Tag Archives: Russell Okung

Seahawks/Vikings Preview

5 Dec
vikings preview 2015

Photo Credit: Vikings.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Site: TCF Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

Kickoff: 10:00am

Raise your hand if you had this game as the Seahawks most important game of the season when the schedule came out. After three consecutive games at home the Seahawks hit the road for two straight games. Up first is a huge conference matchup against the Minnesota Vikings. The Seahawks are 6-5 and are coming off a huge win over Pittsburgh a week ago. The Vikings were a team that many experts said to keep an eye on at the start of the season and they are proving the experts right. Minnesota holds an impressive 8-3 record and are currently the leaders of the NFC North. Seattle leads the all-time series 8-5. In their last meeting the Seahawks crushed the Vikings 41-20 in Seattle and the Seahawks eventually went on to win the super bowl. This could very well be a preview of a potential playoff matchup next month. Here is what I will be watching for.

The Minnesota defense allows an average of only 17.6 points per game, second best in the league. It is imperative for the Seahawks offense to be able to stay on the field and drive deep into Vikings territory. Thomas Rawls will face his biggest challenge of the season and I will be keeping close tabs on his yardage coming on first down opportunities. If he can gain at least 4 yards on first down it will put the offense in a good position to gain first downs and keep drives alive. In the passing game I will be focused on the blocking by left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Justin Britt. The right side of the Vikings front seven consists of lineman Everson Griffen as well as linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. These three players have combined for 14 of Minnesota’s 25 sacks this season (56 percent). I expect Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to take care of the ball just like how he did a week ago against Pittsburgh but he must be more aware of his blindside in this game. If Okung and Britt struggle to block it would not be surprising to see Wilson get hit and fumble the ball multiple times. Quick passes to Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Luke Willson may be the best way to attack the Vikings through the air this week.

If there was one game this season where I wish we still had Red Bryant it would be for this game. Priority number one for the Seahawks defense this week will be to stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. It will be up to Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to lock down the middle of the line of scrimmage. Given the solid play of Minnesota’s offensive line penetrating the line will be difficult. Good fundamental tackling will go a long way to limiting Peterson’s production. One guy on defense that may see more playing time than usual is Jordan Hill. In an attempt to limit Peterson’s presence it may not be surprising to see Hill, Mebane, and Rubin all play on the line at the same time.

The Minnesota Vikings have the top ranked rushing offense in the league. In contrast they also sport the league’s second worse pass offense. At age 30 Adrian Peterson is still as productive as ever and the Vikings offense is only as effective as he is. Peterson leads the league in rushing yards with 1,164 and has rushed for over 100 yards six times this season. The Vikings are 6-0 in those games. My worry is that the Vikings will use other ways to move the ball on the ground in an attempt to avoid throwing towards the Legion of Boom. My X-Factor Player to Watch for the Vikings this week is one of the better young quarterbacks in the league and the man that makes the entire Minnesota offense work, Teddy Bridgewater. Although Bridgewater has not thrown for many touchdowns, he is a very conservative passer who tries to move the ball in small chunks to wear out the opposing defense. Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of over 65 percent in six games. In those games he has thrown only two interceptions. The main reason why he is my X-Factor this week is the threat of him keeping the ball and running. Although he has not nearly put up the type of rushing stats as Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick of seasons past, Bridgewater is one of the faster quarterbacks in the league and he will scramble and take off if he feels the pressure and does not have any open receivers. Peterson may be the number one priority of the Seattle defense but Bridgewater also contributes to that top ranked rushing attack. Plain and simple, shut Peterson and Bridgewater down on the ground, win the game.

Something that is not garnering the attention that I believe it should is one fairly significant advantage the Seahawks have in this game. Gone are the days of playing the Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which was one of the better home field advantages in the NFL. It would be a tougher challenge for the Seahawks if we were playing at the Metrodome. Instead the Vikings are playing the second of two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota while their brand new stadium is under construction. The stadium seats just over 51,000 which is the smallest capacity of any current NFL stadium and crowd noise will hardly be a factor.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear white jerseys and wolf grey pants. Seattle is 0-4 all-time in this combination. The Vikings will wear purple jerseys and white pants… Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch will have the play-by-play and commentary respectively on FOX. Pam Oliver will report from the sidelines… Terry McAulay will be this week’s referee… I briefly considered hitting the road for this game but ultimately decided to go to Dallas instead. The reason behind that decision was the potential weather in Minneapolis. Being a December game I thought there was a realistic possibility of it being below freezing and snowing. Hindsight is 20/20 and in that vein it looks like it will be a nice day for football. The high temperature on Sunday will be in the low 40’s and it will be sunny. That is exactly the kind of weather we have experienced in Seattle the past two weeks… After this week the combined record of the Seahawks next three opponents is 10-23. Translation: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings, you will be extremely hard-pressed to make the argument that Seattle will miss out on the playoffs.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks currently hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs and with a win we are locked into this spot for at least another week; we cannot move up but a loss may knock us out of the current playoff picture. Seattle is three games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. Here are games to keep track of that may have NFC playoff implications this week. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7)

Atlanta (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6)

Prediction: The Seahawks are 12-2 in games played in December with Russell Wilson at quarterback. Each of the prior three seasons our December success has carried us to the playoffs. With the win last week we will be riding some serious momentum into this game. Thomas Rawls will run for over 125 yards and score two touchdowns. Wilson will also throw a touchdown to Luke Willson. The game will come down to Minnesota’s final drive. After a punt by Jon Ryan pins the Vikings at their own 2-yard line, Bridgewater will have to drive 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. On the first play of the drive Minnesota will be penalized for holding in the endzone, giving the Seahawks a safety and in-turn, clinching the game for Seattle. We will improve to 7-5 and be in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card berth.

Seahawks 26, Vikings 17

Seahawks/49ers Preview

21 Oct
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California)

Kickoff: 5:25pm

For the second time in as many years the Seahawks head to Silicon Valley for primetime football. The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers face off under the Thursday Night spotlight at Levi’s Stadium. After another heartbreaking loss last week the Seahawks sit at a very underwhelming 2-4. After one of the worst offseasons in NFL history, the 49ers have also jumped out of the gate slowly as they too sit at 2-4. San Francisco however enters this week’s game coming off a win over the Baltimore Ravens last week. The Seahawks lead the all-time series against the 49ers 18-15 including a 17-7 victory in their last meeting last season. This is must-win for the Seahawks since they cannot afford to lose any more ground in the division race. Here is what I’ll be watching for.

