Tag Archives: O’Brien Schofield

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!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

17 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (2) Green Bay Packers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 12:05pm

In Pete Carroll’s first season as head coach, the Seahawks were one divisional playoff win over the Chicago Bears away from hosting the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately we fell short but now four seasons later the Seahawks now have that matchup set. The Seahawks and Packers meet in Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon. The winner will represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLIX. The loser goes home. Green Bay leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-7. The Packers have had Seattle’s number in the playoffs but the Seahawks have had the better luck as of late, winning the past two games including a 36-16 win over Green Bay earlier this season for NFL Kickoff 2014. This is what I believe must happen for the Seahawks to successfully defend their NFC Championship and advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

In their first meeting back in September running back Marshawn Lynch torched the Packers defense for 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns. This week could be more of the same. The Seahawks will once again attempt to establish the running game with Lynch in an effort to control the clock and the tempo of the game. A successful day running the ball I believe will lead to a Seahawks victory. In the passing game the Seahawks could benefit due to the fact that our number one weapon in our first meeting this season, Percy Harvin, is no longer on the team. Receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, as well as tight end Luke Willson combined for 5 catches for 23 yards back in week one. Given that these three guys were not primary features in our offensive game plan in that game, I believe this adds a wrinkle in our offense this week that the Packers have not seen. Quarterback Russell Wilson was willing to throw down the seam to Kearse and Willson against Carolina last week and I believe both could be primed for big games yet again this week.

The very first play of the 2013 NFC Championship Game was a Russell Wilson fumble recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. That play ultimately resulted with 3 San Francisco points. Three Colin Kaepernick turnovers in the second half ultimately doomed the 49ers. See where I am going here? The Seahawks number one priority in this championship game must be to protect the ball. I am fully confident that the Legion of Boom can force Green Bay turnovers so it is imperative that Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch among others hold onto the ball to prevent extra offensive opportunities for the Packers. We will not win if our offense turns the ball over multiple times because Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take advantage of extra opportunities, especially short yardage opportunities. The Seahawks did not turn the ball over last week and we won by two scores. Another clean game and the Seahawks could be cruising to Arizona.

The number one storyline on the offensive side of the ball for the Green Bay Packers is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers played last week with a strained and possibly slight torn left calf, an injury that limited his mobility but not necessarily his ability to make plays. Immediately following last week’s game Rodgers came out and said that his calf was not feeling as good as in the days leading up to last Sunday’s game. It is likely that Rodgers’s mobility will once again be a question mark this week. The best way to rattle the ailing likely league MVP is to send pressure from all directions, whether this results in sacks or forces Rodgers to retreat from the pocket. Rodgers has been sacked 11 times by the Seahawks in his last two games in Seattle. Bruce Irvin and O’Brien Schofield are the two guys I expect to see on the field a lot this week. I will consider it a success if Irvin and Schofield can quickly penetrate the Packers offensive line and get to Rodgers at least one time each. If Green Bay struggles to protect Rodgers early on, it could be a very long game and the threat of Rodgers injuring his leg worse will absolutely increase.

With the majority of the attention on the Packers offense, the fact that Green Bay ranks 10th in the league in pass defense has flown under the radar. Four members of the Packers secondary rank among the six best tacklers on the team. Only one of those guys has recorded double-digit passes defensed, and that is why cornerback Tramon Williams is my X-Factor player to watch for the Packers this week. Williams has recorded 61 tackles this season with 13 passes defensed. Williams is also tied for the team lead in interceptions with 3. I expect to see Williams line up across from Jermaine Kearse for most of the game but do not expect to see him also go up again Ricardo Lockette and Kevin Norwood in dime packages.

Normally this last point would be worthy of a note in “Random Thoughts” but given the circumstances I feel that this is important to point out on itself. Seahawks fans are not used to early starts. In fact, this is the first time since CenturyLink Field opened that the Seahawks have hosted a game that starts at noon. To everyone attending Sunday’s game, BE IN YOUR SEATS AT LEAST 30-45 MINUTES PRIOR TO KICKOFF. When we go live to the nation on FOX at noon, I want to see 68,000 people all in their seats waving their rally towels as the Seahawks get ready to be introduced. Please plan accordingly.

Random Thoughts: The Packers will wear their classic white jersey/yellow pants combo this week. The Seahawks in all-blue per usual… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Erin Andrews and Chris Myers patrolling the sidelines… This will be the first time the Seahawks host the earlier conference championship game. Both of Seattle’s previous trips to the NFC Championship Game kicked off at 3:30pm… Tony Corrente is the referee this week. Corrente previously officiated the Seahawks win over San Francisco on Thanksgiving… This is going to be one of the earliest wake-up calls for a Seahawks home game I have ever had. Definitely planning on being downtown with a drink in hand by 8am… As previously mentioned, the giveaway this week once again is rally towels… The National Anthem will be sung by 2006 American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee… The Seahawks announced Friday that the halftime show will be Seattle band Alice in Chains. That will be pretty cool but in my opinion not as cool as Macklemore last year… I would love to see former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren raise the 12th Man flag this week, especially since it would come against his other former team, the Packers. I doubt it will happen but I would love to see it happen. There has been a lot of talk about letting Paul Allen raise the flag again. I personally think we should let somebody else do it. It would become super predictable for potential future NFC title games if Mr. Allen gets to raise the flag for every single one. My dark horse candidate to raise the flag is Randy Johnson… In the 24 or so hours following this game should we win, will be the shopping spree loading up on Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX merchandise… Why does this game feel like no big deal? Have we become spoiled? Is it because we are not playing the arch-rival 49ers again? Something just feels a little more relaxed about this year’s NFC Championship Game. My guess is that all changes once we all get down to CenturyLink Field.

Prediction: This game will be an instant classic and will see-saw until the very end. The Seahawks will get the scoring started with a field goal with the Packers adding a field goal of their own. A Seahawks second quarter touchdown pass to Luke Willson will give them a 10-3 lead with Green Bay tying the game just before halftime. There will be two more instances in the second half where the game gets tied up; 17-17 and 24-24 respectively. The Seahawks will take the clock down to the wire and Steven Hauschka will kick the biggest field goal in Seahawks history; a 42-yard field goal as time expires to send the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLIX.

