Tag Archives: Malcolm Smith

#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.

Advertisements

Patriots/Seahawks Preview (Super Bowl XLIX)

29 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: New England Patriots (AFC Champion) vs. Seattle Seahawks (NFC Champion)

Site: University of Phoenix Stadium (Glendale, Arizona)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

After the miraculous sequence of events in the NFC Championship Game, the question must be asked; are the 2014 Seattle Seahawks a team of destiny? A win this week will absolutely answer that question with a resounding ‘yes.’ The two-time defending NFC Champion Seahawks face off against the AFC Champion New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. With a win, it will mark the 9th time in NFL history a team has repeated as world champions and the first since the 2003-2004 Patriots. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 8-8. Their last meeting has re-emerged in the media in recent days as preparation for Super Bowl XLIX continues. In that October 2012 meeting, Seattle erased a 13 point fourth quarter deficit and came back to beat the Patriots 24-23. That game arguably launched the future success of this entire team, as the Seahawks have posted a 38-11 record since. This game is perhaps more well known for the postgame episode between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in which Brady told Sherman and Earl Thomas to see his after the game (when New England won). The Seahawks instead walked off the field victorious and shortly after the game Sherman posted a picture of him loud-mouthing Brady postgame with the caption “You Mad Bro.” A lot has changed since that rainy fall day two seasons ago. Here is what I will be looking for in Super Bowl XLIX.

Russell Wilson: Last week the Seahawks offense shied away from the read-option until late in the game, which is when our offense had the most success. In regards to the read-option I have the same mindset this week that I did before Super Bowl XLVIII. This is the last game of the season and regardless if we win or lose we are going home no matter what. Why not completely open up the playbook and let Russell Wilson run free? Wilson has rushed for over 50 yards in six games this season. The Seahawks are 4-2 in those games, losing the two games by a combined 6 points. The Seahawks have not played a game this season where Russell Wilson keeping the ball is a top offensive priority so I do not expect the Seahawks to use a lot of read-option in the first part of this game. If the Seahawks get off to a slow start it would not surprise me to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell call more read-option plays rather than be patient to see if we can work out our potential offensive problems.

Offensive Matchup to Watch: RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Patriots DT Vince Wilfork. In reality the matchup I really want to see is Beast Mode against the entire New England defensive line but of all Patriots defenders I think Wilfork could give Lynch the hardest time. Wilfork leads all Patriots interior linemen in tackles with 47 on the season and his ability to penetrate the offensive line is uncanny. He may not show up in the stat sheet regularly but his ability to overpower the offensive guard forces the opponents running game to the outside. Lynch thrives off of being able to run through the middle of the field and gain yards after contact. Running to the outside could be the most effective strategy for the Seahawks to pick up yards on the ground. Wilfork could be the reason why we see the Seahawks use both Lynch and Russell Wilson in the running game on the outside.

Defensive Matchup to Watch: SS Kam Chancellor vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. The only Seattle defender that could possibly cover New England tight end Rob Gronkowski one-on-one is Chancellor. I believe the possibility of Chancellor delivering one of his signature “Bam Bam” hits to Gronkowski would be worth the price of admission. I want to see two things out of the Seahawks defense this week. The first is an expanded “big nickel” package. With Gronkowski mostly playing in the slot, I want to see Chancellor line up at nickel corner instead of Jeremy Lane or Tharold Simon and for the Seahawks to bring reserve safety DeShawn Shead on as an extra safety playing in Chancellor’s normal spot. This would give the Seahawks a 4-2-5 defensive look which will allow the Seahawks to rush four defensive linemen while also adding an extra blanket of coverage on Gronkowski. The second thing I want to see is something that we have struggled to do in the playoffs; put pressure on the quarterback. Tom Brady is a pure pocket passer who does not tend to scramble. The Seahawks need to use the likes of O’Brien Schofield, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith in interior blitz packages to overwhelm Brady. If the Seahawks can sack Brady three times and hold Gronkowski to limited catches the Seahawks will have put themselves in a great position to win this game.

