Tag Archives: Hawks Nest Bar and Grill

#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.

10for10 packers pregame

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.

10for10 packers postgame

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.

Review: Seahawks 29, 49ers 13

22 Nov
49ers review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

What a way to kick off the push towards a wild-card berth. The Seahawks were fueled by rookie power on Sunday en route to an impressive 29-13 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The win gives the Seahawks a 5-5 record and sole possession of second place in the NFC West. The 49ers fall to 3-7 and sit in last place in the division. Here are the bullet points I took out of today’s win.

Offensive Impact: In regards to his statistical presence it has been a “boom or bust” rookie season for receiver Tyler Lockett. Seahawks fans have been waiting for him to break out on offense and he finally made a significant impact in today’s game. Lockett caught 4 passes for 48 yards and also caught two touchdowns. The first of his touchdowns was the more impressive score. On first down the Seahawks used a 5 receiver set and out of the shotgun Russell Wilson connected with Lockett on the outside for a 24-yard touchdown. What was noteworthy about this formation and this touchdown was the Lockett looked to be Wilson’s first read. Wilson had the confidence that Lockett would run his route and get separation on his way to the endzone and Wilson trusted his first look. All three of Lockett’s receiving touchdowns this season have come against the 49ers, but hopefully his performance this week will propel him to more consistent production on offense for the rest of the year.

The Future: When I checked the list of Seahawks inactive players before the game I was surprised to see Marshawn Lynch’s name on it. Although listed as questionable, his presence on the field last week combined with no report that his physical condition had worsened led me to believe that he would be available against San Francisco. Instead Thomas Rawls got the bulk of the work and boy did he make his presence known. Rawls carried 30 times for 209 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 3 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. This adds up to 255 all-purpose yards. His 209 yards rushing also set a Seahawks franchise record for rushing yards in a single game by a rookie. Rawls’ mark broke Curt Warner’s rookie record of 207 rushing yards set in 1983. After today’s game rumors started circulating that the Marshawn Lynch era may end after this season. Right now I tend to agree. Like I said after Rawls ran for 169 yards against Cincinnati six weeks ago, we have found the heir apparent to Lynch. The fact that Rawls has three 100-plus yard games and is the team’s leading rusher after making only three starts should speak for itself. The future is definitely bright with Thomas Rawls lined up behind Russell Wilson.

Thoughts on San Francisco: I challenge you to go on the 49ers website and listen to five minutes of any Jim Tomsula press conference. The man sounds like he is in way over his head and the team he is coaching also plays like they are in way over their heads. The longer this season drags on the more likely it feels that Tomsula will be fired after just his first year.  With Colin Kaepernick on injured reserve it is also likely his 49ers career is over. If I’m 49ers CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke I am strongly considering tearing this roster down and rebuilding. It would not surprise me to see the San Francisco 49ers struggle for the next few seasons.

Random Thoughts: Breakfast at Lil Jon’s in Bellevue hit the spot. A cinnamon roll and a side of bacon was the perfect amount of food… Hawks Nest was awesome before the game and it didn’t get too crowded and stuffy. Got there plenty early and was able to grab a table so that helped… Randy Johnson raising the 12 Flag was perfect. He got a fantastic ovation and it was great to see him being honored in Seattle once more considering he entered the baseball hall of fame not as a Mariner but as an Arizona Diamondback… Thought I was playing against Tyler Lockett in fantasy this week. It took me until after Lockett’s second touchdown to notice that my opponent actually substituted Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess in for Lockett before the game. Caught a break there. To make things even sweeter Thomas Rawls got me 34.5 points… I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

What’s Next: With Thanksgiving on Thursday I will publish game #3 of my #10for10 series on Wednesday, a day earlier than normal. Next week is the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting nine years for. Look for my preview of next week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday.

Review: Seahawks 26, Bears 0

27 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Call it whatever you want; a shutout, a goose egg, a 20 burger with cheese. However you want to put it the Seahawks came out and absolutely took care of business on Sunday, defeating the Chicago Bears 26-0. For the Seahawks it is our first shutout since December 2013 and our first victory of the 2015 season. The Bears fall to 0-3. As great as it was to see us get into the win column, there are still things we need to work on moving forward. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s win.

Defense Back on Track: With Kam Chancellor in the lineup and starting the Seahawks defense looked like a unit that picked up right where they left off LAST season. Forget the past two weeks, this absolutely looks like a reborn unit. The most impressive part may be that we could only sack Jimmy Clausen twice, not force a turnover, and still dominate defensively. The linebacker unit put on a clinic, combining for nearly 40 percent of our total tackles. K.J. Wright had a fantastic game in coverage, leading the Seahawks defense with 10 tackles. Chancellor’s presence intimidated the Chicago offense, as Clausen was extremely hesitant to throw down the middle of the field. It may be difficult to assess just how good this defense is or could be simply because the opposing offense we faced today was wretched. With this unit back on the field together, barring injury, I expect us to be competitive in every game for the rest of the season.

Lynch Exits Early, but Take a Deep Breath: Entering Sunday Marshawn Lynch was considered a game time decision as he nursed a calf injury he sustained in Green Bay last week. He did not start but did see the field later in the first quarter. Unfortunately Lynch’s performance was short lived. Lynch left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return to the game. Luckily this injury does not appear to be serious. All indications from head coach Pete Carroll following the game are that Lynch’s absence was precautionary and that he will be fine moving forward. It would greatly surprise me if he is not active for next week’s game against Detroit. In the meantime however what a game Thomas Rawls had in Lynch’s place. Rawls ran the ball 16 times for 104 yards, averaging a magnificent 6.5 yards per carry. This performance reaffirms the chance John Schneider took when he decided to part ways with both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. It also shows the 12’s that Rawls’s wonderful preseason was no fluke. It looks like we have a reliable every-down running back on deck if Lynch is lost for any period of time later in the season.

