Tag Archives: National League Championship Series

Seahawks/Rams Preview

18 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

Even though we are the defending world champions and even though we are playing one of the toughest schedules in the National Football League, for the first time in a long time the 12th Man is feeling a bit uncertain moving forward. After falling at home to the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Seahawks now face two straight road games that are now even more important to win. This stretch starts on Sunday when the Seahawks take on the St. Louis Rams in our first NFC West game of the season. The Seahawks are 3-2 on the season and with the loss last week we currently sit in 3rd place in the division. The Rams are 1-4 and are in last place in the NFC West. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Rams 20-12 and in their last meeting the Seahawks defeated St. Louis in Seattle by a score of 27-9. Here is what to watch for in this week’s game.

This week there is one over-arching question that must be asked on both sides of the ball. How will injuries to core players affect our play? On the offensive side of the ball I am focusing on the Seahawks offensive line. The Seahawks will be without Max Unger for the second consecutive week. Russell Okung is likely to play but he is still has a labrum injury lingering in his shoulder. It will be crucial for the offensive line to create running room for Marshawn Lynch and to give Russell Wilson a clean pocket to throw from. The Rams have a lot of talent along their defensive line and historically they have given Seattle problems when playing in St. Louis. Although the Seahawks only allowed two sacks of Russell Wilson last week, the talent the Rams will send his way is much better in my opinion than what the Dallas Cowboys had to offer. The running game must be effective for us to have any chance in winning this game. It starts with Marshawn Lynch. After only 10 carries in a losing effort last week, expect his workload to be dramatically higher this week. Even if Lynch struggles to get going early, I expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to not shy away from calling Lynch’s number especially after the criticism he was faced with after last week’s game.

On defense the Seahawks will be without at least one starter and possibly without one other starter. Bobby Wagner is suffering from turf toe and has been ruled out of this week’s game. Seattle will play the linebacker shuffle this week, moving K.J. Wright to middle linebacker with Malcolm Smith taking Wright’s spot as the starting “Will” linebacker. The Seahawks may also be without starting cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has not practiced all week while recovering from a calf strain. After Wagner exited last week’s game it felt as though our defense fell apart. The Seahawks defense allowed 23 points once Wagner departed in the second quarter. The tackling in the middle of the field worsened in the second half and the Cowboys skill position players found lots of room in the open field. It will be important for Wright to be an anchor in the middle of the field and make clean, fundamental tackles. Last week Rams quarterback Austin Davis was able to make clean throws to receivers Kenny Britt and Austin Pettis among others in the middle of the field against a banged up San Francisco defense. This week look for Davis to use these receivers and speedster Tavon Austin out wide to test the Legion of Boom especially if Maxwell is inactive. Marcus Burley will likely start for the Seahawks if Maxwell cannot go and it is very possible to think that Davis will look in the direction of a raw inexperienced starter rather than to throw in the direction of all-pro Richard Sherman.

This season the St. Louis Rams defense is not putting up the numbers like they did a season ago but they are still an intimidating bunch, especially the front seven. Last season Rams defensive end Robert Quinn ranked second in the NFL in sacks with 19. That dominant performance earned him a new contract but so far Quinn has not earned his newfound money. Quinn has only 12 tackles so far this season with no sacks. The only sack the Rams have recorded this season belongs to my X-Factor player to watch, defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald, from the University of Pittsburgh, was a first-round pick of the Rams back in May. He along with Michael Brockers form one of the best up-and-coming defensive tackle combinations in all of football. Just like Robert Quinn, Donald has also recorded 12 tackles including 4 tackles for loss. I loved Donald coming out of college because of his potential as an interior pass rusher and with Max Unger out this could be the perfect opportunity for Donald to show what all the hype was about back before the draft. Donald vs. Seahawks center Stephen Schilling is a matchup to keep an eye on this week. If Donald is successful in getting through the middle of the Seahawks offensive line it could be a frustrating day once again for Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and the rest of the Seattle offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks have confirmed via their Twitter that they will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants this week… The Rams will wear navy blue jerseys with either white or navy blue pants… Kenny Albert, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and Tony Siragusa have the call for FOX this week… Brad Allen is this week’s referee. Allen is one of 4 rookie referees in the NFL this season… I was hoping the St. Louis Cardinals would extend the National League Championship Series into Sunday. It would have been great for the entire city of St. Louis to be infatuated with playoff baseball, virtually making this week’s Rams game an afterthought. That will not be the case however, after the Cardinals season came to an end on Thursday night… In the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks are 2-2 playing the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome… St. Louis would have been an interesting road trip to do. Game tickets are dirt cheap but round-trip airfare to St. Louis is a bit on the pricey side. I have given some thought into doing a spontaneous short-notice weekend trip to St. Louis for the game this year and in previous years but have never done it… I have been to every NFC West for a Seahawks game except for St. Louis… I am not in panic mode yet but if the Seahawks lose this game I am sure this entire city will be panicking. My word of encouragement: Never lose faith in this team.

