Monday, December 30, 2013

The Playoffs Run Through Seattle

Seahawks    27
Rams            9

The 2013 NFL regular season came to an end yesterday and the once ambiguous playoff picture is now crystal clear.  Seattle's first playoff game will take place January 11th at CenturyLink and will either be against San Francisco, New Orleans or Green Bay.

For the second time since Pete Carroll took over the team in 2010, the Seahawks are NFC West Champions. This time, Seattle locked up the #1 seed in the NFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs-- but the Rams didn't let them have it without a fight.

The Seahawks offense continued its recent trend of starting off incredibly slow and relying primarily on the defense to keep the team in games. If you ask me, the only difference between yesterday's game against St. Louis and last week's game against Arizona was Seattle's commitment to Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch, who finished 3 yards shy of a 100-yard rushing performance, continuously wore down the Rams defense with each carry.  Darrell Bevell panicked against the Cardinals in the previous game, opting instead to put the game on Russell Wilson's shoulders. In this game, on the other hand, as the Beast was fed-- the Rams defense grew increasingly frustrated.

That frustration culminated in a hailstorm of personal fouls against St. Louis and lead to the ejection of Kendall Langford, who inadvertently struck an official while arguing. The Rams had 12 penalties for 87 yards-- impressive considering Seattle is the NFL's most penalized team.

Russell Wilson did not have his best game-- but Golden Tate may have. When nothing else seemed to work, Wilson kept going back to Tate who carried the team through the first half of the game. Tate finished with 8 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.

If I can say one thing definitively about the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, it's this: this team's defense is the best I've ever seen.

From top to bottom, Seattle's defense has been dominant against every opponent they've faced.  In Seattle's 3 losses this season, they only lost by a combined 15 points and never lost a game by more than one score.

It's not as if Seattle hasn't faced adversity, either. The Seahawks defense had to overcome injuries, suspensions and a new coordinator-- but they made it look effortless.

Two players that deserve a tremendous amount of praise all season, but particularly yesterday, are Byron Maxwell and Malcolm Smith. Maxwell was thrust into a starting role following the suspensions to Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond.  His interception yesterday was his 4th of the season-- keep in mind he's only started 5 games. Smith returned an interception for a touchdown early in yesterday's victory, his second of the season, and has filled the void left by LeRoy Hill admirably.

One thing this season has shown me is that the NFC West is most assuredly on the uptick.  The Seahawks and 49ers are once again in the post season and Arizona was a few plays away from joining them. The Rams played tough all year and will continue to reap the benefits of the RGIII trade with Washington-- they hold the #2 and #13 pick in next years draft.

It's safe to assume that the West will be the class of the NFL for the next few years, but that doesn't matter right now.  What matters is that our Seattle Seahawks are NFC West Champions. Their destiny is in their own hands.  Most importantly, this team looks like they have what it takes to go all the way.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Streak is Dead

Seahawks   10
Cardinals    17

The Seahawks lost on Sunday.  To the Cardinals.  At home.

Just typing that has me fighting to suppress the urge to vomit.

With all due respect, Arizona has a good team.  They built a great defense over the past few seasons, I love their new coach, they've got one of the best receivers of all time and for the first time since Kurt Warner-- they've finally got someone that can play quarterback.

That being said, there is still no reason ANYONE should beat the 2013 Seahawks at home.

But that's exactly what did happen.  Arizona came into CenturyLink Field on Sunday with their playoff hopes on the line.  They looked hungry.  They wanted this win more.

The Seahawks looked timid.  They were mere shadows of their former selves. The offense had absolutely no fight in them and that demeanor slowly bled into the defense's performance.

As a fan, I imagine this is how Cards fans felt after the 58-0 walloping they were dealt last time they came here.  Embarrassed. Angry. Ashamed. Sickened.

So... what exactly happened on Sunday?

I was out of the state when this game took place and didn't get parked in front of a television until moments before Richard Sherman's spectacular interception in the first quarter-- his first of two.  The game was still scoreless and Seattle was primed to get things going.

But that never happened.

The defense repeatedly put Seattle in good position to win this game, only to have the offensive and special teams units squander every last opportunity.  When you're at your playing at home and your defense intercepts the ball 4 times and you still lose-- you can't really place blame on anyone but the offense.

