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Seahawks/Broncos Preview (Super Bowl XLVIII)

29 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

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

Site: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

Kickoff: 3:25pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 26, Broncos 20

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

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

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

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

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

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My Weekend in San Francisco 2013

12 Dec
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From left to right: Eric, Grant, Jeff, James

Saturday: My friends James and Grant and I arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport shortly before 8am. As I passed through security I encountered the most interesting set of TSA officers I have ever had the pleasure to deal with.  First, the officer who checked my boarding pass and driver’s license noticed my Seahawks hat and Seahawks coat and when she saw that my destination was San Francisco she knew I was heading to the game. Upon highlighting my boarding pass and sending me over to the security checkpoint she said to me “make sure the Seahawks kick their ass” to which I smiled and assured her I’d let them know where I was from. Second, after going through the screener, the officer who waved me through was probably the most attractive TSA official I have ever encountered. Lastly as I was scrambling to get all of my personal effects off of the conveyer belt, a third TSA agent jokingly gave me a hard time about how flustered I seemed based on how fast I was trying to get my things and get out of the way. It was certainly the coolest airport security experience I have ever been through.

After passing through security I grabbed breakfast and we headed towards the gate at the north satellite. Our Alaska Airlines flight was probably the most fun I have ever had on an airplane. Over half of our flight was Seahawks fans heading down for the game and the mood on the flight was excitement with lots of humor and stories being shared around the cabin. About halfway through the flight the flight crew requested at that everybody take out any Seahawks gear they had in the overhead compartments because they wanted to take some pictures of everybody on the plane in their Seahawks gear to post online. This got everybody excited and the flight got really loud. Even the passengers who were not Seahawks fans going to the game seemed to have a fun time or at least I assume so because nobody complained.

Our first stop upon arrival In San Francisco was lunch at In-N-Out burger which was conveniently about a half a mile south of the airport and was directly across the highway from our hotel. We definitely hit the lunch time rush because the entire parking lot was full along with a drive thru line about 20-25 cars long, almost stretching all the way across the parking lot and into the street. In-N-Out is customary to be a tradition upon all of my visits to California and this burger really hit the spot, keeping all of us full and satisfied until dinner time. After lunch we headed across the highway to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza in Burlingame, and checked in but not before being confused by the roads surrounding the hotel, making numerous wrong turns and detours. I dropped my luggage off at my room overlooking the southeast and relaxed for a couple of hours, allowing me to charge my phone and tour the hotel along with the amenities it offered. After this brief rest it was time to head downtown to the ultra-touristy part of San Francisco, the Embarcadero and Pier 39.

We got downtown with about an hour of sunlight left in the day. This allowed us to take pictures of the surrounding views from the back of Pier 39 such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and various buildings in downtown San Francisco. I definitely came downtown underdressed as the cool breeze from the water added with the chilly air temperature made it feel absolutely freezing. A knit hat would have done a much better job keeping me warm than a visor. Oh well. Let me say this about pier 39, it can be fun to peruse but you run out of things to do and see very quickly. After looking through a few shops and grabbing an utterly terrible cup of coffee from a Mrs. Fields cookie stand, we decided to stand at the front of the pier where a large contingent of Seahawks fans were meeting for a “takeover of San Francisco.” This event was hyped on Facebook but did not really live up to my expectations because there was simply no space inside the Hard Rock Café (the primary meeting place) for all the Seahawks fans to fit. We wound up killing about another 45 minutes of time around Pier 39 before walking north to meet our friend Lauren for dinner at Boudin Bakery.

I was first introduced to Boudin by my friends Josh and Amanda on my trip to San Francisco last October and although I was not a fan of sourdough bread I decided to give Boudin’s sourdough chili bowl the ol’ college try. I was blown away. The chili was amazing and the bread was so fresh and warm that you couldn’t even taste the sourdough flavor that I disliked so much. It was one of my favorite meals on my trip last year so I felt that another visit was in order this year to expose James and Grant to this great restaurant that they too had never visited. After dinner James, Grant, Lauren and I walked through the bitter cold north to Ghirardelli Square. Here we looked through the original Ghirardelli chocolate shop and stopped for James and Grant to split the famous Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae, as Lauren and I enviously watched them devour it. After driving around downtown and dropping Lauren off at home we headed back to the hotel and we decided to head down to the hotel bar to have a drink before calling it a night.

