Tag Archives: Sidney Rice

Titans/Seahawks Preview

12 Oct

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Matchup: Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

After losing their first game of the season last week the Seahawks look to bounce back in week 6 as they finish their tour of the AFC South by hosting the Tennessee Titans. The Seahawks hold a one game lead in the NFC West with a 4-1 record. The Tennessee Titans come into this game a somewhat surprising 3-2 and are one game behind the Indianapolis Colts for first place in the AFC South. Including the playoffs, the Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise 9-6. Their last meeting came in week 17 of the 2009 season. Chris Johnson broke the 2,000 yard mark on the season as the Titans defeated the Seahawks 17-13. The Seahawks finished the season 5-11 and just days after the defeat Jim Mora was fired and Pete Carroll was hired as Seahawks head coach. Here are my keys to victory and some things to look for this week.

With Max Unger likely back this week, the Seahawks will have their healthiest starting offensive line in three weeks. Given this I hope to see better pass protection of quarterback Russell Wilson which hopefully also translates into better production from Wilson. After 3 solid weeks, Wilson’s numbers slipped in his previous two games. Wilson threw for a combined 333 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in back-to-back road games in Houston and Indianapolis and last week was the first week since week 2 his completion percentage was under 50 percent in a game. Wilson also has not seemed to be as accurate so far this year as he was at the end of last season. I think the offensive line could make all the difference in the world. I expect the Seahawks passing game to get back on track this week and I would not be surprised to see Wilson throw for between 250 and 300 yards against the Titans.

This week is the first week that all of our pass rushers will play together in front of the 12th Man. This could spell disaster for Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even though the defense struggled down the stretch last week, our front 7 still sacked Andrew Luck twice and recovered a fumble on a strip-sack. I think the pass rush will play a huge factor this week and Fitzpatrick will be sacked at least four times. One thing that could affect the Seahawks on defense this week is linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner is dealing with a low grade high-ankle sprain and head coach Pete Carroll suggested that Wagner’s final game status could be determined during pregame warm-ups on Sunday. If Wagner cannot play, Heath Farwell will most likely start at middle linebacker. Wagner is the leader of the defensive huddle and he may be the most important defensive player as he relays the defensive formations to the rest of the defense. Wagner also has the second most tackles so far this season behind safety Earl Thomas. I am confident in Harwell’s ability to fill in but look for Tennessee to try to take advantage of the “weaker” middle of the field by dumping passes off to tight end Delanie Walker and primary slot receiver Kendall Wright.

The Tennessee Titans have gotten off to a rather surprising start to the 2013 season. After starting the season 3-1 they lost in two aspects last week against Kansas City Chiefs. They lost the game, and they also lost starting quarterback Jake Locker for the next 6-8 weeks with a hip injury. Without Locker, the Titans now turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick to command the offense. Ideally with a backup quarterback at the helm the offense will turn to their running back to carry the load to try to take some of the pressure on the quarterback. The Titans definitely have a running back capable of carrying the load in Chris Johnson but playing in Seattle, Johnson may be facing a long and tough day this week. The Titans will be forced to throw a lot this week especially if the Seahawks can build a lead early on in the game. On offense for Tennessee this week my X-Factor player to watch is wide receiver Justin Hunter. Hunter, a rookie from the University of Tennessee, was a player I had my eye on at this year’s combine and the time before the NFL Draft. Hunter’s height and speed to break away from defenders made him a perfect #2 wide receiver immediately in my eyes. This week he will line up across both Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner depending on the play. The Titans have a lot of wide receivers that will see playing time this week. With Kenny Britt and Nate Washington receiving most of the attention, look for Hunter to possibly make a bigger impact than expected against the Legion of Boom.

Last season Richard Sherman led all NFL cornerbacks in interceptions with 8. This year, the Titans feature a guy in their secondary that could wind up leading the league in interceptions by season’s end. Cornerback Alterraun Verner has intercepted 4 passes so far this season and I believe he has established himself as the permanent replacement to former Titan Cortland Finnegan. What is interesting about the Titans defense is that they have a handful of guys that are effective in rushing the passer and another handful of guys that are effective getting to the play and making tackles. My X-Factor player to watch on defense is a guy who falls into both of these categories, outside linebacker Zach Brown. Brown, a second year man from the University of North Carolina, has recorded a team-high 3 sacks so far this season and also ranks third on the team in tackles with 29. Brown has also forced one fumble. Watching him on film, Brown does a very good job at being the first defender to figure out what type of play the offense will run. He does a good job of getting to the ball and is has more of an impact on running plays than on passing plays. I expect Brown to rush to the right side of the Seahawks offensive line to catch J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie off guard.

