Tag Archives: Matt Hasselbeck

#10for10 Game #4: Beast Quake (Seahawks vs. Saints, 2010 NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

19 Nov

*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*

Marshawn Lynch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

There are many reasons why I love playoff football but one of those reasons is very unique to me. My birthday falls during the first part of January, and it has been proven possible that NFL playoff games can fall on my birthday, January 8th. It happened on my 15th birthday, a 27-20 Wild-Card loss to the St. Louis Rams. Six years later it happened again, this time on my 21st birthday. What better way to ring in my alcohol legality by enjoying Seahawks playoff football? I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach he led the Seahawks to a 7-9 record; a two game improvement from the previous season but due to an extremely weak division and a win over St. Louis in the final week of the season dubbed the “NFC West Championship,” the 2010 Seahawks became the first team in modern NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record.

10for10 79pride

Photo Credit: nfltouchdown.com

We were the 2010 NFC West champions which guaranteed us a home playoff game. Our opponent? The 11-5, defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

After a night of drinking with my then-girlfriend Lisa the night before, game day started a little on the slow side. We left her apartment in the U-District relatively early for a 1:30pm kickoff and stopped for a coffee at the international district Starbucks. We happened to run into my dad and my dad’s friend Steve at Starbucks and they graciously offered to take us out to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch before the game to celebrate my birthday. I distinctly remember that we were seated and I immediately put my hungover head down on the table to rest. After assuring the waitress that I was in no mood for a beer, I ordered fish and chips and she then brought me two glasses of water. Lunch was not particularly noteworthy, however I did excuse myself twice to answer a couple of different phone calls from family and friends wishing me a happy 21st birthday. After lunch Lisa and I headed into the stadium.

One of the disadvantages of drinking in or around the stadium is that the bars and concession workers do not accept vertical driver’s licenses. Because of this fact Lisa had to order my first legal beer inside the stadium, something that still irks me to this day but it is what it is. We ran into my friend Ned at his seats on the lower level during pregame warmups and after a brief chat we headed up to my seats. I may not have had a more epic rally in my life. In a mere 5 hours I went from hungover to “ready to party it’s game time” mode. By kickoff I physically felt great!

The Seahawks offense was introduced as 67,000 fans waved their white rally towels; a scene that still gives me goosebumps when the Seahawks give away rally towels. Walter Jones raised the 12th Man flag and as kickoff approached I prayed the Seahawks could pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. I did not expect a win to be honest, but I knew that we always have a shot to win when we play at home. The start of the game went pretty much how fans across the country thought it would. The Saints took their opening drive down into red zone and settled for a field goal. After an interception by Matt Hasselbeck (which was deflected mind you), the Saints found the endzone when Drew Brees hit fullback Heath Evans for a 1-yard touchdown pass. We were not even 9 minutes into the game and the Saints already had a 10-0 lead. Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy pulled the entire defense together after this touchdown and told them how important it was for them to stick together. It was at this point that the momentum started to shift.

The next Seahawks possession took the ball down to the New Orleans 11-yard line. On 1st and 10 Matt Hasselbeck fired a play-action pass down the seam which was caught by tight end John Carlson for a touchdown. The score cut the Saints lead to 10-7 and the energy from the fans had fully returned. The Saints would not be denied on their next possession however, leading to a short touchdown run by Julius Jones which re-gave New Orleans a 10 point lead. The next Seattle drive featured a 39-yard fade from Hasselbeck to Cameron Morrah. On the very next play Hasselbeck found an uncovered Carlson in the endzone for his second touchdown of the game. The Saints led 17-14 but it was clear the Seahawks were going to be able to be competitive, so long as they could go blow-for-blow with the most explosive offense in the league. The way New Orleans was playing on defense, we in the stands believed it was going to be possible.

After a Seahawks field goal tied the game 17-17, the Seahawks got the ball back and were driving late in the first half. With 1:23 left in the half Hasselbeck connected with wide receiver Brandon Stokley for a 45-yard touchdown. The score gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game, 24-17, and Lisa and I along with everyone else around us went crazy. It felt as if  the common narrative in the stands was “we thought we could be competitive but actually take a lead??!! I cannot believe this is happening!”

The Seahawks got the ball to start the second half and immediately extended their lead. Hasselbeck connected with Mike Williams on yet another long bomb and the Seahawks suddenly had a 31-20 lead. After a mediocre regular season and dealing with a broken wrist, Matt Hasselbeck was having the game of his life. It was his finest hour in his final home game as a Seahawk. The scoring continued on our next drive as an Olindo Mare field goal extended our lead to 34-20.

A 34-20 lead in 2015 would probably mean the end of this game but unfortunately the Legion of Boom was two or three years late to this party. Two punts led to 10 New Orleans points and with 9:16 left in the game the Seahawks lead was down to 34-30. The Seahawks punted the ball back to the Saints with 5:36 left and the Saints had to drive 94 yards to score touchdown and take the lead back. I distinctly remember the game going into a television timeout and they played a pump up video on the video screens. It was a video that synced select Seahawks players and clips of the fans screaming to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” (something that has since become a Seahawks playoff tradition for select playoff games). This fired up the 12th Man to a level that had not been seen or heard at any point during the game. With an ultra-motivated crowd the Saints did nothing on their next drive, punting the ball back to Seattle with 4:20 left to play. All the Seahawks need to do was score a touchdown to virtually seal the upset. What happened next earned this game a spot on my #10for10 list.