While I was busy putting offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on blast in my game review, I completely failed to mention that there has been a change along the Seahawks offensive line. Patrick Lewis got the start at center in place of Drew Nowak and although I saw improvement in interior blocking and pass protection last week, the play of the unit as a whole continues to be an issue. Lewis got hurt in last week’s game so Nowak will likely be back in the starting lineup this week with the newly re-signed Lemuel Jeanpierre as his back up. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked four more times against Carolina. Although the San Francisco defense has lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, they have managed to record 9 sacks so far this season, over half of them coming from their linebackers. This week it will be necessary for Jimmy Graham, Will Tukuafu, and Marshawn Lynch to block in order to help give Wilson time to make throws. The primary keys to a successful day on offense mirror what I said about Carolina’s offense a week ago. If Marshawn Lynch can run effectively he will take immense pressure off the passing game. Also, if Wilson uses misdirection regularly it will create space to make big plays. Although Seattle has not used read option much at all so far this season, do not be surprised to see it make an appearance in this game, especially if we are trailing in the second half.

With the shaky play in the third level of our defense in recent weeks, the best way to attack the 49ers offense on Thursday is to force quarterback Colin Kaepernick into short and intermediate throws only. If the Seahawks cannot put consistent pressure on Kaepernick that may actually be a good thing, as he has thrown the ball well deep down the field when forced to scramble outside the pocket, including a long touchdown pass to wide receiver Torrey Smith last week. Smith will line up across from Cary Williams, the matchup that will garner the most attention from me outside the numbers. I think the presence of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will be the most important aspect of our defensive game plan. Although we played a solid game with Kevin Pierre-Louis in place of Wagner against Carolina, it will help greatly to have Wagner back to lock down the middle of the field.

No team may have lost more over one offseason than the San Francisco 49ers did over this past offseason, especially on the defensive side of the football. It is hard to believe that only two defensive starters from the 49ers 2012 NFC Championship team, linebackers Ahmad Brooks and NaVorro Bowman, remain on the roster. Over the course of the last 10 months the 49ers released outside linebacker Aldon Smith after a series of run-ins with the law. They also lost nose tackle Justin Smith and middle linebacker Patrick Willis to retirement. To make matters even worse the man they drafted last season to be the heir apparent to Willis, Chris Borland, also retired due to future health concerns. The loss of Borland was particularly unfortunate because he was a tackling machine in place of the injured Willis a season ago.

This season San Francisco has allowed an average of just about 27 points per game, a number that greatly correlates to the 49ers record thus far. The 49ers linebacker corps will have my full attention as they sport the two leading tacklers on the team in Bowman and Michael Wilhoite. However given the below-average pass protection Russell Wilson has received this season my 49ers X-Factor spotlight goes to the man most effective at getting to the quarterback. My X-Factor Player to Watch this week is outside linebacker Aaron Lynch. Lynch has recorded 3 sacks this season; a third of San Francisco’s total and all three coming at Levi’s Stadium. Lynch is also coming off his most productive day in coverage, recording a season high 5 tackles and one pass defensed this past Sunday. Keep an eye on how left tackle Russell Okung handles Lynch on the outside.

Random Thoughts: No word yet on the Seahawks uniform combination but do we have 5 road games remaining. We will don college navy for one of those games (Dallas). With two opportunities to wear wolf grey still available to us, that means there is a 50/50 chance we wear wolf grey in San Francisco. It’s basic math, people. The 49ers have elected not to wear their new all-black alternate uniform for this game. Instead they will wear their traditional look of red jerseys and gold pants… Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call on the NFL Network/CBS simulcast with Tracy Wolfson covering the sidelines… The referee this week is Walt Anderson… Thursday will be an incredibly hectic and exciting day. I’m looking at a 4am wakeup call followed by a 7am flight to San Francisco which gets me into the Bay Area around 9 or 9:30am. Then comes a 4-hour window before the parking lots open at Levi’s Stadium. Tailgate will begin shortly after 1:30 then the game at 5:30. Then back to San Francisco after the game for the rest of the weekend… Should have waited to pull the trigger on tickets on Stubhub. I can’t believe prices have dropped as much as they have since the season started… I’ll be satisfied with at least two visits to In-N-Out Burger over the next 4 days… I love flying into SFO. The airport runway setup right off of the bay is unlike any other city I have flown into… Here is my history of being heckled at 49ers home games. In 2011 one drunken 49ers fan tried to sit on my lap and as he walked away he screamed “SEATTLE SEAHAWKS GINGER FRO” in reference to my incredibly long red hair. In 2012 I posed for a picture during a timeout and someone sitting above me in my section screamed “ginger on three! One, two, three!” In 2013 after posing for a picture a 49ers fan sitting a few rows above me threw a sandwich in my direction. It hit a 49ers fan sitting about 4 rows below me and he looked back and made eye contact with me. Because I was wearing Seahawks paraphernalia, he assumed I was the one responsible for the sandwich being thrown. He probably wanted to get security involved but the people around me seemingly convinced him I was not to blame. Granted all these incidents happened at Candlestick Park, but I have heard (and seen on Deadspin) that the Candlestick crowds make the drive down to Santa Clara every week. Hopefully the people around us are nice. I hope my friends and I are not the subjects of harassment. As long as we stay in our own lane and root for the Seahawks only, we should be fine.

Prediction: Due to the incredible sense of urgency after back-to-back devastating losses, I believe the Seahawks will come out with a vengeance. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Russell Wilson will both throw a touchdown and run one in from inside the redzone. The Seahawks defense will play an air-tight game, allowing only one 49ers touchdown. The Seahawks will come home 3-4 and will have an extra couple days off before we get started on the Dallas Cowboys.

Seahawks 27, 49ers 13

Programming Note: I will be leaving my computer in Seattle so I will not be able to post my game review until I get home. Look for my 49ers review either late Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Raiders/Seahawks Preview

2 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

We are so close to the season opener in St. Louis. The only thing standing in the Seahawks way is the preseason finale. On Thursday, for the 10th consecutive season, the Seahawks conclude their preseason slate against the Oakland Raiders. This is the final job interview for many players fighting to make our week one roster. The starters may play the first series of the game, if that, and then their nights will be done. The spotlight in the fourth week of the preseason is on the young guys. This week I will be focused on position battles. In this preview, I will gloss over what our opening day starting units may look like while noting which battles may be important to watch this week at each position. Let’s get to it.

Quarterbacks: If Tarvaris Jackson is able to play this week, the plans at the quarterback position will surely be set. If he can play, which to me is unlikely, Jackson may see a little bit of playing time before R.J. Archer takes over. If Jackson cannot go, then Archer will likely play almost the entire game. In the grand scheme of things, if Jackson is healthy enough to play this week that makes R.J. Archer’s performance extremely important. During the Pete Carroll era the Seahawks only carry two active quarterbacks on the roster with a third quarterback on the practice squad. Archer’s performance against the Raiders will be the difference between him making the active roster and him getting cut and re-signed to the practice squad.