Random Thoughts: This is the first home game in three weeks and the only home game in the three weeks upcoming. Talk about a bummer from a fan’s perspective but I would rather knock out the majority of our road games now so we can enjoy back-to-back home games on two separate occasions later on in the season… The Seahawks will wear blue uniforms and blue pants this week… Carl Cheffers is the referee for Sunday’s game… Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf have the call for CBS this week. They are CBS’s #2 crew, meaning they get the privilege to broadcast one playoff game each season so these guys are pretty good all things considered. Should be a good call if you’re watching from home… I’m changing up my pregame plans this week. I’ll be a bar north of the stadium, probably King Street Bar and Oven. I don’t think I’ve been there since the 2012 preseason… Oh yeah, pregaming starts at 9am sharp… I need to get more pink Seahawks stuff to wear for breast cancer awareness month. All I have is an NFL logo pink ribbon pin and a bracelet… Sunday is a 1:05 start, not a 1:25 start. I’ve stated in the past that this 20 minute difference is actually pretty significant and not as many fans are in their seats for the start of the game if it is a 1:05 start. To all the people going to this week’s game please keep this in mind. Be in your seats by 1:00pm (okay, 12:45 just to be safe).

Prediction: Last season the Seahawks lost a close game to the Miami Dolphins and responded by winning 6 straight games before losing to Atlanta in the playoffs. I think that the Titans may open up this game with an early lead but the Seahawks will regain complete control shortly thereafter. Earl Thomas will intercept a deep pass and the Seahawks defensive front seven will force two fumbles. On offense, Sidney Rice will lead the receivers in yardage with 80 and a touchdown. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch will both run for touchdowns and the Seahawks will get ready for the Arizona Cardinals with a 5-1 record.

Seahawks 30, Titans 13

Check back Sunday night for a review of the Seahawks game against the Titans. I will be blogging a lot in the coming week as the Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals on a short week in week 7. Enjoy the game. Go Hawks!

Review: Colts 34, Seahawks 28

6 Oct
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Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

In the 93 year history of the National Football League only four teams have had an undefeated regular season. Hopefully that is something to remember as we disappointed Seahawks fans saw our team lose for the first time this season on Sunday. Seattle’s 34-28 defeat to the Indianapolis Colts drops the Seahawks to 4-1 on the season and we hold a one game lead on the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. There was some good, some bad, and a bit of frustration mixed into this week’s game. Here is what I saw.

First Half Offense Shows Improvement: The first 12:15 of the game could not have gone any better for the Seahawks. After getting on the board with a field goal, the Seahawks drove 64 yards on 8 plays capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. After forcing another Indianapolis three-and-out, Jermaine Kearse blocked Pat McAfee’s punt which resulted in a safety as the officials ruled that Jeron Johnson did not have complete control of the recovered blocked kick in the endzone. Instead of a touchdown and a 17-0 lead, the Seahawks had to settle for the safety and a 12-0 lead. Add in a Jermaine Kearse touchdown in the second quarter and the Seahawks scored 19 points in the first half; 13 more points than in the first half’s of their first two road games combined. I think that the fast start will pay dividends going forward as it shows that we are capable of getting out to an early lead and taking the initial momentum of the game.

Thoughts on the Zone-Blocking Scheme: One of the things I always look for is for the Seahawks to be effective in the running game. Today the Seahawks seemingly looked unstoppable on the ground. I don’t want to take anything away from Marshawn Lynch because he gained over half of his yards after initial contact but the fact the Seahawks had two 100 yard rushers (Lynch and Russell Wilson) shows how the zone-blocking scheme implemented by offensive line coach Tom Cable is supposed to work at its best. Even without Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger as well as starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, it is a telling sign that the talent along the offensive line is not the most important thing when it comes to running the ball with the zone-blocking scheme in place. Could you imagine if our 2005 offensive line (Jones, Hutchinson, Tobeck, Gray, Locklear) was blocking for Marshawn Lynch in the zone-blocking scheme now? Lynch may be a 2,000+ yard rusher with that unit. As our offensive line continues to get healthier, I think Marshawn Lynch’s production will only increase and both Robert Turbin and Christine Michael could also see improved statistics if they see playing time.