Typically, much like going through security at the airport or your flight experience, having a drink in the hotel bar seems like pretty textbook stuff. You go, you talk, you drink, and you go back to your room. Not on this trip, however. Once again a mundane part of a typical vacation was turned upside down thanks to a group of knucklehead Seahawks fans staying at our hotel. We took a seat in a booth in the hotel bar/restaurant and it took forever to get served by the one server/busser hybrid. Once we got our drinks (and James’s humongous chicken Caesar salad) after a long wait the mayhem really began. The front of the restaurant is lined with glass windows. One end of the front hallway leads to a stairwell and the other end leads towards the elevators and the front desk. All of a sudden we heard some sort of ruckus outside of the restaurant over by the stairwell. Our server and the main bartender ran outside to break up what turned into a fistfight that had been led down the hallway close to the entrance of the restaurant. We turned around to see a struggle between a small group of Seahawks fans and another couple of people. Hotel security is almost immediately on the scene and they make it known that the police have been called. Once the police arrived they started to question each person that was involved in the fight and word started to spread among the guests dining and drinking in the bar that the instigators (the group of Seahawks fans) were going to be arrested, charged with assault, and would spend the night in a San Francisco jail. After about 15 minutes with the police right outside the bar, we decided to close out and head back to our rooms before the scene potentially started to escalate again. It was a really bizarre experience but one we would joke about for the rest of our trip.

I headed back to my room and called it a night. We had a very big day ahead of us on Sunday. My gameday wake-up call was set for 6am.

Sunday: I woke up to a beautiful red sunrise and later we checked out of the hotel and were on our way to the stadium by 8am. What sucks is that we could have afforded to leave a little later than 8. I knew that the parking lot gates to Candlestick Park opened at 9am but with the inevitable traffic that was going to clog the areas around the stadium I was positive that the 9am opening time was simply a plucked time and the gates would be open before 9am. I was dead wrong and it left me scratching my head, flustered, and it required us to figure out how to kill some time. After driving around the outside of the stadium gates we drove through the bad part of San Francisco which neighbors Candlestick Park and we eventually found our way back onto the highway. We drove one exit south and waited in a Radisson hotel parking lot for about a half an hour before making another attempt to park at the stadium. As we were driving south however we saw numerous cars along the shoulder of the highway waiting for 9am to draw closer so they could finish their drive and get into the parking lot. At 9am we headed north on 101 once again and when we got back to Candlestick Park, the parking lot when from a ghost town a half an hour earlier to about halfway full by the time we arrived again. We hit our second snag of the morning when we re-arrived at the stadium. Candlestick Park has three entrances to the main parking lot and each gate had signs stating that the only people allowed to park in the main parking lot were fans that had purchased a pre-paid parking pass through the 49ers. This banished us to the outer gravel parking lots at the “Candlestick recreational area.” After walking back and forth between the car and the RV tailgating lot multiple times (because I forgot the tickets at the car and we could not take any outside alcohol into the Candlestick parking lot (the stupidest rule I have ever encountered on any of my road trips by the way)) we headed to the Northern California Seahawkers “Final Stompin’ at the Stick” tailgate in the northwest corner of the stadium lot. The tailgate was crowded with Seahawks fans but the lack of beer due to the “no-alcohol in the parking lot” rule put a slight damper on my personal pregame plan. Nevertheless I was still excited for the game.

A little more than an hour before kickoff we decided to head into the stadium and made our way to the seats in Section 51, row 1. I sat in the exact same section and row the previous year so I was familiar with how to get to our seats and I had previous familiarity with the view from the inside of the stadium. I will spare details of the game because I’m assuming you already saw it on television but the environment inside the stadium was probably the worst experience I have ever had at Candlestick in regards to the people around me. During a television timeout in the first half, James asked the people sitting behind us if they could take a picture of our group with our backs facing the field. When we posed the entire section booed and cussed at us and one fan through a whole sandwich in our direction. Although the sandwich did not hit any of us, it did hit a 49ers fan seated in the lower part of the bowl about four rows in front of us. The fan continued to look back in my direction for the next few minutes and it was not hard to jump to the conclusion that he thought I had thrown the sandwich just because I was wearing Seahawks gear. He seemed like he wanted to get security involved even though the people next to us and directly behind us signaled to him that we were not the sandwich culprits. Still though, he had a look on his face that he wanted to come up and punch me in the face. I was hit in the head by some other small object when Russell Wilson threw his game-ending interception at the conclusion of the game but it was not big enough of a deal for me to be angry or questioning what had just hit me. Overall the crowd was very hostile and although I stood up and cheered loudly when the Seahawks scored, I felt like it was in my best interest to subdue my cheering to prevent any incidents that could involve me or the rest of the guys I went with. The crowd in San Francisco this year only re-affirms how pleasant other opposing fan bases are to interact with on my previous road trips. Even for a brief moment upon reflecting on the day’s events it crossed my mind that maybe I should not pay another visit to another Seahawks/49ers road game for a few years.