Prediction: I could see this game going down to the wire, much like some of our previous games played in St. Louis. I think it will be incredibly difficult for the Seahawks running game to get going once again this week and it will be up to Russell Wilson to extend Seahawks drives. The only Seahawks touchdown will belong to Wilson on a scramble from inside the redzone. The Seahawks defense will play a much more sound game this week, including three sacks of Austin Davis. The Rams will win the turnover battle however and that could cost the Seahawks a chance to win the game late. Of course I hope I am wrong, but I believe the Rams will win a tight, physical game and the Seahawks will lose back-to-back games for the first time since weeks 7 and 8 of the 2012 season.

Rams 17, Seahawks 16

Check back on Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

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Cowboys/Seahawks Preview

11 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Who would have thought that going into week 6 the Dallas Cowboys would be 4-1? All of a sudden this week’s game has way more meaning than I originally thought it would. On Sunday afternoon the Dallas Cowboys come to Seattle to face the Seattle Seahawks. At 4-1 the Cowboys are tied for first place in the NFC East while the Seahawks sit at 3-1 and are tied for first place in the NFC West. Dallas leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-6 but in their last meeting in September 2012 Seattle handled the Cowboys easily, winning 27-7 with Russell Wilson earning his first NFL victory. Two seasons, 30 victories, and one Vince Lombardi trophy later, Wilson will attempt to tame Dallas once again. Here is what I am looking for in this week’s game.

The Dallas Cowboys sport the NFL’s leading rusher, running back DeMarco Murray. Murray’s 134 yards per game average is the best in the league and the first priority of the Seahawks defense will be to stop him. Look for Kevin Williams and Jordan Hill to have an expanded role along the Seahawks defensive line this week along with starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. It will be on these three guys to plug holes to limit Murray’s production. It will be crucial to stop Murray on first and second downs to force quarterback Tony Romo to throw. Romo has had a history of making bad throws and turning the ball over in Seattle so it will be crucial for the Seahawks pass rushers to put extra pressure on to force Romo into mistakes. If the defense can do both of these things the Seahawks will be in excellent shape.

Going into this season many believed that the 2014 Dallas Cowboys defense could statistically be one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Although they have not played terribly (yet), the Cowboys still rank in the bottom half in both pass defense and run defense. Dallas has given up an average of 122 rushing yards per game and if the Seahawks are successful running the ball much like they were last week this could be an easy win. On offense this week I believe the Seahawks will be victorious if Marshawn Lynch tops the 100 yard rushing plateau. Also keep an eye on Seattle’s use of the read option this week. Russell Wilson ran 14 read option plays against Washington last week and I think we will see more of it against a Cowboys team that has not faced a duel-threat quarterback since week 1 (Colin Kaepernick). I could see the Seahawks running between 5-10 read option plays. On these plays if Russell Wilson can run for 40-50 yards I believe we will be unbeatable. Expect to see Percy Harvin used just like he was last week, with expanded playing time lined up in the backfield.