“We Have a Great Weapon in Him”: These were the words from Pete Carroll when asked about the performance of Tyler Lockett. I agree with coach. After the team got off to a sluggish start, Lockett opened the second half with a bang, returning the second half kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. Lockett now has both a punt return and a kickoff return through his first three professional games. Something else I loved was how we also used Lockett as a decoy. The Seahawks must have watched Utah slaughter Oregon Saturday night because they took a play right out of the Utes playbook. After the Bears second offensive series, Pat O’Donnell punted and the Seahawks were successful in drawing the entire Chicago special teams unit to where Lockett was on the left side. Meanwhile, Richard Sherman fielded the punt on the right side of the field and took it down the near sideline 64 yards to the Bears 19-yard line. There is no question Lockett is a game changer. I am excited to see how opponents prepare for his speed in future games because if you decide to kick it to him there will always be potential of him taking the kick back for a score.

Offensive Line Woes: Entering this game the Chicago Bears defense had yet to record a sack. It only took them two plays to get to Russell Wilson on Sunday. Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Pernell McPhee each recorded two sacks and the defense as a whole put constant pressure on Wilson leading to a large quantity of quarterback scrambles. Many of Wilson’s completions came after surrendering the pocket. The run blocking was greatly improved but I am still waiting for the Seahawks offensive line to play a complete game. It is still early and you can see this unit is gelling, but not fast enough for many fans liking.

Thoughts on Chicago: The Chicago Bears remind me of the Seahawks of about 10 years ago. They had a solid core group of players and in the meantime the Bears were a perennial playoff contender. As time went on those core players got older, got hurt, or both. The players Chicago has brought in via the draft and free agency are not up to the caliber of their predecessors, and the team has started to struggle greatly. The 2015 Chicago Bears may very well be the worst team in football. Not only will they finish last in the NFC North, they may struggle to win even 4 or 5 games. At this point it may not even surprise me to see the Bears wind up with the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Random Thoughts: Nothing like terrible Irish coffee and Rainier at 9:30 in the morning. I was extremely disappointed with the Hawks Nest’s Irish coffee because all it was Jameson and terrible drip coffee. I was hoping for a little cream and sugar to go with it but you live and you learn… The Nest was packed and it was a lot of fun. Not sure if I’ll make it back for the next two home games, so the next time I step foot in there may be in November. Yikes!… Weather was perfect for a September afternoon. Hopefully it won’t rain for Monday Night Football next week… The defense was introduced this week and Kam Chancellor definitely got the loudest cheers. Kind of a shock to me, but I guess all of the 12’s are willing to forgive and forget… The halftime ceremony was awesome as the Seahawks honored former players to celebrate the franchise’s 40th anniversary season… In the same vein former wide receiver Darrell Jackson raised the 12 flag. The fireworks on top of the Toyota Fan Deck were a wonderful added touch, something that did not happen during the preseason. I bet that will look really cool in primetime and on national television.

What’s Next: The next installment of my #10for10 series will be published this upcoming Thursday. My preview of next week’s game against the Detroit Lions will be published next Sunday.

Bears/Seahawks Preview

26 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

After getting off to a turbulent start on the road in back-to-back weeks the Seahawks finally make their triumphant return home. The 2015 Seahawks home opener will take place Sunday afternoon as we take on the Chicago Bears. The Seahawks may be 0-2 but they are in much better shape than the 0-2 Bears. Chicago was dismantled at home last week, losing 48-23 to the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle leads the all-time series with the Bears 10-6. Our last meeting with Chicago came in December 2012. The Seahawks drove down the field 97 yards to take a late fourth quarter lead, then won the game in overtime after taking the opening series down the field for a touchdown. That win propelled the Seahawks to 4 straight wins to close the 2012 season with an 11-5 record. The winds of change have blown tremendously over the past week as both the Bears and Seahawks will look considerably different than they would have if they played each other last week. This I was I will be watching for in week 3.

This week my hope is that we can get the running game back to normal. Marshawn Lunch has struggled out of the gate but this week’s matchup could give him a perfect opportunity to get back on track. The Chicago defense has allowed an average of 124 rushing yards through their first two games and they have yet to face a talent across the line of scrimmage as dominant as Lynch. In my opinion the Seahawks will be making a big mistake if they decide to throw the ball on first down. Be sure to keep track of the number of times we rush on early downs because it would not surprise me to see Lynch get between 25 to 30 carries. In the passing game the Seahawks must take advantage of the height differential between our receivers and Chicago’s secondary, in particular cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller is the Bears number one cornerback so he will likely be drawn to Doug Baldwin. Both of Chicago’s safeties are only 6 feet tall so it may be wise to run tight end Jimmy Graham down the middle of the field to go up against Antrel Rolle and Adrian Amos. Seattle will be in magnificent shape if we can put up between 350 and 375 total yards of offense.

My main focus on defense is glaringly obvious; the return of strong safety Kam Chancellor. Our defense has not played its style of football yet this year, as we have allowed an average of 30.5 points per game. Chancellor’s return hopefully brings the “boom” back to the Legion. This is the perfect week for Chancellor to come back as the defense faces the 19th best passing offense in the league. Head coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday that Chancellor is in incredible shape and it is his hope that he will be ready to play on Sunday. It would not surprise me to see DeShawn Shead start over Chancellor but Kam may see some playing time. With Chancellor back and possibly up to game speed there should be little to no worry in regards to the Seahawks being able to maintain a lead. Plain and simple, with Kam Chancellor back so is my complete confidence that our defense can play shutdown football.

