Monday, January 19, 2015

R3MARKABLE

I've never witnessed anything like this.

I've never watched a game where my team was up against the ropes, from start to finish, only to pull out the improbable. Not to this extent, anyways.

It felt as if the highs were short lived while the lows lingered throughout.  It certainly felt, a number of times, like we had squandered our last opportunity-- though, it never quite felt like we were out.

It was wonderful.  It was horrible.  It was everything you could want from a football game.

I'm sure I would've, could've and should've slept for the next 24 hours strait after the NFC Championship game.  I was exhausted-- I can only imagine how the players and coaches feel today. I damn sure didn't watch the AFC Championship game.  My heart couldn't take any more abuse.

On this Monday, however, we know that our Seahawks will be facing off with the Patriots for the chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions in Arizona. No team has accomplished this since the Patriots of a decade ago.

My last post here talked about the underlying message of this team being of love and unity. It's fitting that we begin our road to the Championship on a day that celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-- a man who lived his life spreading a similar message.

If you had any doubt as to the sincerity of that message, surely it was erased after watching Sunday's game.  Down 16-0 at the half with nothing seeming to go your way, the Seahawks had nothing else to play for but each other.

Seeing Russell never give up despite 4 interceptions-- that's love.

Seeing Marshawn put the team on his back-- that's love.

Seeing Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas play despite being visibly in pain-- that's love.

Seeing Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse step up on the final drive after contributing to several key turnovers-- that's love.

You could see this team was never going to roll over and accept defeat.  They wouldn't do that to their brothers, their coaches or their fans.  We saw the love spill out of the players once the official's arms were raised to signify the winning touchdown-- from Russell Wilson's tears of joy to Michael Bennett's impromptu bike tour. 


When you have this level of talent, commitment and passion-- how can anyone stop you?

Part of the reason I never lost hope Sunday was rooted in the experience I had attending my first live game with Wilson at the controls.  My best friend and I attended the Seahawks/Patriots game for my birthday in 2012.  Not unlike this past Sunday's game, Seahawks were playing from behind all day against a great team with a great quarterback.

We maintained cautious optimism-- but we knew we were on the edge of losing the entire time.

But when the game was on the line, when the team needed him most, Russell Wilson stepped up and made the play to put us over the top. Let's not forget-- this was his first season as a professional.

Flash forward to today, he's a Super Bowl winning veteran.  As are many of the other All-Pros and Pro Bowlers on this roster. This team is every bit as great as last year, with some extra seasoning. For some reason, it seems to mean more to these guys this time around.

Golden Tate put out what was basically a press release letting his fans know that they don't know him. In it, he implies that finances were a major factor in his decision to sign with Detroit instead of Seattle.  However, he couches it in the whole 'It was the best decision for my brand and family' guise. No matter how you slice it, he left for selfish reasons. 

Maybe he'd get more balls thrown his way playing alongside Calvin Johnson. It might not translate to more wins or another Super Bowl ring, but it could bring him a few extra dollars.  The money was a little better in the contract, too.  Either way, he took the money and ran.  Now that he's watching the Super Bowl from home, and he's getting shit from a lot of 12s, he's understandably upset.

Troy Aikman pointed out several times during the broadcast that the Seahawks lack a threatening presence at receiver.  Maybe so, but I'd take the heart of Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Ricardo Lockette and Chris Mathews over a selfish Golden Tate or Percy Harvin any day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bold as Love

Football is without question a violent game. Its a sport predicated on speed, strength and impact played by men of elite athletic prowess. 

For those reasons alone, its surprising and ultimately refreshing to see that the Seahawks are using a completely different motivator than has ever been used in any professional sport that I'm aware of. The Seahawks are branding themselves with an emotion seldom to never affiliated with the daily rigors of an NFL team.

Love



Going back in the season to when this team was 3-3, if you've listened to any of the team leaders speaking in the press, you might have noticed this theme making its way to the surface.