Defense Struggles: After forcing three straight three-and-outs to open the game, I thought the Seahawks were going to run away with this game. Unfortunately there were three quarters and change left to play at this point. The Colts were 7/12 on third down on Sunday and Andrew Luck was very effective in picking apart the Seahawks defense on short passes later on in the game. After doing a decent job of stuffing Trent Richardson in the first half, the Seahawks were unable to stop Richardson for little or no gain when it mattered the most. Richardson’s longest run of the game was only 16 yards but his short yardage runs on first down made it easier for the Colts to convert over half of their third down attempts. I was very disappointed in the tackling this week, especially in the open field. This was never more evident than on T.Y. Hilton’s 73-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter when Earl Thomas overran Hilton, allowing Hilton to cut and walk in for the touchdown. Overall, our offense is what kept us in the game until the very end. I’m not taking anything away from Indianapolis, as they have dynamic playmakers on offense that are capable of scoring points, but allowing 31 points is unacceptable for this group. After allowing only 10 points in their first two games, the Seahawks have allowed 17, 20, and 31 points in each of their last three games respectively. Fixing fundamental problems on defense should be a focus in practice this week. With a home game on deck, this is a prime opportunity for the Seattle defense to get back to the way they were playing in their first couple of games.

Thoughts on Indianapolis: At the start of each season my friends and I like to predict the playoff field, seedings, and playoff matchups leading up to us predicting a Super Bowl champion. I predicted that the Colts would win the AFC South over the Houston Texans and this game proved why they belong at the top of their division. The Colts have very impressive talent on offense and what I believe to be an underrated defensive unit. Andrew Luck really impressed me against the Seahawks. The poise he showed rivals the current elite quarterbacks in the NFL and it will not be long before we mention Luck’s name with the likes of Rodgers, Brees, and Peyton Manning. The Colts are going to be good for a while and if they play like they did against the Seahawks, I would not be surprised to see them make a push for a division championship along with a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs this season.

Thoughts on the Officiating: I understand that there is no changing what the final outcome was today but I do believe that there were multiple calls that went against Seattle today that could have changed the outcome of the game. The calls I question were a pass interference call on Brandon Browner on third down and long, a pass interference call on Richard Sherman where receiver Reggie Wayne simply slipped and fell down on his own, and a pass interference non-call on our final drive (where the Indianapolis defender had his arm wrapped around the waist of receiver Sidney Rice) which would have given the Seahawks a fresh set of downs and would have gotten us closer to the endzone. Two of these calls occurred along the Colts sideline with the players and coaches signaling the officials to convince them to throw a flag and it seemed to work. Last week I mentioned the role the crowd can play in determining whether or not a flag is thrown and I feel like that may have cost us today. At the end of the day, the loss stands and the Seahawks will move forward and try to get better to make sure these situations do not come to fruition in future games.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks wore white jerseys and white pants just like I said they would in my game preview. It wasn’t so bright inside the stadium however because the roof was closed… As much as I enjoyed getting a break from Chris Myers and Tim Ryan on the FOX broadcast maybe they are our good luck charms. We are 2-0 so far this season when Myers and Ryan have the call… John Lynch didn’t really seem to have a lot of good things to say about either offense this week. Not surprising though since he was a defensive player who was taught to hate the opponent’s offense… I understand and appreciate the gesture of having pink penalty flags in honor of breast cancer awareness month but they are kind of an eyesore and also very confusing. Since the players towels are also pink there was confusion in this game as to whether or not a penalty flag was thrown or not. I say go back to the yellow flags for next week’s games… The Seahawks do not have another 10am kickoff until week 10 when we play Atlanta… The most encouraging thing I saw online after this loss was from Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times. He stated that in the long run this game will not have any serious effect on the Seahawks playoff chances and that “the feeling was that Seattle needed to win one of two games at Houston and Indianapolis, and that’s what the Seahawks did.” My hope was that the Seahawks needed to be at least 3-2 after their first 5 games to stay in good shape in the division race. The fact that they are 4-1 is a huge plus and most Seahawks fans would accept that record in a heartbeat. Arguably the toughest road stretch of the season is over and in our next 4 games we have two against sub-.500 teams and two at home. That is something to think about moving forward. Don’t panic yet, 12th Man.

