Third Quarter?…”: As you probably know, this is part of one of Pete Carroll’s famous mantras. After the third quarter the Seahawks took control of the game, piling up 139 fourth quarter yards and scoring 10 points which ultimately determined the outcome of the game. As positive as these numbers are, the fourth quarter defense also left me frustrated. On Tennessee’s 14 play, 96 yard drive which resulted in a field goal towards the end of the game, the Seahawks defense could not stop Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Titans no-huddle offense. We have given up long scoring drives in the fourth quarter in each of our last two games. Fortunately it did not cost us a victory today but our defense needs to find a way to stay fresh for the entire game. With only 4 days to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals, I am immensely skeptical about our ability to stop any defense when it matters the most. If the Seahawks are in a close game in the fourth quarter on Thursday night, I will definitely be afraid of the possibility of another win slipping away from us on the road.

Commentary, Skittles Celebrations Are Over: Before I get into this part of the rant, let me quote the NFL in-stadium code of conduct policy:

“When attending a game, you’re required to refrain from the following behaviors: Behavior that is unruly, disruptive, or illegal in nature… Event patrons and guests who violate these provisions will be subject to ejection without refund and loss of ticket privileges for future games.”

As you know or may have read about in one of my blog posts, I bring two large Ziploc bags full of Skittles to each home game and when Marshawn Lynch scores a touchdown my guest and I throw handfuls of Skittles in the air in any and all directions to celebrate. These celebratory actions are simply that; celebratory. When I throw the Skittles, I am in no way whatsoever trying to hurt anyone or piss anyone off. Today after Lynch’s second touchdown of the game a middle-aged male fan sitting in the front few rows of the section to my right angrily complained to a security guard that a SINGLE Skittle hit him and his wife. Although security did not single me or anyone around me out as the main perpetrator, myself and the people around me were warned that they were going to camp out in our section and that if they saw anyone throw Skittles again they would be ejected from CenturyLink Field. I consider this to be a direct threat not to bring Skittles again or else I will be kicked out of the game.

Remember that my intentions are good, so someone please explain to me how celebrating by tossing Skittles into the air violates the NFL code of conduct policy?! In my opinion I do not see how you can justify the action of me throwing Skittles in celebration violates the league’s code of conduct policy. It is not unruly. It is not disruptive (as the entire stadium was in celebration mode). It is not illegal.

To the furious fan who ratted us out. I WAS NOT INTENTIONALLY TRYING TO HIT YOU! You were sitting one section over and at least 20 rows in front of us. If you think I was intentionally trying to hit you with a single Skittle from that distance you might as well sign me up to play quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars with that kind of accuracy.

I have been celebrating Marshawn Lynch’s touchdowns by throwing Skittles since the end of the 2011 season and I have NEVER had a single complaint from security or anyone else around me. The majority of people I have talked to think it is a very creative celebration and they have even joined in by bringing their own bags of Skittles to games to throw.

Instead of reveling in the excitement of celebrating a touchdown with fellow Seahawks fans, you choose be a “Debbie Downer” and get pissed off over what I believe to be the smallest thing possible.

By attending a Seahawks home game you are subjecting yourself to witnessing way worse behavior in the stands. If you can tolerate witnessing excessive alcohol consumption, hearing foul language constantly throughout the game, and seeing potentially intense heckling by other fans around you, why can’t you tolerate feeling the slightest “pelt” of a Skittle that hit you from at least 200 feet away?! It’s not like I threw them as hard as I could directly into your face!

It is incredibly disheartening that one butt hurt fan can ruin such a fun tradition for an entire group of fans. Of all the frustrating moments today, this one REALLY got my blood boiling. Absolutely infuriating. It is with great anger, frustration, and sadness to say that I will not be bringing Skittles to anymore Seahawks games.

Thoughts on Tennessee: The Seahawks had their hands full with the Titans at home today. Just imagine what could have happened if Jake Locker was healthy? Chris Johnson will make this team incredibly dangerous if he can perform like his 2009 self. Also, their defense might be one of the most underrated units in all of football. I think that the Tennessee Titans have solid young talent and if they play as tough as they did today, I think they might challenge for an AFC Wild-Card spot.

