K.J. Wright Is Still A Seahawk

I don’t like writing more than one post in a single day, because I’m lazy like that.  But, I don’t like to let these types of signings sit in limbo for a few days without comment, because then I’ll never get around to it (again, because I’m lazy like that).  So, welcome to my nightmare lesser of two evils.

K.J. Wright signed a 4-year extension, for $27 million.  Seems like a reasonable amount of money and a reasonable amount of years for a good player who was looking at being a free agent at season’s end.  This secures a core defensive player, helps set a baseline for what we can expect to re-sign Bobby Wagner for, and quite honestly has to be good for morale.  I’m assuming, of course, that K.J. Wright is a well-liked, well-respected player on that team.  The more of our core guys we’re able to reward with extensions, the better it is for team chemistry going forward.  The Seahawks take care of their own.  The leaders on this team who’ve already been extended have to like this, but more importantly, it sets a nice precedent for the players yet to be dealt with.

I’m not usually a fan of in-season signings, because you can probably expect in the next week or two to see K.J. Wright get blown up with an ACL tear or some damn thing (see:  Palmer, Carson).  I mean, was Wright’s value really going to go up all that higher if he played two more regular season games and however many playoff games?  Unlikely.  What he got today is probably what he would’ve gotten six months from now.

Then again, what the hell do I know?  He’s a versatile linebacker who can play inside & out.  He’s got range and speed to cover just about any tight end.  He’s not the biggest play-maker in the world, but he’s sound fundamentally and really that’s all I’m looking for in a defense riddled with play-makers.  Maybe some other team blows him away with some amazing offer.  Either way, we’ll never know now.  I just hope we don’t live to regret this.  Seems unlikely, but again, see:  Palmer, Carson.

We won’t know until the whole thing plays out, but I see this move as a net-positive.  We locked down 3/4 of the L.O.B., we locked down Michael Bennett.  We’re a few months away from locking down Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson.  Throw K.J. Wright into the mix, and without Percy Harvin’s albatross deal looming over us, we might just have enough to keep Cliff Avril and (fingers crossed) Byron Maxwell.  Keeping both might be a stretch, especially if we look to make an additional defensive-line splash in the offseason, but I’m just thinking off the top of my head here.

We were looking at upwards of $30 million in salary cap room going into next year before the Wright deal.  He cuts into that some, but not a lot considering the first year is almost always a very small base with a larger signing bonus (spread out over the life of the contract, in this case, split up in quarters over four years).  The two highest priority players are obviously Wilson and Wagner, but again, there should still be room in the 2015 cap for a little something extra, if the right guy comes along and tickles our fancy.

Top that off with guys we won’t necessarily need to extend.  Like, Malcolm Smith for one, who I don’t think has played a single snap on the defensive side of the football in the last month or more.  Remember our Super Bowl MVP?  Yeah, he’s been totally phased out in favor of Bruce Irvin (who we’ll probably hold off until at least the final year of his deal before discussing an extension).  And, while re-signing Maxwell would be pretty amazing, Tharold Simon’s high level of play doesn’t make it a total disaster if we let Maxwell max out his value elsewhere.  In my opinion, extending Avril is probably our third-highest priority going into the offseason, which shouldn’t be a problem unless some other team really blows us out of the water.

But, I suppose those are conversations for another day.  Today, we celebrate K.J. Wright.  Many happy returns and so forth.  Now, let’s go win a championship.

The Huskies Thumped Grambling State Before A Pathetic Crowd

The Huskies played Grambling State last night, but the opponent doesn’t matter.  Yes, it was a tune-up game against a 2-win basketball team playing thousands of miles away from home.  A team two years removed from going 0-28, and a single year removed from winning all of 5 games.  Obviously, we’re not talking about a marquee matchup.  But, again, the opponent is irrelevant.  What’s most important is all the purple that can be seen in the stands.

Oh no, not the purple of a capacity crowd donning one of the school’s primary colors!  I’m talking about the purple of empty fucking seats.  In a 10,000-seat arena where there isn’t a bad view in the house.

I’m looking at you, aged Sonics fan who supported professional basketball in this city for decades.  I’m looking at you, Husky alumni, who opted to abandon this program after two down years.  And, quite frankly, I’m looking at the fucking UW student body.  What has HAPPENED to our Dawg Pack?  Does the school no longer give those tickets away for a song?  Do you realize you’re getting literally the best seats in the house – in an age where basketball student sections are frequently pushed to behind one of the baskets?  You need to fucking appreciate the opportunity you have to see bigtime college basketball at the 50-yard line of a bigtime basketball arena!

