Tag Archives: Lambeau Field

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…)

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Review: Packers 27, Seahawks 17

21 Sep
Photo Credit: Packers.com

Photo Credit: Packers.com

As disappointing of a start this season has gotten off to, I can say it is not surprising. The Seahawks fell to 0-2 Sunday night after a 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers. This is the first double digit loss in 66 games dating back to November 6th, 2011. I try to be as much of a realist as possible, so when I say I am not surprised we have started the season 0-2, it is disappointing to see headlines involving the words “panic mode” in the media considering how tough of a draw we got at the top of our schedule. While I sat in the bleachers at Lambeau Field, the guys around me and I came to the conclusion that the Seahawks have lost their identity. That certainly looked to be the case. This review will be mostly commentary, as I dive in to try to figure out how to re-shape an identity for the 2015 Seahawks.

Running Game: After going up against an extremely tough defense in St. Louis, this was a perfect opportunity for the Seahawks offensive line to prove they could get back to normal to allow Marshawn Lynch to establish the run game. Consider this opportunity squandered. Lynch has averaged only 57 yards per game to start the season and his ineffectiveness has stalled our entire offense. In order for us to put up points more consistently Lynch needs to get back to playing like himself and the offensive line needs to play better to help him. I believe the offensive line is still gelling and Lynch’s production will only improve. It will be difficult to win games if our running game cannot get going. Things must change with two straight home games on deck.

Jimmy Graham: When we traded for tight end Jimmy Graham over the offseason it was to give Russell Wilson a star target in the passing game to balance our offense out. On Sunday Graham caught only one ball for 11 yards, making him a non-factor in our offense. There was one play in particular in the third quarter that really had me scratching my head. On 3rd and 3 Graham lined up wide to the right and had a one-on-one matchup. Instead of throwing his way, Wilson handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch and he was stopped short of the line to gain, forcing 4th down. Why in the world do you have a weapon as talented as Graham when you won’t throw him the ball in scenarios where he excels the most? Graham’s role in the offense is infuriating to me and Graham himself. If you’re only going to use him as a decoy like we did on Sunday night, I would rather have Max Unger back.

Shutdown Defense: The Seahawks took a 17-16 lead in the second half but to be honest I had no confidence that we would be able to hold it. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers used quick passes to pick our defense apart late and Green Bay’s offensive strategy resulted in 11 unanswered points to end the game. It is no secret that our defense lacks “boom” without strong safety Kam Chancellor. In addition, the intimidation factor seems to be completely gone. Adding multiple mental mistakes along the defensive line (including three offsides by Michael Bennett on Sunday) does not make things any easier. One thing I’ve noticed is that we cannot make a big stop when we need it the most, whether it be forcing a turnover or a third down stop. The Seahawks will continue to drop games unless our defense can figure out how to get back to playing our style of defense, something that may be extremely difficult to do until Chancellor comes back.

Random Thoughts/What’s Next: This will be a rather busy week on the blog. Look out for a commentary about my game day experience in Green Bay in the middle of the week. Also, my #10for10 countdown continues on Thursday when I publish the story of the 8th best home game I have attended over the past 10 years. Look for my preview of next week’s home opener against the Chicago Bears on Saturday.

Seahawks/Packers Preview

19 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Site: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wisconsin)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

It has been six years since the Seahawks last played a meaningful game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

Amazing to think about what has happened since.

The Seahawks head back to the frozen tundra for Sunday Night Football this week as they take on the defending NFC North champion Packers. The Seahawks are 0-1 following their 34-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams last week. Green Bay started their 2015 campaign on the right foot, defeating the Chicago Bears 31-23 last Sunday. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-8. By now you know what happened the last time these two teams played but here’s a quick reminder. The Seahawks trailed 19-7 late in the fourth quarter. After a Russell Wilson touchdown run, a successful onside kick recovery, a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and  a successful Luke Willson two-point conversion, the Seahawks suddenly took a 22-19 lead. The Packers drove down to tie the game at the end of regulation and in overtime Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the game winning 35-yard touchdown. Seattle advanced to Super Bowl XLIX. Green Bay’s season ended. This is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Seahawks to win. Here is what I will be looking for.

