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

19 Nov

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

Marshawn Lynch

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

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

10for10 79pride

Photo Credit: nfltouchdown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10for10 holdmahdick

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

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

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Panthers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Divisional Playoff)

9 Jan
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: (4) Carolina Panthers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:15pm

I love the city of Seattle in the month of January. Everyone has a pep in their step in preparation for the NFL Playoffs. After an eventful Wild-Card weekend we know which of the surviving teams gets the opportunity to play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional playoffs. That team is the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks Saturday night. The winner advances to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. The loser goes home. Last week the Panthers became the second team in modern NFL history to win their first playoff game after entering the postseason with a losing record. Including that win last week over the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers enter this game 8-8-1. The Seahawks are 12-4 and are looking to make it back to their second straight NFC title game. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with Carolina 6-2. Their last meeting came earlier this season when the Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 in Charlotte. The Seahawks went on to win 8 of their next 9 games. The Seahawks are also 3-0 all-time against Carolina at CenturyLink Field, including a 34-14 win over the Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith led Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game. There are a lot of storylines to take note of this week. Here is what I will be looking for.

In last season’s divisional playoff game against New Orleans, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effectiveness in the running game allowed the Seahawks to control the tempo of the game and there was never any significant threat of the Saints taking the game over. The same must happen this week. Seattle’s ability to run the ball is crucial this week since they are facing a defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since October 30th (Week 9). If Lynch himself can run for at least 80 yards it will lead me to believe that we can control the clock and control the game. If the Panthers do a solid job stopping the Seahawks running game my number one guy to watch in the passing game is wide receiver Doug Baldwin. In three career games against Carolina he has 189 receiving yards and in his last two games against the Panthers, Baldwin led all Seahawks receivers in receiving yards. In addition to playing on the outside look for Baldwin to spend a lot of time in the slot this week, as quick throws and routes down the seam could be effective.

Just like how the running game is priority number one on offense, stopping the Panthers running game is priority number one on defense. This will be difficult, as Carolina will use feature back Jonathan Stewart and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton scrambling gives the Seahawks an additional element to focus on. The Seahawks have faced Carolina each of the last three seasons. In each of those games I thought there was a serious threat of Newton running wild if the going got tough for the Panthers offense. In each of those games Newton rushed for only 42, 38, and 24 yards respectively. In a playoff situation I think now is as good a time for the Panthers to let Newton run wild if the Seahawks play great defense. Newton’s build and strength will make it difficult to wrap him up and get him to the ground. If there is a player you must keep a close eye on when Carolina has the ball, it is Cam Newton.

Over the past few weeks the Carolina Panthers defense has been playing similarly to how they played all of last season, suffocating. If could be a difficult challenge for the Seahawks to get their offense going as the Panthers sport two tackling machines at the linebacker position in Thomas Davis and pro-bowler Luke Kuechly. Davis and Kuechly have combined for 253 total tackles so far this season, by far the best of any tandem in the NFL. The Panthers do come into this game a bit banged up however, as it was announced Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured foot. Lotulelei will not play for the rest of the season. As important as Carolina’s front seven is for the Seahawks to be aware of, I will be keeping a close eye on the play of the Panthers secondary. One of Carolina’s starting cornerbacks was inactive when these two teams met back in October so I have decided to put my X-Factor player to watch spotlight on that player, cornerback Bené Benwikere. Benwikere, a 5th round rookie from San Jose State, is a physically small player who has shown he can play big in his limited playing time this season. Benwikere has recorded 24 tackles in 11 games and has also picked off one pass and forced one fumble. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse will both likely line up across from Benwikere throughout the game and since he did not play in the first meeting, I would not be surprised to see Russell Wilson throw in his direction multiple times in the first half.

This last point cannot be overlooked. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. Former Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who played in the 2005 NFC Championship Game in Seattle, came out this week stating there is no way to prepare for just how loud the 12th Man is. It had been reported earlier in the week that the Panthers were having serious difficulties handling artificial simulated crowd noise during practice; a serious red flag. Over the past few years we have seen what kind of problems “Clink rookies” have had communicating in the huddle once they get lined up. Colin Kaepernick immediately comes to mind as his 49ers failed terribly at handling the noise in his first game in Seattle in 2012. This week the 12’s need to give everything they have to make life a living hell for Newton. I believe Newton has no idea what he is in for and it will be a harsh reality once kickoff rolls around Saturday night. The Panthers used no huddle for 22 plays last week against Arizona and they will likely use a similar dose of no huddle this week. To the 12th Man, stay loud all game long, even between plays. Our voices could be the difference between advancing to the NFC Championship Game and not.

Random Thoughts: The Panthers will wear all-white with the Seahawks wearing all-blue this week… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch have the call for FOX this week. This is not a surprise given the potential ratings of the other NFC Divisional game (Dallas at Green Bay). It makes sense that FOX would send their number one crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to Lambeau for that game instead… The referee this week is Terry McAulay. McAulay officiated the Seahawks divisional round game last season and Super Bowl XLVIII… Saturday is going to be a very long day but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love primetime football. This is going to be a very special game… The giveaway this week is “We Are 12” rally towels. I love it. Towels should be the giveaway for all playoff games and I am glad to see the Seahawks are fixing their mistake from last season (they gave away 12th Man flags vs. the Saints)… Even though this is an evening kickoff it is the playoffs, and it should be expected that everyone be in their seats by the time pregame ceremonies start. I want to see a full stadium waving their towels as the Seahawks run out of the tunnel… I believe that there is an incredibly strong possibility that former Mariners pitcher and 2015 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Randy Johnson will raise the 12th Man flag this week. Don’t believe me? Check out this tweet… One of my favorite postseason traditions is when the Seahawks play Ozzy Osbourne’s “Let Me Hear You Scream” with a video encouraging fans to get loud as the television broadcast is coming back from a TV timeout. If they bring this back on Saturday night I am going to get super super pumped… This week marks the return of the Skittles in section 340. To everyone possibly sitting below me this is your warning to watch out. Streamers will also be making a re-appearance in these playoffs. Let’s make this playoff run a full on raging party in the stands… One win away from the NFC Championship and two victories away from Super Bowl XLIX. It’s on the tips of our fingers.

Prediction: The Panthers and Seahawks will keep this game close until the closing minutes of the first half. With the Seahawks holding a 7-3 lead, Richard Sherman will intercept a Cam Newton pass and Marshawn Lynch will score a touchdown with under one minute remaining in the half, giving the Seahawks a 14-3 halftime lead. The Seahawks will carry that momentum into the second half as they will take the opening kickoff and drive the length of the field, culminating in a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin, giving the Seahawks a 21-3 lead. Beast Mode will add one more score in garbage time and the Seahawks will cruise to the NFC Championship to face the Green Bay Packers.

Seahawks 28, Panthers 10

Due to a belated birthday celebration for myself with all of my friends after the game I will not have my game review published until Sunday night most likely. By then we will know who we will face in the NFC Championship Game should we win on Saturday. Check back Sunday night for my take on Saturday’s game. Go Seahawks!