Tag Archives: Justin Britt

Seahawks/Vikings Preview

5 Dec
vikings preview 2015

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Raise your hand if you had this game as the Seahawks most important game of the season when the schedule came out. After three consecutive games at home the Seahawks hit the road for two straight games. Up first is a huge conference matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh a week ago. The Vikings were a team that many experts said to keep an eye on at the start of the season and they are proving the experts right. Minnesota holds an impressive 8-3 record and are currently the leaders of the NFC North. Seattle leads the all-time series 8-5. In their last meeting the Seahawks crushed the Vikings 41-20 in Seattle and the Seahawks eventually went on to win the super bowl. This could very well be a preview of a potential playoff matchup next month. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Minnesota defense allows an average of only 17.6 points per game, second best in the league. It is imperative for the Seahawks offense to be able to stay on the field and drive deep into Vikings territory. Thomas Rawls will face his biggest challenge of the season and I will be keeping close tabs on his yardage coming on first down opportunities. If he can gain at least 4 yards on first down it will put the offense in a good position to gain first downs and keep drives alive. In the passing game I will be focused on the blocking by left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Justin Britt. The right side of the Vikings front seven consists of lineman Everson Griffen as well as linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These three players have combined for 14 of Minnesota’s 25 sacks this season (56 percent). I expect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to take care of the ball just like how he did a week ago against Pittsburgh but he must be more aware of his blindside in this game. If Okung and Britt struggle to block it would not be surprising to see Wilson get hit and fumble the ball multiple times. Quick passes to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Luke Willson may be the best way to attack the Vikings through the air this week.

If there was one game this season where I wish we still had Red Bryant it would be for this game. Priority number one for the Seahawks defense this week will be to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It will be up to Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to lock down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Given the solid play of Minnesota’s offensive line penetrating the line will be difficult. Good fundamental tackling will go a long way to limiting Peterson’s production. One guy on defense that may see more playing time than usual is Jordan Hill. In an attempt to limit Peterson’s presence it may not be surprising to see Hill, Mebane, and Rubin all play on the line at the same time.

The Minnesota Vikings have the top ranked rushing offense in the league. In contrast they also sport the league’s second worse pass offense. At age 30 Adrian Peterson is still as productive as ever and the Vikings offense is only as effective as he is. Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 1,164 and has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season. The Vikings are 6-0 in those games. My worry is that the Vikings will use other ways to move the ball on the ground in an attempt to avoid throwing towards the Legion of Boom. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Vikings this week is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and the man that makes the entire Minnesota offense work, Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater has not thrown for many touchdowns, he is a very conservative passer who tries to move the ball in small chunks to wear out the opposing defense. Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of over 65 percent in six games. In those games he has thrown only two interceptions. The main reason why he is my X-Factor this week is the threat of him keeping the ball and running. Although he has not nearly put up the type of rushing stats as Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick of seasons past, Bridgewater is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league and he will scramble and take off if he feels the pressure and does not have any open receivers. Peterson may be the number one priority of the Seattle defense but Bridgewater also contributes to that top ranked rushing attack. Plain and simple, shut Peterson and Bridgewater down on the ground, win the game.

Something that is not garnering the attention that I believe it should is one fairly significant advantage the Seahawks have in this game. Gone are the days of playing the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. It would be a tougher challenge for the Seahawks if we were playing at the Metrodome. Instead the Vikings are playing the second of two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota while their brand new stadium is under construction. The stadium seats just over 51,000 which is the smallest capacity of any current NFL stadium and crowd noise will hardly be a factor.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants. Seattle is 0-4 all-time in this combination. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the play-by-play and commentary respectively on FOX. Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines… Terry McAulay will be this week’s referee… I briefly considered hitting the road for this game but ultimately decided to go to Dallas instead. The reason behind that decision was the potential weather in Minneapolis. Being a December game I thought there was a realistic possibility of it being below freezing and snowing. Hindsight is 20/20 and in that vein it looks like it will be a nice day for football. The high temperature on Sunday will be in the low 40’s and it will be sunny. That is exactly the kind of weather we have experienced in Seattle the past two weeks… After this week the combined record of the Seahawks next three opponents is 10-23. Translation: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings, you will be extremely hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle will miss out on the playoffs.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs and with a win we are locked into this spot for at least another week; we cannot move up but a loss may knock us out of the current playoff picture. Seattle is three games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Here are games to keep track of that may have NFC playoff implications this week. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7)

Atlanta (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6)

Prediction: The Seahawks are 12-2 in games played in December with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Each of the prior three seasons our December success has carried us to the playoffs. With the win last week we will be riding some serious momentum into this game. Thomas Rawls will run for over 125 yards and score two touchdowns. Wilson will also throw a touchdown to Luke Willson. The game will come down to Minnesota’s final drive. After a punt by Jon Ryan pins the Vikings at their own 2-yard line, Bridgewater will have to drive 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. On the first play of the drive Minnesota will be penalized for holding in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a safety and in-turn, clinching the game for Seattle. We will improve to 7-5 and be in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

Steelers/Seahawks Preview

28 Nov

 

steelers preview 2015

The Seahawks host the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since Super Bowl XL. Screenshot from Youtube.com

Matchup: Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

On February 5th, 2006 the Seahawks played in their very first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XL in Detroit. We were the NFC champions and we faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In what felt to be a Steelers home game, the Seahawks lost their first chance to win the Lombardi Trophy. Steelers 21, Seahawks 10. The game will forever be remembered for several questionable officiating gaffs which many Seahawks fans still believe may have cost us a championship. Ever since the 12’s have had a justified hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Sunday, 3,585 days later, comes the home game Seahawks fans have been waiting for ever since. The 6-4 Steelers make their first trip to CenturyLink Field since Super Bowl XL to take on the 5-5 Seattle Seahawks. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-8 including 21-0 and 24-0 Steelers shutouts in our last two meetings in 2007 and 2011 respectively. The last time the Seahawks scored on the Steelers was Jerramy Stevens’s touchdown in Super Bowl XL. This game could have significant playoff implications for both teams. This is what I will be watching for.