Hey, newsflash, to everyone out there:  you don’t necessarily have to be a fan of the University of Washington to go to Hec Ed and appreciate the type of basketball on display!  I mean, granted, if you’re a Coug or an alumnus of some other unfortunate school, you might not want to go.  But, if you have no ties to any local university, and you just want to watch some great basketball, I don’t understand why you’re not going to these games!

I’m not here to spend your money.  It’s not like I’m out there every game, with season tickets or whatnot.  I’m gonna go to the game on Monday, but that’s neither here nor there.  If you can’t afford season tickets, or it’s too much of a hardship to get there, I get it.  But, that arena used to be filled on a regular basis, and now we’re lucky to see it half full, and that’s a damn shame.  Because that means we’ve got people in this city who could easily afford the cost, and who could easily afford the time required to go to the games, but they’ve chosen to turn their backs on the program.  Hell, this city used to fill up a 17,000-seat arena for Sonics games; you’re telling me all of these basketball fans in this city have suddenly died out?

How are we supposed to be expected to support an expansion NBA franchise when we’re letting a legitimately good, legitimately RANKED college basketball team play in front of ghost towns?  WAKE UP, SEATTLE!  I know there are basketball fans out there, hungry for something great.  Well, the University of Washington has a great basketball team this year, and it’s about fucking time you got your asses out to a game or two.

If everyone is just waiting for conference play to start, I’ll stand down.  But, in the meantime, even though there aren’t any great home matchups left in the non-conference schedule, you’ll probably never again have a chance to get some really primo seats for basketball this good.

As for the game last night, what can you say?  The Dawgs were throwing alley-oops like they cured cancer or something.  This really wasn’t a contest whatsoever.  Nevertheless, there was some great stat-padding.  Shawn Kemp Jr. had 21 points on 9/12 shooting.  Andrew Andrews was 4/8 from behind the arc, en route to another 16 points.  NWG had 9 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebounds, as the Huskies are inching ever closer to having their first-ever triple-double.  Mike Anderson filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.  And, of course, Robert Upshaw finished with 15 points, 15 boards, and 4 blocks.

My only quibble, if I strain to have one, is that Romar didn’t go to his deep bench early enough or for long enough.  Seriously, what’s the point of having NWG in there for 33 minutes in a game where we’d end up winning by almost 50 points?  Why not throw a bone in the FIRST half to some of our walk-ons?  Why wait until the game is practically over?

Looking ahead, the Huskies travel to Vegas to play the 15th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday night at 6pm, in the MGM Grand Showcase.  It’s being televised on ESPNU and WatchESPN (if you have a cable subscription).  That’ll be a HUGE battle, and our final non-conference ranked opponent.  Oklahoma figures to have an awesome RPI by season’s end, so winning this game would be one of the bigger feathers in our cap come Tournament time.

Then, on Monday, the Huskies are back home to face Tulane.  8pm start time, which is a little rough (with great Pac-12 television money comes great responsibility), but just do like I’m going to do:  go to the game, then just go to work late the next day!  Print this out and hand it to your boss as me giving you permission.  I can be very persuasive (that’s not true, I’ll cave in like a big ol’ caveman).

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 15

So, the question on everyone’s minds right now is:  Is the Seahawks/49ers rivalry dead?

It’s an interesting question to ponder.  For starters, you have to find an appropriate definition of a “rivalry”.  At this point, with all the bad blood that’s been figuratively spilled, in comments sections and message boards, in the blocking of friends and family on various social media sites, in the verbal altercations and maybe even physical altercations between drunken fans, I don’t think we’re ever fixing this relationship:  Seahawks fans and 49ers fans are going to forever hate one another.  Or, at least for the foreseeable (and considerable) future.

Some people seem to think a rivalry requires that both teams are good at the same time.  Both teams, fighting for the same goal that only one team can ultimately have.  Granted, that makes for a GOOD rivalry, but you don’t stop being rivals when one team is awesome and the other is on a downward spiral.  Indeed, it’s in these spots where a rivalry truly gains a foothold.

Think about the rivalry between the Huskies and Cougars.  No one is sitting there calling these two schools, or these two football programs, equals.  They haven’t both been good at the same time in quite a while.  And, I don’t think they’ve ever really both been simultaneously good for an extended period of time (say, five years or more).  At least, I don’t remember that being the case in the last 30 years or so.

But, you know what games stand out almost as much as the de facto playoff appearances between two successful rival teams?  Those games where the underdog knocks the great team out of contention for something great.

