Tag Archives: Miami Dolphins

Review: Panthers 31, Seahawks 24

17 Jan
Jonathan Stewart

Photo Credit: NFL.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/Falcons Preview

9 Nov
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Site: Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Georgia)

Kickoff: 10:00am

On January 13th in the NFC Divisional playoffs, the Seahawks erased a 27-7 deficit and with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, the Seahawks held a 28-27 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. If they had held Atlanta it would have been the biggest comeback in franchise history and would have carried the Seahawks to the NFC Championship Game. Key words: would have. The Seahawks could not protect 35 yards in less than 30 seconds and the Falcons kicked a game winning field goal to win the game and end Seattle’s season.

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

On Sunday, the Seahawks return to the Georgia Dome to face a 2-6 Falcons team that has arguably been the NFL’s most disappointing team of the 2013 season. The Seahawks are 8-1 and are looking to maintain their NFC West lead and while the Falcons have not mailed their season in just yet, they are looking to play spoiler and try to build some sort or momentum into the weeks ahead. Seattle leads the all-time series with Atlanta 8-6. Here is what you need to watch for this week against the Falcons.

Last week at home the Seahawks patchwork offensive line did not allow a sack of quarterback Russell Wilson but the pressure provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense did flush him out of the pocket on many plays. Two weeks ago against the Rams, Wilson was sacked 7 times. That game was on the road and parallels what Wilson and the offensive line faces again this week. Until Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini come back from their injuries I feel obligated to continually make the Seahawks offensive line and passing game my number one thing to watch on offense, especially in road games. After the pressure patterns that have forced Wilson out of the pocket the past couple of weeks, I believe screen passes must be a focal point of our offensive gameplan against the Falcons. Last week against Tampa Bay Doug Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers with 75 receiving yards and a touchdown. Baldwin must make a big impact again this week. Of passes caught by wide receivers last week, all but one went to three different receivers (Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse). Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters made no impact in last week’s game and I believe it will be the same story this week in Atlanta. The wild-card this week will be Golden Tate. Tate can catch screen passes while also creating room to run in the open field and he can go up and grab deep passes. If Baldwin is used short and if Kearse is targeted for moderate-length passes, it will be Tate that Atlanta should worry the most about, as he can catch any type of pass that Darrell Bevell calls.

“Roddy White? Top 100? No. I just don’t think he’s a top 100 player.” This came from cornerback Richard Sherman during NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2013” countdown during this past offseason. After Sherman’s trash talk going into last year’s Divisional playoff game and after White beat Sherman on a deep 47-yard touchdown early in that game there has been subtle tension between these two players over the past 10 months. Call it a rivalry or call it a competition, this matchup will be the one to keep an eye out for when the Seahawks are on defense. White has not played since October 7th when he injured his hamstring and he believes he will be ready to go this week. With Julio Jones out for the season, White, regardless of his health status, instantly becomes the Falcons number one wide receiver moving forward with Harry Douglas on the opposite side.

Although I suggest keeping an eye on Sherman and White, that does not mean I think that is the most important matchup for the Seahawks on defense. The secondary has done a good job shutting down receivers wide and deep the past few weeks and this week should be no different. What hurt us down the stretch of last year’s playoff game could be the same thing that gives the Seahawks defense problems this week; stopping the middle of the field and shutting down Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. If Seattle can stop the Atlanta running game to force third downs, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan likes to throw in Gonzalez’s direction in the middle of the field. A strong performance by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright could limit Gonzalez’s effectiveness and will force punts. Man-to-Man coverage and limiting separation for the Falcons wide receivers could be a big ally for the Seahawks this week. Expect a conservative passing game from Ryan this week to prevent throwing into the Legion of Boom.