Running Backs: If Thomas Rawls has any chance to steal Christine Michael’s or even Robert Turbin’s roster spot he must ball out on Thursday. It may be next to impossible for Rawls to make the team now that we know the Seahawks have interest in signing free agent running back Fred Jackson. Rawls started the preseason strong but has been overshadowed by the strong play of Michael the past two weeks. Michael and Rawls will both see a lot of playing time but I believe that Rawls will have to bust off several huge runs and at least one touchdown to even have a chance at earning a roster spot.

Wide Receivers: The trade of Kevin Norwood to the Carolina Panthers on Monday makes the wide receiver competition something to watch very closely this week. I believe 6 roster spots will go to wide receivers. I believe Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, and Ricardo Lockette will all have jobs on this team this year. With Paul Richardson starting the season on the PUP list, that means there are four receivers to watch in this game that are fighting for two spots. What will make the coaches decisions difficult is that they all play special teams. B.J. Daniels and Kevin Smith have seen their share of playing time on punt and kickoff returns while Kasen Williams has made a couple of clutch catches including one which set up Steven Hauschka’s game-winning field goal last week. Chris Matthews showed his potential in Super Bowl XLIX but has been a ghost in relation to these other players so far this preseason. Keep a tab on the number of snaps each of these guys see on offense this week. Their presence on the field alone could be a major indicator of who has the lead on the final wide receiver spots.

Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are locks to make the team. The final tight end spot will go to either Cooper Helfet or Anthony McCoy. Given that McCoy has battled injuries over the past three seasons, and that Helfet had a solid season in 2014 it would make sense if it is Helfet’s job to lose. It very well may be. McCoy will get the opportunity to prove his worth this week. This is one spot that I think could go to either player.

Offensive Line: The release of Lemuel Jeanpierre affirms our starting offensive line going into the season. From left to right our starting line will be Russell Okung, Justin Britt, Drew Nowak, J.R. Sweezy, and Garry Gilliam. This week will give us a chance to see what our depth looks like along the offensive line. One guy to keep an eye on this week is undrafted rookie Kristjan Sokoli. Sokoli has made fantastic progress during training camp and is a favorite of Coach Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable. Unfortunately he is listed as our fourth string left guard, likely because he is still working on converting from defensive tackle to offensive guard (similar to J.R. Sweezy). Due to his standing on the depth chart Sokoli may be destined for a possible practice squad spot. Backup linemen Mark Glowinski and Terry Poole are our drafted rookies who are listed as the backups to Sweezy and Gilliam respectively. Expect to see them on the field a lot.

Defensive Line: The feel-good story of the offseason and training camp was the comeback of defensive tackle Jesse Williams. The third year lineman had a cancerous kidney removed back in May and amazingly has returned to game action this preseason; a remarkable recovery indeed. Unfortunately Williams has a very real chance of not making the team since he is listed as a fourth string defensive tackle. Along the defensive line on Thursday look for Williams, David King and Julius Warmsley. I believe one of these three players will claim one of the Seahawks musical chairs. The others will be left out once the music stops.

Linebackers: I am putting the “you never know” label on the backup middle linebacker job. Brock Coyle won this job last year and he is probably going to earn his job back in 2015. Alex Singleton however refuses to back down without a fight. Singleton has been on the field a lot this preseason, appearing solely in the second half. I get a hunch that our coaching staff likes Singleton a lot but even a great outing on Thursday still makes him a longshot to earn a roster spot but like I said, you never know.

Cornerbacks: I get a weird feeling that surprises are on the horizon in this group. Cary Williams has struggled this preseason and if he did not make so much money I think he would be a serious candidate to be cut. Williams will make the team due to his cap number which puts pressure on our backups. Tharold Simon has played well thus far and Marcus Burley has seen his fair share of playing time with the starters. Two guys to watch are Will Blackmon and Tye Smith. Blackmon is a veteran who has bounced around the league and found himself back with the Seahawks for training camp. Smith is a rookie who was drafted in the 5th round back in May and has impressed me thus far. My guess is that we will keep 5 cornerbacks. One of these guys will make the team and the other will not.

Safeties: The free safety position is settled in my mind. Earl Thomas starts, Steven Terrell backs him up. Strong safety is still up in the air at this point but I believe the breakdown is simple. If Kam Chancellor does not report to the team by the time our roster is trimmed to 53, Dion Bailey will make the team as the presumed backup to starter DeShawn Shead. If Chancellor does report, Bailey will be left out of the picture. This is the only position on the team where the simple presence of one player will likely determine the fate of another player.

Random Thoughts: All College Navy everything for the Seahawks this week. The Raiders will wear white jerseys with silver pants… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard will have the call one last time this preseason. The game will be broadcast on Q13 FOX… Lunch at Tat’s Delicatessen before the game. I’ve never been there but by the looks of the menu I’ll probably enjoy their Philly cheesesteak… Pregame location is to be determined but I wouldn’t be surprised if we make our way to Hawks Nest for the first time this season… Off the top of my head I cannot remember a preseason which included terrible weather for both of our home games. The forecast is calling temperatures in the mid 60’s and a 50/50 chance of rain.

Prediction: The nice way we will be describing this game after the fact is that it will be a “defense battle.” Russell Wilson will fail to lead a scoring drive on his one possession of the game. R.J. Archer will once again struggle to lead touchdown drives but will progress as the game wears on. On defense the Seahawks backups will slightly outplay the Raiders defensive backups which will keep us in the game. The Seahawks will win another close game in the fourth quarter and will finish the preseason 2-2.

Seahawks 16, Raiders 13

Review: Seahawks 17, 49ers 7

14 Dec
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

The Seahawks could not be clicking at a better time. In a game that to me was too close for comfort for the majority of the afternoon, the Seahawks found a way to pull away from the San Francisco 49ers late, escaping with a 17-7 victory. The Seahawks improve to 10-4 and will play for the NFC West lead next week in Arizona. The 49ers fall to 7-7 and with this loss they have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The focus in Seattle is going to shift very quickly to next week’s game against the Cardinals but let me break down what I saw out of the Seahawks in this game.

Offensive Line Struggles: The Seahawks offensive line may be the most inconsistent group on the team. After keeping quarterback Russell Wilson clean the past two weeks, the Seahawks offensive line and a very difficult time stopping the pass rush of the 49ers. Wilson was sacked 5 times on Sunday and was hurried or flushed out of the pocket on the majority of plays that San Francisco blitzed 5 or more defenders. Justin Britt in particular had a hard time adjusting to calls at the line of scrimmage and picking up his blocks. In all honesty, the Seahawks played better in the second half after starting left tackle Russell Okung exited the game at halftime with a chest bruise. One silver lining is that the Seahawks offense rushed for 152 yards in this game, 91 of which coming from running back Marshawn Lynch. Looking ahead however, it will be extremely difficult for our offense to score points next week if the Arizona defense plays the way it did last Thursday in St. Louis. As dominating as our defense has played the past few weeks, 17 points on offense is not going to win us every game. With Max Unger hopefully back in the lineup next Sunday, I believe our offensive line can bounce back in a big way.