I mean, look at it this way:  the Huskies lead the all time series against the Cougars by a record of 69-32-6.  CLEARLY, the Huskies are the superior team in this rivalry, but just because the Cougs are so inept, it doesn’t make it any less of a rivalry.  Take the 1982 season, for example.  The Cougs finished 2-4-1 in conference play.  But, they beat the previously 1-loss Huskies in the Apple Cup, knocking us out of the Rose Bowl and a possible Top 5 finish.  THOSE are the games I’m talking about.

Yeah, 49ers fans hate the Seahawks for keeping them out of the Super Bowl last year.  That loss in the NFC Championship Game was a devastating blow.  But, imagine if the 49ers had beaten the Seahawks this past Sunday.  The 49ers, a team going nowhere, coming into Seattle and scurrying away with a hard-fought victory, costing us a chance at the division title and a first round BYE in the playoffs (while also making our path to simply securing a playoff spot that much more difficult).  Isn’t that just as bad?  Knowing you SHOULD have beaten a bitter rival, but they still find a way to win anyway?

Unless you’ve got a natural geographic rival (like Seattle and Portland, for instance), it’s a little difficult to manufacture a rivalry.  The Seahawks moved back to the NFC West in 2002.  From that point through the 2011 season, the Seahawks didn’t really have a rival.  Yeah, San Francisco is the closest city to us in NFL terms.  They’re in our division and everything.  But, when we started playing them regularly in 2002, they were total shit, and we were a team on the rise.  The NFC West in general was pretty hit-or-miss, but if I had to say someone was our main rival, I would’ve put that on the Rams, who were just playing out their run as the Greatest Show On Turf when we came into the picture.  By the time we went on our run of NFC West championships (from 2004 thru 2007), we really didn’t have a rival.  There was some bad blood for the Steelers, maybe a little for the Packers and Bears, but nothing like we’ve had since 2012 with the 49ers.

It takes a few good years of sustained success that we enjoyed to manufacture a rivalry with the likes of a team like the 49ers.  In their heyday of the 80s and 90s, you’d say the 49ers’ main rivals were the nationally great teams:  the Giants, the Redskins, the Cowboys, the Bears.  Now, with the divisions realigned, the Seahawks are it.  And, even if the 49ers lose Harbaugh, and even if Kaepernick never finds his groove again, and even if their defense ages into obscurity, and even if the 49ers are terrible for the next ten consecutive years, we’ll still always have this run from 2012-2014 as our rivalry’s heyday.  And, going forward, should the Seahawks continue to be successful, there will still be a rivalry.  Maybe the 49ers go 1-9 against us in the next ten meetings.  But, that lone defeat will still sting like a thousand defeats, because that bad blood will always be there.

What I’m more looking forward to is being like those 49ers of the 80s and 90s.  Being like what the Patriots have been for the last decade plus.  Yeah, the Pats have the Jets and Dolphins and Bills, who they’ve been playing twice a year for decades.  But, since Tom Brady took over, aside from a couple great Rex Ryan teams, the Pats have more or less demolished their division en route to a long string of division titles and first round BYEs in the AFC.  If you had to name New England’s top rival in that span, it wouldn’t be anyone in their division, it would be the Indianapolis Colts, followed by the Denver Broncos.  Essentially, wherever Peyton Manning called home.

THAT’S what I want.  Yeah, it’s nice having that blood feud with the 49ers.  And it’s fun to hate on the Cardinals and Rams to a lesser extent.  But, I want us going after the big guns of the NFC.  I want our big rivalry to be with the Packers, or the Saints when they’re good, or any of the NFC East teams if they can get their shit together for an extended run of brilliance.

In my mind, the Seahawks should find simply winning their division to be a little blasé.  It should just be a given.  The Patriots don’t go into their seasons thinking, “I hope we win our division this year!”  They go in EXPECTING to win their division, while thinking, “I hope we represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year!”

That’s what I want.  That’s the kind of rivalry I hope to see.  The kind of rivalry that transcends geography.  The kind of rivalry where you only face your opponent once per regular season, and that’s because you’re both winning your respective divisions every year.  I want the kind of rivalry where Grantland documents each of the games between their respective teams based on how well each quarterback plays.

We thought we might have had that between the Seahawks and 49ers, but that’s looking less and less likely.  Jim Harbaugh is douchebagging his way out of a job, and Colin Kaepernick is mediocre-ing his way into being a professional backup.  The 49ers’ flame burned bright and quick, and the status of this particular rivalry is in question going forward.  The Seahawks have three straight wins, and have won 5 of the last 6.  There are more Seahawks blowouts than there are simple, close 49ers victories in the Wilson/Kaepernick Era.  We’ll see what happens from here, but it strikes me that the 49ers are about a year away from a total rebuild, while the Seahawks are moving on to bigger and better things.