After giving up 34 points last week it is crucial that we see improvement out of the Seahawks defense. There has been ongoing talk during the week about cornerback Richard Sherman lining up at nickel this week in order to cover Green Bay’s best wide receiver Randall Cobb. I think we may see Sherman on Cobb a little bit but Sherman will predominantly play on the outside like normal. The number one thing I am focused on this week will be how we go about eliminating explosive plays. Last week the Seahawks gave up 13 plays of 10 yards or more. The correlation? Although we sacked Rams quarterback Nick Foles twice, for the most part he had plenty of time in the pocket to go throw his progressions and make his throws. In order to eliminate the big plays this week, something that the Packers are well equipped to do, we must put excessive amounts of pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The Packers offensive line did not allow a sack last week so it will be difficult to rattle Rodgers. My hope is to see Bruce Irvin used as a pass rushing specialist. Frank Clark could be a pivotal player this week. The more pass rushers we can get on the field at the same time, the better off the Seahawks will be.

For the Seahawks offense my main focus will be on the play of the offensive line, and how their play will have a domino effect on the rest of the offense. The offensive line’s performance last week was second-rate. The Packers sport big time players in Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and B.J. Raji who do an exceptional job getting to the quarterback. This week I believe Russell Wilson must take it upon himself to avoid the kind of pressure that he faced in St. Louis. Screens and slants may be the most effective strategy in the passing game. I would also like to see Wilson be more assertive in the running game. The read-option was nonexistent last week which I believe was necessary for our offense to keep drives moving. There were multiple plays last week where Wilson could have easily run for a first down. Instead he elected to stay behind the line of scrimmage to try to make a throw. If it is necessary this week or if plays are broken, I want to see Wilson run for yards.

It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers have one the most explosive offenses in football. Aaron Rodgers is a master at playing to the weaknesses of the opposing defense. I believe Rodgers will take a Tom Brady-esque approach in regards to how to face the Seattle defense. This could mean a lot of three step drops and short passes. Instead of going deep he will rely on his receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, and James Jones to pick up yards after the catch. As tough as the Packers passing game is to defend, running back Eddie Lacy may be poised to make a significant impact on the ground. In 18 career games at Lambeau Field, Lacy has averaged 81 yards per game and a solid 4.6 yards per carry. If these numbers can hold up in this game it will greatly contribute to an outstanding performance by the Green Bay offense.

On defense for the Packers one position in particular has my full attention. Last week starting middle linebacker Sam Barrington injured his foot and was placed on season-ending injured reserve shortly thereafter. My X-Factor Player to Watch for Green Bay this week is Barrington’s counterpart in the middle of the defense, Nate Palmer. Palmer enters his third season with the Packers but a cloud of uncertainty hangs over him. Before last week, Palmer had not played since 2013 after injuring his foot.  He spent the entire 2014 season on injured reserve. In 2013 Palmer played in 9 games, accruing only 17 tackles. To make things even murkier, Palmer made the transition from 3-4 outside linebacker to 3-4 inside linebacker during this past offseason. His inexperience could give the Seahawks offense an advantage in the middle of the field. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy noted that Palmer will wear the “green dot” helmet, meaning the coaches will communicate the defensive play calls through the radio in his helmet. Given that these are new responsibilities for Palmer, there is a possibility that the Green Bay defense will have communication issues.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks tweeted out their uniform combination Friday night. We will be wearing white jerseys and white pants… The Packers will wear their traditional home look of green jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee… The Seahawks have only beaten the Packers once at Lambeau Field. I remember the game well. It was Monday Night Football during the 1999 season. Mike Holmgren made his first trip back to Green Bay after leaving for Seattle following the previous season. It was Brett Favre’s worst career game, as he went 14/35 for 180 yards, one touchdown, and 4 interceptions. Shawn Springs was the player of the game as he blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown and intercepted Favre twice. The Seahawks won the game in dominating fashion, 27-7. Let’s hope for the same kind of result this week… Random travel story of the week: I am not looking forward to flying Southwest Airlines to Milwaukee. My only ever experience flying Southwest was in 1999 coming home from Omaha, Nebraska. On Southwest your boarding priority is determined by the time you check in. The earlier you check in, the earlier you get to board. My family was filling up our rental car with gas near the Omaha airport when the street was shut down so Vice President Al Gore and him motorcade could come through. We were late getting to the airport and were placed in the “C” boarding group (the last group to board). I was separated from my family on the plane (something somewhat traumatic for a 9-year old) and I wound up sitting in between an older couple. I had a book of word searches with me and I just did word searches for the entire flight. Surprisingly, the older woman next to me had no idea what a word search was so she looked over my shoulder and watched me do word searches for the majority of the flight. Talk about awkward… I will be tailgating on someone’s property right off of Lombardi Avenue, directly across the street from Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Green Bay tailgating scene is somewhat restrictive to non-Packers season ticket holders so it will be fascinating to see how Packers fans do tailgating… I am beyond excited to step inside Lambeau Field. I consider it to be the cathedral of professional football. So much history has occurred inside that bowl that I’m sure to get chills just walking around. Just like going to Notre Dame Stadium in 2009, this is sure to be a trip I will never forget. The only thing that will make it better will be a Seahawks win!