Unsung Heroes: Paul Richardson caught his first career touchdown pass on Sunday, a 10-yard slant route which extended the Seattle lead to 17-7. Richardson gets the spotlight because of the touchdown but don’t forget about the roles wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse played on Sunday. Baldwin and Kearse caught two-thirds of Russell Wilson’s completions and combined for 131 receiving yards, including a 47-yard reception by Kearse and a 35-yard catch by Baldwin. Both plays came on first half drives which should have ended in points. Instead the Seahawks came away empty handed. With the quality production from our top 3 receivers on Sunday it is possible that Russell Wilson is comfortable enough with his weapons to take more chances down the field.

Kaepernick, Hyde Fluster Defense: I was not the least bit concerned with 49ers running back Frank Gore coming into this game. Gore finished the day prematurely, leaving with a concussion after gaining 29 yards. Instead the quickness of Carlos Hyde and the willingness of quarterback Colin Kaepernick to run seemed to catch the Seahawks off guard. The Seattle defense gave up 140 rushing yards to the 49ers on Sunday, the most allowed at home since week 6 against Dallas. Hyde was on a roll until he too left the game with an injury, leaving fullback Bruce Miller and third string running back Alfonso Smith to carry the load late in the game. The Seahawks defense found an answer to stop Miller and Smith but that also begs the question of would this have been a closer game if Gore and Hyde did not get hurt. Many of San Francisco’s runs went off-tackle and the Seahawks adjusted accordingly as the game progressed. Moving forward it may be beneficial if we spread out our personnel earlier in the game, especially next week against an Arizona rushing attack that averaged 4.3 yards per carry this week.

Sacks for Everyone: The Seahawks team up with Jack in the Box and award a free Jumbo Jack to all fans if the Seahawks defense can record three sacks. For the first time, we the fans had our free burgers by the end of the first quarter and that was only a small sample of the dominance the Seahawks front seven displayed this week. The Seahawks dialed up the pressure all game long and it resulted in 6 sacks of Colin Kaepernick. The interior pass rush had me very satisfied, as defensive tackle Jordan Hill recorded two sacks and defensive tackle Kevin Williams had a sack of his own. Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin also had sacks up the middle, which goes to show how bad of a game 49ers backup center Joe Looney played. In our last 4 games the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of just under 7 points per game, by far the best average in the league. To me however, the lack of offensive production overshadowed the performance of our defense. Upon reflection, when the Seahawks extended it to a two-score game it was definitely over. This defense needs to show up big next week. If the defense can stay on this path, it will be incredibly hard for Arizona’s third string quarterback to beat us next week.

Thoughts on San Francisco: This 49ers team seemed to have played this game inspired but their prideful effort was too much for the talent the Seahawks threw at them. This was most likely Jim Harbaugh’s last hurrah as the head coach of the 49ers and you have to wonder how this season would have played out if they could have stayed healthy throughout. The 49ers are capable of bouncing back in 2015 but just like how Harbaugh coached Mike Singletary’s talent to the best of their abilities when he arrived in 2011, the same must go for whoever the 49ers next head coach is. The way the NFC West has been built in recent years however, it may take more than one year for San Francisco to get back to playoff contention.

Random Thoughts: It was an earlier arriving crowd at the bar before the game. All tables were full by 9:15am. It was a very festive atmosphere that almost felt like a playoff game… That festive environment before the game seemed to dissipate real quick once the game started. It almost felt as though the 12th Man was taking it easy on the 49ers for the first part of the game. The intensity was not what I was hoping it would be but it got better later on once we took our first lead and the noise did not stop until the end of the game… In my opinion the Ebola ribbons handed out as the pregame giveaway was a huge failure. I saw no one wearing them. Literally no one… Great weather on Sunday. I love late season games with nothing but sunshine… John Olerud raised the 12th Man flag before the game; a legitimate candidate that I approve of… The blue endzones are back because the Sounders season is over. Thank goodness. I love the blue endzones. It gives the field a classic look… One of the highlights from the day was when they put 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh on the video board complaining after the questionable roughing the passer call which favored the Seahawks. The entire stadium booed. It was one of the loudest moments of the day. It was awesome… If we win next week, holy moly. That’s all I can say.

This upcoming week is by far the biggest of the season. Check back Saturday when I preview our week 16 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Thanks for reading and go Seahawks!

Review: Rams 28, Seahawks 26

20 Oct
Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

No matter how good or bad the Seattle Seahawks are, we always struggle against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. That is exactly what happened on Sunday. Thanks in large part to special teams, the Rams defeated the Seahawks 28-26 in a game that was frustrating to watch due to both the Seahawks play and the officials. The Seahawks fall to 3-3 on the season while the Rams improve to 2-4. Here are my thoughts on Sunday’s disappointing loss.

Offense, and Getting Wilson Involved: The Seahawks offense struggled to put points on the board in the first half this week and I personally questioned the play-calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell throughout the game. I was happy about the way running back Marshawn Lynch was used even though his production was not ideal, as he ran 18 times for 52 yards. What upset me were the first down pass plays and the second down run plays, which set the Seahawks up for third down and long multiple times this week. I think Bevell dropped the ball in this regard and if the Seahawks were able to stick to a running attack in the first half, the Seahawks would have come away with more than 6 points in the first 30 minutes. At halftime I called upon the Seahawks to make the necessary adjustments to get quarterback Russell Wilson more involved in the running game which is exactly what happened. In the second half Wilson ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. In addition Wilson took more shots down the field in the second half which helped the Seahawks score 20 second half points. On offense we need to avoid slow starts moving forward. If we can play a full game like how we played in the second half this week we can fix this problem and become more consistent.

Defensive Struggles: The primary struggle the Seahawks are facing is putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, which in effect is allowing opposing offenses to easily convert on third down. After sacking Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo only once last week, the Seahawks struggled once again to put pressure on Rams quarterback Austin Davis. Davis was not sacked on Sunday and on third down plays the Seahawks did not send more than 4 rushers until the very end of the game. I never thought I would miss the presence of Chris Clemons so much. I am not saying Clemons alone makes the difference in last year’s defense compared to this year’s defense but on the whole the Seahawks defense has struggled mightily this season thus far. Including this loss the Seahawks have allowed 25 points in their first three road games this season. We are 1-2 in these games. Last season the Seahawks allowed an average of 20 points through their first 3 road games and went 2-1. If the Seahawks can improve the pass rush, pressure will be taken off the linebackers and the Legion of Boom and we will have a chance to be comfortably ahead in our games.

