Tag Archives: FOX NFL Sunday

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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49ers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

18 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (5) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

Not very often do you get an opportunity like this, even less often at home. It has been 8 years since the Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game and personally I have been waiting for the Seahawks to get back on this national stage ever since. I became a season-ticket holder in 2006 and for all the games I have been to over the past 8 seasons, opportunities like the one presenting itself on Sunday makes having tickets and going to games during the bad years absolutely worth it. In front of a nationally televised audience on FOX, the Seahawks will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. If the Seahawks lose the season is over, but if the Seahawks win they punch their ticket to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2nd. The all-time series between the Seahawks and 49ers is tied 15-15. Their last meeting came on December 8th when San Francisco defeated Seattle 19-17 in the final seconds at Candlestick Park. This is the first meeting between the two teams in the playoffs. There are many storylines that have gained momentum from both a local and a national perspective in the days leading up to this game. Here are my thoughts as we head into the biggest home game in franchise history.

The absolute number one key for the Seahawks this week comes on defense. In the last two 49ers/Seahawks games played in Seattle, the Seahawks have held 49ers running back Frank Gore to a total of 44 rushing yards. What I’ve noticed when you dig into all of Colin Kaepernick’s career starts is that he has been successful because of a dynamic rushing attack helping him. When opposing defenses are able to shut the San Francisco running game (especially Gore) down, Kaepernick becomes extremely vulnerable. Once again the number one key for the Seahawks is to stop Gore. Unlike last week where I wanted to see the Seahawks force the New Orleans Saints to run, forcing Colin Kaepernick to throw will help the Seahawks mightily. In Kaepernick’s 28 career starts he has thrown only 11 interceptions. 4 of those interceptions have come in his two starts in Seattle. The Legion of Boom will be Kaepernick’s worst nightmare if the Seahawks run defense allows it to. My target rushing total for Frank Gore this week is between 50-60 yards. If the Seahawks can hold Gore to under 60 yards on the ground, we will be in fantastic shape.

The Seattle offense is a unit that has not lit up the stat sheet recently but they have been efficient enough to win football games. There are three things I need to see out of the Seahawks offense this week. The first thing is for Marshawn Lynch to have a productive day at the office. Unlike Frank Gore, Lynch has been very efficient running the ball against the 49ers in Seattle. In the same two game span that Gore has rushed for 44 total yards, Lynch has rushed for 209 total yards and has also added 3 touchdowns. I fully expect the majority of fans to panic if the Seahawks cannot get the running game going early but it will be necessary to be patient through the first half to try to get Lynch large chunks of yards. The second necessity for the Seahawks offense this week is to protect Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 3 times last week and he has been sacked 18 times in his last 6 games. The last time the Seahawks and 49ers played in Seattle, the Seahawks were without two starting offensive lineman and lost Russell Okung to a foot injury early in the game. This week the entire starting offensive line is healthy and I expect significant improvement in pass protection. Keep an eye on the left guard position this week as Michael Bowie is expected to start again after playing a great game last week in his first career start at that position. The third thing I need to see out of the offense this week is an extension of my second offensive key, only the weight of this key falls more on the shoulders of Russell Wilson. There have been instances throughout the past few games where when Wilson drops back to pass, at times he seems to bail from the pocket and move around to try to make throws while at other times he seems a bit too overconfident being patient in the pocket. In those instances he will wait for a receiver to get open and by the time he decides on his read he is either on the ground sacked or throwing the ball away. Wilson needs to be more aware of what is going on around him to know how much time he has to throw. Confidence in the pocket and connecting on throws down the field will help the Seahawks greatly this week.

The San Francisco 49ers come into the NFC Championship Game red-hot and firing on all cylinders. My 49ers preview is rather broad this week as there are only three things that I believe will help the 49ers be more effective this week. The first key is to ride the wave of momentum that comes with an 8-game winning streak. San Francisco comes into the NFC Championship Game as perhaps the more confident team, which comes naturally riding a long winning streak. My other two 49ers keys will be the most important to keep that momentum going.