Prediction: After the Fail Mary and the NFC Championship miracle comeback, the Packers finally get back at us. Aaron Rodgers will come out firing and will throw touchdowns to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the first half. The Seahawks will only be able to counter with one Steven Hauschka field goal as the Packers will go into halftime with a 17-3 lead. The Seahawks will make the proper adjustments and will score two second half touchdowns; one by Marshawn Lynch and another to Jimmy Graham. The Packers will lead 23-20 and will deliver the dagger with just under 5 minutes left to play. Rodgers will find Cobb for his second touchdown of the game and the Seahawks will head home for their home opener with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Packers 30, Seahawks 20

Programming Note: My game review will be published on Monday when I get back from Green Bay, NOT late Sunday immediately following the game.

Panthers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

9 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (4) Carolina Panthers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:15pm

I love the city of Seattle in the month of January. Everyone has a pep in their step in preparation for the NFL Playoffs. After an eventful Wild-Card weekend we know which of the surviving teams gets the opportunity to play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional playoffs. That team is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks Saturday night. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. The loser goes home. Last week the Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their first playoff game after entering the postseason with a losing record. Including that win last week over the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers enter this game 8-8-1. The Seahawks are 12-4 and are looking to make it back to their second straight NFC title game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Carolina 6-2. Their last meeting came earlier this season when the Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 in Charlotte. The Seahawks went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. The Seahawks are also 3-0 all-time against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, including a 34-14 win over the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith led Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. There are a lot of storylines to take note of this week. Here is what I will be looking for.

In last season’s divisional playoff game against New Orleans, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effectiveness in the running game allowed the Seahawks to control the tempo of the game and there was never any significant threat of the Saints taking the game over. The same must happen this week. Seattle’s ability to run the ball is crucial this week since they are facing a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since October 30th (Week 9). If Lynch himself can run for at least 80 yards it will lead me to believe that we can control the clock and control the game. If the Panthers do a solid job stopping the Seahawks running game my number one guy to watch in the passing game is wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In three career games against Carolina he has 189 receiving yards and in his last two games against the Panthers, Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. In addition to playing on the outside look for Baldwin to spend a lot of time in the slot this week, as quick throws and routes down the seam could be effective.

Just like how the running game is priority number one on offense, stopping the Panthers running game is priority number one on defense. This will be difficult, as Carolina will use feature back Jonathan Stewart and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton scrambling gives the Seahawks an additional element to focus on. The Seahawks have faced Carolina each of the last three seasons. In each of those games I thought there was a serious threat of Newton running wild if the going got tough for the Panthers offense. In each of those games Newton rushed for only 42, 38, and 24 yards respectively. In a playoff situation I think now is as good a time for the Panthers to let Newton run wild if the Seahawks play great defense. Newton’s build and strength will make it difficult to wrap him up and get him to the ground. If there is a player you must keep a close eye on when Carolina has the ball, it is Cam Newton.

Over the past few weeks the Carolina Panthers defense has been playing similarly to how they played all of last season, suffocating. If could be a difficult challenge for the Seahawks to get their offense going as the Panthers sport two tackling machines at the linebacker position in Thomas Davis and pro-bowler Luke Kuechly. Davis and Kuechly have combined for 253 total tackles so far this season, by far the best of any tandem in the NFL. The Panthers do come into this game a bit banged up however, as it was announced Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured foot. Lotulelei will not play for the rest of the season. As important as Carolina’s front seven is for the Seahawks to be aware of, I will be keeping a close eye on the play of the Panthers secondary. One of Carolina’s starting cornerbacks was inactive when these two teams met back in October so I have decided to put my X-Factor player to watch spotlight on that player, cornerback Bené Benwikere. Benwikere, a 5th round rookie from San Jose State, is a physically small player who has shown he can play big in his limited playing time this season. Benwikere has recorded 24 tackles in 11 games and has also picked off one pass and forced one fumble. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will both likely line up across from Benwikere throughout the game and since he did not play in the first meeting, I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson throw in his direction multiple times in the first half.