Thoughts on the Rams Front Seven: Coming into this game the St. Louis Rams had only recorded one sack on the season. Today the Rams sacked Russell Wilson 3 times. I warned about the potential of the Rams defense penetrating our offensive line to get to Wilson and my fears became reality. Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Eugene Sims among others bullied the depleted Seahawks offensive line all day long and Russell Wilson rarely had a clean pocket to throw from. I thought that it was only a matter of time before the Rams defense had a breakthrough performance and that is exactly what happened on Sunday. This unit is one of the best in the National Football League. As a Seahawks fan I just wish we had a healthy Max Unger and a fully healthy Russell Okung. If we had our entire starting offensive line, perhaps our offense would have been more effective and we would have been able to tame the Rams defense easier.

Rare Special Teams Gaffs Kill Seahawks: There were three huge special teams plays this week that cost the Seahawks points and could have cost us the game. First, Benny Cunningham of the Rams returned a first quarter kickoff 75 yards to instantly put St. Louis into Seahawks territory and into scoring range. The drive resulted in 6-yard touchdown run by running back Tre Mason. The second mistake came on a second quarter punt. Jon Ryan punted to Rams return man Stedman Bailey who returned the punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The only problem was that the St. Louis special teams unit tricked the Seahawks special teams unit into covering decoy return man Tavon Austin. This gave Bailey a wide open field and he was easily able to return it for a touchdown. 14 points in the first half came on special teams breakdowns and in hindsight could have made the difference between the Seahawks winning and losing. The cherry on top of the cake was a fake punt pass from Rams punter Johnny Hekker to Cunningham on 4th down deep in Rams territory. The play had to be executed perfectly, as a screw up would have resulted in a turnover, Seahawks ball deep in St. Louis territory down by 2 points, and an easy opportunity for Seattle to re-take the lead. Instead the Rams executed the fake punt flawlessly and the Rams were able to run out the clock to preserve the victory. Of all these mistakes the fake punt irritates me the most, simply because the Rams have had recent history of fooling the Seahawks on special teams. Two years ago Rams head coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake field goal deep in Seahawks territory. Hekker found an uncovered and completely wide open Danny Amendola for a touchdown. It is this play that should have had Pete Carroll and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider’s attention this time around. I believe the Seahawks should have been more aware of the potential of St. Louis trickery, and the Rams caught us off guard and capitalized once again.

The Fumble: Let me make this last point short and sweet. Regardless of whether or not the Seahawks recovered that fumble at the end of the game, the fact that there was no booth review to confirm who had possession of the ball infuriates me. With as close of a call that was in as close of a game that was, there should have been a booth review. I personally believe Richard Sherman fell on the fumble but there was no 100 percent conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field. After a full game of questionable officiating this play put it over the top. I am not blaming the referees by any means necessary; the Seahawks put themselves in this position and lost the game. However the fact that no booth review was called on this crucial play is enough to make every Seahawks fan mad.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks need to retire the white jersey/wolf grey pant combination. Since the Seahawks updated their uniforms in 2012 the Seahawks are 0-3 in this uniform combo. I hope we do not see it on the road for the rest of the season and definitely not in the postseason… I liked the Rams helmet logo on the 50-yard line. It looked slick… I am not a fan of referee Brad Allen. For that being his first Seahawks game as a head referee he did not make a good impression from a Seahawks fans perspective… We always struggle in St. Louis. Period… It is hard to think of random thoughts for a 10am road game when you watch on television from home. I guess I’ll stop here.

Thanks for reading everyone, even in defeat. Check back next week when I preview the Seahawks week 8 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Rams Preview

18 Oct
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

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

Kickoff: 10:00am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rams 17, Seahawks 16

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

Review: Seahawks 41, Chargers 14

16 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

If anyone jumped to conclusions after the poor performance in Denver last week, I hope Friday’s game eased your worries. In front of a revved up 12th Man the Seahawks dominated the San Diego Chargers 41-14. The Seahawks improve to 1-1 on the preseason while the loss drops San Diego to 1-1 as well. It was great to be back at CenturyLink Field and it was made even better given what occurred on the field tonight. Here are some of the things I took away from tonight’s game.

Wilson Thrives: Russell Wilson played for the first 25:55 of the game and he was able to successfully lead three scoring drives, resulting in 24 first half points. Wilson appeared to be in mid-season form and his stat line reflected such a notion, completing 11 of 13 passes for 121 yards. What impressed me was his ability to once again evade the pass rush and use his feet to make big plays happen. Wilson found tight ends Zach Miller and Luke Willson for large gains and after scrambling, found wide receiver Doug Baldwin in the back of the endzone for a touchdown which was later overturned. DangeRuss was even more dangerous on the ground, running in two touchdowns of his own. What was even better was that Wilson proved that the read option attack can still be very effective. After not using read option nearly as much in 2013 as we did in 2012, I am starting to wonder if the read option will make a triumphant return in a big way in 2014. Next week Russell Wilson will play into the third quarter and with a performance similar to Friday night’s, next week’s game could end in similar blowout fashion.

Turbin Steps Up: In my game preview I wondered about the possibility of Robert Turbin not making the team if he failed to put together a solid game this week. I am now thinking Turbin’s job is safe. After Marshawn Lynch was on the field for only the first offensive play of the game, Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell handed the keys to the car over to Turbin and he definitely made the most of his opportunities, rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Two things impressed me about Turbin’s performance on Friday night. First off, he found holes extremely easily and did not try to run through people has he has shown in the past. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, Turbin fought for extra yards several times which is something that is rather rare for a guy that has shown his running style is closer to Shaun Alexander than to Marshawn Lynch. I think Turbin’s performance against the Chargers solidifies him as the backup running back but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Christine Michael get the bulk of the carries next week to try to challenge Turbin yet again for that job.

Offensive Line Holds its Own: Despite the fact that Russell Okung and Max Unger sat out Friday’s game, the Seahawks makeshift offensive line did a fantastic job creating room in the running game and keeping Russell Wilson and the rest of the quarterbacks clean. The play of tonight’s o-line paved the way for 243 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns, and only one quarterback sack. What makes me breathe a sigh of relief is that this unit is going to get better once we get Okung and Unger back as well as solidifying who will be out starting right tackle come September.

Jackson vs. Pryor (Round Two): This topic is difficult to discuss because Tarvaris Jackson did not play. Terrelle Pryor got the second-string snaps and did an adequate job. His stat line through the air was not entirely impressive (1/4, 10 yards passing) and there is much room for improvement in that area but Pryor did impress me with his feet, running for 59 yards and a touchdown. One thing I would like to see Pryor improve on is his awareness of the line to gain after he slid just short of a first down in the fourth quarter. Pryor is improving but I discussed with a guy at the game it is possible that we gave him ample playing time tonight just to see if it is worth it to keep three quarterbacks on the roster after the preseason.