After the game we grabbed one last bite to eat once again at In-N-Out before heading to the airport to conclude our trip. Overall I had a lot of fun on this trip but it is unfortunate we did not get the chance to win the division on our final visit to Candlestick Park. Although the outcome of the game was disappointing, I had lots of fun on another Seahawks road trip with friends and it was definitely a memory making experience.

Seahawks/49ers Preview

7 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Candlestick Park (San Francisco, California)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

In his weekly press conferences, Russell Wilson religiously states that each game “is a championship opportunity.” For the first time this season Wilson’s mentality can be taken literally. This week, in one of the more highly anticipated games of the week, the Seahawks have the opportunity to clinch the 2013 NFC West title and a first round bye in the NFC playoffs. In their way are their arch rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks are 11-1 and are coming off of a thrilling 34-7 win over the New Orleans Saints last Monday and will take on the 49ers in San Francisco on a short week for the second consecutive season. The 49ers enter this week’s game at 8-4 and they are coming off a 23-13 win over the St. Louis Rams last week. Although coming back to win the division is highly unlikely, the 49ers are battling several teams for the final NFC wild-card playoff berth and a win this week would certainly help their case to make the playoffs. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 15-14 and Seattle defeated San Francisco 29-3 in their last meeting back in September. Here is what I will be looking for from my upper deck first row seat at Candlestick Park on Sunday.

Russell Wilson has started 29 career games for the Seahawks and the worst performance of his young career came last season in San Francisco. At that point last season the Seahawks had yet to unleash their entire playbook and I believe playing conservatively cost the Seahawks multiple scoring chances and ultimately the game. This year things are different. I believe that Pete Carroll will try to feed Marshawn Lynch the ball early but in the later parts of the game I expect to see the “Russell Wilson show.” I think that the read option will be a pivotal part of the Seahawks offense this week. I realize that the 49ers will be preparing for everything the Seahawks pose as a challenge but the read option has not be used on a regular basis over the past few weeks, simply because we have not had the need to use it. The read option has turned into an emergency package that is only used in excess when the Seahawks are struggling or trailing late in games. I could see the Seahawks struggle in the first half of the game and if Seattle is leading by one score or if they are trailing, halftime adjustments will be made with a serious attempt to unleash Russell Wilson and the read option. I believe that Wilson is just now starting to play his best football of the season and using him in read option this week could put the 49ers at a serious disadvantage.

When it comes to the Seahawks defense this week, there are several things that concern me. Seattle has faced 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice but never at Candlestick Park. That plus the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree from a torn Achilles adds a wrinkle that could put the Seahawks at a disadvantage because there is only one game’s worth of Kaepernick/Crabtree game film this season; last week against St. Louis. Forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down will be very important for the Seahawks defense this week but the main key to controlling the ball and preserving a victory will be to put excessive amounts of pressure on Colin Kaepernick. In preparation for this week, I suspect the Seahawks paid very close attention to the game film of the 49ers game against Carolina from four weeks ago when the Panthers were able to sack Kaepernick 6 times and held him to a career-low 91 yards passing. Although the sack totals have not been present over the past couple of weeks the Seahawks have been doing a much better job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Look for Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin to step up and have big games for the Seahawks on defense this week.

The San Francisco 49ers offense has proven to be a rather shaky unit this season. It seems as though they play well against average or bad defenses and they struggle immensely against good defenses. Although San Francisco has Michael Crabtree back I would not be surprised to see him make a minimal impact this week. In last season’s matchup in San Francisco, running back Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards on 16 carries. If the 49ers are to have any offensive success this week it starts with Gore. If Gore is effective against a Seahawks run defense that has vastly improved in their last three games, that opens up the offense and could help Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis get open, thus the 49ers offense will be two-dimensional. If the Seahawks shut Gore down, the passing game will become the focal point of the offense and the Legion of Boom will have an easier time creating confusion for Kaepernick in the passing game.