Check back on Saturday as I preview our week 6 game against the Tennessee Titans. Thanks for reading. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Texans Preview

28 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans

Site: Reliant Stadium (Houston, Texas)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks now enter a brutal stretch where 4 of their next 5 games are on the road. This stretch starts Sunday when the Seahawks head to Houston to take on the defending AFC South champion Houston Texans. The Seahawks are 3-0 and are coming off a 45-17 butt-kicking of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans are 2-1 after a 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore last week. This is the third matchup all-time between the Seahawks and the Texans. They have split the two previous matchups. The last time they played was in 2009 when the Seahawks lost in Houston 34-7. That loss to the Texans was the first of 4 straight blowout losses that ultimately cost former head coach Jim Mora his job. We may look back on this game later this season and say this was one of the biggest tests of the season. Here are some things to watch for against the Texans this week.

The biggest key for the Seahawks to be successful on offense this week is to mobilize Russell Wilson. It may be a necessity considering the Seahawks offensive line and the talent Houston displays along the defensive line. All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt already has 3 sacks this season after recording a Texans team record 20.5 sacks last season. His size and strength gives him the ability to overpower the offensive line and get to the quarterback easier than a lot of other defensive players around the league. Having Wilson scramble to make throws could limit Watt’s role in Houston’s defensive game plan significantly. Wilson is the shortest quarterback Watt has ever played against so Wilson will also need to make sure to elevate his passes to prevent Watt from knocking them down. One other way to limit Watt’s impact is to be successful in the running game. The Seahawks have the highest running rate in the NFL so far this season (57% run, 43% pass). Getting Marshawn Lynch going early could benefit the entire offense to chew clock, score points, and rest the defense. If Lynch struggles, I believe Darrell Bevell will change to a more pass-heavy offensive scheme to try to improve the offense.

In my Jaguars review I briefly touched on how the Seahawks used many different receivers and how using all those weapons could come in handy against the Texans. Looking at Houston’s secondary, cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are 5-11 and 5-10, respectively. Due to the undersized Texans secondary I am looking at Sidney Rice and Stephen Williams to make a big impact on the outside this week. Given the height advantage these two receivers have, Rice and Williams have the perfect opportunity to exploit Houston’s cornerbacks and gain large chunks of yards if Russell Wilson is confident enough to throw the ball in their direction. If Wilson is flushed out of the pocket, Doug Baldwin becomes an even bigger impact player. Lining up in the slot, Baldwin leads all Seahawks receivers with 177 receiving yards on the season. Baldwin is very good at improvising if plays are not executed as planned and he has an uncanny ability to get open if Wilson is looking downfield for a receiver while being chased. Keep an eye on these three receivers on Sunday.

On defense this week my focus isn’t really on individual matchups but on certain trends that need to come to fruition in order to be successful. The Seahawks tend to struggle a bit on the road no matter who the opponent is so the following things must happen to prevent our first loss of the season. First, they need to limit the number of penalties. On the road, penalties such as pass interference and personal foul penalties are called more often due to the reaction and influence of the home crowd. The Seahawks need to play clean football and make sure the defense can get off the field and the offense can stay on the field longer. Second, the defense needs to limit big plays. Fortunately for the Seahawks this point may not be as difficult as the common person would think. Starting Texans running back Arian Foster’s longest run of the season is only 16 yards and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ 30-yard catch against San Diego in week one is the longest catch by a Texans starting wide receiver this season. Third and most important, the Seahawks need to get off the field on third downs. In road games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season (11 total), the opponent has converted 43.8 percent of third down opportunities. In road games dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season which resulted in a loss (6 total), the opponent converted 47.1 percent of third down opportunities. Although the margin between these numbers is small, they are both close to a 50 percent third down conversion rate which is utterly unacceptable. The Seahawks will not win this game if they cannot get off the field on third down. Stopping Foster, Andre Johnson, and running back Ben Tate is necessary in these situations because they are on the field for most of Houston’s third down chances.

In regards to the individual matchups between the Texans offense and the Seahawks defense, Arian Foster will face one of the best run stopping defenses in the NFL. Foster is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry so far this season. Wide receiver Andre Johnson is nursing an injured shin and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. If Johnson is active, he will line up across from Richard Sherman and DeAndre Hopkins will line up across from Brandon Browner. If Johnson is inactive, Sherman will defend Hopkins and Browner will defend the Texans number three receiver Lestar Jean.