Patriots X-Factor Player(s) to Watch: All the talk this week in regards to the New England running game is how the Seahawks are going to be able to corral running back LeGarrette Blount. What’s to say Blount is even the feature back on Sunday? The Patriots have several weapons on the ground at their disposal and that is where I put my X-Factor spotlight for Super Bowl XLIX; on running backs Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been known to be very hot-and-cold when it comes to which personnel to use. Gray, Vereen, and Bolden have combined for 842 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. I believe Vereen would give the Seahawks the most trouble out of these three as he plays the most versatile game. Blount, Gray, and Bolden are all physical runners that I believe the Seahawks defense would have an easier time containing. For as good of a game Blount had in the AFC Championship Game I believe there is a good possibility we will not see Blount as the primary running back and instead we could see one of New England’s three other backs.

Comparisons to the 2013 Broncos: Many of my friends have asked me how the 2014 Patriots compare to the 2013 Broncos whom we beat in last year’s Super Bowl. Here is my quick take on this subject. On offense no team is going to be much better than last year’s Broncos, who set records left and right. Historically, the 2013 Denver Broncos are the best offensive unit in NFL history so this year’s Patriots are obviously not as good as the offense we faced last year. I do believe however that this year’s Patriots defense is better than last year’s Broncos defense, which is why this Super Bowl will be a tougher game for the Seahawks to win. Last year the Broncos allowed an average of 24.9 points per game while the 2014 Patriots are only allowing an average of 19.5 points per game. Since New England has the better defense, I have to say that I believe that overall the 2014 Patriots are a better team as a whole than the 2013 Broncos.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are the designated home team in this year’s Super Bowl so we will be wearing our navy blue home jerseys this week. We will likely wear our navy pants and I would be stunned if we wear white or wolf grey pants. The Patriots will wear their white jerseys and navy blue pants; the first time they have worn that combination in a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XXXIX… Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya have the call for NBC this week. NBC will broadcast 5 hours of pregame coverage starting at 10am Sunday morning… Bill Vinovich is the referee for Super Bowl XLIX, his first. Vinovich officiated one Seahawks game in 2014; our 24-14 win over Philadelphia in December… For the first time ever the Seahawks are playing in a Super Bowl in a warm climate. I cannot wait to get my sunburn on down in Phoenix this weekend. It will be nice to escape the 50 degree weather and the rain for a few days and be able to walk down the street in a t-shirt and shorts in the evening… Two words to describe the price of ticket prices for this year’s Super Bowl: holy cow. If you don’t have an idea, go check StubHub right now… I am staying two miles away from University of Phoenix Stadium so I will likely just walk to the game on Sunday. That will be a nice change from taking two trains to and from New Jersey last year and getting back to Manhattan after 2am… I hope the weather does not cooperate on Sunday. Bad weather would force stadium officials to close the stadium’s roof. The current plan is for the roof to stay open for the game but inclement weather would force them to keep the roof closed. That would be a significant advantage for the Seahawks. I would like the building to be as loud as possible… Last season in New York the 12th Man made a lot of noise at MetLife Stadium. It makes me wonder how the 12’s will travel this year since the Super Bowl is being played closer to home. Phoenix is significantly closer to Seattle than the New England area so I would not be surprised to see the overwhelming majority to be Seahawks fans. I think more Seahawks fans will be at this game than last year’s game… With a win the Seahawks would become the 13th NFL franchise to win multiple Super Bowls. The teams we would tie with 2 championships would be the Broncos, Dolphins, Colts, and Ravens… Last year in New York I met/got pictures with no celebrities which was a disappointment. This year I have to see and meet celebrities. I would honestly settle for just one picture with someone famous… I do not think we can start “dynasty” talk if we win this game just yet, but knocking off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back Super Bowls would be unbelievable.

Prediction: The game balls will be properly inflated.

Oh you wanted a game prediction! Okay here it goes…

This will absolutely NOT be a 43-8 shellacking like last season however that doesn’t mean the Seahawks will lose this time around. The Seahawks defense will hold the Patriots offense to under 300 total yards and Tom Brady will fail to throw for a touchdown for the first time in his Super Bowl career. Marshawn Lynch will run for 85 yards and a touchdown while Russell Wilson throws a touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Lynch will win Super Bowl MVP and the Seahawks will head back to Seattle with their second Lombardi Trophy in as many seasons.