This last point cannot be overlooked. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played in the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle, came out this week stating there is no way to prepare for just how loud the 12th Man is. It had been reported earlier in the week that the Panthers were having serious difficulties handling artificial simulated crowd noise during practice; a serious red flag. Over the past few years we have seen what kind of problems “Clink rookies” have had communicating in the huddle once they get lined up. Colin Kaepernick immediately comes to mind as his 49ers failed terribly at handling the noise in his first game in Seattle in 2012. This week the 12’s need to give everything they have to make life a living hell for Newton. I believe Newton has no idea what he is in for and it will be a harsh reality once kickoff rolls around Saturday night. The Panthers used no huddle for 22 plays last week against Arizona and they will likely use a similar dose of no huddle this week. To the 12th Man, stay loud all game long, even between plays. Our voices could be the difference between advancing to the NFC Championship Game and not.

Random Thoughts: The Panthers will wear all-white with the Seahawks wearing all-blue this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. This is not a surprise given the potential ratings of the other NFC Divisional game (Dallas at Green Bay). It makes sense that FOX would send their number one crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to Lambeau for that game instead… The referee this week is Terry McAulay. McAulay officiated the Seahawks divisional round game last season and Super Bowl XLVIII… Saturday is going to be a very long day but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love primetime football. This is going to be a very special game… The giveaway this week is “We Are 12” rally towels. I love it. Towels should be the giveaway for all playoff games and I am glad to see the Seahawks are fixing their mistake from last season (they gave away 12th Man flags vs. the Saints)… Even though this is an evening kickoff it is the playoffs, and it should be expected that everyone be in their seats by the time pregame ceremonies start. I want to see a full stadium waving their towels as the Seahawks run out of the tunnel… I believe that there is an incredibly strong possibility that former Mariners pitcher and 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson will raise the 12th Man flag this week. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet… One of my favorite postseason traditions is when the Seahawks play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” with a video encouraging fans to get loud as the television broadcast is coming back from a TV timeout. If they bring this back on Saturday night I am going to get super super pumped… This week marks the return of the Skittles in section 340. To everyone possibly sitting below me this is your warning to watch out. Streamers will also be making a re-appearance in these playoffs. Let’s make this playoff run a full on raging party in the stands… One win away from the NFC Championship and two victories away from Super Bowl XLIX. It’s on the tips of our fingers.

Prediction: The Panthers and Seahawks will keep this game close until the closing minutes of the first half. With the Seahawks holding a 7-3 lead, Richard Sherman will intercept a Cam Newton pass and Marshawn Lynch will score a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the half, giving the Seahawks a 14-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks will carry that momentum into the second half as they will take the opening kickoff and drive the length of the field, culminating in a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, giving the Seahawks a 21-3 lead. Beast Mode will add one more score in garbage time and the Seahawks will cruise to the NFC Championship to face the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks 28, Panthers 10

Due to a belated birthday celebration for myself with all of my friends after the game I will not have my game review published until Sunday night most likely. By then we will know who we will face in the NFC Championship Game should we win on Saturday. Check back Sunday night for my take on Saturday’s game. Go Seahawks!

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!

Commentary: A Tribute to Candlestick Park

4 Dec
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Photo Credit: pro32.ap.org

*Sunday will mark the fourth and final Seahawks game I attend against the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The stadium is set to be torn down at the conclusion of the 49ers 2013 season. As a part of our second 49ers “hate week” of the season, I commemorate Candlestick Park with a special tribute post about the stadium from a Seahawks fan’s perspective*

Over the past decade-plus there have been many instances when my friends and I talk about the Kingdome. Those talks include topics such as what our most memorable experiences in the Kingdome were, what we miss about it, and how sometimes we even wish the Kingdome was still around today. On March 26th, 2000 the Kingdome was imploded and the most iconic part and the most special era of my childhood came tumbling to the ground.

The same is about to happen to San Francisco 49ers fans.