If there is one thing I am always looking for from the Seahawks offense it is consistency. Running back Marshawn Lynch will not play again this week so Thomas Rawls will see the majority of the carries for the second straight week. Unlike San Francisco which sports the 27th ranked run defense in the league, Pittsburgh comes into this week’s game as the 5th best run defense. Rawls may have a difficult time getting going and I certainly do not expect him to put up the record-breaking numbers of a week ago. Note however that Rawls leads the league in yards per carry with an average of 6 YPC. If Rawls can run for at least 80 yards I believe the Seahawks will be in good shape. You cannot count on Rawls alone to carry the offense. I want to see the same type of good decision making from quarterback Russell Wilson that made our passing game wildly effective last week. In our 5 wins this season Wilson has thrown only 3 interceptions. Pittsburgh is good at forcing turnovers. So far this season the Steelers have 18 takeaways including a +5 giveaway/takeaway ratio which is tied for 6th best in the league. The Seahawks can and will win this game if Wilson takes care of the ball.

During last week’s win cornerback Cary Williams was benched in favor of DeShawn Shead, who made 4 tackles and forced two fumbles. With Jeremy Lane activated from the physically unable to perform list, I believe we will see change at Williams’s spot against the Steelers. Head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday that there would be an open competition for the right cornerback job during practice this week. If Williams starts expect him to be on a short leash with Shead and Lane sharing playing time if Williams struggles. If Williams does not start altogether I expect Shead to get the nod since it is likely the Seahawks would like to ease Lane into the defensive game plan. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger averages 315 passing yards per game so the Legion of Boom will surely be tested this week. In addition, opposing quarterbacks have a 120.6 passer rating when throwing towards Cary Williams. Being able to cover deep passes will be huge, as Pittsburgh likes to throw deep. As a skilled veteran, it would be no surprise at all to see Roethlisberger test Williams, Shead, or Lane early and often.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is a unit that has changed quite a bit over the years. The one constant is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will be playing in his first career game at CenturyLink Field. My focus for the Steelers offense is how well they handle the crowd noise as well as Roethlisberger’s pass protection. The Steelers will start two offensive linemen who did not start the season with the first group. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will have a big test in front of him as he will line up across from Cliff Avril, who has been on fire as of late. Center Cody Wallace is a 6-year veteran who has been playing in place of Maurkice Pouncey all season. If the Seahawks can put pressure on Roethlisberger it will take away the most effective facet of his game, stepping up and throwing the deep ball. Wide receivers Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and Markus Wheaton will all make a major impact this week if Roethlisberger has time to go through his progressions. Look for Big Ben to throw several deep passes on Sunday.

The Steelers have lost many big names on the defensive side of the ball since the last time these two teams played. Gone are the days of Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu and the Steelers have replaced these names and more with great talent. Veterans James Harrison and William Gay have made a big impact this season, combining for 60 tackles. Rookie Bud Dupree leads all Steelers defenders in sacks with 4. I will be focused on the guy who statistically has had the best season of any defensive player. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Steelers this week is inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Timmons has locked down the middle of the field for Pittsburgh since 2007 and although he is a seasoned veteran his numbers are very impressive. Timmons leads the team in tackles with 73. He can also rush the passer which could make for a long day for Seahawks linemen Justin Britt and Patrick Lewis. Timmons can also drop back into coverage. He has recorded 6 passes defensed and one interception. If Russell Wilson decides to throw short or intermediate passes expect Timmons to be in on the play.

Random Thoughts: All navy once again for the Seahawks uniform wise. The Steelers will wear white jerseys and yellow pants… This is the national game of the week on CBS and the entire country except for the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to see this game on local television. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call with Tracy Wolfson patrolling the sidelines… The referee will be Walt Anderson… The gameday giveaway is flags which will be distributed to the first 44,000 fans… Don’t fall asleep again this year Alan. I don’t want to see a repeat of what happened last year… I am expecting to be disappointed in regards to the number of Pittsburgh fans in attendance. Steelers fans probably travel the best of any NFL franchise… To those attending please be smart when engaging with opposing fans. I know it may be difficult to holster any trash talk towards Steelers fans given our bad blood towards their franchise… I am kind of surprised there hasn’t been any news this week bringing up Super Bowl XL and specifically what kind of ovation the Steelers will likely receive upon running out of the tunnel… I have been waiting years to have the opportunity to boo this team. I will certainly savor every second.

Prediction: Expect a nerve-racking back-and-forth game. The Seahawks will have a 23-21 lead with 5 minutes left to play. Ben Roethlisberger will lead a Steelers drive deep into Seahawks territory but will have to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal. With the Steelers leading 24-23 the Seahawks will have one last opportunity to drive into field goal range to win the game. Two big gains by Thomas Rawls and a huge completion from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett will put Seattle inside the Pittsburgh 35-yard line. Steven Hauschka will knock through a game winning 50-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. The Seahawks will improve to 6-5 and will lock down their first winning record of the season.

Seahawks 26, Steelers 24

Review: Bengals 27, Seahawks 24 (OT)

11 Oct
Photo Credit: Bengals.com

Photo Credit: Bengals.com

One thing is for certain, the dominant Seahawks defense of 2013 is absolutely gone. After a long 69-yard touchdown run by Thomas Rawls and a fumble recovery and touchdown from Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks could not protect a 17 point 4th quarter lead. The Cincinnati Bengals offense scored 17 unanswered 4th quarter points to tie the game and in overtime, Mike Nugent deflected a 42-yard field goal off the left upright to give the Bengals a 27-24 overtime win. The Seahawks fall to 2-3 and are now two games out of first place in the NFC West. The Bengals win improves them to 5-0 on the year. Like our loss in St. Louis back in week one, you can go in several different directions to try to place the blame on this loss. Here are the goods and the very bads from this excruciatingly upsetting loss.

Rawls Has the Game of His Life: After failing to make a significant impact in place of Marshawn Lynch a week ago, rookie running back Thomas Rawls made a lot of noise in Cincinnati. Rawls averaged 7.3 yards per carry on his way to the most successful day rushing for a Seahawks running back since Shaun Alexander in 2006. Rawls finished with 169 yards and one touchdown; the aforementioned 69-yard touchdown run coming in the 3rd quarter. After this game I have become very optimistic that we may have found the eventual heir apparent to Lynch. Rawls ran with a purpose and did not go down easily. Given the result however it makes you wonder if Lynch would have had even greater success running on the Bengals defense. If Lynch misses his third straight game next Sunday, Rawls will have a very big role in our offense game plan against Carolina.