Seahawks 23, Patriots 13

I will be back from Arizona Tuesday night. Check back late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning for my Super Bowl XLIX review. Enjoy the game everyone and to those lucky enough to attend, enjoy this moment because you do not know when this opportunity will present itself again. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/49ers Preview

26 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

For the fourth time in team history and the first time since 2008, the 12th Man is rewarded with the ultimate Thanksgiving trifecta; family, food, and Seahawks football. This week the Seahawks travel to the Silicon Valley to play the San Francisco 49ers in the third game of the NFL Thanksgiving tripleheader. This will be the first time the Seahawks play at the 49ers new home, Levi’s Stadium and they hope that a change of scenery in the Bay Area will bring us good luck. The Seahawks have lost 5 straight road games against the 49ers. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 16-15 and their last meeting has gone down as one of the greatest games in Seahawks history. To refresh your memory Seattle beat San Francisco 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, culminating in “The Tip;” Richard Sherman’s tipped pass intended for Michael Crabtree which was intercepted by Malcolm Smith which sealed the win for Seattle and sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII and an eventual world championship. Many people thought that the Seahawks and 49ers would be fighting for the NFC West title once again this season but right now this matchup will likely determine who has a leg up on securing just a wild-card playoff berth. The winner will also keep their chances of winning the division alive while the loser will be at a huge disadvantage for the rest of the season. Here is what I will be looking for on Thursday.

Just like last week I believe that the Seahawks may struggle to move the ball and score points. With Max Unger out another week and James Carpenter’s status at left guard up in the air the Seahawks offensive line may struggle once again to protect quarterback Russell Wilson, especially since we are playing on the road against a quality San Francisco pass defense. This week the Seahawks may need to get creative to move the ball. A heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch will be necessary and I would like to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell let Wilson run in a similar manner which parallels how they used him in the running game against Arizona last week. In the passing game I will have my eyes on Jermaine Kearse. I believe that Wilson may try to open things up on the outside and Kearse may be his primary read due to Kearse’s height advantage on San Francisco cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver.

I have full confidence that the Seahawks defense can stop 49ers running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. There are two main things our defense needs to do this week. The first is to spread out, putting pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pocket but not allowing him to scramble to pick up big chunks of yards. The best way to do this may be to dial up more nickel and dime plays and send slot corner Jeremy Lane among over members of the secondary on blitzes. We haven’t see a lot of this so far in the season if at all, so to throw something at the San Francisco offense they have not seen on film may confuse them, giving us an advantage. The second thing the Seahawks defense needs to do is protect the middle of the field on possible intermediate and long third down conversion attempts. We were unable to get a sample of this last week with Drew Stanton at quarterback and after watching film we may see Kaepernick try to throw short passes near the first down marker unless we can put ample pressure on him to force bad throws. The Seahawks have struggled on stopping third down conversions on the road throughout the season.

One other thing I want to see this week is on special teams. I want to see solid coverage on kickoffs to not allow the 49ers to start their offensive drives with great field position. Last week the Seahawks started a lot of their drives with great field position and it may have made the difference between us kicking 4 field goals and having to punt. We cannot let the 49ers have a short field to work with because they will take advantage by moving the ball just enough to score some kind of points much like we were able to do on Sunday. Fundamental tackling will be more important and more of a focus this week than any other week.

Three seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers had the best defense in the league; a defense that did not allow a rushing touchdown through their first 15 games of the 2011 season. It was a defense that no team wanted to face. In the three years since, a lot of talent has come and gone but the 49ers still sport enough talent on defense to be one of the better units in the NFL. Aldon Smith continues to be one of the scariest pass rushers in football and defensive lineman Ray McDonald and linebacker Ahmad Brooks add veteran stability to the front seven. This week however I put a focus on the young, emerging talent of the 49ers defense. My X-Factor player to watch this week for San Francisco is rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland. Borland, from the University of Wisconsin, was a player that I wanted to see the Seahawks select in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft. With a season-ending injury to perennial all-pro Patrick Willis, Borland has gotten his opportunity to start and has made the most of it, compiling 71 tackles, a pair of interceptions, and an NFC defensive player of the week honor two weeks ago. In the 5 games since Willis’s injury, Borland has averaged almost 13 tackles per game. Borland is a ball hawk who will be in on almost every play especially in the running game. His awareness and ability to understand how a play is going to develop makes him a very scary weapon for the 49ers. Do not be surprised to hear Borland’s name on the television broadcast several times on Thursday night.

