Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nightmare Before Christmas-- Seahawks 31 Cardinals 34

We're down to the final game of the regular season and this team looks every bit as uncertain as they did going into training camp. 

Traditionally, under coach Pete Carroll, December is a month of dominance for the Seahawks.

Statistically, Russell Wilson is in a league of his own at this point in the season. 

Additionally, the roster decisions that had us scratching our collective heads early on begin to come to fruition and help us see the vision the staff had for this roster from day one.

This year has been quite different, however.  The Seahawks are .500 this month and still plenty of
questions remain unanswered. Something isn't right with our rushing offense.  Whether it's the offensive line, an inconsistent Thomas Rawls or a combination of the two is a topic of debate.  The only thing we can be certain of this season is just how much Marshawn Lynch had meant to this team and how much we had taken his presence for granted.

I was at the game on Saturday, Christmas Eve, when they faced a Cardinals team that had had Super Bowl aspirations going into this season, but had long since collapsed and played their way out of playoff contention.  Sure, they have arguably the best, most complete running back in the NFL with David Johnson, but many and more of their star players are done for the season.  Half of their defensive starters seemed to be on IR.

The Seahawks were at home, relatively healthy and in dire need of some momentum to carry them into the playoffs.   Everything was lined up in Seattle's favor, yet somehow they squandered the opportunity. 

Seattle fought through losing their best offensive weapon when Tyler Lockett went down with a broken leg and Wilson lead the team on a comeback to tie the game with about a minute left.  The stadium was raucous and the momentum had swung back into their favor.  All we needed was a 'gimme' extra point, a big kickoff and a stout defensive series to shore up the victory.

Haushka missed the PAT and Carson Palmer marched the Cardinals into field goal range where they kicked the game winner as time expired.

It was heartbreaking.

What a shitty way to begin the night before one of the most joyous days of the year.  However, it wasn't just the choke-job and losing Lockett that stung.  It wasn't even the fact that we basically handed the Falcons the number two seed and a first round bye.  The most painfully frustrating part of this weekend was the fear that accompanies uncertainty.

We have no idea what this team's identity is heading into the playoffs.

There's only one get-right game left in the regular season.  While it is about as soft of a landing as this team could hope for, shy of a regular season finale at home against Cleveland-- we've had 15 games to sort ourselves out, yet every week seems to raise more questions than it answers.

Here's a list of the teams that will likely make the playoffs in the NFC and their rank in offensive/defensive scoring:

Giants         Scoring Defense    #3      Scoring Offense   #25
Cowboys    Scoring Defense    #4      Scoring Offense   #4
Packers       Scoring Defense   #22     Scoring Offense   #6
Lions          Scoring Defense   #13     Scoring Offense   #21
Falcons       Scoring Defense   #25     Scoring Offense   #1

Seahawks   Scoring Defense #2   Scoring Offense #20

The seeding won't be entirely finalized until the conclusion of the coming weekend's games, but Seattle will have their first playoff game at home.  I really hope the Seahawks put forth a good showing against San Francisco so us 12s can go into that playoff game with some confidence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lights, Camera, Action Green-- Seahawks 24 Rams 3

The Seahawks were back in the spotlight on Thursday, sporting a vibrant, new look. As part of Nike's partnership with Thursday Night Football the Seahawks donned 'Action Green' uniforms that looked as though they might glow in the dark.

Unfortunately, the color was about the only thing that 'rushed' on Thursday.  Both teams combined for 119 yards on the ground (47 for LA, 72 for Seattle).  However, we did see a resurgence in Seattle's pass rush.  Seattle registered 4 sacks on the night.

Russell Wilson had an outstanding night, throwing for 3 touchdowns and one head-scratching interception. Tyler Lockett had a career game (while single handedly keeping my fantasy football playoff hopes alive) putting up 130 yards and a touchdown.

My favorite play was when Richard Sherman knocked Jared Goff out of the game with a good, clean
hit that saved a touchdown.  It would have been Jon Ryan's fake punt run that picked up 26 yards and a first down, had it not ended with Ryan getting knocked out cold.

Not only is Jon Ryan a top 5 punter-- he's a helluva athlete and a bad ass, to boot.

Seahawks have a pair of winnable division matchups to close out the season and are sitting well to get a first round bye for the playoffs. I will be in attendance for the game against the Cardinals on Christmas Eve and the one thing I want to see is marked improvement in the run game. 

Thomas Rawls needs a 100 yard game.  I want to see Kelvin Taylor get some carries and show that he can be a complementary back down the stretch. The defense should continue to hold steady and the offense needs to shift to a pass-first mentality. 

Most importantly, Seattle needs to string together a few wins to get momentum going in their favor to rally in the playoffs.  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Who are you?-- Seahawks 10 @ Packers 38

A Packers team with a hobbled Aaron Rodgers and a run game so disheveled that they're forced to start a receiver in the backfield absolutely destroyed the Seahawks on Sunday.

Green Bay came into this game annihilated by injuries with a defense that had been mediocre at best this season, but you'd never have guessed that by looking at the box score.

Seattle was awful. Embarrassingly bad. In a statement game, where a victory would've locked up the NFC West title, Seattle put on their worst performance of the Pete Carroll era.

As much as we would love to pin this loss on the absence of Earl Thomas, with a few exceptions, Thomas' absence was largely unnoticed.

The Seahawks pass rush was non-existent.  If not for a garbage time sack by Ahtyba Rubin, Seattle would have set a franchise record by going 3 consecutive games without registering a sack.  With everyone on the defensive front healthy-- it makes you wonder if Kris Richard and his defensive gameplan is to blame for the Seahawks recent defensive struggles.

The truth is, for the first time since coach Carroll took over, the Seahawks enter the final quarter of the season looking like a team that has no idea what it's identity is.

Russell Wilson had a career high 5 interceptions on the day.  Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse and Graham all had key dropped passes during the game and Wilson missed on at least a pair of passes that could have been touchdowns.

I don't get what we're doing with the run game, but it sure as hell isn't working.

The lone bright spot for Seattle was the performance of the recently acquired Marcel Reese. The former Washington Huskies stand out had a few big receptions in his Seahawks debut.

Outside of Reese, not one single player had a performance they should be proud of.

This should be a tremendous concern to everyone that follows the Seahawks.  Historically, this is the time of the season where the Seahawks have fought through adversity, sorted out their problems and taken on a full head of steam heading into the playoffs.

But this year has felt different.

We sill don't know who our offensive line starters are.  We have no consistency from our backfield.  I couldn't begin to describe the identity of the offense.

Defensively, things are different, too.

I would love to see the defense take more risks.  Man up and blitz to try to force turnovers and sacks.  It feels like they're in a perpetual state of bend-don't-break mentality from fear of the offense's ineptitude.

We know enough about this group of players by this point to realize where our strengths lie.  I think we can safely admit by now that we can't run the ball with any consistency without Marshawn Lynch.  Thomas Rawls only seems to be available for about 12 carries per game and everyone behind him on the depth chart is completely unreliable.  I'm counting down the days until this team comes to it's senses and releases Alex Collins.

We need to be spreading this offense out and throwing quick passes to account for the lack of a legitimate run game.  This would help with our blocking issues up front and make it harder for opposing defenses to disguise blitzes.

Playing more uptempo and with a sense of urgency would wear the defenses out more and soften them up for the bruising rushing style of Rawls. Since Rawls is showing to be more of a change of pace than an every down player, I think Tyler Lockett needs to line up in the backfield more, like Ty Montgomery does for Green Bay.

We have far too much of our salary cap resources tied to our receivers and quarterback to continue to pretend that the run game is the focus of this offense.

Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse need to be relied on to carry this offense more.  Both were rewarded with contract extensions recently, yet they continue to be treated like secondary role players. While both of them have proven to be worthy and capable of fulfilling the criteria of a bigger role, the results for this season have been disappointing.