San Francisco sports fans have already gone through this once when the San Francisco Giants moved downtown to AT&T Park in 2000. However once the 49ers move out of Candlestick Park at the conclusion of the 2013 season, the clock will have struck midnight on the legendary building most famously known for hosting the final concert of the Beatles and hosting game 3 of the 1989 World Series when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the San Francisco area minutes prior to the start of the game, shaking the stadium and postponing the series for one week. Following this season, Candlestick Park will be torn down to make way for a proposed shopping center at the site of the stadium. Next season the 49ers are moving into Levi’s Stadium, their new state-of-the-art facility in Santa Clara and thus will shift into an era of playing their home games in a modern day football stadium they can call their own. After the final game at the end of this month, a remarkable run including 42 years of memories will come to an end.

Let me get this out of the way now. Personally I hate Candlestick Park. It is an absolute dump of a stadium. The seats are uncomfortable, the bathrooms are claustrophobic, and the concourses are so narrow that it takes forever to get out of the stadium after the game. Not only that but the sole fact that it housed the team I despise the most for 42 seasons gives me reason to hate the building by itself. On the inside it reminds me of a more cramped Kingdome without a roof. A lot of people would say the Kingdome was the same but many Seahawks fans including myself loved that building. That feeling of “home” for 49ers fans at Candlestick Park is the same feeling I miss about going to the Kingdome and the “home” of the “Niner Empire” will be permanently relocated which could come as a traditional shock for many 49ers fans. For those Seahawks fans that have never had the opportunity to attend a game at Candlestick Park, let me attempt to paint you a colorful picture of a 49ers gameday at the Stick.

The Drive: For my first two games at Candlestick Park, we drove north on highway 101 to get to the stadium. The Stick sits along the San Francisco bay just east of the highway. You know you are getting close once the highway curves past South San Francisco and you can see Candlestick Park in the distance on your right-hand side. Once you can see the stadium you hit a straight stretch of the highway and the stadium becomes larger as you drive closer, much like seeing the skylines of large cities become closer as you drive closer. The view is even better on a clear sunny day. The highway exit wraps around “Candlestick Point” and leads cars into multiple directions into the handful of parking lot entrances, which can be a big pain if you arrive closer to game time.

The Parking Lot and the Tailgating: The Seahawks are at a disadvantage when it comes to tailgating in Seattle because CenturyLink Field is located in the downtown core. There are limited parking lots surrounding CenturyLink Field and because of that fact many fans choose to drink at the surrounding neighborhood bars before the game. Candlestick Park does traditional tailgating the right way. The stadium is surrounded by roughly 8,800 parking spaces, housing the grand majority of fans attending each game. It is always best to arrive shortly after the gates to the parking lot open to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion that is promised both before and after the game. Once you park (around Seahawks fans of course) the fun really starts. As soon as you crack your car doors open you can smell the sweet aroma of meat being prepared on the numerous charcoal barbeques. You can see the different beautiful layouts of each car’s food and the large coolers stuffed with different types of liquor and beer. You can hear the mixed sounds of NFL pregame shows on the radio and the latest hip-hop/rap tracks blasting from car speakers. You can see the sights of fans playing beer pong, flip cup, beanbag toss, and throwing around footballs while engaging in friendly football banter. It is always a very merry atmosphere; an atmosphere that would get even the most bandwagon of fans excited for the rest of the day’s events.

The Walk: If you a 49ers fan this part would not be nearly worth talking about but as a visiting fan, the walk into the stadium is a very intimidating, yet very cool thing to experience. Most fans walk down a designated stretch of blacktop that leads straight to the gates of the stadium. Tailgating fans line the sides of the walkway and it is custom for 49ers fans to boo the Seahawks fans making their way into the stadium. I personally feed off of their energy, often signaling them to boo me louder. I absolutely love it and it is even better when the Seahawks are a better team on the field than the 49ers are. The walk into Candlestick Park serves as a preview of what to expect inside the stadium as an opposing fan.

The Concourses: Since I have sat in the same area of the Stick in each of my visits, I am not familiar at all with the lower level concourses. Once you enter the stadium, in order to get to the upper level you hop on an escalator that takes you right up to the upper deck. The concourse wraps around the entire stadium and they are very narrow, thus they can get very crammed as you get closer to kickoff. Concession stands and beer stands are continuously within spitting distance. The best part of the upper level concourse is the incredible view of the South San Francisco Bay, the downtown skyline, and the Bay Bridge along with the massive parking lot flooded with cars and people. It is a beautiful, picture perfect sight.