The 49ers defense has been consistently good all season long. A solid front seven is starting to gel with a young secondary to create a strong cohesive unit. Much like it is a key for the Seahawks defense to stop Frank Gore, it will be equally as important for the 49ers defense to be able to stop Marshawn Lynch. The 49ers allow an average of 105 rushing yards per game and I believe they will have keep Lynch to fewer than 100 yards rushing on Sunday in order to have a chance to win. For San Francisco to do this I put my spotlight on the middle of the 49ers defense. My X-Factor player to watch this week is 49ers defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. Prior to last week against St. Louis, Dorsey’s most productive game of the season came in Seattle in week 2 when he recorded 5 tackles. In San Francisco’s base 3-4 defense, Dorsey is mostly responsible for clogging running lanes on the interior of the offensive line, with the help of linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. On interior running plays it will be Dorsey’s responsibility to make initial contact with Marshawn Lynch or Robert Turbin to slow them down or to make the solo tackle. Lynch likes to pound the ball on the inside and run defenders over so Dorsey will have the chance to make a big impact in this game. A solid performance by Glenn Dorsey could help propel the 49ers to force turnovers, manage the game clock, and control the tempo of the entire game.

Random Thoughts: I am once again going to bank on the Seahawks wearing white jerseys this week. I think they have maxed out the number of times they can wear their grey alternate jerseys so I’m going to be packing my white one. Please wear white, Seahawks. I don’t want to wear the wrong color jersey on both of my road trips this year… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX… Clete Blakeman is the referee this week. Remember, Blakeman and his crew were the ones responsible for waving off pass interference at the end of the Patriots/Panthers Monday Night Football game… I have been looking forward to this weekend since I booked airfare and bought tickets to the game back in May. I am excited to experience a Seahawks road game for the first time with my friends James and Grant. Even though I have given them excessive information about what to expect on gameday in San Francisco, they really have no idea. They are just going to have to experience it for themselves. My gut feeling is that they are going to have a blast… To all Seahawks fans heading down to San Francisco with us this weekend, don’t forget about the 12th Man takeover at Pier 39 on Saturday night. The “attending” count on the Facebook event is currently at 900 so it is going to be very crowded… And very fun!… I’ll be tailgating in the southern part of the Candlestick Park parking lot most likely… The 49ers are giving away red rally towels this week so of course we are going to counter. We will be waving white Seahawks rally towels so be on the look for us. For those watching on TV, we are sitting on the Seahawks sideline on the north goal line in the first row of the upper bowl (left side of your screen)… I find it hilarious that the 49ers sent out their version of “Ram Rules” to their season ticket holders this week. If I were a 49ers fan I would be completely embarrassed and pissed off. I’ll be sure to use that in any friendly trash talk we engage in on Sunday… I’m also excited to see the Seahawks banner fly over the Stick before the game. It seems like the 12th Man is getting more and more creative when it comes to making an impression on road trips… Let’s clinch this division. I don’t want to sit at the airport gate unhappy after the game. It would be an incredible feeling to be en route home knowing we are the 2013 NFC West champions and I was there to witness it.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: As previously stated, the Seahawks can wrap up the NFC West and lock up a first-round playoff bye with a win this week. San Francisco can boost their chances at earning a wild-card berth with a win. The winner of this week’s Sunday Night Football game between Carolina and New Orleans will have control of the NFC South. Here are this week’s games to keep an eye on with potential NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Seattle (11-1) at San Francisco (8-4)

Detroit (7-5) at Philadelphia (7-5)

St. Louis (5-7) at Arizona (7-5)

Carolina (9-3) at New Orleans (9-3)

Dallas (7-5) at Chicago (6-6)

Prediction: Although this game will be higher scoring than last year’s Seahawks/49ers game in San Francisco, it will still feel like more of a defensive battle. Russell Wilson will throw for one touchdown and will also run for a score. Frank Gore will score the only 49ers touchdown. I am 1-2 when seeing the Seahawks play the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The Seahawks will not only help improve my personal record to 2-2, but they will exit Candlestick Park for the final time in grand fashion; as champions of the NFC West.