The 49ers need to handle the crowd noise much better than they have in their last two visits to CenturyLink Field. Shorter verbiage and hand signals will be necessary this week and I would not be surprised to see the 49ers use a no-huddle package, especially early in the game. San Francisco will want to take the 12th Man out of the game as early as possible so it will be very important to score early. On offense for San Francisco this week there is only one player that I believe is deserving of my X-Factor player to watch, and that is the most important player that was not on the field the last time the 49ers played in Seattle. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has elevated the 49ers passing game to extraordinary levels since returning from a torn Achilles on December 1st. Crabtree has averaged 62 receiving yards in 7 games this season and he has also been targeted an average of 8 times per game. It is hard to believe how big of a difference Crabtree has made since returning; the 49ers have not lost since his return. Taking Crabtree away will limit Colin Kaepernick’s weapons to tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

In my “Making Memories” post earlier this week, I recall the 2005 NFC Championship Game in great detail. One of the things I mentioned is how I never sat down throughout the duration of the game and the 12th Man did not let up on the Carolina offense all game long. I cannot stress the importance of duplicating that stadium environment again this week. At last week’s Divisional playoff game many fans left following Marshawn Lynch’s final touchdown assuming the game was all but over. For a playoff game I find that behavior utterly pathetic. This week cannot and hopefully will not be the same as last week. I hope to spend the majority of the game on my feet regardless of who has the ball. I expect every single fan to scream when San Francisco has the ball. I expect no fan to leave before the fourth quarter clock hits zero. If everything goes right this should be the biggest party in the city. I hope you will not want to leave as the game gets closer to the finish. In addition, I want this game to be the loudest Seahawks game I have attended up to this point in my life. We the 12th Man WILL have a voice in deciding the outcome of this game. Do not doubt that. We also owe it to the guys on the field to give it our all. If we stay consistently ear-drum-bursting loud this week, the 49ers will have no chance communicating and coming into our house and stealing a victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will likely wear blue jerseys and blue pants for the final time this season. I say “likely” because should the Seahawks win, they will be designated as the road team in Super Bowl XLVIII. The 49ers will wear their classic white jersey/gold pants look… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee. He called the Seahawks week 8 game against the Rams in St. Louis and Steratore’s crew loosely called that game. He let the players play. Hopefully the same goes this way because if the game is called tight the Seahawks may be in trouble… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews covering the sidelines. In addition, the entire “FOX NFL Sunday” pregame crew will be attendance this week and they will do their pregame show from inside the stadium, an annual tradition, starting at 3pm… The giveaway this week is white rally towels. All I can say is hallelujah. I’ve been waiting to get the chance to wave a rally towel all season and it is entirely fitting that chance comes in the biggest home game of the season… Ann Wilson from “Heart” will sing the national anthem before the game which actually surprises me because I thought FOX would bring in the most recent American Idol or X-Factor winner to sing it like they have done in the past… The halftime show is one that I am very much looking forward to. Grammy nominated and Seattle recording artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform at halftime, which turns the NFC Championship Game into a mini Super Bowl in my opinion. Hopefully the Seahawks take control of the game in the first half so I can actually enjoy Mack’s halftime performance… In my opinion there is only one group that I think should have the honor to raise the 12th Man flag this week. Back when we played Tampa Bay in November, the Seahawks honored the 30th anniversary of the first playoff team in franchise history. Members of the 1983 Seahawks stood at the flagpole while Steve Largent did the honors of raising the flag. This week should hold the exact same concept. The only group that I see fit to raise the 12th Man flag this week is members of the 2005 Seahawks led by head coach Mike Holmgren, the first Seahawks team to play in the Super Bowl. I will be extremely disappointed if this does not happen. Even if they do not celebrate the entire team, Coach Holmgren deserves the chance to raise the flag this week… Goal for Sunday: Try to meet up with all of my friends that I know are going to the game… Streamers are a must once again this week. Gotta go all out… If we win, the Halas Trophy presentation will be really awesome to be a part of again… Let this sink in: We are 60 minutes away from playing in the biggest game in Seahawks franchise history.

Prediction: There is no doubt that this will be a physical game and it may be close until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. Zach Miller will catch a first quarter touchdown to make it 7-0 Seahawks. A Steven Hauschka field goal will extend the lead to 10-0 before the 49ers score on a Michael Crabtree touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the half. Halftime score: Seahawks 10, 49ers 7.

