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Seahawks/Chargers Preview

13 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks 30, Chargers 17

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

2012 Season Review: My Top Ten

17 Jan

The 37th season of Seattle Seahawks football was a very special one for me and the rest of the 12th Man. From day one of training camp on July 27th to day 177 last Sunday, we were a part of a journey that had its ups and downs and showed us how far a group of men can come and improve in such a time span. Most importantly, this Seahawks team showed what is to come next year and for many seasons following. I attended 10 of our 16 regular season games this season; 8 home games from my 2nd home in section 340 at CenturyLink Field, and spent hundreds of dollars to make sure my voice was heard and body was present in Arizona and San Francisco. Instead of chronicling our season from start to finish in a traditional season review piece that many other people will do, I have compiled my top ten moments of the 2012 season. These moments are not only the moments I witnessed first-hand but also the moments that were the most exciting and the moments that contributed in how our season was shaped. Some will agree with my list, others will disagree. Maybe you agree on the moments but not the order I have placed them in. Nevertheless these are the moments I have chosen as worthy of our top ten of the 2012 season. Let the debate begin!

#10: Washington Ties Cribbs (Seahawks at Dolphins, Week 12)

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Leon Washington made history in the fourth quarter of the Seahawks loss to the Miami Dolphins in late November. After scoring a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14, Miami kicked off to Washington with 8 minutes left in the game. Washington took Dan Carpenter’s kickoff 98 yards and into the endzone for a touchdown that gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead. The kickoff return touchdown was Washington’s 8th in his career and that number ties Cleveland Browns kick returner Josh Cribbs for first all-time in that category in NFL history. After coming back from a devastating leg injury three years ago, Washington has re-emerged as one of the most dangerous return men in the league. Although he is getting older I fully expect Washington to play a big role on special teams next year. He has a unique burst and you could tell he was close to breaking off a couple big runs in the playoffs. Hopefully next season Washington can claim sole possession of first place in kickoff return touchdowns.

#9: Defense Makes A Statement, Pummels Rodgers (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

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When you combine a national television primetime setting, a ferocious fan base, an extremely talented defense, and a sub-par offensive line, you get my number nine moment of the season. With the entire nation watching the Seahawks defense combined to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half alone. Chris Clemons led the attack with 4 sacks, rookie Bruce Irvin added 2 of his own, and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane also added 2 sacks. It was the most dominant span on defense this season and as I noted in my Packers review, it actually left me laughing in the stands because our play was so amazing and dominant. If only our pass rush could have been more consistently dominant over the course of the entire season. If that happened, we may still be playing football. I tipped my hat to the Seahawks defense on this night. I probably won’t see that many sacks recorded during a 30 minute span again in a very long time.

#8: Wilson Runs Into The Record Books (Seahawks vs. Bills, Week 15)

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The Seahawks debuted their wolf grey uniforms in Toronto against the Bills on December 16th and Russell Wilson looked especially good in them. The Seahawks were coming off a 58-0 win over the Arizona Cardinals the previous week and the offensive surge did not stall against the Bills. The Seahawks won the game 50-17 but Russell Wilson was the biggest factor in the final score. Wilson became the first quarterback in Seahawks history to run for three touchdowns in a game and he ran for all three in the first half. The zone-read option worked the best against the Bills in my opinion as Wilson and the running backs combined for 270 rushing yards.

#7 Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number One (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

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The Seahawks hosted the Dallas Cowboys in their home opener on September 16th and the game could not have gotten off to a worse start for the Cowboys. With the entire sellout crowd already in their seats for kickoff, the Seahawks kicked off to Felix Jones of the Cowboys to start the game. After making it out to around the Dallas 25-yard line, Jones was hit on his side which knocked the ball free from his arms. Earl Thomas recovered the fumble and the crowd erupted into chaos. Ten seconds into the game and the Cowboys had already turned the ball over, given the Seahawks excellent field position, and they gave the 12th Man something to go crazy about. In the stands the play was awesome and everyone around me was beyond excited. The drive culminated into just a field goal but luckily for the Seahawks and the fans, the Cowboys were not done with their special teams blunders yet.