As far as skill positions go, the Chicago Bears enter this week somewhat in disarray. Wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Marquess Wilson are all listed on the week 3 injury report but my focus will be squarely on quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen will start in place of Jay Cutler who injured his hamstring last week. With the exception of his rookie year in 2010, Clausen is a career backup who has seen limited snaps in the regular season. Clausen does however have experience playing in front of the 12’s at CenturyLink Field. He led a terrible Carolina Panthers team into town in December of 2010 and the Seahawks defeated them 31-14. In that game Clausen went 18/34 for 169 yards and one interception. This week could not have been a more unlucky draw for Clausen and the Bears offense. They will be going up against a fired up Seahawks defense. The mediocre Chicago offensive line has allowed two sacks in each of their first two games and the pressure will be on to keep Clausen clean on Sunday. Pro Bowler Kyle Long will have my eye in particular. Long made only his second career start at right tackle last week and he will be lined up there again against the Seahawks. I would not be surprised to see the Seahawks get to the quarterback at least three times. I believe it could be a very long day for Clausen this week.

The talk along the Seahawks offensive line so far this season has been the terrible play of center Drew Nowak. The best chance the Bears have at making an impact on defense is to attack the middle of Seattle’s offensive line and it all starts along the defensive line, specifically at nose tackle. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Bears is the man that will go directly against Nowak, rookie defensive tackle Eddie Goldman. Goldman has been thrusted into a starting role after the suspension of starting nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff during the preseason. Goldman was selected in the second round of this past year’s draft but has made little impact on the field thus far. In his first two games he has combined for only 3 tackles. Upon watching Bears film Goldman seems to struggle penetrating the line of scrimmage. He does a decent job working his assignment but does not do anything overly special to be a game changer. If he has great success against the Seahawks offensive line, Nowak in particular, it may be time for the Seahawks to seriously consider a personnel change.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all navy this week just like they always do at home. The Bears will wear white jerseys and navy blue pants… This week the Seahawks are the national afternoon game which will be seen by the majority of the country. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for CBS. Due to cross-flexing this game is on CBS instead of FOX, who would normally have the broadcast rights to this all-NFC matchup. Due to a weakened slate of games on CBS this week the NFL decided to cross-flex it to appeal to a wider audience… This week’s referee is Carl Cheffers… I HATE the week 3 home opener. Since I became a season ticket holder our home opener has been scheduled in week 3 twice. In both of those years the Seahawks entered the game 0-2… How’s this for symmetry. This game will take place on September 27th. Flashback 6 years to the 2009 season. The Seahawks hosted the Chicago Bears in week 3 of the season on September 27th but unfortunately lost 25-19. That game also marks the only time the Seahawks wore these little beauties:

Photo Credit: Mynorthwest.com

Photo Credit: Mynorthwest.com

As cool as they were at the time, well, let’s just say I’m glad we’ve done a Nike overhaul since… Hawks Nest before the game for the first time this season. See ya’ll there.

Prediction: After the immense frustration of weeks prior, the Seahawks will make sure this is an absolute bloodbath. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns, Tyler Lockett will return a punt for a touchdown, and Russell Wilson will throw touchdown passes to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. The Seahawks will get their season back on the right track with a huge blowout victory.

Seahawks 38, Bears 10

#10for10 Game #8: Super Bowl Rematch (Broncos vs. Seahawks, 2014 Season)

24 Sep
The view from my seats for Broncos/Seahawks on September 21st, 2014

The view from my seats for Broncos/Seahawks on September 21st, 2014

*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*

When the NFL schedule comes out every April, I put all my close friends’ names into a hat and they get to pick which game they want to go to when their name is drawn. In 2014 my friend James was the second name to come out of the hat so he had a variety of available games to choose from. We had gone to Super Bowl XLVIII together two months earlier and when he saw that the Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos had not been picked yet, he made sure that 2014 would include a Broncos/Seahawks double dip.

The day could not have been any nicer. Crystal clear skies with the temperature in the high 80’s; perfect weather for early-season football in Seattle. We started the day at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill where several Bud Light’s were very necessary to battle the heat and mugginess inside the bar. After a few beers (and cups of water), we made our way inside the stadium.

The first offensive play of the game for Denver almost exactly replicated the start of Super Bowl XLVIII. Peyton Manning handed off to running back Montee Ball and he fumbled. The ball was recovered by K.J. Wright and all of the first half momentum had been handed to the Seahawks on a silver platter. The Seahawks took a 17-3 halftime lead thanks to two Russell Wilson touchdown passes. Unfortunately there was a second half to be played.

Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette caught a touchdown pass in the first half

Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette caught a touchdown pass in the first half

In the fourth quarter the Broncos recorded a safety and a touchdown pass from Manning to Julius Thomas to make it a 17-12 ballgame. Late in regulation the Broncos were driving to try to take the lead. On 3rd and 11 from the Seahawks 24-yard line, Manning’s pass was picked off by Kam Chancellor and was returned to the Denver 35-yard line. With 2:12 left to play all the Seahawks offense had to do was sit on the ball and they would win. The Chancellor interception felt like a game-clincher to James and I, even though the Broncos still had two timeouts and the 2-minute warning in their back pocket. The Seahawks kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 20-12. The Broncos had less than one minute to drive 80-yards to score a touchdown AND convert the 2-point conversion. To our amazement, they were able to execute. Manning connected with Jacob Tamme on a 26-yard touchdown and Demaryius Thomas made a ridiculous tip-toe catch on the back line to tie the game at 20-20. I was sick to my stomach. The Seahawks defense, a unit that had been ever so reliable, had collapsed in a similar fashion to their playoff loss in Atlanta two seasons prior. This game was headed to overtime, as James and I looked at each other flat out stunned.

