Tag Archives: Soldier Field

Commentary: A Tribute to Candlestick Park

4 Dec
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Photo Credit: pro32.ap.org

*Sunday will mark the fourth and final Seahawks game I attend against the 49ers at Candlestick Park. The stadium is set to be torn down at the conclusion of the 49ers 2013 season. As a part of our second 49ers “hate week” of the season, I commemorate Candlestick Park with a special tribute post about the stadium from a Seahawks fan’s perspective*

Over the past decade-plus there have been many instances when my friends and I talk about the Kingdome. Those talks include topics such as what our most memorable experiences in the Kingdome were, what we miss about it, and how sometimes we even wish the Kingdome was still around today. On March 26th, 2000 the Kingdome was imploded and the most iconic part and the most special era of my childhood came tumbling to the ground.

The same is about to happen to San Francisco 49ers fans.

San Francisco sports fans have already gone through this once when the San Francisco Giants moved downtown to AT&T Park in 2000. However once the 49ers move out of Candlestick Park at the conclusion of the 2013 season, the clock will have struck midnight on the legendary building most famously known for hosting the final concert of the Beatles and hosting game 3 of the 1989 World Series when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the San Francisco area minutes prior to the start of the game, shaking the stadium and postponing the series for one week. Following this season, Candlestick Park will be torn down to make way for a proposed shopping center at the site of the stadium. Next season the 49ers are moving into Levi’s Stadium, their new state-of-the-art facility in Santa Clara and thus will shift into an era of playing their home games in a modern day football stadium they can call their own. After the final game at the end of this month, a remarkable run including 42 years of memories will come to an end.

Let me get this out of the way now. Personally I hate Candlestick Park. It is an absolute dump of a stadium. The seats are uncomfortable, the bathrooms are claustrophobic, and the concourses are so narrow that it takes forever to get out of the stadium after the game. Not only that but the sole fact that it housed the team I despise the most for 42 seasons gives me reason to hate the building by itself. On the inside it reminds me of a more cramped Kingdome without a roof. A lot of people would say the Kingdome was the same but many Seahawks fans including myself loved that building. That feeling of “home” for 49ers fans at Candlestick Park is the same feeling I miss about going to the Kingdome and the “home” of the “Niner Empire” will be permanently relocated which could come as a traditional shock for many 49ers fans. For those Seahawks fans that have never had the opportunity to attend a game at Candlestick Park, let me attempt to paint you a colorful picture of a 49ers gameday at the Stick.

The Drive: For my first two games at Candlestick Park, we drove north on highway 101 to get to the stadium. The Stick sits along the San Francisco bay just east of the highway. You know you are getting close once the highway curves past South San Francisco and you can see Candlestick Park in the distance on your right-hand side. Once you can see the stadium you hit a straight stretch of the highway and the stadium becomes larger as you drive closer, much like seeing the skylines of large cities become closer as you drive closer. The view is even better on a clear sunny day. The highway exit wraps around “Candlestick Point” and leads cars into multiple directions into the handful of parking lot entrances, which can be a big pain if you arrive closer to game time.

The Parking Lot and the Tailgating: The Seahawks are at a disadvantage when it comes to tailgating in Seattle because CenturyLink Field is located in the downtown core. There are limited parking lots surrounding CenturyLink Field and because of that fact many fans choose to drink at the surrounding neighborhood bars before the game. Candlestick Park does traditional tailgating the right way. The stadium is surrounded by roughly 8,800 parking spaces, housing the grand majority of fans attending each game. It is always best to arrive shortly after the gates to the parking lot open to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion that is promised both before and after the game. Once you park (around Seahawks fans of course) the fun really starts. As soon as you crack your car doors open you can smell the sweet aroma of meat being prepared on the numerous charcoal barbeques. You can see the different beautiful layouts of each car’s food and the large coolers stuffed with different types of liquor and beer. You can hear the mixed sounds of NFL pregame shows on the radio and the latest hip-hop/rap tracks blasting from car speakers. You can see the sights of fans playing beer pong, flip cup, beanbag toss, and throwing around footballs while engaging in friendly football banter. It is always a very merry atmosphere; an atmosphere that would get even the most bandwagon of fans excited for the rest of the day’s events.