After running back Marshawn Lynch was stopped for no gain, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called the now-famous play, “17 Power.” Hasselbeck snapped the ball, turned around and handed to Lynch who somehow escaped 4 tackles at the line of scrimmage, and two more in the second level of the New Orleans defense. Lynch was off to the races. After shedding a fifth tackle, he delivered the nastiest stiff arm I have ever seen to Tracy Porter which launched Porter five yards backwards. It was at this point I thought Lynch could go all the way. After shedding a seventh tackle he cut it back inside and he had a clear path to the endzone. During the entire run the stands were going crazy and after Lynch stiff armed Porter I held on to Lisa on my left while grabbing at the two guys sitting in front of me. As soon as Lynch cut it back inside I knew he was going to score. I did not see him cross the goal line and I did not see him do his now-famous “hold mah dick” because I ran up the stairs on the aisle, waving my arms in exhilaration. I high-fived and hugged probably about 20 or more people and upon running back down the stairs back to my seat Lisa had a look in her eyes and an expression on her face I will never forget; a look of “you are absolutely crazy.” It was later revealed that this touchdown run was recorded as seismic activity close by the stadium and will forever be known as “Beast Quake;” the defining run of Marshawn Lynch’s career. The score gave the Seahawks a 41-30 lead and with 3:22 left in the game we all now believed we would be victorious.

10for10 holdmahdick

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The Saints were able to drive down the field and score which cut the lead to 41-36 but New Orleans could not successfully execute the following onside kick. The Seahawks ran out the clock and the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks had remarkably punched their ticket to the NFC Divisional playoffs. I remember the fans stuck around for a while after the game and as the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” blared over the sound system on repeat, Lisa and I embraced for what felt like forever. To this day this is probably my most memorable birthday ever, and there is no question it rightfully deserves a place on this countdown.

#10for10 Game #5: Romo’s Botched Snap (Seahawks vs. Cowboys, 2006 NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

12 Nov

*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*

Photo Credit: espn.com

Photo Credit: espn.com

By the time the 2006 postseason rolled around, playoff games at Qwest Field started to become a surefire thing. Add in the fact that the Seahawks had made it to the Super Bowl the year before, a trip to the 2006 NFL Playoffs was surely a guarantee. What was disappointing however, was how the Seahawks 2006 regular season played out. After winning 13 games and earning home-field advantage in 2005, the Seahawks battled injuries and lost several hard-fought games in 2006 resulting in a 9-7 record. Thanks to a very weak NFC West, we won the division title but were the 4 seed in the playoffs. The Seahawks were going to host an NFC Wild-Card playoff game and on Saturday, January 6th, 2007 we took on the 5 seeded Dallas Cowboys.

Once we clinched the division in week 16 I immediately knew who I was going to invite to this playoff game. My friend Brent had never been to an NFL football game so what could be better than making your first ever game a playoff game? We discussed our plan for game day at school every day the week leading up to the game.

Kickoff was scheduled for 5pm and Brent and I headed downtown rather early. We got down to the stadium around 12:30 and we hung out at Touchdown City in the stadium event center until the Qwest Field gates opened at 2. We were two of the first fans in line and once the gates opened we headed straight to the upper deck. It remains the earliest I had arrived at my seats for any game since I became a season ticket holder and we filled the time walking around and taking pictures. As a couple of 16-year old kids, it did not matter how early we arrived. We didn’t need to tailgate or hang out at the bars (even though we legally couldn’t). Just being inside the stadium and in the atmosphere of a building about to host playoff football, that was more than enough to the both of us.

Brent and I entered the stadium three hours early and were two of the first people in line at the gates.

Brent and I entered the stadium three hours early and were two of the first people in line at the gates.

As the sun went down, the stadium started to fill up and by the time it was dark it was time for football.

The Seahawks and Cowboys exchanged field goals in the first quarter, and after another Josh Brown field goal for the Seahawks, the Cowboys responded with a long touchdown drive culminating in a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. Dallas took a 10-6 lead into the locker room but it seemed as though an entirely different Seahawks team emerged from the halftime break. The highlight of the first half was when Romo threw over the middle to his intended receiver, superstar Terrell Owens. Owens was running a crossing route. The ball hit him right in the hands and was dropped. The crowd erupted into cheers and in our area of the stadium the chant “T.O. SUCKS” started. The cheer started to move around the stadium just like how “the wave” moves around, and within a matter of seconds all 67,000-plus fans in attendance were chanting “T.O. SUCKS” in unison. The cheer was so loud it could be clearly heard on the television broadcast.