 "I think friction caused this blossom of love to happen."
The Seahawks were .500 and in desperate need of a kick in the ass if they had any shot at defending their title. How can you motivate a group of young millionaires, who have already achieved more in their line of work than others can only dream of?  What is left to strive for when most of the team has already inked lucrative, long term contracts and most everyone already has a ring?


To put it simply:  LOVE


"We finished with style. We had fun.  We're connected-- and that shows you how powerful love is."  Earl Thomas said after the Seahawks beat the 49ers in Santa Clara. "I think friction caused this blossom of love to happen."

Some of you thicker-skinned, manly sports fans might be scratching your heads right now-- wondering how an emotion that is more closely associated with weakness, be giving this team strength. Let Earl finish:

"You can tell guys are buying in. Guys are playing for each other.  That's so powerful, bruh.  It's hard to beat a united team."

It makes sense.  When personal accolades, fame, money and all the spoils that come with being world champions are shoved to the backseat and you play only for the love of the game and the love of your teammates-- you're free.  You play with passion. You play with heart.  You feed off each other and your collective confidence skyrockets.

It reminds me of a quote I've seen floating around the internet-- “Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.”  To even use the word 'love' in reference to football takes a certain amount of bravery. The evidence of the effectiveness of this mantra has been evident ever since we first heard about the meeting the Seahawks players had to address the issue in November.

 The bottom line is, it's working.  Not only that, but it's a terrific message to project, particularly in light of recent world events.  Love and unity makes us stronger.

When you think about the remaining 4 teams in the NFL playoffs, the Seahawks stand out as being the one team remaining that isn't built upon the talents of a specific individual. The Patriots, despite their outstanding coach and a handful of other talented skill players, are basically reliant on the health of Tom Brady.  The Packers would be absolutely nothing without Aaron Rodgers.  We saw what happened to the Colts in the season between two first-overall draft picks.

The Seahawks are bigger than that.  They are truly the sum of their parts-- from the players, to the staff and the fans. If you have any fears or doubts about the Seahawks chances of repeating, this picture sums up my feelings perfectly.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Don't look ahead of these Panthers, Look back.

This Saturday, the Seahawks and Panthers will face off for the 9th time in the teams' history.  With the Seahawks confidently own the rivalry with a 6-2 record that shows no signs of diminishing any time soon.

In fact, the most recent Panther's win in this series came in 2007 when a then-rookie Matt Moore barely edged out a Seahawks team that would go on to implode the following season-- a move that would eventually give birth to the Pete Carroll era.

And, get this.

The only other Panthers victory besides that one took place 15 years ago. Seahawks quarterback, and now beloved local fixture, Brock Huard went  19 of 34 for 172 yards passing with no touchdowns and no interceptions. 

In the Carolina Panthers 20 plus years in existence, they have never won a game in Seattle.
You can argue that history means nothing.  After all, these are completely different rosters and coaching staffs. That was then, this is now. Any given Sunday... yadda yadda yadda

I can't argue those facts, but I do believe in something called intangibles.

You can't tell me that a young baseball player doesn't get the butterflies when he makes his first plate appearance at Yankee Stadium.  No matter what the current Yankees record might be, the ghosts of legends past must haunt the air of that place-- even if it's not the same stadium Ruth built.

I'd have a hard time believing that a young player wouldn't be the least bit shaken up by playing his first road game against the Chicago Bulls.  He knows about the dominance Michael Jordan displayed on that very court.  He knows about those championships.

We're seeing that mystique being built right here in our hometown.  Not a pregame segment has aired in the past 5 years that doesn't make at least some reference to the overwhelming crowd noise of the 12th Man.  How many position groups in this league have a nationally recognized nickname? Every player in the league is familiar with Beastmode at this point and if you haven't heard about the record-setting defense we've had the past two seasons-- then you haven't done your homework.

The Panthers are a good team with a healthy portion of talent to boot.  This won't be the last time we face them in the post season, for sure. They are, however, a young team.  The game moves fast and there's a lot going through their minds on every play.