Random Thoughts: Earlier this week I tweeted to the Seahawks if this would be a #WolfGreyThanksgiving. I did not hear back and as of now it is unclear whether the Seahawks will wear white or wolf grey jerseys this week. With 3 more road games and one more opportunity to wear wolf grey, that gives us a 33 percent chance of wearing our alternates this week. The 49ers will wear their traditional look of red jerseys and gold pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC with Michele Tafoya reporting from the sidelines… I have no confirmation but I am hearing there is a strong possibility the referee for this week’s game is Tony Corrente… It’s disappointing that the Seahawks don’t get the chance to host this game. It would have been an incredible experience to move our family’s Thanksgiving dinner up to the early afternoon (or me skip it altogether), head down to the stadium and go to a game on a day where the entire country practically shuts down. That is the nice thing about the third Thanksgiving game the NFL added back in 2006. It gives other teams and cities other than Detroit and Dallas the opportunity to host a game on Thanksgiving. Hopefully one year in the not-so-distant future CenturyLink Field and the Seahawks get to host a game on Thanksgiving… Here are a couple of random Thanksgiving thoughts for the week. When it comes to turkey, dark meat is superior to white meat. Dark meat is moist and more flavorful. It is a shame that the majority of any given turkey is white meat and dark meat comes at a premium. Anybody who disagrees and has a valid argument as to why can comment or find me on Twitter @EricHansman… Stove Top is also my stuffing of choice. I know that is a topic of argument that I know I will not win… The good news and the bad news: The good news is that after this game we will have 10 days off to get ready for Philadelphia. The bad news is that we play this game, our biggest rival with a lot at stake on 4 days rest. If we can somehow come away with this win I believe our chances of making the playoffs exponentially skyrocket.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: We are now at the point in the season where fans need to be aware of the Seahawks playoff chances and the playoff chances of the teams around us. It is finally time for me to fire up my weekly playoff outlook!

The Seahawks currently sit 2 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The winner of this game will gain a half game on Arizona while the loser will fall to 2 ½ games behind the Cardinals and will likely be competing for a wild-card playoff spot for the duration of the regular season. In my eyes, 2 of the other 4 NFC divisions will come down to two teams each. One of those teams will win the division while the other will be in the fight for a wild-card berth. Including Seattle and San Francisco, that means I believe 4 teams will be fighting for 2 wild-card spots. Here are this week’s games that have NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

THURSDAY

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4)

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3)

SUNDAY

Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)

New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3)

Prediction: Prepare to have your hearts broken 12th Man. The Seahawks will field a punt deep in their own territory with 3:30 left in the game holding a 13-6 lead. On first down Russell Wilson will roll to the right and throw a pass that is tipped up into the air. The pass will fall incomplete. Marshawn Lynch will take the second down handoff for a gain of 4 yards and San Francisco will call their final timeout. Wilson’s third down pass attempt will be batted down at the line of scrimmage. Instead of possibly getting the clock down to the two-minute warning, the Seahawks will punt and the 49ers will have roughly 3:00 to go 75 yards. A long Colin Kaepernick scramble deep into Seahawks territory will get the ball into the redzone and Kaepernick will scramble one more time for a touchdown with 25 seconds left to play. The Seahawks will lose yet another game thanks to the terrible play calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and the team will head back to Seattle 7-5. I hope I am wrong.

49ers 14, Seahawks 13

Check back late Thursday night or early Friday morning for my game review. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!

Review: Chiefs 24, Seahawks 20

16 Nov
Photo Credit: kcchiefs.com

Photo Credit: kcchiefs.com

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. This is one of those classic Seahawks losses where we could have won, and the inability to convert on offense or make a stop on defense when we absolutely needed to the most cost us at the most inopportune times. The Seahawks started the most important stretch of the season on the wrong foot, losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 24-20 on Sunday afternoon. The Seahawks fall to 6-4 on the season and currently sit in 3rd place in the NFC West. The Chiefs improve to 7-3 and are now tied for first place in the AFC West. This week I am breaking my review down into three main parts: an offensive review, a defensive review, and a mild rant on a subject that I feel must be addressed.

