Thursday, March 26, 2015

All the Small Things

My excitement for the Seahawks acquisition of superstar tight end Jimmy Graham was tempered by the my concerns regarding our thin offensive & defensive lines. The subsequent acquisitions made by the Seahawks have settled my nerves enough to fantasize about what having Graham will bring to the Seahawks offense.

While the Graham move made waves across the NFL landscape, Seattle's ensuing transactions were much more low-key.  Quietly resigning long snapper Clint Gresham to a 3-year deal  helps keep the continuity of the team together while preventing another roster hole needing to be filled though the draft or free agency. 

Coach is mesmerized by The Professor's ponytail
With Brandon Mebane's contract needing to be reworked, rather than sit and wait until he restructures or have their hand forced to cut him, the Seahawks signed two inexpensive veterans to bolster their defensive line.  The Seahawks added defensive tackles D'Anthony Smith and Ahtyba Rubin, giving them the depth that they sorely needed down the stretch of last season. Resigning Ricardo Lockette to a one-year deal might not mean much to our receiving group, but his talents on special teams were second to none last year. 

Those small, unsexy moves coupled with the 11 draft picks they'll have next month take a lot of the pressure off the team to reload for the coming season.  If they can bat .272 and snare 3 starters from those 11 picks-- it's hard not to pick the Seahawks as favorites for Super Bowl 50.

For those of you that require drama to carry you through the days until we are again blessed with football, there's still plenty to unnecessarily worry about.

Russell Wilson still hasn't been locked into a long-term deal.  They don't have to until next season, but everything that has been said eludes to the likelihood of the deal getting done before the season begins.  Hammering out that deal would be incredibly comforting to the team and fans alike. 

Still, after Wilson is secured, it's on to Bobby Wagner.  Hopefully the team can quietly work out extensions for Wagner and Bruce Irvin as the season progresses, but we'll have to hold our breath.  Perhaps their heirs will be drafted next month and spend the season training under them.  Either way, hopefully we'll have something to hang our hats on by the time the season is underway.

You can speculate over the Michael Bennett rumors, you can worry about the health of our secondary heading into the season or you can continue to grieve over the heartache of the Super Bowl.  We've got a lot of time before football is fully back in our lives and you've got to fill the void somehow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Moving Forward

So much has happened since the ill-fated pass that ended the Seahawks hopes of repeating as world champions.  We'll get to all of it, but the major topic of discussion in the NFL is the blockbuster trade wherein the Seahawks sent All-Pro Center Max Unger and their first round draft choice to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for Superstar Tight End Jimmy Graham and the Saints' fourth round pick.

I shouldn't have to, but I will preface everything I'm about to say with two points of emphasis:  #1 I think Jimmy Graham is a tremendous talent and I'm excited that we have him.  #2 I always hope that everything works out in the Seahawks' best interest.

That being said, I have serious concerns about the state of our offensive line for next season.

Max Unger was getting long in the tooth.  He, along with Jon Ryan and Brandon Mebane, were the only 3 players on this roster that were on the team prior to Pete Carroll and John Schneider's arrival.

Many fans and analysts alike have criticized Unger's durability.  While I understand where they're coming from, I do find this criticism to be a little excessive. Unger is only 28 years old and he's started in 50 of his last possible 64 regular season games.  That's one more than we've got out of Russell Okung in the same stretch.

To be clear, my concern isn't at all with the acquisition of Jimmy Graham. My concerns lie solely with the state of our offensive front.  It makes me feel uneasy having just gotten rid of the leader of that line with no heir apparent in sight. I honestly would've felt better if we had given up a pair of first round picks to get Graham while drafting Unger's replacement without throwing some kid straight into the fire.

Lets break down where our offensive line stands as of today.  Russell Okung is at left tackle.  When healthy, he's been among the league's best-- but he's been less reliable than Unger when it comes to health. James Carpenter is now with the New York Jets, so the left guard position is now in flux. At the moment, I'll assume Alvin Bailey is penciled in at left guard.  I like Bailey, but more as a depth player than a starter.

Similarly, we have to assume that Patrick Lewis or Lemuel JeanPierre will be penciled in to replace Unger.  JeanPierre's versatility is incredibly valuable, as he can play center or guard, but not exactly who I want leading the linemen.  I liked what I saw from Lewis in his starts covering for the injured Unger. He's young enough to be a candidate to start and he has the potential, but only time will tell.

Sweezy and Britt are pretty much assured to anchor the right side of the line but depth remains as much of an issue today as it did down the stretch of last season.  I trust in the Pete & John leadership to square this away in the draft, but that's asking a lot. Even for them.