#FireBevell: If you read my posts consistently you know by now that I am not a fan of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, yet here I am writing after another heartbreaking loss ready to unload my criticism of Bevell’s terrible play calling. Although I don’t believe he should be completely at blame for this loss, his fourth quarter and overtime play calling had me fuming mad. Bevell’s play-calling was extra conservative in the fourth quarter and the offense was forced into six punts to end the game. In the three Seahawks offensive possessions before the Bengals final three scoring drives in regulation, we were only able to take a combined 5:31 off the clock including two 3 and outs. In our final 5 drives we faced six 3rd down opportunities. Instead of trying to chew clock by running the ball, Bevell dialed up 4 passes (including a short screen pass in overtime to Fred Jackson on a 3rd and long) and Russell Wilson was sacked twice. To make things even more frustrating, Thomas Rawls was nowhere to be found late in the game when we needed him most. Why in the world would Bevell choose Jackson over Rawls in the most crucial situations when it was clear Cincinnati could not stop Rawls on the ground?! The long and short of it is this. It is as if we jump out to a 3 possession lead, the offense takes the rest of the game off, and Bevell has confidence in our defense, not his own unit, to be able to hold the lead. My opinion of Darrell Bevell stays the same, the Seahawks need to part ways with him. The sooner the better.

Offensive Line Thoughts: If football was a three quarter game, my overall thoughts on the play of our offensive line would be different. After doing a much better job protecting Russell Wilson for the first three quarters, including flawless protection of Wilson on his first quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse, the offensive line crashed and burned late in the game when we could not maintain a drive. Wilson was sacked 4 times on the day. Although the group showed growth and improvement it may be time to think about making changes. I mean think about it; our right three linemen consist of two defensive line converts (Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy) and a former college tight end (Garry Gilliam). Bengals defensive linemen Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap had their way with our line, combining for 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks. If I had the power to rebuild the line, this is what I would do. I would move Justin Britt back to right tackle, start the disgruntled Alvin Bailey at left guard, and replace Nowak with Patrick Lewis at center.

Defensive Collapse: How much time do you have? I’ll try to keep this segment as to the point as possible. Our defense played a terrible game. Kam Chancellor was beat by Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert on two touchdown passes and quarterback Andy Dalton kept throwing in the direction of Cary Williams, who had a difficult time with not only A.J. Green, but the entire Bengals receiving corps. Williams was also flagged for an obvious pass interference penalty on Cincinnati’s game-tying drive at the end of regulation. Once again we could not stop the Bengals on third down, as they converted 40 percent of their third down chances. What was also frustrating was how we attacked Dalton late in the game. After extending our lead to 17-7, it was clear Dalton was cracking under pressure and on the verge of a total meltdown which is something that he has been prone of over the years when facing a deficit. For a while it looked like we were doing a good job putting pressure on the Bengals offense but we were only blitzing three or four guys late in the game. That plus the excellent blocking by Cincinnati’s offensive line gave Dalton a good clean pocket to work with. It is clear our defensive has regressed, especially on the road. We have blown 4th quarter leads in each of our 3 losses, twice holding a lead of 10 points or more.

Thoughts on Cincinnati: The talent the Bengals have is as good as advertised. Andy Dalton is blossoming into a borderline-elite quarterback and the weapons they have on offense only help his case. Their defense may be one of the best units in all of football and they will continue to win games so as the unit stays healthy. This team is a lot better than I thought they would be before the season started. The common commentary however has been “making these wins happen in January instead of in the regular season.” The way I look at it after 5 weeks, this is the only team that can challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC championship.

Random Thoughts: It was awesome to have the guys over again this week. Too bad one of them made it over when we had a 24-7 lead. You’re definitely a jinx Jake. At least I didn’t guarantee victory like against the Rams… I hate when FOX cuts to the skycam for live plays. I think it is great technology to have for replays but the perception really changes live. There was one play in particular, an Andy Dalton bubble screen, where the camera had to move at a 90 degree angle to show it and by the time the camera whipped around the play was pretty much over… See what I mean about Andy Dalton’s hair???… This loss reaffirms my opinion that I would rather be blown out than lose a close game. I predicted we would lose but at the same time we had a 17 point lead, so because we put up a better effort than I thought we would does that mean I should feel better? This loss hurts way worse than if we had lost badly because in my eyes we had this game won and we just gave it away… Just once I want to have my fantasy team win and the Seahawks win in the same week. I started my fantasy football season 2-0 and the Seahawks went 0-2 in that span. Then I lost my next two fantasy matchups and the Seahawks won two straight games in those weeks. This week it looks like it will be the same old story. I win, Seahawks lose. I’m cursed.

What’s Next: The #6 game in my #10for10 series will be published on Thursday. Also, check back next Saturday when I preview our week 6 game against the Carolina Panthers.

Rant: Seahawks 13, Lions 10

6 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

A win is a win, right? It is true but why do I feel so frustrated and disappointed? The Seahawks survived a late charge by the Detroit Lions offense and thanks to Kam Chancellor forcing a fumble and K.J. Wright batting the ball (illegally) out of the endzone, the Seahawks survived to win 13-10. The victory gets the Seahawks to 2-2 and one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The Lions fall to 0-4. There was one consistent negative in this game and it has my full attention in this week’s postgame review. The Seahawks offense line has struggled throughout the season but tonight I feel the line hit rock bottom. Things must change so the Seahawks can maximize the full potential of the offense. Instead of a traditional review, here is a rant dedicated solely to the Seahawks woeful offensive line.