When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys on the offensive side of the ball everyone looks at DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant as the motor that makes the offense work. With the Seahawks primarily focusing on stopping Murray and with Richard Sherman likely covering Bryant, it would not surprise me to see Tony Romo throw to his other targets. Enter my “boom or bust” X-Factor player to watch, wide receiver Terrance Williams. I say Williams is “boom or bust” because he has been rather inconsistent on the stat line this season. On good days Williams can be dynamic, much like he has been the past two weeks when he caught a combined 8 passes for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the first three weeks of the season however, Williams struggled, catching only 8 passes for a combined 102 yards, a 34 yards per game average. With Williams likely matched up against Byron Maxwell for the majority of this game, it would not be surprising to see Romo throw in Williams’s direction to try to pick on Maxwell.

There is one pattern that I must address with the Dallas Cowboys coming to town this week. The Cowboys have played two meaningful games in Seattle since I became a season ticket holder in 2006. In both of these games the Cowboys have made at least one blunder on special teams. Everyone remembers the Tony Romo botched snap in the 2006 playoffs but many fans may not remember what happened the last time Dallas came to town. In our 2012 matchup Dallas kick returner Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff right into the arms of Earl Thomas. The Seahawks cashed in 7 plays later with a Steven Hauschka field goal. On the next Dallas possession, Bruce Irvin blocked a Chris Jones punt and Jeron Johnson returned it for a Seahawks touchdown. The Cowboys special teams have a rich history of struggling at CenturyLink Field so it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can score any points on special teams this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy blue this week with the Cowboys wearing their traditional white jerseys and metallic silver/blue pants… Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week. Brennaman will be paired with Aikman for the next three weeks while Joe Buck calls the National League Championship Series and World Series for FOX. Even though Brennaman will do the play-by-play, this will still be FOX’s “America’s Game of the Week” broadcasted to the majority of the country… Bill Leavy is this week’s referee. Now that the Seahawks have won a Super Bowl it wouldn’t surprise me if Leavy’s Seattle limitations have been lifted. For those of you who don’t know this will be only the third time Leavy has officiated a Seahawks game in Seattle since Super Bowl XL… This week we will have an extra 20 minutes before kickoff as the game starts at 1:25pm. Everyone be in their seats ready to go by kickoff!… October is breast cancer awareness month in the NFL and this week the giveaway is pink ribbon pins. I am also excited to show off my pink Strideline socks for the second time this season… I think I’m only going to bring the leftover streamers I didn’t use at the Broncos game. Don’t feel like going to buy more. I’ll have to stock back up fully for the Raiders game… If the Seahawks win this week we will be 4-1, the same record we had through our first 5 games last season.

Prediction: A lot of people think the Cowboys can come into Seattle and make this a close game but I think otherwise. I think the Seahawks are primed for a decisive win. Marshawn Lynch will score two touchdowns and Michael Bennett will recover a Tony Romo fumble and take it to the house. The Seahawks will win this game to get to 4-1 and we will get ready for a huge test next week, our first division rivalry game of the season against St. Louis.

Seahawks 27, Cowboys 13

Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!

Gameday In San Francisco

23 Oct

On Thursday I broke a record for the earliest I have woken up on a Seahawks gameday. My previous record of 4:15am was broken by my 3:30am alarm at my house in Wallingford. The only reason why I was up that early is because of my flight to San Francisco the morning of the game. After showering, dressing up in my Seahawks jersey and other attire, and doing some final packing, my roommate Jake gave me a ride to the airport. My flight left at 6:15am and I checked in and got through security with just enough time to grab my Sea-Tac airport signature meal, breakfast from Wendy’s, and head to the gate.

I had never flown Virgin America prior to this trip. I must say I was incredibly impressed with the luxury and the features that came with the flight which included satellite television, a map showing where you were, a full beverage service, and lighting that made every passenger feel like they were sitting in first class. Aaron Levine of Q13 Fox was seated in the front of the plane and before we took off we engaged in a friendly Twitter chat.

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You can see part of the plane’s interior lighting at the bottom of the screen picture just to give you an idea of what it was like on my flight down.