The 12th Man had not been given one huge play to go crazy for until the third quarter. The Seahawks were driving on their opening possession of the half and had moved the ball into the red zone looking to take the lead. Matt Hasselbeck faked a handoff to Shaun Alexander and fired a pass down the middle to Jerramy Stevens. Stevens caught the pass and crossed the goal line for a touchdown. The score gave the Seahawks a 13-10 lead with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter. The fans really got fired up but that momentum was gone in a heartbeat. On the ensuing kickoff Dallas kick returner Miles Austin returned the kick 93 yards for a touchdown. The score gave the Cowboys the lead right back and just like that it was 17-13 Dallas. The fourth quarter scoring started with a Martin Gramatica field goal extending the Cowboys lead to 20-13. The Seahawks needed to orchestrate a comeback but things looked bleak when the Cowboys got the ball back inside their own 5-yard line with just over 6 and a half minutes left in regulation. This is when the game completely changed.

Romo fired a bubble screen to Terry Glenn but the ball was jarred out of his grasp by rookie cornerback Kelly Jennings and bounced into the end zone. The Seahawks looked to have recovered the ball inbounds for a touchdown but upon review it was determined that Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom had touched the ball with one foot out of bounds. Instead of a touchdown, the Seahawks were awarded a safety. The score was now 20-15 Cowboys with the Seahawks about to get the ball back again. Hasselbeck found Stevens once again for a 37-yard touchdown and even though we failed to convert the two-point conversion, the Seahawks had taken the lead back, 21-20.

It came down to one last stop. If the Seahawks could prevent the Cowboys from scoring on their final drive, the Seahawks would move on to the NFC Divisional playoffs. Our chances looked extremely grim when Dallas successfully moved the ball all the way to the Seattle one-yard line. Facing a 4th down with 1:20 left in the game, all that stood in the Cowboys way of their first playoff victory since 1996 was a chip-shot 19-yard field goal attempt. The snap was perfect and as Tony Romo moved his hands to spot the ball, the ball slipped right out of his hands. Brent and I had a crystal clear view of the entire play unfolding directly in front of us. I saw the ball slip out of his hands but in the heat of the moment, I was naïve enough for a split second to think the Cowboys had called some sort of trick play. As Romo got up flustered and tried to run the ball in it was clear this was not a trick, but a simple field goal try gone horribly wrong. As Romo ran around the left side, he was being chased by Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux tripped him up short of the line to gain and Romo fell to the ground. To me it looked as if someone had tied Romo’s shoes together and he fell on his face after trying to get up and walk.

When Romo hit the ground we went crazy. I remember jumping up and down, jostling with Brent in the process while screaming “WE’RE GOING TO THE DIVISIONALS! WE’RE GOING TO THE DIVISIONALS!” We could not believe that such a simple play could go so wrong. We were elated but the game was not yet over. The Seahawks tried to run out the clock but after a punt, enough time was left for one last play for the Cowboys. With the ball at the 50-yard line the only play the Cowboys could run was a Hail Mary. After buying some time to let his receivers get positioned in the endzone, Romo flung up a prayer but the pass was batted down. The crowd erupted into one last cheer and the Seahawks had officially punched their ticket to the next round of the playoffs.

This photo was taken seconds after the Cowboys final play of the game.

This photo was taken seconds after the Cowboys final play of the game.

The mood was complete jubilation. On the way out of the stadium we walked down the ramp, a walk that still sticks in my mind today. As we walked we joined in on a “DAL-LAS SUCKS” chant. I also happened to turn around to see the most vulgar sign I have ever seen at a sporting event; a man carrying a simple white poster board with “F**K T.O.” written in black permanent marker on it. So simple, so awesome. On the way home we listened to the post game show on 710 KIRO and all they could talk about was the final play and how the Dallas Cowboys choked so bad. For his first ever NFL game, it was a memory that was probably going to be hard for Brent to top. For me, this night still goes down as one of the best Seahawks games I have ever witnessed firsthand.

#10for10 Game #9: Monday Night Snowbowl (Packers vs. Seahawks, 2006 Season)

1 Sep

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

When I was in high school I loved it when the Seahawks played Monday and Thursday night home games. It gave me the opportunity to dress up in all my Seahawks gear and attend all my classes as “that guy;” the guy you just knew was going to the game that night. The day was Monday, November 27th. The Seahawks were hosting their second Monday Night Football game in 4 weeks and we were facing off against Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. As soon as 7:30am when I got to school I could tell it was going to be a special and memorable day. I was taking my friend Modris to the game and it was going to be his first ever NFL game in-person so I was very excited. After four 90-minute block periods of AP Language (the hardest class I ever took in high school), Band, Culinary, and U.S. History, Modris and I headed straight from school to the park and ride to catch the bus downtown.