Offense: The Seahawks offense played well enough to win this game. We moved the ball efficiently but we were unable to score points when we absolutely needed to. The Seahawks finished the day with 372 total yards, outgaining the Chiefs by 74 yards. This included 204 rushing yards primarily from Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson who combined for 195 of those rushing yards. What number sticks out to me the most is the yardage we gained on non-scoring drives. The Seahawks had 5 drives which resulted in either punts or turnovers on downs. On those 5 drives we moved the ball for 119 yards which to me seemed like an exceptionally high number for coming away with no points. The offensive line did a good job creating room for Lynch to run and Beast Mode did a very good job of picking up yards after contact once again. The offensive line however failed to protect Russell Wilson on passing downs late in the game resulting in two second half sacks, which made it very difficult to convert late in the game.

Defense: Whenever the Seahawks offense was able to put points on the board and take any momentum away from the Chiefs, our defense allowed Kansas City to take that momentum right back by allowing scoring drives. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before we could not keep going blow for blow with the Chiefs. I do not know if the loss of Brandon Mebane was the only reason why Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had such a productive day on the ground, but it certainly did not help not having Mebane out there. I give a lot of credit to the Kansas City offensive line creating ample room for Charles and Knile Davis to run. I also applaud Charles’ running style, who I believe is the closest player to challenge Marshawn Lynch’s physicality when it comes to footwork and willingness to lower the boom to earn extra yards.

Alex Smith is the kind of conservative quarterback that will not throw interceptions unless he is facing intense pressure. Absent was the pass rush throughout the majority of Sunday’s game and as a result, we did not force Smith to throw any interceptions (even though we recovered two fumbles, winning the turnover battle 2-0).

I believe that the Seahawks defense is a broken unit plain and simple; a hollow shell of the 2013 record-setting defense. Injuries do not help and even though we had Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith back this week they did not have as big of an impact that I would consider to be normal contributions. Next week we will likely get Bobby Wagner back at middle linebacker but if we cannot stop the run moving forward we will be in big trouble.

Darrell Bevell: If it is not one thing that frustrates me about Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, it is another. In my game preview I called Bevell out. I did not want to see him try to outsmart the Kansas City defense and I wanted to see him keep his first down play-calling conservative by establishing the run. For the most part that is exactly what Seattle did, running the ball 61 percent of the time on first down (19/31). In this game it was not the first down play calling that has me hot, but two play calls on two separate fourth down plays that I believe cost us easy points and ultimately the game.

The first play came with 7:08 left in the game. On 4th and goal from the 2-yard line, Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson ran crossing routes and Russell Wilson tried to hit Baldwin on a fade to the corner of the endzone. Wilson overthrew Baldwin, who was slightly pushed off of his route, and the Seahawks turned the ball over on downs. Two plays earlier the Seahawks had the ball 2nd and goal from the 4-yard line and elected to throw to Baldwin, then run the ball with Marshawn Lynch on 3rd down, then threw that fade to Baldwin on 4th down. With the way we had run the ball all day long with the ball that close to the endzone, why on Earth would you not try to punch the ball in with Lynch three consecutive times?! Instead Bevell got cute and it cost us a touchdown.

The second play call came with 3:31 left in the game with the Seahawks facing a 4th and 1 from the Kansas City 36-yard line. This time around the call did go to Lynch but he was stopped short of the line to gain, and the Seahawks once again turned the ball over on downs. The Seahawks lined up with three receivers to the right. I think a screen to Jermaine Kearse should have been the call, as we had shown we could be successful on screen passes earlier in the game.

Two botched play calls, zero points, and a loss.

I understand that in crunch time if a play is successful the offensive coordinator is touted as a genius and if it fails he is widely criticized. This season however I feel like whatever play Bevell dials up in these situations, me along with the majority of Seahawks fans would have called the complete opposite play, regardless of whether we convert or not. Frankly I am absolutely sick and tired of Bevell’s play-calling in high pressure situations. I hope that Bevell is in a position to be interviewed and accept a head coaching job somewhere come seasons end. Whether he is offered a new job elsewhere or he is fired, I do not want him on this staff in 2015. Overreaction or not, I believe it is time for the Seahawks to move on from Darrell Bevell.

