Tag Archives: Green Bay Packers

Review: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24

17 Jan
Jonathan Stewart

Photo Credit: NFL.com

There is no doubt the Seattle Seahawks showed a tremendous amount of heart on Sunday. Unfortunately at the end of the day the deficit was too big and time was too little. The 2015 campaign comes to a close as the Carolina Panthers defeat the Seahawks 31-24, eliminating Seattle and advancing to next week’s NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals. The NFC will be represented in the Super Bowl by a team other than the Seahawks for the first time since 2012. For this preview I will break the game down into two huge chunks, the frustrating disaster that was the first half, and the incredible comeback which fueled the second half. Here are my final thoughts of the 2015 season.

The First Half: The Seahawks spotted the Panthers 31 points going into the halftime break. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and both the Seattle offense and defense were to blame. On the very first play of the game Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart broke through into the Legion of Boom and galloped all the way down to the Seattle 16-yard line, a gain of 59 yards. This set up a Stewart touchdown run 3 plays later giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead only two and a half minutes into the game. On the Seahawks first possession of the game Carolina stole away any momentum the Seahawks were trying to muster and held a tight grasp on it for the rest of the half. On second down Russell Wilson felt immediate pressure and forced a pass to the middle of the field in the direction of Marshawn Lynch. Lynch had yet to turn around and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted the pass and ran it in for a touchdown. 14-0 Panthers less than three and a half minutes into the game. After a Seahawks punt the Panthers drove down the field and scored again on a Stewart 1-yard touchdown run. 21-0 Panthers. On the first play of Seattle’s next possession Wilson felt rushed again and threw a low pass which was intercepted by Cortland Finnegan. A Carolina field goal made it 24-0 Panthers with 12:37 left in the second quarter. The nightmare continued on Carolina’s next possession. After a Seahawks punt the Panthers drove 54 yards in 9 plays culminating with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen. The Seahawks went into the halftime break down 31-0, their largest deficit in a game since 2010.

I noticed a few things in the first half that drove me crazy, some which we could control and others we really could not. For starters as the score went up I felt like our defense started to play panicked and tried to force their play. What I mean by this is instead of good fundamental tackling we would try to force takeaways by forcing the ball out which at times helped Carolina gain extra yards. Third down defense was also a problem, as Carolina converted 71 percent of their third down chances in the first half. On offense I found quarterback pressures and hurries to be particularly frustrating. One of the best facets of Russell Wilson’s game is his escapability and he did not do a good job of creating plays in the first half. He felt too comfortable in the pocket and trusted his offensive line almost to a fault. I also believe Wilson and the Seahawks offense discounted the speed of the Panthers defense. They absolutely swarmed him and ate him up in the first half, leading to two turnovers and a sack. The field also did not do the Seahawks any favors either. Players were slipping, sliding, and falling down throughout pregame warmups which led to harsh criticism which was discussed on the FOX broadcast in the early part of the game. Marshawn Lynch looked particularly uncomfortable playing on that sloppy surface, especially since the majority of his success running the ball depends on him being able to be shifty and cut sharply on the turf.

The Second Half: My hope was that if the Seahawks could somehow score 21 points in the third quarter to cut the Panthers lead to 10, we could put ourselves in position to potentially make the greatest comeback in NFL playoffs history a reality. For a time it looked like it might be doable. The Seahawks adjusted wonderfully coming out of the halftime break and came out firing. On the first offensive possession of the second half the Seahawks were set up thanks to a 50-yard kick return by Tyler Lockett. A personal foul by Carolina on the kickoff gave the Seahawks an additional 15 yards. On the fourth play of the drive Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown. After forcing the Panthers to punt the Seahawks took their next drive all the way down the field resulting in a touchdown pass to Lockett. Halfway through the third quarter the Seahawks were only 7 points away from my goal. It was 31-14 Carolina. At the pace we were going I thought an epic comeback was a real possibility at this point but after our next drive resulted in a punt it started to feel like it was going to be extremely difficult. The Seahawks got the ball back with 9:34 left in the game and we drove down the field to score a touchdown in 3 minutes and 28 seconds. With just over 6 minutes left in the game, two timeouts, needing two scores, and the Panthers getting the ball again the blueprint was set in terms of what we needed to do; force a Carolina punt, score, recover an onside kick, and score again. Step one was completed after Carolina held the ball for another 3 minutes. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:49 left and kicked a field goal cutting the deficit to 7 with the clock reading 1:12. Just like last year’s NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks season continuing depended on recovering an onside kick. Steven Hauschka’s onside attempt was a good one but the ball was caught and held on to by Thomas Davis, sealing the victory for the Carolina Panthers.

It was a gritty, heartwarming effort. The Seahawks were dead to rights and the resolve this team showed shows exactly why we are able to be competitive in any game we play. No deficit is too big for this team and we came one score shy of tying or perhaps even winning the game. Hindsight is 20/20, but if the Seahawks would have been able to kick a field goal in the first half (either Hausckha’s miss at the end of the first half or deciding to kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 5 late in the first half) and if Wilson would not have thrown one of his two interceptions there is a real possibility we are talking about a Seahawks victory instead. At the end of the day, turnovers may have been the primary culprit, which is what I was wary of in my game preview.