Defensive Thoughts: The defense showed significant improvement as a whole unit from last week to this week. I am becoming a big fan of middle linebacker Brock Coyle’s playing style after he contributed to nearly every play he was on the field for. Jeron Johnson also really impressed me in the secondary after he made a couple of Kam Chancellor-esque hits on Chargers receivers. Johnson moved from cornerback to safety this offseason and it is clear that Johnson will be Chancellor’s backup this season. The defense fed off the energy of the 12th Man all night long and confirmed my belief that we have the best defense in the National Football League especially when we play at home.

Thoughts on San Diego: The San Diego Chargers offense is a unit that is very hard to diagnose. Starting quarterback Philip Rivers played only one series before backup Kellen Clemens took over and Rivers looked fairly mediocre. San Diego’s receivers and running backs have great potential but Rivers will have to have another solid year for the Chargers to consistently put points on the board and in essence, remain competitive. The San Diego defense needs a lot of work, especially in the running game. The Chargers will face many elite running backs this season such as Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, and Frank Gore. It will be a long season for the Chargers if they cannot fix their glaring defensive problems.

Random Thoughts: All blue for the Seahawks and white/navy for the Chargers just like I thought… The raisers of the 12th Man flag were first responders of the Oso mudslide and the Eastern Washington wildfires… One interesting note, the Seahawks are starting to shy away from the phrase “12th Man.” The fans were referenced as “12’s” and the flag was referenced as the “12 flag” instead of the “12th Man Flag” by the public address announcer… For a short time before heading downtown it felt like it might be in store for that weather uncertainty I hate so much; when you don’t know if you want to bring a sweatshirt because it might be too cold but you don’t want to be stuck carrying it everywhere if it is too warm. Those kinds of games are the worst… We went to Hawks Nest Bar and Elysian Fields before the game but since I’m on antibiotics I couldn’t drink. Instead, I had the best couple of Diet Coke’s I’ve ever had… I almost witnessed a fight during on the concourse during halftime. I went to get a bite to eat and there were two guys who were circled up and they looked like they were about to box. When I walked past the same area after getting my food, the area was patrolled by about a half-dozen police officers with both fist fighters leaning against separate walls, handcuffed. Don’t be stupid at sporting events boys and girls… In the rafters was a banner covered up by a black tarp. After seeing it before the game I assumed that the Seahawks were going to raise our 2013 NFC West champions banner but they held off. We’ll see if any banners are unveiled next week… CenturyLink Field made a couple of significant upgrades over the offseason. The scoreboards hanging off of the upper deck at midfield now display a new design. The old design consisted of the both team names and their respective scores, one on top of the other, on a football texture background. The new scoreboard display is navy blue with both team logos and their respective scores side by side with the score in the team’s color scheme. (For example the Chargers score was displayed with the lightning bolt and yellow score number. The Seahawks score was displayed with our logo and our score in action green). Also, the stat boards in both endzones have been replaced with new video boards, giving the stadium 6 video boards instead of just 2. They are very bright and beautiful. They are certainly noticeable and I personally like them a lot.

Check back next Thursday as I preview our third preseason game, the dress rehearsal game, against the Chicago Bears. Go Hawks!

Chargers/Seahawks Preview

14 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: San Diego Chargers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The Seahawks will play their first home game since winning Super Bowl XLVIII Friday night as they host the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 0-1 in the preseason and are coming off a 21-16 loss last week at Denver. The Chargers on the other hand got off to a strong preseason start last week, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 27-7. Like last week’s game against Denver, this will be the first of two meetings between the Seahawks and Chargers this season; these two teams will meet in San Diego week 2. This week’s game is simply a building block. I am looking for Seattle to improve areas where they struggled greatly last week. Here are my areas to focus on this week.

This week I want to see the Seahawks move the ball more effectively on offense. There are several parts to making this happen. First, I want to see better play from the offensive line. Last week the Seahawks started only one offensive lineman who started in 2013, J.R. Sweezy. Russell Okung, James Carpenter, and Max Unger all returned to practice this week however it is yet to be seen if these three will see any playing time Friday night. The backup linemen also did not help in the running game last week, as quarterback Terrelle Pryor had to rely on his own feet to pick up yards. Secondly, I want to Robert Turbin to take a firm hold of the backup running back job. Last week Turbin had almost the same number of carries as yards. 5 rushing yards on 4 carries is absolutely not making the most of your opportunity and I think another poor showing by Turbin could open the door for Christine Michael to jump up the depth chart. I feel that Turbin is due for a breakout preseason performance but if he fails to show his worth for the second straight week, we could be entering the second half of the preseason wondering if Robert Turbin is even worthy of making the 53-man roster.

This week is round two of the Tarvaris Jackson/Terrelle Pryor battle to see who will be Russell Wilson’s backup come September. Jackson will likely see action in the second and third quarters with Pryor coming in to finish the game. This week I want to see the offense finish strong, meaning I want to see drastic improvement from Pryor. Last week Jackson took what I believe to be a significant lead over Pryor in the race to be the backup quarterback and a strong performance by Pryor against San Diego will put him back into the conversation, after he took himself out of it last week. With Russell Wilson likely playing into the second quarter, I believe Jackson will see minimal work with Pryor playing the majority of the second half. My honest hope is that the Seahawks are either in a close game or trailing late in the game in order to give Pryor a true pressure packed situation to cut his teeth on, much like last week.

On defense this week there is one overlying thing I want to see. This will be the first time many of our backup defenders get to play alongside the 12th Man. I want to see these players along with the rest of the defense feeding off the energy of the crowd. Last week in Denver the Broncos defense fed off their crowd all game long and it seemed to make a noticeable difference in the way they played. The starters will play the majority of the first quarter, possibly even into the second quarter before handing it over to the young backups. My goal is for the Seahawks second half defense to give up a maximum of 10 points. If Seattle can hold them to single digit points, we will likely walk off the field victorious and it will have me breathing a sigh of relief that our backups are better than what they showed last week.

The San Diego Chargers surprised many people last year, compiling a 9-7 record and making it to the AFC Divisional playoffs. A big reason why they were so successful was the resurrection of quarterback Philip Rivers and the addition of wide receiver Keenan Allen. Despite their offensive success last season, San Diego has maintained all of their skill position players from last season. Wide receivers Allen, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal are likely to make the team but the race for the last couple wide receiver spots is up for grabs to a plethora of players. My X-Factor Player to Watch for San Diego this week is one of those backup receivers, Dontrelle Inman. Inman is currently listed as one of the Chargers third-string receivers but he made the most of his opportunities last week. Against Dallas, Inman caught 3 passes for 107 yards including a 70-yard touchdown grab. Inman is sure to see his share of playing time against the Seahawks and it will likely be up to cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon to stop him.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all blue this week. The Chargers will likely wear white jerseys with navy pants… Pete Morelli is the referee this week… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call once again on Q13 FOX this week… The preseason bores a lot of people but I honestly LOVE the first preseason home game. I get to be back in my seat for the first time in 7 months and it gives me the opportunity to catch up with everyone I sit around… I am wondering how and when the Seahawks will unveil their 2013 banners. It is obvious that we will unveil our 2013 world championship banner before the Packers game, but will we reveal the other two banners (NFC West champions, NFC Champions) in the two preseason games leading up to NFL Kickoff 2014? If so, the Seahawks will likely raise the 2013 NFC West championship banner this week. If not, we will probably raise all 3 before we play Green Bay… I am on antibiotics for the next week-plus so I am obligated not to prefunk both of our home preseason games. I’ll have to figure out a different fun pregame plan… I am glad the weather is going to cooperate this week. The worst thing is to have to bring a sweatshirt to a game being played in a warm weather month… I think this is the first time in the 9 years I’ve been a season ticket holder that we are playing a preseason home game on a Friday night. It will be nice to attend then have the rest of the weekend free.