Random Thoughts: Pre-gaming started at 9am at King Street Bar and Oven. Good to know you can call ahead to reserve a table. All of the tables were reserved when we got there… “Hawk Shots” are the King Street staple drink and they taste like straight candy. Pretty easy on the wallet as well… King Street Bar and Oven are famously known for their calzones and today I tried the house favorite “Sicilian” calzone; three different meats and cheese baked into a homemade pesto-brushed crust. It was the best pregame meal I have had in a very long time…The only problem I had with this bar was that they only showed one morning game on all of the televisions. I wanted to watch Rams/Texans not Packers/Ravens… The giveaway this week was “crazy hair” which is basically a headband with lime green hair-like fuzz on the top of it. I left mine at my seat after the game and I can’t say I’m sad I did so… Like all Seahawks home games I was right again. Blue jerseys and blue pants for the home team this week… Blake Lewis of American Idol fame sung the national anthem on Sunday. I was only slightly surprised he didn’t burst into full beat-box mode halfway through… Any other week the 12th Man flag raisers would have been great. The Seahawks picked the wrong week to host the Eastlake Little League team to raise the flag because both Will Ferrell and Macklemore were in attendance at Sunday’s game. I was really hoping one of those two guys would do the honors. Unfortunately they did not and I was pretty bummed out about that… Kevin Lee was also in attendance at his first ever Seahawks game this week. For those who may not know or may not remember, Kevin was featured on ESPN’S “My Wish” series over the summer and the Seahawks invited him back to Seattle for this week’s game… Nice to have you back, 60 degrees and sunshine… Time to get back to work, Seahawks. We have a lot to get fixed before we play again on Thursday night.

Programming Note: Check back on WEDNESDAY for my preview of Thursday Night Football between the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. Talk to you very soon, 12th Man. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Colts Preview

5 Oct

Image

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts

Site: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis, Indiana)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks won 3 regular season road games all of last season. This week they have a chance to match that number and it is only week 5. The Seahawks head to Indianapolis to take on the AFC South leading Colts. The Seahawks are 4-0 and are looking to extend their best start in franchise history. The Colts are 3-1 and are coming off a dominating 37-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Seahawks are 4-6 all-time against the Colts. Their last meeting came in 2009 in Indianapolis when the Seneca Wallace-led Seahawks lost to Peyton Manning’s Colts 34-17. Here are the keys I believe the Seahawks need to focus on in order to escape Indianapolis with a win.

One of the big things that propelled the Seahawks to a victory last week was the improved pass rush in the second half and overtime. This week the Seahawks have a 4-headed pass rushing monster that could give the Colts trouble. Bruce Irvin is back from serving his 4-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. The Colts offense will have to prepare for Irvin along with Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and a healthy Michael Bennett. Back during training camp and the preseason I pondered about the creative blitz packages Dan Quinn could draw up using all four of our primary pass rushers. This is the first week Quinn will have a chance to implement a gameplan that uses all of these guys. I will be keeping an eye on Indianapolis’s third down efficiency because these four guys will make the biggest impact on third down. I would not be surprised to see more blitzes called on first and second down this week to try to confuse the Colts offense and get to quarterback Andrew Luck early and often.

A struggle of the Seahawks in the first half last week was the play of the offensive line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 5 times last week and was pressured in 16 total plays throughout the game. This week, regardless of who starts along the offensive line, Seattle must contain the pass rush of the Colts. We are not going up against the best defensive player in the NFL this week but we are going up against one of the most underrated defensive units in the league. Indianapolis linebacker Robert Mathis has flown under the radar so far this season. He leads the league in sacks with 7.5 on the season. I expect the Seahawks to struggle early in this game if they try to throw the ball. The trend on the road this season seems to be a slow start matched with in-game adjustments to improve on what the opponent throws at them on both sides of the ball. The Seahawks have averaged only 3 points in the first half of their two road games. One way to avoid a slow start this week is to get Marshawn Lynch going in the first half. If you take out a 43-yard run in the first quarter last week, Lynch only rushed for 17 yards and also turned the ball over via fumble in the first half. Effective running by Lynch will wear down the Colts defense and could potentially prevent us from having to come back from a deficit late in the game.