The Walk: If you a 49ers fan this part would not be nearly worth talking about but as a visiting fan, the walk into the stadium is a very intimidating, yet very cool thing to experience. Most fans walk down a designated stretch of blacktop that leads straight to the gates of the stadium. Tailgating fans line the sides of the walkway and it is custom for 49ers fans to boo the Seahawks fans making their way into the stadium. I personally feed off of their energy, often signaling them to boo me louder. I absolutely love it and it is even better when the Seahawks are a better team on the field than the 49ers are. The walk into Candlestick Park serves as a preview of what to expect inside the stadium as an opposing fan.

The Concourses: Since I have sat in the same area of the Stick in each of my visits, I am not familiar at all with the lower level concourses. Once you enter the stadium, in order to get to the upper level you hop on an escalator that takes you right up to the upper deck. The concourse wraps around the entire stadium and they are very narrow, thus they can get very crammed as you get closer to kickoff. Concession stands and beer stands are continuously within spitting distance. The best part of the upper level concourse is the incredible view of the South San Francisco Bay, the downtown skyline, and the Bay Bridge along with the massive parking lot flooded with cars and people. It is a beautiful, picture perfect sight.

The Upper Bowl: Inside the bowl of the stadium, the first thing you see is the large Candlestick Point hill that neighbors the stadium. It is directly behind the stadium and provides a pretty backdrop to everyone that sits on the opponent’s side of the stadium. The seats are a bright orange color that are big but are very uncomfortable. It is a workout to even push your seat down and the seat stays down if you decide to stand up. Although I have sat in the same area of the stadium there is no bad seat in the upper bowl. The only problem I have is that the sun is constantly beating down on the entire stadium during day games, which has resulted in two terrible sunburns to my pale pigmented redhead skin.

After the Game: Leaving the stadium is a nightmare regardless of whether the Seahawks win or lose. 60,000+ people leaving the stadium all at the same time with one main road to get back onto highway 101 is the recipe for a long wait to exit the premises. Many fans go back to tailgate at their parking spaces to kill time while others try to get in the multiple car lines to leave the parking lot. It is very similar to the set up at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where they turn the neighboring golf course into a giant parking area. I waited in that parking lot for over two hours following the 2001 Rose Bowl. Most fans wait for upwards of one and a half hours to leave Candlestick Park which is a gigantic pain. In my experiences, I have left Candlestick postgame both in the light and in the dark and after a night game the stadium (like many other stadiums) looks cool with all the lights on, especially from a distance on the highway. As you leave the parking lot the reality sets in that your trip is over but in my past experiences, the anticipation of my next trip to Candlestick Park starts to set along with the sigh of relief that you survived the current trip, which is a very exciting feeling.

Sunday will be the fourth and final Seahawks/49ers game that I attend at Candlestick Park. I have been through both good and bad moments in the games I have attended there. From the Seahawks 23-3 thumping of the 49ers in 2007, to the sick feeling of witnessing Ted Ginn Jr. return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the 2011 season opener, I can say that I had the opportunity to watch NFL football in one of the more famous stadiums in America. People like talk about bucket list trips and stadium visits they would like to make before they die. Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Soldier Field in Chicago are a couple of NFL stadiums that instantly come to mind, but in my opinion Candlestick Park is the Lambeau Field of the west coast. This season, as part of a Candlestick Park celebration, the 49ers are counting down the top 10 moments in the stadium’s history which includes a halftime ceremony honoring each moment. In this week’s game against the Seahawks, the 49ers will honor the number two moment: “The Catch III” which occurred on January 14th, 2012 when quarterback Alex Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis for the game-winning touchdown in a Divisional playoff win over New Orleans.

Although I may not like the stadium, I have tremendous respect for the moments that occurred over the past four decades as well as the legacy that Candlestick Park will leave in the bay area.