I landed in San Francisco at around 8:30am. After de-boarding the plane I headed for the SFO tram which connected me to the airport BART station. I had never traveled via the BART before and at first I was confused how everything worked from getting your pass to knowing which train to get on and where to get off. After a good half an hour train ride I arrived in downtown San Francisco. I had a hard time figuring out the streets at first but I finally found my hotel after doing about a 4-mile loop walk. After checking in to the hotel I headed down to the Embarcadero (The street that runs along the San Francisco waterfront) and took a walk to Fisherman’s Wharf. I had not been to the Wharf since I went to San Francisco with my dad in 2007 so it was a treat to hang out and see what had changed and what was still the same from 5 years earlier. After taking some pictures and looking through some shops (which included a huge sports apparel/memorabilia store on Pier 39) I had an early lunch at In-N-Out.

After picking up some beer at a downtown Safeway, my friend Josh and I took a cab to Candlestick Park and arrived in the massive parking lot shortly after 2:30pm. After looking around for a group of Seahawks fans, we found a group of 5 Seahawks fans currently living in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle who had flown down the previous day for the game. One of the guys works in the suites at CenturyLink Field and was in the Red Zone Suites during the Monday Night Miracle in week 3. He showed us a couple pictures of the ESPN broadcast with him in the background. We joked that he got to see himself on television thousands of times in the days following and he agreed while laughing along. Josh and I drank 3 Pyramid Hefeweizen’s and a shot of Crown Royal each (which I struggled with, since all I’ve been drinking recently is Fireball…). I was not heckled much outside the stadium during the tailgate. The only thing possibly worth noting is that a couple of 49ers fans were playing catch and the ball was overthrown and dribbled over towards where we were. The 49er fan chasing after the ball got close and screamed to us “don’t touch it!!” No worries though man, I wouldn’t touch your red and gold ball with a fifty foot pole.

After tailgating for about an hour and a half we decided to head into the stadium. We sat on an aisle with a family of Seahawks fans to our left and friendly San Francisco fans sitting in the row above us. The site from my seats was nostalgic because last season I sat in the exact same spot only one section over to the left. Here is the view from my seats at Candlestick Park; Section 51, Row 1, Seat 3.

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The game got off to a good start but the Seahawks got tired and fell apart in the second half. There were chants of “Seahawks suck!” multiple times in the second half but nothing too bad was said in my direction. The best heckling story I have is when I was having my picture taken at halftime. I knelt down at the staircase in front of our section and as I was getting my picture taken, a 49ers fan in my section screamed “Ginger on three! ONE, TWO, THREE!” Of course I just laughed it off and kept on cheering for the Seahawks. No beers were thrown in my face and no threats of physical harm were sent my way. Most importantly, I was not shot or stabbed as I was leaving the stadium. Great success in staying alive. Of course I was disappointed that we had lost and I did my best not to let it get into my head too badly but I ultimately failed, as I was unable to shake off the loss in order to have a good time for the duration of my trip. We got out of the Candlestick Park parking lot relatively slowly and got back to the hotel pretty late.

Among other stops on my trip to San Francisco was a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, and we ate at well-known San Francisco restaurants such as Taqueria La Cumbre, Boudin Bakery, and Capurro’s, which was recommended by Coach Carroll during his Seahawks press conference the day before Thursday night’s game. I also had the opportunity to buy a standing-room only ticket for game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday afternoon between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants but I decided to turn the opportunity down.

I flew back to Seattle on Sunday night and it was the shortest flight I have ever been on. We took off from SFO at about 10:45pm and we landed at Sea-Tac at roughly 12:15am Monday morning. I might be flying United more often! After getting a ride back home I unloaded my bags and went to bed, thus ending my long weekend in San Francisco.

Next year is the final season of San Francisco 49ers football at Candlestick Park before they move into their new state-of-the-art stadium in Santa Clara. There is no doubt I will make one last visit to the Stick next season to see the Seahawks play. It will surely be a special trip and hopefully I can make the trip with many of my friends.

Programming Note: Look for my preview of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions most likely on Saturday afternoon. Go Seahawks!