Thoughts on Kansas City: Make no mistake this is a very good Kansas City Chiefs team. I believe you can make the argument that this team is better than the Chiefs team that went 11-5 last season. The Chiefs pass defense is as good, if not better, as advertised however the run defense needs some work. The run defense could be the difference between the Chiefs earning a wild-card berth and them challenging the Denver Broncos for the AFC West title. On offense, as long as Jamaal Charles can stay healthy this team will continue to control the momentum of their games, will put points on the board, and win. Alex Smith has only thrown 4 interceptions this season and his interception number will remain low as long as their offensive line can continue to adequately protect him. I believe this Chiefs team will make the playoffs and if their core players can avoid the injury bug this team could make a push deep into January.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the white jersey/blue pants uniform combination this week, the first time they have worn said combo in a meaningful game since Super Bowl XLVIII… I had brief discussions with a friend of mine at the beginning of the season about maybe traveling to Kansas City for this game. Good thing we didn’t make the investment. Not because we lost, but because of the weather. Sitting outdoors for over 3 hours in 19 degree weather is not my idea of a good time. Hopefully I am able to make a trip to Arrowhead Stadium in the not-so-distant future… Chiefs fans are loud. That was evident on the broadcast but the Seahawks did a good job of handling the crowd noise… The Seahawks are now 5-21 all-time playing at Arrowhead. Ugh… Seahawks tight end Tony Moeaki has one catch so far this season; a 1-yard touchdown catch today. It’s funny yet cool that his one catch was a touchdown scored against his former team… There were two things that needed to happen for the Seahawks to be within one-game of the NFC West lead by the end of Sunday. Those two things were a Seahawks win over the Chiefs and an Arizona Cardinals loss to the Detroit Lions. Neither of those things happened. Instead of being one game out of first place the Seahawks now sit 3 games back of Arizona with the Cardinals coming to town next week. From where I am sitting with the remaining schedule the Seahawks have it is highly unlikely we will be able to challenge Arizona for the division title. A loss to the Cardinals next week puts us 4 games out of first place with 5 games left, making our shot at the division title borderline impossible. We NEED a win next week no doubt about it.

I will be back on next Saturday when I preview next Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chiefs Preview

15 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs

Site: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

42-21. This is the combined record of the remaining 7 opponents on the Seahawks schedule. The next seven weeks will be an all-out bloodbath and if the Seahawks can survive they will likely be playoff bound, perhaps even as the NFC West champions. This week starts arguably the toughest stretch of the rest of the season; 3 out of our next 4 games will be played away from CenturyLink Field. It starts this week in front of one of the toughest crowds in all of sports. The Seahawks head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on their former division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks are 6-3 and are coming off an impressive 38-17 win over the New York Giants. The Chiefs are red hot coming into this week, sitting at 6-3 having won their last 4 games in a row. Kansas City leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 32-18. The Seahawks have not beaten the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium since 1999. In their last meeting the eventual AFC West champion Chiefs came into Seattle and beat the Seahawks 42-24 in 2010. Here are my thoughts and what I will be looking for in this game.

This week on offense I ask one simple favor of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Please do not overthink your play calls in order to outsmart the defense. Too many times this season the Seahawks have passed the ball on first down, tried to run the ball on second down, and set themselves up for third and moderate or third and long, oftentimes resulting in fourth down and a change in possession. Personally I get very frustrated when this happens. Call me conservative but when you have weapons on the ground like Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson there should be no reason not to establish the run on first down. I believe controlling the clock and the tempo of the game via the running game is crucial this week. Specifically I would like to see the Seahawks continue to call designed runs for Wilson. Opposing defenses have been burned on Wilson quarterback keepers and bootlegs the past few weeks. The Seahawks have averaged 10 first half points in their road games this season but in their last 2 games on the road they have failed to score a touchdown. Having Wilson as a threat on the ground could translate into early game points, something that could make the difference between the Seahawks winning and losing this game. Last week the Seahawks broke the franchise record for rushing yards in a single game. I believe that if we can rush for at least 175 yards this week, we can come away victorious.

The Seahawks are getting healthier on defense this week with the return of safety Kam Chancellor. Unfortunately we take two steps back along the defensive line as starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is lost for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring. This week on defense I believe the most important position group to watch is the linebackers, mainly because of the quarterback they will be facing. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been known to be a very conservative pocket passer. Even dating back to his days in San Francisco, Smith will rarely take shots down the field for large chunks of yards. With Malcolm Smith returning from injury this week, our linebacker corps is bolstered but I will have my eye on how Alex Smith plays the middle of the field patrolled by K.J. Wright and rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis who will make his first career start this week at outside linebacker. Keep an eye on the potential matchup between Wright and Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, who has played a big role in the Chiefs offense in recent weeks. We must make sure we tackle well and not give Smith room to make easy completions.