The Seahawks have won the turnover battle in each of their first four games. They have forced over twice as many turnovers (13) as they have turned the ball over themselves (6). This week will be a big challenge in the turnover department as the Seahawks defense faces a Colts offense that has only turned the ball over twice this season. Consider this to be an extension to the point of establishing a consistent pass rush. If the Seahawks defense gives Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a lot of time, he will pick our defense apart much like how Matt Schaub picked apart our defense in the first half last week. If we win the turnover battle this week, I think we will be victorious once again.

The Indianapolis Colts are loaded on both sides of the ball. Andrew Luck has one of the brightest futures of any young quarterback in the National Football League due in large part to his mental capability and his underrated athleticism. Add the talent of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and powerful running back Trent Richardson, the Colts offense is definitely capable of moving the ball and scoring points. The Seahawks run defense has not given up a touchdown on the road all season so I am confident that they can stuff the run effectively. I am not worried about Richardson and the Indianapolis running game as much as I am worried about their air attack, which was an aspect of the opponent’s offense that was a weakness for the Seahawks last week in Houston. In their two road games so far this season the Seahawks have allowed an average of 225 passing yards per game. Meanwhile, the Colts offense has averaged 231 passing yards in their two home games. Richard Sherman will line up against Wayne this week and I am confident he can hold him to minimal catches and yards. My X-Factor player to watch this week on offense for the Colts is tight end Coby Fleener. With starting tight end Dwayne Allen out for the season with a hip injury, Fleener has emerged as the #1 tight end moving forward. Given his history with Andrew Luck dating back to college at Stanford, Fleener could be a reliable target this week, especially given the potential unwillingness to challenge the Legion of Boom on the outside. Fleener could be primed for many catches this week if he gets open when the Seahawks defense is in zone coverage.

On defense for the Colts, another X-Factor player to watch is linebacker Jerrell Freeman. As I discussed earlier linebacker Robert Mathis has earned a lot of attention for his sack total but Freeman has also made an impact in the opponent’s backfield. Freeman has recorded 3 sacks of his own so far this season and his speed could be a challenge for the Seahawks makeshift offensive line this week. Look for Freeman and Mathis to make an impact on second and third down often this week.

Random Thoughts: This week is the only road game where I know exactly what uniform combination the Seahawks will wear. Per NFL rules, each team is required to notify the league office of which uniform top they will wear for each week of the season by the end of July. Some teams choose to post explicitly what their uniform combinations will be each week but the Seahawks choose not to. However I have learned that before the July deadline, Russell Wilson requested that the Seahawks wear white pants along with their white jerseys against the Colts. Wilson believes that the white/white combo will make it easier for him to see his teammates and the opponent because the way Lucas Oil Stadium is designed, it can be very bright down on the field, thus it is hard to make out who you are throwing to if both teams are wearing similar colored uniforms… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. It will be nice to have a break from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan… Now that I think of it, Seahawks fans will not be exposed to a Myers/Ryan broadcast until at least week 9, as our next three games after this week are on CBS, NFL Network, and ESPN respectively… Ron Winter is the referee this week… You will be able to tell how old and unathletic Winter is. Maybe he is the referee that is retiring at the end of this season… I am having a bunch of people over for the game this week so that will be a lot of fun. I haven’t hosted a “watch party” since the playoffs last year… Go Panthers, go Jaguars, and absolutely go Texans this week!… A win this week means a 5-0 start. I was talking with my friend James earlier this week about the upcoming schedule. I did not want to look too far ahead, as I try to take the same “one game at a time” approach the players and coaches do. However, it gets me excited to think about what could be in store if we beat the Colts and get to 5-0. With Tennessee at home, Arizona, a struggling St. Louis Rams team, and an unraveling Tampa Bay team at home, following this week’s game is there any part of you that thinks the Seahawks could be looking at a 9-0 record like I do?