It was very cold throughout the day. When I woke up and turned on SportsCenter they were doing a live report from Seattle and they said the game time temperature would be in the 30’s with a “chance” of snow flurries. Looking back I was probably underdressed a little but my classic look of sweatshirt-under-jersey with a knit hat kept me plenty warm. As the teams came onto the field for pregame warmups you could see a light dusting of snow falling from the sky and blanketing the field ever so slightly.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images

The snow continued to fall as the teams headed inside their locker rooms and as we got ready for pregame ceremonies something pretty amazing happened. The National Anthem was sung and the snow really started to pick up. During the anthem a 20-yard wide American flag was held at midfield. The rendition took about two minutes and afterwards the flag was removed, revealing a very noticeable green rectangle of space where the field was untouched by snowfall. The snow continued to fall for the majority of the first half. During television timeouts, the field staff pushed shovels across the field at every 5-yard line marker so we could make out where the yard lines and endzones were. It was a scene made ironically enough for Green Bay and it was only fitting that the Seahawks first ever home game played in the snow was against the Packers.

Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

Photo Credit: nwsportsbeat.com

The game itself got off to a slow start, as the Packers took a 14-12 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Seahawks however were able to capitalize on Brett Favre’s two second half interceptions. Add in 40 rushes for 201 yards by Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and two touchdown passes from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks were able to dominate the later stages of the game, ultimately pulling away for a 34-24 victory. The win gave the Seahawks a 7-4 record and we maintained control of the NFC West.

Photo Credit: mynorthwest.com

Photo Credit: mynorthwest.com

After the game it took Modris and I almost two hours to catch a bus back home. My parents picked us up and drove us home which was a challenge itself. More than 3 hours had passed since the end of the game and I was finally home safe and sound. It had snowed about 4 inches back in Bellevue and it was enough to cancel school for the next two days. This game occurred in my first season as a season ticket holder but it continues to stick in my mind as one of the more unique games I have been to over the years.

FINAL: Seahawks 34, Packers 24

#10for10 Game #10: Earl’s Coming Out Party (Chargers vs. Seahawks, 2010 Season)

11 Aug

*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*

After getting back from a scorching hot weekend and disappointing loss in Denver the previous week, I returned home for the second home game of the year and the Seahawks looked to jump out to their first 2-1 start since 2007. I met my friend Jake before the game and we had lunch at Red Robin in downtown Seattle. Unfortunately we were both 20 years old at the time so we were not able to get into the bars around the stadium and pregame like we have in recent years. After finishing our burgers we walked up the waterfront and made our way into the stadium.

At the time the San Diego Chargers were the 4-time defending AFC West champions so this was one of the more attractive games on paper at the start of the season. There was however a thought that the Chargers window of opportunity was starting to close. This was a great chance for the Seahawks to show that they could compete in the NFC West in Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach. In the first half the Seahawks proved they could compete, jumping out to a 10-0 lead at halftime which included the first career interception for rookie safety Earl Thomas. The second half however, is what gives this game a spot on this list.

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The second half started with a bang. Leon Washington returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown, giving the Seahawks a 17-0 lead. San Diego never gave up, as they took their next drive 80 yards in just over two minutes to cut the Seattle lead to 10. After sacking Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the endzone for a safety, the Chargers drove into field goal range and connected on a field goal which cut our lead to 5 heading to the 4th quarter.

The Seahawks kicked a field goal giving them a 20-12 lead but the Chargers drove right back to make things interesting. Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for a 12-yard touchdown, Rivers then completed the 2-point conversion to receiver Legedu Naanee to tie the game at 20-20. After dominating the first part of the game the Seahawks had given the game up and it looks as though San Diego had all the momentum. That momentum was taken right back on the next kickoff. Leon Washington returned the kickoff 99 yards for his second touchdown of the day, giving the Seahawks a 27-20 lead with 6:39 left in regulation. I remember my voice cracking as Leon broke away and when he started to high-step into the endzone Jake and I went absolutely nuts in the stands. With 1:38 left in the game the Chargers had one more chance to tie the game. San Diego drove the ball into the red zone but the game rested on a 4th and 15 with under a minute left to play. Rivers took the snap out of the shotgun, fired across the middle, and the pass was once again picked off by Earl Thomas at the goal line.

10for10 earl

As soon as Thomas jumped the receiver to intercept the pass I could see Pete Carroll throwing his headset off and jumping into the air to celebrate. We did the same at my seats. The Seahawks won what was arguably the most exciting home game of the season on this overcast yet muggy Sunday afternoon.

FINAL: Seahawks 27, Chargers 20

Making Memories: An NFC Championship Commentary

15 Jan

*On Sunday the Seahawks will host the NFC Championship Game for the second time in franchise history as a part of what I have dubbed “Hate Week Part III” with the San Francisco 49ers. I was in attendance at the first NFC Championship Game in 2006 and I am hoping that this week’s game against the 49ers will be just as, if not more special than the first*

Image

This was the scene on January 22nd, 2006 as the Seahawks ran out of the tunnel before the 2005 NFC Championship Game.

Pictures sure do say a thousand words, don’t they? 67,000 fans screaming at ear-damaging decibel levels while waving their white rally towels; one of the most amazing sights these eyes have ever seen and been a part of.

This Sunday the Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game in what I believe is the biggest home game in Seahawks history; even bigger than the 2005 NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.

Pick any Seahawks home game over the past 8 years and I could tell you some detail or memory about it. Every Seahawks game I attend becomes a collection of memories. Some of them are good, some of them are bad, yet every single game I have ever attended is its own unique story.