In the second half the Seahawks will take full control in the running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns, the second of which coming in the final 5 minutes of the game. That will be the dagger. Vernon Davis will catch a garbage time touchdown under the two-minute warning but by then it will be far too late. The Seahawks will win, hoist the Halas Trophy, and will head to Super Bowl XLVIII as the 2013 NFC Champions.

Seahawks 24, 49ers 14

Whether we win or lose check back late Sunday night for my review of the NFC Championship Game. Whether you are watching on television or at the game, enjoy this one everybody because hopefully this will be a game we all look back on as one of the best in team history. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

7 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The 38th season of Seahawks football kicks off Sunday as the Seahawks head to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. Seattle leads the all-time series against Carolina 4-2. These two teams last met last October. Thanks to an errant pass by Cam Newton on 4th and goal, the Seahawks escaped with a 16-12 victory to improve their record to 3-2. It is very important for the Seahawks, this season more than any other, to take each game one at a time. We cannot afford to start slow like against Arizona last season because these early season games could come back to cost you big time at the end of the season heading into the playoffs. Here are some keys to this week’s game.

Given the handful of injuries and Bruce Irvin’s four-game suspension, I am most interested to see what our starting defensive unit looks like this week. Specifically, I am curious to know who will start at the “Leo” defensive end position. Chris Clemons has been ruled out by Coach Pete Carroll this week. Cliff Avril has been nursing a hamstring injury but he has been practicing this week. His status for Sunday’s game is still up in the air. Michael Bennett is also nursing an injury to his toe. I expect Bennett to play this week but he will see snaps at defensive tackle for most of the game. If Avril is unable to play, the starting defensive end will be O’Brien Schofield. I would be more comfortable having Schofield start over rookie Benson Mayowa simply because he has prior starting experience. He started at outside linebacker on a good Arizona Cardinals defense last season. I am not sure if Mayowa is ready to be thrown into the starting rotation. Mayowa would be best used exclusively on passing downs. I believe using Mayowa at defensive end and Schofield at outside linebacker on third down would be the best pass rushing option if Avril is unavailable. If Avril is available, our third down pass rush package could consist of Mayowa on the other side of the line with Schofield at outside linebacker.

The number one key for the Seahawks offense this week is avoiding a slow start. Last season when we opened up the season at Arizona, many including myself believed that we could handle the Cardinals easily which would entail jumping out to a strong, early lead. Instead the Seahawks scored only 3 points in the first half and lost the game after scoring only 16 total points. Avoiding a slow start in essence means limiting the Panthers to build any kind of momentum. If the Seahawks can score a minimum of 14 points in the first half, I will consider us to be in good shape. A sub-key to achieving this goal will be to control the tempo of the game and win the time of possession battle. In a week one situation, you do not want to give Cam Newton and the Panthers offense time to move the ball. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can be effective in the run game, it bodes well for the Seahawks to control the time of possession battle and to jump out to an early lead.

One more thing to keep an eye out for this week is Jermaine Kearse on special teams. It was announced on Monday that Jermaine Kearse would get the first crack at filling Leon Washington’s shoes as the Seahawks kick returner. Kearse’s one kick return in the preseason was returned for a touchdown. That one kickoff return earned him the chance to be the Seahawks kick returner to start the regular season.  I am interested to see what the rotation will be if Kearse struggles. I would not be surprised to see Golden Tate to get the next chance at returning kicks. Tate will return punts on Sunday.

Like last year against the Panthers, the player that the Seahawks defense should be most worried about is quarterback Cam Newton. I predicted a Seahawks loss in Carolina last season, based on the notion that I thought Cam Newton was going to go off, throwing for multiple touchdowns and rushing for a significant amount of yards. Although Newton did not play well last season, especially against the Seahawks, the potential remains there for him to break out at any time. If we were scheduled to play the Carolina Panthers later in the season, I would probably feel more confident in the Seahawks being able to beat them. In week one however, any outcome is possible regardless of who you we playing and where we are playing. The Seahawks defense must use their speed to slow Newton down and limit his running lanes if he is forced out of the pocket. If we are successful in taking Newton’s feet away we will definitely have a better chance to win. I am not expecting much out of our pass rush this week but if Newton can buy time and is going to scramble, the movement of our linebackers and secondary, not the defensive line, will be the key to our defense this week.