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Review: Seahawks 23, Bears 17 (OT)

3 Dec

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The Seahawks were able to bounce back from their loss in Miami and defeat the Chicago Bears 23-17 in overtime on Sunday. This game was a nail-biter and it turned out to be what I would consider to be an instant classic. The Seahawks are now 7-5, in full control of the final NFC wild-card spot while the Bears fall to 8-4 and have the 5th seed in the NFC. There was a good mix of great things and bad things that happened to the Seahawks in this game. This is what I saw.

Déjà Vu: The Seahawks had a 10-7 lead at halftime but the feel of the first half felt eerily similar to the first half of the Miami game. The Seahawks went the first 27 minutes of the first half without scoring. They did put up 219 yards of offense in the first half; about 70 yards more than in Miami. The nicest thing I saw in the first half was that the offense was able to move the ball. The Seahawks only had one first half drive of less than 10 yards. Scoring 10 points in the first half on the road against a superlative Chicago defense is decent but I was hoping for more in order for us to remain competitive throughout the entire game. It was good to see us correct mistakes that doomed us in Miami and carried those adjustments into the rest of this week’s game.

52:27 Of Russell Wilson Dominance: This may seem a bit repetitive because this section reflects some stats that occurred in the first half, but you will be impressed with these numbers. From the end of the first quarter on, the Seahawks had 404 yards of offense, 22 first downs, and all 23 points against the Bears on the road. Russell Wilson had his most impressive performance of the season hands down. Wilson ended the day 23/37 for 293 yards passing and two touchdowns. Wilson also added 71 rushing yards on 9 carries. Wilson showed tremendous poise and seemed comfortable in the pocket all day long. For the most part the Seahawks offensive line did a great job protecting Wilson. Two of Wilson’s throws in particular caught my attention, both to Sidney Rice. One was in the first half down the sideline which was one of Trent Dilfer’s “dimes” on Sportscenter Sunday night. The second pass, Rice laid out on 2nd down and 11 to convert for a first down. The drive ultimately ended in points. With a favorable schedule on the horizon and only one more regular season road game, Wilson is headed for a terrific finish and strong consideration for offensive rookie of the year.

Defense Sputters When They Absolutely Can’t: The Seahawks defense played well enough to hold on for the win. Having said this, we continue to give up big plays at the worst times. I will get to the Brandon Marshall catch with 18 seconds left in regulation in a moment but let’s first talk about our third down defense, our pass rush, and our unfortunate penalties.

Once again the Seahawks did a terrible job of stopping the Bears on third down, especially in the first half. Chicago was able to convert half of their third downs on Sunday. The biggest reason why the Bears could move the ball is our constant lack of quarterback pressure on the road. The Seahawks only recorded one sack which was primarily because Bears quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled a handoff to Matt Forte and had to run back and recover it. The Seahawks would have had this game under control for the majority of the time if they had been able to put consistent pressure on Cutler. We had been successful doing this over the past couple years. I do not see how we were so ineffective this time around.

There were also a couple of big penalties that cost the Seahawks in the Bears second touchdown drive. The Bears came up one yard short of a first down at the beginning of their first third quarter drive on 3rd and 8 but because of an illegal hands to the face penalty on Bruce Irvin, it gave the Bears a first down. Later on in the drive, Alan Branch was called for roughing the passer when he tried to tackle Cutler as he was sliding. The Bears of course ended the drive with a touchdown to Matt Forte to give the Bears a 14-10 lead.

Perhaps the most talked about play of the day was the 56-yard reception by Bears receiver Brandon Marshall with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks had an entire breakdown in coverage on this play. The Seahawks played prevent-man defense and they were able to let Marshall get free on one-on-one coverage. Instead of going for an interception or even a tackle, cornerback Richard Sherman instead decided to go for the interception. Because of this, Marshall was able to break free for an additional 20+ yards. This play set up Robbie Gould’s 46-yard game-tying field goal at the end of regulation. This play “never should have happened in the first place” according to Coach Carroll and there is no doubt he is right. Our defense must continue to improve and it will be nice for them to get back home next weekend after 4 weeks away from CenturyLink Field.