Seahawks 20, 49ers 13

My flight home leaves San Francisco around 9pm and I do not believe I will be home until at least 11:30 or midnight, barring a flight delay. Look for my Seahawks/49ers game review on Monday morning. I will also chronicle my weekend in San Francisco in a post that I hope to have published by the middle of next week. Let’s clinch this everyone! Enjoy the game and for those of you attending I hope to see you there. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 27, Buccaneers 24 (OT)

3 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Like I said on Facebook after this game, I might be dead by the end of the season because of all these close calls, panics, and heart attacks. After a sluggish first half the resilient Seahawks completed the largest comeback in franchise history, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 in overtime. The Seahawks are now 8-1 and have a 1 ½ game lead on San Francisco for the NFC West lead. The Buccaneers free-fall continues as they go to 0-8 on the season. There are a lot of similarities between this game and week 8 against the St. Louis Rams. Here is what I saw.

Offensive Line Epicenter of Offense’s Struggles: It may be old news but after another mediocre performance, it is clear that we must get Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini back on the field to fix our offensive line. Michael Bowie struggled again against a surprisingly good Buccaneers pass rush on Sunday. Although the offensive line did not allow a sack of Russell Wilson, Wilson had to rely heavily on screen passes and quick throws due to the consistent collapse of the pocket. Marshawn Lynch had a great game on the ground rushing 21 times for 125 yards but it was the passing game that really had trouble gaining momentum. If a team becomes one-dimensional it becomes much easier to gameplan how to stop them. Without Okung and Giacomini the Seahawks ideally would be trying to frontload the offense with rush attempts but we continually are trying to figure out how to move the ball through the air. The problem however is that we haven’t done a very good job figuring out how to fix that diagnosis. Pete Carroll hopes to have Okung and Giacomini back at practice this week and if Giacomini can play next week in Atlanta we may have a good chance of fixing this problem and being more efficient in the passing game.

Run Defense Baffles Me: The Seahawks defense has played healthy the past two weeks, meaning that no backups have had to start in place of injured starters. In their last two games the Seahawks have allowed 405 rushing yards; an average of 202.5 per game. These numbers are beyond unacceptable and they make me scratch my head. Mike James had his way on the ground this week running 28 times for 158 yards. The Tampa Bay offensive line helped a lot due in large part to their blocking scheme. I believe that our problem stopping the run is a combination of the offense blocking well and that our defense is on the field longer due to our own offensive struggles. It is a chain reaction. If our offense can drive the ball our defense will stay rested and not get as worn down and tired as they currently seem to be. It is becoming very frustrating to see opponent’s offenses moving the ball so easily on the ground. Next week will be a big challenge for the Seahawks run defense with Steven Jackson, who is very tough to stop and tackle.

Thomas Makes Play of the Game: Earl Thomas drew a lot of ire from me today for his attempts to jar the ball loose rather than wrap-up and fundamentally tackle the ball carrier but I believe one play he did make changed the outcome of the game. On their final drive of regulation, the Buccaneers faced a 3rd and 7 at their own 46-yard line. They were roughly 15 to 20 yards away from field goal range. Quarterback Mike Glennon scrambled to the left trying to find an open receiver and he decided to tuck the ball and run. As soon as he tucked the ball, I saw Earl Thomas fly from the middle of the field to the far sideline to help make the tackle, bringing up 4th down and a Tampa Bay punt. Believe me, when I say fly I mean FLY. I have not seen Thomas run that fast so far this season and he has come in fast to make a couple big tackles this season. Without that effort Glennon may have picked up the first down, extended the drive, and the way their offense was moving the ball they would have probably lined up for a game-winning field goal attempt. The tackle by Thomas ended the drive, gave the Seahawks the ball back, and we wound up winning the game in overtime. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the play of the game and was the difference between an 8-1 record and a 7-2 record.