Seahawks 27, Packers 24

Win or lose, check back late Sunday night for my NFC Championship review. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 35, Cardinals 6

21 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

When the 2014 regular season schedule came out last April there were rumblings that the NFL was afraid to schedule the Seahawks in primetime at home because we were constantly blowing our opponents out under the lights. They said nothing about blowing out our opponents on the road. In our fourth primetime game of the season, the Seahawks ripped first place away from the Arizona Cardinals, winning in dominating fashion 35-6. The Seahawks scored more points tonight than our defense has allowed in our last 5 games combined. The red-hot Seahawks improve to 11-4 on the season while the Cardinals fall to 11-4 and to second place in the NFC West by virtue of head-to-head tiebreaker. With a win at home against the St. Louis Rams next week, Seattle will lock up its second straight NFC West title while also ensuring the road to Super Bowl XLIX travels through CenturyLink Field. Here is what I took out of tonight’s win.

Seahawks Break Yardage Mark: The Arizona Cardinals defense entered Sunday’s game allowing an average of 350 yards per game. The Seahawks were 21 passing yards away from equaling that average. The Seahawks broke a franchise record on Sunday night with 596 yards of offense. If there were any questions or doubts as to if our offense could get going, I believe they were all answered after this performance. The key to our offensive success is that we stuck to what worked. Quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, and tight end Luke Willson were the playmakers of the game, combining for nearly 76 percent of our offensive production. Tonight’s game gets me very excited about the upcoming weeks. I am reminded back to 2012 when the Seahawks combined for 150 points in a 3 week span at the peak of the season. I want to see the same kind of point production next week but Sunday’s performance has me dreaming of an identical January to last season.

Defense Plays as Expected: The Seahawks defense made Ryan Lindley look like, well, Ryan Lindley (more on him later). For the third time in the last five games, the Seahawks did not allow an opposing touchdown, holding Arizona to only 6 points. The Seahawks recorded 4 sacks, one of which coming from former Cardinal O’Brien Schofield, and Richard Sherman intercepted a deep Lindley pass to put the bow on top of the present. The Seahawks took the Cardinals rushing attack out of the game early forcing Lindley to throw all night long which greatly worked to our advantage. Stepfan Taylor led all Arizona running backs with 19 rushing yards on 11 carries. This stat may put this of defensive dominance in perspective better than any other numbers I have seen: The Seahawks offense scored 35 points in this game. The Seahawks defense has allowed a total of 33 points in their last 5 games combined. In my opinion our defense is playing better during this 5-game winning streak then they played all throughout last season. With the path to the Super Bowl hopefully heading through Seattle, there is no reason for me to believe this defensive dominance will stop any time soon.

Lindley Plays as Expected: In my Cardinals preview I broke down my analysis of Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley after watching all of his previous NFL game film. I saw nothing in Sunday’s game that showed improvement in his performance from his first seven games. Lindley finished this game 18/44 (41% completion percentage) for 216 yards and one interception. Many of his throws did not hit his receivers in stride and although he completed one deep pass, many of his deeps throws were underthrown, as if he underestimated the speed of his receivers, especially John Brown and Jaron Brown. If I were an Arizona Cardinals fan I would be extremely worried about these next few weeks. It may be necessary to rush Drew Stanton back from his injury because the Cardinals will be in big trouble if Lindley has to start next week or even into the playoffs.

Cardinals Defense Cannot Hang: For the first 25 minutes of play it looked as though the Cardinals defense could shut down the Seahawks offense and keep this a close game throughout. There are two big things however that the Seahawks defense has that the Arizona defense does not; depth and stamina. Those two things made the difference in the Seahawks being able to pull away late. The Seahawks saw big time performances from several role players on Sunday night. Jordan Hill and David King each recorded sacks while Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead combined for 3 of the Seahawks 9 passes defensed. Lane should have intercepted one of those passes in the endzone, which would have taken 3 of Arizona’s 6 points off of the board. Fundamentals were also absent, especially on Marshawn Lynch’s ridiculous 79-yard touchdown run. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson went for the strip of Lynch on that play instead of trying to make the tackle. Arizona did a very poor job tackling in this game overall and it led to at least 21 of Seattle’s 35 points.

Sunday Negatives: There are two glaring negatives I took from Sunday’s game, one being way more important than the other. The “other” was the performance of kicker Steven Hauschka who missed not one, not two, but three field goals. Those three misses give him six total on the season; Hauschka doubled his missed opportunities in this game alone. I am a firm believer that Hauschka simply had a bad night. There is no need to make any irrational suggestions like replacing him. I am fully confident he will bounce back next week. The other problem is something that has plagued this team all season long. The Seahawks were penalized 11 times for 97 yards on Sunday, the majority of them coming in the first half. Specifically, the number of procedure penalties on Sunday makes me sick to my stomach. The Seahawks had 4 procedure penalties in this game, two of which being back-to-back offsides fouls by defensive lineman Michael Bennett. The ability for the Seahawks to clean up their sloppy, undisciplined play in the second half gives me reason to be optimistic but this is a problem that has proven to not be fully fixed week in and week out. With the most important stretch of the season coming up in the next few weeks, now is the time to fix our penalty problem for good.

Thoughts on Arizona: Not including Sunday’s win, in the last 9 weeks our opponents are 0-9 in their next game after playing the Seahawks. I would be extremely worried if I were an Arizona Cardinals fan. This is the kind of game that could completely break a team. If the Cardinals have any chance to do damage in the playoffs, they must get Drew Stanton back on the field. If Ryan Lindley remains Arizona’s quarterback it is very realistic for me to think the Cardinals could lose to San Francisco next week, wind up as the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs, and be one-and-done after their Wild-Card playoff game.