The question remains:  Why was this talented offense unable to get out of first gear in this game?  You have to start by laying a lot of blame on Darrell Bevel and the coaching staff for their scared, vanilla play calling.

Percy Harvin has played in one game as a Seattle Seahawk and was used sparingly in that game.  As far as I'm concerned, he's not even a part of the team this season.  Because of that, I do not accept any excuses being made involving Harvin's lack of contribution.  He hasn't been here and it doesn't look like he's going to be here this season. Non-Factor, really.

Same goes for Sidney Rice.  He's been great when he's available-- which is seldom.

Even if you erased those two from the history books, I still love our receiving group.  Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have been fantastic.  That's what we got.  That's what we'll more than likely be trotting out for the playoffs-- and I'm totally fine with that.

The beautiful thing about Seattle's offense is how multifaceted it is.  We have one of the best running backs in the league with Marshawn Lynch. The guys behind him on the depth chart are pretty impressive, too.  Our quarterback can burn you with his arm and legs. Our receivers are playmakers and our tight ends can block and catch.

I don't think this team will ever take the field saying "We're going to beat you with ________ and there's nothing you can do to stop it."  Instead, this team will throw everything at you and see what sticks.  Eventually, they always find their opponents Achilles and they attack it mercilessly.

On Sunday, however, we saw Arizona stymie the passing attack with great coverage and substantially deter our run game.  Coach Bevell seemingly made no adjustments.  It was as if he was just crossing his fingers and hoping Russell Wilson would pull some magic out of his hat.

Why not bring in some trickery?  A flea flicker bomb to Ricardo Lockette?  A reverse with Golden Tate? What about a halfback pass? Something? Anything!

Instead, they continued to put the game on the defense's back.  Maybe they were expecting them to put some points on the board. Who knows?

Eventually, Carson Palmer made a couple of plays and threw the game winning touchdown to a well-defended Michael Floyd-- who had not even registered a reception to that point in the game.

And just when we thought we were about to finally see Russell Wilson 'do his thing', we were treated to one of the most preposterous calls of the season. Wilson fired a pass down field to Doug Baldwin that came in too short and ended up ricocheting off the turf and into the hands of Cardinals linebacker, Karlos Dansby.  The play was subsequently reviewed and deemed to have bounced solely off of Baldwin's forearm without touching the ground, effectively sealing Seattle's fate.

It wasn't the first bad call of the game.  It won't be the last bad call this team catches this season, either. Fact is, the Seahawks can't leave games up to officials or their defense for that matter.  If the Seahawks wish to be elite and reach their goal of winning a Super Bowl-- they have to consistently step it up in every phase of the game.

Seattle should've eliminated Arizona from playoff contention on Sunday.  They should've secured another division title and the #1 seed in the playoffs. Russell Wilson should still be undefeated at home for his career.  None of that happened, so we must roll on.

The season ends this coming weekend. Seattle has to beat the Rams at CenturyLink or the Cardinals must defeat San Francisco in Arizona for the Seahawks to conquer the division and lock up the top seed. Most importantly, Seattle needs to play to their strength: the tremendous wealth of talent on their roster from top to bottom. Don't put the game on Russell Wilson.  Don't expect your defense to win games for you. Everyone needs to play to their potential.

It's not too late to build momentum going into the playoffs.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Big Apple Beatdown

Seahawks      23
Giants            0

The Seahawks played their final road game of the season on Sunday. It's entirely possible that the next road game they play will be in that very same stadium-- the site of Super Bowl XLVIII in February.

Motivated by last week's loss to the 49ers, Seattle came in to New York determined to prove a point and that's exactly what they did.  The Seahawks looked like the team that rolled through the fourth quarter of last season and deep into the playoffs.

Eli Manning had the worst game of his storied career, throwing 5 interceptions while being sacked 4 times. Richard Sherman had a pair of interceptions, as did Byron Maxwell.  Earl Thomas, who is neck and neck with Sherman for Defensive MVP, also had an interception.

The defense looked spectacular but the story of this team starts with Russell Wilson.  Wilson has won more games in his first two years than any quarterback in history. He certainly hasn't done it alone.  Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin have been tremendously reliable every week.