I can still distinctly remember that cloudy January day in 2006. Sports Radio 950 KJR had done a live broadcast from a pioneer square bar overnight leading all the way up to game time. I had turned the radio on in my room and at a very soft volume and I subconsciously listened to the entire overnight portion of the pregame show while I attempted to sleep. When I woke up in the morning I immediately got dressed into my gameday attire, my 2005 NFC West Champions hat, and my blue Matt Hasselbeck jersey over my white Seahawks sweatshirt. My friend Alan and I headed into downtown where after waiting for at a table at the waterfront Red Robin, we decided to instead walk down to Ivar’s for a fish n’ chips pregame meal. Following lunch we decided to head straight into the stadium and we hung out at our seats in section 302 for two hours as we watched the entire stadium fill up before the Seahawks even concluded on-field warm-ups about 25 minutes before kickoff. I was amazed how full and crazed the stadium was that early. Everybody was at their seats with plenty of time to spare and the mood was utter excitement and confidence, as if there was no doubt that we were going to walk off the field as the 2005 NFC Champions. Following the most beautiful rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” I had ever heard (performed by the beautiful and talented Carrie Underwood) Alan and I briefly sat down just before kickoff. We knew we had to charge up our lower bodies as we did not sit down for the duration of the game; a feat that has not been repeated in the 82 preseason, regular season, and postseason games I have attended since. Just before kickoff Seahawks owner Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag; the most epic sports moment I have ever been a part of.

The game went just as everyone in attendance hoped it would. Jerramy Stevens caught a touchdown pass to make the score 7-0 Seahawks and following a Lofa Tatupu interception later in the first quarter, the Seahawks had taken control of the game for good. Starting at this point the 12th Man started several “Super Bowl” chants following every score and timeout. 2 Josh Brown field goals, a Darrell Jackson touchdown catch and two touchdown runs by league MVP Shaun Alexander cemented a 34-14 win as the Seahawks punched their ticket to Super Bowl XL.

An extended postgame fireworks celebration and large quantities of blue and green confetti bathed the entire stadium as the Seahawks and the 12th Man entered full party mode. By the time the clock hit :00 no one had left the stadium and quite frankly no one wanted to. The 12th Man wanted to soak in the greatest moment in the history of Seahawks football for as long as they could. A stage was wheeled to mid-field as Terry Bradshaw of FOX presented Paul Allen, coach Mike Holmgren, Matt Hasselbeck, and Shaun Alexander with the George Halas memorial trophy, emblematic of the champions of the National Football Conference. At the end of ceremony Alexander took the trophy on a victory lap around the stadium to “show everybody” as Terry Bradshaw advised him to do. After the Seahawks left the field and headed back into the locker room Alan and I headed for the gates to head home. My friends are amazed at the selective memory I have for every Seahawks game I have ever attended but I can say with full confidence that there is no game I can remember more clearly than the 2005 NFC Championship Game.

I will be taking my Dad to this year’s NFC Championship game; an event that I am sure will be made a memory for him and me to bond over for years to come. Needless to say this will be a very special moment between the two of us, made even more special since he will not be going to New York with me to attend Super Bowl XLVIII should the Seahawks win this week. I am very excited for him to experience everything an event like the NFC Championship Game has to offer.

When we beat Carolina to get to Super Bowl XL no Seahawks fan went out of their way to make fun of or insult any Panthers fan in attendance, or to make them feel any worse that their team did not make it to the Super Bowl. I realize that our ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII will come at the expense of the one team Seahawks fans hate the most but my ultimate hope is that the same celebratory actions from 2005 repeat themselves this week. I know it would be the sweetest feeling in the world to beat the 49ers to get to the Super Bowl but that should not mean that the 12th Man should go out of their way to emotionally pummel any 49ers fans in attendance. Simply put, this is OUR moment to shine. Do not make it about them. This game and this potential victory should be made all about US by US. If we win, celebrate the win as a Seahawks victory, not a Seahawks victory AND a 49ers loss. make sure to also revel in the amazing scene that will take place following the game. This is an experience that every sports fan dreams of. To everyone lucky enough to attend the 2013 NFC Championship Game, savor every moment and even the smallest little details of your gameday experience because I promise you this will be an event that you will never forget

Saints/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

10 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (6) New Orleans Saints at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:35pm

The last time the Seattle Seahawks hosted a playoff game, Marshawn Lynch personified “Beast Mode,” Matt Hasselbeck broke a Seahawks franchise record for touchdown passes in a single playoff game, and the Seahawks won in perhaps the biggest upset in NFL Playoffs history. The opponent on that crisp January afternoon was the New Orleans Saints. On Saturday, the Seahawks hope to add the next chapter to the book of highly anticipated victories over the Saints. After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild-Card round, the Saints stamped their ticket to Seattle to play the Seahawks in an NFC Divisional playoff game. The winner of this game will play either the San Francisco 49ers or the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with New Orleans 7-6 and in their last meeting 6 weeks ago on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks annihilated the Saints 34-7 to take control of the top seed in the NFC. Although I personally believe that this is the best possible draw for the Seahawks in the Divisional round, this is NOT an automatic win by any means. This is what I will be looking for out of both teams on Saturday afternoon.