The Carolina Panthers have a very young, yet talented defense. Each level has one player that cannot go unnoticed this week. Along the defensive line is rookie Star Lotulelei. Star, the cousin of Seahawks linebacker John Lotulelei, was Carolina’s first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lotulelei showed a lot of physicality during the preseason and beat out former Seahawk Colin Cole and fellow rookie Kawann Short for the second defensive tackle job. Lotulelei will be effective in stuffing the run if he can beat the man across from him. I expect the Panthers to line Lotulelei up against right guard J.R. Sweezy. In the second level the Panthers boast the 2012 defensive rookie of the year, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly led the Panthers in tackles last year and he does a great job of getting to the play. I am looking to see how Kuechly handles the zone-read option. The Seahawks had not installed the zone-read option when these two teams played last season. If the Seahawks are effective in fooling Kuechly, it will bode well for us extending our drives and scoring points. The man to watch in Carolina’s secondary is cornerback Josh Thomas. Thomas lost his starting job in the middle of last season and with the release of veteran Drayton Florence at the end of the preseason, Thomas earned his starting job back for the start of this season. Expect Sidney Rice to line up against Thomas this week and I believe Russell Wilson will try to test Thomas early and often by throwing to Rice in the first half.

One of the things I felt was crucial during the playoffs last season was the Seahawks mindset that every game was a win-or-go-home playoff situation. I think it would benefit us tremendously if we come out and show the same sense of urgency against the Panthers. If we put playoff level effort and show playoff level urgency in every regular season game, we will be better off in the long run.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. With a game time temperature expected to be in the high 80’s or low 90’s, the Seahawks will most likely wear either white pants or grey pants this week. The Seahawks wore the blue jersey/grey pants combo in Carolina last season… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week. Sigh… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee… This is the only game I’ll be watching from home in the first month of the season… I don’t like these 10am kickoffs. But it is the first week of the season so my adrenaline will be flowing all day Sunday… 2 games on NFL Red Zone in the afternoon: Packers/49ers and Cardinals/Rams. I get to watch and keep track of the entire NFC West this week and I’m pretty pumped about that… If anyone is interested in my television routine on a gameday where the Seahawks play on the road, here it is: NFL GameDay Morning on NFL Network from 6am-8am, ESPN Fantasy Now on ESPN2 from 8am-9am, FOX NFL Sunday from 9am-10am, the Seahawks game from 10am-1pm, NFL Red Zone from 1pm-4:30pm (the Seahawks game and Red Zone are flipped when the Seahawks play at 1pm), Football Night in America on NBC from 4:30pm-5:30pm, and Sunday Night Football following… Call me a fan or call me a fanatic… If the Seahawks lose and the 49ers win I am going to be pissed.

Prediction: A lot of my friends believe the Seahawks are going to blow out the Panthers. I think we will win but it will be a very close game. The Seahawks and Panthers will both get off to slow starts in the first half but the Seahawks ability to wear down the Panthers defense with long drives will be the difference. The Seahawks will score touchdowns; the Panthers will kick field goals. The Seahawks will head home 1-0 and will start preparation for a huge game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Seahawks 23, Panthers 16

Check back on Monday for my review of the Panthers game. Enjoy the weekend everybody. Welcome back football! Go Seahawks!

Review: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28

14 Jan

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Let me tell you one thing I hate about watching Seahawks football in the playoffs. When they lose they don’t just lose. They raise it into some kind of an art form. In 2003 the Seahawks lost on a pick-six in overtime to the Green Bay Packers. In 2006 the Seahawks held a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the Chicago Bears, blew it, and lost on a Robbie Gould walk-off field goal in overtime. Add Sunday’s game to the list of heartbreakers. The Seahawks defense could not hold the Atlanta Falcons offense with 25 seconds left in regulation and a Matt Bryant field goal erased the 2nd biggest comeback in NFL playoff history. Atlanta wins. Atlanta plays San Francisco for the NFC championship next week. Seattle heads home and starts thinking about 2013. It’s simple as that. As a fan I have held myself together after this loss way better than in past postseason heartbreakers. Maybe it hasn’t settled in just yet. Maybe I’m just more mature and can handle these games better. Nevertheless I am extremely frustrated in our defense and I am extremely disappointed overall. I have broken my analysis and thoughts down into 3 parts; the first 3 quarters, the first 14:29 of the 4th quarter, and the final 31 seconds of the season.