Neither Kearse nor Baldwin possess the top-tier speed to be a legitimate deep threat, but they are typically sure-handed and can break tackles in the open field. Their involvement would open up big play opportunities for Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson.  Kearse and Baldwin need to be the workhorse receivers we know they can be.  Bevell needs to give them the opportunity.

Seattle has a short week with a Thursday night match up at home against the Rams and games against the Cardinals and 49ers to finish out the season. Yesterday's loss may have cost us a first round bye in the playoffs. The Seahawks seem to want to make things as difficult as they possibly can in their efforts to win their second championship.

There is no reason not to expect them to win out these final three games, but we need to see them not only win, but figure themselves out in the process. We need to see some individuals step up and prove they can be counted on when their team needs them.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Bittersweet Victory-- Seahawks 40 Panthers 7

The Seahawks responded to their miserable performance in Tampa Bay exactly how they were supposed to.  They put a 40-point thrashing on the defending NFC Champions while all but mathematically ending Carolina's playoff hopes.

Unfortunately, it's hard to look back on this game feeling anything but somber.  Early in the second quarter of last night's game, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor collided in mid air while going for an interception.  The safeties clacked their shins together resulting in a broken tibia for Earl Thomas that effectively ended his season.

Not but a half hour after being carted off the field, Thomas fired off a tweet that referenced the word 'retirement' and the collective hearts of Seahawks fans everywhere skipped a beat. Never mind that, just moments after that, he followed that tweet by jesting that Chancellor owes him a meal.

Without speaking for him, I think it's pretty plain to see that Earl was just expressing the bevy of emotions that he was experiencing in that moment. We've all been in those situations where something bad happens and we all assume the worst. Just because your girlfriend didn't immediately respond to your text doesn't necessarily suggest that she's cheating on you--  but sometimes your mind races all over when everything is so uncertain.

It was a strange game to say the least.

No one expected Derek Anderson under center when the Panthers opened up on offense.  It wasn't revealed until later in the game that Cam Newton was being punished for breaking a minor team rule, which was even later revealed that he lost the 'start' for not wearing a tie.

Anderson attempted a pass in the flats that bounced off the hands of his fullback into the arms of the Seahawks recently recovered linebacker, Mike Morgan, for an interception.  The Seahawks failed to convert the interception into a touchdown, instead settling for a Hauschka field goal.

It looked like Seattle was going to continue their offensive struggles into this game, but that was quickly proven wrong. Seattle finished the night with more than 500 yards of offense-- the sixth highest output in franchise history.

Just when we thought things couldn't get any more strange, there was a Beast Mode sighting.  Marshawn Lynch was on the sidelines, making the rounds giving love to his former teammates.

Despite not registering a single sack, Seattle's defense dominated the Panthers all night long.  In fact, the only touchdown Carolina had all night was one that should've never been credited. All scoring plays are reviewed, but somehow they missed this one.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure Carolina would've got any more than 3 points had the officials got the call right. Seattle's defense was ferocious and the 12's were deafening from start to finish. It's entirely possible that we could have witnessed a shut out, if not for the blown call.

Any doubt that may have carried over from last week's loss should but moot now.  The offensive line looked their best so far and we ran the ball spectacularly.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett and Graham were all involved and on point.  Russell is mobile once again and the defense seems to get better with every game.

The Seahawks play the Packers next week in snowy Lambeau Field.  I was worried about this game last week, knowing that Seattle would have to rely some semblance of a run game if they'd have any hope to win. Those fears were quelled after watching the dominant performance the Seahawks put on the leagues top-rated run defense.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

If it ain't broke, break it! -- Seahawks 5 @ Buccanneers 14


The Seahawks looked bad on Sunday.  All we needed was a single touchdown to seal the deal, but it never came.  Aside from Russell Wilson, who accumulated more rushing yards in this game than he had in all of the previous games in this season combined, Seattle was once again unable do get anything out of their running backs.

Justin Britt was absent from the lineup due to a sprained ankle.  I hadn't heard anything about this leading up to the game and there was no mention on the broadcast.  He is expected to return Sunday, but Joey Hunt started in his place last week.

Center wasn't the only position that saw a new face.  Bradley Sowell started at right tackle in place of Garry Gilliam.  Not a move forced by an injury, but one of competition.

For the first time in franchise history, the Seahawks started three rookies across the offensive front. Needless to say, it didn't pan out as well as hoped.

Russell Wilson was sacked a disturbing six times in this game, proving that it might not be the best idea to monkey around with an offensive line that is already without its best player.

Just when it was beginning to look like Seattle might run the table to close out the season, they suffer this head-scratching defeat.  We have to hope that this is the wake up call this team needed to get their mind right for a playoff run. 

The Seahawks have the defending NFC Champion Panthers this weekend before heading out to Lambeau to face the struggling but dangerous Packers.  After that, they will close out the season with divisional opponents.  Seattle could clinch the division title before Christmas, but the #2 seed in the NFC is what they should be gunning for.

We're all hoping to put this atrocious performance behind us and expect Seattle to come out swinging against the team that ended their season last year.  The Panthers are beat up and all but out of playoff contention, but I'm sure they would love to play the spoiler.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Turkey Bowl-- America's Finest Tradition

Something is off today.

It's a quarter 'til noon and I'm not crippled by sore muscles and bruises.  I'm not soaked with sweat, covered in mud, and freezing.  I haven't made any unexpected trips to the emergency room today.

I'm at home in (clean) sweatpants, drinking coffee and watching football on TV.  For the first time in 18 years I'm not participating in the all-time greatest American pastime.  I have officially retired from Turkey Bowl.

It's a strange feeling.

For the past 18 years, I have spent every Thanksgiving morning playing tackle football.  My best friends, acquaintances and strangers would split into teams and beat the shit out of each other for the better part of two hours. There were a few guys that I wouldn't see all year, except on the field at Turkey Bowl.

Turkey Bowl is played all over America, in various forms and formats, every year on Thanksgiving. I have never understood why we do this, but for some reason we honor the game we love with low-rent reenactments on the same day we gather our loved ones and gorge ourselves on comfort food.

Our Turkey Bowl was of humble origin.  My two best friends took on myself, my best friend's little brother and my younger cousin at Liberty High's softball field back in 1997. The field dimensions were too large for how few players we had, but we have since learned from those lessons.

After a couple of hours of running around and beating each other senseless, we decided to run one last play to determine the winning team. I lobbed up a prayer and my teammate caught it, only to have the ball stripped away from him.  The opponent scooped it up and headed for the game winning touchdown, but I closed in and grabbed him by the shirt.

As soon as my hand had closed around the fabric of his shirt, he twisted and the shirt formed a tight tourniquet around my left ring finger and swiftly snapped the bone. I fell to the ground with a sharp pain burning through my hand.  I looked down at my hand and my finger was facing backward.

I remember having my Dad stick a baseball bat through the chain link fence to provide me footholds as I climbed, one-handed, the fence that was intended to prevent us from playing in the first place.

I remember my hand throbbing with pain and the worried looks on my friends faces.  I remember taking my first trip to the emergency room on Thanksgiving and waiting for the Novocain to set in before I would permit the doctor to twist my finger back to its natural position.

You would think an ordeal like that would put an abrupt end to our turkey day shenanigans, but no. Our tradition grew exponentially every year.

Word spread fast.  Every year saw more and more people turn out, spectators and players alike.  As we approached the decade mark, I began to realize that we had something special that was meaningful to a lot of people.

It wasn't about winning. I couldn't give you an accurate recount of how many games I won or lost. Similarly, I never felt defeated after any of our games.  I felt pain after all of them, but it was always overshadowed by feelings of immense joy and unity.

I began to get more sentimental the older I got and as the game grew, I knew something had to be done to preserve the memories we were making every year with our new tradition.  After all, we would spend weeks reminiscing about the highlights after the game. Right around Halloween, the excitement would build for the upcoming game.

Turkey Bowl X was sure to be a milestone. Ten years meant we had a legitimate tradition on our hands.  I wrangled up as many camcorders as I could get my hands on, armed our girlfriends and set up tripods.