Prediction: Going into this season I thought that the Seahawks would split their back-to-back road games in Houston and Indianapolis. I did not know which game would be a win and which would be a loss but I was content to accept the possibility of losing one of those two games. However, following last week it has become increasingly difficult to count the Seahawks out of any game regardless of how bleak it may look. I expect the Seahawks to struggle but I believe Russell Wilson will play a better all-around game then he did last week. Big plays by the Legion of Boom will be the difference. Bobby Wagner will force a fumble and Earl Thomas will pick off a deep Andrew Luck pass in the 4th quarter to seal the win and give the Seahawks their first 5-0 record in team history.

Seahawks 26, Colts 24

Check back Sunday night after the game for my review of the Seahawks matchup with the Colts. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. And as always, go Hawks!

Minicamp Wrap-Up 6/11

11 Jun

Image

The Seahawks opened up their three day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday afternoon. The Seahawks practiced for two hours outdoors today. Here are some notes coming out of the VMAC today.

The shining star from today’s practice was wide receiver Doug Baldwin. From the highlights of practice, Baldwin was running very crisp routes and his timing with quarterback Russell Wilson was consistently in rhythm. Baldwin made two leaping catches that were very impressive, one coming on a curl route, and the other on a slant route. It will be important for Baldwin to impress during this minicamp. He is currently listed as the fourth wide receiver and although it is relatively unlikely, if Baldwin struggles he might be on the hot seat for a roster spot come training camp.

Today I read that Brady Quinn had a rough practice working with the second string offense. Quinn struggled on deep passes and his receivers did not help him too much, dropping a few passes. The biggest issue for Quinn was his overall accuracy. Some passes were either way ahead or slightly behind the intended receivers. Quinn definitely needs to improve because his job may be in serious jeopardy…

… The biggest piece of off-the-field news directly affects Brady Quinn. After the Buffalo Bills released quarterback Tarvaris Jackson yesterday, it was speculated that the Seahawks could have interest in bringing back their former quarterback to compete with Quinn and backup Russell Wilson. Tonight, those speculations became solid. ESPN’s John Clayton was the first to report that the Seahawks will bring Jackson in for a visit, most likely on Wednesday. Clayton was quoted as saying that he believes there is a “better than 50 percent” chance that the Seahawks will sign Jackson. Jackson has strong support from the locker room and I imagine would be welcomed back into the building with open arms.

I really like the possibility of bringing back Tarvaris Jackson to be our backup quarterback. He has worked with this offense for an entire season and there would be a complete understanding that Jackson is the backup and is not competing to be the starter. Going into the offseason, I expressed my desire for the Seahawks to bring in a backup quarterback will a similar skill set to Russell Wilson and could step in and mirror the offense in the event Wilson gets hurt. Jackson has the athletic ability to mirror the zone-read offensive package we have installed and is a big upgrade to Brady Quinn from an athletic perspective. I hope that by the end of minicamp Tarvaris Jackson is the Seahawks backup quarterback and Brady Quinn will be cut.

The Seahawks will practice for another two hours on Wednesday. I’ll be back on the blog tomorrow night for another minicamp wrap-up report. Thanks for reading!

OTA Wrap-Up 6/3

3 Jun

Under the warm Seattle sun, the Seahawks held their first practice of week three of OTA’s on Monday afternoon. Here are some notes from today’s practice.

I think the two off days this weekend really helped replenish the energy of the players. The highlights I watched showed increased explosiveness. The defensive lineman looked very quick in individual drills and were able to get good jumps off the line during 7-on-7 drills. Jesse Williams looked the best of our defensive lineman on the field today.

According to espn.com Tony McDaniel is listed as one of the Seahawks two starting defensive tackles. Jesse Williams is currently listed as second string behind Brandon Mebane. I have not seen anything special from McDaniel during OTA’s and with the progression of Williams, I would not be surprised if Williams replaces McDaniel as the second starting defensive tackle. Williams would fit best on first and second downs because he is more of a run stopper than McDaniel is.