Even though Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was able to throw for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns on New Orleans back in week 13, the Saints still have the NFL’s second best pass defense, averaging 194 pass yards allowed per game. I expect to see the Seahawks come out and try to control the clock early in this game by running the ball. In their first meeting, the Seahawks ran the ball on 56% of their total plays. This week I think it is possible to see the Seahawks run the ball between 60% and 63% of their plays in order to control the clock and to keep Drew Brees and the Saints offense off the field. If Marshawn Lynch struggles early in the game I believe it would be better for the Seahawks to keep emphasizing the running game instead of panicking and having Russell Wilson throw, especially on first down. By running the ball, eating the clock by extending drives, and scoring on those drives, the Seahawks will be in good shape and the offense will be able to charge the 12th Man into staying loud when the Saints have the ball.

On defense this week the key to stopping the Saints from scoring is to do the exact same thing we did the last time we played; to make the New Orleans offense one dimensional. Stopping the run to make Drew Brees throw would be the stereotypically ideal way to minimize the Saints offensive attack but this week it is necessary to keep Brees from throwing in order to force the Saints to run the ball. I believe the Seahawks defense will be able to shut down Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram which will be extremely beneficial to the Seahawks but this is why I want to see the Seahawks prevent the Saints passing game. One stat that favors the Seahawks this week is the dramatic shift in the passing defenses Brees will face in back-to-back weeks. After facing the NFL’s worst rated passing defense last week, the Saints will face the top passing defense in the league this week. After putting up a season-low 147 yards passing against Seattle, Brees has bounced back nicely. In the final 4 weeks of the regular season and last week’s playoff game against Philadelphia, Brees has averaged 324 passing yards per game. He has also thrown 11 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions in this same span. Add the motivation of getting one more shot at the Seahawks and on paper, Brees is a weapon that the Seahawks must eliminate in order to be successful, just like they did in week 13.

New Orleans has the personnel on the offensive side of the ball to be successful. There is no questioning that. Drew Brees has the capability to make everyone around him better. In order for the Saints to be successful on offense this week, the offense needs to do something that they failed miserably at the first time around; they need to block much better. The Saints running game was a glaring weakness in week 13, as leading rusher Mark Ingram only ran for 22 yards. New Orleans only ran for 44 yards total in that game. Creating holes for Ingram to run through will keep the momentum of the game with New Orleans and the will be able to move the ball and keep the 12th Man quiet. In the passing game, the Saints will be in charge of stopping a Seahawks pass rush that will be charged up at home. There is one significant change in personnel from our last meeting to this week’s game. My X-Factor player to watch for the New Orleans Saints this week is left tackle Terron Armstead. Armstead, a rookie lineman from Arkansas- Pine Bluff, will be starting just his fourth career game this week. Armstead made his NFL starting debut in week 16 following the benching of starter Charles Brown. In his 3 previous starts, Armstead has faced the defenses of the Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Philadelphia Eagles. This week he will face arguably the toughest pass rushing group in the NFL while also playing in the league’s most hostile postseason environment. The Saints will need Armstead to step up as he faces the daunting task of protecting Drew Brees from Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin. I am also curious to see how Armstead handles the crowd noise this week, as rookie mistakes prior to the snap will put the Saints at a disadvantage trying to move the ball. If Armstead can successfully pass block for Brees, the Saints will have a much better day than they did 6 weeks ago.