The Seahawks won the overtime coin toss. After the defensive collapse that had just occurred and the emergence of Peyton Manning in the second half, we believed the Seahawks could not afford to have Manning see the field in overtime. We had to win it on our first drive. The Seahawks used Percy Harvin to move the ball in small chunks, eventually setting up first and goal to go from the Broncos 6-yard line. The Seahawks had three chances to punch it in and seal this victory. They only needed one. After pouring sweat in excitement and nervousness for over three hours, Marshawn Lynch lunged over the goal line for the game winning touchdown.  Just as I had the previous season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I put my arms up in the air then picked James up off of his feet in celebration. The win put the Seahawks at 2-1 and we headed uptown through Pike Place Market for a victory meal at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Gameday in Green Bay

23 Sep

*When the Seahawks were scheduled to play the Packers in Green Bay in Week 2, it was a goal of mine to make it to Lambeau Field for the very first time. These are the experiences I had this past Sunday in Green Bay, Wisconsin*

The Drive: I stayed in Kimberly, Wisconsin which is about 25 miles south of Green Bay. We made our way up to Green Bay around 11:45am and we arrived into town at about 12:30pm. When you get off the freeway it spits you right onto Lombardi Avenue. Lambeau Field is about a half mile off the freeway on the right-hand side of Lombardi Avenue. On the left side of the street is about 15 blocks of residential neighborhoods. Our tailgate did not start until 3:30pm so our hope was to find parking on the street and then go check out what was going on around the stadium. We found parking with ease and by 12:45pm we were walking towards the East side of the stadium.

The Bar Scene: The area around Lambeau had an interesting mix of businesses. Throw in many different sizes of parking lots around a 5-block radius of bars, restaurants, motels, and other assorted stores and you have the scene in Green Bay. Our first stop was a bar called “Stadium View Bar.” We wanted to check out this bar first because this is where the Seahawks held a fan rally the night before so we were hoping the place would be full of Seahawks fans. While we were wrong for the most part it was still a very fun place to be. They turned their parking lot into a giant beer garden, complete with souvenir stands, a milk bottle throw carnival game, a food cart, and live bands. There were a several yellow jackets flying around outside so in order to prevent an anxiety attack, I moved inside to the actual “Stadium View” building. The place was packed with Packers fans and a handful of Seahawks fans also. The size of the building and the ambiance inside reminded me of the “Hawks Nest” bar down by CenturyLink Field. It was spacious with televisions everywhere you turn and the air conditioning made standing around watching the games much more comfortable than being outside. We stayed through halftime of the noon games before we decided to go walk around town some more. We walked down the street to a bar that my Dad had gone to the night before called simply, “The Bar.” This bar was even more spacious than “Stadium View.” The walls were filled with Packers memorabilia, televisions were in every direction you looked, and the latest top 40 hits serenaded everyone over the sound system. I stood at the bar until the end of the early games with a couple of fans from Vancouver, British Columbia. One was a Packers fan, the other a Seahawks fan. They told us their stories of prior trips to Lambeau Field while I told stories of my 10 years as a Seahawks season ticket holder. The best was when I showed them my IPhone video footage of last year’s NFC Championship Game! After the noon games we decided to walk back to our car in order to get ready to move it into the backyard of the property we were going to tailgate in.

Our Tailgate: When you are so close to a stadium like Lambeau Field it is common to see neighboring homeowners sell parking on their property. Walking back to our tailgate location almost every house had green and gold signs advertising parking on their lawns. $15 parking, $20 parking, even $50 parking! Some houses went as far to spray paint lines on their yards to create parking spaces. We had bought space in the backyard of a house directly across the street from Lambeau Field. At 3:30pm we moved the car into the backyard and set up our area in the corner of the backyard.

The view from our tailgate across the street from Lambeau Field

The view from our tailgate across the street from Lambeau Field

We were not equipped with a tent, barbecue, or anything like that but we did have enough beer and Fireball for our group of six plus bags of snack food. We were positioned next to two groups of Seahawks fans but one group spent the tailgate playing cornhole and the other left the property to tailgate-hop around the neighborhood. What put a slight dimmer on our tailgate however was a costly case of miscommunication.

There was a group of Seahawks fans that had apparently rented the house out for the weekend, most likely on a site such as Airbnb. Unfortunately the group had no knowledge that the homeowner allows other people to park on the property to tailgate. When we first arrived in Green Bay we went over to the house to scope out the scene. We introduced ourselves to the then-friendly group as they set up their television in the garage and played catch in the backyard. When our group and another group explained what was going to happen on the property it seemed to throw off their master plans. When we got back at 3:30 cars had already started to line the backyard, taking away the field they were playing catch on hours earlier. It was clear the renters were bitter and angry. This was confirmed when my Uncle was told to leave the garage by the group when all he wanted to do was check the scores of the ongoing games. We also inquired about the food they had seeming catered for the entire tailgate but we were rudely denied a chance at the bratwurst lunch for what seemed to be no good reason. Keep in mind, the renters were SEAHAWKS fans! Wouldn’t you think the group would be kind-hearted to the other Seahawks fans? That unfortunately was not the case.

