Tag Archives: Legion of Boom

Review: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24

17 Jan
Jonathan Stewart

Photo Credit: NFL.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#10for10 Game #1: The Tip (Seahawks vs. 49ers, 2013 NFC Championship Game)

24 Dec

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

10for10 sherman tip

Photo Credit: seahawksdraftblog.com

The Seahawks 2013 season was one nobody in the Pacific Northwest will ever forget. After going 13-3 in the regular season, we advanced all the way to Super Bowl XLVIII. There we defeated the Denver Broncos 43-8 to claim our first NFL world championship. If it wasn’t for the events of two weeks prior to the Super Bowl however, the Seahawks would still be Lombardi-less today. The 2013 NFC Championship had it all: Action, suspense, and when it was all said and done, a storybook ending. This is the story of the best Seahawks game I have ever been to.

The day was January 19th, 2014. The Seahawks were hosting the second NFC Championship Game in franchise history and we were one win away from a trip to New York City for the Super Bowl. Game time was slated for 3:30pm and I was taking my dad to the game, so we decided to skip the bar scene on this pivotal Sunday. We headed downtown around 10am and went straight to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch. The place was already packed so we stood at a table inside the bar. I sipped on a few Pyramid Hefeweizens and enjoyed a plate of fish and chips. We watched the first half of the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos and were joined in the late afternoon once again by my friend James and his brother Lane. James and I had airfare and hotel reservations to New York already booked just in case the Seahawks won. As we watched the game we talked about how excited we were to potentially head east for the Super Bowl and we briefly discussed things we might want to do when back there. I don’t call this overconfidence but when the opportunity presented itself we couldn’t help but talk about our potential vacation. We left Pyramid shortly before 2pm and headed straight into the stadium. Once we got our tickets scanned were all given a white “We Are 12” rally towel. My dad and I departed James and Lane and the two of us headed straight up to my seats.

10for10 james eric nfc champ

James and I on the main concourse prior to kickoff

When we hosted the NFC Championship Game 8 years prior I distinctly remember every fan being in their seats before the Seahawks had even ended pregame warmups and this game was no different. The Seahawks huddled up before heading back to the locker room one last time and 68,000 fans hollered to ear-shattering levels while waving their towels. We were ready. The Seahawks went the extra mile to pump up the crowd. Before the Seahawks were introduced, they played the Derrick Coleman Duracell commercial on the video screens. Towards the end of the commercial Coleman, who narrates the commercial says “and now I’m here with the loudest fans in the NFL cheering me on… and I can hear them all.” The video got the fans even more crazed. To this day I have scoured YouTube and various video websites to try to find video of the Coleman commercial played before the game and I have not been successful. It is a moment that will be difficult for me to forget.

After the 49ers took the field the Seahawks were introduced and the starting defense got their chance to run out of the tunnel individually. Richard Sherman was the first member of the Legion of Boom to take the field and deafening roar of the crowd lasted through the introductions of Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. After Heart’s Ann Wilson performed the national anthem, owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag just like he did before the ’05 NFC title game. The Seahawks were going to start the game with the ball.

On the first play of the game the Seahawks wanted to go for it all. The call was a play action pass. Russell Wilson faked the handoff to Marshawn Lynch and dropped back seven, looking deep down the field. He scrambled to his left and as he tried to tuck the ball away it was stripped and recovered by the 49ers Aldon Smith. After one play the Seahawks had turned the ball over deep inside San Francisco territory. I remember having a blank stare on my face and everyone around me had the exact same expression. “What the f**k was that?” was what was on my mind and multiple people in my vicinity shouted that exact same thought for everyone to hear. Fortunately Colin Kaepernick could not put the 49ers in the endzone following the turnover. We held the 49ers to a field goal and they took a 3-0 lead. Things did not get any better for the Seahawks on our next possession as San Francisco forced us into a 3 and out. After trading punts San Francisco got the ball again to start the second quarter. A 58-yard scramble by Kaepernick gave the 49ers a goal-to-go situation. After three failed attempts to get the ball into the endzone the 49ers elected to go for it on 4th down. In front of a raucous 12th Man Kaepernick handed the ball to Anthony Dixon who plowed ahead into the endzone. The touchdown gave the 49ers a 10-0 lead with 10:03 left in the first half. The Seahawks cut the lead to 10-3 on their next drive thanks in part to a 51-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin. Seattle headed into the locker room at halftime down by 7 and although it was disappointing we were not leading there was renewed optimism when, of all things, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage for a halftime performance.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played their hits singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” and at the end of the show Macklemore declared that “Seattle sports history will be made tonight.” This declaration left the 12th Man including myself jacked up. We as fans were ready to do everything we possibly could to help push the Seahawks to a comeback and a victory.