Wilson Feels the Heat and Rawls Struggles: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked five times on Monday night and turned the ball over twice after fumbling. He was consistently flushed out of the pocket and the majority of his throws came on the run. Out of the shotgun there were multiple snaps that were low or to the side of him that he struggled to corral. The last straw came in the final minutes of the first half. After moving the ball inside the 10-yard line, Wilson was sacked twice which moved our goal-to-go opportunity back to the 33-yard line. Instead of a touchdown, we were forced to kick a long field goal. It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep Wilson healthy long-term if he continues to take the beating he has been subjected to so far this season. The saddest part is that there has been little or no improvement along the offensive line this season. I understand that in 3 of our first 4 games we have faced top-tier defensive lines but on a week to week basis there has been nothing to show me that we are going to get better any time soon. This line is a long way off from completely gelling. As far as the running game goes…

Photo Credit: The News Tribune

Photo Credit: The News Tribune

This picture sure says a lot doesn’t it? After rushing for over 100 yards last week running back Thomas Rawls did not produce nearly as well against the Lions. Rawls averaged a meager 2.8 yards per carry and his longest run of the night was only 10 yards. Rawls struggled because our offensive line could not provide adequate running lanes. I have heard a lot of talk about how our offensive line scheme is a “system blocking” style, meaning it does not necessarily matter who our personnel is along the line, you can plug in players at will as long as each lineman does their individual assignment within the zone-blocking scheme. If you can put 5 successful blocks together in unison you will have either excellent pass protection or solid run blocking. At some point it must matter who we have along the line because I am sick of seeing Justin Britt and Drew Nowak specifically getting blown up or struggling to block. It may soon be for the Seahawks and offensive line coach Tom Cable to consider personnel changes up front. In short and in closing, I just wish we still had Max Unger.

Controversy in Relation to the Offensive Line: The Seahawks dodged a massive bullet late in the game when safety Kam Chancellor knocked the football out of Calvin Johnson’s hands one yard short of the goal line. The ball bounced to the back of the endzone and linebacker K.J. Wright batted the ball out of the endzone for a touchback. The only problem is that Wright’s clutch play is illegal but fortunately it was not called. If a penalty had been enforced on Wright, Detroit would have maintained possession at the one-yard line. I believe the Lions would have successfully scored a touchdown and the Seahawks would have faced a 17-13 deficit with less than two minutes left. The Seahawks would have had to go the length of the field and score a touchdown in order to win the game. The way we blocked for Russell Wilson up to that point I would have had no confidence in our ability to drive down the field to take the lead. That potential situation would have taken away our running dimension, which would have allowed the Lions defense to stack the box and put immense pressure on Wilson, pressure that our horrible offensive line would definitely had not been able to handle. If it wasn’t for that non-call on the batted ball out of the endzone, there is no question in my mind the Seahawks would have lost and fallen to 1-3 on the season.

Random Thoughts: None.

What’s Next: Look out for my preview of our week 5 game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday morning.

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

Seahawks/Chiefs Preview

20 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

Site: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kickoff: 5:00pm

Last season our game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium was season-defining. Although we lost on that bitterly cold November afternoon, it was a game that ultimately wound up turning our season around. I hate to say it because it is still so early, but the Seahawks are in need of some serious rejuvenation after a disappointing outing last week. What better place to motivate this team than Arrowhead? The Seahawks take on the Chiefs in their second preseason game Friday night. The Chiefs defeated the Arizona Cardinals last week 34-19 in their preseason opener. The starters may see a little bit more playing time this week. Here is what I am hoping to see out of the Seahawks in Kansas City.

It is obvious that this week I want to see better play out of our offensive line. After a hideous performance last week the Seahawks have done some shuffling along the starting line. Justin Britt moves from right tackle to left guard replacing Alvin Bailey. Garry Gilliam has been plugged in at right tackle while Drew Nowak replaces Lemuel Jeanpierre as the starting center. I am equally nervous and optimistic about tinkering with the line but now is the right time to do it. In addition to looking for Russell Wilson to have more time inside the pocket to throw, I will be focused on the running game. It is unclear if Marshawn Lynch will see any playing time this week. If not, Robert Turbin will start. I want to see how effective Lynch and Turbin are on the ground. If the running backs struggle to gain positive yards and if Wilson continues to be rushed, it may be time to start to panic with only two preseason tune-ups left before the season opener in St. Louis.

Expect to see a lot of backup quarterback R.J. Archer this week. He is my X-Factor player to Watch for the Seahawks on offense this week. Newly signed quarterback Jake Waters may also see limited time late in this game, but given his unfamiliarity with the playbook it would not shock me if we do not see him at all. With Tarvaris Jackson battling a high ankle sprain, it will be Archer’s show once Russell Wilson exits the game in the first quarter. Archer has shown noticeable improvement in practice this week and his chemistry with the plethora of Seahawks receivers is also growing. Archer will play the majority of this week’s game and I would love to see him put together a couple of touchdown drives. If the Seahawks can score 14-17 points with Archer on the field, I believe that will be enough to win the game.

On defense this week I would like to see all of our pass rush specialists get work in early on in the game with the starting unit. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will start at defensive end with Bruce Irvin starting at outside linebacker. I want to see Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark get reps with the starters to see how they fit among the starters. Last week against Denver both Marsh and Clark saw all of their playing time come against the Broncos backups in the second half. To me this does not give them the best opportunity to showcase what they can bring to the starting defense. Getting to Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Chase Daniel must happen continually this week. If we can record at least three or four sacks I will be able to breathe easier moving forward.

Random Thoughts: Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. No word on pants color yet. The Chiefs will rock their red jerseys and will likely pair them with white pants… Once again Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call on Q13 FOX… I need to make it out to Arrowhead sometime. Wasn’t going to go in November last year because it was too cold. Unfortunately we’re probably not going to play in Kansas City again in the regular season until 2022… No injuries please… I feel like it’s very unusual that we keep playing preseason games on Friday’s. Thursday’s and Saturday’s are good days for football. Friday’s are just weird.

Prediction: The Seahawks starters will be able to deliver one touchdown but we are still going to be unsatisfied heading into week 3. Penalties are going to be a major problem and will be drive killers on offense and drive extenders on defense. Chase Daniel and the Chiefs defense will play a much more complete game than R.J. Archer and the Seahawks defense. The Seahawks will come home and get ready for the San Diego Chargers with and 0-2 preseason record.

Chiefs 24, Seahawks 15

Review: Seahawks 17, 49ers 7

14 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The Seahawks could not be clicking at a better time. In a game that to me was too close for comfort for the majority of the afternoon, the Seahawks found a way to pull away from the San Francisco 49ers late, escaping with a 17-7 victory. The Seahawks improve to 10-4 and will play for the NFC West lead next week in Arizona. The 49ers fall to 7-7 and with this loss they have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The focus in Seattle is going to shift very quickly to next week’s game against the Cardinals but let me break down what I saw out of the Seahawks in this game.