Don’t Panic: The Seahawks trailed the Buccaneers 21-0 at one point and were down 21-7 at halftime; a 14 point deficit. We trailed the Washington Redskins by 14 at halftime last season, came back, and won. We trailed the Atlanta Falcons 20-0 at halftime the week after, came back, and nearly won. We trailed the Houston Texans 20-3 at halftime back in September, came back, and won. Although the game was not going our way in the first half, myself and everyone sitting around me were thinking the same things: we are at home, we were playing the winless Buccaneers, and we have done this many times before. Never once did I seriously worry about the possibility of losing this game. Russell Wilson said following today’s game that “if there’s any time on the clock, we have a chance” and he is exactly right. Our defense held Tampa Bay to 3 second half points and once our offense started to get going the belief was that we would make a comeback. The resiliency of this Seahawks team is cannot be overstated. No matter what the deficit is the Seahawks have proved time and time again that they can comeback. Never count us out of any game, regardless of how many points we are down by.

Thoughts on Tampa Bay: If it is true that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a broken locker room and that the players have a broken relationship with head coach Greg Schiano they sure do not play like it. The Buccaneers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and the way Mike Glennon came into our hostile environment and dominated us in the first half, Tampa Bay just might have their quarterback of the future. I was really impressed with Glennon’s poise which is reflected in the fact that the Buccaneers did not commit any turnovers on Sunday. If it comes down to the two remaining winless teams, it will be the Jacksonville Jaguars who will pick first in next year’s draft. Things may be looking up for the Buccaneers in the coming weeks if they play like they did today. Greg Schiano may not be around for much longer but the next head coach of the Buccaneers is inheriting a very good group of players.

Random Thoughts: Steven Hauschka is becoming the new Josh Brown; Mr. Clutch… Blue Jerseys and blue pants once again this week… Mike Carey’s crew made a few very questionable calls this week. It really seems like he’s had it out for us in the games he’s officiated over the past few years… The 1983 Seahawks reunion and ceremony was really cool. I really enjoyed all of the highlights they showed from that season throughout the game. It was too bad that the 14-point halftime deficit kind of put a damper on the halftime ceremony though… Steve Largent raised the 12th Man flag representing his 1983 Seahawks teammates… Sunday’s sideline celebrity was Rainn Wilson of “The Office” fame… Security was beefed up in our section this week. It was pretty abnormal. I think it may have been because of the Skittles shower that was complained about at the last home game. Good thing I’m not bringing Skittles anymore… It took longer than usually for The Hawks Nest bar to fill up during the morning games. Good thing we were able to get a table… Fall days when it is sunny throughout the game are arguably the best kind of settings… Oh boy if we can get past Atlanta next week I say playoff fever starts early!

As always thanks for reading everybody. Check back for my preview of next week’s playoff rematch against the Atlanta Falcons next Saturday. Go Hawks!

My Weekend in Houston

2 Oct

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*A detailed summary of my trip to Houston, Texas for the Seahawks game against the Houston Texans*

Saturday: Our flight left Seattle at 10:15 Saturday morning. After getting my Sea-Tac staple meal (Wendy’s breakfast) and enduring a long wait at the gate, I took my aisle seat in 25D and we were in the air shortly thereafter. The plane ride was full of Seahawks fans and a couple Seattle news personalities. Seahawks play-by-play man Steve Raible sat in first class and Paul Silvi of King 5 was seated about 10 rows in front of me. I’ll spare you the details of my flight, as it was, well, a flight. Pretty standard stuff. The only thing worth noting was the beverage service, as the flight attendants took about 30-40 minutes to get to our row. I joked with the guys sitting next to me that we would probably make it into Texas before we got our first round of drinks.

After we landed we took a bus to the off-site rental car facility and got our car. Let me say here that when we walked out of the airport towards the bus the Houston humidity really hit me. I hadn’t felt humid conditions like this since going to New York in the summer of 2006. The drive from the airport to our hotel in south Houston took us right past the downtown Houston skyline and shortly after passing downtown we exited the freeway and were at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza at Reliant Park. The hotel is located right off the I-610 freeway and is a 5 minute walk from what is called “Reliant Park” which includes Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Astrodome, and Reliant Arena. Last season in Arizona I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was located about the same distance away from University of Phoenix Stadium that the Crowne Plaza is from Reliant Stadium and I think that the Crowne Plaza was the exact opposite in all facets compared to the Renaissance:

The rooms are small, the ceiling in the bathroom was about two inches taller than my head, the ceiling above the shower was moldy, the bathroom mirror hung at breast level, meaning taller people like me have to bend down in order to see themselves in the mirror, our room faced the highway instead of the stadium, not only was there no free breakfast but there was also no complimentary coffee in the lobby in the morning, and there was only one vending machine in the entire building.