That game was particularly memorable because a dozen or so of my friends and I ran into a group of guys, who happened to be part of a rugby team, that were also looking to play.  We played 'Us versus Them' and even though they beat the ever-loving piss out of us-- it might have been my favorite game. I'm fairly certain I got at least one concussion in that game.

I had just started attending The Art Institute of Seattle for Audio Production, so I was equipped with a top-of-the-line Macbook Pro and enough knowledge to slap together a Mockumentary video for me and my friends.

I knew I wouldn't have much in the way of 'highlights' given the outcome of the game.  So I took the footage we had and put it to the classic NFL Films audio of the legendary Sam Spence & John Fascenda. My friends were thrilled with the result and every year thereafter, we would hype ourselves up by watching the video before every Turkey Bowl.

We tried to replicate our success of the initial DVD every year, but it became increasingly more challenging.  I was having to coordinate the game every year amidst the chaos of the holidays and increasing responsibilities in my personal life.  Plus, I was playing in the game and wanted to enjoy the experience in real time without having to worry about the production value of the video.

A few years ago, I decided to throw up a Craigslist post in hopes of enlisting a videographer to our cause.  Funds were limited, so I wanted to find someone that might be satisfied with a small financial compensation to be part of something that was really cool.

I received a surprisingly high volume of responses but there was one that stood out among the rest. He had an impressive portfolio and seemed genuinely excited to be a part of what we had created. More importantly at the time-- he was willing to work for cheap.

What we got was something you couldn't put a price on.  Egan Kolb showed up that chilly Thanksgiving morning ready to capture the magic of Turkey Bowl. Egan is as brilliant as he is kind.  He shared our vision for what we were trying to do: emphasize the lore that we had built over the years.

Egan filmed our last couple of games and the videos that came out of them were nothing short of incredible. They were theatrical, professional and hilarious.

The final Turkey Bowl last year had an incredible turnout.  We had 4 teams, which took their names from Game of Thrones houses.  A perfect representation of the eclectic individuals that made up the teams.

We took all sorts.  We had guys that were tremendous athletes and we had guys that had never played team sports, let alone football, in any capacity throughout their lives. We had jocks, nerds, stoners, preps, and everything in between.  Every game was hard fought but they always ended with hugs and handshakes.  If we weren't distracted by a medical emergency, we usually took a group photo, too.

We were always pretty fortunate when it came to injuries.  In almost two decades, we only had a handful of serious injuries, and they were almost exclusively on non-contact plays.

My buddy Greg once blew out his knee on a play where he was heading out of bounds after making a reception.  He hurdled over a player and his knee buckled coming down onto the lousy field surface. City of Renton Firefighters had to come haul him off the field-- but not before we had them pose for pictures with us and the injured party.  I'm sure Greg was thrilled with that.

Some years later, the opposing quarterback was under pressure and trying to get the pass off when I jumped the route to make an outstanding catch for the interception.  As I was going to the ground, I landed squarely on my right shoulder.  I heard a crack and felt a shock of pain engulf my shoulder.  After a trip to the ER, it was discovered that I had separated my shoulder.  It's important to remember that I did, in fact, maintain possession throughout the catch.

Just last year, a friend and coworker of mine blew out his knee when he was hit while planting to make a cut up field.  He had to have surgery and was on crutches well into the new year.

I was a 15 year old boy when I started this.  Today, I'm a 34 year old man.  I'm out of shape and the games have taken their toll on my body.  Perhaps I'll play again next year, providing I find the time to get in better shape ahead of Thanksgiving, but it would be foolish to think that is going to happen.

If I never play again, I'll still have the memories we made and the excellent video keepsakes will live on in digital infamy. Maybe that is for the best.  The text exchange I had with my Dad this morning might sum things up perfectly.

ME:  It's weird not being crippled by 11am...

DAD: Are you playing football?

ME: Nope-- the 18 year tradition has come to an end

DAD: I guess what they say is true, we get smarter as we get older.

I hope you guys have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Whatever your tradition is for today-- make it a great one.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Turning the Corner-- Seahawks 26 Eagles 15

Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm a little behind in my writing with the chaos of the holidays upon us, but I did want to say that I'm very thankful for everyone of you that takes the time to read my thoughts on our favorite team.  It means a lot and I am very grateful.

We're all thankful that our Seahawks have a commanding lead in the NFC West and only the Cowboys are ahead of us in the conference.

The Seahawks were astounding on Sunday in all phases of the game.  Russell Wilson became the first Seahawks quarterback to ever catch a touchdown pass on a remarkable reverse pass from Doug Baldwin. CJ Prosise scored the longest rushing touchdown ever made at CenturyLink on a 72-yard burst.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks came out of this game considerably banged up.

Prosise fractured his scapula-- this injury will likely keep him out until at least the playoffs.  Both Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead pulled hamstrings that will hold them out for at least Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, perhaps longer. As of Wednesday, here's what the Seahawks reported from practice:

Did Not Participate in Practice
DE Michael Bennett (Knee)
RB C.J. Prosise (Shoulder)
RB Troymaine Pope (Ankle)
Justin Britt (Ankle)
WR Tanner McEvoy (Toe)
TE Jimmy Graham (Knee)
LB Brock Coyle (Foot)
DE Damontre Moore (Foot)
CB DeShawn Shead (Hamstring)
FS Earl Thomas (Hamstring)
CB Richard Sherman (Ankle)
Limited Participation in Practice
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (Hamstring)
Full Participation in Practice
QB Russell Wilson (Knee)
The Seahawks travel across the country to Tampa Bay where they'll face a gifted, young Buccaneers squad.  Despite the limitations brought on by injuries, this should be a game that the Seahawks can handle with ease. Tampa Bay has been struggling with their ground game and it would not be surprising to see the Seahawks defense get in the head of 2nd year quarterback Jameis Winston early and often.
The key for the Seahawks will be getting their run game going with Thomas Rawls.  Behind Rawls, Seattle will have the unproductive rookie Alex Collins and the unproven George Farmer with the possibility of Troymaine Pope being healthy. 
The Seahawks must be thankful for their remaining schedule.  Every one of their remaining opponents has a losing record right now.  Despite the grim outlook of Wednesday's injury report, the Seahawks will be getting a lot of players back down the stretch.  They must find a way to brave these next few games in order to catch the Cowboys and clench home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Statement Game-- Seahawks 31 @ Patriots 24

Under the prime time lights of Sunday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks came into Foxborough and handled their business by defeating the NFL's hottest team.

It was a performance that fully displayed the promising depth of talent this team possesses.  With key players like Michael Bennett, Luke Willson and Thomas Rawls still on the mend, Seattle relied on its stars as well as bench players to secure the victory.

The return of Kam Chancellor did not go unnoticed.  This team is never better than when Chancellor and Earl Thomas are overseeing the defense and Sunday night was no exception.  Kam was making plays left and right, with Earl cleaning up anything left in his wake.

Thomas came flying in on a pass to Patriots tight end, Rob Gronkowski, and hit him with a
perfectly-timed shot to the chest that we later found out punctured Gronk's lung.  While an injury is never anything to celebrate, it proves just how much force can come from Thomas' seemingly tiny frame.

Russell Wilson looks about as healthy as I expected him to get before the offseason.  He put up career high passing numbers and found Doug Baldwin for 3 passing touchdowns.

Similarly, the offensive line looked to have had their best game of the season.  You can point out that the Patriots do not exactly have the best defensive line in the league, but they rank about middle of the pack.  George Fant has certainly taken the starting left tackle job away from Bradley Sowell, if you ask me.  He's a powerful dude with long arms and deft footwork. Sowell did absolutely nothing to impress me.  At least Fant has youth and a markedly higher ceiling.

CJ Prosise might actually have a place on this team. We finally got to see more than just fleeting glimpses of why this organization drafted him.  He had a stellar performance in his first start.  He did so well, that, in conjunction with Rawls injury progression, the team decided to finally cut ties with Christine Michael.  Michael was picked up by the Green Bay Packers, so if he can hang on for a few more weeks-- we might see him again when the team heads to Lambeau.