This team has consistently shown, throughout Pete Carroll's tenure, that it's strength is in its depth.  The 'next man up' philosophy has been expertly executed for three seasons now. The difference this year is that each player gets better week to week.  The best get better and the guys on the bench are hungry to get a piece of the action.  Always Compete.  Win Forever. It's not just a catchphrase-- its a proven mantra.

Seattle has two games left and both are against division rivals.  The entire NFC West won this week, proving that the division just a few short years ago known as 'NFC Worst' is now the 'NFC Best'. The Seahawks have guaranteed themselves a playoff spot, but their next goal is winning their division. A win against the much-improved Cardinals in Seattle next week would lock up the division and the #1 playoff seed.

The best team in football this year in right here in Seattle.  The only thing that can stop them from winning it all this season is themselves-- and I just don't see that happening.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seahawks fall short

Seahawks    17
49ers          19

It could've all been locked up yesterday.  Seattle could've secured the division and became the top seed in the NFC.  The Seahawks could've put the 49ers in a position to miss the playoffs altogether. If only a few plays had turned out differently, Seattle might be sitting pretty, in complete control of their post season destiny.

It could've gone that way, but it didn't.

Instead, we got missed opportunities and strings of misfortune.  San Francisco may have needed this game more but it also felt like they wanted it more. Seattle looked steady but didn't seem to have any explosiveness. It was a fight between two heavy weights exchanging mighty blows for 4 quarters but the final hay-maker, a 51-yard run by Frank Gore on the final drive, that put the Seahawks down for the count.

I could blame the refs for their ticky-tacky calls but their inconsistency and incompetency plagued and benefited both teams throughout the game. I could blame the absence of Percy Harvin but that shouldn't have mattered. There's no shortage of excuses to be made for losing an important game-- but what's the point in that?

Fact of the matter remains: Seattle is 11-2 and still in control of their post season fate.

Maybe this is just what the Seahawks needed before the playoffs. One last meaningful loss to humble the team before it really counts. I'm not going to tell you that it doesn't matter that we lost, because it does. I always want the 49ers to lose and the Seahawks to win-- regardless of who they're playing or the circumstances.

Seahawks will meet today for Tell The Truth Monday and they will have to admit that Sundays performance was not championship caliber. They'll address it, learn from it and move on.  They're traveling to New York this coming weekend-- the site of this years Super Bowl.  You can bet that is a fact that will be on the the minds of the Seahawks players and coaches alike.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Seahawks spectacular in rout of Saints

Seahawks     34
Saints           7

Before a national audience, Seattle unabashedly silenced their critics and systematically destroyed one of the best teams in the game. The Seahawks dominated the visiting Saints in spectacular fashion with one thrilling play after another.

Russell Wilson was absolutely brilliant.  Wilson threw for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He was both the game's leading passer as well as the game's leading rusher.  He was flawless-- but so seemed everyone around him.

The receiving group, who friend-of-the-blog  Bo Thornton described as "Russell's legion of slot receivers", were excellent from top to bottom.  Zach Miller looked like Playoff Zach Miller thanks to the health of the offensive line.

If you ask me, you could take the ex-Vikings receivers off this team and still have a championship caliber receiving core. Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are plenty capable.

It was the defense, however, that really impressed me.  Going into this game, Saints quarterback Drew Brees had a streak of 43 consecutive games with at least 200 passing yards.  Seattle held him to 147 yards last night. The Saints 7 points were the fewest they've scored in 5 years.

Just like last year, Seattle overcame suspensions in their secondary seemingly effortlessly.  The next man always steps up and tonight it was Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane. Maxwell and Lane were fantastic filling in for the suspended Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond.

The main difference from last year is the huge increase in production from Seattle's front seven.  Cliff Avril, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Michael Bennett, Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane have been stout all year while still improving each week.

Coach Carroll has his boys rolling-- but their greatest regular season task lies just six short days ahead.  Seattle will have to travel to San Francisco this Sunday for their final test of supremacy and it will be no easy task.  Seattle is 11-1 with the best record in the NFL, but the 49ers are finally coming together.

 A win in San Francisco will give Seattle their second division title of the Pete Carroll era and lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. A season sweep of the 49ers will alleviate all doubt of who the best team in football is.  Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs will force the road to the Super Bowl through the loudest stadium in the world.

But, as I'm sure every member of the organization would tell you, it's all about focusing on the 49ers right now.  One game at a time.  Win Forever.  Always Compete.