Thoughts on Carolina: This is a defense-driven football team and they are extremely good. With today’s performance I now am questioning whether or not the Seahawks have the best defense in the league. If not, that title definitely belongs to the Panthers. They will host the Cardinals next week and if they play exactly like how they did today, it will be the Carolina Panthers representing the NFC in Super Bowl 50. I look forward to playing the Panthers next season, arguably the best opponent we will play at CenturyLink Field in 2016.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will pick 25th, 26th, or 27th in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The pick better be used on the best offensive lineman available… The 2016 schedule will be released in April but here are our opponents next season. Home games at CenturyLink Field: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins. On the road: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New York Jets… 37 days until the start of the NFL Scouting Combine and 102 days until the NFL Draft.

Thank you guys once again for logging on and reading this season. It always means a lot to me that you read and care about what I write. On to 2016. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Vikings Preview (NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

9 Jan
vikings wild card preview 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) Seattle Seahawks at (3) Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:05am

On December 6th the Seahawks rolled into Minneapolis and delivered a monumental beat down to the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. One month later the Seahawks will look to do the same thing in order to keep their season alive. The Seahawks travel to TCF Bank Stadium once again on Sunday as they take on the NFC North champion Vikings in an NFC Wild-Card playoff game. The Seahawks enter as the number 6 seed and a win will punch their ticket to Charlotte for the NFC Divisional playoffs. The Vikings are the number 3 seed and a win will send them to Arizona to play the Cardinals next week. Of course the loser of this game sees their 2015 season come to an end. The theme in this game is “different.” There will be multiple things that will be different this week from the last time these two teams faced off 5 weeks ago. For the Vikings, several things will have to be different in order to advance to next weekend. Here are a small handful of differences I will have my attention on in this game.

Last time around Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 78 percent of his passes for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Seahawks also added 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground by running back Thomas Rawls. Rawls is on injured reserve and this week the Seahawks will start someone who was not even on the roster back in week 13, running back Christine Michael. Michael will be thrust into the starting role after the unexpected breaking news Friday night that Marshawn Lynch, who practiced all week and seemed ready to go, ruled himself unable to play. Michael has an opportunity to completely change critic’s opinions of him as an NFL player with a strong performance in Minnesota. Establishing the run on first down will remain important but do not be surprised to see more passes called on first down than runs. If Michael can get going early and be able to put up at least 80 yards on the ground it will take pressure off of the passing game and the Seahawks offense will be able to control time of possession, putting Minnesota at a disadvantage.

In my preview of our regular season matchup against the Vikings I talked about how important it was for the Seahawks defense to corral Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. This is the one and only constant I will be focused on this week. It is the same story as last time: shut him down, win the game. Peterson was held to his worse stat line of his season against the Seahawks, rushing 8 times for 18 yards. In the 4 games to end the season after playing Seattle Peterson averaged 21 carries for 76 yards and recorded 3 touchdowns. Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright combined for 17 tackles against the Vikings in the regular season so look for Kris Richard to stuff the box to help defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, and Jordan Hill out.

One of the biggest reasons this game will be different for the Minnesota Vikings is unlike in our last meeting, Minnesota’s defense is close to full strength. Multiple players who were inactive or hurt during our matchup five weeks ago will be on the field this Sunday. This includes safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr. I am putting my X-Factor spotlight on another one of those players who may be back on the field on Sunday. My X-Factor player to Watch for the Vikings this week is defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph’s absence was a contributing factor in the Seahawks being able to accrue 173 total rushing yards on December 6th. He is one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and I believe he is extremely underrated, much like Brandon Mebane is for Seattle. Right before he got hurt he was putting up big numbers in the tackles category, averaging just over 6 tackles per game in his last 5 games. He has also recorded 7 tackles for loss this season. Against an average Seahawks offensive line Joseph could be poised for a huge game statistically. If the Seahawks run Christine Michael up the middle look for Joseph to make a big impact.

Something else that must be talked about is the weather conditions for Sunday’s game. In our last meeting in Minnesota the temperature was in the high 30’s; an abnormally warm temperature for that time of year. This week brings a completely different story as the Seahawks will be playing in the coldest game in franchise history. The temperature at kickoff is projected to be no higher than 3 degrees but I have seen reports from the national weather service over the past few days that claim the temperature at kickoff could be as low as -20 degrees plus wind chill. It will be painfully cold and the weather could absolutely play a factor in how the game plays out. I remember two seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Green Bay to play the Packers in an NFC wild-card game. The 49ers were no doubt the better team but because the temperature was so low it allowed the Packers to play San Francisco tough almost to the point of them upsetting them. It will be harder to throw, harder to tackle, harder to kick, and harder to score. These circumstances could give the Vikings an advantage that is difficult to overlook.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and college navy pants this week. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for a rare NBC matinee broadcast this week… Walt Coleman is our referee in this game… I find it very interesting the NFL decided to have both NFC wild-card games on Sunday rather than one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. It makes sense going from week 17 into the postseason but one team playing this weekend will lose a day of preparation for next week because they will have to play Arizona the following Saturday… Many people approached me over the past week and asked me if I was going to Minneapolis for the game. I would love to be there even with the weather being what it is, but unfortunately I will not be there. Hopefully I get to make at least one more road trip before the end of our season… I am not a fan of the morning start in the playoffs. That’s the price we pay for going on the road I guess.