Prediction: I think that the Seahawks will start the game on defense and force a Philip Rivers interception. Russell Wilson will lead two scoring drives in the first quarter and the Seahawks will have a solid lead after the first quarter. San Diego will tie the game in the third quarter but the Seahawks will take control of the game late, as Terrelle Pryor will scamper for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Seahawks will go to 1-1 on the preseason and will get ready to host the Chicago Bears next week in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game.

Seahawks 20, Chargers 13

Check back early Saturday morning for my Chargers game review. Enjoy the game and for those of you attending, have fun. Go Hawks!

2014 NFL Draft (Round 1): Three to Watch

8 May
Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

The 2014 NFL Draft commences on Thursday night as the first 32 members of the 2014 rookie class will be welcomed into the National Football League. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks are currently slotted to pick 32nd in the first round of the draft; the last pick of the first round. After scouting over 250 players that attended the scouting combine, I analyzed game film of 75 of these players, ultimately whittling this list down to 35 players I would like to see the Seahawks draft over the course of this weekend. Barring a trade either up the board or down and out of the first round entirely, here are three players I would like to see the Seahawks select at #32.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota): I believe the Seahawks will have the opportunity to draft both the best player available at #32 and a player at a position of need if Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is still on the board. Hageman would be a perfect fit along our defensive line and could be a potential replacement to Red Bryant. Hageman stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs in at 311 pounds. These numbers justify his positional fit as a defensive tackle but his speed justifies why he could be a defensive tackle/defensive end hybrid like Bryant. Hageman has one of the best bursts off the line of scrimmage of any first round defensive line prospect and can penetrate the offensive line well. Hageman is a very good fundamental tackler and has good instincts to know how a play will progress. Beating blocks is his strong suit as he does a very good job shedding blocks and being the first defender to the ball carrier on running plays. A defensive line with Hageman, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane, and Michael Bennett could be a force to be reckoned with, especially on first and second down.

Joel Bitonio (OG, Nevada): In the first round of the draft it is very important to add depth to both the defensive line and the offensive line. In the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era the Seahawks have drafted 3 offensive linemen within the first three rounds of the draft, 2 of which coming in round one (Russell Okung, James Carpenter). At #32 the Seahawks could be in the market to take an offensive lineman and I think the best fit in this spot is Nevada guard Joel Bitonio. Bitonio has been climbing draft boards over the past couple of weeks and the earliest I have seen him go in any mock draft is #26 to the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the most uncertain position along the Seahawks offensive line is left guard and Bitonio could add solidarity to a unit that had a difficult time keeping Russell Wilson consistently clean over the course of the 2013 season. Among Bitonio’s strengths, he has very good balance and does not allow himself to get bullied by his man. He is a very good pass protector and after watching film I could see strengths in zone blocking on running plays. Bitonio does not collapse the pocket on his own (something Carpenter has struggled with mightily over the course of his career) and Bitonio also works well with the other four guys on the offensive line.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State): Understand that the Seahawks are high on both Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette but with the departure of Golden Tate during free agency, the Seahawks could be in the market to draft another wide receiver. In a draft flooded with wide receiver talent, another toy for Russell Wilson to play with could be the decision Carroll and Schneider come to at #32. If the Seahawks go with a skill position player at #32 my hope is that player will be Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is one of the tallest receivers available which means he will be a matchup problem with most cornerbacks in the league. Benjamin makes fantastic adjustments on the ball while the pass is still in the air and his upper body strength makes it hard for just one defender to tackle him. Benjamin looks the ball into his hands and dropped passes are rare. In addition to being a “raw” prospect there are two areas where Benjamin struggles. He sometimes mistimes his jumps and his ball security is average and must improve.

49ers/Seahawks Preview (NFC Championship Game)

18 Jan
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: (5) San Francisco 49ers at (1) Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 3:30pm

Not very often do you get an opportunity like this, even less often at home. It has been 8 years since the Seahawks played the Carolina Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship Game and personally I have been waiting for the Seahawks to get back on this national stage ever since. I became a season-ticket holder in 2006 and for all the games I have been to over the past 8 seasons, opportunities like the one presenting itself on Sunday makes having tickets and going to games during the bad years absolutely worth it. In front of a nationally televised audience on FOX, the Seahawks will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. If the Seahawks lose the season is over, but if the Seahawks win they punch their ticket to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2nd. The all-time series between the Seahawks and 49ers is tied 15-15. Their last meeting came on December 8th when San Francisco defeated Seattle 19-17 in the final seconds at Candlestick Park. This is the first meeting between the two teams in the playoffs. There are many storylines that have gained momentum from both a local and a national perspective in the days leading up to this game. Here are my thoughts as we head into the biggest home game in franchise history.

The absolute number one key for the Seahawks this week comes on defense. In the last two 49ers/Seahawks games played in Seattle, the Seahawks have held 49ers running back Frank Gore to a total of 44 rushing yards. What I’ve noticed when you dig into all of Colin Kaepernick’s career starts is that he has been successful because of a dynamic rushing attack helping him. When opposing defenses are able to shut the San Francisco running game (especially Gore) down, Kaepernick becomes extremely vulnerable. Once again the number one key for the Seahawks is to stop Gore. Unlike last week where I wanted to see the Seahawks force the New Orleans Saints to run, forcing Colin Kaepernick to throw will help the Seahawks mightily. In Kaepernick’s 28 career starts he has thrown only 11 interceptions. 4 of those interceptions have come in his two starts in Seattle. The Legion of Boom will be Kaepernick’s worst nightmare if the Seahawks run defense allows it to. My target rushing total for Frank Gore this week is between 50-60 yards. If the Seahawks can hold Gore to under 60 yards on the ground, we will be in fantastic shape.