There is one last thing the Seahawks offense must take into account. Does the number 142.2 mean anything to you? That is the new Guinness world record for “loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium” which was once again broken last month by Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium. This week for the first time in a very long time, crowd noise could play a significant factor in the effectiveness of the Seahawks offense. Seattle has played in loud environments in the Russell Wilson era and we have done an exceptional job of handling the noise. If the Seahawks have several pre-snap procedure penalties this week, this could be a very long and frustrating game.

Believe it or not, the Kansas City Chiefs currently sport the best pass defense in the NFL, allowing an average of only 205 passing yards per game. The Seahawks offensive line will have their hands full with defensive end Justin Houston but I am afraid that the intense pressure from the Kansas City front seven will force Russell Wilson into bad throws. This could give the Chiefs secondary great opportunities to make plays and force turnovers. My X-Factor player to watch for Kansas City this week is cornerback Sean Smith. Smith is in the middle of his second season with the Chiefs and this season he leads all Kansas City cornerbacks in passes defensed with 10. He also has one of only 4 Chiefs interceptions on the year. Smith will likely face a lot of Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson on the outside, as he matches up better with them being 6-foot-3. The stats may not be there, but after watching film the Chiefs have a very underrated ball-hawking secondary on the whole. If the pass rush steps up and flusters Wilson, they will likely be given every opportunity to make game altering plays.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have one more opportunity to wear wolf grey this season and there is a 25% chance it will happen this week. However since we wore wolf grey in our last road game my guess is that we will wear white this week. The Chiefs will likely wear white pants with their red jerseys… Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and Tony Siragusa have the call for FOX this week… Bill Leavy is the referee this week and that really makes me mad. Leavy has already officiated one Seahawks game this season, our 30-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys 5 weeks ago. There were some pretty questionable calls in that game. That scares me for what could be in store this week… The game time temperature in Kansas City is supposed to be in the high 20’s or low 30’s. Good thing we had that cold front come through Seattle this week. I’m glad the Seahawks prepared for the cold by practicing outside… I need a win in fantasy football this week. I believe a win would lock me into the playoffs. Among the guys in my starting lineup is Doug Baldwin. I would not mind a Baldwin touchdown at all this week (obviously)… I am glad the city of Seattle gets Lions/Cardinals in the 1pm time slot this week. I may have to skip RedZone in the afternoon so I can watch that game in its entirety… We need this win. A big load will be taken off of this team and the 12th Man if we can come away victorious. Add a Seahawks win with a Cardinals loss and that sets up the biggest game of the season next week at CenturyLink Field. Hopefully we can make it happen.

Prediction: I get this feeling watching the Seahawks play on the road that we have a 50/50 shot at coming away with the win. This week the individual matchups are in our favor from a physical perspective but I am not sold that the Seahawks can play a complete game. Although I think we will score a touchdown in the first half I think our offense will struggle early. With the Seahawks battling the crowd noise and both teams battling the cold I could see this being a relatively low scoring game. At the end of the day, the Chiefs will hold a 3 point lead and will be able to hold the Seahawks without points on their final drive of the game. The Chiefs will win and the Seahawks will fall to 6-4 (fingers crossed I am wrong).

Chiefs 20, Seahawks 17

Check back on Sunday night as I review this week’s game. Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 30, Raiders 24

2 Nov
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Usually when the Seahawks score 30 points in a game I am thrilled. It usually means we played a very sound game and should mean that we won fairly easily. Why is it then that I feel so shortchanged and worried? The Seahawks have yet to put together a complete victory and today they showed improvement in areas and showed regression in others. The Seahawks defeated the Oakland Raiders 30-24 on Sunday in a game that I believe should not have been as close as the final score indicates. Regardless, the Seahawks improve to 5-3 on the season, taking over sole possession of second place in the NFC West. With today’s loss the Raiders fall to 0-8. Here is the good and the bad that I took out of this week’s game.

Running Game Improves: Today offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell gave running back Marshawn Lynch a hefty dose of the ball and it paid dividends in controlling time of possession and making the difference on the scoreboard. Lynch ran the ball 21 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, his most productive game on the ground since week 3. Behind an offensive line missing two starters, Lynch did a great job finding running lanes and gaining yards after contact. What I also liked was the play calling which got Lynch, Robert Turbin, and Christine Michael involved on early downs. Russell Wilson handed the ball off to his running back on first down 48% of the time, a significant improvement from the past few weeks.