There's a lot of déjà vu with this move.  The excitement I'm hearing from the vocal majority of fans and the repeated praise from local analysts reminds me too much of the Percy Harvin acquisition. Terms like 'explosive playmaker' and 'unique talent' and 'one of the best at his position' feel like echos of that previous deal.  I would certainly agree that the purported locker room issues regarding Graham seem far less of an issue than they were of Harvin-- but I would definitely argue that Harvin was far more dynamic and worth the potential risk.

The other haunting similarity with this deal and past Seahawks moves is when Zach Miller was brought in.  Now, Miller is no where near the athlete that Graham is, but he was a gifted receiving tight end who, unlike Graham, was an excellent blocker as well. 

However, when Miller arrived, he was all but denied the ability to establish himself as a receiving threat.  Seattle's offensive line was so abysmal, Miller spent most of his tenure with the Seahawks operating as a third offensive tackle.  Given the current state of our line, I worry that history could repeat itself. 

Would Graham be up for the task of shoring up the line?  Michael Bennett doesn't seem to think so.

I saw a thread on Reddit supposing that we didn't make this move. 

Imagine free agency had come and gone. We'd nibbled at Fitzgerald, at Marshall, at Andre Johnson, but ultimately ended up as bridesmaids. Then we drafted 10 guys you never heard of at largely non-skill positions. And at some point during all of this, the Saints had made a trade with some other team for Graham, giving up less than you'd have thought. (Maybe a good-but-oft-injured offensive lineman toward the end of his deal.) We get a couple weeks into the season, and we're moving the ball pretty well, but struggling in the red zone. Then, someone tweets that the Seahawks had actually had a chance to get Graham (and a 4th rounder) in exchange for Unger and #31, but Carroll and Schneider decided not to pull the trigger. We'd all be super pissed, right?

First off-- great hypothetical.  He's right, we would be pissed knowing about this opportunity in hindsight if our red zone ineptitude persists into next season.  But I would like to counter that with a different hypothetical:

What if Graham's shoulder continues to be a concern that causes him to miss time early in the season.  What if he divides the locker room, given his history with Bruce Irvin and Bennett? What if we find out that our red zone deficiencies have more to do with our front line than having a tall, athletic receiving option?

I truly hope no one is expecting Graham to come close to the numbers he put up in the Saints' offense.  It's simply not going to happen in the Seahawks system.  Seahawks will continue to be a run first offense (they didn't give Marshawn a raise because his interviews are priceless) and the Saints throw the ball 50 times per game.  Conversely, I will not use statistics to judge the merits of this trade because of that fact.

This is the season for speculation and it's important for fans to be concerned of their teams weaknesses. I hope we have the best offensive line since Hutch & Walt and Graham continues his dominance. I'm thrilled about Russell Wilson's new toy and the potential that comes with his arrival to the team.  I'm sure my mind will be put at ease once the draft is over and mini camps begin-- but for the moment, I have serious concerns about the offensive line.

Monday, February 9, 2015

After the dust settles...

It's been more than a week since our beloved Seahawks Super Bowl hopes deflated like a Patriots game ball.  The shock has subsided but the pain lingers as strong as the day it happened. While I've tried to make peace with it, I'm haunted by the facts of the matter everywhere I turn.

While (begrudgingly) watching Grey's Anatomy with my girlfriend, I was treated to whimsical commercial of Patriots highlights cut with shots from the Magic Kingdom.  My stomach ached as Julian Edelman and Malcolm Butler embraced as the shouted "We're going to Disneyland!"

Sports media websites are flooded with dejected Seahawks photos and jubilant Patriots shots.  Stories questioning the Seahawks play call as well as their future-- other pieces question simply whether the Pats own the greatest dynasty or simply the greatest coach and QB duo.

Lord help you if you stumble into the comments section... 

Personally, I'm trying to adopt Russell Wilson's attitude about all this.  I just want to get next season underway as soon as possible.  Despite stating in my last piece that everyone is entitled to grieve/cheer/support this team however they choose-- there are a few things that have been bugging me.

A petition was brought to my attention recently that is gaining a lot of support. There's a faction of Seahawks fans out there that want/wanted to host a citywide celebration of the teams season despite the bitter ending.  This repulses me.  

Don't get me wrong-- I love this team.  This was a tremendous season full of memories I'll hold dear forever.  But losing doesn't get you a parade.  I've followed this team for almost 30 years and only once have they deserved a celebration.
(Left to Right) Me, my beautiful daughter and my best friend.