The First 45: After getting off to a slow start in Washington last week I was prepared to be calm and not to worry if the same thing were to happen against Atlanta. It did. The Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and in the second quarter after Matt Bryant’s second field goal of the day, the Seahawks had the ball deep in Atlanta territory and rather than kicking a field goal to cut the lead to 13-3, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll elected to go for it to gain some offensive momentum. On 4th down and 1, the Falcons stacked 8 men in the box, assuming a quick handoff. They were right on the money. The Falcons stuffed Michael Robinson on the fullback dive for a loss of one and a Seahawks turnover on downs. There is no doubt in my mind they saw that play on film, as the Seahawks have ran it in their last two games. Matt Ryan then connected with wide receiver Roddy White for a 47-yard touchdown on Atlanta’s next drive with 4:16 left in the half. This was a 10 point swing and gave the Falcons a 20-0 lead, the largest deficit for the Seahawks all season long. On the Seahawks next possession the Seahawks drove deep into Falcons territory but due to poor clock management and a mistake by Russell Wilson taking a sack on 3rd down, the Seahawks ran out of time and went into the half trailing 20-0.

The Seahawks got the ball to start the second half and went right down the field and scored on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Golden Tate. 20-7 Atlanta. That score was huge for the Seahawks because without it I firmly believe Atlanta would have taken the ball and scored again making it a 4-score game early in the second half. Instead, the Seahawks were able to put their first points on the board and this drive sparked some serious offense momentum to come later on in the game. In an ideal situation, the defense can piggy back on the momentum being brought by the offense but they proved they still had trouble stopping the powerful Atlanta offense early in the second half. After Tate’s touchdown the Falcons drove 80 yards in 7:36 culminating in a 5-yard pass from Ryan to Jason Snelling. 27-7 Atlanta. After this scoring drive everything seemed to change. Little did we know that the Seahawks would come back from the 2nd largest deficit in NFL playoff history.

The Next 14:29: The tables turned in the fourth quarter thanks to great offensive play and a couple big plays by our defense. Big catches by Golden Tate and Zach Miller along with a couple solid runs by Robert Turbin set up a Russell Wilson touchdown run to cut the lead to 27-14 Atlanta. Earl Thomas then came up with a big interception on the Falcons next possession and to be honest I had a feeling that we were going to come back. Nothing was certain, but I could see our defense was drastically improving. If they kept it up and the offense stayed steady, I thought we would be in great shape to come back. Wilson found Miller in the endzone with 9:13 left in the game and the Seahawks cut the lead to one score; 27-21 Atlanta. After an Atlanta 3-and-out and a Seahawks drive which stalled at midfield, the next crucial play was a 3rd and 8 on Atlanta’s next drive. Ryan fired to his right and the ball was low and ahead of Roddy White, forcing the Falcons to punt and would give Seattle the chance to take the lead with a touchdown. The key plays on this final Seattle drive in my mind were a 19-yard pass to Golden Tate, and a 24-yard pass to Marshawn Lynch on a 3rd and 5 to keep the drive alive. That Lynch catch-and-run put the ball inside the Atlanta 5-yard line with under a minute to go. Lynch punched it in on the next play and with 31 seconds left, the Seahawks held their first lead of the game, 28-27.

Hindsight is 20/20 but I wish there was a way the Seahawks could have taken another 15 or so seconds off the clock. With a one point lead, 31 seconds left, and 2 Falcon timeouts available, I immediately thought back to the Chicago game in week 13. Nothing is guaranteed, I thought. One blown coverage and it could spell trouble. That game against the Bears should have never gone to overtime. Bad defensive coverage allowed Brandon Marshall to catch a long pass to put the Bears in field goal range. They tied the game but the Seahawks held on to win in overtime. The Miami and Detroit games also flashed in my mind, as in these two games all we needed was our defense to protect the entire length of the field to hold on for the win. They couldn’t in either game and we lost both.