Things are looking up for the Seahawks.  They are first place in the NFC West, #2 in the NFL Power Rankings and in line for the #2 seed in the NFC.  Rawls, Willson, Bennett and Sowell will be returning this season, many in the next week or two. Russell Wilson is coming back into form and there is a lot of promise for a stable rushing attack to begin developing.

The next test will be at the CLink against Philadelphia. Teams with strong defensive fronts have given this team fits all season, so this match up should not be overlooked.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Monday Night Madness: Seahawks 31 Bills 25

Let's start by making one thing clear:  it wasn't roughing the kicker.

Once again, ignorance of the rules has allowed the broadcast team of an NFL game to perpetuate a negative opinion of a player.  The final moments of the first half of this nationally televised game were a total shit show. Sandwiched somewhere in between was a play where Richard Sherman jumped offside on a field goal attempt.

Richard Sherman stares down Rex Ryan after his interception.
The play was never blown dead until it was well over-- at least it never came through on the broadcast and both Sherman and Bills kicker Dan Carpenter acted as if neither of them heard any whistle.  Sherman dove toward the ball in an attempt to block the kick, as you're supposed to in those situations, and Carpenter swung his leg right into Sherman.

Carpenter inexplicably feigned serious injury, writhing on the ground clutching his leg, but got up the instant medical staff arrived and sheepishly sent them away.

In real time, it looks like Sherm and Carp collided at full speed.  It's always disconcerting to see your kicker involved in any play that looks like, you know-- a football play.  Those guys are generally slight of build and wear the least amount of protective gear on the field. For those reasons, I get why Buffalo fans, players and coaches may have wanted to see a roughing penalty called.

But to suggest that this in any way, shape or form, could possibly be construed as 'dirty' or 'deliberate' is profoundly absurd.

I love Rex Ryan and I think the NFL is better when he is in it, but he always finds a way to absolve himself of responsibility.  Granted, there was plenty of poor officiating on display, but Sherman was by no means playing dirty.

Coach Ryan has put together a solid, young football team.  I can admit that I did not expect to see Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham convince us so thoroughly of their improved health, but I also didn't expect the Bills to wear down our defense like they did.

The Seahawks defense didn't have their best game, but they didn't play terribly by any stretch.  It looked as if they had game planned to face a completely different team than the once they saw on the field last night. It were as though someone told them that Shady McCoy wasn't going to make the trip, so don't bother scheming for him.

Whenever this defense does anything but dominate, it looks queer to the fan's eye.  We've come to expect nothing but greatness, but we need to remember they are without some of their best players. The good news is that we are showing that we have the depth on the defensive side of the ball to sustain this team through the post season.

I must also profess that the offensive line did a tremendous job in pass protection against a Bills defense that leads the league in sacks-- and they did it all without any threat of a run game.

So, while the passing game is slowly coming into late last season form, we have not only failed to progress in our run game, but it has gotten markedly worse over the past few games. Rawls will be out for at least another week, perhaps longer.

Something needs to be done to spark the run game.  Maybe Alex Collins needs to get the start.  Honestly, if he can't be at least equally (un)productive as Christine Michael-- they need to kick him down to the practice squad and promote Troymaine Pope to the active roster.

As incredibly underwhelmed as I have been with CJ Prosise, I get that they see him as a project and a unique skillset guy and that stuff can take time to develop.  But strait up running between the tackles shouldn't be a skill that takes significant time to develop.  Collins and Michael have given us nothing and its time to adhere to our mantra of constant competition.

The Seahawks face a tough stretch of games ahead and they will need every one to step up their play.  Next up is the Patriots on a short week in Foxborough. As trying and dramatic as this season has been thus far, the Seahawks are in great shape for a playoff run.  We just have to get a little better every week.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Stymied by NFL's 28th Ranked Defense -- Seahawks 20 @ Saints 25

It's a Halloween Monday and I'm terrified that Seattle is not going to make a move ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline.

This team might be 4-2-1 and in first place in the NFC West-- but behind that record is a frightening situation.

I can't imagine that there is another offensive line in the NFL that could possibly be worse than Seattle's. Behind that offensive line is a banged up quarterback and an appalling excuse for a run game. The lone offensive highlight from the Seahawks came when a former QB/Safety-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback threw a bomb to a receiver-turned-running-back for 43 yards.

This team is hanging on by a thread.  I get that you can't play with fear of injury, be you a player, coach or fan-- but that doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare for worst while hoping for the best.

The Seahawks apparent strategy doesn't appear sustainable to me. Asking your defense to carry the team is a tall order.  Especially when your bye week came about as early as it possibly could have and you're coming off your 4th consecutive season with a post-season appearance.  You're asking for injuries or, at best, a defensive unit that is completely burned out by the time the playoffs roll around.

We should expect more from our defense purely based on the payroll-- and they've delivered to that point.  The offense has to meet them half way.  Or at least a quarter of the way.  They haven't even shown that.

The Seahawks have a rough schedule ahead including match ups with the Patriots, Packers, Panthers
and each of the division opponents who seem to be hip to our play style. If Seattle doesn't make significant changes to their game plan-- I don't see this team finishing any better than  8-7-1. 

With the rest of the NFC West floundering, that may still be good enough to win the division, but that would likely have Seattle hobbling into the playoffs with a beat up offense and a worn out defense.

Quite frankly, anything less than a Super Bowl appearance this season will be a tremendous disappointment.

Is it time to panic? Absolutely not. There's still ample time for the Seahawks to make adjustments and finish the season strong. But that has to start by making a trade to acquire offensive line help.

Maybe that's not Joe Thomas (though, I hope it is).  Maybe its not even Joe Staley. Bring in any veteran lineman that has played in the NFL. There has got to be someone better than Bradley Sowell and George Fant that is available.

We are so thin across the offensive front, God forbid something happen to one of the other linemen. We still have 9 regular season games to get through and a minimum of 3 playoff games to win the Super Bowl.

With Rawls status up in the air and Christine Michael being the model of inconsistency that he is, it might not be a bad idea to seek out help for the backfield, as well.  Even snagging someone off of another team's practice squad would go a long ways in showing that this staff is taking preventative measures to stay competitive.

Sure enough, not long after I praised Darrell Bevell did he fall into his old ways.  My good friend Adam refers to it as Bevell having to be "the smartest guy in the room".   The whole 'They're-expecting-Lynch-to-get-it-so-lets-pass' mentality was on full display for the final play of Sunday's game.

Right now, Seattle is treating Tom Cable the same way they're treating their entire defense.  They've basically provided him with a ton of manure and asked him to polish it into Super Bowl rings for the entire team.

Joe Thomas might be 31 with only a handful of seasons left in him, but if Seattle is serious about developing guys like Fant, Ifedi, Glowinski and Gilliam-- they would benefit greatly from an All-Pro veteran presence for a few years.

They have to at least be serious about having Wilson at QB beyond this season. If they don't trade for some help, his days could be numbered.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What is this, Soccer?! -- Seahawks 6 @ Cardinals 6 F/OT

For the first time in franchise history, the Seahawks ended a regulation game with a tied score. If you're a fan of smash-mouth, defensive football-- or, perhaps, soccer --this was a treat for you!

Unfortunately, while the Seahawks defense might have put on the single greatest performance in the history of the game, the offense could not have been more of a polar opposite.

At 4-1-1, The Seahawks find themselves in a good spot.  They're leading their division, trending in the right direction and in position to fight for the #1 NFC seed. That being said, Seattle needs to face some facts and take some preventative measures to make sure they don't sabotage their championship window.

Russell Wilson is hurt.  All the positive talk in the world isn't going change that.  He can still play and his passing ability doesn't seem affected, but he's a mere shadow of his former scrambling, play-extending-self. The film doesn't lie. The stats don't lie.