One thing is certain-- our guys are focused. The games in this series have mostly been closely contested. It could be one play that decides the game. One play where the crowd noise is just too much to bear.  One play where they happened to glance up at the World Champions banner.

Or maybe they just see Kam Chancellor and decide its not worth making the catch.

Monday, December 29, 2014

NFC KINGS -- Seahawks 20 Rams 6

It's once again official: the road to the Super Bowl will come through Seattle. In a season where the Seahawks experienced it's fair share of turmoil, seeing this group return to championship form to finish out the final 6 games of the season gives 12s everywhere serious déjà vu. 

It's abundantly clear-- we have a dynasty here in the pacific northwest.

I'm not basing that on the fact that these Seahawks managed to leapfrog an Arizona team that seemed to be stronger than any loss it was handed. It's not because they beat a talented 49er team so badly that they've decided to blow it up and go back to the drawing board. Even securing the #1 seed in the NFC seems unimportant.

I can't imagine any team beating this team in the playoffs. Home or Away.

Peyton Manning doesn't scare me.   We kicked his ass in the Super Bowl and beat them again in the 3rd week of this season. We've swept the Cardinals this season, beating them by a combined 54-9.  Cam Newton has been outmatched every time he's faced off against Russell Wilson. The closest thing to a concern is Aaron Rodgers and he's pretty well beat up.

The way this team is playing right now, how could you expect anything less than a Super Bowl repeat?

This defense will be one we speak of for the rest of our lives.  Every player is playing spectacularly unselfishly for one another. Most of them have their ring and their contract but complacency is the furthest thing from their minds. It begins at the top with Earl Thomas and extends all the way to the practice squad.

Late in yesterday's game, with a secure lead, the Rams began to move the ball down field. Shaun Hill (who bears a striking resemblance to SNL's Taran Killam) hit Benny Cunningham in the flat on a swing pass that was all but certain to score a touchdown. As Cunningham lunged toward the goal line, Earl Thomas came in flying out of nowhere with a karate chop at the inch-line that knocked the ball into the endzone, giving the Seahawks possession at the 20 yard line.



Sure, it was a phenomenal physical exhibition by Thomas-- but it was the mental aspect that was most impressive to me.  Had St. Louis scored, Seattle would've still been up by a touchdown and had plenty of time to win the game. He didn't have to be excellent-- he chose to be.

It's plays like that, or Jordan Hill's interception of a pass thrown into the dirt, that exemplify the Seahawks defense of 2014. They're playing for each other.  They're playing for the love of the game. Most exceptionally, as they've gone on record numerous times saying, they're playing for their own legacy.
Yesterday's performance was yet another reminder that the lion's share of credit belongs to Pete Carroll for the way he prepares his team for the long, arduous season. Considering how much criticism this team's receiver group was subjected to going back as far as last season, to see rookie wide out Paul Richardson lead the team in receptions and yards in his first start, is truly remarkable. 

The Seahawks are once again NFC West Champions in control of their own Super Bowl destiny. Seattle will play at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Divisional Playoffs on Saturday, January 10th, against either Detroit, Arizona or Carolina. 

It's time for fans to adjust their mind frame from "Why not us?" to "Dynasty or Bust". 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pure Dominance-- Seahawks 35 @ Cardinals 6

The Seahawks completed their sweep of the division rival Cardinals last night with a display of pure dominance in all phases of the game.  As unbalanced as the final score looks, it doesn't even begin to tell the story of what happened on the field when the Seahawks secured control of their destiny in locking up the NFC's #1 seed.

Top to bottom, the Seahawks roster played at a Championship level. It all begins and ends with the quarterback, Russell Wilson. His statistical numbers may never earn him the recognition he deserves, but one needs only to watch him in action to see that this guy is more than worthy of MVP consideration.

Wilson threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for an additional 88 yards and another touchdown. He simply made the Cardinals top ranked defense look foolish all night long.