Image

One injury note from today’s practice, defensive end Cliff Avril still has not been cleared to participate in OTA’s. He was at practice today wearing shorts and a Seahawks baseball cap. Avril is recovering from a foot injury that was first reported on May 21st.

Check back tomorrow for another OTA wrap-up report. Go Hawks!

2012 Season Review: My Top Ten

17 Jan

The 37th season of Seattle Seahawks football was a very special one for me and the rest of the 12th Man. From day one of training camp on July 27th to day 177 last Sunday, we were a part of a journey that had its ups and downs and showed us how far a group of men can come and improve in such a time span. Most importantly, this Seahawks team showed what is to come next year and for many seasons following. I attended 10 of our 16 regular season games this season; 8 home games from my 2nd home in section 340 at CenturyLink Field, and spent hundreds of dollars to make sure my voice was heard and body was present in Arizona and San Francisco. Instead of chronicling our season from start to finish in a traditional season review piece that many other people will do, I have compiled my top ten moments of the 2012 season. These moments are not only the moments I witnessed first-hand but also the moments that were the most exciting and the moments that contributed in how our season was shaped. Some will agree with my list, others will disagree. Maybe you agree on the moments but not the order I have placed them in. Nevertheless these are the moments I have chosen as worthy of our top ten of the 2012 season. Let the debate begin!

#10: Washington Ties Cribbs (Seahawks at Dolphins, Week 12)

Image

Leon Washington made history in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks loss to the Miami Dolphins in late November. After scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, Miami kicked off to Washington with 8 minutes left in the game. Washington took Dan Carpenter’s kickoff 98 yards and into the endzone for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead. The kickoff return touchdown was Washington’s 8th in his career and that number ties Cleveland Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs for first all-time in that category in NFL history. After coming back from a devastating leg injury three years ago, Washington has re-emerged as one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Although he is getting older I fully expect Washington to play a big role on special teams next year. He has a unique burst and you could tell he was close to breaking off a couple big runs in the playoffs. Hopefully next season Washington can claim sole possession of first place in kickoff return touchdowns.

#9: Defense Makes A Statement, Pummels Rodgers (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

Image

When you combine a national television primetime setting, a ferocious fan base, an extremely talented defense, and a sub-par offensive line, you get my number nine moment of the season. With the entire nation watching the Seahawks defense combined to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half alone. Chris Clemons led the attack with 4 sacks, rookie Bruce Irvin added 2 of his own, and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane also added 2 sacks. It was the most dominant span on defense this season and as I noted in my Packers review, it actually left me laughing in the stands because our play was so amazing and dominant. If only our pass rush could have been more consistently dominant over the course of the entire season. If that happened, we may still be playing football. I tipped my hat to the Seahawks defense on this night. I probably won’t see that many sacks recorded during a 30 minute span again in a very long time.

#8: Wilson Runs Into The Record Books (Seahawks vs. Bills, Week 15)

Image

The Seahawks debuted their wolf grey uniforms in Toronto against the Bills on December 16th and Russell Wilson looked especially good in them. The Seahawks were coming off a 58-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals the previous week and the offensive surge did not stall against the Bills. The Seahawks won the game 50-17 but Russell Wilson was the biggest factor in the final score. Wilson became the first quarterback in Seahawks history to run for three touchdowns in a game and he ran for all three in the first half. The zone-read option worked the best against the Bills in my opinion as Wilson and the running backs combined for 270 rushing yards.

#7 Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number One (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

Image

The Seahawks hosted the Dallas Cowboys in their home opener on September 16th and the game could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Cowboys. With the entire sellout crowd already in their seats for kickoff, the Seahawks kicked off to Felix Jones of the Cowboys to start the game. After making it out to around the Dallas 25-yard line, Jones was hit on his side which knocked the ball free from his arms. Earl Thomas recovered the fumble and the crowd erupted into chaos. Ten seconds into the game and the Cowboys had already turned the ball over, given the Seahawks excellent field position, and they gave the 12th Man something to go crazy about. In the stands the play was awesome and everyone around me was beyond excited. The drive culminated into just a field goal but luckily for the Seahawks and the fans, the Cowboys were not done with their special teams blunders yet.