The Stadium: We headed into the Lambeau Field Atrium and as soon as I walked through the doors I was blown away by the décor and the history. This wide open space featured banners of great players from the Packers past and also features the Packers Hall of Fame museum. Looking back it is a shame I wasn’t able to walk through the museum because I really wanted to see all of the artifacts and Green Bay’s four Lombardi Trophies. That will be the first thing I will want to do if I ever go back to Lambeau. We walked to our section and as I walked through the tunnel it reminded me of walking through one of the lower level section tunnels at the pre-renovated Husky Stadium. The field is below street level and each row of bleachers is stacked on top of the row in front of it. Being on the field would feel rather intimidating for an opposing player as the fans would seem to be right on top of you. The metal bleachers are traditional as they have no backs. The Packers really cram you into the bleachers, meaning you have little to no legroom and although it was a little uncomfortable, the tightness would really be beneficial later in the season when the weather is less than ideal. The inside of the stadium is magical. What made it so magical to me wasn’t so much the physicality of the stadium but the thoughts of the many big games and special moments that have taken place in that building since its opening in 1957. To me specifically, the thoughts of “what would it have been like to be here” for many notable Seahawks/Packers games over the years ran through my mind; the happiness I would have felt watching us demolish Brett Favre in 1999, to the infamous “we want the ball and we’re gonna score” Wild-Card playoff game in 2003, to the 2007 Divisional playoff game during a wild snowstorm.

The view from my seat inside Lambeau Field

The view from my seat inside Lambeau Field

The original bowl is topped by the press box and suites, winding from one sideline all the way around the north side of the stadium to the end of the opposite sideline. Three new levels of seating and a giant video board fill out the south endzone, which helps keep crowd noise inside the bowl. I admire Packers fans for the passion they have for their team. The entire bowl was full 15 minutes before the game started and they are very knowledgeable in regards to cheering when Seattle had the ball and keeping quiet when the Packers were on offense. Packers fans were much louder than I thought they would be. The people sitting around me were very friendly. The woman sitting behind me in particular wanted to know everything about our group; how we got our tickets, where we were from, and even the best way to go about getting tickets to Packers road games. Lambeau certainly lived up to the hype. Outside of Seattle it was the best place I have ever watched NFL football.

The Food: Going into this trip my goal was to indulge myself in two Green Bay delicacies, cheese curds and bratwurst. I knocked cheese curds off the list at “The Bar.” We ordered a tray of curds served with homemade ranch and it was better than any mozzarella stick I’ve ever had.  I’d never had cheese curds before but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were extremely fresh. They were lightly fried and the cheese was creamy and flavorful. The ranch on the side made this incredible snack extraordinary. At the game I bought myself a couple of brats. On the menu at the concession stand it said they were Johnsonville bratwursts so I assumed the quality would be the same as bratwurst you buy at a grocery store in Seattle. Luckily I was dead wrong. In Seattle bratwursts you buy at the store tend to have tough skin and are really greasy once you bite into it. These were different. They were a soft bite and had a slight maple flavor to them which made for an interestingly delicious taste when you combine it with ketchup and their special deli mustard. In all the opposing cities I have seen the Seahawks play in, Green Bay definitely had the best football cuisine. I’ll have to make it out to Zayda Buddy’s in Ballard for my cheese curds fix sometime soon!

The Game: We lost 27-17 but despite the loss it was great to knock Green Bay and Lambeau Field off my bucket list. If you’ve never been to Lambeau, this is the one trip you have to take in your lifetime. Hopefully I can make it back again real soon! (But not in the winter…)

Raiders/Seahawks Preview

2 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

We are so close to the season opener in St. Louis. The only thing standing in the Seahawks way is the preseason finale. On Thursday, for the 10th consecutive season, the Seahawks conclude their preseason slate against the Oakland Raiders. This is the final job interview for many players fighting to make our week one roster. The starters may play the first series of the game, if that, and then their nights will be done. The spotlight in the fourth week of the preseason is on the young guys. This week I will be focused on position battles. In this preview, I will gloss over what our opening day starting units may look like while noting which battles may be important to watch this week at each position. Let’s get to it.

Quarterbacks: If Tarvaris Jackson is able to play this week, the plans at the quarterback position will surely be set. If he can play, which to me is unlikely, Jackson may see a little bit of playing time before R.J. Archer takes over. If Jackson cannot go, then Archer will likely play almost the entire game. In the grand scheme of things, if Jackson is healthy enough to play this week that makes R.J. Archer’s performance extremely important. During the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks only carry two active quarterbacks on the roster with a third quarterback on the practice squad. Archer’s performance against the Raiders will be the difference between him making the active roster and him getting cut and re-signed to the practice squad.

Running Backs: If Thomas Rawls has any chance to steal Christine Michael’s or even Robert Turbin’s roster spot he must ball out on Thursday. It may be next to impossible for Rawls to make the team now that we know the Seahawks have interest in signing free agent running back Fred Jackson. Rawls started the preseason strong but has been overshadowed by the strong play of Michael the past two weeks. Michael and Rawls will both see a lot of playing time but I believe that Rawls will have to bust off several huge runs and at least one touchdown to even have a chance at earning a roster spot.

Wide Receivers: The trade of Kevin Norwood to the Carolina Panthers on Monday makes the wide receiver competition something to watch very closely this week. I believe 6 roster spots will go to wide receivers. I believe Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, and Ricardo Lockette will all have jobs on this team this year. With Paul Richardson starting the season on the PUP list, that means there are four receivers to watch in this game that are fighting for two spots. What will make the coaches decisions difficult is that they all play special teams. B.J. Daniels and Kevin Smith have seen their share of playing time on punt and kickoff returns while Kasen Williams has made a couple of clutch catches including one which set up Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal last week. Chris Matthews showed his potential in Super Bowl XLIX but has been a ghost in relation to these other players so far this preseason. Keep a tab on the number of snaps each of these guys see on offense this week. Their presence on the field alone could be a major indicator of who has the lead on the final wide receiver spots.

Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are locks to make the team. The final tight end spot will go to either Cooper Helfet or Anthony McCoy. Given that McCoy has battled injuries over the past three seasons, and that Helfet had a solid season in 2014 it would make sense if it is Helfet’s job to lose. It very well may be. McCoy will get the opportunity to prove his worth this week. This is one spot that I think could go to either player.

Offensive Line: The release of Lemuel Jeanpierre affirms our starting offensive line going into the season. From left to right our starting line will be Russell Okung, Justin Britt, Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy, and Garry Gilliam. This week will give us a chance to see what our depth looks like along the offensive line. One guy to keep an eye on this week is undrafted rookie Kristjan Sokoli. Sokoli has made fantastic progress during training camp and is a favorite of Coach Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable. Unfortunately he is listed as our fourth string left guard, likely because he is still working on converting from defensive tackle to offensive guard (similar to J.R. Sweezy). Due to his standing on the depth chart Sokoli may be destined for a possible practice squad spot. Backup linemen Mark Glowinski and Terry Poole are our drafted rookies who are listed as the backups to Sweezy and Gilliam respectively. Expect to see them on the field a lot.

Defensive Line: The feel-good story of the offseason and training camp was the comeback of defensive tackle Jesse Williams. The third year lineman had a cancerous kidney removed back in May and amazingly has returned to game action this preseason; a remarkable recovery indeed. Unfortunately Williams has a very real chance of not making the team since he is listed as a fourth string defensive tackle. Along the defensive line on Thursday look for Williams, David King and Julius Warmsley. I believe one of these three players will claim one of the Seahawks musical chairs. The others will be left out once the music stops.

Linebackers: I am putting the “you never know” label on the backup middle linebacker job. Brock Coyle won this job last year and he is probably going to earn his job back in 2015. Alex Singleton however refuses to back down without a fight. Singleton has been on the field a lot this preseason, appearing solely in the second half. I get a hunch that our coaching staff likes Singleton a lot but even a great outing on Thursday still makes him a longshot to earn a roster spot but like I said, you never know.

Cornerbacks: I get a weird feeling that surprises are on the horizon in this group. Cary Williams has struggled this preseason and if he did not make so much money I think he would be a serious candidate to be cut. Williams will make the team due to his cap number which puts pressure on our backups. Tharold Simon has played well thus far and Marcus Burley has seen his fair share of playing time with the starters. Two guys to watch are Will Blackmon and Tye Smith. Blackmon is a veteran who has bounced around the league and found himself back with the Seahawks for training camp. Smith is a rookie who was drafted in the 5th round back in May and has impressed me thus far. My guess is that we will keep 5 cornerbacks. One of these guys will make the team and the other will not.

Safeties: The free safety position is settled in my mind. Earl Thomas starts, Steven Terrell backs him up. Strong safety is still up in the air at this point but I believe the breakdown is simple. If Kam Chancellor does not report to the team by the time our roster is trimmed to 53, Dion Bailey will make the team as the presumed backup to starter DeShawn Shead. If Chancellor does report, Bailey will be left out of the picture. This is the only position on the team where the simple presence of one player will likely determine the fate of another player.

Random Thoughts: All College Navy everything for the Seahawks this week. The Raiders will wear white jerseys with silver pants… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard will have the call one last time this preseason. The game will be broadcast on Q13 FOX… Lunch at Tat’s Delicatessen before the game. I’ve never been there but by the looks of the menu I’ll probably enjoy their Philly cheesesteak… Pregame location is to be determined but I wouldn’t be surprised if we make our way to Hawks Nest for the first time this season… Off the top of my head I cannot remember a preseason which included terrible weather for both of our home games. The forecast is calling temperatures in the mid 60’s and a 50/50 chance of rain.

Prediction: The nice way we will be describing this game after the fact is that it will be a “defense battle.” Russell Wilson will fail to lead a scoring drive on his one possession of the game. R.J. Archer will once again struggle to lead touchdown drives but will progress as the game wears on. On defense the Seahawks backups will slightly outplay the Raiders defensive backups which will keep us in the game. The Seahawks will win another close game in the fourth quarter and will finish the preseason 2-2.

Seahawks 16, Raiders 13

Review: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

4 Sep
Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

What a way to start our title defense! In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers in decisive fashion on Thursday night by a final score of 36-16. The Seahawks start their 2014 season 1-0 while the Packers start their third straight season 0-1. Although the Seahawks won in dominating fashion I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, I believe we confirmed to any and every doubter that we are still a force capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions. Here are the positives and negatives I took from Thursday’s game.

Every Weapon Will Be Used: One of the reasons why the Seahawks have the potential to be so dangerous this season is that quarterback Russell Wilson will use every weapon in his arsenal. That was evident on Thursday night when he hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter and fullback Derrick Coleman for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There are probably few people who thought either Lockette or Coleman would have a touchdown in this game let alone both of them. Meanwhile Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, two receivers who see more playing time than Lockette, combined for 4 catches and only 22 yards. The Seahawks are not afraid to use every single offensive skill position player at any time during the game. This makes the Seahawks a very scary team to game plan around and try to prepare for moving forward.