When looking at the Houston Texans, most look directly at their defense and J.J. Watt. Although Watt is the most important player on defense for Houston, my Texans X-Factor player to watch this week is outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus, the Texans 2012 first round draft pick, is tied for the third most tackles by a Texans defender so far this season with 13. He also has one sack. Mercilus is the Texans weak-side linebacker meaning he will line up on the right side of the defensive formation and will blitz from Russell Wilson’s blind side. If Paul McQuistan struggles at left tackle this week for the Seahawks, Mercilus could wind up having a big day for the Texans solely from getting to Wilson behind the line of scrimmage.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will most likely wear white jerseys this week. I am not sure about our pant color… The nice thing about the Texans is that they post their uniform combinations for the entire season on their website. That makes it easier to know what we are going to wear opposite of them… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Tony Corrente is the referee this week… I get the sense from a lot of my friends that 10am kickoffs in Seattle are kind of a pain in the ass. In Houston this week the game is a noon kickoff. The game I went to in 2011 in Dallas against the Cowboys was a noon kickoff and it was kind of too bad because I am used to going to Seahawks games here in Seattle at 1pm. It feels like the entire day gets going earlier when you go to a game that starts at noon… My hotel is walking distance from Reliant Stadium, much like my set up last season in Arizona. I’ll be pre-gaming in my hotel room instead of tailgating in the parking lots for the second straight year… On Saturday night a group called “Houston Seahawks” is organizing a 12th Man rally at a Buffalo Wild Wings a couple miles away from our hotel and I’m really excited for it. It will be cool to be in a different city but it will feel like I am right at home… I have seen 6 straight losses on the road. It would be nice to finally break that streak.

Prediction: This game will be close all the way until the end. Unfortunately, I think that J.J. Watt and the Houston defense will succeed in rattling Russell Wilson. The Texans will win the turnover battle 3-1 and it will feel like they will have a commanding lead in the game because of it, even though the game will be close. The Seahawks will get the ball one last time in the final two minutes but the final drive will stall at about midfield. The Seahawks will head home with their first loss of the season and for the 7th straight time, I will sit at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Monday afternoon disappointed (I hope I am wrong, obviously).

Texans 23, Seahawks 20

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Since I will not be around a computer all weekend I will not be able to post my Texans review until Tuesday afternoon most likely. Enjoy the game everyone! I’ll be sure to bring some 12th Man love to the lone-star state. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 45, Jaguars 17

22 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jaguars/Seahawks Preview

21 Sep

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Matchup: Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:25pm

Although it is not wise to look past any game, it is understandable if most fans look past this matchup. The Seahawks host the Jacksonville Jaguars this week in a matchup that features the largest point spread in an NFL game since the New England Patriots played the Miami Dolphins in December 2007. After Seattle’s 29-3 victory over San Francisco last week, the Seahawks are 2-0 and have sole possession of first place in the NFC West. The Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-2 and are coming off a sloppy 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks hold the all-time advantage over the Jaguars with a 4-2 record. In their last meeting in 2009, arguably the worst season of Seahawks football I have witnessed, the Seahawks defeated Jacksonville 41-0. With this game viewed as a guaranteed win by the majority of experts and fans, here are some things to watch that are crucial in order to avoid one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.

With Russell Okung out this week, it is extremely important to make sure Russell Wilson stays healthy because pass protection could be a weakness. It has been announced that Paul McQuistan will start at left tackle for Okung this week. Taking McQuistan’s spot at left guard will be James Carpenter. I personally do not agree with the personnel along the offensive line this week because I am a strong believer that shifting players to different positions interrupts continuity. If it was my decision, I would keep McQuistan at guard and start rookie Alvin Bailey at left tackle. Nevertheless, the number one key on offense this week will be to stretch the field and score touchdowns while keeping Russell Wilson on his feet. Last week against San Francisco Wilson struggled to get the passing game going early. The best case scenario is for the Seahawks starting offense to play into the third quarter, build a three or four score lead, and pull the starters before further opportunities for them to potentially get hurt arise. Against a putrid Jacksonville defense this should not be a problem in my eyes. Also along the offensive line I am hoping the Seahawks have made great strides in trying to eliminate holding penalties, a big negative of our offense last week. Eliminating offensive penalties will allow us to score faster, and thus get the starters out of the game sooner.