Random Thoughts: How would I compare “Hold My Dick Part 2” to the original from the 2010 playoffs? I believe the first run was more impressive due to the number of defenders Marshawn Lynch ran over. On Lynch’s run on Sunday, he only shed 3 defenders on his way to the endzone. Given the fact that the first run was also at home and triggered an earthquake, I feel obligated to give it the edge. I do love that this run was longer and it involved a much more noteworthy player on the opposing side in Patrick Peterson. It’s not the best run I’ve ever seen but it is definitely in my top 3 all-time. It is plays and individual efforts like the one Lynch had on Sunday that can lift teams to unprecedented heights. That run may have just spring boarded the Seahawks into another memorable run deep into January… Although it seemed as Cardinals fans were in full force early on, that notion surely died with their short-lived lead. The 12th Man made a significant presence at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night, and after the game the scene around the NBC Sports Network set looked identical to the scene following last season’s Thursday night game in Arizona… The Seahawks are one win away from home field advantage but I am on record stating that the Seahawks are going to make it to Super Bowl XLIX. One more home game to clinch the division and then two more potential home games in the playoffs? In my opinion the NFC has already been won. See you in Arizona in February.

One more huge week is ahead of us before the city of Seattle kicks into playoff mode. Check back next Saturday as I preview the regular season finale; our week 17 matchup against the St. Louis Rams. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

13 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

It’s time to hit the road for the first time in 2014. After demolishing the Green Bay Packers in week 1, the Seahawks now hit the road to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 1-0 and are coming off a long break following their 36-16 win over a week ago. The Chargers however are in the opposite boat, losing last week to the Arizona Cardinals 18-17 and this will be a short week for San Diego as they played on Monday night. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with San Diego 26-23. Their last meeting came in 2010 when Seattle edged the Chargers 27-20 at CenturyLink Field thanks in large part to two Leon Washington kickoff return touchdowns and two Earl Thomas interceptions. Since this is an early season road game it will be very important for the Seahawks to come out strong and show that they are the better team early on in the game. This is what I will be looking for in this week’s game.

Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks have a 1-1 record in opponent home openers. In these two games the Seahawks have averaged only 14 points per game. On offense this week I believe it is imperative for the Seahawks to put early points on the board in order to silence the crowd. As always this begins with being able to run effectively with Marshawn Lynch but also keep an eye out for Percy Harvin and Russell Wilson to have a bigger impact in the running game. I believe that if the Seahawks use Wilson on the ground more this week we will be able to move the ball in huge chunks. San Diego gave up 109 rushing yards last week and 29 of them came from Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, one of the most immobile quarterbacks in the league. Read option and designed quarterback runs this week I think could give the Seahawks a great chance of exchanging potential field goals for touchdowns.

The adjective that best sums up the play of the San Diego Chargers offense last week: terrible. Against a solid Arizona defense the Chargers were only able to score 17 points, only 3 of which coming in the first half. There has been a lot of talk about Richard Sherman not seeing any action last week but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has come out and said he will likely test Sherman this week. After looking at the film of the Chargers game last week however, I think if the Seahawks pass rush can put constant pressure on Rivers this game will be over fast. On the Chargers final drive last week with the Cardinals sending 4, 5, and even 6 guys on blitzes, Rivers tried to make quick short throws that were either batted down at the line of scrimmage or were just flat out terrible throws. My defensive focus this week is on Bruce Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, and K.J. Wright. These three linebackers will rush the passer from the second level of the defense along with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett along the defensive line. Given that the Chargers offense is most effective passing the ball, adding additional pressure on non-passing downs could give the Seahawks many opportunities to force bad decisions by Rivers, hopefully resulting in turnovers.

As dangerous as the San Diego Chargers offense can be, I am interested to see how their young and talented defense plays with the home crowd behind their backs against the best offense they will likely face this season. The Chargers defense recorded 58 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 2 sacks last week and this week they face a challenge in game planning as they will have their hands full with Russell Wilson, especially right after playing a pocket passer such as Carson Palmer. I believe the best way to attempt to bully the Seahawks offense is to get to take advantage of matchups along the offensive line. Offensive tackle Justin Britt is the man on the Seahawks offensive line I am most concerned about in this respect. The man who will likely line up across from Britt this week is my X-Factor player to watch, defensive end Kendall Reyes. Reyes had a quiet night last week, recording one tackle. Even though Reyes’ stat line was not impressive, it must be noted that his 5 sacks in 2013 was second among all San Diego defenders, making him a concern for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to deal with. In order to overwhelm Britt, I would not be surprised if Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano uses Reyes and right side linebackers Jarrett Johnson and Manti Te’o in blitz packages to dial up extra pressure to try to collapse the right side of the pocket. This would force Russell Wilson to make throws against his body.

Random Thoughts: This week is “White Hot Sunday” in San Diego. The Chargers wear white for their first home game of the season while encouraging all fans in attendance to wear white as well. The Chargers will wear white jerseys and white pants, forcing the Seahawks to wear their navy jerseys this week. Expect the Seahawks to wear either white or grey pants this week. If I were a betting man, I would say the Seahawks will wear grey pants. If you are lucky enough to be on the road and attending this week’s game remember to WEAR NAVY… I have the feeling that there will be a strong contingent of Seahawks fans in San Diego this week. It is an easy trip to make and the Chargers have had a history of difficulty selling out their home games. Could we see more Seahawks navy than Chargers white in the stands this week? I think it is more of a possibility than you might think… Thom Brennaman and David Diehl have the call for FOX this week… Pete Morelli is this week’s referee. Coincidentally, Morelli also officiated the Seahawks matchup with the Chargers in the preseason last month… This week is a 1:05pm start not a 1:25pm start. Not that it matters too much since it is a road game but this will be the first of only two 1:05pm kickoffs this season. The rest of our afternoon starts will be 1:25pm… RedZone in the morning and the Seahawks in the afternoon this week. I enjoyed watching 8 hours of only RedZone last week not having to worry about the Seahawks… Qualcomm Stadium is a dump. Plain and simple. Other than the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Qualcomm Stadium is the worst active NFL Stadium. Even though I went there to see the Mariners play two baseball games there in 2003, the difference in stadium experience between seeing a baseball game and seeing a football game is probably microscopic. Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated and theMMQB.com even called Qualcomm “an insult to dumps everywhere” in a well-written 2013 piece outlining the troubles with the stadium and the battle between the Chargers and the city of San Diego to build a new stadium. It is a good read that I definitely recommend… If the Seahawks beat the Chargers it will be the second consecutive season that the Seahawks start 2-0.