This offensive line is just that-- offensive. Last night was film study for what happens when a team spends all of its money on a QB and Defense while leaving nothing else for the remainder of the offense. The face of this franchise has now been injured at least twice because of this neglect and to assume that this situation is going to get any better this season without making any roster moves is dangerously foolish. 

We can't effectively run the ball.  With mobility all but completely erased from Wilson's repertoire and the sorry state of the offensive line group-- it shouldn't be any surprise to find Seattle ranked 28th in run offense. Heading into the 8th week of the NFL season, I can say with confidence that the Seahawks have whiffed big time on their Post-Marshawn plan.

We fell in love with Thomas Rawls before our divorce with Lynch was even final.  Rawls was younger and had shown us 8 games of excitement and promise. 

We had forgotten everything that Lynch had meant to this city, this team and Russell Wilson's development so quickly it was sickening.

And, what would you know...

7 games and a bye week into this season and we've seen just 25 yards on 19 carries from Rawls. Christine Michael has been this team's feature back and we didn't even want him on the roster.

At least the Seahawks tried to find some help for their backfield in the draft.  Unfortunately, they failed miserably.  3rd Round selection, CJ Prosise, has been a tremendous disappointment.  Injuries have kept him off the field for most of this season, but even when he's had opportunities, he hasn't produced.  We've been told since day one that Prosise was to have a special role with this team, so it doesn't seem as though he was ever considered to be an every-down back, but Alex Collins and Zac Brooks, who were taken in the fifth and seventh rounds respectively, were supposed to come in and push Rawls and Michael for reps.

Collectively, the three running backs Seattle took in the draft have provided 15 rushing yards so far this season. 

You could argue that Wilson's injuries threw an unexpected wrench in the Seahawks run game plan this season, but that argument is a feeble one.  Yeah, his scrambling ability and uncanny prowess for sensing pressure and knowing exactly when to get down made you feel safe putting your cap money behind your defense.  He's young and in peak physical health-- he can handle it.  Hell, it has worked thus far, so why should the Seahawks brass NOT have assumed it wouldn't work again this year?

Your championship window is open and you just paid your QB big-time money.  Why risk fate?

On top of all that mess, this team may have lost their starting blindside tackle, Bradley Sowell, for at least a few weeks.  His apparent replacement appears to be undrafted rookie George Fant-- who has only played in 15 football games in his entire life. The converted basketball player is an intriguing project, but is this really the right person at this time to protect your injured franchise quarterback's blind side?!

What would happen if George Fant's inexperience leads to a devastating injury to Russell Wilson?

What if Russell sustains a season-ending injury this weekend because we neglected to address our offensive woes? Travone Boykin would come in, an undrafted rookie quarterback, with Christine Michael as his feature back and the worst offensive line in the NFL.  With that formula, I think we'd be lucky to see the Seahawks finish 5-10-1 this season.

The good thing about that scenario is that we'd likely be picking in the top 10 of the draft, where we'd be in a great place to draft our left tackle of the future.  However, we'd probably see a few of the championship-caliber players we've amassed find new homes, just as we have every offseason. The window would get a little bit tighter, though remaining open, but the idea of a dynasty would quickly fade away.

We've been in a very fortunate position these past few years under Coach Carroll. I've been largely blown away by what this leadership group has done in their brief tenure, but I can't help but catch a whiff of arrogance from the way the offense has been managed here that just rubs me the wrong way.  I would get no satisfaction from saying "I told you so" should anything happen to our quarterback, so my hope is that Seattle mortgages the future by trading a draft pick for a competent left tackle ahead of next Tuesday's trade deadline.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Place in Spite of Everything - Seahawks 26 Falcons 24

The Seahawks came out well-rested from their bye with a win over one of the hottest team's in the NFL. This game had all the makings of a blowout if you were able to erase the 3rd quarter from your memory.

In spite of the 3rd quarter meltdown, the Seahawks were solid.  This game was the ultimate testament to their incredible depth.  Kam Chancellor and Frank Clark, two crucial members of the defense, were inactive for this game.  Luke Willson and Michael Bennett, another two integral pieces, left the game with knee injuries.  Christine Michael was even held out for a portion of the game with concussion concerns, but ultimately returned to finish out the game.

Nevertheless, this team fought on to overcome a Falcons team that they might very well see again in the playoffs.

Before I go any further, I have to apologize and give credit where its due. I have (justifiably) been outspokenly critical of offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell.   The past few seasons it has been as if he has no idea what the strengths and weaknesses of this roster are.

Because of his track record, I came into this season legitimately horrified at the prospect of how he was going to handle the absence of Marshawn Lynch.  Through these first 5 games, I couldn't be more please with what we've seen from Bevell's game planning and play calling.

The last season with Lynch was reminiscent of the last year the Seattle Mariners had Ichiro.  A superstar exiting the twilight of their career who had been, pardon the pun, a linchpin for your franchise for many seasons.  Both players were shadows of their former selves, unable to produce at the level we were all used to, but still deserving of the utmost respect.

We saw both organizations try to make it work, but Father Time is undefeated.  The lack of familiar production polarized the fan bases.  Eventually, both teams had to come to the inevitable conclusion that it was time to part ways and reinvent themselves.

For the Seahawks, this meant turning the keys to the franchise over to their quarterback.  Russell Wilson has earned it.

Sunday's victory over Atlanta was Wilson's 20th 4th quarter come-from-behind victory.  It was also his 50th career win-- making him the fastest player in league history to hit that milestone. Oh, and did I mention that he's playing on a sprained knee and ankle?

Wilson is elite.  Even better-- Bevell gets it.

Furthermore, we're finally getting to see what the Seahawks had in mind when they traded their Pro Bowl Center, Max Unger and a 1st Round pick to acquire Jimmy Graham from the Saints.  These two have been the centerpiece for this team through the first 5 games and it doesn't appear that anyone has an answer for them.

The offensive line is improving with every game, too.  Getting a healthy Germain Ifedi in at right guard has made the progress even more noticeable.  Still, something seems missing from the run game.

Christine Michael has been serviceable.  No one expected him to be the team's feature back this season.  Even after he started the opening game, it was understood that Thomas Rawls was the guy as soon as he was healthy.  Well, just as I had initially feared, Rawls is having a difficult time staying healthy.

Additionally, Michael isn't getting much help in the backfield.  Wilson's injury issues are preventing him from being the solid contributor to the run game.  Lacking the threat of a mobile quarterback that can take off and burn you, teams are able to focus more on shutting the run down.  CJ Prosise hasn't played but a handful of snaps all year as he battles a wrist injury and Alex Collins can best be described as 'just a guy' through the first quarter of the season.

After a surprising start last week, CJ Spiller came plummeting back to reality.  He was a non-factor in Sunday's game against Atlanta and he had at least a pair of crucial dropped passes.

One thing I was really excited to see regarding the run game was when the Seahawks were at the goal line trying to tie up the game late in the 4th quarter.  

The offense lined up in a goal line formation with two tight ends and three tackles.  From left to right the Sehawks had Graham, Sowell, Glowinski, Britt, Ifedi, Webb, Gilliam and Willson.  That's a big spread, but that's not even the part I liked most!

Lined up at fullback was Joey Hunt-- the rookie Center Seattle selected in the 6th round of this year's draft.

When Seattle selected Hunt, there was concern for him being undersized for the Center position at 6' but everyone was raving about his work ethic and football IQ. Given that Seattle doesn't have a fullback on the roster, I thought this was a brilliant move and hope that we will see more of it in the future.

Defensively, this team continues to prove themselves as the best in the league. The Falcons came into the CLink with the most passing yards and the best running back tandem in the NFL.  The Seahawks tenacious defense held that tandem to a measly 50 yards on the ground.

Earl Thomas had his best game of the season, including a clutch interception that lead to the winning field goal.  Kelcie McCray filled in nicely for Kam Chancellor, though Kam's absence created some communication issues in the secondary.  Kevin Pierre-Louis played well in place of Mike Morgan, who is out for the remainder of the season.