Prediction: It will not be a blowout and the weather will be a factor, but I still believe the Seahawks will punch their ticket to the Divisional round. Russell Wilson will throw touchdowns to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. A late touchdown run by Adrian Peterson will keep things close but the Seahawks will be able to convert third down opportunity with under two minutes left to seal the win. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for an NFC Divisional playoff against the Carolina Panthers.

Seahawks 27, Vikings 17

Seahawks/Cardinals Preview

2 Jan
cardinals preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Last week there was a possibility that this game would not matter to either the Seattle Seahawks or the Arizona Cardinals. However after losses by the Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers and wins by the Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, the regular season finale in the desert is now extremely important for both teams. The Seahawks head to Arizona for the first time since the disastrous ending to Super Bowl XLIX as they take on the NFC West champion Cardinals. The Seahawks are 9-6 and with a win they will have won 10 or more games in each of the last 4 seasons. The Cardinals are 13-2, winners of nine straight games, and arguably the best team in football. Arizona leads the all-time series against the Seahawks 17-16. In their previous meeting earlier this season the Cardinals beat the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday Night Football 39-32. Here is what both teams have to do in order to head into the playoffs on the right foot.

Against the Rams a week ago the Seahawks finished the day -3 in turnover differential. The only way the Seahawks can win this game from an offensive perspective is to take care of the ball. It will be a difficult challenge because the Cardinals have forced 33 turnovers this season, good for second-best in the league. What worries me is how panicked Russell Wilson may play if the running game cannot get going and the Seahawks face a deficit late in the game, much like how last week’s game played out. Note though that Wilson has thrown only one interception since these two teams last played on November 15th. If the Seahawks can also control time of possession it will put us in a comfortable position for later on in the game. If the Seahawks can keep their offense on the field and if they win the turnover battle, this game will absolutely be winnable.

Much like how time of possession is an area of importance on offense, the same can be said of defense. The way to win T.O.P. on defense is to force Arizona into punts, and in order to force punts you need to stop them on third down. The Cardinals are the best team in the league on third down this season, converting nearly half of their third down opportunities (47.3 percent). The only way the Seahawks will be successful in getting the Cardinals off the field on third down is to put constant pressure on quarterback Carson Palmer. Over the course of this season the Seahawks have been very hot and cold when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Bruce Irvin will have to have a big impact from the outside linebacker spot and he will be a dark horse player in the game if he can successfully penetrate Arizona’s stout offensive line.

All season long the Arizona Cardinals have done an incredible job creating explosive plays. With the Cardinals still using a running back by committee since the injury to Chris Johnson, the game will be won through the air. I expect to see Carson Palmer target wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald more than any other receiver since he is the best short and intermediate threat Arizona has on the offensive side of the ball. If Kam Chancellor remains sidelined I expect head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator James Bettcher to dial up several long passes down the field. If this is the case the speedy John Brown could be primed for a big game, as he will likely line up across from either DeShawn Shead or Jeremy Lane. Also keep an eye on Michael Floyd who could also have the opportunity to get loose with Richard Sherman likely covering Fitzgerald.

My number one focus on defense for the Cardinals is how the secondary will fare for the second straight week without safety Tyrann Mathieu. With Deone Bucannon likely moving from linebacker back to safety to fill in for Mathieu more will be required of the other three starters in Arizona’s secondary. Specifically I will be watching how the middle of the field will covered without the “honey badger” on the field. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Cardinals is their other starting safety, Rashad Johnson. Although he missed last week’s game against Green Bay Johnson has recorded 48 tackles this season, sixth among all Arizona defenders. The scariest number that jumps out on Johnson’s stat sheet is his team-high 5 interceptions. If the Seahawks throw the ball in the middle of the field look for Johnson to be in on each play. If the Cardinals can record multiple turnovers they will have an excellent chance to come away with the victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will break out the wolf grey uniforms for the second time this season. We are 6-0 all-time in this look. The Cardinals are eligible to wear their black alternate jerseys but I would not be surprised to see them wear all red instead… This week’s game has been picked to be “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX. Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews have the call… This week’s referee is second-year white hat Brad Allen… I hope the field is in good shape. University of Phoenix Stadium hosted the Fiesta Bowl on Friday afternoon so it is possible the field will be beat up. Luckily the Cardinals are one of the best teams in terms of getting their field prepared for a game. They’ll probably roll the field outside, work on it and let it sit in the sun tomorrow, then wheel it back into the building early Sunday morning… It feels a little strange to have regular season football being played after the new year. This is the first Seahawks regular season game played in January in 4 years (2011 season finale in Arizona)… If the Seahawks win I will be cheering like crazy for Green Bay in the Sunday night game. If Seattle loses I’ll be cheering like crazy for Minnesota instead. This is going to be a fun and wild ending to the regular season.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are 4 different possible scenarios that can play out on Sunday, one of which will determine who the Seahawks will play in next week’s wild-card playoff game. It will depend on who wins this game AND who wins the Sunday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. Here are the possibilities for next week’s wild-card game:

At Minnesota: Seahawks loss + Vikings win OR Seahawks win + Vikings win

At Washington: Seahawks win + Packers win

At Green Bay: Seahawks loss + Packers win

Prediction: If the NFL hadn’t flexed the Carolina Panthers game to 1:25pm I think there would be a better chance the Seahawks would come away victorious. However since Carolina and Arizona now play at the same time both teams will play at full strength to try to earn the number one seed in the NFC. Carson Palmer will throw for three touchdowns and the Arizona defense will force three turnovers. The Seahawks running game will be extremely inefficient for the second straight week. The Seahawks will finish the season 9-7, stumbling into the playoffs, and we will get ready for our wild-card game against the Green Bay Packers next week.