A Public Service Announcement to Everyone Attending Saturday’s Game: There is a distinct difference in the stadium atmosphere between a regular season afternoon game and a regular season primetime game. There is an even greater difference in the stadium atmosphere between a regular season primetime game and a playoff game. When the Seahawks hosted the Washington Redskins in an NFC Divisional playoff game back in 2006 (2005 Super Bowl season), I distinctly remember that everyone (I mean EVERYONE) was at their seats at least 30 minutes prior to kickoff and no one in my section sat down for the duration of the game. I am hoping that the environment is the same this week. Everyone who is going, make sure to give yourself extra time to get into the stadium and in my opinion, be at your seats between 12:45pm and 1:00pm. Give 100% vocal participation when the Seahawks are on defense and wave your 12th Man flags (one of the confirmed giveaways) proudly and in unison to make a cool, spine-tingling sight. This, perhaps by default, will be the most exciting game of the season. Making sure you are early and loud will help make this game an experience that you will surely never forget.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week. My prediction is that the Saints will wear the same uniform combination they wore in Seattle last month; white jerseys and black pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews patrolling the sidelines… As a late birthday present, it would be really cool to get a picture with Erin Andrews before the game. She didn’t respond to my tweet asking for a picture though. That won’t stop me from trying… Yes, my birthday was this past week and it is awesome if the calendar lines up right to where the Seahawks play in the playoffs on my birthday. It has happened twice before, the last time coming 3 years ago when we played the Saints… Terry McAulay is this week’s referee. It is possible that we could see McAulay in 3 weeks at Super Bowl XLVIII as well. It was announced this week that one of the 4 divisional playoff referees will earn the right to referee the Super Bowl… It is a mystery as to who will raise the 12th Man flag on Saturday but I might have an idea. In two of our previous home playoff games, the Seahawks have had current members of the team raise the flag; players that were hurt at the time of the playoffs (Ken Hamlin in 2005 and Marcus Trufant in 2006). If the Seahawks decide to go that route this week, I predict that K.J. Wright will raise the 12th Man flag… Here’s a stat that may come as reassuring to Seahawks fans. In the Seahawks 6 postseason games at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks have outscored their opponents by 50 points, going 5-1 in those games. The Seahawks also hold a +1 turnover differential in those 6 postseason home games (10-9)… The pregame starts early this week. Pregaming at the Nest starts at 8:30am before heading into the stadium a couple hours before kickoff… Good thing I sit undercover. The last weather forecast I saw called for a 100% chance of rain and wind gusts of up to 25 miles per hour. Those conditions certainly would favor the Seahawks over a team that plays in a dome… Hopefully the Seahawks do something fun to pump the crowd up before introductions. They have played some sort of NFL Playoffs hype video in past home playoff games and they always get the crowd fired up… I will be screaming and streaming this week if you know what I mean. The Skittles might be gone but I think the NFL Playoffs calls for a new kind of touchdown celebration. Get ready #section340crew… We are one win away from the NFC Championship Game. Remember that on Saturday.

Prediction: Almost everyone in the national media has been talking this week about how the Seahawks won’t blow the Saints out just like they did last month. I agree with all their arguments but I still do not see how the Saints can come into CenturyLink Field in a playoff atmosphere and win. This game will be controlled by the Seahawks running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Percy Harvin will also be a difference maker, especially as a decoy receiver. Harvin will catch 3 passes while helping spring Golden Tate as the Seahawks leading receiver. The Seahawks defense will give up an early second half touchdown but will play a sound game overall. The Seahawks will win and they will get an extra day to rest as they wait for either San Francisco or Carolina.

Seahawks 29, Saints 17

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my Saints game review and potentially an early look at the NFC Championship Game next week. Enjoy the game everybody. We Are 12! Go Seahawks!

My Weekend in Houston

2 Oct

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*A detailed summary of my trip to Houston, Texas for the Seahawks game against the Houston Texans*

Saturday: Our flight left Seattle at 10:15 Saturday morning. After getting my Sea-Tac staple meal (Wendy’s breakfast) and enduring a long wait at the gate, I took my aisle seat in 25D and we were in the air shortly thereafter. The plane ride was full of Seahawks fans and a couple Seattle news personalities. Seahawks play-by-play man Steve Raible sat in first class and Paul Silvi of King 5 was seated about 10 rows in front of me. I’ll spare you the details of my flight, as it was, well, a flight. Pretty standard stuff. The only thing worth noting was the beverage service, as the flight attendants took about 30-40 minutes to get to our row. I joked with the guys sitting next to me that we would probably make it into Texas before we got our first round of drinks.

After we landed we took a bus to the off-site rental car facility and got our car. Let me say here that when we walked out of the airport towards the bus the Houston humidity really hit me. I hadn’t felt humid conditions like this since going to New York in the summer of 2006. The drive from the airport to our hotel in south Houston took us right past the downtown Houston skyline and shortly after passing downtown we exited the freeway and were at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza at Reliant Park. The hotel is located right off the I-610 freeway and is a 5 minute walk from what is called “Reliant Park” which includes Reliant Stadium, the Reliant Astrodome, and Reliant Arena. Last season in Arizona I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel which was located about the same distance away from University of Phoenix Stadium that the Crowne Plaza is from Reliant Stadium and I think that the Crowne Plaza was the exact opposite in all facets compared to the Renaissance:

The rooms are small, the ceiling in the bathroom was about two inches taller than my head, the ceiling above the shower was moldy, the bathroom mirror hung at breast level, meaning taller people like me have to bend down in order to see themselves in the mirror, our room faced the highway instead of the stadium, not only was there no free breakfast but there was also no complimentary coffee in the lobby in the morning, and there was only one vending machine in the entire building.

After checking-in we headed to a Buffalo Wild Wings near the campus of Rice University for the UW/Arizona game and to participate in a 12th Man rally. The restaurant was packed with Seahawks fans, thus it was standing room only and it truly felt like I was back at home. After ordering a glass of St. Arnold’s Oktoberfest (a local brew) and a few wings it came to our attention that a cameraman from Kiro 7 news was among the 12th Man faithful. He announced to the crowd that we were going live on TV in Seattle within 5 minutes so I got in prime position to be right in front of the camera. Even with a minimal warning to friends back home on Facebook, my friend Alan confirmed that I was “looking good as always” right in the middle of his TV screen. Success! At least somebody saw me on TV. After watching the Huskies knock off Arizona we picked up breakfast and beer at a local Kroger, headed back to the hotel, and called it a night. My wake-up call for Sunday morning: 7am.