Wilson Still Having Trouble Making Throws: For the second straight week, Russell Wilson struggled to connect with receivers on throws he has proved he can make. Today, among the incomplete passes that stick out in my mind, he overthrew wide receiver Jermaine Kearse multiple times and also failed to hit tight end Luke Willson on a play-action shotgun pass which would have picked up a first down and significant yards after the catch. Perhaps today the weather played a factor in Wilson’s performance but against a defense like Oakland’s a 179-yard performance with no touchdowns or interceptions feels very unsatisfactory. This season Wilson has had only four 200-yard passing games and of those, he has only thrown for over 300 yards once. It seems as though we cannot put a complete offensive game together; we can either run the ball effectively and struggle passing or vice versa. Could it be that Wilson is not yet 100 percent comfortable with his targets, particularly the rookie wide receivers? Time will tell as he become more familiar with them on a weekly basis.

Special Teams Regresses Terribly: The Seahawks special teams allowed yet another touchdown on Sunday, when Denico Autry of the Raiders blocked a Jon Ryan punt which was recovered by Oakland’s Brice Butler in the endzone for a touchdown. Given the recent struggles of the Seahawks special teams unit I pose this question: is the absence of special teams captain Heath Farwell making the difference in the poor play of this year’s squad compared to the shutdown play of last year’s unit? There are several new players in different positions on special teams which led head coach Pete Carroll to label special teams “a circus” after today’s win but Farwell was the anchor of last year’s unit. This is scary to me. The inability for the offense and defense to run away with games this season makes me think that it may be only a matter of time before these special teams mistakes cost us yet another game much like what happened in St. Louis.

Plug-and-Play Defense Survives: Today the Seahawks defense was introduced during pregame ceremonies and there were three new names to the lineup. Brock Coyle started at middle linebacker while Tharold Simon and DeShawn Shead took Byron Maxwell and Kam Chancellor’s spots respectively in the Legion of Boom. They played adequately. Among these three players Shead led the pack with 4 tackles and Coyle only recorded 2 tackles of his own. Coyle was helped out in large part by outside linebacker K.J. Wright who played a very Bobby Wagner-esque game. Wright made 13 tackles and also added a pass defensed. Bruce Irvin also started in place of Malcolm Smith and had a big impact, intercepting and returning a self-tipped Derek Carr pass to the house for a touchdown. All in all, the defense forced two Carr turnovers and survived the game despite allowing 17 points. We simply need to get healthy. I do not think it is crazy to think that if we had played any other team today we may not have come out victorious.

Thoughts on Oakland: The Oakland Raiders have potential on offense but they are not there yet. Derek Carr needs talent around him to put more points on the board. A new running attack would not hurt either, as Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are not getting any younger. On defense the Raiders need to get younger. They are too old to stay consistently healthy although the play of second-year cornerback D.J. Hayden had me pretty impressed on Sunday. The Raiders will likely bring in a new head coach in 2015 to replace the current interim coach Tony Sparano. It seems like the Raiders are consistently rebuilding, and from where I am currently sitting, it may be a few more years before they can challenge for even a wild-card berth.

Random Thoughts: Jerseys were just like I thought for both teams. Moving on… Today Walter Jones’ 4 offensive line mates from the 2005 Super Bowl XL season raised the 12th Man Flag. It was great to see Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, and Sean Locklear back in Seattle all together. Personally I believe Hutchinson should get a turn to raise the flag by himself in the future. Also, I am assuming Locklear retired because he was in attendance today. How is that possible? He was a rookie in 2005, and even though he is currently 33 years old I think he could still be of service to a desperate team seeking offensive line depth. I guess that just goes to show you how short NFL careers are… I loved the Marysville-Pilchuck High School logo on the Seahawks touchdown flags and the moment of silence was nice also… The Ring of Honor ceremony for Walter Jones was awesome. Those navy blue blazers worn by all the Ring of Honor members look pretty good. Jones seemed to get more emotional for the ROH ceremony than he did for his jersey retirement 4 years ago… Another home game next week. I’m already looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading everyone. Check back next Saturday as I preview our week 10 matchup against the New York Giants. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

25 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 19, Panthers 17

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