Lynch Has Not Missed a Step: On the drive home from the game, Dave “Softy” Mahler, Dick Fain, and Hugh Millen of Sports Radio 950 KJR agreed that they thought Marshawn Lynch looked “like a guy playing for a contract” and that he has not slowed down at all. I agree completely. Lynch was the most effective player on offense this week rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch, like always, ran like a man on a mission and if there was any rumblings of a potential running back by committee if Lynch were to struggle, he quickly squashed them. Barring injury, Lynch will continue to be the feature back in this offense and from my perspective our running game has picked up right where it left off at the end of the 2013 season.

Pass Rush Can Improve: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and O’Brien Schofield all recorded sacks on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week. Although the Seahawks pass rush looked effective, there is much room for improvement. The reason I say this is because of the Green Bay offensive line. With two players making their CenturyLink Field debut and right tackle Bryan Bulaga leaving the game with a sprained knee in the first half, I thought the Seahawks would be able to take advantage with a revved up 12th Man behind them to sack Rodgers in a similar fashion to the 8 sacks we recorded against the Packers two seasons ago. One of my main focuses going into this game was the interior pass rush and in this game the grand majority of the Seahawks defensive pressure came on the outside. I would like to see an improvement next week along the inside of the defensive line, using a 3rd down package with Bennett as well as young defensive tackle talent like Jordan Hill.

Did Thomas Lose His Job?: Before I go any further, no I am not talking about his free safety job. I am talking solely about his spot as the Seahawks punt returner. Forget that Richard Sherman may have been blocked into him, Earl Thomas muffed a first quarter punt which was recovered by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and eventually led to a touchdown to give Green Bay a 7-3 lead. The punt that Thomas muffed should definitely have been signaled for a fair catch but Thomas tried to make something out of what clearly looked to be nothing. Thomas returned one more punt for a 3-yard return later in the game. I no doubt believe that Thomas can make special plays happen on special teams but he simply needs to be smarter about the way he goes about handling his punt return duties. One more mistake by Thomas on special teams and I believe will see the next man up at punt returner, who happens to be Richard Sherman.

Where Are You Sherm?: It is going to be very difficult for Richard Sherman to hold the title of “best shutdown corner in the game” from a statistical perspective if teams continue to avoid him, much like what the Green Bay Packers did on Thursday night. Sherman was not targeted once against the Packers, which created opportunities for Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to take advantage of. Maxwell had 5 tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception on Thursday night while Lane recorded 4 tackles of his own in the nickel slot. This could be a common occurrence especially early in the season. Maxwell will be tested often and if he plays shutdown football, opposing defenses may have no choice but to throw in Sherman’s direction as well. Sherman’s chances will depend on the play of the rest of the receivers. Although he played well against the Packers, if Maxwell struggles he will be picked on constantly and it will be extremely difficult for Richard Sherman to see passes thrown his way.

Thoughts on Green Bay: Take away the fact that the Green Bay Packers had to come into the NFL’s most hostile environment on opening night to play the defending world champions in front of a 12th Man that may have been louder than I have ever heard. This Packers team has an offense that will be able to effectively move the ball and they gained solid defensive momentum early in the game when they held a short lead. The running game must improve however. Running back Eddie Lacy only ran for 34 yards on Thursday night and not being able to run the ball effectively could extremely limit the Packers offense, relying on Aaron Rodgers more than they would like. With a banged up offensive line this may be difficult but as long as Rodgers can stay healthy, I believe this team is still better than the Bears, Lions, and Vikings. This team is still my favorite to win the NFC North.

Random Thoughts: John Parry was the referee this week. I apologize I could not figure out the referee before the game for the second consecutive week. Parry and his crew went into Thursday’s game known for throwing the most defensive holding penalties during the preseason, which some believed could have hurt the Seahawks. The Seahawks were flagged 4 times throughout the game and none of them were for defensive holding… The Westlake Center Buffalo Wild Wings has by far the best service of any “B-Dubs” I’ve been to. Maybe it was because we were one of the first parties seated for the day and the restaurant was mostly empty. Nevertheless, great service and great food too… The atmosphere at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill never disappoints, especially before a primetime game. It was awesome in that building before the game… The pregame ceremony and celebration did not disappoint. There was one thing about pregame that I really liked and one thing that I really did not like. I liked how the Seahawks told everybody with tickets to be in their seats by 5pm for the pregame celebration but the pregame ceremonies did not start until NBC went live at 5:30. Smart thinking Seahawks. The thing I found slightly disappointing what that they unveiled the banner simultaneous to the team running out of the tunnel. I wish they would have waited until right before the game started to drop the banner… That may have been the most fun I’ve had at a Seahawks game ever. The crowd was so merry and confident. It was a truly special night all around.

The Seahawks take an extended break before getting to work on the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy this weekend’s games everyone. Go Hawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17

20 Jan
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

That may have been the most nail-biting, exciting, nauseating, thrilling Seahawks game I have ever been to. The Seattle Seahawks are heading to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. I honestly do not believe I have ever been on an emotional roller coaster quite like the one I rode for just over three hours on Sunday afternoon. Up next, the Denver Broncos and a crazy two weeks preceding it. For now however, this is what I took out of this game and what needs to happen as we move closer to the biggest game in Seahawks history.

They Kept it Clean: One of the worries heading into this game was how the officials would call it. Many including myself thought that the potential chippy-ness would lead the referees to call the game tighter, allowing the Seahawks to possibly be subject to many questionable calls. All in all the game was not officiated as tight as I thought it would, especially in the secondary. No member of the Legion of Boom was called for pass interference. The only Seahawks penalty in the secondary was a holding call on Richard Sherman in the first half which led to an Anthony Dixon touchdown and a 10-0 San Francisco lead. Other than that one holding call no penalties significantly hurt Seattle in this game and there were no plays that could be “questionable” calls for the duration of the game. Gene Steratore and his officiating crew did a great job of letting the players play; the referees did not dictate the shaping of the game.