#6: Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number Two (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

Image

Image

After this play my friend Alan and I believed that the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit was cursed in Seattle. With the Seahawks forcing the Cowboys to punt on their first offensive drive of the game, defensive end Bruce Irvin penetrated the punter protection and got one of his hands on the kick. The ball took one bounce backward and right into the hands of Jeron Johnson inside the Dallas 5-yard line. Johnson walked the blocked punt into the endzone for a touchdown and the Seahawks took a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. This play was very fast since the block and score occurred within seconds of each other. Once again, the crowd went crazy and we now had full confidence that we could beat Dallas handedly on this day.

#5: U Mad Bro? Seahawks Stun Brady, Patriots (Patriots at Seahawks, Week 6)

Image

Coming off a win in Carolina the week before, the Seahawks came home with a 3-2 record and a home date with the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. The Seahawks trailed the Patriots 23-10 with 9:21 left in the game. Russell Wilson connected with Braylon Edwards for a touchdown on 4th down to cut the Patriots lead to 6 points. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:38 left in the game with a chance to take the lead. With 1:10 left in the game, Russell Wilson connected with Sidney Rice for a 46 yard touchdown pass which gave the Seahawks a 24-23 lead. It was the prettiest pass I saw Wilson throw all season long. The Seahawks defense came back onto the field for one last New England drive and successfully stopped the Patriots on four plays, giving the Seahawks the win. One other storyline of this game was the communicating (or trash talking) between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. During the game Sherman challenged Brady to throw in his direction while Brady told Sherman to see him after the game when the Patriots win. Brady did in fact challenge Sherman by throwing in his direction and Sherman picked off a pass in the 3rd quarter. After the game Sherman went up to Brady to tell him “you’re just a man. We’re a team.” The exchange was photographed and was given the caption “U Mad Bro?” with Sherman mouthing off to Brady while Brady tried to walk off the field. This moment tossed Sherman into the national spotlight. After this incident Seahawks fans started to love Sherman even more and fans of other teams started to loathe Sherman.

#4: RW3 > RGIII. Seahawks Win First Road Playoff Game Since 1983 (Seahawks at Redskins, NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

Image

The Seahawks finished ½ game behind San Francisco for the NFC West title but they still earned the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks faced the NFC East champion Washington Redskins in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs and things did not get off to a good start. Washington jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. At the time it was the largest deficit the Seahawks had faced all season long. The Seahawks came back thanks in large part to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks scored 24 unanswered points in the final 45 minutes to beat the Redskins 24-14 to advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs. This game was the only playoff game to feature two rookie quarterbacks. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was playing with a sprained LCL in his right knee and he was unable to finish the game after further damaging his knee. The Seahawks did a great job of containing Griffin III and their rookie running back Alfred Morris. It was one of the most exciting road games of the season and the Seahawks came back home not before winning on the road for the first time in the playoffs since Chuck Knox’s Seahawks beat the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff in 1983.

#3: The Two Drives That Changed Our Season (Seahawks at Bears, Week 13)

Image

Image

After losing to Miami in week 12 the Seahawks hit the road again for a crucial game against the Chicago Bears. At the time the Bears held the NFC North lead while the Seahawks controlled their own destiny as an NFC Wild-Card. With the Seahawks trailing 14-10 with 3:40 left in the game the Seahawks had to drive 97 yards to take the lead. On the drive Marshawn Lynch racked up 21 yards and Russell Wilson also ran for 19 yards. Wilson hit Zach Miller to convert a 4th down which would have ended the game if the pass was incomplete, and then he found Sidney Rice for a gain 27 yards. With 24 seconds remaining Wilson hit Golden Tate on a slant. Tate juked two defenders before diving into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The Seahawks took a 17-14 lead. Game over right? Unfortunately not. Because of a breakdown in communication on defense, Jay Cutler found Brandon Marshall for a gain of 56 yards to put Chicago in field goal range. Robbie Gould knocked the kick through the uprights and the game was headed to overtime. In overtime the Seahawks won the toss and started their next drive on their own 20-yard line. Did Wilson have another game-winning drive in him? He proved that he could go down and win the game again. Thanks in large part to Wilson’s legs, he led the Seahawks into the red zone and connected with Sidney Rice from 13 yards out for the game winning touchdown. This was just the Seahawks second road win of the season but with the win we improved to 7-5. These two drives are considered to be the turning point in our season. In our next three games after the Chicago game the Seahawks scored a combined 150 points. Most importantly though, the Chicago game was the start of an impressive winning streak that did not end until the Divisional playoff loss to Atlanta.