Seattle was able to overcome a series of adverse situations to seal the win and stay on top of the NFC West.  The Rams might be coming back down to earth, but the Cardinals appear to be heating up and they will face the Seahawks for Sunday Night Football next week.  The Cards will have a short week coming off Monday night's win, but they will have home field advantage.

Ultimately, I'm not worried about the competition.  This team has what it takes to go all the way this year.  They have unprecedented depth all across their league-leading defense and they have an elite quarterback at the helm.  No other team in the league can say that.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Back to Seahawks Football-- Seahawks 27 @ Jets 17

That Russell Wilson kid sure is special...

With one leg possibly broken and the other supported by a sprained knee, all #3 did was throw for over 300 yards and a trio of touchdown passes. If there was any kernel of truth to the media's collective opinion that Wilson cannot throw from the pocket-- that has to be thrown out the window after his performance on Sunday.

If you still don't think Russell Wilson is elite by now, it's painfully evident that you do not understand the game of football.

The Seahawks came out of Sunday's road victory in East Rutherford with a 3-1 record and the bye week to look forward to. The final score was not indicative of Seattle's dominant defensive performance.

One of of the Jets two touchdowns came off of a questionable fumble that could have been ruled an incomplete pass. Jets rookie wide out Charone Peake seemed to be the only person on the field that noticed that the whistle hadn't blown as he scooped the ball up and made the hustle touchdown.

Wilson now has 25 games with multiple TD passes and no INTs, most by a player in NFL history in his first 5 seasons to begin a career.  That's not just good-- that's elite.

This is the new Seahawks Football.  The 'Post-Marshawn' version of Seahawks Football.

Use the short pass game to get the ground attack going. Soften them up with a physical run game and take shots down field with the aerial assault. Top it all off with outstanding, elite defensive play.

3-1 is a great spot to be in through the first quarter of the NFL season.  Seattle will take advantage of the week five bye to get healthy ahead of their match up with their former defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn and his red-hot Atlanta Falcons.

Rookies CJ Prosise and Nick Vannett should be healthy for the game against the Falcons. Tyler Lockett and Jarran Reed figure to be a full go by then as well. This team is getting healthy while building chemistry and finding ways to win.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Seahawks Offense Improving -- Seahawks 37 49ers 18

Now, that's more like the San Francisco offense we were all expecting...

After impressively shutting out the Rams in their home opener, the 49ers began falling slowly back to earth in their week two loss to the Panthers-- before explosively crashing to the ground against the Seahawks this past Sunday.

The Seahawks held Blaine Gabbert to 14 of 25 completed passes with a measly 119 yards and an interception-- Seattle's first of the season. If anything, Gabbert proved that he has no business being an NFL starting quarterback and I personally was astonished that Colin Kaepernick didn't take over in relief at some point in the second half.

After a minor lull against the Rams, the Seahawks defense played up to their billing in this one.  Still, it was the Seahawks offense that had their homecoming on Sunday.

Russell Wilson looked far more mobile than he had the week before-- that is at least until he suffered a knee sprain in the 3rd quarter on a cheap and borderline dirty tackle by the 49ers Eli Harold.  Wilson went down hard on Harold's horse collar tackle as his knee caught under the defensive player's body while he was pulled down sideways by the back of his shoulder pads.  Grimacing in obvious pain, Wilson stayed down well after the tackle.

Travone Boykin came in to relieve Russell for a single play before Wilson returned to finish the drive.  Boykin took over on the next series and finished the game-- throwing both is first interception and first touchdown pass before all was said and done.

The franchise quarterback's injury certainly put a damper on the much needed offensive explosion,
but Wilson's improvement coming off of last week's loss wasn't the greatest revelation of the game. Christine Michael scored the first and second rushing touchdowns of his tumultuous career and finished the game with 106 yards on 20 carries.

With news coming out today that Thomas Rawls fractured his leg in last weeks game in LA, we can only take comfort from Michael's performance in conjunction with the improvement across the offensive line yesterday. Both Rawls and rookie CJ Prosise were inactive on Sunday, leaving all of the ground work to Michael and rookie Alex Collins.

Germaine Ifedi could potentially return for next week's match up with the Jets, but after Sunday's showing, I would give him another week of rest before the Bye week and let him come back in week 6. I cannot see the benefit to rushing him into his first game if we don't absolutely need him.  J'Marcus Webb played markedly improved from his effort against the Rams.

Wilson is expected to play on Sunday against the New York Jets and Boykin has some live-fire experience under his belt.  The defense is rolling and the offensive line and the passing game appear to be hitting their stride. As I said before the season even began-- my greatest concern is how this team will replace Marshawn Lynch.

I love Thomas Rawls as the next 12, but now more than ever, I feel justified in my concerns regarding his long-term durability.

After all-- we had only seen a small sample size of Rawl's ability.  Granted, we were all impressed with what he had put on tape. 830 yards on 147 carries while only starting in 7 games.  His aggressive running style was reminiscent of Lynch at a time before we even knew Lynch was in his final NFL season.  We were confident that we had found Beastmode Jr.

Believe me.  I was excited to have Rawls as our presumptive starter this season.  But with every ounce of excitement came an equal part concern, for myself.

We had been spoiled in our time with Marshawn.  A running back isn't supposed to carry your team for 5 years and consistently be considered among the 3 best at his position without missing so much as a game. When Lynch began to show the first, long overdue signs of wear-- fans were not very forgiving.  Part of that could very well be due in part to Rawls powerful emergence.

After the dust settled and Lynch had proclaimed his retirement, Rawls became our guy.  It's a far better transition than most teams get, but he hadn't even started a half of a season's worth of games before his ankle injury-- there was plenty of concern to be had.

Some of those concerns were eased when Seattle selected 3 running backs in the subsequent draft.  They drafted as many running backs as they did offensive linemen, which seemed to be an area of concern even more pressing since Russell Okung and JR Sweezy departed in free agency.  The Seahawks response in free agency was considerably less flashy with J'Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell.

At that point, I was fairly pleased with how the organization handled replacing Lynch.  As the pieces began to shuffle around and come back together, my concerns crept back in.

As it turns out, CJ Prosise was brought here to be more of a 3rd down and pass catching specialist.  More of an answer to replacing Fred Jackson than replacing Marshawn.  Zac Brooks spent the preseason being consistently outperformed by Troymaine Pope-- both of whom are no longer with the team.

Alex Collins and his unofficial fan club president, ESPN 710AM's Mike Salk, had me fired up.  An explosive SEC running back?  SIGN ME UP! But in the days and weeks that followed the draft, Collins has done nothing to convince me that he'll ever be good enough to lead this team's rushing attack.

The only veteran this team brought in to compete in the backfield was their own failed, high draft pick.  If you would have told me Christine Michael was going to come back and assume the starting running back role back when Lynch first announced his retirement, I might have openly wept.

Alas, here we are.

Our quarterback is beat up and Thomas Rawls could be out the next 4 weeks. Christine Michael has performed admirably, but did cough up the fumble that cost the Seahawks a 3-0 record.  Plus, we're one injury away from Alex Collins and Terrence Magee being our only options in the run game.

So, what are we going to do about that?

University of Washington standout and 4 time Pro Bowl fullback, Marcel Reece, was recently released by the Raiders. Given that the Seahawks have yet to settle on a fullback, I feel that the 31-year old fullback would provide an immediate upgrade to the rushing attack. His build, style and ability seem to fit well with Pete Carroll's scheme, too.

I know the Seahawks love to keep 'their guys' but it wouldn't hurt to bring in a veteran running back, too.

The offensive line showed excellent progress against San Francisco and I expect to see that continue next week against the Jets, despite their fearsome defensive front. We're in a position where we shouldn't have to rush Ifedi into the lineup until he's fully healed.