Taking Shots: And no I’m not talking about Fireball. I wanted to see Russell Wilson take more shots down the field this week and he did a much better job of stretching the field than last week. Although he still seemed confused and indecisive at times, Wilson went deep several times on Sunday. On vertical passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, Wilson went 3/5 connecting with Doug Baldwin on receptions of 22 and 51 yards and Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard touchdown pass. The Seahawks had been playing very conservatively over the past few weeks which is a small part as to why our offense has struggled in my eyes. What seemed to help Wilson in this game on his long throws was to utilize his mobility. On his 51-yard connection with Doug Baldwin, Wilson scrambled for more than 5 seconds before seeing that Baldwin has space down the field to make a play. Although it was not Russell Wilson’s most glamorous performance of the season, some of his throws on Sunday should build confidence heading into Super Bowl XLVIII.

Pass Protection Needs to Improve: There was a glaring negative on offense this week and that was the lackluster protection the offensive line gave Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 4 times for a combined loss of 22 yards. Although pass protection must improve greatly, I will give credit where credit is due. The San Francisco 49ers continue to be one of the best pass rushing defenses in the National Football League and that was evident on Sunday. Aldon Smith recorded 2 sacks while NaVorro Bowman and Dan Skuta added sacks of their own. In addition to the inconsistent pass protection there is one other huge problem I have with our offensive line which is…

Left Guard Shuffle: Last week the Seahawks started rookie Michael Bowie at left guard and James Carpenter was inactive. This week was the exact opposite with Carpenter starting and Bowie standing on the sidelines inactive. I understand that competition is at the heart of the Seahawks philosophy but now, in the most important games of the season, is not the time to play the left guard shuffle. Stick with who has the hot hand. Who’s to say that Paul McQuistan won’t start against Denver in two weeks? The Seahawks must stabilize the left guard position. I do not want to look past the Super Bowl but I think I may know what the Seahawks should target in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Kaepernick’s Wheels Keep 49ers in Game: This game would not have been as close if the Seahawks defense had been able to stop Colin Kaepernick from scrambling in the first half. Highlighted by a 58-yard scramble, Kaepernick led all 49ers rushers with 130 rushing yards, 114 more yards than the next leading San Francisco rusher and 116 yards more than primary running back Frank Gore. The quickness of Kaepernick fooled the Seahawks defense for much of the first half and the Seahawks did a fantastic job of making the necessary adjustments at halftime to shut Kaepernick down in the second half. Aside from Kaepernick’s legs he did not do a whole lot. Kaepernick ended the day 14/24 for 153 yards passing with one touchdown and 2 interceptions, each of tremendous importance and which ultimately cost the 49ers the chance to play in the Super Bowl.

“It Was Only a Matter of Time”: The 49ers led the turnover battle at halftime 1-0 and right before the start of the second half my Dad leaned over to tell me that it was time for Colin Kaepernick to screw up; that we had shut him down through the air in the first half and that it was only a matter of time before he made a mistake. The 49ers made 3 mistakes in the second half and Kaepernick made two of them. The first came with 7:37 remaining in the game when Kaepernick dropped back and tried to get the ball to Michael Crabtree on the far side but instead threw it right into the hands of Kam Chancellor. That turnover resulted in an insurance field goal to make the game 23-17 Seahawks. The second mistake turned out to be the biggest play of the year, and perhaps the most important play in franchise history. With the ball at the Seattle 18-yard line with less than 30 seconds left to play, Kaepernick saw one-on-one coverage in the endzone on a fade route. He threw intended for Crabtree but the ball was tipped by Richard Sherman and hauled in by Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks victory. Like my Dad said, “it was only a matter of time” and that time came with 22 seconds remaining and there was nothing the San Francisco 49ers could do about it.

Random Thoughts: Is it just me or is the general crowd sitting around me becoming dumber and dumber as each game goes on when it comes to “cheering education?” I felt like there was a lot of cheering when the offense had the ball and when the 49ers fans tried to get loud when the Seahawks had the ball, the 12th Man would boo, making the stadium even louder. That is a big no-no and was quite frustrating… Perhaps the Macklemore performance at halftime re-energized the crowd. We were down 10-3 at halftime and the crowd seemed fired up at the start of the third quarter. That was very much needed and maybe it’s not too crazy to think that Macklemore’s impact played a key role in how the second half turned out… It’s too bad not everyone got a rally towel. It was a scattering of white waving around before the game, nothing like what it has looked like in previous games where rally towels were the giveaway… Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag this week which in my eyes was a very safe choice. I still would have loved to see Mike Holmgren raise the flag… We went to the Nest and then over to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch before heading into the stadium. Since this was going to be the last home game of the season I guess we wanted to make the rounds… I may have tried the grossest beer ever on Sunday. Pyramid has a seasonal brew called “Weiss Cream” which tastes like if you sprayed whipped cream into a glass of water. Yuck. The tap handle was really cool though; a waffle cone full of vanilla ice cream… Time to start packing for New York City. I leave a week from Wednesday!

Moving Forward: Over the next week I hope to hop on at least a couple of times with various posts. I am unsure what my computer status will be for the last half of Super Bowl week, Super Bowl weekend, and the two days following the game. If I decide to take my computer with me to New York, my preview of Super Bowl XLVIII will come on its normal day; the Saturday before the game. If not, I may be forced to publish my Super Bowl preview a few days early. I will update with more information when my plan becomes clearer. We are one win away from a world championship. Enjoy this, 12th Man but understand our job is not done just yet. Go Seahawks!