Offensive Line Struggles: The Seahawks offensive line may be the most inconsistent group on the team. After keeping quarterback Russell Wilson clean the past two weeks, the Seahawks offensive line and a very difficult time stopping the pass rush of the 49ers. Wilson was sacked 5 times on Sunday and was hurried or flushed out of the pocket on the majority of plays that San Francisco blitzed 5 or more defenders. Justin Britt in particular had a hard time adjusting to calls at the line of scrimmage and picking up his blocks. In all honesty, the Seahawks played better in the second half after starting left tackle Russell Okung exited the game at halftime with a chest bruise. One silver lining is that the Seahawks offense rushed for 152 yards in this game, 91 of which coming from running back Marshawn Lynch. Looking ahead however, it will be extremely difficult for our offense to score points next week if the Arizona defense plays the way it did last Thursday in St. Louis. As dominating as our defense has played the past few weeks, 17 points on offense is not going to win us every game. With Max Unger hopefully back in the lineup next Sunday, I believe our offensive line can bounce back in a big way.

Unsung Heroes: Paul Richardson caught his first career touchdown pass on Sunday, a 10-yard slant route which extended the Seattle lead to 17-7. Richardson gets the spotlight because of the touchdown but don’t forget about the roles wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse played on Sunday. Baldwin and Kearse caught two-thirds of Russell Wilson’s completions and combined for 131 receiving yards, including a 47-yard reception by Kearse and a 35-yard catch by Baldwin. Both plays came on first half drives which should have ended in points. Instead the Seahawks came away empty handed. With the quality production from our top 3 receivers on Sunday it is possible that Russell Wilson is comfortable enough with his weapons to take more chances down the field.

Kaepernick, Hyde Fluster Defense: I was not the least bit concerned with 49ers running back Frank Gore coming into this game. Gore finished the day prematurely, leaving with a concussion after gaining 29 yards. Instead the quickness of Carlos Hyde and the willingness of quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run seemed to catch the Seahawks off guard. The Seattle defense gave up 140 rushing yards to the 49ers on Sunday, the most allowed at home since week 6 against Dallas. Hyde was on a roll until he too left the game with an injury, leaving fullback Bruce Miller and third string running back Alfonso Smith to carry the load late in the game. The Seahawks defense found an answer to stop Miller and Smith but that also begs the question of would this have been a closer game if Gore and Hyde did not get hurt. Many of San Francisco’s runs went off-tackle and the Seahawks adjusted accordingly as the game progressed. Moving forward it may be beneficial if we spread out our personnel earlier in the game, especially next week against an Arizona rushing attack that averaged 4.3 yards per carry this week.

Sacks for Everyone: The Seahawks team up with Jack in the Box and award a free Jumbo Jack to all fans if the Seahawks defense can record three sacks. For the first time, we the fans had our free burgers by the end of the first quarter and that was only a small sample of the dominance the Seahawks front seven displayed this week. The Seahawks dialed up the pressure all game long and it resulted in 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick. The interior pass rush had me very satisfied, as defensive tackle Jordan Hill recorded two sacks and defensive tackle Kevin Williams had a sack of his own. Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin also had sacks up the middle, which goes to show how bad of a game 49ers backup center Joe Looney played. In our last 4 games the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of just under 7 points per game, by far the best average in the league. To me however, the lack of offensive production overshadowed the performance of our defense. Upon reflection, when the Seahawks extended it to a two-score game it was definitely over. This defense needs to show up big next week. If the defense can stay on this path, it will be incredibly hard for Arizona’s third string quarterback to beat us next week.

Thoughts on San Francisco: This 49ers team seemed to have played this game inspired but their prideful effort was too much for the talent the Seahawks threw at them. This was most likely Jim Harbaugh’s last hurrah as the head coach of the 49ers and you have to wonder how this season would have played out if they could have stayed healthy throughout. The 49ers are capable of bouncing back in 2015 but just like how Harbaugh coached Mike Singletary’s talent to the best of their abilities when he arrived in 2011, the same must go for whoever the 49ers next head coach is. The way the NFC West has been built in recent years however, it may take more than one year for San Francisco to get back to playoff contention.

Random Thoughts: It was an earlier arriving crowd at the bar before the game. All tables were full by 9:15am. It was a very festive atmosphere that almost felt like a playoff game… That festive environment before the game seemed to dissipate real quick once the game started. It almost felt as though the 12th Man was taking it easy on the 49ers for the first part of the game. The intensity was not what I was hoping it would be but it got better later on once we took our first lead and the noise did not stop until the end of the game… In my opinion the Ebola ribbons handed out as the pregame giveaway was a huge failure. I saw no one wearing them. Literally no one… Great weather on Sunday. I love late season games with nothing but sunshine… John Olerud raised the 12th Man flag before the game; a legitimate candidate that I approve of… The blue endzones are back because the Sounders season is over. Thank goodness. I love the blue endzones. It gives the field a classic look… One of the highlights from the day was when they put 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on the video board complaining after the questionable roughing the passer call which favored the Seahawks. The entire stadium booed. It was one of the loudest moments of the day. It was awesome… If we win next week, holy moly. That’s all I can say.

This upcoming week is by far the biggest of the season. Check back Saturday when I preview our week 16 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 24, Eagles 14

7 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

For the second straight week I started the game as a nervous wreck and by the time it was over I had to question myself as to what I was so nervous about in the first place. The Seahawks added yet another defensive gem to their resume as Seattle went all the way across the country to Philadelphia and physically dominated the Eagles en route to a convincing 24-14 victory. The Seahawks and Eagles both now sit at 9-4. With the win Seattle has a firm grip on an NFC wild-card playoff berth while still sitting one game behind the Arizona Cardinals for the division lead. For Philadelphia, Sunday’s loss ties them atop the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys but they remain the division leaders based on their tiebreaker over the Cowboys. This was the toughest game left on Seattle’s schedule and with this win I believe the path has been cleared for the Seahawks to make some noise in the playoff standings for the rest of the regular season. For now here is what I took out of this week’s game.