Last year's event was remarkable.  The players visibly enjoyed riding through a sea of damn near a million Seahawks fans, being heralded as Kings.  They earned it that year.  This year, they fell heart-breakingly short. I love them, but they need to be HUNGRY to experience that feeling again.

There's also been a lot of criticism lobbed at Pete Carroll for owning up to the play call.  There is a lot of blame and criticism to be dolled out for not adding to the trophy shelf this year.  You could not only dissect the entire Super Bowl performance but the entire season if you wanted. If it helps you sleep at night-- but I suspect it wont.

From Cris Collinsworth's in-game commentary right after the play occurred, to Matt Lauer's sit down interview with the coach on the Today Show to Hugh Millen's passionate defense of Carroll-- it's been discussed ad nauseam. 

Millen spit a fiery rebuttal against the typhoon of criticism mounted against Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll for his decision to pass the ball on the play that ended Seattle's Super Bowl hopes.

Hugh Millen is one of the football analysts I most admire.  He's a former Washington Husky with tremendous football acumen.  He's shared quarterback rooms with some of the All-Time Greats, including John Elway and Troy Aikman.  

After hearing Bevell, Carroll, Wilson and Millen breakdown the play: I get it.  They didn't want to leave too much time on the clock in fear of setting up Tom Brady for a spectacular comeback we all know he's capable of.  New England gave the defensive 'look' that favored the passing play call.  Millen indicated that the offensive line hadn't demonstrated the ability to impose their will confidently enough to ensure that running right at them would prevail. The match ups were favorable and they knew what they were doing.

I get it.  It makes sense. However...

They absolutely, 100%, without a doubt should have given the ball to #24 instead of passing on that particular play. Period. I would have to expect that every member of the Seahawks organization knows this in their heart of hearts.  

I hope that once the dust settles Pete and Darrell in particular will admit that although they believed at the time that their play call was appropriate-- the best decision in hindsight was to feed the beast.

Was it the worst play call of all time? Only because of the outcome.  They had justifiable reasons for making the call they did, but the best bet would've been keeping it on the ground.  Like comedian J.B. Smoove said on the Howard Stern show "You pass the ball when you need to.  You run the ball when you have to."

Does Pete Carroll deserve all of this criticism?  Absolutely not.  Some of it, sure-- but not all of the piling on we've heard since that play ended in tears. I'll even cut Bevell slack for the play call, though I hope he's not retained as the Offensive Coordinator next year.  I will not, however, cut him slack for throwing Ricardo Lockette under the bus.

The explanation for the call made sense.  Because of that, I'm concluding that Seattle's coaching staff is guilty of nothing more than over-thinking the situation.  

Giving the ball to Lynch was such an obvious no-brainer, it couldn't have been the right decision. The chain of events that lead to that call must have had the staff thinking that it was too good to be true, so it mustn't have been.  I'd be willing to be that Bill Belichick has this effect on a lot of coaches-- even the best of them.

They over thought it.  That's all.  We'll live with the call for the rest of our lives and the only thing that will provide any relief would be another shot made good.

Well, maybe a Mariners World Series would help.  

Let's not hold our breath...




Monday, February 2, 2015

U PASSED, BRO?

I've been a Seahawks fan all of my life.  I've been privileged to have watched all three Super Bowls Seattle has been a part of.  All three felt uniquely different before, during and afterward. After Super Bowl XL, I felt cheated and angry.  After Super Bowl XLVIII, I felt euphoric and joyous.  After last night, I feel sick to my stomach.

Going into last nights match, having experienced a devastating loss as well as a triumphant victory, I had very measured expectations. I knew we were going up against one of the greatest coaches and quarterbacks of all time.  I knew this wasn't going to be a repeat of last year's thrashing, but I also believed we were far and away a more complete and better team. I expected to win, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

That was more or less my feeling all season long.  I never wanted last season's euphoria to end.  Unlike last year where I savored every victory and milestone along the way, knowing that this was a special team on track for a special season, I instead watched every game this season somewhat nervously just wanting it to be over so we could add to the trophy shelf.

After Tom Brady connected with Julian Edelman for the go ahead touchdown with 2:02 remaining in the game, it truly felt like the prophecy was ready to be fulfilled. We had all three of our time outs, plus the two minute warning.  We were giving the ball to our star quarterback who has pulled out these kinds of miracles all throughout his short career. We had the ball and fate in our hands.  A two minute drill was all we needed to become the first back to back champions in over a decade.