Prediction: The Seahawks and Chargers will both get off to a slow start offensively but the Seahawks will settle down in the second quarter. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Steven Hauschka will kick his 3rd field goal right before halftime. The Seahawks will take a 16-7 lead into the second half and while Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers back to within one score, Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns to put the game out of reach for good. The Seahawks will go to 2-0 with a big game against the Denver Broncos at home on-deck next week.

Seahawks 30, Chargers 17

Check back Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game people and go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

4 Sep
Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

What a way to start our title defense! In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers in decisive fashion on Thursday night by a final score of 36-16. The Seahawks start their 2014 season 1-0 while the Packers start their third straight season 0-1. Although the Seahawks won in dominating fashion I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, I believe we confirmed to any and every doubter that we are still a force capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions. Here are the positives and negatives I took from Thursday’s game.

Every Weapon Will Be Used: One of the reasons why the Seahawks have the potential to be so dangerous this season is that quarterback Russell Wilson will use every weapon in his arsenal. That was evident on Thursday night when he hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter and fullback Derrick Coleman for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There are probably few people who thought either Lockette or Coleman would have a touchdown in this game let alone both of them. Meanwhile Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, two receivers who see more playing time than Lockette, combined for 4 catches and only 22 yards. The Seahawks are not afraid to use every single offensive skill position player at any time during the game. This makes the Seahawks a very scary team to game plan around and try to prepare for moving forward.

Lynch Has Not Missed a Step: On the drive home from the game, Dave “Softy” Mahler, Dick Fain, and Hugh Millen of Sports Radio 950 KJR agreed that they thought Marshawn Lynch looked “like a guy playing for a contract” and that he has not slowed down at all. I agree completely. Lynch was the most effective player on offense this week rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch, like always, ran like a man on a mission and if there was any rumblings of a potential running back by committee if Lynch were to struggle, he quickly squashed them. Barring injury, Lynch will continue to be the feature back in this offense and from my perspective our running game has picked up right where it left off at the end of the 2013 season.

Pass Rush Can Improve: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and O’Brien Schofield all recorded sacks on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week. Although the Seahawks pass rush looked effective, there is much room for improvement. The reason I say this is because of the Green Bay offensive line. With two players making their CenturyLink Field debut and right tackle Bryan Bulaga leaving the game with a sprained knee in the first half, I thought the Seahawks would be able to take advantage with a revved up 12th Man behind them to sack Rodgers in a similar fashion to the 8 sacks we recorded against the Packers two seasons ago. One of my main focuses going into this game was the interior pass rush and in this game the grand majority of the Seahawks defensive pressure came on the outside. I would like to see an improvement next week along the inside of the defensive line, using a 3rd down package with Bennett as well as young defensive tackle talent like Jordan Hill.

Did Thomas Lose His Job?: Before I go any further, no I am not talking about his free safety job. I am talking solely about his spot as the Seahawks punt returner. Forget that Richard Sherman may have been blocked into him, Earl Thomas muffed a first quarter punt which was recovered by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and eventually led to a touchdown to give Green Bay a 7-3 lead. The punt that Thomas muffed should definitely have been signaled for a fair catch but Thomas tried to make something out of what clearly looked to be nothing. Thomas returned one more punt for a 3-yard return later in the game. I no doubt believe that Thomas can make special plays happen on special teams but he simply needs to be smarter about the way he goes about handling his punt return duties. One more mistake by Thomas on special teams and I believe will see the next man up at punt returner, who happens to be Richard Sherman.

Where Are You Sherm?: It is going to be very difficult for Richard Sherman to hold the title of “best shutdown corner in the game” from a statistical perspective if teams continue to avoid him, much like what the Green Bay Packers did on Thursday night. Sherman was not targeted once against the Packers, which created opportunities for Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to take advantage of. Maxwell had 5 tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception on Thursday night while Lane recorded 4 tackles of his own in the nickel slot. This could be a common occurrence especially early in the season. Maxwell will be tested often and if he plays shutdown football, opposing defenses may have no choice but to throw in Sherman’s direction as well. Sherman’s chances will depend on the play of the rest of the receivers. Although he played well against the Packers, if Maxwell struggles he will be picked on constantly and it will be extremely difficult for Richard Sherman to see passes thrown his way.

Thoughts on Green Bay: Take away the fact that the Green Bay Packers had to come into the NFL’s most hostile environment on opening night to play the defending world champions in front of a 12th Man that may have been louder than I have ever heard. This Packers team has an offense that will be able to effectively move the ball and they gained solid defensive momentum early in the game when they held a short lead. The running game must improve however. Running back Eddie Lacy only ran for 34 yards on Thursday night and not being able to run the ball effectively could extremely limit the Packers offense, relying on Aaron Rodgers more than they would like. With a banged up offensive line this may be difficult but as long as Rodgers can stay healthy, I believe this team is still better than the Bears, Lions, and Vikings. This team is still my favorite to win the NFC North.

Random Thoughts: John Parry was the referee this week. I apologize I could not figure out the referee before the game for the second consecutive week. Parry and his crew went into Thursday’s game known for throwing the most defensive holding penalties during the preseason, which some believed could have hurt the Seahawks. The Seahawks were flagged 4 times throughout the game and none of them were for defensive holding… The Westlake Center Buffalo Wild Wings has by far the best service of any “B-Dubs” I’ve been to. Maybe it was because we were one of the first parties seated for the day and the restaurant was mostly empty. Nevertheless, great service and great food too… The atmosphere at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill never disappoints, especially before a primetime game. It was awesome in that building before the game… The pregame ceremony and celebration did not disappoint. There was one thing about pregame that I really liked and one thing that I really did not like. I liked how the Seahawks told everybody with tickets to be in their seats by 5pm for the pregame celebration but the pregame ceremonies did not start until NBC went live at 5:30. Smart thinking Seahawks. The thing I found slightly disappointing what that they unveiled the banner simultaneous to the team running out of the tunnel. I wish they would have waited until right before the game started to drop the banner… That may have been the most fun I’ve had at a Seahawks game ever. The crowd was so merry and confident. It was a truly special night all around.