This early bye will greatly benefit the Seahawks this year.  They have had their bumps and bruises, but all teams will have their fill through the course of the season.  The offensive line will grow through experience, just as they do every season. They appear to be off to a faster start than usual. Christine Michael will need to be relied on as this team works through injuries and growing pains.  Russell will have to get the ball out of his hands quicker and the defense will have to keep playing to their ridiculously high standards.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Starstruck in LA-- Seahawks 3 @ Rams 9

Through the first two weeks of the season, I can confidently say one thing about this team:

These Seahawks are NOT fun to watch.

Mike Salk from 710 ESPN Seattle described it best this morning when he said the Seahawks have been playing in 'Survival Mode'.  Call it what you like-- its no fun waiting to see which team will make the first mistake and who can capitalize on that mistake.

It's hard to lay any of the blame on the defense. Through the first two games, this team is allowing an average of 9.5 points per game.  I think most fan bases across the country would be happy with that number.

The problem lies within how this team was constructed. Here's a look at the top 11 highest-paid players on this team--  I did 11 because the kicker is in the top 10.
No.                  Player  Age Pos  Cap Hit
25          Richard Sherman   28  DB 12569000
3            Russell Wilson   28  QB 12342000
88             Jimmy Graham   30  TE  8900000
29              Earl Thomas   27  DB  8000000
56              Cliff Avril   30  DE  6000000
50              K.J. Wright   27  LB  5250000
31           Kam Chancellor   28  DB  5100000
72          Michael Bennett   31  DE  4000000
54             Bobby Wagner   26 ILB  3000000
4           Steven Hauschka   31   K  2700000
20              Jeremy Lane   26  CB  2000000

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2016.

Take Hauschka out of the equation and 8 of the 10 highest paid on this team are defensive players.  Essentially, your entire defensive secondary, 2/3 of your Linebacker group and your two most prominent pass rushers.

Your lone offensive stars on this list are Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.  Wilson makes absolute sense.  This team will live and die by his performances.  Graham's prominence in our cap allocation makes less and less sense with each passing week-- though, we should all understand the team's initial though process with this acquisition.

 A mere glance at this list should give an ancillary picture of this team's MO.  They want their defense to keep you within one score before the final two minutes so that Russell Wilson can make just enough plays for Hauschka to kick a game winning field goal or perhaps for Wilson to find Graham in the endzone for the go ahead TD reception.

So far, that has worked fairly well.

But what if, say, Russell Wilson were to get banged up?  You know, from playing behind a shit offensive line?  What if we come to find out that Marshawn Lynch isn't quite as replaceable as we had initially thought?

Then what?

Well, any coach worth his salt would make adjustments to the gameplan and lineup to accommodate for these worst-case-scenarios. One of the most glaring faults of this coaching staff is stubbornness.  I get that you want to own your philosophies, especially if you're hoping to get others to buy in, but if it ain't working, at some point, you have to go back to the drawing board.

It's times like these, in the aftermath of a 9-3 loss to a divisional opponent, where your offensive line couldn't stop a nosebleed, where I get real sick & tired of hearing about what a genius Tom Cable is.

This team has had tremendous success the past three seasons in spite of it's offensive line. At no point over the last few seasons has anyone gone on record saying anything positive about the way Coach Cable's unit has performed.

I suppose you could say that JR Sweezy's big deal in Tampa Bay points to Cable's ability to develop players but I think its lends itself more to bad teams raiding the trash pile of Super Bowl teams.

I cannot stand sweating out the initial months of the season, hoping and praying that some amalgamation of players on Seattle's roster will emerge as some semblance of a middle-of-the-road offensive line unit. Knowing that we always have a chance with the ball in #3's hands is comforting, but we all need to accept that there is a possibility that he will not be at 100% for the rest of the season. 

While Wilson's 50% is better than most quarterbacks 100%-- it is laughably unreasonable to expect him to carry an offense on a broken leg with a turnstile offensive line and a running back group that appears to be without a leader.

Furthermore, if this defense continues to fail to create turnovers like they have thus far-- you're doomed.

Richard Sherman said after the game that opponents are not going to provide as many opportunities for them to create turnovers if Seattle's offense isn't playing with the lead.  This is 100% true, but with the money this team has allocated to it's defense, particularly in the secondary, it's not unreasonable for us to expect them to create turnovers no matter the circumstance.

Perhaps the brass should have taken this into account this offseason and shifted some funds to the offensive side of the ball.  Would this team have found itself better off had they traded someone like Cliff Avril for a competent Left Tackle? I would argue that, despite Avril's tremendous pass rushing contributions, we could've been better served having a young, inexperienced pass rusher bookending Michael Bennett and getting a veteran to provide blindside protection to your franchise quarterback.

 With the exception of Germaine Ifedi being injured-- this is exactly the offensive line group this staff CHOSE to enter this season with.  They were willing to go with 5 new starters and a new running back group-- even if it meant endangering the most valuable player on their roster.

Well, it's not paying off.

At best, we have to hope that they get their shit figured out by midseason in time to make a playoff run.  But will it be enough? If our run game continues to sputter and pass protection continues to get Wilson attacked and possibly further injured-- will this team have enough in the tank for a road playoff run?

The reason this makes me so angry and invokes 'the sky is falling' mentality is knowing that this team's window is still open.  As fans, we will have to live with the last minute interception in the Super Bowl against the Patriots for the rest of our lives. We will remember being about one drive short of beating the Panthers in the playoffs last season.  If Seattle fails to reach the Super Bowl this season, it will be considered a failure in my eyes.

This is the last season where this team's window is wide open.  It won't close next year-- but it will begin closing.  More and more integral players will have contracts coming up due to cash in on huge paydays the Seahawks may not have the space to accommodate.  Certain players who already have huge contracts will continue to age and the questions may arise whether or not they are playing up to their pay grade.  Guys will get hurt and every draft will not be the goldmine that was the 2012 draft.  It's just the way of the world in today's NFL-- it's part of what makes this game so great.

But the 2016 season is already underway and this staff needs to figure out how to get the best out of the guys they chose to enter this season with. Like the first two games of the season, the next two will also feature two tough defenses with questionable offenses.  Seattle needs to find a way to get their run game going, adjust their offense to accommodate Wilson's temporary limitations and their defense needs to not only find a way to create turnovers-- they're going to have to find ways to score.

After those two games, Seattle will have a bye week to get players healthy and figure shit out going forward. They won't have the luxury of starting 2-4 this season and having a shot at the Lombardi.  The Wildcard isn't guaranteed to come out of the NFC West this year.  Tampa Bay is chasing the Panthers in the South, Green Bay and Minnesota look neck and neck in the North and who knows what will happen in the NFC East.

The focus now shifts to the 49ers who are coming off a beatdown at the hands of the reigning NFC champs.  Like the Rams, the 49ers also have a hapless offense, but their defense seems to be playing much better under Chip Kelly than they ever did under Jim Tomsula. The Seahawks must score early in this game and keep their foot on the gas pedal.  Even a 7-0 lead in the first quarter would be enough for your defense to seize turnover opportunities that may win the game.

Changes need to be made to cater to this team's strengths.   The staff might have to swallow their pride and admit that they're not able to impose their will, but good coaches know how to maximize their players skill sets while masking their vulnerabilities.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Too Close for Comfort-- Seahawks 12 Dolphins 10

The Seahawks were able to escape week one with a victory in a game that was ugly, to say the least. Perhaps nothing captures the essence of what transpired on Sunday than the changes to the NFL Week Two power rankings.  Despite winning, the Seahawks dropped two spots in the rankings.  Conversely, in the wake of the loss, the Dolphins jumped up a spot from their previous rank.

Before I shell out criticism, I must first complement Seattle's defense. As a whole, this defense played up to their pedigree.  DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane were absolutely spectacular.   Seattle's corner back group is far and away the best in the NFL. Meanwhile, Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark proved to be the foundation of Seattle's second wave of future superstars. Additionally, Jarran Reed was impressive in his rookie debut. Earl Thomas certainly didn't play up to his own impossible standards, but that shouldn't be a tremendous concern going forward.  I expect him to bounce back next week against the Rams.