10for10 macklemore

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After forcing the 49ers to punt on their first possession of the second half the Seahawks got the ball with excellent field position. On the fourth play of the drive the Seahawks were facing 3rd and 1. Darrell Bevell called up “17 power,” the same play as the Marshawn Lynch Beast Quake run. Marshawn shed two blocks and broke away towards the front right corner of the endzone. As soon as he got out of the second tackle I could see the space he had to run and immediately went crazy. At about the 10-yard line Lynch tripped but his momentum carried him into the endzone anyway for the score. Skittles rained down in all corners of the stadium and I jumped up and down in unison with my dad and the folks around me. The game was tied 10-10 and it felt like a whole new football game was about to start.

The 49ers took the next drive 83 yards and with 6:29 left in the third quarter the Seahawks faced yet another deficit, 17-10. After this the Seahawks took full control of the game. After a Steven Hauschka field goal made it a 17-13 ballgame, the Seahawks forced another San Francisco punt. Heading into the fourth quarter the Seahawks had the ball on the 49ers 35-yard line facing 4th down. The following sequence will never be forgotten as a pivotal cog in the Seahawks 2013 Super Bowl season. Hauschka lined up for a field goal but with the kick heading into the wind, he was hesitant to go through with the attempt. Pete Carroll called timeout to go over their options and ultimately decided to send the offense back on the field to go for it. With the Seahawks in the huddle I sat down in my seat briefly, leaned over, and said a quick prayer. The Seahawks broke the huddle and I jumped up to stand. Wilson was able to draw San Francisco offsides and knowing he had a free play, Wilson launched a pass into the endzone which was caught by Jermaine Kearse. The stadium went crazy. For the first time all afternoon the Seahawks had the lead 20-17. There was still 13:44 left in the game and a lot could happen but what has happened time and time again at home, once we corral a lead, the 12th Man will make it awfully difficult for the opposing team to come back.

Everyone was back in the game. With Lil Jon’s “Outta Your Mind” on full blast before the next kickoff, every fan was screaming, waiving their rally towels, and jumping up and down. On the 7th play of the series and facing third down, Colin Kaepernick was flushed out of the pocket to his left. As he tried to cock the ball back it was stripped out of his hand by Cliff Avril and picked up by Michael Bennett. Bennett returned the ball to the 49ers 6-yard line. This was the loudest it had gotten inside CenturyLink Field all day. The 49ers were unraveling and if the Seahawks could score a touchdown and go up by 10 points, the game may be out of reach. Unfortunately the drive resulted in no points, as Russell Wilson fumbled a 4th and goal attempt from the 1-yard line, turning the ball over to the 49ers. After an interception by Kam Chancellor which was translated into a field goal the Seahawks held a 23-17 lead with 3:37 remaining. If Seattle could stop the 49ers one more time, they would be the NFC champions.

The Seahawks forced San Francisco into a 4th and 2 situation with 2:01 left in the game. The 49ers converted on a pass from Kaepernick to Frank Gore for 17 yards. After the next play, a 4 yard run by Kaepernick, the 49ers elected to let the clock run. After two more completions the 49ers had the ball 1st and 10 from the Seahawks 29-yard line. 55 seconds remained. After a pass to Vernon Davis the 49ers let the clock run down once more. With every second off the clock came more and more stress. The 49ers were getting dangerously close to the endzone and with them draining the clock, a touchdown would pretty much seal San Francisco’s second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. The fans tried to stay loud to try to throw the 49ers off but you could hear the worry and panic in the noise, a feeling that has never happened in my 10 years as a season ticket holder. There have been stressful moments but not like this; not with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Then everything changed. Then came the single greatest play in the history of the Seattle Seahawks.