I think we will see a diverse distribution of passes from Russell Wilson this week. My receivers to keep an eye on this week are Jermaine Kearse and Stephen Williams. I expect these two guys to see extended snaps this week because of the possibility of the starters being rested in the second half. Kearse and Williams both did not record a catch last week and the offense got off to a shaky start. By lining Kearse and Williams up and expanding the play calling, the Seahawks may be able to make more of an offensive statement early this week.

Last week the Seahawks defense held the 49ers to 3 points even without Chris Clemons and Brandon Browner. This week I expect to see more of the same against the 32nd ranked offense in the NFL. Browner has been practicing this week but will be a game time decision. In a surprising move to me, Chris Clemons will make his season debut this week. The highlighted matchup this week will be Richard Sherman vs. Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts. Sherman held Anquan Boldin to only one catch last week even though that catch did not come while Sherman was defending him. Shorts is the only noteworthy weapon on the outside for Jacksonville so do not be surprised if the Jaguars cannot get anything going in the passing game. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were effective rushing the passer last week so I am not overly worried about our pass rush this week, especially at home. My primary defensive focus this week is in the linebacker corps. Through week 2, Bobby Wagner is averaging 7.5 tackles per game, K.J. Wright is averaging 5 tackles per game, and Malcolm Smith is averaging 2.5 tackles per game. I would love to see Smith make an impact early in the game. Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne likes to throw short passes to his checkdown receivers in the middle of the field so this is a prime opportunity for the linebackers to boost their stats. A 6-8 tackle game from each of our linebackers is a prime target range this week. Our defense will be very successful if Wagner, Wright, and Smith can record tackles in this range.

Where do I start with the Jacksonville Jaguars? Their offense is averaging 5 points per game while the defense is allowing an average of 23.5 points per game. Jacksonville has not played an opponent that is considered a playoff contender so far this season. With this game being played in Seattle, it could be another long game for the road team. On offense the Jaguars may be without three of their best players. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert is recovering from a hand laceration and will not start this week. Chad Henne will start at quarterback. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew injured his foot against Oakland last week and has not practiced this week. I would be very surprised if Jones-Drew plays against the Seahawks. Jordan Todman and Justin Forsett would take Jones-Drew’s carries if he cannot go this week. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon is serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. With Blackmon out, Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders will be Jacksonville’s starting wide receivers.

On defense there is only one player I put a spotlight on this week. Defensive end Jason Babin recorded 18 sacks with Philadelphia just two seasons ago. So far this season he only has one sack. Babin is by far the Jaguars best pass rusher and could make an impact with a weaker Seahawks offensive line. It may be wise for Paul McQuistan and James Carpenter to double team Babin on passing downs if he is initially effective getting to Russell Wilson.

If there is one thing to take from the Jacksonville Jaguars it is this. Head coach Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks last season. When you coach your own players and leave for other opportunities like Bradley did, your now former players possibly become available later on down the road. The Jaguars have three defensive players on their active roster that spent training camp with the Seahawks this season; players that were cut during final roster cuts at the end of August. There is no question that Bradley and Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich will be picking the brains of cornerback Will Blackmon, safety Winston Guy, and linebacker Kyle Knox for information about the Seahawks defensive packages. I do not think the Jaguars will have a significant advantage based on the information these three guys provide but you may see better adjustments than other teams would make if the Jaguars defense struggles to stop the Seahawks offense.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants again this week at home… Hopefully the weather will be nicer this week although the forecasts aren’t looking too promising. It’s looking like another overcast day in the low 60’s on Sunday… The referee this week is Bill Vinovich. Vinovich was the referee for the Seahawks week 16 game against San Francisco last year… Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker have the call for CBS this week. I know nothing about how good their broadcasts are… Sunday is my Dad’s birthday which will be special. I’ve never taken him to a Seahawks game on his birthday… I’m excited to get to know the people sitting next to me even better this week. Since I let my dad take my aisle seat when I take him, I’ll be next to the new season ticket holders to my left… The group next to me consists of two guys and two girls. The girl that was sitting closest to us last week was really cute, really nice, and very knowledgeable about football. Sounds like she meets my qualifications wouldn’t you say?… I hope the 12th Man can get the noise up high again this week. I remember playing St. Louis last year the week after hosting the 49ers on Sunday Night Football and the noise was nowhere near the level it was at the previous week. I know it’s the Jaguars but let’s make it just as loud for them as it was for San Francisco last week… One thing I forgot to mention in my 49ers review that I wanted to share. One of the coolest things I saw last week was on the big screen after the game. The Seahawks locker room camera showed owner Paul Allen exchange handshakes and hugs with the Seahawks players one by one as they re-entered the locker room following the game. That was really cool to see the connections and relationships between the players and the owner… I might have to bring a lot of Skittles this week. Against a weak Jaguars defense, Marshawn Lynch is primed to put up big numbers… The Seahawks haven’t started a season 3-0 since 2006. They won the NFC West that year.