#2: Sherman Steals The Show On Sunday Night (49ers at Seahawks, Week 16)

Image

I stepped into CenturyLink Field on Sunday Night December 23rd expecting to see a close, hard-fought game against the San Francisco 49ers. If we won we would clinch a playoff berth. I had no idea how bad of a mismatch and how big of a blowout this game would turn out to be. My number two moment of the season occurred with just over 12 minutes left in the second quarter. With the 49ers trailing 14-0, kicker David Akers lined up for a 21-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Red Bryant and the ball bounced right into the arms of Richard Sherman. Sherman returned the ball 90 yards to the house for a touchdown and a 21-0 Seahawks lead. The game was over at this point. Everyone in the stands felt confident we would handle San Francisco for the rest of the night. In the stands the play was wild, which justifies my reasoning for ranking this play as the second best of the season. Once I saw the ball blocked and picked up by Sherman, I knew he had the speed and separation to outrun both Akers and the holder Andy Lee. I started jumping up and down wildly and screaming at the top of my lungs while pulling and shaking the guys who sit below me. Once Sherman crossed the goal line I ran down the stairs of my aisle collecting high fives and hugging everybody in my vicinity. I could not have been happier and the last time I celebrated that wildly on any play was the Marshawn Lynch beast quake run in the 2010 playoffs. I guess there’s something about primetime football that brings out the wild child in me. The Seahawks won the game 42-13 and clinched a playoff berth. Not only that, we also beat the hated 49ers which always puts a smile on my face.

#1: The Monday Night Miracle (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

Image

As the season wore on a lot of Seahawks fans got the feeling we were developing as the most hated team nationally during the 2012 season. The reason why is because of what transpired on Monday night September 24th. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 with 8 seconds left, Russell Wilson threw up a Hail Mary into the north endzone. From my view it looked like Golden Tate out jumped three Green Bay defenders to make the catch. When one of the officials ruled touchdown, the stadium went absolutely crazy. Everyone around me started to jump up and down and we all embraced each other with looks of sheer amazement and non-belief in our faces. I had never seen a more epic finish then what had just happened. The play was reviewed by replacement official Wayne Elliott and the call on the field was upheld. The Seahawks won in what ESPN’s Mike Tirico called “the most bizarre finish you’ll ever see.” In the stands we couldn’t believe what had just happened and we headed out of the stadium under the impression that Golden Tate had cleanly made one of the greatest plays we had ever seen. I had never attended a football game that was decided by a Hail Mary on the final play so the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I collected a program after the game that was sitting on a picnic table because I wanted a piece of memorabilia from the most exciting game of the year. Nobody I was with had the slightest clue what had actually happened on the field. When my friends and I got home from the game we turned on SportsCenter and watched for two hours as they broke down the final play. As you well know, the play was not as clean as it looked like from my view inside the stadium. We won the game but the controversy over the replacement officials had just begun. The SportsCenter following this game was the most watched episode in ESPN history and within 48 hours of the game, the referee lockout was over and the real NFL referees were back on the field. Sports Illustrated named this play the most iconic sports moment of 2012 and it is definitely deserving of that title. I have a mini-shrine to this game in my room including my ticket stub, the program I picked up, the rally towel that was given away at the game, and the front page of the Seattle Times sports section from the day after with the headline “Last Call?” Although I will be attending many many more football games in my lifetime, I am confident in saying I will never see a more incredible finish then what happened on this crisp September night.