The Seahawks take an extended break before getting to work on the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy this weekend’s games everyone. Go Hawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Raiders Preview

27 Aug
raiders preview 2014

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders

Site: O.co Coliseum (Oakland, California)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The Seahawks are one week away from kicking off the regular season. Two things stand in their way; final roster cuts and Thursday’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks have a 2-1 preseason record and are coming off a 34-6 throttling of the Chicago Bears. The Raiders are 1-2 and are back home after losing in Green Bay last week 31-21. This is the 9th straight season the Seahawks conclude the preseason against the Raiders and this is the first time since 2010 that the preseason finale is played in Oakland. The starters will see little to no playing time in this game. I expect Russell Wilson and the starting offense to play only the first series. These are the players and storylines I will be watching before the Seahawks set their regular season roster on Saturday.

The first defensive series of this game will likely be the only time our starting defense will play in full before the start of the regular season. Head Coach Pete Carroll is optimistic that middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin will be available this week. If that is the case, the Seahawks will start their entire projected starting defense against the Raiders. This unit will only see one series as a whole, with selected players possibly seeing expanded playing time. On the offensive side of the ball, I expect Russell Wilson will only lead one drive in the first quarter before turning the job over to Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor. With the way the Seahawks have been playing so far in the preseason, is it too farfetched to expect the Seahawks to hold a 7-0 lead after the first two drives of the game? That is my expectation for the first quarter of play on Thursday night.

The fourth and final preseason game is a job interview for many players on both teams. A strong performance in the preseason finale could be the difference between making the 53-man roster to start the season or getting cut. My main interests going into this game include a single player and an entire position group. On defense my eye will be on defensive end Benson Mayowa. Mayowa impressed coaches and fans in the 2013 preseason with 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks but he has been virtually nonexistent thus far this year, recording only 4 tackles and ½ of a sack. Mayowa is fighting to fit into the pass rush rotation but with O’Brien Schofield, Greg Scruggs back from injury, and rookie Cassius Marsh, there may simply be no room for him. I believe Mayowa must have a very strong performance against Oakland to even be a consideration to make our 2014 roster.

After the Seahawks selected wide receiver Paul Richardson in the 2014 NFL Draft, conversations started about the depth and talent the Seahawks have loaded at wide receiver. This catapulted discussions that by the end of the preseason some tough roster decisions will have to be made and the Seahawks will be forced to release some strong talent at the position. The Seahawks will likely only keep 6 wide receivers on the active roster. Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse are all presumed locks to make the team, leaving three spots up for grabs to 8 different receivers. In my opinion, the Seahawks will also hold on to Richardson and Ricardo Lockette which will leave one final spot to be won by Phil Bates, Bryan Walters, or fellow rookie Kevin Norwood. What makes this position group difficult to cut is that each player adds their own unique talents and traits. Lockette has shown flashes of good speed and hands on offense, Walters is a solid special teams contributor with kick return capability, and Bates is one of Russell Wilson’s most reliable targets in practice. I will be watching Lockette, Bates, and Walters closely this week on offense.

The Oakland Raiders enter 2014 with an interesting mix of raw young talent and veteran leadership. The Raiders are led on offense by newly-acquired quarterback Matt Schaub however it will be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who sees the majority of playing time this week. The Raiders have also added offensive skill-position talent in running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones. On defense, the Raiders have added defensive linemen Antonio Smith and Justin Tuck to help a pass rush that was mostly ineffective in 2013. Oakland upgraded their linebacker corps by drafting Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Raiders also upgraded their secondary by adding a pair of veteran cornerbacks; Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. All of these moves express the effort to improve a unit that gave up the 5th most passing yards per game last season. What makes this game hard to analyze is that even though we play the Raiders later this season, we will see a mere shell of the team that we will host on November 2nd, much like the shell of us that the Raiders will see this week. Seahawks/Raiders preseason matchups in past years have been mostly noncompetitive, with the Seahawks jumping out to a big early lead and holding it. If this game remains close later into the second half I believe that will point to the Raiders being an overall better team in 2014.

Random Thoughts: My Seahawks uniform prediction this week: white jerseys with blue pants. Just a guess… For one last time Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week… This trip marks only the 4th time the Seahawks have played in Oakland since moving to the NFC West in 2002… The baseball infield will be present this week since the Athletics have not concluded their season yet. The Raiders are now the only team in the NFL who has to deal with the dirt infield for the first half of their season. It’s just another reason why the Raiders either need to build a new stadium or move to, say, Los Angeles???… My guess is that the Seahawks will treat this week like a normal regular season game week since they start the season next Thursday. The Seahawks will likely play the Raiders on Thursday, watch film on Friday, trim the roster to 53 players on the off day Saturday, and begin practice and preparation for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Prediction: The Seahawks offense will drive down the field with ease and score a touchdown on their first series of the game. To counter, the starting defense will force Oakland to punt on their first drive of the game. The Seahawks backups led by Tarvaris Jackson will maintain the lead and the Seahawks will win, ending their preseason with a 3-1 record. The Seahawks will not light up the scoreboard like they have the past couple of weeks but they will hold a comfortable lead over the Raiders throughout the second half.

Seahawks 24, Raiders 7

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for my game review. Enjoy the game and Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 45, Jaguars 17

22 Sep

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Well that went just as I expected. The Seahawks defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 45-17 Sunday in a game that was over by halftime. Although the defense gave up 17 points (all during garbage time) the offense clicked as a whole for the first time all season. The Seahawks improve to 3-0 on the season while the Jaguars fall to 0-3. With the losses by San Francisco, St. Louis, and Arizona the Seahawks now hold a two game lead over the rest of the NFC West. There is a lot of good and some bad I took out of Sunday’s game. Here are my observations.

Wilson Back on Track: Russell Wilson made one mistake on Sunday. Luckily that mistake, a deflected interception by Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny, was after the Seahawks had gained full control of the game. Wilson went 14/21 for 202 yards, threw 4 touchdowns and one interception on Sunday in what I consider to be his all-around best game of the season. Wilson did a good job standing firm in the pocket and finding his open receivers than scrambling to help them get open. This is evident by Wilson’s minimal rushing numbers; two carries for 14 yards. After failing to score a touchdown in the first half of our previous two games, Wilson found Zach Miller for two touchdowns and Sidney Rice for a touchdown in the first half on Sunday. It was key to see Wilson shake the rust off in the first half because a slow first half start on the road in the next two weeks could spell trouble for the Seahawks. Wilson was pulled at the end of the third quarter, and therefore escaped uninjured which was also one of my keys heading into Sunday’s game.