Prediction: Russell Wilson will be done by the middle of the third quarter. The offense will get into a strong groove that they hope will be a solid tune-up for Houston in week 4. Marshawn Lynch will run for two touchdowns and Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Jermaine Kearse will all catch touchdown passes. The defense will sack Chad Henne 6 times and Richard Sherman will record his second interception of the season. If the San Francisco 49ers could only score 3 points against our defense last week, how on Earth could you think the Jaguars will score any points at all? The Seahawks beat the Jaguars 41-0 the last time they met. The scoreboard will mirror the scoreboard from 4 seasons ago. That’s right. For the first time ever, I am predicting a shutout.

Seahawks 41, Jaguars 0

I cannot promise my game review will be done by Sunday night, but I am not totally eliminating the chances. If not Sunday night, check back for my game review on Monday morning. Let’s go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 12, Panthers 7

8 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks/Panthers Preview

7 Sep

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

Site: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The 38th season of Seahawks football kicks off Sunday as the Seahawks head to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. Seattle leads the all-time series against Carolina 4-2. These two teams last met last October. Thanks to an errant pass by Cam Newton on 4th and goal, the Seahawks escaped with a 16-12 victory to improve their record to 3-2. It is very important for the Seahawks, this season more than any other, to take each game one at a time. We cannot afford to start slow like against Arizona last season because these early season games could come back to cost you big time at the end of the season heading into the playoffs. Here are some keys to this week’s game.

Given the handful of injuries and Bruce Irvin’s four-game suspension, I am most interested to see what our starting defensive unit looks like this week. Specifically, I am curious to know who will start at the “Leo” defensive end position. Chris Clemons has been ruled out by Coach Pete Carroll this week. Cliff Avril has been nursing a hamstring injury but he has been practicing this week. His status for Sunday’s game is still up in the air. Michael Bennett is also nursing an injury to his toe. I expect Bennett to play this week but he will see snaps at defensive tackle for most of the game. If Avril is unable to play, the starting defensive end will be O’Brien Schofield. I would be more comfortable having Schofield start over rookie Benson Mayowa simply because he has prior starting experience. He started at outside linebacker on a good Arizona Cardinals defense last season. I am not sure if Mayowa is ready to be thrown into the starting rotation. Mayowa would be best used exclusively on passing downs. I believe using Mayowa at defensive end and Schofield at outside linebacker on third down would be the best pass rushing option if Avril is unavailable. If Avril is available, our third down pass rush package could consist of Mayowa on the other side of the line with Schofield at outside linebacker.

The number one key for the Seahawks offense this week is avoiding a slow start. Last season when we opened up the season at Arizona, many including myself believed that we could handle the Cardinals easily which would entail jumping out to a strong, early lead. Instead the Seahawks scored only 3 points in the first half and lost the game after scoring only 16 total points. Avoiding a slow start in essence means limiting the Panthers to build any kind of momentum. If the Seahawks can score a minimum of 14 points in the first half, I will consider us to be in good shape. A sub-key to achieving this goal will be to control the tempo of the game and win the time of possession battle. In a week one situation, you do not want to give Cam Newton and the Panthers offense time to move the ball. If Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch can be effective in the run game, it bodes well for the Seahawks to control the time of possession battle and to jump out to an early lead.

One more thing to keep an eye out for this week is Jermaine Kearse on special teams. It was announced on Monday that Jermaine Kearse would get the first crack at filling Leon Washington’s shoes as the Seahawks kick returner. Kearse’s one kick return in the preseason was returned for a touchdown. That one kickoff return earned him the chance to be the Seahawks kick returner to start the regular season.  I am interested to see what the rotation will be if Kearse struggles. I would not be surprised to see Golden Tate to get the next chance at returning kicks. Tate will return punts on Sunday.