The kickoff sailed through the back of the endzone. No time was taken off the clock and we had 80 yards between us and history. The very first play of the drive, Russell Wilson connects with Marshawn Lynch on a 31 yard wheel route that gives us the ball near midfield.  The two minute warning stops the clock for us at 1:55.  We still have all three time outs.

The next play, Wilson fails to connect on a deep ball to Jermaine Kearse.  The subsequent play, Max Unger fails to get the snap off in time and forces Seattle to burn it's first time out. No worries-- we're still on a short field with two timeouts.

Wilson tries again on a deep ball to Chris Mathews, who was having his finest performance, but fails to connect.  However, on 3rd and 10, Wilson comes up huge with an 11 yard strike to Ricardo Lockette.

The Seahawks appear to be in no apparent hurry despite their circumstances.  They get back up to the line with about a minute and 14 seconds left and Wilson heaves it downfield to Kearse.  Everyone thought the pass was broken up, but Kearse never took his eyes off it and managed to maintain possession.  An improbable play places Seattle five yards away from victory.  They kill the clock with their second time out at 1:06 and it looks like we have this one in the bag.

First and Goal from the 5.  Seattle feeds the ball to Lynch who picks up 4, stopping just shy of pay dirt. Seattle lets the clock trickle down.  After all, they've still got about 50 seconds left, a timeout and a mere 36 inches to move the football. 

As Seattle returned to the line to run the next play on 2nd down, my mind was flooded with thoughts.

I envisioned Seattle running a counter play to the left, giving it to Beastmode as he powers his way into the endzone.  I pictured New England getting the ball back with about 30 seconds left.  Brady checks one down and calls a time out.  He gets sacked and they burn their final time out.  He then heaves the ball skyward on a last second hailmary, only to get picked off by Richard Sherman.  The blue, white and green confetti rains down on the University of Phoenix field as the Lombardi trophy returns to the Pacific Northwest. I pictured Wilson, Lynch and Wagner signing long term deals.  This team becomes a sure-fire dynasty for years to come.

My dream sequence was snapped in unison with the ball and suddenly I found myself staring at the screen. It felt like I was looking down at my body on an operating room table.  Did we just throw the ball?  Have I died?  What just happened? We didn't just throw the ball there, did we?  Did I die?

Did we seriously just NOT give the ball to Marshawn Lynch?

The party I was at erupted in raucous confusion. Someone yelled "It was incomplete!" There were shouts of "What were they thinking?" But I just sat there, dumbfounded, thinking "How do you not give that ball to Marshawn?"

Just like that, we knew the season was over.  Russell Wilson's pass intended for Ricardo Lockette was intercepted by a rookie cornerback named Malcolm Butler. The Patriots would get the ball back at the one yardline.  They had no room to kneel on it, we had a time out left and it was still not outside the realm of possibility for us to at least get a safety, or perhaps even a game-winning fumble recovery for a touchdown.

A miracle could still happen, but this was Tom Brady and Bill Belichick-- Our miracle quota expired after Kearse's amazingly improbable catch. 

Sure enough, Seattle jumped offside and a scrum ensued.  New England got the ball at the 20 with 18 seconds left.  We were out of timeouts.  Tom Brady took a knee, won his 3rd MVP and his 4th Super Bowl. We had it.  We gave it to them.

It's hard as hell to get to a Super Bowl.  Despite what many of us may have thought after last year-- it's really hard to win them, too.  It's okay to feel how you're feeling right now.  Whether it's sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, fear or whatever-- it's okay to feel that way.

No matter how you feel, you have no choice but to look forward to Super Bowl L.  It's the only thing that will wash that horrible taste out of your mouth.

We won't have the same team next year.  Dan Quinn is heading over to the Falcons to take over their operation.  Kevin Williams will probably retire. Who knows what's next in the Marshawn Lynch saga.  Will we be able to bring back Wilson, Wagner, Maxwell and the rest?  Who knows.

We know that we have a tremendous nucleus to build upon, but we also know there are plenty of holes to fill on this roster.  After Percy Harvin left, we had no semblance of a special teams threat.  We can't get by with Brian Walters next year-- we need some explosivity. 

Dan Quinn will have to be replaced and we can only pray that he brings Darrell Bevell with him. Bevell is a huge reason for the slow start we got off to and apparently the mastermind behind the play that cost us our second Super Bowl title.
 We'll save the speculation for the offseason.  I love these guys and I know  we're going to have a great, competitive team for years to come.  We should have had this one, though.  We let it get away.  This one will haunt everyone for the rest of their lives. But the only thing that will sooth that burn will be getting a shot at another one. 

I'm ready for the ride next year.  I hope to see you all there.

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.