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.

Seahawks Ready to Soar into Playoffs

San Francisco wasn't the only ones to suffer a devastating blow on Thanksgiving-- I separated my shoulder in our annual Turkey Bowl game and subsequently haven't been able to write about these last two displays of dominance from our Seahawks.

While my shoulder has been all but inoperable, my eyes continue to work just fine.  What I've seen out of our Seahawks in the past two performances gives me plenty of confidence with regard to our Super Bowl title defense.

Starting with the Cardinals game before Thanksgiving, Seattle's defense seems to have come alive.  They continued to appear to be in Super Bowl form on Thanksgiving against the 49ers where they damn near held Kaepernick under 100 yards while reducing the Niners once coveted run game to a mere afterthought. The highlight of the holiday was seeing Wilson and Sherman feasting on turkey legs right on top of the 49ers logo at the 50-yard line.

After handling two tough divisional opponents, the true test came yesterday when they faced the red hot Eagles in Philadelphia.  After all, as good as we know the Cardinals and 49ers can be, we have to acknowledge the free fall both teams have found themselves in the latter part of this season. The Eagles, on the other hand, had just decimated a Cowboys team that had their way with our Seahawks in Seattle just a few short weeks ago.

However, not unlike last season's 4th quarter of the regular season, it seems like it doesn't matter who the opponent is-- Seattle is gonna do Seattle.

Wilson continues to be a magician on offense.  He thew for 263 yards and a pair of touchdowns while rushing for another 48 yards and a touchdown. Lynch had a hard earned 86 yards against an Eagles team that held the NFL's leading rusher (DeMarco Murray) to a paltry 73 rushing yards on Thanksgiving. Seattle's championship-ready defense held Chip Kelly's offense to 61 yards less than their previous all-time low under the revolutionary head coach.

Chip's got a history of complaining to the refs when his team isn't performing.
Despite the ups and downs of this season, everybody should feel great about where the Seahawks are at.  If they can manage to handle the 49ers at next week, who are coming off a loss to the NFL's worst franchise of the past decade, they should be playing Arizona for the division title on December 21st.  All signs currently point to both opponents continuing to trend downward, despite Arizona's comeback win against the Chiefs yesterday, which bodes well for the skyrocketing Seahawks.

The 49ers are a mess.  The Cardinals are on their 3rd quarterback and just put their best running back on IR for the remainder of the season. Seattle, meanwhile, is clicking everywhere.  The receivers are making great plays when their number is called, we're getting production from every running back, Russell Wilson gets better with every game, the LOB is back to form, Bobby Wagner is back to health and the defensive line is getting production from a committee of young players and veterans in the absence of Brandon Mebane.

Add to all of that the fact that most of the guys on this roster have been here before.  They have experienced what it takes to maintain focus down the stretch into a Super Bowl run.  Last night's victory has me fired up for these last few games.  I don't think there's a team in the NFL that can beat these Seahawks if they're playing their best football.  Unlike last year, I'm not the least bit worried if the Seahawks have to hit the road for the playoffs-- these guys can win anywhere.

Still, the Seahawks need to make sure they don't sleep on St. Louis for that final game of the season.  That match up could hold playoff seeding implications and the Rams might be the best .500 football team of all time.