Like last year against the Panthers, the player that the Seahawks defense should be most worried about is quarterback Cam Newton. I predicted a Seahawks loss in Carolina last season, based on the notion that I thought Cam Newton was going to go off, throwing for multiple touchdowns and rushing for a significant amount of yards. Although Newton did not play well last season, especially against the Seahawks, the potential remains there for him to break out at any time. If we were scheduled to play the Carolina Panthers later in the season, I would probably feel more confident in the Seahawks being able to beat them. In week one however, any outcome is possible regardless of who you we playing and where we are playing. The Seahawks defense must use their speed to slow Newton down and limit his running lanes if he is forced out of the pocket. If we are successful in taking Newton’s feet away we will definitely have a better chance to win. I am not expecting much out of our pass rush this week but if Newton can buy time and is going to scramble, the movement of our linebackers and secondary, not the defensive line, will be the key to our defense this week.

The Carolina Panthers have a very young, yet talented defense. Each level has one player that cannot go unnoticed this week. Along the defensive line is rookie Star Lotulelei. Star, the cousin of Seahawks linebacker John Lotulelei, was Carolina’s first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lotulelei showed a lot of physicality during the preseason and beat out former Seahawk Colin Cole and fellow rookie Kawann Short for the second defensive tackle job. Lotulelei will be effective in stuffing the run if he can beat the man across from him. I expect the Panthers to line Lotulelei up against right guard J.R. Sweezy. In the second level the Panthers boast the 2012 defensive rookie of the year, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly led the Panthers in tackles last year and he does a great job of getting to the play. I am looking to see how Kuechly handles the zone-read option. The Seahawks had not installed the zone-read option when these two teams played last season. If the Seahawks are effective in fooling Kuechly, it will bode well for us extending our drives and scoring points. The man to watch in Carolina’s secondary is cornerback Josh Thomas. Thomas lost his starting job in the middle of last season and with the release of veteran Drayton Florence at the end of the preseason, Thomas earned his starting job back for the start of this season. Expect Sidney Rice to line up against Thomas this week and I believe Russell Wilson will try to test Thomas early and often by throwing to Rice in the first half.

One of the things I felt was crucial during the playoffs last season was the Seahawks mindset that every game was a win-or-go-home playoff situation. I think it would benefit us tremendously if we come out and show the same sense of urgency against the Panthers. If we put playoff level effort and show playoff level urgency in every regular season game, we will be better off in the long run.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys this week. With a game time temperature expected to be in the high 80’s or low 90’s, the Seahawks will most likely wear either white pants or grey pants this week. The Seahawks wore the blue jersey/grey pants combo in Carolina last season… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week. Sigh… Jeff Triplette is this week’s referee… This is the only game I’ll be watching from home in the first month of the season… I don’t like these 10am kickoffs. But it is the first week of the season so my adrenaline will be flowing all day Sunday… 2 games on NFL Red Zone in the afternoon: Packers/49ers and Cardinals/Rams. I get to watch and keep track of the entire NFC West this week and I’m pretty pumped about that… If anyone is interested in my television routine on a gameday where the Seahawks play on the road, here it is: NFL GameDay Morning on NFL Network from 6am-8am, ESPN Fantasy Now on ESPN2 from 8am-9am, FOX NFL Sunday from 9am-10am, the Seahawks game from 10am-1pm, NFL Red Zone from 1pm-4:30pm (the Seahawks game and Red Zone are flipped when the Seahawks play at 1pm), Football Night in America on NBC from 4:30pm-5:30pm, and Sunday Night Football following… Call me a fan or call me a fanatic… If the Seahawks lose and the 49ers win I am going to be pissed.

Prediction: A lot of my friends believe the Seahawks are going to blow out the Panthers. I think we will win but it will be a very close game. The Seahawks and Panthers will both get off to slow starts in the first half but the Seahawks ability to wear down the Panthers defense with long drives will be the difference. The Seahawks will score touchdowns; the Panthers will kick field goals. The Seahawks will head home 1-0 and will start preparation for a huge game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Seahawks 23, Panthers 16

Check back on Monday for my review of the Panthers game. Enjoy the weekend everybody. Welcome back football! Go Seahawks!