Everyone Gets Involved: Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson used a diverse array of running backs and receivers against the Jaguars on Sunday. Seven different players caught passes and five different players had at least one carry on the ground. Golden Tate led all receivers with 5 receptions for 88 yards. Zach Miller had two touchdown catches but it was rookie tight end Luke Willson who made a surprise impact this week. Willson caught 5 passes for 76 yards. Three of Willson’s catches came on play action roll outs where the defense bit on the fake run and Willson was left wide open. On the ground, Marshawn Lynch ran for 69 yards and rookie Christine Michael got his first action of the season, carrying the ball 9 times for 37 yards. On Michael’s carries it seemed to be bang or bust. Michael dances a lot to try to make running room which cost him yards on a couple of his carries while he was also able to break into the second level of the Jacksonville defense on two occasions. I think it was great for over a dozen offensive skill position players to get on the stat sheet because it gives the our next opponent, the Houston Texans, more to analyze and consider when creating a game plan for next week.

Thoughts on the Offensive Line: Overall I think the offensive line played an average football game. You could tell that they were missing the presence of Russell Okung though. Russell Wilson was sacked twice which should not happen at home against the likes of the Jacksonville defense. The Seahawks ran for a total of 156 yards which is an excellent sign that the offensive line can continue to play efficiently. The makeshift offensive line survived the game uninjured as a whole and the same group is expected to start next weekend.

Defense Looked Good But I Expect Better: The Seahawks introduced the starting defense before the game and I was surprised by a couple of names that ran out of the tunnel individually. Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril were announced as our starting defensive ends and O’Brien Schofield was announced as one of our starting outside linebackers in place of Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks loaded up the pass rush today and with the addition of Clemons allowed defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to dial up different blitz packages. The Seahawks sacked Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne three times, half of what I predicted for the defense this week. Through the first quarter the Seahawks defense allowed -9 yards. In the remaining 45 minutes, they gave up 274 total yards. This is unacceptable to me. The starters played into the fourth quarter but looked quite relaxed with little sense of urgency. Seattle was leading big and the defense played like they knew the game was in the bag, leading to 17 Jacksonville points. I am worried that the attitude and play of the defense will translate into bad habits we cannot afford to develop moving forward.

Clemons Gets Extended Playing Time: This was the first game Chris Clemons played since tearing his ACL against Washington Redskins in last season’s playoffs. Having said this, I did not expect to see Clemons play the entire game on Sunday. My expectation was for Clemons to see preseason-like playing time on Sunday, playing a light load until about halftime to get his feet wet. Instead, Clemons played 60 minutes and recorded one quarterback hit.

Penalty Watch: The Seahawks improved drastically this week in the laundry department. 4 penalties for 24 yards is a huge success for this team. The week of preparation leading up to Sunday’s game paid dividends. It is key to build on this success. If we can limit ourselves to 5 penalties or less next week in Houston, it could make for another good game.

Thoughts on Jacksonville: Let’s try to look past the fact that the Jaguars lost by 26 points and the game was virtually over by halftime. If I was a Jaguars fan I would be frustrated that our record is 0-3 after three games but I could see a lot of potential in this team for the future. Jacksonville’s defense has been heavily overhauled since head coach Gus Bradley took over but they have a good mix of veteran leadership and young, raw playmaking talent. On offense, the Jaguars scored 17 points thanks in large part to running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts. It may take a season or two for the Jaguars to be competitive with the rest of the National Football League but if they can add another talented receiver, more depth at offensive line, and a new quarterback, the Jaguars are headed in the right direction. For the time being however, the Jaguars look like a 2-3 win team this season and will most likely be headed for the Jadeveon Clowney/Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes.

Random Thoughts: No surprise here, the Seahawks wore blue jerseys and blue pants this week… As if I didn’t get enough of the bad weather last week, it rained again this week. Luckily it was slightly colder than last week which made it definite sweatshirt-under-jersey weather… There were actually way more Jaguars fans than I thought I would see… I had lunch with my dad for his birthday at the Pyramid Alehouse this week. I highly recommend the fish n’ chips… There were three people in my section that were escorted out by alcohol enforcement this week. That’s a new record and a surprise to me. What about the Jacksonville Jaguars makes people want to get extra rowdy?… Jack Sikma raised the 12th Man flag before the game… The Jaguars overhauled their uniforms this past offseason and they look atrocious, especially their “black and tan” helmet. Whoever thought that helmet looked good during the design process should be fired… I had Sidney Rice on my bench in fantasy football this week. As if my week could not have been any worse, instead of adding Zach Miller to my starting lineup to replace the injured Vernon Davis, I picked up Davis’s backup Vance McDonald. Miller had 12.5 fantasy points. McDonald had 0.6… There was a huge roar when the 49ers score was announced to the crowd in the 4th quarter. With San Francisco playing St. Louis on the road on a short week without two of their star defensive players in week 4, there is a good chance they could start the season 1-3… “If the Seahawks win next week in Houston, we will win the division.”- My dad (one of the most pessimistic Seahawks fans you would ever meet, by the way).

I will publish my preview of next weekend’s game against the Houston Texans early Saturday morning. Hope everyone enjoyed the game! Thanks for reading as always. Go Seahawks!

49ers/Seahawks Preview

14 Sep

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Matchup: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

Back on April 18th, the National Football League released its full slate of games for the 2013 season. What I like to do when the schedule comes out is go week by week and reveal game by game. As the games were revealed in week 2, both the 49ers and the Seahawks had not been scheduled. Then I got to Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks pull the first of two games against San Francisco here in week 2 in a crucial early season divisional battle. With the Falcons favored over the Rams in one of Sunday’s early games, the Seahawks could be playing for a sole possession of first place in the division, and a one game lead over the 49ers. The Seahawks are coming off a 12-7 win over the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco is also coming off a victory; a 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. There is a lot to be mentioned so let’s get down to it.