The Upper Bowl: Inside the bowl of the stadium, the first thing you see is the large Candlestick Point hill that neighbors the stadium. It is directly behind the stadium and provides a pretty backdrop to everyone that sits on the opponent’s side of the stadium. The seats are a bright orange color that are big but are very uncomfortable. It is a workout to even push your seat down and the seat stays down if you decide to stand up. Although I have sat in the same area of the stadium there is no bad seat in the upper bowl. The only problem I have is that the sun is constantly beating down on the entire stadium during day games, which has resulted in two terrible sunburns to my pale pigmented redhead skin.

After the Game: Leaving the stadium is a nightmare regardless of whether the Seahawks win or lose. 60,000+ people leaving the stadium all at the same time with one main road to get back onto highway 101 is the recipe for a long wait to exit the premises. Many fans go back to tailgate at their parking spaces to kill time while others try to get in the multiple car lines to leave the parking lot. It is very similar to the set up at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where they turn the neighboring golf course into a giant parking area. I waited in that parking lot for over two hours following the 2001 Rose Bowl. Most fans wait for upwards of one and a half hours to leave Candlestick Park which is a gigantic pain. In my experiences, I have left Candlestick postgame both in the light and in the dark and after a night game the stadium (like many other stadiums) looks cool with all the lights on, especially from a distance on the highway. As you leave the parking lot the reality sets in that your trip is over but in my past experiences, the anticipation of my next trip to Candlestick Park starts to set along with the sigh of relief that you survived the current trip, which is a very exciting feeling.

Sunday will be the fourth and final Seahawks/49ers game that I attend at Candlestick Park. I have been through both good and bad moments in the games I have attended there. From the Seahawks 23-3 thumping of the 49ers in 2007, to the sick feeling of witnessing Ted Ginn Jr. return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the 2011 season opener, I can say that I had the opportunity to watch NFL football in one of the more famous stadiums in America. People like talk about bucket list trips and stadium visits they would like to make before they die. Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Soldier Field in Chicago are a couple of NFL stadiums that instantly come to mind, but in my opinion Candlestick Park is the Lambeau Field of the west coast. This season, as part of a Candlestick Park celebration, the 49ers are counting down the top 10 moments in the stadium’s history which includes a halftime ceremony honoring each moment. In this week’s game against the Seahawks, the 49ers will honor the number two moment: “The Catch III” which occurred on January 14th, 2012 when quarterback Alex Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis for the game-winning touchdown in a Divisional playoff win over New Orleans.

Although I may not like the stadium, I have tremendous respect for the moments that occurred over the past four decades as well as the legacy that Candlestick Park will leave in the bay area.

Review: Seahawks 17, Packers 10

24 Aug

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The Seahawks extended their preseason winning streak to a franchise best 8 games Friday night, defeating the Green Bay Packers 17-10 at Lambeau Field. The Seahawks will now head home and prepare for another short week as they get set to take on the Oakland Raiders next Thursday night. Before we move on to next week, let’s take a look back at some good things and bad things from Friday night’s victory.

Finish: The Seahawks did a very nice job moving the ball in the first half of the game but were unsuccessful in finishing drives. With Russell Wilson at the helm, the Seahawks could only score 10 points. Seattle had two drives into the red zone and we were unable to score touchdowns on both of those drives. The nice thing about these long drives was our ability to convert on third down. The Seahawks converted 5 of their 12 third downs on Friday night. As effective as we were on third down and our overall efficiency moving the ball, when the regular season comes around it will be much more difficult to keep drives alive, especially on the road. The Packers have a “middle of the pack” defense and the Seahawks will see much better defenses early on in the regular season. If we can turn field goals into touchdowns, we will be in a much better position to win the games that turn out to be close.

Michael Shines: Christine Michael put an exclamation point on his case to be the primary backup to Marshawn Lynch on Friday night. Michael got 11 of the running backs 27 carries against the Packers and made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 97 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 8.8 yards per carry. Michael’s most impressive runs came on handoffs right up the middle and his quickness is also worth mentioning. Michael’s blockers did such a good job that on a couple of his big first down runs, he was able to run right around the offense line and break into the second and third levels of the defense easily. I am starting to think we will see more of Michael in games this season. He will not be splitting carries evenly with Lynch but I would not be shocked to see Michael get close to ten carries per game. He will see a lot of playing time next week and another impressive performance could earn him the number two running back spot.