He’s A Beast: There is no other way to describe Brandon Marshall. In my preview, I predicted Marshall would have ten catches and ultimately torch the Seahawks. Marshall did have ten catches for 165 yards. It does not matter who is covering him, Marshall is big enough to grab any ball thrown in his direction, much like Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. The Cutler-Marshall combination is deadly and will be the biggest offensive factor in determining how long the Bears stick around in the playoffs.

Chicago’s Defense Still Good, But Aging: Here is a warning to any team or fan of a team who could be looking at a matchup with the Chicago Bears later on this season: they are still dominant but they get dramatically tired. In the Seahawks final two offensive drives of the game, Russell Wilson was shredding Chicago’s defense apart and you could visibly tell they were getting tired. Most notably the linebackers seemed the most gassed. Lance Briggs got banged up late in the game and Brian Urlacher had to leave the Seahawks overtime drive. He may have been hurt but to me watching on television he just looked exhausted. If the Bears are going to contend for a super bowl, this has to be the year. This group will not stick together much longer. They can play well against almost every team but they get worn down, which ultimately cost them against the Seahawks on Sunday.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks debuted the white jersey/white pants uniform combination on Sunday. It looked really good. Hopefully the white pants stick around… My dad came over to my house for this game and I really enjoyed his company. It always makes it better when we win… My roommate had the time of his life being in attendance at Soldier Field on Sunday. I am super jealous he got to see the Seahawks win and I saw them lose twice on the road. I told him he is our good luck charm within the house and maybe we should look into going to Toronto in two weeks for the Bills game (that won’t happen, but it’s a nice little idea isn’t it?)… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan called a good game on the FOX broadcast this week. Much better than in past weeks… The Bears have an annoying fight song… With our win and San Francisco’s loss I am starting to get excited about the possibility of holding on to win the NFC West. Still a lot of football to be played but we have a chance… I am also starting to get excited about the possibility that the NFL and NBC will flex the Seahawks week 16 game against the San Francisco 49ers into Sunday Night Football. That would be so amazing.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks are now 7-5 and have a full game lead for the 6th seed in the NFC. The Seahawks are also 1 ½ games behind San Francisco for the NFC West lead. It is very possible we could catch them in the coming weeks. Still in the hunt behind the Seahawks are the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Next week’s games to be keeping an eye on with potential playoff implications:

Arizona (4-8) at Seattle (7-5)

Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3-1)

Dallas (6-6) at Cincinnati (7-5)

Chicago (8-4) at Minnesota (6-6)

Philadelphia (3-9) at Tampa Bay (6-6)

The Seahawks now have four games left; three of which are at home in front of the 12th Man. It all starts next week against the Arizona Cardinals. Check back on Saturday afternoon for my preview of next week’s game. It’s really time to start believing everybody. Go Seahawks!

Seahawks/Bears Preview

1 Dec

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Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears

Site: Soldier Field (Chicago, Illinois)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The Seahawks are currently clinging to the 6th and final playoff spot in the NFC. After last week’s disappointing loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Seahawks look to bounce back this week on the road once again against the NFC North leading Chicago Bears. The Seahawks are 6-5 and the Bears are 8-3. If the season ended right now, these two teams would play in a rematch in the NFC wild-card playoffs. The Seahawks are heading to Chicago for their fourth game against the Bears in a three year span. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the Bears 9-6. In their most recent matchup, the Seahawks defeated a banged up Chicago squad 38-14 in week 15 last season. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

There is no doubt that the Bears are the best team the Seahawks have faced this season on the road. Chicago’s defense is one of the best in the entire league. It is this reason why Russell Wilson needs to put together another solid game. Within this point though is the fact that Wilson and the rest of the Seattle offense needs to get off to a fast start this week. Last week in Miami, the Seahawks only posted 135 yards in the first half and 13 of those came in the first quarter. This cannot happen this week because if it does, a hole will be dug that is too deep to get out of. Marshawn Lynch will be hungry to get back to form this week. Lynch was held to only 46 yards on 19 carries last week. Against a defense that is giving up an average of 97 rushing yards a game it is possible to get a rhythm going but do not be surprised if the Bears are able to stuff Lynch just like the Dolphins were able to do. My player to watch on offense this week is wide receiver Sidney Rice. I expect Rice to line up against Charles Tillman this week. I am not looking at if Rice can catch a lot of balls for a lot of yards. I am interested to see if he can break away from Tillman, who has forced seven fumbles and intercepted two passes. If Rice can be successful on the outside, Wilson will throw in his direction a lot.