Wilson’s Indecisiveness Costs Seahawks Points: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson played a very good game overall, throwing for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns as well as running for 48 yards and a touchdown. It seemed as if he got more comfortable with his timing and his throws as the game wore on. I did see Wilson make two mistakes in the first quarter, both possibly taking points off the board. The first came on the first drive of the game. With the Seahawks facing a 3rd and 5 at the Eagles 30-yard line Wilson scrambled to the right and instead of throwing the ball away he tried to find an open receiver and ran out of room, stepping out of bounds for a loss of 4 yards. With the wind swirling throughout the game, those 4 yards made the difference between the Seahawks attempting a field goal and punting. Instead of taking a 3-0 lead, the Seahawks punted. The second mistake occurred with just under 4 minutes left in the first half; virtually the same situation. With the Seahawks in field goal range on third down, Wilson was pressured and threw the ball away and did not get the pass back to the line of scrimmage. Intentional grounding was called on Wilson and the Seahawks were forced to punt once again after the 15-yard penalty. A field goal in that situation would have made it a 10-7 game and I believe those two opportunities could have given the Seahawks at least 16 points going into halftime.

Offensive Line Thoughts: The Seahawks surrendered only two sacks of Russell Wilson on Sunday. Just like how the entire offense played better as the game progressed, the same could be said for the Seahawks offensive line, specifically the right side of the line anchored by tackle Justin Britt. Britt had trouble blocking the wide array of weapons Philadelphia threw at him. It seemed like Britt had no answer for Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox, and Bennie Logan for the entire first half. As the first half was coming to a close, I noticed that right guard J.R. Sweezy started to help Britt out and the Seahawks stuck to that strategy in the second half, resulting in significant improvement in the passing game. Lemuel Jeanpierre played a good game at center in place of Max Unger, proving that he can be a serviceable player until Unger returns from injury. If Unger can play next week this healing and improving offense will only continue to grow and put more points on the board.

Boom > Speed: The number one question coming into this game was how the Seahawks defense would handle the speed of the Philadelphia offense. Coming into this game the Eagles were averaging 412 yards of offense per game. On Sunday, the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom completely shut down Mark Sanchez and company, holding the Eagles to 139 yards. In my game preview I wrote about how to this point Sanchez has not been required to do a whole lot for the Eagles to win games. Today his weaknesses were exploited. The Seahawks were able to hold Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to 50 yards rushing on 17 carries, forcing Sanchez to throw for Philadelphia to move the ball. Sanchez finished the day 10/20 for 96 yards, 2 touchdowns, and one interception. Both touchdowns however came with the Eagles working with a short field (14 yard and 54 yard drives respectively). In our last three games the Seahawks have averaged less than 7 points per game. With the reeling 49ers coming to Seattle next week, this defense could be primed for another dominating performance.

Time of Possession: With all the talk about Philadelphia’s lightning-fast pace on offense it is amazing to me that the Seahawks possessed the ball for 41 minutes and 56 seconds of the game (69%). That number sets a Seahawks franchise record for time of possession. Everything related to time of possession fell into place and you could see it on the field. The Seahawks gained 28 first downs, were able to run the ball to keep the clock running, and perhaps most importantly our defense was able to stay rested throughout the game. As far as clock management goes this was as perfect of a game I have ever seen the Seahawks play and it could not have come against a better opponent.

Procedure Penalties Still a Problem: Although total penalties improved from last week to this week (8 penalties for 67 yards), the Seahawks still need to clean up easily avoidable pre-snap fouls. Half of Seattle’s penalties this week were procedure calls which included two false starts and two delay of game penalties. These fouls are continuing to give me a headache. These situations are fundamental in practice and there is no excuse for giving the opponent easy yards like we did again on Sunday.

Thoughts on Philadelphia: The Philadelphia Eagles are a good team but without Nick Foles this team could be headed towards another early round playoff exit. I believe they have the talent on defense to push this team to a division title. Even though they played the #1 defense this week this offense is not broken. I do question Mark Sanchez’s ability to lead this team deep into January. I believe the Eagles are good enough to win a wild-card playoff game at home but with Sanchez at the helm, if the Eagles have to travel in the playoffs, particularly to Seattle, they will have a very difficult time winning.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went white/blue this week. This was the first time since beating the Redskins in week 5 that the Seahawks won in white jerseys… I am going to talk way more about the Eagles uniforms than I probably should. In my game preview I said the Eagles would wear their midnight green jerseys with white pants. I was wrong. They decided to go with their black alternate jerseys and black pants. I found this surprising considering the Eagles were forced to wear black for the first half of the season after a snafu with Nike in regards to having their green jerseys ready for the first part of the season. Considering that black is the Eagles “alternate” jersey, I would have thought that they could not wear that jersey anymore this season. Oh well… Ricardo Lockette what was that flop all about??!! Terrible… On Saturday night punter Jon Ryan spent his evening playing Nintendo 64 Mario Kart with kicker Steven Hauschka and long snapper Clint Gresham. Perhaps Ryan should spend a little more time practicing catching the ball. Two straight weeks now Ryan has fumbled a punt but this week he could not get off the kick and the Eagles took advantage of the short field we gave them. The Seahawks defense saved Ryan from being the goat of the game in my opinion… Richard Sherman almost had his 4th interception of the season early on in the game. I continue to be amazed that Sherman is rarely penalized with the style of play he sports… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here. I believe we will win out and go 12-4. We need to take it one game and one week at a time but I believe we can run the table.

Thanks for reading everyone! Check back on Saturday as I preview our week 15 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

25 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

For the third straight season, the Seahawks travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. After two straight losses the Seahawks currently sit at 3-3, 3rd in the NFC West. After winning the NFC South a season ago the Panthers currently sit atop the division once again this season. Following their loss to the Green Bay Packers last week, Carolina sports a 3-3-1 record. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Panthers 5-2. Their last meeting came on opening day last season when the Seahawks went into Bank of America Stadium and squeaked out a 12-7 victory to get their 2013 season started on the right foot. With this week’s game coming on the road and the Seahawks looking at a possible 3-4 record, I am calling this week’s game a must-win. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Panthers this week.

In their three road games this season the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of 25 points per game. With the same core group on the defensive side of the ball over the past 3 seasons the Seahawks have allowed only 19 total points in our road games against the Panthers in 2012 and 2013. This week the Seahawks need to do what they have done in these prior two games; get off the field on third down and do not let Panthers quarterback Cam Newton pick up large chunks of yardage both on the ground and through the air. Last season against Seattle the Panthers were 45% effective on third down. The Rams were 44% effective on third down last week which is unacceptable. If the Seahawks can hold Carolina to under 40% effectiveness on third down we will be able to force changes in possession, giving the ball to our offense to try to score points.