1st and 10 for the 49ers. 18-yard line. 30 seconds remaining. Colin Kaepernick drops back and throws a fade into the right side of the endzone. The ball is tipped into the air by Richard Sherman and falls right into the waiting hands of Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks had made the tip drill a common routine throughout 2013 and with no other 49ers receiver in the area, from my angle as soon as the ball was tipped I knew it was going to be intercepted. It was the most emotional I had ever been at a Seahawks game. I dropped to my knees because I was emotionally drained. With everyone in the stadium going crazy, after a few moments I got back up, hugged my dad, and the reality of the moment really started to settle in. “WE’RE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!” I exclaimed as Russell Wilson took three knees to win the game. With “Can’t Hold Us” playing over the speakers the teams met in the middle of the field and as the clock hit zero I pulled out my phone. I had a text I needed to send to James. That text, which I will never forget, simply said “PACK YOUR BAGS, BROTHER.” We were going to New York for the Super Bowl.

John Nordstrom, the original owner of the Seahawks, presented Paul Allen with the George Halas trophy and after several on-field speeches the fans left the stadium one last time to the sounds of Frank Sinatra’s classic hit “New York, New York.”

10for10 nordstrom allen

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The rest is history. The Seahawks went on to win their very first world championship two weeks later. Without Jermaine Kearse’s 4th down touchdown and Richard Sherman’s tip, there is a very good chance the Seahawks would still be a championship-less franchise. From 2006-2012 the Seahawks season came to an end short of us being able to host an NFC Championship Game, the biggest game a team can host. Those long years waiting made this day absolutely worth it. There is no doubt this is the greatest Seahawks home game I have ever attended and going forward it will be extremely difficult to top.

Review: Seahawks 30, Browns 13

20 Dec
browns review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

It was not quite the blowout we all thought was possible but at the end of the day there should be no room for complaints. The Seahawks took care of business as expected on Sunday, defeating the Cleveland Browns 30-13. With the win the Seahawks improve to 9-5 and thanks in part to the New York Giants loss earlier in the day Seattle has clinched a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season. Cleveland’s record falls to a dismal 3-11. Here now are some brief thoughts following today’s win.

Wilson Stays Hot: For the fifth straight game quarterback Russell Wilson avoided throwing an interception. He finished his day 21/30 for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns before turning the reigns over to Tarvaris Jackson late in the game. In the last 5 weeks Wilson has thrown for 1,420 yards, 19 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Once again two of his touchdown tosses went to Doug Baldwin who continues his own hot streak of 10 touchdown receptions over the past 4 games. Last week I briefly talked about how Wilson’s performance is coming at the best time and with two more games before the playoffs this is a perfect time for this wave of momentum to continue. Unfortunately I believe the only thing that is keeping his name out of the MVP race is the Seahawks record. Wilson may be the quarterback opponents do not want to face the most, especially at this point in the season.

The Upper Hand: Bryce Brown had the longest run of the game but he was not the more consistent running back. Christine Michael led all Seahawks running backs in carries with 16 and he made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 84 yards and a 5.3 yards per carry average. I had a feeling Michael would make the bigger impact because of his experience in our offensive system and his knowledge of the playbook. Ball security was something that also had me smiling, as neither Michael nor Brown coughed up the ball. Moving forward I expect Michael to be the Seahawks lead back and it would not surprise me to see Brown phased out of our game plan entirely for our final two regular season games.