One of the weaknesses of the Seattle defense over the past two weeks has been stopping the run. They’ve given up an average of 202.5 rushing yards per game over this span. That does not bode well against the Falcons as they feature two very talented, yet very different running backs; power back Steven Jackson and the speedy, agile Jacquizz Rodgers. Having said this, the Falcons rank last in the league in rushing yards per game. If the Falcons are competitive and make this a close game, I believe it will be because of Jackson and Rodgers. The difference in running styles could be a disadvantage for a Seahawks defense that tends to gravitate towards making bone-rattling hits instead of fundamental tackling. The potential absence of defense end Red Bryant could also play a factor in the effectiveness of the Falcons running game. On the other hand, the Seahawks have seen Jackson twice a year dating back to 2004 so they understand what it takes to stop him. I believe if the Falcons offense shows they can be productive in the running game early on, they will try to ride Jackson and Rodgers for most of the game. One other thing to note in the Atlanta running game is the way carries are split. In their last two games, Steven Jackson has gotten 77.4 percent of the carries while Jacquizz Rodgers has gotten the remaining 22.6 percent. I think it is safe to expect a more even split-up of carries this week and the hotter hand could wind up seeing more playing time. To start the game however, expect Steven Jackson to get the first chance in the backfield and if he gets off to a cold start, they may hold off on giving Rodgers carries to try to see if they can get Jackson going later on in the first half.

The Falcons have added many new faces on defense this season and they feature an interesting mix of veteran leadership and youth in each level of the defense. According to the official Falcons depth chart on their website, their three starting linebackers have 4 years of NFL experience combined, including two rookies. It will be necessary to spotlight how the Falcons use these young linebackers when rushing the passer. Although Atlanta averages only 2 sacks per game they are facing their easiest challenge of the season as they will go up against both Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie on the left and right sides respectively. My X-Factor player to watch this week for the Falcons is rookie outside linebacker Joplo Bartu. Bartu is tied for 3rd on the team with 2.5 sacks on the season and has also recorded 42 tackles which ranks 2nd on the team. Although veteran pass rushers Osi Umenyiora and Corey Peters have been productive and cannot go unnoticed, Bartu adds a dynamic in the second level of the Atlanta defense that could give both our passing game and running game trouble. Don’t be surprised to see the Falcons use Bartu in blitz formations against Seahawks right tackle Michael Bowie. Whether he blitzes on any given play or not, the confusion that Bartu could potentially create could allow Umenyiora, Peters, or a different Falcons defensive end to beat Bowie off of the line, creating problems for Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense.

Random Thoughts: After this game 4 of our remaining 6 games are at home. I may be stating the obvious but that is a huge advantage for us moving forward… Along the same lines (sort of) I am going to one of our remaining two road games so after we play Atlanta I will only watch one more regular season Seahawks game on television… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. The last Seahawks game they broadcasted was our loss to the Indianapolis Colts in week 5. Bad omen? Maybe… Bill Vinovich is the referee this week… My prediction: white jerseys and white pants this week, the same combination we wore in Atlanta in the playoffs last season… It’s sad that Tony Gonzalez came back for one final season to a “contender” but the Falcons season has not gone as they planned. If I were him I would have asked for a trade to a contending team at the trade deadline… This is our first 10am start since losing to the Colts… Only one more 10am kickoff after this game… A win in fantasy football this week would put me at 4-6 and a playoff push could be in my future… The Falcons do something that really annoys me. Try to hear the Georgia Dome PA announcer when the Seahawks offense faces a 3rd down. The announcer says ttttttthhhhhhhhiiiiiiirrrrrrrddddddd down with increasing pitch tone, kind of like a game show announcer if you know what I mean. Hopefully we won’t face many third downs on offense… Go Panthers. Go Cowboys… Once again, here’s the bold prediction I have told my friends and I have posted on the blog before. If we beat Atlanta this week, we will win the NFC West and will be well on our way to home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Prediction: I hope you guys are back to full health after the heart attacks the Seahawks gave us last week because this week is going to be the exact same story. Over the past couple of seasons there seems to be one game per year that leaves me beyond angry; closer to pissed off. It was our 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2011 and our 24-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2012. I get a bad feeling that it could be this game this season. The Falcons will be effective in the running game and I believe we will have significant trouble stopping the Falcons offense on third down. This game will go to overtime and the Falcons will drive down the field on their first possession and score a touchdown. If the Seahawks can win the turnover battle I think we can win but I think the Falcons will find a way to pull this one out.

We have played terrible football overall the past two weeks and unfortunately this week on the road is when I think it will finally nip us in the bud. We are the better team. Unfortunately we are not completely healthy and we would definitely win this game if we were completely healthy. Of course I hope I am wrong but with the way Seattle has played the past couple of weeks you need to take a good look in the mirror if you seriously expect the Seahawks beat the Falcons easily this week, especially on the road in a hostile environment.

Falcons 26, Seahawks 20 (OT)

Check back Sunday night for my Seahawks/Falcons review and a quick look at week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. Enjoy the game and go Seahawks!

Titans/Seahawks Preview

12 Oct

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Matchup: Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

After losing their first game of the season last week the Seahawks look to bounce back in week 6 as they finish their tour of the AFC South by hosting the Tennessee Titans. The Seahawks hold a one game lead in the NFC West with a 4-1 record. The Tennessee Titans come into this game a somewhat surprising 3-2 and are one game behind the Indianapolis Colts for first place in the AFC South. Including the playoffs, the Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise 9-6. Their last meeting came in week 17 of the 2009 season. Chris Johnson broke the 2,000 yard mark on the season as the Titans defeated the Seahawks 17-13. The Seahawks finished the season 5-11 and just days after the defeat Jim Mora was fired and Pete Carroll was hired as Seahawks head coach. Here are my keys to victory and some things to look for this week.

With Max Unger likely back this week, the Seahawks will have their healthiest starting offensive line in three weeks. Given this I hope to see better pass protection of quarterback Russell Wilson which hopefully also translates into better production from Wilson. After 3 solid weeks, Wilson’s numbers slipped in his previous two games. Wilson threw for a combined 333 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in back-to-back road games in Houston and Indianapolis and last week was the first week since week 2 his completion percentage was under 50 percent in a game. Wilson also has not seemed to be as accurate so far this year as he was at the end of last season. I think the offensive line could make all the difference in the world. I expect the Seahawks passing game to get back on track this week and I would not be surprised to see Wilson throw for between 250 and 300 yards against the Titans.

This week is the first week that all of our pass rushers will play together in front of the 12th Man. This could spell disaster for Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even though the defense struggled down the stretch last week, our front 7 still sacked Andrew Luck twice and recovered a fumble on a strip-sack. I think the pass rush will play a huge factor this week and Fitzpatrick will be sacked at least four times. One thing that could affect the Seahawks on defense this week is linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner is dealing with a low grade high-ankle sprain and head coach Pete Carroll suggested that Wagner’s final game status could be determined during pregame warm-ups on Sunday. If Wagner cannot play, Heath Farwell will most likely start at middle linebacker. Wagner is the leader of the defensive huddle and he may be the most important defensive player as he relays the defensive formations to the rest of the defense. Wagner also has the second most tackles so far this season behind safety Earl Thomas. I am confident in Harwell’s ability to fill in but look for Tennessee to try to take advantage of the “weaker” middle of the field by dumping passes off to tight end Delanie Walker and primary slot receiver Kendall Wright.

The Tennessee Titans have gotten off to a rather surprising start to the 2013 season. After starting the season 3-1 they lost in two aspects last week against Kansas City Chiefs. They lost the game, and they also lost starting quarterback Jake Locker for the next 6-8 weeks with a hip injury. Without Locker, the Titans now turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick to command the offense. Ideally with a backup quarterback at the helm the offense will turn to their running back to carry the load to try to take some of the pressure on the quarterback. The Titans definitely have a running back capable of carrying the load in Chris Johnson but playing in Seattle, Johnson may be facing a long and tough day this week. The Titans will be forced to throw a lot this week especially if the Seahawks can build a lead early on in the game. On offense for Tennessee this week my X-Factor player to watch is wide receiver Justin Hunter. Hunter, a rookie from the University of Tennessee, was a player I had my eye on at this year’s combine and the time before the NFL Draft. Hunter’s height and speed to break away from defenders made him a perfect #2 wide receiver immediately in my eyes. This week he will line up across both Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner depending on the play. The Titans have a lot of wide receivers that will see playing time this week. With Kenny Britt and Nate Washington receiving most of the attention, look for Hunter to possibly make a bigger impact than expected against the Legion of Boom.

Last season Richard Sherman led all NFL cornerbacks in interceptions with 8. This year, the Titans feature a guy in their secondary that could wind up leading the league in interceptions by season’s end. Cornerback Alterraun Verner has intercepted 4 passes so far this season and I believe he has established himself as the permanent replacement to former Titan Cortland Finnegan. What is interesting about the Titans defense is that they have a handful of guys that are effective in rushing the passer and another handful of guys that are effective getting to the play and making tackles. My X-Factor player to watch on defense is a guy who falls into both of these categories, outside linebacker Zach Brown. Brown, a second year man from the University of North Carolina, has recorded a team-high 3 sacks so far this season and also ranks third on the team in tackles with 29. Brown has also forced one fumble. Watching him on film, Brown does a very good job at being the first defender to figure out what type of play the offense will run. He does a good job of getting to the ball and is has more of an impact on running plays than on passing plays. I expect Brown to rush to the right side of the Seahawks offensive line to catch J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie off guard.

Random Thoughts: This is the first home game in three weeks and the only home game in the three weeks upcoming. Talk about a bummer from a fan’s perspective but I would rather knock out the majority of our road games now so we can enjoy back-to-back home games on two separate occasions later on in the season… The Seahawks will wear blue uniforms and blue pants this week… Carl Cheffers is the referee for Sunday’s game… Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf have the call for CBS this week. They are CBS’s #2 crew, meaning they get the privilege to broadcast one playoff game each season so these guys are pretty good all things considered. Should be a good call if you’re watching from home… I’m changing up my pregame plans this week. I’ll be a bar north of the stadium, probably King Street Bar and Oven. I don’t think I’ve been there since the 2012 preseason… Oh yeah, pregaming starts at 9am sharp… I need to get more pink Seahawks stuff to wear for breast cancer awareness month. All I have is an NFL logo pink ribbon pin and a bracelet… Sunday is a 1:05 start, not a 1:25 start. I’ve stated in the past that this 20 minute difference is actually pretty significant and not as many fans are in their seats for the start of the game if it is a 1:05 start. To all the people going to this week’s game please keep this in mind. Be in your seats by 1:00pm (okay, 12:45 just to be safe).

Prediction: Last season the Seahawks lost a close game to the Miami Dolphins and responded by winning 6 straight games before losing to Atlanta in the playoffs. I think that the Titans may open up this game with an early lead but the Seahawks will regain complete control shortly thereafter. Earl Thomas will intercept a deep pass and the Seahawks defensive front seven will force two fumbles. On offense, Sidney Rice will lead the receivers in yardage with 80 and a touchdown. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will both run for touchdowns and the Seahawks will get ready for the Arizona Cardinals with a 5-1 record.

Seahawks 30, Titans 13

Check back Sunday night for a review of the Seahawks game against the Titans. I will be blogging a lot in the coming week as the Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals on a short week in week 7. Enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

Jaguars/Seahawks Preview

21 Sep

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Matchup: Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Although it is not wise to look past any game, it is understandable if most fans look past this matchup. The Seahawks host the Jacksonville Jaguars this week in a matchup that features the largest point spread in an NFL game since the New England Patriots played the Miami Dolphins in December 2007. After Seattle’s 29-3 victory over San Francisco last week, the Seahawks are 2-0 and have sole possession of first place in the NFC West. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-2 and are coming off a sloppy 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks hold the all-time advantage over the Jaguars with a 4-2 record. In their last meeting in 2009, arguably the worst season of Seahawks football I have witnessed, the Seahawks defeated Jacksonville 41-0. With this game viewed as a guaranteed win by the majority of experts and fans, here are some things to watch that are crucial in order to avoid one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.

With Russell Okung out this week, it is extremely important to make sure Russell Wilson stays healthy because pass protection could be a weakness. It has been announced that Paul McQuistan will start at left tackle for Okung this week. Taking McQuistan’s spot at left guard will be James Carpenter. I personally do not agree with the personnel along the offensive line this week because I am a strong believer that shifting players to different positions interrupts continuity. If it was my decision, I would keep McQuistan at guard and start rookie Alvin Bailey at left tackle. Nevertheless, the number one key on offense this week will be to stretch the field and score touchdowns while keeping Russell Wilson on his feet. Last week against San Francisco Wilson struggled to get the passing game going early. The best case scenario is for the Seahawks starting offense to play into the third quarter, build a three or four score lead, and pull the starters before further opportunities for them to potentially get hurt arise. Against a putrid Jacksonville defense this should not be a problem in my eyes. Also along the offensive line I am hoping the Seahawks have made great strides in trying to eliminate holding penalties, a big negative of our offense last week. Eliminating offensive penalties will allow us to score faster, and thus get the starters out of the game sooner.

I think we will see a diverse distribution of passes from Russell Wilson this week. My receivers to keep an eye on this week are Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams. I expect these two guys to see extended snaps this week because of the possibility of the starters being rested in the second half. Kearse and Williams both did not record a catch last week and the offense got off to a shaky start. By lining Kearse and Williams up and expanding the play calling, the Seahawks may be able to make more of an offensive statement early this week.

Last week the Seahawks defense held the 49ers to 3 points even without Chris Clemons and Brandon Browner. This week I expect to see more of the same against the 32nd ranked offense in the NFL. Browner has been practicing this week but will be a game time decision. In a surprising move to me, Chris Clemons will make his season debut this week. The highlighted matchup this week will be Richard Sherman vs. Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts. Sherman held Anquan Boldin to only one catch last week even though that catch did not come while Sherman was defending him. Shorts is the only noteworthy weapon on the outside for Jacksonville so do not be surprised if the Jaguars cannot get anything going in the passing game. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were effective rushing the passer last week so I am not overly worried about our pass rush this week, especially at home. My primary defensive focus this week is in the linebacker corps. Through week 2, Bobby Wagner is averaging 7.5 tackles per game, K.J. Wright is averaging 5 tackles per game, and Malcolm Smith is averaging 2.5 tackles per game. I would love to see Smith make an impact early in the game. Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne likes to throw short passes to his checkdown receivers in the middle of the field so this is a prime opportunity for the linebackers to boost their stats. A 6-8 tackle game from each of our linebackers is a prime target range this week. Our defense will be very successful if Wagner, Wright, and Smith can record tackles in this range.

Where do I start with the Jacksonville Jaguars? Their offense is averaging 5 points per game while the defense is allowing an average of 23.5 points per game. Jacksonville has not played an opponent that is considered a playoff contender so far this season. With this game being played in Seattle, it could be another long game for the road team. On offense the Jaguars may be without three of their best players. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is recovering from a hand laceration and will not start this week. Chad Henne will start at quarterback. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew injured his foot against Oakland last week and has not practiced this week. I would be very surprised if Jones-Drew plays against the Seahawks. Jordan Todman and Justin Forsett would take Jones-Drew’s carries if he cannot go this week. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon is serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. With Blackmon out, Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders will be Jacksonville’s starting wide receivers.

On defense there is only one player I put a spotlight on this week. Defensive end Jason Babin recorded 18 sacks with Philadelphia just two seasons ago. So far this season he only has one sack. Babin is by far the Jaguars best pass rusher and could make an impact with a weaker Seahawks offensive line. It may be wise for Paul McQuistan and James Carpenter to double team Babin on passing downs if he is initially effective getting to Russell Wilson.

If there is one thing to take from the Jacksonville Jaguars it is this. Head coach Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks last season. When you coach your own players and leave for other opportunities like Bradley did, your now former players possibly become available later on down the road. The Jaguars have three defensive players on their active roster that spent training camp with the Seahawks this season; players that were cut during final roster cuts at the end of August. There is no question that Bradley and Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich will be picking the brains of cornerback Will Blackmon, safety Winston Guy, and linebacker Kyle Knox for information about the Seahawks defensive packages. I do not think the Jaguars will have a significant advantage based on the information these three guys provide but you may see better adjustments than other teams would make if the Jaguars defense struggles to stop the Seahawks offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants again this week at home… Hopefully the weather will be nicer this week although the forecasts aren’t looking too promising. It’s looking like another overcast day in the low 60’s on Sunday… The referee this week is Bill Vinovich. Vinovich was the referee for the Seahawks week 16 game against San Francisco last year… Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker have the call for CBS this week. I know nothing about how good their broadcasts are… Sunday is my Dad’s birthday which will be special. I’ve never taken him to a Seahawks game on his birthday… I’m excited to get to know the people sitting next to me even better this week. Since I let my dad take my aisle seat when I take him, I’ll be next to the new season ticket holders to my left… The group next to me consists of two guys and two girls. The girl that was sitting closest to us last week was really cute, really nice, and very knowledgeable about football. Sounds like she meets my qualifications wouldn’t you say?… I hope the 12th Man can get the noise up high again this week. I remember playing St. Louis last year the week after hosting the 49ers on Sunday Night Football and the noise was nowhere near the level it was at the previous week. I know it’s the Jaguars but let’s make it just as loud for them as it was for San Francisco last week… One thing I forgot to mention in my 49ers review that I wanted to share. One of the coolest things I saw last week was on the big screen after the game. The Seahawks locker room camera showed owner Paul Allen exchange handshakes and hugs with the Seahawks players one by one as they re-entered the locker room following the game. That was really cool to see the connections and relationships between the players and the owner… I might have to bring a lot of Skittles this week. Against a weak Jaguars defense, Marshawn Lynch is primed to put up big numbers… The Seahawks haven’t started a season 3-0 since 2006. They won the NFC West that year.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will be done by the middle of the third quarter. The offense will get into a strong groove that they hope will be a solid tune-up for Houston in week 4. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse will all catch touchdown passes. The defense will sack Chad Henne 6 times and Richard Sherman will record his second interception of the season. If the San Francisco 49ers could only score 3 points against our defense last week, how on Earth could you think the Jaguars will score any points at all? The Seahawks beat the Jaguars 41-0 the last time they met. The scoreboard will mirror the scoreboard from 4 seasons ago. That’s right. For the first time ever, I am predicting a shutout.

Seahawks 41, Jaguars 0

I cannot promise my game review will be done by Sunday night, but I am not totally eliminating the chances. If not Sunday night, check back for my game review on Monday morning. Let’s go Seahawks!

OTA’s Wrap-Up: Week One

24 May

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The Seahawks finished up their first three full-squad practices of the 2013 offseason this week. Starting this week for the next four weeks the Seahawks will conduct practices throughout the week; the first three weeks being organized team activities and the final week being a mandatory minicamp. Here are some notes and thoughts from the first week of the Seahawks OTA’s.

Every member of the Seahawks was in attendance this week except for one. The one player missing was running back Marshawn Lynch. This OTA period was voluntary and Lynch exercised his right to not show up which is slightly disappointing given the fact that Lynch is one of the cornerstone pieces to our offense. Having said this, the rest of the roster was in attendance which is incredible for a voluntary camp. Coach Carroll also stated in his press conference on Monday that Lynch was present at the VMAC a couple weeks ago and that he looked to be in terrific shape. Carroll stated that Lynch would be working out in his own separate program this week. It is unclear if Lynch will be back in Seattle for next week’s practices.

The star of OTA’s this week was wide receiver Percy Harvin. According to online reports Harvin was able to blow past the Seahawks backup cornerbacks and he made a couple of spectacular catches early on in practice on Monday. The fact that Russell Wilson is throwing to Harvin early on shows a lot about the relationship between the two since Harvin was acquired from Minnesota. I will be keeping my eye on Sidney Rice throughout all of our offseason practices. I am still worried that Rice could be a salary cap casualty and will potentially be cut at the end of the preseason if the younger, cheaper receivers emerge to be deserving of roster spots. I have heard that the younger players especially rookies Chris Harper and Matt Austin looked rusty in these first practices. Nothing much about Rice’s performance in the first week of OTA’s was noted but I will be trying to get a better grasp of his performance in the coming weeks.

On the defensive side of the ball I am excited about how our depth chart will be shaped along the defensive line. Currently, defensive end Cliff Avril is out with a foot injury but he should be available to participate in training camp if not sooner. One of our two defensive tackle spots still seems to be up for grabs. Through our first three practices, I believe this defensive tackle spot is Jesse Williams’ to lose. The Seahawks drafted Williams in the 5th round last month and also have rookie Jordan Hill, Tony McDaniel, and Clinton McDonald rotating in at defensive tackle. I believe the Seahawks would like the open defensive tackle spot to be filled by someone who is a similar build to Alan Branch. Williams seems to be the best option at least to start OTA’s.

Outside linebacker will also be a position I am interested in throughout the offseason. Since the Seahawks did not draft a linebacker this year until the seventh round, this tells me that Coach Carroll and Coach Quinn have tremendous expectations for Malcolm Smith. Smith has been sitting behind Leroy Hill for two seasons and now with Hill gone, Smith is primed to step in smoothly and play right where the defense left off.

Portis Cut

The Seahawks cut quarterback Josh Portis this week after it was reported he was arrested on Cinco de Mayo for DUI. This was apparently the last straw for Coach Carroll and John Schneider. After this news was reported, another incident involving Portis came to light which made this roster cut more understandable. According to Sports Radio KJR, Portis overslept and missed both team busses on the Seahawks trip to Miami in week 12 last season. Portis showed up to the stadium only two hours before kickoff and has had a short leash with Coach Carroll ever since. His DUI arrest was the end of the line and I wouldn’t be surprised if Portis finds himself back in the Canadian Football League in 2013.

Opinion: Bruce Irvin’s Suspension

The news this week of Bruce Irvin’s four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs cannot go unnoticed. Irvin, as you may well know by now, was suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. It has been reported that Irvin tested positive for Adderall. Irvin is the sixth Seahawk to be suspended for performance enhancing drugs since the start of the 2011 season and the fourth confirmed player of these six to be suspended for the use of Adderall.

Last season Brandon Browner was suspended and Richard Sherman appealed and won his suspension for the use of Adderall. Although it did not affect the Seahawks in the standings, the loss of Browner and the near-loss of Sherman could have been an enormous blow to this team and their hopes to get to the playoffs and even to the super bowl. Every player in the Seahawks locker room should have taken last season’s events as a learning experience. It is absolutely dumbfounding to me how Bruce Irvin could be so stupid to take a drug that was the cause of his teammates suspension last season and just assume he would not get caught. Instead of learning from his teammates mistakes, Irvin rolled the dice hoping he could take the drug and pass the subsequent drug test. Instead his gamble did not pay off and he will miss the first four games of the 2013 season. I put 100 percent of the blame on Irvin. How could you display such poor judgment when you saw firsthand what happens if you get caught? The Seahawks need to get this drug problem fixed because if we keep going down this same road I am afraid it will cost us in the standings sooner rather than later. Get educated. Know the rules. And know the protocol to getting drug use approved if you truly need to take a supplement.

Next week the Seahawks will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. I will be back with a wrap-up post next weekend on week two of Seahawks OTA’s. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Thoughts on the Seahawks Defensive Signings

28 Mar
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DE Cliff Avril

The Seahawks kicked off the NFL league year with a bang by acquiring Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. I haven’t jumped on the blog since the first day of free agency but since my last post the Seahawks have made a few great signings. The Seahawks were clearly on a mission to improve our pass rush and our defensive line through free agency and that is exactly what they have done so far. Here are some brief thoughts on Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Tony McDaniel.

I love the signing of Cliff Avril the most of any of our signings. Avril hit the open market as one of the top pass rushers available and we were able to sign him for two years and only $15 million. Last season Avril turned down a contract extension offered by the Detroit Lions which would have paid him $10 million a year. These numbers made it hard to believe that the Seahawks would be in play for any veteran defensive ends such as Avril, John Abraham, and Dwight Freeney, among others because of the money I thought they would be asking for. Signing Avril for $8.5 million a year is a bargain in my opinion and a signing that set the market for the rest of defensive end free agent group. Avril and Bruce Irvin will battle for the starting defensive end spot while Chris Clemons is rehabbing his torn ACL. I think Irvin is expected to be the starter but no matter whom is the starter both Irvin and Avril will make significant contributions to the Seahawks pass rush this season.

After the Avril signing I figured we had found a replacement for Clemons and that our shopping for defensive ends was over. I was wrong. The Seahawks then went out and signed Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Bennett to a one-year $5 million contract. Bennett was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2009 but was released at the trading deadline of that season. Tampa Bay picked him up and he had a solid impact with the Buccaneers from 2009-2012 recording 15 sacks; 9 of which came last season. Over the past few days it has come to light that the reason the Seahawks were able to sign Bennett to such a cheap deal is because he played with a torn rotator cuff last season. According to Seahawks general manager John Schneider, surgery is not on the table for the time being and it is not required for Bennett to play in 2013. Although a defensive end, I think the Seahawks may want to try to use him as an interior pass rusher, similarly to Jason Jones who left in free agency to the Detroit Lions. I consider Bennett to be Jones’s replacement.

Today it was announced the Seahawks signed former Miami defensive tackle Tony McDaniel to a one-year contract. McDaniel is a 6-7, 305 pound run stuffer who was an undrafted free agent in 2006. I think this signing means the Seahawks will not attempt to re-sign Alan Branch who is a similar physical build to McDaniel.

If the season were to start today, I predict that the starting defensive line will consist of Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, and Cliff Avril. Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett, and Chris Clemons when healthy will all be used on passing downs, giving the Seahawks four or five exceptional pass rushers on the field at the same time. I am a fan of all of these moves, especially since their contracts are not huge hits to the salary cap and they still give us the freedom to go out and make other signings. Before the signing of McDaniel, the Seahawks had $6.8 worth of salary cap space according to ProFootballTalk.