The biggest concern for the Seahawks defense this week will be stopping Cam Newton’s legs as well as his arm. I include his arm because of the comfort opposing quarterbacks have had in the pocket in recent weeks.  The Seahawks have proven that they can shut Newton down on the ground; Newton has averaged 40 rushing yards per game in two games against Seattle. If the Panthers win this game I believe it will be on the arm of Cam Newton. With as shaky as the Seahawks have played in the middle of the field recently, look for Newton to test the Seahawks linebackers on short/intermediate range throws this week. Greg Olsen and Brandon Williams, Carolina’s two tight ends, could be in for big games if Newton has time to make throws. I am calling upon the Seahawks pass rush as well as linebackers K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith to step up. If the linebackers struggle it could once again be a long day for the Seahawks.

Last week the Seahawks fed the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch 18 times for 53 yards. It was not until the second half that the offensive coaching staff got quarterback Russell Wilson involved in the running game. The play in the running game will determine how well the Seahawks offense plays once again this week, but the pocket protection for Wilson must improve so Wilson does not have to run so much. Center Max Unger will likely be inactive once again this week so the Seahawks will start the same line combination they did in St. Louis last week. Until this makeshift line can prove that they can give Wilson a clean pocket consistently, in addition to avoid falling into an early deficit, Wilson may run more early on in the game. This week I believe rookie wide receiver Paul Richardson will have a larger impact after catching 4 passes last week. Richardson could be Wilson’s unsung go-to guy this week, possibly in roles that Percy Harvin held prior to his trade to New York. Also keep an eye on the blocking of fill-in fullback Robert Turbin. Turbin filled in last week at fullback on short notice after starter Derrick Coleman broke his foot during pregame warmups. In my opinion Turbin is built like a fullback and with a week’s worth of practice and preparation under his belt I think Turbin carries the potential to help open up big running lanes for Lynch.

Perhaps above all else, the Seahawks cannot let the off-the-field noise that has come in the days since the Percy Harvin trade get to them on the field. There have been numerous reports over the past week about tension between different players and the potential of a broken locker room. What makes all this talk worse is the fact that we have lost two straight games. To get back on the right track, we need to win this week. A win can help silence the critics and hopefully bring the positive dawn of the post-Harvin era.

Last season the Carolina Panthers defense carried them to a 12-4 record and an NFC South division championship. Even after losing key members of their defensive unit the Panthers still have the talent that is keeping them on top of the division even if their total defense rankings do not highlight it (22nd in passing, 26th in rushing). The Panthers provide a good combination of pass rush (15 total sacks) and secondary play (7 interceptions). Middle Linebacker Luke Kuechly continues to be a dominant tackler, patrolling the middle of the field and being in on almost every play. With the shaky play of the Seahawks offensive line I have decided to focus my attention on the Carolina defense to the pass rush. My X-Factor player to watch for the Panthers this week is defensive end Charles Johnson. Johnson is in his 8th season with the Panthers he has recorded double digit sacks in three different seasons including the past two. So far this season Johnson has recorded 3 sacks, one in each of their last 3 games. Johnson will likely line up across from Seahawks rookie right tackle Justin Britt, who has struggled keeping defenders from penetrating the line on passing downs.

Random Thoughts: No word yet on jersey combination for the Seahawks this week. With 5 road games left and 2 opportunities to wear wolf grey that gives the Seahawks a 40% chance of wearing wolf grey this week… The Panthers will wear black jerseys with silver pants… Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts have the call for CBS this week. That’s right, this week’s Seahawks game has been cross-flexed from FOX to CBS. This will be the first Seahawks road game broadcasted on CBS since 2001, and personally this will be the first time I watch a regular season Seahawks game on CBS since Christmas Eve 2005… Walt Coleman is the referee this week… Second straight 10am kickoff. I really have a love/hate relationship with 10am kickoffs. The only question this week is do I get up earlier to watch Falcons/Lions which kicks off from London at 6:30am… After this week we play 3 of our next 4 games at home. These road stretches where we don’t play at home for 3-plus weeks are miserable… I’m pulling for the Eagles this week. Please, please, please beat the Cardinals for us!

Prediction: The Seahawks running game will finally get going early this week. Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson will combine for 140 yards but unfortunately too many drives will stall or result in field goals. The defense will play a much tighter game overall. The Seahawks will win the turnover battle 2-1 and the Seahawks will pull out a very close victory.

Seahawks 19, Panthers 17

Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!

Review: Chargers 30, Seahawks 21

14 Sep
Photo Credit: chargers.com

Photo Credit: chargers.com

For the first time since last December, I am writing a game review following a meaningful Seahawks loss. The Seahawks fell to the San Diego Chargers 30-21 on Sunday, dropping to 1-1 on the season. The Seahawks are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams for 2nd place in the NFC West. The Chargers improve to 1-1 and currently have sole possession of 2nd place in the AFC West. This loss marks the first game since November 6th, 2011 that the Seahawks have lost by more than one score. As resilient as the Seattle offense appeared to be at moments, it was the defense that failed to step up to stop the powerful Chargers offense. This is what I took out of this week’s game.

Offense Played Well Enough to Win: The Seahawks offense scored 21 points and in any other game that would probably be enough to hold on for the win. Throughout the entire game I held the confidence that if the defense struggled, the offense could go down the field and get us right back into the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson had a very solid game going 17/25 for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite a lack of pocket awareness which Wilson showed at untimely moments, he did not turn the ball over which was great to see. The only Seahawks turnover came on special teams when Percy Harvin fumbled a kickoff in the second quarter. I was impressed with the way Robert Turbin stepped in for Marshawn Lynch, gaining 45 yards and scoring his first career touchdown at the end of the first half. As a team Seattle was able to pound out 108 rushing yards against a stout Chargers defense which is definitely an optimistic sign. Ultimately and unfortunately, our offense simply could not hang with a Chargers offense that proved that their performance last week in Arizona could be considered a fluke.