After checking-in we headed to a Buffalo Wild Wings near the campus of Rice University for the UW/Arizona game and to participate in a 12th Man rally. The restaurant was packed with Seahawks fans, thus it was standing room only and it truly felt like I was back at home. After ordering a glass of St. Arnold’s Oktoberfest (a local brew) and a few wings it came to our attention that a cameraman from Kiro 7 news was among the 12th Man faithful. He announced to the crowd that we were going live on TV in Seattle within 5 minutes so I got in prime position to be right in front of the camera. Even with a minimal warning to friends back home on Facebook, my friend Alan confirmed that I was “looking good as always” right in the middle of his TV screen. Success! At least somebody saw me on TV. After watching the Huskies knock off Arizona we picked up breakfast and beer at a local Kroger, headed back to the hotel, and called it a night. My wake-up call for Sunday morning: 7am.

Random Thought: There was a poster hanging at the bar for spicy Bloody Mary’s which included pepper flavored Absolut vodka. You read that right. PEPPER flavored vodka. As in salt and pepper. I have never heard of pepper flavored vodka before and the thought of it makes me want to gag. It must be a Texas thing.

Sunday: I struggled tremendously in getting a good night’s sleep due to the anticipation of the game and the noise from the cars driving on I-610 right next to the hotel. I woke up at 7am, showered and got dressed, bought a cup of coffee downstairs, had a muffin and was watching pregame and drinking Bud Light by 8:45am. This was the third road game I have been to where the Seahawks play in the 10am Pacific Time slot so it is really weird to be in the hotel pre-gaming with pregame shows on instead of the early games. We left the hotel and walked to the stadium at 10:15am and were inside the stadium by 11am. Our seats were in section 523 which was the fourth row of the upper deck. The seats looked straight down the Seahawks sideline so they were about halfway between the goal post and the corner of the endzone.

On the whole, Texans fans were very nice. I only had one notable moment of heckling when I was in line to use the restroom at halftime. The Seahawks were trailing 20-3 and as I was in line I heard phrases like “Seahawks suck,” “Go back to Seattle,” and “who the hell is ‘Hansman?!” in reference to the customized Seahawks jersey I was wearing. The Texans fans around me were also very knowledgeable about their team. The lady who sat behind me was a Texans season ticket holder and she admired the fact that I was a Seahawks season ticket holder who was dedicated enough to travel to see them play on the road. She was the most realist fan I have ever met. Before the game she explained the feeling the Texans fan base has for certain players. As the game wore on she became less and less willing to talk and after the game I politely told her “maybe we’ll see you guys again in February [for the Super Bowl].” She hostilely and angrily replied “no we won’t. Not the way we played today” and walked away.

Random Thought: A lot of Texans fans do not like Matt Schaub. That was evident after the game when a handful of Texans fans burned his jersey in the parking lot. They do not have faith in his decision making at all and they think it’s time that the Texans move on from both Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak, who they believe is a package deal; they feel you have to get rid of both of them or neither of them. It reminded me of the last couple years of the Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle. The feeling with Hasselbeck seemed to be “we like you, you got us to the next level, but you’re past your prime and you make terrible in-game decisions now. It’s time to part ways.”

At the end of the game I went absolutely crazy. We stuck around at the seats to watch the Seahawks celebrate on the field and to wait until most of the Texans fans had left. We walked down the ramps of Reliant Stadium (which were a similar set-up to the ramps at CenturyLink Field) with a large group of Texans fans and they were all visibly frustrated. Nothing negative was said in our direction but it was a very hostile feeling. Myself, my dad, and the two other guys we went with couldn’t shake our feeling of amazement and disbelief; we couldn’t believe what had just taken place inside that building.

After the game we went out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant called Pappasitos Cantina and celebrated with a couple rounds of cervezas. If you are ever in Houston, I highly recommend going to Pappasitos and trying the chicken and beef fajitas. They were the best fajitas I have ever had. The meat was juicy and the onions, Pico de Gallo, and beans added flavor that I had never experienced at a Mexican restaurant before. After watching the San Diego Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys (to the delight of the Texans fans at the restaurant) we walked back to the hotel to relax and to see the highlights of the Seahawks/Texans game, something that we were hoping to see during halftime of the afternoon games but didn’t.