Random Thought: There was a poster hanging at the bar for spicy Bloody Mary’s which included pepper flavored Absolut vodka. You read that right. PEPPER flavored vodka. As in salt and pepper. I have never heard of pepper flavored vodka before and the thought of it makes me want to gag. It must be a Texas thing.

Sunday: I struggled tremendously in getting a good night’s sleep due to the anticipation of the game and the noise from the cars driving on I-610 right next to the hotel. I woke up at 7am, showered and got dressed, bought a cup of coffee downstairs, had a muffin and was watching pregame and drinking Bud Light by 8:45am. This was the third road game I have been to where the Seahawks play in the 10am Pacific Time slot so it is really weird to be in the hotel pre-gaming with pregame shows on instead of the early games. We left the hotel and walked to the stadium at 10:15am and were inside the stadium by 11am. Our seats were in section 523 which was the fourth row of the upper deck. The seats looked straight down the Seahawks sideline so they were about halfway between the goal post and the corner of the endzone.

On the whole, Texans fans were very nice. I only had one notable moment of heckling when I was in line to use the restroom at halftime. The Seahawks were trailing 20-3 and as I was in line I heard phrases like “Seahawks suck,” “Go back to Seattle,” and “who the hell is ‘Hansman?!” in reference to the customized Seahawks jersey I was wearing. The Texans fans around me were also very knowledgeable about their team. The lady who sat behind me was a Texans season ticket holder and she admired the fact that I was a Seahawks season ticket holder who was dedicated enough to travel to see them play on the road. She was the most realist fan I have ever met. Before the game she explained the feeling the Texans fan base has for certain players. As the game wore on she became less and less willing to talk and after the game I politely told her “maybe we’ll see you guys again in February [for the Super Bowl].” She hostilely and angrily replied “no we won’t. Not the way we played today” and walked away.

Random Thought: A lot of Texans fans do not like Matt Schaub. That was evident after the game when a handful of Texans fans burned his jersey in the parking lot. They do not have faith in his decision making at all and they think it’s time that the Texans move on from both Schaub and head coach Gary Kubiak, who they believe is a package deal; they feel you have to get rid of both of them or neither of them. It reminded me of the last couple years of the Matt Hasselbeck era in Seattle. The feeling with Hasselbeck seemed to be “we like you, you got us to the next level, but you’re past your prime and you make terrible in-game decisions now. It’s time to part ways.”

At the end of the game I went absolutely crazy. We stuck around at the seats to watch the Seahawks celebrate on the field and to wait until most of the Texans fans had left. We walked down the ramps of Reliant Stadium (which were a similar set-up to the ramps at CenturyLink Field) with a large group of Texans fans and they were all visibly frustrated. Nothing negative was said in our direction but it was a very hostile feeling. Myself, my dad, and the two other guys we went with couldn’t shake our feeling of amazement and disbelief; we couldn’t believe what had just taken place inside that building.

After the game we went out to dinner to a Mexican restaurant called Pappasitos Cantina and celebrated with a couple rounds of cervezas. If you are ever in Houston, I highly recommend going to Pappasitos and trying the chicken and beef fajitas. They were the best fajitas I have ever had. The meat was juicy and the onions, Pico de Gallo, and beans added flavor that I had never experienced at a Mexican restaurant before. After watching the San Diego Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys (to the delight of the Texans fans at the restaurant) we walked back to the hotel to relax and to see the highlights of the Seahawks/Texans game, something that we were hoping to see during halftime of the afternoon games but didn’t.

During the first part of Sunday Night Football I went for a walk around Reliant Stadium one more time to bask in the glory of seeing the Seahawks win live on the road for the first time since 2007. Upon my arrival back to the hotel, I somehow stayed awake for the rest of Sunday Night Football and shortly thereafter, I crashed. What a day.

Monday: I made up for the lack of sleep I had got the night before, as I slept in later than I had planned. After getting ready for the day we checked out of the hotel and headed for downtown Houston, where we would spend our afternoon before heading back to the airport to come home. We were contemplating different ideas on how to spend our Monday afternoon. A small road trip to the Gulf of Mexico, touring NASA headquarters, and touring Minute Maid Park (home of MLB’s Houston Astros) were among our ideas but we did not do any of these which was too bad.

After walking around the downtown core we ate lunch at Tejas Bar and Grill and drove over to Minute Maid Park to walk around the stadium. Even though we did not tour the stadium you could still see into the stadium from the outside. One cool thing about Minute Maid Park was that they incorporated a previous standing building on the property into the stadium; much like how the San Diego Padres incorporated the Western Metal Supply Co. building in left field of Petco Park. The left field plaza was an old train station terminal building that they turned into a waiting lobby, the Astros team store, and a restaurant. Afterwards we headed back to the airport to fly home. From the end of the game to our arrival back home, I still could not believe that I witnessed one of the greatest comeback victories in Seahawks history.

All in all, Houston is a city that I would only visit again in special circumstances such as Super Bowl LI in February 2017. It was a fun trip and I was glad that I was able to come home happy.