Offensive Line Showed its Weaknesses: Although San Diego only sacked Russell Wilson twice on Sunday the Seahawks quarterback was constantly under pressure. The right side of the offensive line was not able to withstand a barrage of San Diego pressure especially on passing downs later on in the game. J.R. Sweezy was called for a crucial holding penalty on a first-down conversion. The penalty nullified the gain and the Seahawks eventually punted back to the Chargers. The left side of the San Diego defense, like I highlighted in my game preview, clearly found holes in the game of rookie right tackle Justin Britt and later in the game the majority of the Seahawks offensive plays went to the left side of the line to try to take some of the pressure off of Sweezy and Britt.

Penalties a Problem: On Sunday the Seahawks were called for 8 penalties totaling 53 yards. I consider the number of penalties to be above average with the penalty yardage decent. The reason why I bring up this point is that in this game like some of our close losses in the recent past, our penalties seemed to come at the most inopportune of times. The majority of our offensive penalties occurred on first down conversions while defensive penalties came on 3rd down stops which would of halted San Diego drives. Instead, defensive penalties directly led to 14 of the Chargers 30 points.

Gates Unstoppable and Rivers Picks Defense, Legion of Boom Apart: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was thrown to 4 times on Sunday and in each instance Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw completions. Sherman however was never burned over the top for a big gain. All of the passes thrown in Sherman’s direction were zone coverage plays. On only one play do I distinctly remember Sherman turning the wrong way, leading to a completion from Rivers to Keenan Allen on a quick slant which resulted in a San Diego first down. The kryptonite for the Legion of Boom this week was tight end Antonio Gates who caught 7 catches for 96 yards and a career-tying 3 touchdown receptions. Other than Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, Gates may be the biggest matchup nightmare among tight ends in the NFL. His size advantage creates a problem even against the big, long, and physical style of the members of the Legion of Boom. Gates beat Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, and K.J. Wright on his three touchdown catches. Upon watching the film of Gates’ performance, I do not understand why the Seahawks were using our outside linebackers to cover Gates, especially after his second touchdown when it was proven Gates could easily beat our linebackers down the middle of the field. All in all the Seahawks defense allowed 276 passing yards, a number that we must work to decrease in practice this upcoming week, especially with Peyton Manning up next for the L.O.B.

Third Down Defense a Major Weakness: The Seahawks defense simply could not get off the field on third down this week. San Diego’s offense went 10/17 on third down on Sunday. The 59% third down efficiency of the Chargers is the worst percentage the Seahawks have surrendered in a loss since the Detroit Lions were 75% effective on third down in a 28-24 Seahawks loss in October 2012. 70% of San Diego’s third down conversions came through the air, with the majority coming in short to moderate yards to gain. At home next week I believe the Seahawks will recover and play a more sound game with the 12th Man behind their backs, but our inability to stop drives this week raises questions about our defense in a road environment, as the Seahawks have historically had trouble in this area on the road in seasons past.

Irvin Potentially Cost Us the Game: You look at the score and see that the Seahawks lost by two possessions but I believe that one bonehead play by defensive end Brice Irvin potentially altered the outcome of this game. The play in question came with the Chargers driving deep into Seahawks territory towards the end of the third quarter. With San Diego leading 20-14 and facing a 3rd down and 7, Seattle was successful in forcing Philip Rivers out of the pocket. Rivers scrambled to the right sideline short of the line to gain. As it was clear that Rivers was giving himself up on the play and stepping out of bounds, Irvin came in to give Rivers an extra small shove, drawing a personal foul late hit penalty. The Chargers would have likely lined up on 4th down to kick a field goal giving them a 23-14 lead with plenty of time for the game to be salvaged. Instead, the flag on Irvin gave San Diego a first down in the redzone and two plays later Rivers connected with Gates to make it a 27-14 ballgame. The touchdown also resulted in a  momentum swing to the home team for the remainder of the game, as the Chargers were successful in holding onto the lead for good. The penalty was completely unnecessary and in my opinion it is one of the dumbest plays Irvin has made in his career. Ultimately I believe that penalty is in essence handing the victory to San Diego on a silver platter.

Thoughts on San Diego: I underestimated the San Diego Chargers, plain and simple. I understand that it was their home opener, there was record setting heat down on the field, and that the home crowd was amped up but it all comes down to this point: If the Chargers can pick apart the best defense and best secondary in the league, they can pick apart any defense. Before the season started I did not think the Chargers were capable of making another playoff run but after Sunday, it is very possible to think that barring injuries San Diego can challenge for a wild-card spot for a second consecutive season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks matched their navy jerseys with grey pants this week. The last time they wore that combo was last season in Carolina. The Seahawks are now 2-2 in that uniform combo all-time… The all-white look of the Chargers is pretty cool. Although I love the fact that the Seahawks are the only NFL team to have never worn white at home, the idea of a white-out early on in the season is a cool possibility the Seahawks might want to consider for future seasons… I remember 4 years ago I went to see the Seahawks play the Broncos in Denver and the game time temperature inside the stadium flirted with the 100 degree mark. It was miserable. I am sorry for all the dehydrated, sunburnt, upset Seahawks fans who went on the road, sat in the heat for over three hours, and saw us lose. It is a miserable feeling… I want to give a lot of credit to the Chargers home crowd. They were clearly the louder voice this week after it was presumed that the 12th Man was going to have another very strong following to San Diego this week. To Chargers fans: Bring the kind of intensity you showed this week to Qualcomm for every home game. Match that intensity with the great play of the Chargers offense and you will be hard to beat at home throughout the season… Here are a couple of points to the “glass half full” Hawks fans out there. The last time the Seahawks gave up 30 or more points in a game, we went on to win our next 7 games. Also, of the last 10 seasons we have started 1-1, we have made the playoffs 7 times, won 4 division championships, went to 2 conference championship games, and made it to one Super Bowl (XL)… It helps that the 49ers also lost this week but immediately following our loss I was surprisingly not too upset. I think it has something to do with the fact that even though we lost, the Seahawks still have a Lombardi Trophy. That’s a feeling that perhaps comes given that the city of Seattle had been starving for a sports championship for so long and now that we finally have a Super Bowl win, it makes the sting of these regular season losses more bearable. Am I the only one out there that feels that way? It is an interesting yet prideful feeling in my opinion.

The Seahawks now get back to work as they prepare for the AFC West leading Denver Broncos in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII. Check back Saturday for my Broncos preview. Have a good week 12th Man. Go Hawks!