A Long Wait: When people think of what makes a game “ugly” the first thing that usually comes to mind is turnovers. I thought this game would be a perfect opportunity for the Legion of Boom to feast on multiple Cleveland mistakes. At least that was the assumption. Unfortunately it took 47 minutes and 43 seconds for the Seahawks to record their first and only takeaway of the game, an interception by cornerback Marcus Burley. With strong safety Kam Chancellor inactive Seattle’s defense was not at full strength. Nevertheless forcing only one Browns turnover was disappointing. My hope is that the defense just had an off game. Here is something to keep in mind going forward. The Seahawks have recorded multiple takeaways in only 6 of our 14 games. Going up against another conservative quarterback next week it may be hard to force turnovers yet again.

Thoughts on Cleveland: On Sunday I could see Johnny Manziel’s potential playing out on the field. Unfortunately he will likely be one of only a handful of players that will continue their careers with the Browns in 2016. This franchise is once again in need of a complete overhaul. Mike Pettine is not a good fit to be the head coach of this team and Ray Farmer has not done enough in his limited time as general manager to prove to owner Jimmy Haslam he deserves more time to put this team together. Even Haslam may not be the best owner for this franchise and that really says something about just exactly how bad it is in Cleveland. This team needs to put together a couple of solid draft classes in the next couple of seasons before I can consider them a team ready to challenge for a playoff berth.

Random Thoughts: It’s semi-disappointing we gave up any sort of lead to the Browns. Cleveland’s early 7-0 lead didn’t last and that didn’t surprise anyone. The mood inside the stadium was still one of unwavering confidence that we would get the job done… For the most part I am not the type of person that boos opposing fans but seeing the few Cleveland Browns fans in the stadium, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for them and their fandom. I would be more inclined to hug a Browns fan instead of boo them, just because of all the pain and suffering they have endured throughout their lives… It was nice to see Michael Sinclair raise the 12 Flag. I thought Sinclair would be big enough of a name to raise the flag on alumni day (the home opener) the past couple of years but I guess not. His presence at the stadium today brought back great memories of him, Cortez Kennedy, and Chad Brown along the defensive line in the late 1990’s… One more home game next week before the long 8 month break before the 2016 preseason. Unless of course the Seahawks somehow get to host the NFC Championship Game for the third straight year.

What’s Next: The number one game in my #10for10 series will be published on Christmas Eve. Look out for my preview of next week’s game against the St. Louis Rams on Saturday morning. I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas. Go Seahawks!

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

Review: Seahawks 39, Steelers 30

29 Nov
steelers review 2015

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Last week the Seahawks were fueled by rookie power. This week it was the veterans who stepped up huge. Doug Baldwin caught a career high 3 touchdowns and Jermaine Kearse added a pair of touchdown catches to help propel the Seahawks to a much-needed 39-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The win gives the Seahawks a 6-5 record, their first winning record of the season. It was great to see the Seahawks finally close out a close game in the fourth quarter after it looked like Pittsburgh would make a late charge. Here is what I took out of Sunday’s victory.

Happy Birthday Russell: On his 27th birthday Russell Wilson went out and had the best game he could have possibly asked for. Wilson completed 21 of his 30 passes for 345 yards and 5 touchdowns. The best part? He did not turn the ball over once. Seattle’s offensive line did a tremendous job protecting Wilson. It also felt like the offensive game plan was designed to help Russell out in the pocket, meaning he may not have had as many progressions on each play which is a big factor in how long Wilson holds onto the ball. Wilson was also able to do something that has not been done all season. The Seahawks trailed two separate times in the fourth quarter and we were able to score 19 points in the final frame to re-take the lead twice and hold on to it. Our offense as a whole had played their best game of the season and could provide some serious momentum moving forward.

The Good News and the Bad News: The good news is that the Seahawks finished the game +4 in the turnover department. Those four turnovers, all of which interceptions, led to three Seahawks touchdowns. As much as I want to praise the Legion of Boom for forcing these turnovers, the bad news is that the Seahawks defense gave up 480 yards through the air and 538 total yards. According to this statistical category it was the worst outing for our defense all season. A lack of a pass rush directly contributed to our defensive struggles. In my game preview I emphasized the importance of putting pressure on Ben Roethlisberger or else he would have time to make deep throws, something which he thrives on. Roethlisberger threw deep several times on Sunday including a high-arching 69-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton. I think DeShawn Shead played a decent game in place of the inactive Cary Williams and it would not surprise me to see him start in Williams’s place once again next week.