During the first part of Sunday Night Football I went for a walk around Reliant Stadium one more time to bask in the glory of seeing the Seahawks win live on the road for the first time since 2007. Upon my arrival back to the hotel, I somehow stayed awake for the rest of Sunday Night Football and shortly thereafter, I crashed. What a day.

Monday: I made up for the lack of sleep I had got the night before, as I slept in later than I had planned. After getting ready for the day we checked out of the hotel and headed for downtown Houston, where we would spend our afternoon before heading back to the airport to come home. We were contemplating different ideas on how to spend our Monday afternoon. A small road trip to the Gulf of Mexico, touring NASA headquarters, and touring Minute Maid Park (home of MLB’s Houston Astros) were among our ideas but we did not do any of these which was too bad.

After walking around the downtown core we ate lunch at Tejas Bar and Grill and drove over to Minute Maid Park to walk around the stadium. Even though we did not tour the stadium you could still see into the stadium from the outside. One cool thing about Minute Maid Park was that they incorporated a previous standing building on the property into the stadium; much like how the San Diego Padres incorporated the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field of Petco Park. The left field plaza was an old train station terminal building that they turned into a waiting lobby, the Astros team store, and a restaurant. Afterwards we headed back to the airport to fly home. From the end of the game to our arrival back home, I still could not believe that I witnessed one of the greatest comeback victories in Seahawks history.

All in all, Houston is a city that I would only visit again in special circumstances such as Super Bowl LI in February 2017. It was a fun trip and I was glad that I was able to come home happy.

Thoughts On The Percy Harvin Trade

11 Mar

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I woke up at 9:30 this morning to a radio and Twitter report that the Minnesota Vikings were actively pursuing a Percy Harvin trade. About half an hour later, FOX Sports insider Jay Glazer broke the news that the Vikings entered into an agreement with the Seahawks to trade Harvin to Seattle for what has turned out to be the Seahawks 1st and 7th round draft picks in 2013 and a reported 3rd round pick in 2014. Over the past few hours my phone, my Facebook, and my Twitter have blown up asking for my thoughts and opinions about this trade. Let me break this thing down from my point of view.

This move was made for one clear and concise reason; that the Seattle Seahawks can and will contend for a championship NOW. Adding Percy Harvin to a roster that already includes Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Marshawn Lynch, and Russell Wilson among others gives us arguably the best offense in the National Football League. The Seahawks averaged 33 points per game in 2012 and adding Harvin will most definitely help us improve that number. Percy Harvin could also make an aging Leon Washington expendable. Harvin returned kicks in Minnesota and last season he averaged 36 yards per return. He has returned 5 kickoffs for touchdowns over the last 4 seasons as well. This move also takes pressure off of our defense. Although a top-5 unit, the defense failed to close out games last season. Adding a weapon in Harvin could make sure that the Seahawks are leading teams by more than one score at the end of games, allowing the defense to play a bit looser.

I discussed the trade with my friend and roommate Jake over coffee at Starbucks this morning and our talk focused mostly on the future outlook of the team, specifically the financial side of this move. Harvin reportedly wanted at least $10 million per season from the Vikings. The trade to Seattle includes a new contract for Harvin which will probably give him the salary he desires. This is now what the Seahawks are facing over the next few seasons. This season the Seahawks will be paying Harvin at least $10 million, Sidney Rice $8.5 million, and Zach Miller will make $6.8 million. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are currently eligible for contract extensions. Richard Sherman will be eligible for a contract extension in 2014 and Russell Wilson will be eligible for a new contract in 2015. With Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman, and Wilson all deserving of rich paydays the Seahawks will have to make some moves in the coming years to stay under the salary cap. For the time being I do not expect any cuts or restructured contracts to take place among skill position players this offseason but from where I’m sitting at this moment I wouldn’t be surprised to see Golden Tate walk during free agency in 2014 and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Seahawks cut Sidney Rice after this season if he is unwilling to restructure his contract.

All in all I like this move for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have not given me a reason to doubt them over the last three years and I will trust them with this move. The Seahawks were in need of another vertical playmaker on offense and that’s what we now have in Harvin. We may have given up our first round pick in this year’s draft but look at it this way, the Seahawks used that first round pick on Percy Harvin. The only difference is he will be making much more money this season than if we had drafted a rookie.

Review: Seahawks 20, Rams 13

31 Dec

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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