Even with the 12th Man behind the defense, it is crucial that the Seahawks be as healthy as possible to add to our powerful home field advantage. Cliff Avril has been practicing with the first-team unit this week and his presence should bolster a Seahawks pass rush that only sacked Cam Newton once last week. Avril will take O’Brien Schofield’s place as our starting “Leo” defensive end. On third down, Avril, Schofield, and Benson Mayowa will be featured in our blitz package. I am both nervous and excited about our pass rush. Being at home with the crowd noise will help but we need to jump off the ball better than last week. I don’t expect to see many sacks this week but I do expect us to have more than one. In the secondary, Brandon Browner has been nursing a pulled hamstring and is questionable again this week. My prediction is that Browner will miss his second straight game and Walter Thurmond will start once again this week. Like last week I am fully confident in Thurmond to do his job well. Our run defense will also be a focus of mine. The Seahawks defense held San Francisco running back Frank Gore to a mere 28 yards rushing last season and Gore has not ran for more than 100 yards against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field since 2006. In the 6 games against the 49ers at home dating back to 2007, where Gore has ran for less than 100 yards, the Seahawks have a record of 4-2. If our run defense shows improvement from last week and can stuff Gore at the line of scrimmage and eliminate yards after contact, we will force third downs and will have a better chance to force San Francisco to punt.

The million dollar question on offense this week is this: which receiver will be the leading receiver and/or the star of the game? Last week Jermaine Kearse caught the game winning touchdown pass and Doug Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving yards. This week at home I think we are going to try to profoundly display our most explosive receiver. Not Percy Harvin obviously, but Golden Tate. Last week Tate lined up for two plays in the backfield; the spot that Harvin will most likely line up in when healthy. I think the Seahawks will open up the playbook this week to highlight Tate among our other offensive weapons. Russell Wilson will considerably more read-option plays then last week and there will be some sort of trickery at some point on Sunday Night. A lot of experts think that the 49ers will win this game because of their explosive offense and stout defense able to stuff a “weak” and “rusty” Seahawks offense. Sunday Night is our night to show the country that we just had a bad game offensively last week. I am not expecting the productivity of last season’s game, but don’t be surprised if our offense bounces back similarly to how we played Dallas in our home opener last season after struggling week one in Arizona.

The San Francisco 49ers come into town with an offense that played exceptionally well last week and a defense that is still incredibly talented but gave up 28 points at home. The big question coming into the 2013 season for San Francisco was who would step up to be the playmakers at wide receiver after Michael Crabtree was lost to an Achilles injury. Last Sunday the answer may have been found in Anquan Boldin. Boldin was traded to the 49ers from Baltimore during the offseason and made an immediate impact last week, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. If the Legion of Boom can shut Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis down, the 49ers may be low on options at wide receiver. Kyle Williams could be the X-Factor and is my offensive man to watch of the 49ers this week. Williams caught 3 passes for 36 yards last week and was the leading receiver when you take out Boldin’s numbers and Davis’s numbers. If the Seahawks are effective in containing these two guys, Colin Kaepernick could have more of an impact than head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman originally intended him to. Kaepernick will run more than he did last week and he may be forced to in order to keep drives alive.

The Seahawks always try to test new players. When the 49ers lost safety Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay during free agency, they used their first round draft pick this past year on Eric Reid from LSU. With Reid still learning the ways of playing in an NFL defense, this could be the 49ers main weakness this week. Russell Wilson may try to go deep down the middle to test Reid and if the Seahawks are successful, they will keep trying to stretch the field to pick on Reid. In regards to the 49ers front 7, there is one huge difference between who played last year and who will play this year. Nose tackle Justin Smith is healthy after missing last year’s week 16 matchup with a triceps tear and his absence was absolutely noticeable in the running game. The Seahawks ran for 176 yards. With Smith back it will be harder for the Seahawks to run the ball this week. The Linebacker corps is still the strongest unit of the San Francisco defense. Russell Wilson must be aware of the personnel on the other side of the ball because Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Aldon Smith will make the Seahawks pay if they can get into a groove.

One underlying note this week is to keep an eye out on chippy play and personal foul penalties. These two teams hate each other so I wouldn’t be surprised to see some players getting in each other’s faces to try to draw a late flag.

One final note, as I broke back in July the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for “loudest crowd road at a sports stadium” this week. The first official attempt will be on the 49ers first offensive play of the game. If you are reading this and will be in attendance on Sunday Night, do NOT forget to yell, clap, whistle, etc. As loud as it is at a Seahawks game, not everybody screams when the Seahawks are on defense. If we can get close to 100 percent vocal participation from the 12th Man, I think we have an excellent chance to break this record.

Random Thoughts: Is it really supposed to rain on Sunday Night??? I have never been to a home opener with rain in the forecast. If it does rain though consider us to have an advantage. We played the 49ers in the rain last year and they struggled holding onto the ball… The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week… John Parry is the referee this week… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC… I’m taking my buddy Alan this week. This is the second time he has been to a 49ers/Seahawks game with me. The first time was Monday Night Football in 2007… Praying to God alcohol enforcement doesn’t come up and ruin my Seahawks/49ers gameday again this season… On a similar note, undercover Seattle police officers are going to be in 49ers apparel this week. I guess I’ll just stick to booing. I don’t want to risk getting myself in serious trouble… With a 5:30 kickoff, it is still up in the air how we are going to spend our time before the game. Probably bouncing around the bars and checking out a tailgate or two… I’ve noticed ticket prices for this game are dropping on the secondary markets. Sellers are starting to realize their initial asking prices were too unreasonable for people. If you don’t have tickets but want to go to the game, I would suggest checking StubHub or NFL ticket exchange right now (49ers fans, ignore that)… I hope the Seahawks give away towels this week. It’s primetime. Towels would look awesome during pregame.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will throw for another 300+ yards this week along with two touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch will not break 100 yards rushing but will score his first touchdown of the season. Colin Kaepernick will get off to a fast start but the Seahawks defense will figure out how to slow him down later on in the game. The Seahawks will win their 9th straight home game, take sole possession of first place in the NFC West, and get ready for the Jacksonville Jaguars with a 2-0 record.

Seahawks 30, 49ers 20

It will be a long night after the game, but check back on Monday for my 49ers/Seahawks game review. Whether watching on TV or you are lucky enough to be in attendance, enjoy the game everybody! Go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 12, Panthers 7

8 Sep

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These are the kinds of games we will be looking back on in November and December and be thanking God we were able to pull it out. The Seahawks escaped with a 12-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The win gives the Seahawks a 1-0 record and the Panthers start their season 0-1. There is a lot to talk about and a lot I pulled from this game. Here are my observations from this nail biter.