The Seattle offense is a unit that has not lit up the stat sheet recently but they have been efficient enough to win football games. There are three things I need to see out of the Seahawks offense this week. The first thing is for Marshawn Lynch to have a productive day at the office. Unlike Frank Gore, Lynch has been very efficient running the ball against the 49ers in Seattle. In the same two game span that Gore has rushed for 44 total yards, Lynch has rushed for 209 total yards and has also added 3 touchdowns. I fully expect the majority of fans to panic if the Seahawks cannot get the running game going early but it will be necessary to be patient through the first half to try to get Lynch large chunks of yards. The second necessity for the Seahawks offense this week is to protect Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 3 times last week and he has been sacked 18 times in his last 6 games. The last time the Seahawks and 49ers played in Seattle, the Seahawks were without two starting offensive lineman and lost Russell Okung to a foot injury early in the game. This week the entire starting offensive line is healthy and I expect significant improvement in pass protection. Keep an eye on the left guard position this week as Michael Bowie is expected to start again after playing a great game last week in his first career start at that position. The third thing I need to see out of the offense this week is an extension of my second offensive key, only the weight of this key falls more on the shoulders of Russell Wilson. There have been instances throughout the past few games where when Wilson drops back to pass, at times he seems to bail from the pocket and move around to try to make throws while at other times he seems a bit too overconfident being patient in the pocket. In those instances he will wait for a receiver to get open and by the time he decides on his read he is either on the ground sacked or throwing the ball away. Wilson needs to be more aware of what is going on around him to know how much time he has to throw. Confidence in the pocket and connecting on throws down the field will help the Seahawks greatly this week.

The San Francisco 49ers come into the NFC Championship Game red-hot and firing on all cylinders. My 49ers preview is rather broad this week as there are only three things that I believe will help the 49ers be more effective this week. The first key is to ride the wave of momentum that comes with an 8-game winning streak. San Francisco comes into the NFC Championship Game as perhaps the more confident team, which comes naturally riding a long winning streak. My other two 49ers keys will be the most important to keep that momentum going.

The 49ers need to handle the crowd noise much better than they have in their last two visits to CenturyLink Field. Shorter verbiage and hand signals will be necessary this week and I would not be surprised to see the 49ers use a no-huddle package, especially early in the game. San Francisco will want to take the 12th Man out of the game as early as possible so it will be very important to score early. On offense for San Francisco this week there is only one player that I believe is deserving of my X-Factor player to watch, and that is the most important player that was not on the field the last time the 49ers played in Seattle. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree has elevated the 49ers passing game to extraordinary levels since returning from a torn Achilles on December 1st. Crabtree has averaged 62 receiving yards in 7 games this season and he has also been targeted an average of 8 times per game. It is hard to believe how big of a difference Crabtree has made since returning; the 49ers have not lost since his return. Taking Crabtree away will limit Colin Kaepernick’s weapons to tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

In my “Making Memories” post earlier this week, I recall the 2005 NFC Championship Game in great detail. One of the things I mentioned is how I never sat down throughout the duration of the game and the 12th Man did not let up on the Carolina offense all game long. I cannot stress the importance of duplicating that stadium environment again this week. At last week’s Divisional playoff game many fans left following Marshawn Lynch’s final touchdown assuming the game was all but over. For a playoff game I find that behavior utterly pathetic. This week cannot and hopefully will not be the same as last week. I hope to spend the majority of the game on my feet regardless of who has the ball. I expect every single fan to scream when San Francisco has the ball. I expect no fan to leave before the fourth quarter clock hits zero. If everything goes right this should be the biggest party in the city. I hope you will not want to leave as the game gets closer to the finish. In addition, I want this game to be the loudest Seahawks game I have attended up to this point in my life. We the 12th Man WILL have a voice in deciding the outcome of this game. Do not doubt that. We also owe it to the guys on the field to give it our all. If we stay consistently ear-drum-bursting loud this week, the 49ers will have no chance communicating and coming into our house and stealing a victory.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will likely wear blue jerseys and blue pants for the final time this season. I say “likely” because should the Seahawks win, they will be designated as the road team in Super Bowl XLVIII. The 49ers will wear their classic white jersey/gold pants look… Gene Steratore is this week’s referee. He called the Seahawks week 8 game against the Rams in St. Louis and Steratore’s crew loosely called that game. He let the players play. Hopefully the same goes this way because if the game is called tight the Seahawks may be in trouble… Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week with Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews covering the sidelines. In addition, the entire “FOX NFL Sunday” pregame crew will be attendance this week and they will do their pregame show from inside the stadium, an annual tradition, starting at 3pm… The giveaway this week is white rally towels. All I can say is hallelujah. I’ve been waiting to get the chance to wave a rally towel all season and it is entirely fitting that chance comes in the biggest home game of the season… Ann Wilson from “Heart” will sing the national anthem before the game which actually surprises me because I thought FOX would bring in the most recent American Idol or X-Factor winner to sing it like they have done in the past… The halftime show is one that I am very much looking forward to. Grammy nominated and Seattle recording artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform at halftime, which turns the NFC Championship Game into a mini Super Bowl in my opinion. Hopefully the Seahawks take control of the game in the first half so I can actually enjoy Mack’s halftime performance… In my opinion there is only one group that I think should have the honor to raise the 12th Man flag this week. Back when we played Tampa Bay in November, the Seahawks honored the 30th anniversary of the first playoff team in franchise history. Members of the 1983 Seahawks stood at the flagpole while Steve Largent did the honors of raising the flag. This week should hold the exact same concept. The only group that I see fit to raise the 12th Man flag this week is members of the 2005 Seahawks led by head coach Mike Holmgren, the first Seahawks team to play in the Super Bowl. I will be extremely disappointed if this does not happen. Even if they do not celebrate the entire team, Coach Holmgren deserves the chance to raise the flag this week… Goal for Sunday: Try to meet up with all of my friends that I know are going to the game… Streamers are a must once again this week. Gotta go all out… If we win, the Halas Trophy presentation will be really awesome to be a part of again… Let this sink in: We are 60 minutes away from playing in the biggest game in Seahawks franchise history.

Prediction: There is no doubt that this will be a physical game and it may be close until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. Zach Miller will catch a first quarter touchdown to make it 7-0 Seahawks. A Steven Hauschka field goal will extend the lead to 10-0 before the 49ers score on a Michael Crabtree touchdown pass in the final two minutes of the half. Halftime score: Seahawks 10, 49ers 7.

In the second half the Seahawks will take full control in the running game. Marshawn Lynch will run for a pair of touchdowns, the second of which coming in the final 5 minutes of the game. That will be the dagger. Vernon Davis will catch a garbage time touchdown under the two-minute warning but by then it will be far too late. The Seahawks will win, hoist the Halas Trophy, and will head to Super Bowl XLVIII as the 2013 NFC Champions.

Seahawks 24, 49ers 14

Whether we win or lose check back late Sunday night for my review of the NFC Championship Game. Whether you are watching on television or at the game, enjoy this one everybody because hopefully this will be a game we all look back on as one of the best in team history. Go Seahawks!