The Seahawks defense seems to be slowly falling apart, especially in the running game. This week the Seahawks will most likely be facing a lot of Michael Bush, but starting running back Matt Forte is determined to play after injuring his ankle last week against Minnesota. Coach Carroll said that Red Bryant may not be able to play this week. Bryant has been the anchor of our run defense and losing his would be a significant blow. If Bryant cannot play, Alan Branch will start at defensive end and Greg Scruggs will start in Branch’s spot at defensive tackle. Unlike last year, the Seahawks will face the Bears starting quarterback. Jay Cutler is having a phenomenal year so far. Last week Cutler came back from a concussion and dominated the Vikings. This year Cutler has a huge weapon on the outside in wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall has caught 81 passes for 1,017 yards and 8 touchdowns. Brandon Browner will line up against Marshall this week. Browner is the tallest corner Marshall has faced this year. If quarterback pressure is not applied by our pass rush, Marshall will most likely put up some big gains. It will only be a matter of time before he gets involved in the Bears game plan.

Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman will play this week for the Seahawks after it was announced that they were suspended four games each for testing positive for Adderall. They are appealing their suspensions, making them available for this week’s game. I think appealing is a smart move especially for this game. I would not be surprised at all if they retract their appeals after the game regardless of whether we win or lose, which would force them to sit out the final four games of the regular season. I believe Marcus Trufant, Jeremy Lane, Jeron Johnson, and Walter Thurmond can hold down the fort if Browner and Sherman are unavailable for those games.

The Bears have four incredible players on their starting defense. Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, and Charles Tillman have all been staples of dominance for the past few years and they can all be disruptive to a sputtering offense. One matchup to keep your eye on is Peppers versus Russell Okung. Okung was extremely successful in shutting Peppers down in their first matchup in 2010. In their next two matchups, Okung did an adequate job but nothing nearly as good as the first matchup. It will be important to keep Peppers from busting loose but even if Peppers can beat Okung, Russell Wilson has the capability to get away rather easily. I could see a lot of on-the-run passes by Wilson this week. It will be interesting to see Wilson’s athleticism against an extremely talented, but aging Chicago defense.

I have one special teams note this week. Bears kick returner Devin Hester has been ruled out of this game because of a concussion. Hester is arguably the most dangerous return man in the NFL. Without him, the Seahawks have a good chance of keeping Chicago’s special teams at bay this week.

Random Thoughts: The weather in Chicago at game time is supposed to be in the low 60’s. Hindsight is 20/20, but if my dad had known this 6 months ago, this would have been our road trip this season… Although I will not physically be in attendance on Sunday, one of my roommates will. His is in Chicago this week for academic reasons and it was just a matter of coincidence that the Seahawks were coming to Chicago this weekend. He will be in attendance this week. Hopefully he can savor the joys of seeing the Seahawks win on the road… Mike Carey is the referee this week. He is my favorite ref and one of the fairest in the league, however I recall that the Seahawks game he called last year cost us the game; the Seahawks 7-6 loss to the Browns in Cleveland… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call once again for FOX this weekend. I have nothing left to vent about this broadcast crew. You should already know my feelings about this horrible duo… The Seahawks will wear white jerseys this week… I have a 5-page single-spaced paper to write due Sunday night. For my and the Seahawks sake, I must finish the paper on Saturday in order to be homework free for football on Sunday.

Prediction: The Seahawks have lost 5 road games this year by an average of 4.8 points. I think this is going to be an ugly game for the Seahawks. This will be the first double-digit loss for the Seahawks this season. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will connect at least ten times this week and although the game will be close at halftime, the Bears will pull away from a tired and worn down Seattle defense in the second half.

Bears 28, Seahawks 17

Check back for my review of the Bears game on Monday afternoon. Thanks for reading. Go Seahawks!