Running Game Needs To Improve: I will cut Marshawn Lynch a little bit of slack on this one because the Carolina Panthers front 7 is extremely talented in stuffing the run. Lynch ran for only 43 yards this week while the entire Seahawks team rushed for only 70 yards total. At times I felt that Robert Turbin had more success running the ball then Lynch did. I have a hard time diagnosing what the main problem was. As talented as the Panthers defense is, the Seahawks offensive line struggled at times to open holes and protection in both phases of the offense was shaky throughout the game. At home next week against another stout defense, the running game needs to improve or else we will struggle putting up points and extending drives once again.

Thoughts on Russell Wilson: Russell Wilson threw for 320 yards and one touchdown on Sunday but there was one head-scratching element and one frustrating element Wilson displayed during the game. The head-scratching element was that Wilson ran the ball only 5 times for 7 yards. None of these rushes were zone-read keepers. Even though the Seahawks running game was below average throughout the game, I thought Wilson would try to trick the Panthers defense by faking hand offs and keeping the ball, especially in the second half when it had been established that Seattle was having trouble on the ground. The frustrating element of Wilson’s game was that he seemed to be too comfortable in the pocket at times. Wilson was sacked twice and also fumbled the ball deep into Carolina territory. In these instances and others throughout the game, Wilson tried to stay in the pocket and waited for something to open up rather than scramble to create space to get his receivers open. When he did scramble, he didn’t seem comfortable committing to throwing to any of his receivers. The Panthers defense showed their presence by using their speed and quickness. Wilson needs to be more decisive next week because holding the ball for too long will result in lost yards and missed opportunities.

Dark Horses: Sidney Rice and Golden Tate were the starting wide receivers on Sunday but it was Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse who made the biggest impact in the passing game this week. Baldwin led the Seahawks receivers in receptions and yards, catching 7 passes for 91 yards. Kearse reeled in the only Seahawks touchdown of the game, a 43-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to give the Seahawks the lead for good. I think these two players will have a lasting impact this season; more of an impact than a lot of people thought. Without Percy Harvin, Baldwin and Kearse were given the opportunity to prove themselves as valuable assets in the passing game and both proved their value this week. Look for them to see expanded playing time in the coming weeks.

Schofield Holds down the Fort, But Road Defense Still a Weakness: Cliff Avril was inactive against Carolina, thrusting O’Brien Schofield into the starting lineup at defensive end this week. Schofield did not overly impress me but I think he did a solid job. Schofield recorded the Seahawks only sack of Cam Newton this week. I do not believe Schofield is meant to be a long-term solution at defensive end should Avril miss any more time, but he did his job adequately today and the Seahawks were able to pull out a win. As for the rest of the defense, we looked eerily similar to last year’s road defense. This is not a good thing. The Seahawks couldn’t put pressure on Newton when it mattered the most, on third down. Carolina converted 5 of their 11 third downs; a 45.5% conversion rate. Tackling also needs to improve, as Panthers running backs DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert were able to gain yards after contact on most of their rushes. The defense needs to do a better job contacting the runner at the line of scrimmage or behind it to prevent the opportunity to gain extra yards. Luckily for the Seahawks, we have two straight home games before our next road game in Houston.

Awareness is Key: On both Carolina fumbles that were recovered by the Seahawks, I noticed incredible awareness by the Seattle defenders to know that the ball had been knocked out and that the play was still live. Both fumbles included at least three Seahawks to pounce on the loose ball and in both instances it was not even a question as to which team recovered the ball. I was very impressed by the instincts the Seahawks defense showed this week.

Penalty Watch: The Seahawks had 9 penalties for a total of 99 yards this week; 6 of them coming in the second half. Most of our penalties occurred at inopportune times, such as on third downs that instead of stopping Carolina drives, extended them. As sad as it is to say, the number of penalties is improving from where we were in the preseason but needs to get a lot better in a big hurry or else it will cost us these close games.

Thoughts on Carolina: I think that the Carolina Panthers have a defense that the coaching staff can rely on all season long. It is a unit that is capable of getting them to the playoffs. Having said this, the Panthers will go only as far as Cam Newton and the offense takes them. The Panthers running game was impressive this week but they do not have a solidified feature back given that Jonathan Stewart is out with an injury. Cam Newton was held to 125 passing yards this week and that will definitely not cut it over the course of the season. If Newton improves and shows stable, consistent improvement, the Panthers could be a dark horse pick for an NFC wild-card berth this season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks haven’t won in week one on the road since 2006 when the Seahawks beat Detroit 9-6… The heat didn’t play as big of a factor later on in the game as I thought it would… We stayed healthy throughout the course of the game. I always love to see that… Where was Christine Michael???… The Seahawks wore grey pants with their blue jerseys this week… I am running on pure adrenaline as I’m writing this. Sunday Night Football is currently on and I’ve been up since 6am… I’ve always thought Bank of America Stadium is one of the most boring looking stadiums in the NFL. It’s just a bowl with three levels. No notable decorations either… The Seahawks have 4 more 10am kickoffs this season. Good thing we showed we can win on the road early on in the season… My fantasy team is going to struggle this season… I say it every season and I’ll say it again. Thank God for NFL Red Zone. I got to watch every NFC West team this week since the 49ers, Cardinals, and Rams all played in the 1:25pm slot after the Seahawks game… Speaking of the 49ers, I’m disappointed they pulled out a win over Green Bay but my attitude could be a lot worse if the Seahawks had lost… Next week is going to be HUGE. Nothing I say will convince you otherwise. With sole possession of first place in the NFC West potentially on the line, I am already getting excited thinking about next week’s game.

If you hate the San Francisco 49ers like I know you do, make sure you check back Tuesday for a very special post. With the 49ers coming to town next week for our home opener, I take you into my past as I explain where my hatred of the San Francisco 49ers comes from. I promise you, it will definitely be a must-read for any true Seahawks fan.

I will publish my preview of next week’s Sunday night home opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday. Thanks for reading everybody. Go Seahawks!