The Final 31 Seconds: This should really be “the final 26 seconds” since Atlanta started their final drive from the Seattle 28-yard line after the kickoff and that is how much time was left after the kickoff. Matt Bryant’s season-long field goal was from 55 yards out, meaning if he got to about the 37-yard line, the Falcons would have been in field goal range. By these numbers, the Seahawks had 26 seconds to protect 35 yards. Play number one was a 22-yard completion to Harry Douglas and an Atlanta timeout with 19 seconds left. The Seahawks now had to protect 13 yards with 19 seconds left. The next play is a 19-yard completion to Tony Gonzalez, putting Atlanta into field goal range. How in the world can you play as soft of coverage to let two Falcons receivers catch 20-yard passes each in a 13 second span? This is so perplexing it gives me a headache and just adds to the heartbreak that is now settling in as I write this. Matt Bryant lined up for the field goal to give Atlanta the lead back and Coach Carroll called a timeout to ice the kicker. The ball was snapped anyway and Bryant hooked the kick wide right. Carroll was seen upset on the sideline because he didn’t think Bryant should have been able to kick the ball before the actual kick. This was no doubt a mulligan and Bryant made sure his second kick would be more accurate. Unfortunately it was. The kick sailed right down the middle and in a 23 second span, the Seahawks went from epic comeback and a date with San Francisco to trailing once again. Atlanta 30-28. With 8 seconds left the Seahawks were given a gift. Bryant’s squib kick was batted and covered by Mike Morgan of the Seahawks and with 6 seconds left with the ball at mid-field, the Seahawks had a chance for a miracle. After a quick sideline pass to Doug Baldwin, Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary into the endzone. I thought to myself “what are the chances of having two Hail Mary’s go our way in one season?” The thought was too good to be true. The Falcons subbed in wide receiver Julio Jones to play defense and the Hail Mary was intercepted by Jones in the endzone. Game over. Season over. Seahawks lose in heartbreaking fashion to conclude their season once again.

Random Thoughts: I really thought we had this game. I was ready to book airfare and buy tickets to San Francisco for the NFC Championship game next week. Instead, I have to save my money for road trips in 2013… I started to get a little tired of Richard Sherman on Sunday. He played great defense for the majority of the game but do you really need to run your mouth and give the psycho gesture after EVERY pass defensed? I love you Sherm, but that was a little much in my opinion… Good broadcast by FOX this week… Rob Riggle’s picks segment during the FOX pregame show was the funniest of the season in my opinion. I wasn’t surprised at all when he picked the Seahawks to win since he has personal ties with Coach Carroll… The Seahawks will pick 25th in the first round in the 2013 NFL Draft… Looking at our opponents next season I think we can easily challenge for 12+ wins, win the NFC West, and be legitimate contenders for home-field advantage in next year’s playoffs… Here’s a quick draft chat. I hope we can draft either a tall wide receiver or a young run-stuffing defensive tackle in the first round, like a young Alan Branch… I was disappointed with the play of Bruce Irvin today. Opposing offensive lines did a good job this season of pushing Irvin to the outside and making him a non-factor and Atlanta was no different on Sunday. That gives Bruce something to work on and improve at during the offseason… I liked the blitz packages with Earl Thomas, Marcus Trufant, and Winston Guy that defensive coordinator Gus Bradley dialed up on Sunday. I just wish we would have done more of it. It is a gamble but seemed to work when enabled on Sunday… Zach Miller really impressed me today. He had the best game of his Seahawks career; 8 catches for 142 yards and one touchdown… I wanted this one so bad. It really stings knowing we were 31 seconds away from playing for the NFC title and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII. How we weren’t able to stop the Falcons offense in such a short period of time is beyond me. Back to the drawing board to get ready for 2013.

Well folks the season has unfortunately come to an end. Thank you to everyone who took their time to read my blog this season. I genuinely appreciate your support and feedback. I will say though that even though this is a wrap on the 2012 season does not mean that this is a wrap on the blog. Over the next few days I will put together a list of my top-10 moments from this season in a season review post. I hope to have it published sometime next weekend. After that I’ll take a break until after the Super Bowl but I’ll hop on if any Seahawks news breaks between now and the Super Bowl. Once again thank you so much for reading. Go Hawks!