Graham’s Injury and Moving Forward: The Seahawks were dealt a huge blow in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Russell Wilson threw a 24-yard pass to the back corner of the endzone intended for Jimmy Graham. Graham fell to the ground and immediately grabbed his right knee. After the game it was reported Graham tore his right patellar tendon, an injury that will require surgery and end his 2015 season. Many people have gotten on Graham’s case for not being the offensive machine he was in New Orleans but keep in mind that entering Sunday’s game Graham led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. Luke Willson will start in Graham’s place for the rest of the season and Cooper Helfet will likely see expanded playing time. As devastating this injury is I believe it is positive to stay optimistic. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on all three drives following Graham’s injury. Perhaps with Graham out some of our offensive chemistry from last season will be rediscovered.

Thoughts on Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Steelers offense can be one of the best in the league but if they want to compete for a wild-card spot their defense must play better than they did on Sunday. Unfortunately a lot of their talent is young which may not translate to a deep playoff run. This team is good enough to make the playoffs now but I would wait a couple more years before I would consider them legitimate super bowl contenders.

Random Thoughts: I was surprised that the fog did not completely burn off this afternoon. Sitting in the 300 level, I love when it is foggy because since you cannot see any surrounding buildings it feels like the stadium is in its very own cloud… There were way too many terrible towels but only a couple around me fortunately. No incidents between Steelers and Seahawks fans in my close vicinity also so that was good… Let me talk for a minute about that Steelers fake field goal/pooch punt formation/pass which was executed horribly and intercepted by Jeremy Lane. What in the world was that?! Why are you going for a fake that early in the game? A field goal would have given the Steelers a 6-0 lead but instead it led to Seattle’s first touchdown and a 7-3 Seahawks lead. Good on Lane for not biting and staying with eligible receiver Alejandro Villanueva on the outside. Worst play call I have seen from any team all season… NBA hall of famer and former SuperSonic Spencer Haywood raised the 12 flag on Sunday. I love when they honor former Sonics because it feels like they are keeping the spirit of the Sonics franchise alive… Two huge road games coming up. Two must-wins. Minnesota’s first up.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: With the Seahawks win and losses by Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks are 3 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West.

What’s Next: Look for my preview of next week’s crucial game against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday morning.

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

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

14 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

What a way to kick off the second half of the season. There is little doubt that this game is the biggest game of our season thus far, given the opponent and the potential implications of winning or losing. In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks host the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. After two straight wins heading into the bye the Seahawks sit at 4-4. The Arizona Cardinals have jumped out of the gate to a 6-2 start and hold a two game lead on Seattle for the division lead. The all-time series with the Cardinals is tied 16-16. The Seahawks have won their last two games against Arizona including a 35-6 walloping of the Cardinals in week 16 last season to take control of the NFC West lead. The Cardinals are a tough opponent and have recent history of beating the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field so this game is certainly no gimme. Here is what I will be watching for on Sunday night.

The common narrative heading into this game has been the Seahawks lack of efficiency in the red zone so far this season. In our first 8 games the Seahawks have taken 18 drives into the red zone. Of those drives, half of them have resulted in field goals and only 5 have resulted in touchdowns. The last Seahawks red zone touchdown came on Marshawn Lynch’s one yard run in the first quarter against San Francisco two weeks ago. Our red zone touchdown percentage of 27.8 is the worst in the league. Seattle also only averages just over two visits to the red zone per game; also dead last in the league. The Seahawks need to capitalize on our trips deep into Arizona territory. Settling for field goals will make it tougher on us especially later on in the game. With the improving play of our offensive line, expect quarterback Russell Wilson to have more confidence throwing towards key red zone targets Jimmy Graham and Jermaine Kearse. If Marshawn Lynch can also get going to extend drives the Seahawks will be in fantastic shape.