Cardinals 31, Seahawks 17

Review: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

27 Dec
rams review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

“We want Seattle.”

It was the phrase that flooded Twitter late Saturday night from Washington Redskins fans who, like many Seahawks fans, assumed their team was destined to host the #5 seeded Seahawks in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs. For Seattle it seemed simple; take care of business against the St. Louis Rams and the Seahawks would seemingly have the fifth seed wrapped up. Pump the brakes because those plans are absolutely on hold. The Seahawks had numerous chances to take control of Sunday’s game but could not overcome three huge turnovers and several self-inflicted mistakes. The Rams came into CenturyLink Field and shocked the Seahawks 23-17. The loss drops Seattle to 9-6 and the Seahawks temporarily hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Now instead of Washington, the Seahawks could wind up playing one of three potential opponents in the first week of the playoffs depending on how next week’s slate of games plays out. For now however, here are my brief thoughts on today’s stunning defeat.

Offensive Line and Running Game: Talk about knocking a house down. After weeks of solid chemistry and play from our offensive line the group caved against a superior Rams front line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times and he was constantly under pressure and flushed out of the pocket. To make matters worse, the Seahawks running game could not get anything going all day long. Our leading rusher not named Russell Wilson was Fred Jackson who tallied up an extremely underwhelming 11 yards on the ground. Bryce Brown saw only 7 carries and last week’s feature back Christine Michael only touched the ball 6 times. Could it be time to hit the panic button if Marshawn Lynch does not return soon? After Sunday’s performance I find it hard to believe we will have better success against an even better Arizona Cardinals defense on the road next week. We must decide on a feature back because the Jackson/Brown/Michael committee we threw out on the field against St. Louis will not be effective moving forward.

Thoughts on Officiating: On the whole I have no qualms about how this game was officiated. I do believe however that the referees messed up once, when Rams running back Benny Cunningham fumbled on third down with 13:37 left in the game. The ball looked to have been recovered by the Seahawks but was immediately ruled Rams ball. After a brief discussion the ruling was temporarily overturned to Seahawks ball on the field but was then changed back to the original call of St. Louis ball. Since the Seahawks had already lost both their challenges they did not have an extra challenge to their disposal. I believe if there is any debate about which team recovered a fumble the safest route is to give the ball to the defense because then the play is automatically reviewed since it is a turnover. Ruling Rams ball gave the Seahawks no chance to prove they in fact recovered the ball. Unfortunately the touchdown St. Louis scored later on in the drive was the difference on the scoreboard at the end of the game.

Turnovers: The Seahawks defense allowed only 207 yards to the Rams offense. You see that number and think “the Seahawks probably dominated them and won the game.” Wrong. At the end of the day three turnovers cost the Seahawks the game. Will Tukuafu fumbled a handoff in the first quarter which was picked up and run in by the Rams Akeem Ayers, giving St. Louis a 10-0 lead. Russell Wilson threw his first interception in 6 weeks at the end of the first half, and Wilson also fumbled late in the game which pretty much sealed the win for the Rams. This may have been the sloppiest game the Seahawks have played all season and it could not have come at a worse time. You will not win football games in this league when you end the day -3 in turnover differential. It was simply unacceptable.

Thoughts on St. Louis: Could this team finally be turning the corner for good? This kind of statement win could give the St. Louis Rams serious momentum heading into 2016. Todd Gurley looks like the real deal after having a chance to see him play firsthand. This team always gives us fits and I do not believe it will be easy for them to regress. There is a solid possibility this team could be wild-card contenders next season.

Random Thoughts: It was great to finish up the home slate of games with one more pregame at the Hawks Nest… Introducing the special teams during pregame may not have been the best move. It was supposed to be the offense’s turn to run out of the tunnel individually… Congratulations to Richard Sherman for winning the 2015 Steve Largent Award. Well-deserved sir… I believe I got 7 beers for the price of 4 inside the stadium throughout the game. Let me explain. My friend Jake and I entered the stadium and immediately got food. I asked for 4 slices of pizza and two Bud Lights for the two of us, a total of about $51. The concessions worker gave us 4 slices of pizza and 4 Bud Lights so we essentially got 2 extra beers at no charge. Then later on we stopped a beer vendor walking up the aisle and asked for two more Bud Lights. The total this time came to around $17. The vendor cracked open the first beer and handed it to Jake, then he cracked open a Red Hook Long Hammer IPA by mistake. He immediately recognized his blunder and cracked open two more Bud Lights for us. So we paid for two and got a third beer on the house. All in all that adds up to 7 beers for the price of 4. Talk about an unintentional fan appreciation special!… It sucks this is how I leave CenturyLink Field for the final time until August. This will surely leave a bad taste in my mouth throughout the offseason.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are several scenarios that could land the Seahawks either the #5 seed or #6 seed. Here are the scenarios for the final week of the season:

The Seahawks earn the #5 seed with a win over Arizona and a Green Bay Packers win over the Minnesota Vikings. In this scenario the Seahawks would play Washington in the wild-card round.