Marshawn Lynch missed the opening of the game with an upset stomach, but he returned in time to put up

While everyone acknowledges the greatness of the run, what's not getting its due praise is the down field blocking efforts of Ricardo Lockette.  Lockette, who has made tremendous strides as a depth receiver and a special teams standout this season, sprang several key blocks for Lynch on the way to the endzone on that phenomenal play.
113 yards, two touchdowns and one of the most incredible plays from scrimmage anyone has ever seen.  In what's being dubbed 'Beastquake 2.0', Lynch smashes his way past a bevy of Cardinals defenders en route to a 79-yard touchdown run.

Lynch's fantastic performance was supplemented by an additional 66 yards on the ground from his stablemates Christine Michael and Robert Turbin.

If you weren't going to give Wilson or Lynch the offensive MVP of this game, you'd have to give that credit to Seahawks tight end, Luke Willson, who had the performance of his young career last night.  Willson finished the night with 3 receptions for 139 yards and a pair of scores.

Willson wasn't the only pass catcher that stepped up into a larger role yesterday.  Paul Richardson was superb, netting 5 grabs for 52 yards.  Doug Baldwin continued to prove he has what it takes to be this teams number one wide out. Baldwin had several key receptions and finished with 113 yards receiving.

The only puzzling part of the evening was Steven Hauschka's trio of missed field goals.  Considering how great he's been this season in particular (and the fact he was a close second in all-time field goal percentage going into this game) it was perplexing to see him miss three kicks indoors, even if they were from long range.

The question everyone needs to be asking themselves this morning is "How in the Hell are we supposed to stop Seattle's defense?"  Right now, the answer has to be "You can't, so don't bother trying."

If you had to describe this defensive unit in one word, it would almost have to be 'suffocating'.  They're number one in defensive points allowed and defensive yards allowed.  They held the Cardinals to a net 29 rushing yards, 187 passing yards and a measly 6 points.

With so many outstanding individual performances, you can't just single out one player. Richard Sherman had another interception and the Seahawks had sacks coming from Michael Bennett, Jordan Hill, David King and O'Brien Schofield.  Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were making plays all over the field and Bobby Wagner lead the team in tackles with 8.

Consistency has been key for these Seahawks, but the one consistency they could do with out is the disproportionate amount of penalties being called against the Seahawks versus those called on their opponents.  Sure, there were a lot of justifiable calls made, but there was more than a handful of ticky-tacky calls that could've been made against the opponent that were seemingly only applicable to the Seahawks.

Fortunately, while this drives us 12s absolutely insane, it never seems to get in the players heads.

Seattle will finish out the regular season at home against the Rams. The Seahawks could use another dominating performance to fuel their momentum heading into the playoffs. They must make sure they don't sleep on the Rams, however.  Honestly, the Rams scare me more than any of the teams we'll be facing in the playoffs because of their scrappy nature and unrecognized talent.

Listen to any of the players interviews of the past few weeks and you'll find a common theme in their comments-- these guys are all playing for each other.The front office continues to make sure that great effort is rewarded with long term contracts and most of these guys have already earned a ring.  While that can very easily lead to complacency, the Seahawks seemed to have found a way around that.  They're playing for their legacy.  They're playing for one another.  Just watch them on the sidelines-- they're playing for fun.

Christmas came early for the 12s this year.  Our Seahawks have guaranteed a playoff birth and are in control of their own fate when it comes to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  Given how well this team has played over the past 6 games, you have to feel good about that.

Monday, December 15, 2014

SWEPT-- Seahawks 17 49ers 7

As Russell Wilson took a knee on the final play of yesterday's game, the clock expired along with the 49ers playoff hopes-- and perhaps the Jim Harbaugh era in San Francisco, as well.

The first half of the game proved a gentle reminder that this 49er team has no shortage of talent and potential. San Francisco came out the gate playing much better than they did in Santa Clara on Thanksgiving, but Seattle got it together in the second half and stepped on their throats.