The Arizona Cardinals have a very good passing game, oftentimes using three or more receivers. On defense this week for the Seahawks I am looking at what our personnel will look like when we use nickel or dime packages, and just how often will we use at least 5 guys in the secondary. Of course the Seahawks are well known for playing a “cover 3” defense but given the talent Arizona has at the receiver position it may be necessary for DeShawn Shead or Marcus Burley to play more. Playing an extra member of the Legion of Boom may work to our advantage, especially if we can confuse Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer in coverage. Forcing interceptions may be difficult this week though. Palmer has thrown over three times as many touchdowns as he has interceptions. Sacks may also come at a premium, as the Cardinals offensive line has done a great job protecting their quarterback. Arizona has surrendered only 11 sacks so far, an average of 1.4 sacks per game.

On offense the Arizona Cardinals have two of the most explosive units in football. The signing of running back Chris Johnson has propelled the Cardinals to the 9th best rushing unit in the league. My focus this week will be on Arizona’s fourth ranked passing offense led by quarterback Carson Palmer. Arizona averages 292 passing yards per game, and 66.3 percent of Palmer’s completions have been caught by the three headed monster of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd. My X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight will be on Fitzgerald this week as his role is the most interesting in my eye. Fitzgerald leads all Arizona receivers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The majority of Fitzgerald’s time however has been spent in the slot rather than on the outside. This is where a fifth Seahawks defender will come into play; to help cover Fitzgerald in the middle of the field. Fitzgerald catching passes means the Cardinals will be moving the ball in small chunks while tiring out the Seahawks defense at the same time.

Although Arizona leads the NFC West and they have good talent on the defensive side of the ball, after watching film I still consider this unit to be a “poor mans” Seahawks defense. The Cardinals are using the Seahawks blueprint to create their defense and it is working. The pass rush continues to be exceptional with Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, and Dwight Freeney. Linebacker Kevin Minter has great range as he is the second best tackler on the team and also leads all Arizona defenders in tackles for loss. What scares me the most though is the play of the Cardinals secondary. Patrick Peterson continues to be one of the best cornerbacks in football. Tyrann Mathieu is probably their most versatile defender doing everything from rushing the passer to playing in deep coverage. If there is one defender to watch it is strong safety Deone Bucannon. In his second year out of Washington State, Bucannon has gone from reserve safety to the leading tackler on the team with 56 through their first 8 games. Bucannon is a hard hitter in coverage and also displays impressing ball-hawking skills. If the Seahawks throw deep do not be surprised to hear Bucannon’s name on the broadcast.

Random Thoughts: With the aura of primetime football comes a primetime broadcast crew. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call on NBC. Michele Tafoya will report on both teams from the sideline. The Seahawks will wear all-navy and the Cardinals will likely wear white jerseys and white pants. I highly doubt we will see Arizona break out the red pants… Clete Blakeman is this week’s referee… Ah finally; primetime football after daylight savings time. It will be dark. It will be loud. It will be the most bonkers atmosphere of the 2015 season. I cannot wait… The game theme is military appreciation. 91-year old Corporal Clayton Pitre will raise the 12 flag prior to kickoff… No bars this week since I’m taking my dad. Lunch downtown then probably either Pyramid or Safeco Field for pregame beers most likely so that should be a nice little change of pace… This game is the biggest game because of the possible ramifications. A win and the Seahawks are one game behind Arizona and our hopes of a division title remain intact. A loss means we are three games behind Arizona, they will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, and we can virtually kiss our chances at a division title goodbye. We will be solely focused on a Wild-Card berth if we lose this game and I am not ready to turn my attention to the 5 or 6 seed. A loss is not acceptable.

Prediction: In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 9-0 in primetime with a combined score of 245-94. I do not expect this game to be a blowout but I also do not expect a loss at home in primetime. Russell Wilson will be sacked 4 times but will make two deep throws to set up Marshawn Lynch touchdown runs. Carson Palmer will throw for one touchdown, Chandler Catanzaro will kick a field goal and the Arizona defense will also add a safety. In the end however, Steven Hauschka will kick two fourth quarter field goals and the Seahawks will win their third straight game, improving their record to 5-4.

Seahawks 24, Cardinals 12