If the Seahawks lose to Arizona we will be locked in to the #6 seed. In this scenario if Green Bay beats Minnesota next week, the Seahawks will play Green Bay in the wild-card round. However if Minnesota beats Green Bay, the Vikings will win the NFC North and the Seahawks will travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings in the wild-card round.

What’s Next: The Seahawks close out the regular season next Sunday on the road as they take on the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals. Look for my game preview on Saturday morning.

Rams/Seahawks Preview

26 Dec
rams preview 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

The Seahawks wrap up the home portion of their 2015 season on Sunday against a familiar December opponent. Seattle concludes their home slate against the division rival St. Louis Rams for the fifth time in the last six years. The Seahawks are 9-5 and have a playoff berth already wrapped up. The Rams are at the tail end of yet another mediocre season under head coach Jeff Fisher with a record of 6-8. Seattle leads the all-time series 21-14 but the Rams bested the Seahawks in week one, coming back to defeat the Kam Chancellor-less squad in overtime 34-31. 15 weeks later the Seahawks are a completely different team and the Rams have added a dynamic force on their offensive unit. Here is what I will be watching out for on Sunday.

Look for the Seahawks offense to try to mirror what it accomplished last week against Cleveland. Christine Michael will likely be the lead back and will see anywhere from 15 to 20 carries. The talk of the town has been the phenomenal play of quarterback Russell Wilson and wide receiver Doug Baldwin. If Wilson can continue to avoid turning the ball over I believe our offense will put the team in good position to win. On defense my number one focus will be to watch how well our starters match the speed of the Rams offense. On the ground the combo of Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin has combined for 1,413 yards and 13 touchdowns. St. Louis likes to use Austin in the backfield and on end arounds so the Seahawks must be quick on the outside. The presence of Kenny Britt at receiver also equips St. Louis with an explosive downfield threat. Richard Sherman will likely cover Britt on Sunday. If the Seahawks can hold the Rams to under 300 yards of total offense it will be a successful day.

As I previously mentioned, the Rams have a weapon on the offensive side of the ball that was not available when these two teams faced off back in September. He is the guy I will keep my focus on more than any other Rams offensive player. Since his debut in week 3, running back Todd Gurley is on pace for 1,200 yards, has been named to the Pro Bowl, and is the front runner to win offensive rookie of the year. He is the closest thing to Marshawn Lynch that has come into the league in recent years and he has the talent to make even the toughest run defenses look silly. I believe Gurley will see at least 20 carries and if the Rams find success in the running game they will continue to feed him the ball. Getting solid production out of Gurley in this game will take a ton of pressure off of quarterback Case Keenum.

The mystery of the St. Louis Rams comes from their defense. Over the past few seasons the Rams have been hyped to be potential contenders for the NFC West crown. I believe a lot of this hype comes from the talent they possess on the defensive side of the ball. Yet somehow the pool of talent cannot seem to band together to help the team win football games. They remind me of the pre-Jim Harbaugh San Francisco 49ers; they have the talent but it is not being utilized correctly. The Rams defense will be represented in the Pro Bowl by defensive tackle/interior pass rusher Aaron Donald who leads the team with 11 sacks and also has the fourth most tackles on the defense with 64. The middle of the defense is anchored by veteran James Laurinaitis but the secondary is what I will have my eye on. Safety Mark Barron leads the team in tackles and cornerback Janoris Jenkins has recorded 14 passes defensed. The Rams other starting cornerback also has 14 passes defensed but has also done more on the stat sheet. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the St. Louis Rams is cornerback Trumaine Johnson. In just his fourth season, Johnson has emerged as one of the Rams best players. This season he has already shattered his personal best for interceptions in a single season with 6. He has intercepted a pass in each of his last three games and one of his interceptions occurred against the Seahawks in week one. Johnson will likely shadow the red-hot Doug Baldwin and with the trust Russell Wilson has had going to Baldwin over the past 5 weeks, particularly on third down, Johnson will absolutely see opportunities to make an impact in this game.

Random Thoughts: College navy jerseys and pants for the Seahawks. The Rams will wear white jerseys and will likely wear navy pants… Chris Myers and Ronde Barber will lead the broadcast on FOX… The referee for this week’s game is John Hussey… The gameday theme is fan appreciation which means the Seahawks will be giving away a wide array of prizes to the fans in attendance. In all the years I’ve been a season ticket holder I’ve only won something on fan appreciation day once; a 12 car flag in 2008… The Steve Largent Award will also be presented during pregame festivities. Russell Wilson won it last year and it is possible he could win it again… It’s disappointing this final regular season home game will be a goodbye to everyone I sit around until August of next year. I’ve been so used to having home playoff games to look forward to the past couple of years that this year feels slightly abnormal… If the Seahawks win they will have reached the 10-win mark. If that’s the case the Seahawks will have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. What an amazing feat that would be.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West last week, meaning at best the Seahawks can be the #5 seed. With a win over the Rams the Seahawks will maintain their position as the #5 seed. The Seahawks can clinch the #5 seed with a win and a Minnesota Vikings loss. The Seahawks will fall to the #6 seed if they lose and the Vikings win. Here are this week’s other games with NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

Washington (7-7) at Philadelphia (6-8) (Game to be played Saturday night)

Green Bay (10-4) at Arizona (12-2)

New York Giants (6-8) at Minnesota (9-5)

Prediction: The Rams have not won in Seattle since my 15th birthday. That draught will continue on Sunday. The game will be tied at halftime due to a strong first half by Todd Gurley but Russell Wilson will come out of the intermission on fire, throwing for touchdowns on our first two second half possessions. The Seahawks will get to 10-5 and will send the 12’s home happy one last time this season.

Seahawks 27, Rams 16

#10for10 Game #2: Championship Comeback (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2014 NFC Championship Game)

17 Dec

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

10for10 kearse catch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After overtaking the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West lead and eventual division championship late in the 2014 season the Seahawks earned the number one seed in the NFC playoffs for the second consecutive season. All it would take was a win in the divisional round and the Seahawks would host the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year. We did just that, and on January 18th, 2015 the Seahawks hosted the Green Bay Packers with the winner earning a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.

The day started a little different than any other Seahawks home game in my 10 years as a season ticket holder simply because of what time the game was scheduled to start. The AFC and NFC alternate kickoff times for championship weekend each year; one game starts at 12:00pm while the other kicks off at 3:30pm. In 2014 the NFC title game was a noon kickoff Pacific Time which meant the game would start one hour earlier than an afternoon regular season Seahawks home game. After a 5:30am wake up call, I got myself ready to go and I was out of the house by 6:30. I met my friend Jake at a Pioneer Square Starbucks shortly before 7am and we grabbed a cup of coffee before walking over to our pregame destination, the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill. The bar usually opens at 8am for Seahawks home games and they did not open earlier to accommodate the earlier start time. Because of this there was a line about 75 people long waiting to get in at 7:30. We met a couple of Jake’s brother’s friends and when the doors opened at 8 o’clock we headed straight for the L-shaped mini-bar-looking spot in the back of the building.

For the next two and a half hours we watched the various NFL pregame shows on the televisions surrounding our spot while eating and drinking merrily with all the Seahawks fans sitting and standing around us. Over this time I was paid visits by my Dad and uncle who were attending the game together, as well as my friend James and his little brother Lane who had also won tickets through the Seahawks.

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James (left), Jake (right), and I at the Hawks Nest before the game

After a few beers Jake and I left the bar at around 10:30 and headed into the stadium. We got our rally towels at the gate and headed straight up to my seats. We were met with a stadium getting fuller by the minute and by the time the Seahawks headed into their locker room after pregame warmups CenturyLink Field was nearly completely full. The Seahawks defense was introduced to a raucous ovation and after Paul Allen raised the 12 Flag for the third time ever with a sea of white towels waving all around, Steven Hauschka kicked off to the Packers to get the game underway.

That first drive could not have been any better. After letting the Packers drive into Seahawks territory, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a third down pass into the endzone which was picked off by Richard Sherman. All the momentum shifted in the Seahawks favor. If we could take our first possession and turn it into a touchdown, it may be an easy day en route to the Super Bowl. Those dreams ended real fast. On the third play of our first drive Russell Wilson was intercepted by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. For some reason everything that followed for the next three quarters fell out of sync. That interception led to a field goal and a 3-0 Green Bay lead. Doug Baldwin fumbled the ball back to the Packers on our next offensive play and that turnover turned into another Packers field goal. Then a three and out gave the ball back to the Packers and they in turn scored a touchdown. After the first quarter the Packers had over 4 times as many points as the Seahawks had yards. Packers 13, Seahawks 0.

The Seahawks started the second quarter with another three and out. The Packers turned their next drive into another field goal and a 16-0 lead. By this point all the fans were silent and discouraged beyond belief. We could not believe that a team so good playing at home on a stage so big could come out so flat. Our next drive did not make matters any better. Another Wilson interception to Clinton-Dix gave Green Bay the ball back but we were able to take the ball back from the Packers when Byron Maxwell intercepted Rodgers. We needed to go down the field and score a touchdown to have any confidence moving forward. We got the ball all the way down to the Packers 18-yard line. Unfortunately we could not capitalize. Wilson targeted Jermaine Kearse on the left side of the endzone but was intercepted by Sam Shields. Packers ball 1st and 10 up 16-0 with 1:55 left in the half. I was in a state of such shock and disbelief I needed to decompose and catch my breath. I abandoned an equally-shocked Jake at my seats for a short period of time and I decided to take a walk down the concourse and use the restroom at the halftime break.

I sit in section 340 at CenturyLink Field which is in the northwest corner of the stadium. I walked all the way down to the 12 Flagpole in the south end of the stadium and waited in a bathroom line that stretched about 100 feet down the concourse. I did not even care about the Alice in Chains halftime performance going on right next to me. I just stared into space, thinking about the 30 minutes of atrocious football I had just witnessed. I was not physically sick but just thinking about how poorly we played made me want to puke once I got in there. I walked back to my seats with a renewed hope that the Seahawks could come back and make this game competitive. Luckily I made it back just in time for the start of the second half.

After trading drives resulting in punts the Seahawks got the ball back and drove down to the Green Bay 19-yard line. Steven Hauschka lined up for a 38-yard field goal but the ball was picked up by holder Jon Ryan who scrambled left and lobbed up a rainbow to eligible receiver Garry Gilliam for a touchdown. The fake fooled everyone in the stadium and when the pass fell complete the stands went nuts. The gutsy play call put us back in the game. We knew we had a long way to go but we thought this score could spark a comeback. Packers 16, Seahawks 7.

After exchanging punts once more the Packers drove down the field to kick a field goal which extended their lead to 19-7 with 10:53 left in regulation. The Seahawks got the ball back with just over 5 minutes left to go needing a touchdown. On the first play of the drive Wilson was picked off for the fourth time, once again intended for Jermaine Kearse. Many fans gave up on our chances and decided to head for the exits including Marc and Mike, the two guys who sit in front of me. After forcing the Packers to punt the Seahawks got the ball back with 3:52 left in regulation. The following 7 minutes and 11 seconds earned this game the number two spot on my countdown.

The Seahawks drove 69-yards down the field culminating in a 1-yard read-option keeper by Russell Wilson. The score cut the Green Bay lead to 19-14. It was a huge score but we still needed to recover an onside kick to have any shot at taking the lead. Steven Hauschka kicked the ensuing onside kick which bounced off the helmet of the Packers Brandon Bostick. Chris Matthews jumped to snare the ball out of mid-air and the remainder of the crowd went insane. I bear hugged Jake and the guys sitting next to us. I immediately turned to my left to look down at all the fans who decided to leave stop in their tracks. Instead of walking away from the building they stood frozen, hearing the distant cheers inside the stadium; honestly one of the most satisfying sights I have ever seen at a Seahawks game. After an 8-yard pass to Luke Willson, Marshawn Lynch took a handoff 24 yards for a touchdown. All of a sudden with 1:25 left in regulation the Seahawks had their first lead of the game 20-19. We could not believe it. After screaming in celebration I bent over to catch my breath, not before letting out one last yelp. The Seahawks had to go for two to try to extend the lead to 3. Wilson rolled to his right and when the play did not develop he was chased backwards and after spinning around he chucked up a prayer of a pass across his body where it was somehow hauled in by Willson. The Seahawks miraculously had a 22-19 lead but the game was not yet over. The Packers were successfully able to drive into field goal range and kicked a game-tying 48-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. After 60 minutes: Seahawks 22, Packers 22.

The Seahawks won the toss to start overtime and I immediately wanted to yell “WE WANT THE BALL AND WE’RE GONNA SCORE!” in reference to the infamous Seahawks/Packers Wild-Card playoff game in 2003. Jake could tell by the look on my face and before I even had the chance to open my mouth he looked at me and with a dead straight face said “don’t you even dare say it.” Facing a third down Wilson found Doug Baldwin for a 35-yard gain and the Seahawks were a mere 35 yards away from a second straight NFC championship. On the next play Wilson saw the Packers were lined up with a single high safety so he audibled. He dropped back and floated a beautiful pass right into the arms of Jermaine Kearse as he crossed the goal line. When the pass left Wilson’s hand I screamed “FOR THE WIN….” And sure enough when the pass dropped into Kearse’s bread basket I jumped into the air. Jake jumped into my arms and the guys surrounding me in turn jumped onto us World Series style, as if we were the ones who had just won the game. The Seahawks players and coaches stormed the field and pig-piled Kearse in the south endzone. We were the NFC Champions and if felt so good. Daft Punk’s “One More Time” blared over the sound system as the trophy presentation stage was being set up in the middle of the field.

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Jake and I with the championship celebration ongoing on the field in the background

Steve Largent presented Paul Allen the George Halas trophy and after speeches by Allen, Pete Carroll, and Russell Wilson it really started to sink in that we were going back to the Super Bowl. Jake and I left the stadium and walked up 1st avenue on our way to dinner where traffic was at a standstill. We high fived everyone we walked past on the sidewalk while also watching various fans run through the streets in celebration. This was the greatest comeback in the history of Seahawks football and not only were we fortunate to see it live, we were also smart enough not to leave when our chances to win seemed grave with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter. This game will always be one of my favorites and it has rightfully earned the number two spot on my #10for10 countdown.

#10for10 Game #3: The Fail Mary (Seahawks vs. Packers, 2012 Season)

25 Nov

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

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Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Typically the University of Washington schedules the first day of fall quarter on the last Wednesday of September. In 2012 however they changed protocol. The first day of classes was scheduled for Monday, September 24th and because both of my Monday classes took place in the late afternoon, I skipped the first day of class in order to attend the only Seahawks Monday Night Football game of the 2012 season.

The day started fairly routinely and my afternoon was somewhat uneventful. At about 3:30 my friends Jake, Alan, and I left our house in Wallingford via Yellow Cab and we made our way downtown. When we got to the international district we parted ways. Jake and Alan were heading to the bar for a couple of quick pregame beers while I made my way into the bus tunnel to meet my friend Elliott who I was taking to the game. Elliott had come straight from work and his attire proved it. He donned a dress shirt and slacks with a Marcus Trufant Seahawks jersey over the shirt. Probably the most ridiculously awesome wardrobe I have seen any of my friends wear at a Seahawks game. Since he was running a little late we decided to head straight into the stadium at around 4:15. The pregame giveaway was rally towels which were awesome but interesting given it was only the third week of the season (normally the Seahawks save towels for the postseason or crucial games late in the regular season).

The game started slowly on the scoreboard but the Seahawks gave the 12’s plenty to cheer about in the first half. Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, and Brandon Mebane combined for 8 first half sacks. Seattle’s incredible ability to put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped keep Green Bay off the scoreboard through two quarters. With each sack the crowd became louder and louder. I can remember laughing hysterically with Elliott because of how easily our defense dominated the line of scrimmage. Other than the sack barrage the biggest play of the first half came with 6:29 remaining in the second quarter. After four drives resulting in punts, the Seahawks put together a 7 play drive culminating in a long 41-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

In the second half the Packers adjusted well. Their first two drives went for field goals which cut the Seattle lead to 7-6. What was frustrating late in the game was our pass rush went from dominant to nonexistent. We could not put any pressure on Rodgers which contributed to Green Bay’s ability to put together lengthy drives and score points. After another Seahawks punt the Packers got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. The Packers drove 82 yards in just over 6 minutes and things got interesting. Rodgers hit receiver Greg Jennings for a touchdown but the Seahawks challenged that Jennings stepped out of bounds before the ball crossed the plain. The call was reversed and it brought up 3rd down and 1 at the 2-yard line. On the next play Rodgers scrambled and was marked short of the first down marker but the Packers challenged this play. Once again the call on the field was reversed giving the Packers a first down at the 1-yard line. On the next play running back Cedric Benson punched the ball in. After failing to convert the two-point conversion the Packers had their first lead of the game, 12-7 with 8:44 remaining in the game.

On our next possession we were able to drive down inside the red zone to the Green Bay 7-yard line. Unfortunately we could not settle for a field goal. On 4th down with 2:00 remaining Wilson threw a fade pass to the left corner of the endzone which looked to be intended for Sidney Rice. Instead Golden Tate jumped in front and tried to make the catch but he ball hit off his hand and fell incomplete. The Packers would get the ball back with 1:54 remaining but the Seahawks had two timeouts left. If they could force Green Bay into a three-and-out, the Seahawks would get the ball back and have one more chance to win the game. The Seahawks were able to force the Packers into a three-and-out which backed them up to their own 4-yard line. Green Bay punted back to Seattle, giving the Seahawks the ball on the Packers 46-yard line with 46 seconds left.

After a first down incompletion Wilson fired down the middle and connected with Sidney Rice for a 22-yard gain. With the clock ticking the Seahawks hurried up to the line of scrimmage and instead of spiking the ball they went for the win. Wilson floated a pass into the endzone but the ball deflected off of Golden Tate’s fingertips. The clock was stopped with 18 seconds left. The Seahawks had the ball on the 24-yard line. After two more incompletions the game came down to one final 4th down play with 8 seconds left. Wilson dropped back and scrambled to his left, buying time for his receivers to get into the endzone for the Hail Mary. Wilson lofted a pass into the left corner of the endzone which was caught “simultaneously” by Packers safety M.D. Jennings and Golden Tate. From my view it looked like Tate had outjumped the mass of bodies and made the catch cleanly. When the side judge ruled it was a touchdown Elliott and I went bonkers. The team stormed the north endzone and in the stands we all jumped up and down with wide eyes, seemingly not being able to believe what had just happened. I can remember tossing Skittles at a few Packers fans sitting around us; Packers fans that had been trash talking the Seahawks throughout the second half. When head referee Wayne Elliott came out from under the replay hood and ruled that the call on the field stood, the fans erupted one more time. The Seahawks improved their record to 2-1 and it made for a jubilant rest of the night.

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Elliott and I going crazy in the postgame craziness

Upon walking down to the upper concourse we ran into Jake and Alan and we walked down the stadium ramp screaming and cheering. I can even remember Alan exclaiming “this is the best night of my life!” When we exited the stadium Elliott and I parted ways because we were heading home in different directions but the night was just starting for Jake, Alan, and I. We took a bus back to the University District which was filled with happy Seahawks fans. While standing on the bus Jake agreed with Alan’s prior declaration that it was the best night of his life. This caused one bitter Packers fan standing next to us that “that was sad. Graduation or getting married would probably be the best night of my life.” Once we got off the bus we walked back to Wallingford but not before picking up a fallen tree branch off of the sidewalk randomly. We jokingly waved the branch all the way back home and we decided that it would be our house “victory branch” which we placed on the porch. It stayed there for the remainder of our lease.

We cooked up six chicken top ramens in a giant pan and we watched SportsCenter where for the first time we realized what had actually happened on the final play of the game. We had no idea how questionable the final touchdown ruling was and we could not believe he had witnessed one of the most controversial games in NFL history. It is the greatest regular season Seahawks game I have attended in the 10 years I have been a Seahawks season ticket holder and it rightfully has a spot near the top of my #10for10 countdown.