#6: Cowboys Special Teams Screw-Up Number Two (Cowboys at Seahawks, Week 2)

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After this play my friend Alan and I believed that the Dallas Cowboys special teams unit was cursed in Seattle. With the Seahawks forcing the Cowboys to punt on their first offensive drive of the game, defensive end Bruce Irvin penetrated the punter protection and got one of his hands on the kick. The ball took one bounce backward and right into the hands of Jeron Johnson inside the Dallas 5-yard line. Johnson walked the blocked punt into the endzone for a touchdown and the Seahawks took a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. This play was very fast since the block and score occurred within seconds of each other. Once again, the crowd went crazy and we now had full confidence that we could beat Dallas handedly on this day.

#5: U Mad Bro? Seahawks Stun Brady, Patriots (Patriots at Seahawks, Week 6)

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Coming off a win in Carolina the week before, the Seahawks came home with a 3-2 record and a home date with the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. The Seahawks trailed the Patriots 23-10 with 9:21 left in the game. Russell Wilson connected with Braylon Edwards for a touchdown on 4th down to cut the Patriots lead to 6 points. The Seahawks got the ball back with 2:38 left in the game with a chance to take the lead. With 1:10 left in the game, Russell Wilson connected with Sidney Rice for a 46 yard touchdown pass which gave the Seahawks a 24-23 lead. It was the prettiest pass I saw Wilson throw all season long. The Seahawks defense came back onto the field for one last New England drive and successfully stopped the Patriots on four plays, giving the Seahawks the win. One other storyline of this game was the communicating (or trash talking) between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. During the game Sherman challenged Brady to throw in his direction while Brady told Sherman to see him after the game when the Patriots win. Brady did in fact challenge Sherman by throwing in his direction and Sherman picked off a pass in the 3rd quarter. After the game Sherman went up to Brady to tell him “you’re just a man. We’re a team.” The exchange was photographed and was given the caption “U Mad Bro?” with Sherman mouthing off to Brady while Brady tried to walk off the field. This moment tossed Sherman into the national spotlight. After this incident Seahawks fans started to love Sherman even more and fans of other teams started to loathe Sherman.

#4: RW3 > RGIII. Seahawks Win First Road Playoff Game Since 1983 (Seahawks at Redskins, NFC Wild-Card Playoff)

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The Seahawks finished ½ game behind San Francisco for the NFC West title but they still earned the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Seahawks faced the NFC East champion Washington Redskins in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs and things did not get off to a good start. Washington jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter. At the time it was the largest deficit the Seahawks had faced all season long. The Seahawks came back thanks in large part to Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and Earl Thomas. The Seahawks scored 24 unanswered points in the final 45 minutes to beat the Redskins 24-14 to advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs. This game was the only playoff game to feature two rookie quarterbacks. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was playing with a sprained LCL in his right knee and he was unable to finish the game after further damaging his knee. The Seahawks did a great job of containing Griffin III and their rookie running back Alfred Morris. It was one of the most exciting road games of the season and the Seahawks came back home not before winning on the road for the first time in the playoffs since Chuck Knox’s Seahawks beat the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Divisional playoff in 1983.

#3: The Two Drives That Changed Our Season (Seahawks at Bears, Week 13)

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After losing to Miami in week 12 the Seahawks hit the road again for a crucial game against the Chicago Bears. At the time the Bears held the NFC North lead while the Seahawks controlled their own destiny as an NFC Wild-Card. With the Seahawks trailing 14-10 with 3:40 left in the game the Seahawks had to drive 97 yards to take the lead. On the drive Marshawn Lynch racked up 21 yards and Russell Wilson also ran for 19 yards. Wilson hit Zach Miller to convert a 4th down which would have ended the game if the pass was incomplete, and then he found Sidney Rice for a gain 27 yards. With 24 seconds remaining Wilson hit Golden Tate on a slant. Tate juked two defenders before diving into the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. The Seahawks took a 17-14 lead. Game over right? Unfortunately not. Because of a breakdown in communication on defense, Jay Cutler found Brandon Marshall for a gain of 56 yards to put Chicago in field goal range. Robbie Gould knocked the kick through the uprights and the game was headed to overtime. In overtime the Seahawks won the toss and started their next drive on their own 20-yard line. Did Wilson have another game-winning drive in him? He proved that he could go down and win the game again. Thanks in large part to Wilson’s legs, he led the Seahawks into the red zone and connected with Sidney Rice from 13 yards out for the game winning touchdown. This was just the Seahawks second road win of the season but with the win we improved to 7-5. These two drives are considered to be the turning point in our season. In our next three games after the Chicago game the Seahawks scored a combined 150 points. Most importantly though, the Chicago game was the start of an impressive winning streak that did not end until the Divisional playoff loss to Atlanta.