Sweezy Needs to Improve: On consecutive plays early on in the game, right guard J.R. Sweezy was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul late hit then penalized 10 yards for holding. Sweezy is still showing signs of a young, raw player with a great amount of potential but someone who is struggling to handle a job that was confirmed to be his earlier in the week when the Seahawks traded John Moffitt to Denver. Sweezy’s primary struggle on Friday night was preventing Green Bay’s interior pass rush. Two of the three sacks of quarterback Russell Wilson occurred within the middle three offensive lineman. From what I saw, Sweezy did a good job run blocking but his pass blocking still needs some work. With one more preseason game before the Seahawks head to Carolina, I think it would be wise to let Sweezy play longer than any other starter on offense against Oakland next week to get as much game experience under his belt as possible. However, it wasn’t just Sweezy who was responsible for drawing penalties against the Packers…

Penalties are Unacceptable: Let me be more specific about this point. Penalties occur in every game. It may be time to panic however, when you are penalized 14 times for 182 yards. When you rack up close to 200 yards in penalties in one game you have a very minimal chance of winning. Most of the Seahawks penalties against the Packers were fixable mistakes. Holding was the primary problem for the Seahawks on offense. A lot of our penalties came later on in the game with our backups in. Offensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre had multiple holding penalties and linebacker John Lotulelei also got flagged for a 15-yard personal foul late hit which should have been avoided since the tackle had been made well before Lotulelei jumped into the pile for one last shot. Penalties have been a problem throughout the preseason. In three games the Seahawks have been called for 34 penalties for a total of 354 yards, an average of 118 yards per game. This is the highest average in the NFL this preseason. Making this many mistakes will definitely cost us games in the regular season. Limiting penalties must be the number one priority during practice this week. If the Seahawks do not show improvement against Oakland, we may be in trouble come week one.

The Packers Could Have a Quarterback Battle on Their Hands: Let me be clear that I do not mean Aaron Rodgers is in jeopardy of losing the starting job. I think Vince Young outplayed current backup quarterback Graham Harrell on Friday night and it is Young who I believe deserves the backup quarterback job in Green Bay. Young’s mobility is a big advantage now in an era where the zone-read option and quarterbacks who can run are turning into the brightest stars in the league. Young had a passer rating of 130.7 Friday night while also adding 3 rushes for 39 yards. Young was a more accurate passer than Harrell, failing to complete only one of his 7 passes. The one thing that is apparent to me however is that Young is more eager to run. It does not seem to take much for him to feel the pocket breaking down which is leading to him scrambling somewhat prematurely. The Green Bay brass like Harrell a lot but I think Young is a better fit to backup Aaron Rodgers in the short term.

Projected Roster Cuts: The Seahawks have to cut their roster down from 90 players to 75 players by the end of the weekend. Here are 15 players who I think will get cut during this first wave of roster cuts: Donavon Kemp, Arceto Clark, Bryan Walters, Kyle Nelson, Martin Parker, Dewayne Cherrington, Michael Brooks, Andrei Lintz, Darren Fells, Perez Ashford, Ron Parker, Kyle Knox, Lemuel Jeanpierre, and Jaye Howard.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks were introduced to a chorus of boos but once the game started everybody seemed to forget about why they were booing… Golden Tate got the loudest ovation of boos when he was announced as our punt returner in the first quarter… I counted only 4 mentions of last year’s game during the broadcast. I was pleased with that number. I thought they would mention it at least a dozen times… I am not a fan of Ian Eagle’s play-by-play but I am a fan of Phil Simms’s commentary. Good thing both games on CBS during the regular season are home games… The Seahawks wore white jerseys and grey pants this week. That combo was last seen week 7 of last year in San Francisco… Time to put away the white road jersey for a few weeks. We won’t see that jersey again until week 4 in Houston… The new upper deck at Lambeau looks really nice. I can’t wait to go to Green Bay and see the stadium for myself… Time for another short week. I already cannot wait for next Thursday night when we play Oakland… Good to make it through another week without any significant injuries… My fantasy football draft is Sunday night. I haven’t taken a Seahawk for at least three seasons. Maybe this year that will change.

This week I will publish a reflection piece about the first wave of roster cuts. I’ll give you my take on the decisions that were made and whether I agree with them or not. Also, be sure to check back on Wednesday as I preview next week’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders.