Tag Archives: Mike Tirico

Lions/Seahawks Preview

4 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

For the second time this season and the first time at home, the Seahawks welcome the primetime lights to CenturyLink Field. This week the Seahawks welcome ESPN Monday Night Football to the Emerald City for our week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions. After our win last week the Seahawks are 1-2. The Detroit Lions won 11 games a year ago but have gotten off to a very rocky start in 2015. They have stumbled out to a 0-3 record and coming out to Seattle will be no easy task. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Detroit 7-5 but in their last meeting in 2012 the Lions got the best of the Seahawks, beating us 28-24 at Ford Field. The Seahawks are also 8-0 in regular season primetime games at CenturyLink Field under Pete Carroll, winning those games by an average of 18.5 points. Here are my points of emphasis going into this week’s game.

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is battling a hamstring injury and reports earlier in the week indicate he has a 50/50 chance of playing. As great as it would be to see him active this week, I believe we can win without him. If he is inactive it will be important for quarterback Russell Wilson to get everyone involved. Giving Detroit a taste of their own medicine may be the best way to go about attacking their defense, making them play nickel and even dime coverage. Doug Baldwin could be a major beneficiary in the short passing game this week and I think we are well off using both Jermaine Kearse and Jimmy Graham in the intermediate and deep passing game on the outside. I believe getting off to a fast start and early lead will go a very long way in preserving a Seahawks victory. Detroit’s offense becomes very predictable if their opponent takes an early lead. Detroit hung tight in two of their first three games; week 1 in San Diego, and last week at home against Denver. In those two games combined, the Lions ran a very even balance of plays on first down, throwing on 55 percent of their first down opportunities. In their second game of the season, a 26-16 loss in which they were never really in the game, the Lions threw the ball on first down 90 percent of the time. An early lead for Seattle will likely force the Lions to completely abandon the run.

There are three things the Seahawks defense must do against this potentially powerful Lions offense. First, they must take away the edges, keeping plays in the middle of the field.  Detroit has added a lot of speed both at running back and wide receiver and the majority of their large chunks of yards come outside the numbers. The second thing Seattle must do is a no brainer, successfully cover Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson will line up across from Richard Sherman and even though Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has shied away from throwing the one-on-one jump ball up to Johnson, it may be in our best interest to shadow Johnson with double coverage. It would not surprise me to see defensive coordinator Kris Richard use K.J. Wright to drop back in coverage to help Sherman cover Johnson. The third thing we must do could go a long way in forcing turnovers. Have you ever heard of the phrase “you cannot make chicken salad out of chicken s—t?” After watching film of each of the Lions first three games, this phrase basically sums up Matthew Stafford in a nutshell. His 5 interceptions so far this season are tied for 2nd in the league. If Stafford feels pressure and tries to scramble, the chances of him throwing interceptions are great because instead of smartly throwing the ball away he tries to make something happen. It would be wise to dial up all sorts of pressure packages to try to confuse Detroit’s rather inexperienced offensive line. I cannot emphasize this enough. If we can successfully penetrate the Lions offensive line regularly it will go a long way in winning the turnover battle.

Since Matthew Stafford was drafted in 2009 the Lions have been known to be an extremely pass-heavy offense. Detroit will use packages including 3 or even 4 wide receivers and/or multiple tight ends. On the outside they will use Golden Tate in the quick passing game and tight end Eric Ebron gives them another weapon between the hashes. This year however they have made strides in balancing their offense out. After struggling to stop Bears running back Matt Forte early on last week I have doubts on whether or not the Seahawks will be able to contain the run again on Monday night. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Detroit Lions this week is their rookie running back Ameer Abdullah. Regardless of the fact that running back Joique Bell has already been ruled out this week, there is no question in my mind Bell’s presence is a complete waste of a roster spot. Abdullah is Detroit’s best option at running back. His quickness and ability to bounce runs to the outside make him difficult to stop. His burst at the line of scrimmage is also scary as his speed and size allow him to gain extra yards after contact rather easily. Abdullah is also Detroit’s kick returner so it will be important for Steven Hauschka to kick the ball deep or out of the endzone to eliminate the possibility of Abdullah giving the Lions good starting field position. The best way for the Lions offense to be effective will be to keep the tempo up. If they can keep the Seahawks defense on the field and tire them out the Lions will have a chance to stay in this game.

After three weeks there are still questions regarding the Seattle offensive line. If Detroit wants to make an impact on defense they must be able to put pressure on Russell Wilson. They are fully equipped to do so. Even though they lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency they still have two very talented pass rushing ends in Jason Jones and Ziggy Ansah. They also added defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to take Suh’s spot on the interior line. This week may also mark the return of leading tackler DeAndre Levy at outside linebacker. Levy has been out all season with a hip strain. He is a ball hawk who will make plays in coverage. The secondary is led by safety Glover Quin who led the NFL in interceptions in 2014. His two interceptions so far this season also puts him tied for the lead in picks in 2015. Much like forcing Matthew Stafford into turnovers is a key for the Seattle defense, the exact same can be said for the Detroit defense. I believe the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game.

Random Thoughts: Nothing special as far as uniforms go this week. Seattle will go all College Navy and the Lions will wear white tops with silver pants… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN with Lisa Salters reporting from the sidelines… The referee this week will be Tony Corrente… Even though ratings for Monday Night Football have dropped since ESPN took over the broadcast in 2006, MNF is still a very special game to attend. It is the only game of the day and they entire nation is tuned in. This will be the 8th and a half Monday Night Football game I attend live. If you’re wondering what “and a half” means, I could attend only the second half of a Monday Night game against St. Louis in 2011 because I had a final exam to take at the University of Washington. My professor would not let me reschedule so I missed Doug Baldwin block a punt for a touchdown, the only exciting highlight of that game… A pregame lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings before the game will certainly be fun… This week I am taking my friend Josh to the game. He has gone to a game with me every year since 2007. I note his presence because of the games we have attended the past two years. Since the beginning of 2013 the Seahawks have a 19-2 record at home. Our two losses in this span were to Arizona in 2013 and Dallas in 2014. I took Josh to both of those games. He has certainly been Mr. Unlucky over the past couple of years. I’m confident we will turn this run of misfortune around this season!

Prediction: I said the team that wins the turnover battle will win this game. The Seahawks will intercept Matthew Stafford three times which will lead to three separate scores. The Seahawks will finally play a satisfying first half and by halftime the game will have already been won. Russell Wilson will throw two touchdowns and Fred Jackson will also run one in from the redzone. The Seahawks will get to 2-2 and get ready for Cincinnati in week 5.

Seahawks 27, Lions 13

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Seahawks/Redskins Preview

2 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Site: FedExField (Landover, Maryland)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

After a two week break the Seahawks are back for the extended stretch run of the season, consisting of 13 straight games. The Seahawks conclude the first quarter of their season on Monday Night Football as they head across the country to face the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks are 2-1 and are coming off a nail-biting 26-20 overtime win over the Denver Broncos on September 21st. The Redskins, who will be playing this game on 11 days rest, are 1-3 and are coming off an ugly 45-14 loss at home to the New York Giants last week. Washington leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 11-7. Their last meeting came in the 2012 playoffs with the Seahawks defeating a banged up Robert Griffin III led Redskins team 24-14. With Griffin hurt and out for the foreseeable future this time around, the Seahawks and specifically the Legion of Boom will face Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for the very first time as a starter. Here is what I will be looking for from section 125 at FedExField on Monday night.

This week I want to see two things out of the Seahawks offense. First, I want to see as close to an evenly balanced attack as possible which in turn hopefully leads to being able to control time of possession. The Seahawks may be a top-5 rushing offense but Marshawn Lynch’s 36 rushing yards in our last road game will not cut it this week. It may be a challenge on the ground this week as the Redskins have allowed an average of only 87 rushing yards per game, 7th best in the NFL. If we can get Lynch going early and control the tempo of the game we will be much better off. We were unable to do all of that against San Diego and Russell Wilson was ultimately unable to carry the team on his shoulders. My target production for Beast Mode in this game is 90-95 yards. If Lynch can achieve this number with Robert Turbin helping out as well, the offense will be in good hands. Given the production of Ricardo Lockette thus far in the season, it would not surprise me to see the inexperienced Redskins secondary overlook the starters. With Percy Harvin as a threat all over the field, Russell Wilson may look to Doug Baldwin to carry more of the load this week. Do not be surprised if Baldwin leads all Seahawks receivers in targets. Secondly, I want to see a turnover-free performance. The Seahawks have only turned the ball over three times this season, one coming in each game. They have done a very good job of protecting the football and if the Seahawks turn it over multiple times the Redskins have the potential to turn those turnovers into points. I think the Seahawks can afford to turn the ball over once and be fine but this week I am calling for a turnover-free performance in all phases of the game. Like head coach Pete Carroll preaches “it’s all about the ball” and if the Seahawks put up a 0 in the turnover category this week, we will almost certainly win this game.

The defensive game plan should be fairly simple this week; Put pressure on Kirk Cousins and force him to make bad decisions in the passing game. The Legion of Boom must have been licking their chops watching Cousins throw 4 interceptions against an average Giants defense last week. There is no reason to believe that cannot happen again if the Seahawks front seven does an adequate job of penetrating the Redskins offensive line to get to Cousins. While Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will have their hands full with Redskins tackles Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus, it is Williams, Polumbus, and the rest of the Washington offensive line that will need to create holes for running back Alfred Morris. Morris has averaged 4.4 yards per carry so far this year, however the 63 yards he gained last week is a season low. The Redskins would be wise to watch film of the Seahawks loss in San Diego. An effective running attack will tire the Seahawks defense and if Washington faces third and short situations Morris is a dangerous threat to move the chains. If the Seahawks can stop Morris at the line of scrimmage, force Cousins to throw, and force turnovers the Redskins offense will be no match on this Monday night.

The Washington Redskins defense boasts some of the better talent in the NFL but right now the Redskins are paper thin at the cornerback position. After starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall tore his Achilles earlier in the year, members of the Washington secondary are filling in at positions they do not normally play. My X-Factor player to watch on the Washington defense this week is David Amerson, one of the Redskins two starting cornerbacks. Last week Amerson recorded 8 tackles and after watching film I believe the reason why he had so many tackles was because the Giants threw in his direction more than any other member of the Washington secondary. On the passing plays where Amerson made the tackle, the Redskins gave up an average of 10.3 yards per play. The Seahawks could be very effective in the short and intermediate passing game this week and if Amerson’s play does not improve the Seahawks could dink and dunk down the field all night long.

Random Thoughts: I have it on good authority from a source within the locker room that the Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week. To my knowledge I do not know which color pants the Seahawks will wear. The Redskins will likely wear gold pants with their maroon home jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week with Lisa Salters covering the sidelines. In addition to ESPN, the game will also be broadcast locally on KONG (Channel 6) for those without cable, and WatchESPN.com for those without a television… Jeff Triplette is the referee this week. The last Seahawk game Triplette officiated was week 17 last season against St. Louis… I am sitting in the lower bowl of FedExField so hopefully my face will make it on some sort of media platform. I would love to get on ESPN if they show visiting fans in the stadium… This will be the latest game I have ever attended. Kickoff in D.C. is slated for 8:30pm. The latest start time for a Seahawks game I have been to was the Super Bowl last season which started at 6:30pm local time… In addition to the game I am really interested to take in the sights that Washington D.C. has to offer. I have 3 full days to sightsee before the game on Monday and I know 3 days will not be enough time to see everything. It will be a hectic few days but I cannot wait… I have no idea how ruthless Redskins fans are or can be. As a fan of the defending Super Bowl champions I will probably be walking around with a proud pep in my step so we’ll see how I am welcomed… This will be the 11th Seahawks game I attend on the road. My personal win-loss record seeing the Seahawks on the road is 3-7 but I went 2-1 last season including Super Bowl XLVIII… One last thought. I feel like I should address this because we are playing the Washington Redskins this week. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not the term “Redskins” is a racial slur and if the team name should be changed. Here are my brief thoughts on this topic. I really don’t have an opinion on if “Redskins” is a racial slur and I don’t really care whether or not they eventually decide to change the team’s name. Here is what I know. As a blogger I try to write and report as accurately as possible including using the correct terminology of whatever I am writing about. I have chosen to include the team’s name throughout this preview because whether I like the name or not the fact of the matter is “Redskins” is the team name of the franchise. As far as I am concerned my opinion of this issue is irrelevant. Plain and simple, they are the Washington Redskins and as someone who is going to write accurately, I will continue to address the team as such.

Prediction: This game could start one of two ways. I think the Seahawks could put together a fast scoring drive to start the game or it may take a few series to effectively move the ball and put points on the board. Russell Wilson will throw for 225 yards and a touchdown but it will be Marshawn Lynch that leads our offense. Lynch will run for over 100 yards and add a touchdown of his own. On the defensive side of the ball Richard Sherman will record his first interception of the season sometime in the second half. Kirk Cousins will play a better game than last week but his effort will not be enough. The Seahawks will go to 3-1 on the season and I will be flying home on Tuesday night a happy man.

Seahawks 24, Redskins 13

Next week will be a busy week on the blog. Look for my Redskins review hopefully late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning once I get home. Also I will chronicle my entire trip to Washington D.C. in a detailed post which I hope to have published late next week.

Thanks for reading peeps! Go Hawks!

Saints/Seahawks Preview

1 Dec
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:40pm

The Seahawks kick off the final five games of the 2013 regular season this week on Monday Night Football as they host the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks are 10-1 and currently hold a one game lead on the top seed in the NFC playoff race. Enter the 9-2 Saints, who are the ones that trail the Seahawks in the NFC standings. The winner of this game will have the edge for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. The all-time series between these two teams is tied 6-6. Their last meeting came in a 2010 NFC Wild-Card playoff game when the 7-9 Seahawks upset New Orleans 41-36. Of course the iconic moment of this game was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run late in the fourth quarter that essentially cemented the Seahawks with the victory. There is a lot on this line this week and a nationally televised audience will witness one of the more highly anticipated games of the second half of the season. Here is what I will be looking for out of both the Seahawks and Saints in this game.

I start with the Seahawks defense because we will be without a key starter in the secondary. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has been suspended 4 games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy thus he will not play this week. Byron Maxwell will start and Jeremy Lane will also see playing time opposite of Richard Sherman. The main key on defense this week is to play smart and to not give up big, game-altering plays. Facing an elite quarterback such as Drew Brees, it will be likely that the Saints offense will try to stretch the field and with younger players filling in in the secondary, the chances of coverage’s being blown could be greater than if Thurmond or Brandon Browner were playing. In order to prevent Brees from having time to make deep throws our pass rush needs to have one of their best games of the season. The Saints offensive line ranks 5th in the NFL in sacks allowed so it will be necessary to send various blitz packages to confuse New Orleans and to force Brees into sacks and bad decisions. I have full confidence in Lane and Maxwell to step up and play well but their matchups this week are not favorable, especially after having a long break following the bye week.

After scoring 41 points against Minnesota two weeks ago, the Seahawks offense is primed to breakout starting on Monday night. It all starts with the running game. If the Seahawks can get Marshawn Lynch going early, control the ball, and control the clock, the Seahawks will be well on their way to a victory. The problem is that Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is one of the best coaches in the game and he will certainly be orchestrating a gameplan that will put a focus on stopping the Seahawks running game. It will be very important for the Seahawks offensive line to protect Russell Wilson so he can utilize all of the weapons around him, especially since wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play due to a hip injury. Golden Tate will be Wilson’s go-to guy this week and Jermaine Kearse could also make a big impact this week. Keep your eye out for those two playmakers to get the ball in their hands often this week.

The New Orleans Saints boast one of the league’s most dominant offensive units. They are good because of a two-headed monster; the interchangeable and underrated running game featuring running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and the powerful passing game led by quarterback Drew Brees. Brees is 353 yards away from becoming the first quarterback to throw for 4,000 this season. The Saints passing game ranks second in the league overall and it will be the primary emphasis for the Seahawks defense this week. After studying the Saints on film I took away an interesting statistic. In the “first 15” (the first 15 plays previously scripted for an offense to run) the Saints threw the ball at nearly a 2:1 ratio, more than any other team the Seahawks have played so far this season. Drew Brees is known for picking apart the weaknesses of opposing defenses and he does an excellent job doing so, which is why I believe he will try to throw to wide receiver Kenny Stills often this week since Stills will line up opposite of either Byron Maxwell or Jeremy Lane. There is also a big matchup to watch in the middle of the field, literally. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is Brees’ favorite receiver and it takes multiple players to bring Graham down. Look for Kam Chancellor to shadow Graham on passing plays, as Chancellor is the biggest defender in the third level of the Seahawks defense.

The Saints dominant offense has been around for a long time but it is the Saints defense that has helped turn the team into an elite power. The Saints defense ranks in the top half of the league in both passing yards allowed (3rd) and rushing yards allowed (15th). When looking at the Saints defensive stat sheet there is one column that worries me greatly this week: the Saints do an incredible job of rushing the passer. The intimidating pass rush threat could force Russell Wilson into bad throws this week. Wilson must know where cornerback Keenan Lewis is lined up on the field, as Lewis leads New Orleans defenders in interceptions with 3. In regards to the Saints pass rush, 14 different players have recorded sacks this season and 7 of those players have recorded 2.5 sacks or more. Cameron Jordan leads all Saints defenders in sacks with 9.5 but my X-Factor player to watch this week is linebacker Junior Galette. Galette has 6 sacks so far on the season and has forced one fumble. Galette is New Orleans’s Bruce Irvin; a pass rush specialist who sees most of his playing time in third down situations. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can move the ball effectively in early down situations Galette could become a non-factor much like how he was against Atlanta last Thursday night.

There are two other added elements to keep your eye on this week. The first of which is the weather. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the mid to low 30’s and the last forecast I saw calls for a 40 percent chance of snow showers. The last time the Seahawks played a primetime game in the snow was in 2006 and the Seahawks were able to run for 235 yards in that game against the Green Bay Packers. Although it is unlikely, if snow becomes a factor this week I give the edge to the Seahawks, as the Saints do a better job stopping the pass than the run. The other thing to keep an eye on this week is the noise factor. I always emphasize that the 12th Man seems to have a bigger impact in primetime games and this week the intensity inside CenturyLink Field will definitely be higher. To make matters better, the 12th Man will be attempting to regain their status as the world’s loudest fans as they try to once again break the Guinness World Record for “loudest roar at a sports stadium” as was announced earlier in the week. Bad weather and noise could be the ultimate recipe for the Saints to struggle so the Seahawks must take advantage of these circumstances.

Random Thoughts: The blue jersey/blue pants combination will be seen once again this week. I expect the Saints to wear black pants with their white jerseys… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN this week… It would be cool to try to get a picture with the ESPN pregame crew consisting of Stuart Scott, Trent Dilfer, Steve Young, and Ray Lewis. I tried to get a picture with Bob Costas back in 2011 when Sunday Night Football came to town but I failed… Expect to see an iconic Seattle sports figure raise the 12th Man Flag. It has become customary for a well-known Seattle icon to raise the flag before bigger games… Ray Dalton will sing the national anthem before the game. I guess he’s taking a break from the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis world tour… One of the coolest things to see at a primetime Seahawks game is when the video board says “ESPN, can you hear us?” If you’re going to the game on Monday night you should know what to do when you see this… The giveaway this week is roller banners that say “LOUDER” along with a Seahawks beanie. Can I get a rally towel one time Seahawks?!?! I guess they are saving towels for our home playoff games… Ed Hochuli is the referee this week. In my opinion Hochuli is one of the best referees in the NFL. He does a really good job of explaining his calls… I wonder if the weather will prevent Hochuli from showing off his trademark muscles. We’ll see… It’s going to be a long pregame on Monday before the game. Good thing we’ll be down there before traffic really gets bad… I love late season primetime games because it is dark by the time kickoff rolls around… I love the cold weather, also… I’m sure a lot of memories of the last time we played the Saints are going to run through my brain on Monday. It is hard to rank that game but that playoff game is no doubt in my top 3 of sporting events I’ve ever been to.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold a one game lead on New Orleans for the number one seed in the NFC playoffs and we hold a 3 game lead on San Francisco and Arizona for first place in the NFC West. If either Arizona or San Francisco loses on Sunday, the Seahawks can clinch a playoff berth with a win. Here are the matchups to keep an eye on this week that could affect the NFC playoff race. Teams to note are bolded.

Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3)

Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1)

Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5)

St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4)

Prediction: The way I see it, if a 7-9 Seahawks team can beat Drew Brees and the Saints, a 10-1, Super Bowl contending Seahawks team can surely beat Drew Brees and the Saints. With the Saints in town and a healthy, rested Seahawks offense a lot of people may think this game will be an offensive shootout much like what happened in the playoffs three years ago. I do not believe this game will be as high scoring and both defenses will make their presence known. The Seahawks will make one or two bigger plays than New Orleans this week and that will lift Seattle to victory. Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate will score touchdowns for Seattle and linebacker K.J. Wright will intercept a Drew Brees pass in the fourth quarter that will seal the win. The Seahawks will go to 11-1 and will all but officially clinch the NFC West and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Seahawks 27, Saints 17

Following Monday night’s game will start a very busy week on the blog. Check back Tuesday morning for a review of our game against the Saints. Enjoy the game everybody. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Rams Preview

27 Oct

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Site: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)

Kickoff: 5:40pm

For the second consecutive the week the Seahawks hit the road for a nationally televised primetime game. The Seahawks share the Monday Night spotlight with the St. Louis Rams this week in the first matchup between these two teams this season. The Seahawks are 6-1 and are coming off a 34-22 win over the Arizona Cardinals in week 7. The Rams are 3-4 and not only did they lose to the Carolina Panthers last week, they also lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a torn ACL, which has ended his 2013 season. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 18-12. Their last meeting came in the final regular season game of 2012. The Seahawks struggled but persevered, beating St. Louis 20-13 to finish the 2012 season at 11-5. There are several things to think about and look for this week both on and off the field. Let’s take a look at what I am looking at in week 8.

As the weeks and wins have gone by the confidence in the locker room is as high as ever. My number one key to a victory this week is for the Seahawks to simply take this game one play at a time and not be overconfident. Before the season started I was ready to pencil in this game as a loss given the fact that it was a primetime game most likely in front of a sold out crowd in a place where we have struggled to win over the past few years against a team that could challenge for an NFC Wild-Card berth. Over the past 7 weeks these circumstances have changed dramatically and the Seahawks are now large favorites to win this game. I do not want to say this is a trap game but to show that we are a disciplined football team, we need to play just like how we played last week in Arizona; field-stretching offense, a dominating pass rush, and no turnovers.

On offense this week the buzz has been around the possibility of Percy Harvin being active and playing for the first time this season. We have invested $67 million dollars in Harvin and although he has been cleared to come back, it has been announced he will not be active against St. Louis. Realistically, I expect Harvin to make his Seahawks debut in two weeks against the Atlanta Falcons. Not only will Harvin not play but I am curious to see the role Golden Tate is able to play this week after injuring his shoulder last week. He has been practicing this week but if the injury is still nagging it could affect how Tate plays. Sidney Rice is primed to have a breakout performance this week. Rice made an impact last week catching a long touchdown from Russell Wilson. With the offense building momentum and Wilson trusting his receivers more, Rice could be Wilson’s primary deep threat should he decide to stretch the field against a St. Louis defense that gives up an average of 247 passing yards per game. An effective offensive performance may not be easy as the Rams have great talent throughout their defense and they play well at home given their 2-1 record inside the Edward Jones Dome. However they do boast the third-worst running defense in the league. Marshawn Lynch will be a focal point in our offensive gameplan and great production from Lynch will take the pressure off of Wilson and the passing game.

The St. Louis Rams offensive line has given up an average of just over 2 sacks per game. The Seahawks sacked Carson Palmer 7 times last week. It will be necessary to put large amounts of pressure on the quarterback this week because I believe after watching tape of Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens that pressure will force him into making bad throws more than your typical backup quarterback. That will be a focus of the defense this week; how to force Clemens to make bad decisions. Much like with the offense, in a game where we are heavily favored it will be crucial to play mistake-free football. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to stop the battered Rams offense this week so if we can avoid bad penalties and end drives without giving up large amounts of yardage and points we will be victorious.

The St. Louis Rams are in a big pickle on offense. With Sam Bradford out for the season with a torn ACL, Kellen Clemens will be the starting quarterback going forward. With Clemens suddenly thrown into the starting rotation it would be logical to think the Rams will want to run the ball to take the pressure off of the quarterback. The problem is that the Seahawks boast the 5th ranked run defense in the National Football League. Regardless, my X-Factor player of the Rams offense is running back Zac Stacy. Stacy has seen expanded playing time the past three weeks and has now surpassed Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead as the Rams starting running back. After two weeks gaining at least 78 yards, Stacy only gained 53 yards on 17 carries last week. His average yards per carry have also steadily decreased over the past 3 games. One thing that Stacy does extremely well is breaking tackles. It will be important for the Seahawks defense to wrap Stacy up to prevent him from gaining yards after contact; something that the Seahawks improved at greatly last week.

I do not expect the St. Louis wide receivers to have a major impact, especially first-round rookie Tavon Austin who has been a major disappointment so far this season. If Kellen Clemens plays a conservative game which I believe he will, I expect tight end Jared Cook will see the majority of the targets short and in the middle of the field.

Given the talent of the Seahawks and the worries of the Rams offense, the Rams defense has been greatly overshadowed in the days leading up to this game. St. Louis has a quite talented defense and they boast a solid mix of pass-rushing talent and good secondary play. Given the newfound confidence in Russell Wilson to stretch the field he will challenge the Rams secondary throughout the game. My defensive X-Factor player for the Rams is cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Johnson has the height of Legion of Boom cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner as well as using his body to record 31 tackles; 4th most of any St. Louis defender. Johnson also has one interception on the season. Given the height factor, expect Johnson to line up across from Sidney Rice for most of the game. If the Seahawks can avoid turning the ball over to this feisty Rams secondary and if the offensive line can protect Russell Wilson effectively we will be in good shape this week.

There is one final note that cannot go unnoticed. The Seahawks/Rams game will be taking place at the exact same time of game 5 of the World Series. What makes this even more interesting is that the Edward Jones Dome and Busch Stadium are only one mile apart. St. Louis has been known for a long time as a true “baseball city” and even when the Rams have shown the slightest bit of success not many people seem to notice or care. I have heard rumors that the Rams will struggle to fill half of the stadium’s capacity on Monday night which could turn out to be a huge advantage for the Seahawks. There is surely a large part of the greater St. Louis area that would rather watch the Cardinals play in the World Series on television then actually attend the Rams game. Not only could this negatively affect the Rams on Monday, a poor showing of Rams fans could also propel the NFL to look into the possibility of a potential relocation of the Rams to a city like Los Angeles; something that has been talked about by the league as a possibility for the past few years.

Random Thoughts: All bets are off but I expect the Seahawks to wear white jerseys this week… Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden have the call for ESPN… The referee for this week’s game is Gene Steratore… A win will solidify the Seahawks first non-losing record on the road for the first time since 2005 and it’s only October! That is pretty crazy… A win would also improve the Seahawks record against NFC rivals to 3-0 on the season… As much as I am a fan of primetime games it will be nice to get back to Sunday games starting next week… Here’s a thought from the “It’s a small world but not really” department: Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens currently wears #10 but during his stint with the Washington Redskins in 2011 he wore #1 in honor of his longtime friend Andy Collins who passed away in August of 2011. Collins wore #1 playing quarterback for Occidental College from 2004-2006. Collins was married to current Indiana Pacers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam, whose father Dave was my speech teacher at Newport High School in 2005. What a strange yet interesting link between myself and Kellen Clemens… Hopefully the Seahawks can leave St. Louis injury-free. With our entire team getting healthier as a whole each week the last thing you want to see is a giant setback that could jeopardize our progress.

Prediction: The Rams defense will show its presence early but the Seahawks will move the ball effectively shortly thereafter. The Seahawks defense will completely shut down the Rams offense and the crowd will make a minimal impact on the game. Marshawn Lynch will run for 125 yards and a touchdown and Bobby Wagner will intercept a pass and record a sack of his own in his return to the lineup. The Seahawks will head home 7-1 and will start preparations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Seahawks 31, Rams 9

Late Monday night or early Tuesday morning is when I will have my Rams preview up for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy Monday Night Football everyone. Go Hawks!

2012 Season Review: My Top Ten

17 Jan

The 37th season of Seattle Seahawks football was a very special one for me and the rest of the 12th Man. From day one of training camp on July 27th to day 177 last Sunday, we were a part of a journey that had its ups and downs and showed us how far a group of men can come and improve in such a time span. Most importantly, this Seahawks team showed what is to come next year and for many seasons following. I attended 10 of our 16 regular season games this season; 8 home games from my 2nd home in section 340 at CenturyLink Field, and spent hundreds of dollars to make sure my voice was heard and body was present in Arizona and San Francisco. Instead of chronicling our season from start to finish in a traditional season review piece that many other people will do, I have compiled my top ten moments of the 2012 season. These moments are not only the moments I witnessed first-hand but also the moments that were the most exciting and the moments that contributed in how our season was shaped. Some will agree with my list, others will disagree. Maybe you agree on the moments but not the order I have placed them in. Nevertheless these are the moments I have chosen as worthy of our top ten of the 2012 season. Let the debate begin!

#10: Washington Ties Cribbs (Seahawks at Dolphins, Week 12)

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Leon Washington made history in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks loss to the Miami Dolphins in late November. After scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, Miami kicked off to Washington with 8 minutes left in the game. Washington took Dan Carpenter’s kickoff 98 yards and into the endzone for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead. The kickoff return touchdown was Washington’s 8th in his career and that number ties Cleveland Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs for first all-time in that category in NFL history. After coming back from a devastating leg injury three years ago, Washington has re-emerged as one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Although he is getting older I fully expect Washington to play a big role on special teams next year. He has a unique burst and you could tell he was close to breaking off a couple big runs in the playoffs. Hopefully next season Washington can claim sole possession of first place in kickoff return touchdowns.

#9: Defense Makes A Statement, Pummels Rodgers (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

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When you combine a national television primetime setting, a ferocious fan base, an extremely talented defense, and a sub-par offensive line, you get my number nine moment of the season. With the entire nation watching the Seahawks defense combined to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half alone. Chris Clemons led the attack with 4 sacks, rookie Bruce Irvin added 2 of his own, and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane also added 2 sacks. It was the most dominant span on defense this season and as I noted in my Packers review, it actually left me laughing in the stands because our play was so amazing and dominant. If only our pass rush could have been more consistently dominant over the course of the entire season. If that happened, we may still be playing football. I tipped my hat to the Seahawks defense on this night. I probably won’t see that many sacks recorded during a 30 minute span again in a very long time.

#8: Wilson Runs Into The Record Books (Seahawks vs. Bills, Week 15)

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The Seahawks debuted their wolf grey uniforms in Toronto against the Bills on December 16th and Russell Wilson looked especially good in them. The Seahawks were coming off a 58-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals the previous week and the offensive surge did not stall against the Bills. The Seahawks won the game 50-17 but Russell Wilson was the biggest factor in the final score. Wilson became the first quarterback in Seahawks history to run for three touchdowns in a game and he ran for all three in the first half. The zone-read option worked the best against the Bills in my opinion as Wilson and the running backs combined for 270 rushing yards.

#7 Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number One (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

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The Seahawks hosted the Dallas Cowboys in their home opener on September 16th and the game could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Cowboys. With the entire sellout crowd already in their seats for kickoff, the Seahawks kicked off to Felix Jones of the Cowboys to start the game. After making it out to around the Dallas 25-yard line, Jones was hit on his side which knocked the ball free from his arms. Earl Thomas recovered the fumble and the crowd erupted into chaos. Ten seconds into the game and the Cowboys had already turned the ball over, given the Seahawks excellent field position, and they gave the 12th Man something to go crazy about. In the stands the play was awesome and everyone around me was beyond excited. The drive culminated into just a field goal but luckily for the Seahawks and the fans, the Cowboys were not done with their special teams blunders yet.

#6: Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number Two (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

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After this play my friend Alan and I believed that the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit was cursed in Seattle. With the Seahawks forcing the Cowboys to punt on their first offensive drive of the game, defensive end Bruce Irvin penetrated the punter protection and got one of his hands on the kick. The ball took one bounce backward and right into the hands of Jeron Johnson inside the Dallas 5-yard line. Johnson walked the blocked punt into the endzone for a touchdown and the Seahawks took a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. This play was very fast since the block and score occurred within seconds of each other. Once again, the crowd went crazy and we now had full confidence that we could beat Dallas handedly on this day.

#5: U Mad Bro? Seahawks Stun Brady, Patriots (Patriots at Seahawks, Week 6)

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Coming off a win in Carolina the week before, the Seahawks came home with a 3-2 record and a home date with the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. The Seahawks trailed the Patriots 23-10 with 9:21 left in the game. Russell Wilson connected with Braylon Edwards for a touchdown on 4th down to cut the Patriots lead to 6 points. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:38 left in the game with a chance to take the lead. With 1:10 left in the game, Russell Wilson connected with Sidney Rice for a 46 yard touchdown pass which gave the Seahawks a 24-23 lead. It was the prettiest pass I saw Wilson throw all season long. The Seahawks defense came back onto the field for one last New England drive and successfully stopped the Patriots on four plays, giving the Seahawks the win. One other storyline of this game was the communicating (or trash talking) between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. During the game Sherman challenged Brady to throw in his direction while Brady told Sherman to see him after the game when the Patriots win. Brady did in fact challenge Sherman by throwing in his direction and Sherman picked off a pass in the 3rd quarter. After the game Sherman went up to Brady to tell him “you’re just a man. We’re a team.” The exchange was photographed and was given the caption “U Mad Bro?” with Sherman mouthing off to Brady while Brady tried to walk off the field. This moment tossed Sherman into the national spotlight. After this incident Seahawks fans started to love Sherman even more and fans of other teams started to loathe Sherman.

#4: RW3 > RGIII. Seahawks Win First Road Playoff Game Since 1983 (Seahawks at Redskins, NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

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The Seahawks finished ½ game behind San Francisco for the NFC West title but they still earned the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks faced the NFC East champion Washington Redskins in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs and things did not get off to a good start. Washington jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. At the time it was the largest deficit the Seahawks had faced all season long. The Seahawks came back thanks in large part to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks scored 24 unanswered points in the final 45 minutes to beat the Redskins 24-14 to advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs. This game was the only playoff game to feature two rookie quarterbacks. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was playing with a sprained LCL in his right knee and he was unable to finish the game after further damaging his knee. The Seahawks did a great job of containing Griffin III and their rookie running back Alfred Morris. It was one of the most exciting road games of the season and the Seahawks came back home not before winning on the road for the first time in the playoffs since Chuck Knox’s Seahawks beat the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff in 1983.

#3: The Two Drives That Changed Our Season (Seahawks at Bears, Week 13)

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After losing to Miami in week 12 the Seahawks hit the road again for a crucial game against the Chicago Bears. At the time the Bears held the NFC North lead while the Seahawks controlled their own destiny as an NFC Wild-Card. With the Seahawks trailing 14-10 with 3:40 left in the game the Seahawks had to drive 97 yards to take the lead. On the drive Marshawn Lynch racked up 21 yards and Russell Wilson also ran for 19 yards. Wilson hit Zach Miller to convert a 4th down which would have ended the game if the pass was incomplete, and then he found Sidney Rice for a gain 27 yards. With 24 seconds remaining Wilson hit Golden Tate on a slant. Tate juked two defenders before diving into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The Seahawks took a 17-14 lead. Game over right? Unfortunately not. Because of a breakdown in communication on defense, Jay Cutler found Brandon Marshall for a gain of 56 yards to put Chicago in field goal range. Robbie Gould knocked the kick through the uprights and the game was headed to overtime. In overtime the Seahawks won the toss and started their next drive on their own 20-yard line. Did Wilson have another game-winning drive in him? He proved that he could go down and win the game again. Thanks in large part to Wilson’s legs, he led the Seahawks into the red zone and connected with Sidney Rice from 13 yards out for the game winning touchdown. This was just the Seahawks second road win of the season but with the win we improved to 7-5. These two drives are considered to be the turning point in our season. In our next three games after the Chicago game the Seahawks scored a combined 150 points. Most importantly though, the Chicago game was the start of an impressive winning streak that did not end until the Divisional playoff loss to Atlanta.

#2: Sherman Steals The Show On Sunday Night (49ers at Seahawks, Week 16)

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I stepped into CenturyLink Field on Sunday Night December 23rd expecting to see a close, hard-fought game against the San Francisco 49ers. If we won we would clinch a playoff berth. I had no idea how bad of a mismatch and how big of a blowout this game would turn out to be. My number two moment of the season occurred with just over 12 minutes left in the second quarter. With the 49ers trailing 14-0, kicker David Akers lined up for a 21-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Red Bryant and the ball bounced right into the arms of Richard Sherman. Sherman returned the ball 90 yards to the house for a touchdown and a 21-0 Seahawks lead. The game was over at this point. Everyone in the stands felt confident we would handle San Francisco for the rest of the night. In the stands the play was wild, which justifies my reasoning for ranking this play as the second best of the season. Once I saw the ball blocked and picked up by Sherman, I knew he had the speed and separation to outrun both Akers and the holder Andy Lee. I started jumping up and down wildly and screaming at the top of my lungs while pulling and shaking the guys who sit below me. Once Sherman crossed the goal line I ran down the stairs of my aisle collecting high fives and hugging everybody in my vicinity. I could not have been happier and the last time I celebrated that wildly on any play was the Marshawn Lynch beast quake run in the 2010 playoffs. I guess there’s something about primetime football that brings out the wild child in me. The Seahawks won the game 42-13 and clinched a playoff berth. Not only that, we also beat the hated 49ers which always puts a smile on my face.

#1: The Monday Night Miracle (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

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As the season wore on a lot of Seahawks fans got the feeling we were developing as the most hated team nationally during the 2012 season. The reason why is because of what transpired on Monday night September 24th. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 with 8 seconds left, Russell Wilson threw up a Hail Mary into the north endzone. From my view it looked like Golden Tate out jumped three Green Bay defenders to make the catch. When one of the officials ruled touchdown, the stadium went absolutely crazy. Everyone around me started to jump up and down and we all embraced each other with looks of sheer amazement and non-belief in our faces. I had never seen a more epic finish then what had just happened. The play was reviewed by replacement official Wayne Elliott and the call on the field was upheld. The Seahawks won in what ESPN’s Mike Tirico called “the most bizarre finish you’ll ever see.” In the stands we couldn’t believe what had just happened and we headed out of the stadium under the impression that Golden Tate had cleanly made one of the greatest plays we had ever seen. I had never attended a football game that was decided by a Hail Mary on the final play so the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I collected a program after the game that was sitting on a picnic table because I wanted a piece of memorabilia from the most exciting game of the year. Nobody I was with had the slightest clue what had actually happened on the field. When my friends and I got home from the game we turned on SportsCenter and watched for two hours as they broke down the final play. As you well know, the play was not as clean as it looked like from my view inside the stadium. We won the game but the controversy over the replacement officials had just begun. The SportsCenter following this game was the most watched episode in ESPN history and within 48 hours of the game, the referee lockout was over and the real NFL referees were back on the field. Sports Illustrated named this play the most iconic sports moment of 2012 and it is definitely deserving of that title. I have a mini-shrine to this game in my room including my ticket stub, the program I picked up, the rally towel that was given away at the game, and the front page of the Seattle Times sports section from the day after with the headline “Last Call?” Although I will be attending many many more football games in my lifetime, I am confident in saying I will never see a more incredible finish then what happened on this crisp September night.