The offense, to me, was supremely disappointing. I'm sick and tired of waiting until mid-season for the offensive line to get it's shit together.  Perhaps it's just the consequence of using the entirety of your cap space on a superstar-laden defense and a franchise quarterback-- maybe it's just a bizarre tactic to insure that Tom Cable isn't snatched up for a head coaching job elsewhere.  No matter what the excuse-- it's become the norm here in Seattle.

The only difference between this opener and previous years is that Seattle seemed to expect substandard line play more this game.  They knew they would be without Marshawn Lynch and they were well aware of the talent Miami has across their defensive front. They even seemingly game planned for it. 

Coach Bevell favored the short pass in lieu of the run, going against the team's self-described philosophy of being a run first team. My guess is that this was a decision made from equal parts fear and necessity. Despite this strategy yielding no points-- it did seem to be working in conjunction with spectacular defensive play.

That is, until Ndamukong Suh came down hard on Russell Wilson's right ankle.

Wilson never missed a snap, but he was clearly in pain.  He returned the following series with both of his feet heavily taped and went on to throw the game winning touchdown-- but he clearly was not his usual, mobile self.

Seattle held on and came away with the win but it was hard for fans to feel good about the game.  The Seahawks were favored to win by two touchdowns, but you never would've guessed that from watching their performance.  Maybe the Dolphins are better than anticipated, but its more likely that we're in for another rocky start for our team's offense.

Then again, it could have been worse-- the Rams were expected to be one of the nastiest defenses in the league, but they were shut out by a 49ers team with little expectations of their own.

All indications are that there is no doubt as to Wilson's availability for the showdown with Los Angeles next Sunday. Still, no one is convinced that number 3 isn't at least somewhat injured. Seattle will need to dramatically alter their game plan in week two if they expect to get the win while preventing any further injury to their franchise quarterback.

The 49ers gave us the blue print for defeating the Rams.  They effectively took LA's star running back, Todd Gurley, out of the game by loading the box and sent the heat whenever Case Keenum dropped back to throw. The Rams simply lack the offensive weapons to overcome a powerful defense.  If San Francisco was able to shut them out and put up 4 touchdowns with Blaine Gabbert-- a one-legged Russell Wilson should be able to match that while blindfolded.

Seattle is going to have to revert back to being a run-first team and trust in their line to create lanes for both Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael.  We saw flashes on Sunday of this, but Seattle didn't commit to their run as much as they're going to have to in LA next weekend.

Keeping Russell out of harms way will be integral over these next few games and Trevone Boykin needs to be ready to be thrown to the fire. For the first time perhaps ever, I am grateful that Seattle has an early bye week.  Unfortunately, they'll be seeing some of the league's toughest defenses leading up to that bye. This is certainly a season where this team can ill afford another slow start from the offensive unit. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Who's at RB?

The Seahawks just concluded another successful offseason by retaining in-house talent and some minor free agent acquisitions. They got through the preseason without being dealt any significant injury blows.  Most preseason rankings have the Seahawks at or near the top.  Even the ever-troubling offensive line appears to be operating ahead of schedule. 

So, what does that leave us with to obsessively worry about before we see a moment of REAL football action?

This team has been running a championship-caliber program for the past 4 seasons and there is absolutely zero reason to believe that this season will play out any different.  Sure-- it's the NFL.  Anything can happen.  Any team can pull together when it matters most and find themselves hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February.  Still, few teams have been as consistently competitive as the Seahawks have the past few seasons.

But we STILL need something to bitch about until the opening game!

This week has shed light on the topic that sports radio, social media and water cooler talk have selected as our subject of petty, unnecessary concern that will carry us to kickoff.

The running back depth chart.

I know, that's a pretty stupid topic to parse-- but it's all we have.  Every other detail is ironed out, but for some reason, fans are overly concerned about who is going to come out of the tunnel when they announce the running back for the starting offense.

The cause of this concern?  The Seahawks depth chart was recently made available and Christine Michael is listed ahead of Thomas Rawls as the team's feature back.

Despite the fact that Pete Carroll himself pointed out in his Wednesday press conference that Senior VP of Communications & Broadcasting, Dave Pearson, compiled the 'unofficial' depth chart for the team's website, this is being read into as Rawls losing his job or otherwise being unhealthy.

However, Rawls was absent from the team's injury report for the first time since late last season.  So, it is safe to assume that his recovery hasn't suffered any dramatic setbacks.

Not only am I not concerned about the hierarchy of the backfield-- I think this is the perfect scenario for Pete Carroll.

Losing Marshawn Lynch sucks no matter how you look at it, but Seattle is excited for their young stable of backs.  Running back depth is a luxury for this team in 2016.

Just a few short months ago, this team pulled Bryce Brown off the garbage heap to ensure they had enough depth for a playoff run.  Just last week we saw Troymaine Pope, a talented undrafted rookie running back, get cut because this team simply didn't have the roster space to accommodate the slough of quality running backs they assembled this past offseason.

Thomas Rawls was electric in his rookie debut last year.  He more than proved he was a perfect fit for Carroll's system before succumbing to injury late in the season.  The confidence this staff has for Rawls allowed them to play a cool hand when it came to adding depth.  They spent a couple of mid and late round picks on running backs that possessed promising talent with specifically unique skill sets and instead focused on shoring up the offensive and defensive lines in the early rounds.

Perhaps the feel good story of the off season was the reclamation and resurgence of Christine Michael.  Michael was a high second round pick for Seattle just a few short seasons ago but he failed to carve out a role for himself.  Reports were abundant that Michael was immature and wasn't putting the work in.  After the Seahawks cut him last season coming out of camp, he bounced around the NFC East before Seattle claimed him off the Washington practice squad when Seattle was thin at the position.

Still, Seattle didn't resign Michael after last season.  They let him test the market and no one was calling.  The Seahawks agreed to bring him back at the veteran minimum and his preseason performance made it abundantly clear that Christine Michael had received his wake up call and he's not going to take another moment in this league for granted.

So, you have a young running back in Thomas Rawls who effectively earned the starting running back job last season, but is coming off a serious leg injury and you have a young, yet salty veteran in Christine Michael who is out to earn a long-term contract-- even if it's not with this team next season.

I'm telling you: Pete Carroll LOVES this!

Obviously, you don't want to rush Rawls back too quickly.  Everyone is in agreement that he appears to possess the greatest upside of all Seattle's running backs.  At the same time, this team doesn't hand people anything.  In fact, some might say, including myself, that the lack of competition was a tremendous factor in Seattle's slow start last year.

Christine Michael had a terrific offseason.  If we're not basing anything on past performance, the starting job is rightfully his.  He is healthy, he's hungry and he's playing for his next contract.  While I agree that Rawls is the eventual franchise running back, I would absolutely start Michael until I was 100% comfortable with Rawls recovery from injury.

Starting Michael pushes Rawls to keep working and not get complacent.  I never liked the idea that we would just pass the torch from Lynch to Rawls without any competition-- it goes against everything this team has repeatedly claimed to stand for.

I'm telling you to let go of your fears about this backfield heading into the new season and be thankful that we're in this situation.  Rawls will get eased into the mix over the next few games.  If Michael struggles-- we know we can count on Rawls to shoulder the load when he's back to 100% again.  If Michael succeeds-- you continue to work Rawls in but then you can just ride the hot hand.

The bottom line is that competition is the foundation that this team's recent success is built upon.  We've let that get away from us recently as superstar after superstar has emerged from this team and locked down roster spots.  While that does provide a level of security in knowing that certain positions are locked in, it does limit the amount of the internal competition that fuels this team in preparing for Sundays. 

UPDATE:  Germain Ifedi left practice yesterday with an apparent ankle injury.  He walked off the field on his own, but his status for the opener Sunday is in question.  THIS is definitely worth your concern.

FURTHER UPDATE:  Damn it.  It's a high ankle sprain.  Looks like Ifedi is going to be out until October.