 The Seahawks are showing the world that they are more than prepared to defend their world title. 

The defense is elite and the offense is once again finding its rhythm. Rookie receiver, Paul Richardson, has emerged as a reliable third down target.

While they haven't really given Richardson any opportunities to showcase his remarkable speed, he has exhibited talents that remind me of former Seahawk Bobby Engram. Richardson caught his first NFL touchdown in the 4th quarter.

San Francisco, meanwhile, looks to be on the verge of implosion.  By the end of yesterday's game, the 49ers were down to their 3rd string running back-- and he was banged up. Besides a handful of explosive plays, Seattle smothered the 49ers offense, sacking Kaepernick six times and stifling the run game after halftime.

With the unexpected loss of Green Bay to the Buffalo Bills, Seattle is now comfortably in the driver's seat of their destiny. This coming Sunday's battle in the desert of Arizona will decide the champion of the NFC West, though both teams will likely make it to the playoffs.

Although its worth mentioning that Arizona has once again found themselves in quarterback trouble for Sunday, that's been the narrative all season for the Cardinals and it hasn't seemed to stop the team from winning games.

Seattle is in a great position to once again have the playoffs run through the CLink, but even if that's not the case, I'd take this team against anyone in the playoffs on any field. The Seahawks have proven that their formula works and this team is built sustainably.

However, looking ahead to next year, it's anybody's guess where our greatest competition will come from.  Harbaugh's inevitable departure will undoubtedly impact the Seahawks/Niners rivalry.  Harbaugh made San Francisco continually competitive and he is the kind of guy opponents love to hate. The worst thing that could possibly happen would be seeing Coach Holmgren pacing the 49ers sidelines next season.

Nevertheless, I fully expect the 49ers to take another step back in 2015. As I said at the end of last season, the window for them to win a championship with that team closed when they lost to the Ravens in the Super Bowl-- and that window was nailed shut with "The Tip".

The question of whether the Rams or the Cardinals will emerge as the next NFC West threat comes down entirely on who is able to find their franchise quarterback in the coming offseason. Both teams are expertly coached and have rosters chocked full of potential.  Both also have glaring holes behind center.

Would it surprise you to see either of these teams attempt to trade up in the draft to grab a Marcus Mariota or Dak Prescott? Unlike the Redskins with the RGIII trade, both the Rams and the Cardinals have the depth to risk trading away the resources needed to snag the Heisman winning quarterback-- but will they feel the reward outweighs the risk?

It's a scary thought to imagine Mariota taking the reigns for either Coach Fischer or Arians next season.  Still, barring an Eli Manning-move, he'll more than likely find him self on a rebuilding team like the Jets, Titans or Buccaneers.

But I digress-- we still have to play both of those teams this season before the title defense truly begins. Right now, the Seahawks are only focused on Arizona.  If they play their cards right-- and they play these Card's right -- this Sunday won't be the last time they play in Glendale this season.  


Monday, December 8, 2014

Always Compete for World Records

Earlier this morning, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was on ESPN 710 Seattle with Brock & Salk with his weekly recap segment.  Among the topics covered today was the crowd noise record that currently belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs fans of Arrowhead Stadium.

"Isn't it time to start breaking some records again? What are we waiting for, I mean, are we going to rest on our laurels?" challenged coach Carroll.

When the Chiefs reclaimed the title, I remember thinking this:



However, coach makes a great point.  We must ALWAYS compete!  Hell, that's about the only 'bragging rights' claim that fans can legitimately say they contributed to earning.

I agree with the coach here.  A good Guinness Record attempt could be a great way to make sure Sunday's game against the 49ers ends San Francisco's playoff chances completely while closing the door on the Harbaugh era. Perhaps the final game against the Rams would be a great opportunity to send the team into the playoffs.

Either way we need to get the record back where it belongs. I'd love to see a speedy recovery to Chiefs safety Eric Berry and the noise title returned to the Pacific Northwest.