#2: Sherman Steals The Show On Sunday Night (49ers at Seahawks, Week 16)

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I stepped into CenturyLink Field on Sunday Night December 23rd expecting to see a close, hard-fought game against the San Francisco 49ers. If we won we would clinch a playoff berth. I had no idea how bad of a mismatch and how big of a blowout this game would turn out to be. My number two moment of the season occurred with just over 12 minutes left in the second quarter. With the 49ers trailing 14-0, kicker David Akers lined up for a 21-yard field goal. The kick was blocked by Red Bryant and the ball bounced right into the arms of Richard Sherman. Sherman returned the ball 90 yards to the house for a touchdown and a 21-0 Seahawks lead. The game was over at this point. Everyone in the stands felt confident we would handle San Francisco for the rest of the night. In the stands the play was wild, which justifies my reasoning for ranking this play as the second best of the season. Once I saw the ball blocked and picked up by Sherman, I knew he had the speed and separation to outrun both Akers and the holder Andy Lee. I started jumping up and down wildly and screaming at the top of my lungs while pulling and shaking the guys who sit below me. Once Sherman crossed the goal line I ran down the stairs of my aisle collecting high fives and hugging everybody in my vicinity. I could not have been happier and the last time I celebrated that wildly on any play was the Marshawn Lynch beast quake run in the 2010 playoffs. I guess there’s something about primetime football that brings out the wild child in me. The Seahawks won the game 42-13 and clinched a playoff berth. Not only that, we also beat the hated 49ers which always puts a smile on my face.

#1: The Monday Night Miracle (Packers at Seahawks, Week 3)

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As the season wore on a lot of Seahawks fans got the feeling we were developing as the most hated team nationally during the 2012 season. The reason why is because of what transpired on Monday night September 24th. With the Seahawks trailing 12-7 with 8 seconds left, Russell Wilson threw up a Hail Mary into the north endzone. From my view it looked like Golden Tate out jumped three Green Bay defenders to make the catch. When one of the officials ruled touchdown, the stadium went absolutely crazy. Everyone around me started to jump up and down and we all embraced each other with looks of sheer amazement and non-belief in our faces. I had never seen a more epic finish then what had just happened. The play was reviewed by replacement official Wayne Elliott and the call on the field was upheld. The Seahawks won in what ESPN’s Mike Tirico called “the most bizarre finish you’ll ever see.” In the stands we couldn’t believe what had just happened and we headed out of the stadium under the impression that Golden Tate had cleanly made one of the greatest plays we had ever seen. I had never attended a football game that was decided by a Hail Mary on the final play so the adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I collected a program after the game that was sitting on a picnic table because I wanted a piece of memorabilia from the most exciting game of the year. Nobody I was with had the slightest clue what had actually happened on the field. When my friends and I got home from the game we turned on SportsCenter and watched for two hours as they broke down the final play. As you well know, the play was not as clean as it looked like from my view inside the stadium. We won the game but the controversy over the replacement officials had just begun. The SportsCenter following this game was the most watched episode in ESPN history and within 48 hours of the game, the referee lockout was over and the real NFL referees were back on the field. Sports Illustrated named this play the most iconic sports moment of 2012 and it is definitely deserving of that title. I have a mini-shrine to this game in my room including my ticket stub, the program I picked up, the rally towel that was given away at the game, and the front page of the Seattle Times sports section from the day after with the headline “Last Call?” Although I will be attending many many more football games in my lifetime, I am confident in saying I will never see a more incredible finish then what happened on this crisp September night.