The Seahawks Dynasty is still in play.  And, at that point, the NFL world will be so sick of us, we’ll be EVERYONE’S rivals.

***

  1. Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – The jinx of the #1 spot is real!  Let the Cowboys be next to feel its sting!  Uhh, I mean, YEAH, the Cowboys are the best team in the NFL!  This is a thing I truly believe!  7-0 record on the road and whatnot!
  2. Seattle Seahawks (10-4) – Mid-season swoons be damned, the Seahawks are back and better than ever!  But, they’re never EVER setting foot in my top spot.  Not as long as that jinx is hanging around.
  3. Denver Broncos (11-3) – I don’t really know what to say.  Their offense doesn’t look great right now, but they’re finding ways to win.  Defense is rock solid, so I guess that helps.
  4. New England Patriots (11-3) – I don’t know who I fear more between the Broncos and Patriots, I’m just glad the Seahawks only have to face one or the other in the Super Bowl.
  5. Green Bay Packers (10-4) – I never thought it was possible, but the BILLS of all teams gave us the opportunity to grab hold of the #1 seed.  God bless them, every one.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (10-4) – Why they struggled so much against the Texans is the exact reason why they’re not a Super Bowl team.
  7. Detroit Lions (10-4) – Same goes for the Lions, with their struggles against the Vikings.
  8. Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – Another win in the books, another quarterback down for the count.  Meet the team EVERYONE wants to face in the playoffs (non NFC South edition).
  9. San Diego Chargers (8-6) – A pretty good team who’s just getting eaten alive by their schedule.
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) – What is this, the 8th week in a row where the team that’s played the Seahawks has lost the next week?  That’s kinda ridiculous, isn’t it?
  11. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) – Ravens gonna cakewalk backwards into the playoffs this year.  Face Houston’s third string QB next week, then Johnny JamBoogie and the hapless Browns in the final week.
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) – Steelers got a nice path to the playoffs.  Could knock out the Chiefs next week and the Bengals the week after.  Both games in Pittsburgh, so you gotta like that if you’re a Steelers fan.  Especially considering how you just trounced the Bengals two weeks ago.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) – They’re technically the division leader now by a half game, but stick a fork in ‘em.  Home against the Broncos, then at the Steelers.  That’s got 0-2 written all over it.  Thanks for playing 2014 NFL football!
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) – The Chiefs missed out on the playoffs when they lost at Oakland last month.  They finish at Pittsburgh and vs. San Diego.  No way they’re able to put up points with the Steelers.
  15. Buffalo Bills (8-6) – You know what, Bills?  I don’t really believe in you, but you beat the Packers for us, so you get to hang out in the Winner’s Bracket for a week.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Sorry, Dolphins.  Teams who play their head coaches out of jobs don’t get to be ranked among the winners (plus, you know, it helps if you have a winning record and everything).
  2. San Francisco 49ers (7-7) – Knocked ‘em out of the playoffs.  Got their douchebag head coach fired.  Finally convinced them Colin Kaepernick isn’t a starting quarterback in this league.  What a great weekend!
  3. St. Louis Rams (6-8) – Another year of being moderately scary, another year with a record not over .500.
  4. Houston Texans (7-7) – Well, it was a fun ride while it lasted.  Now, go find yourselves a quarterback.
  5. Cleveland Browns (7-7) – Seriously, Johnny JamBoogie, your money sign with the hands is idiotic when you haven’t done a fucking thing in this league.
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-8) – Honestly, this team is better than I could have expected, given their best player was lost for the year and they’re breaking in a rookie quarterback.
  7. New Orleans Saints (6-8) – I can’t wait for the Saints to host the Cardinals in the first round, followed by the Saints beating the Cardinals’ third string quarterback, followed by the Saints coming BACK to Seattle in the Divisional Round so we can crush them once again!
  8. Atlanta Falcons (5-9) – I just honestly don’t know what to say about this NFC South.  Was the NFC West in 2010 THIS bad?  I’m asking for real; I can’t tell because I’m too close to the situation.
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) – They host Cleveland and go to Atlanta.  If Cam Newton comes back, you never know.
  10. Chicago Bears (5-9) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  11. New York Giants (5-9) – Yeah, whatever.
  12. Washington Redskins (3-11) – Total shitshow.
  13. New York Jets (3-11) – Way to screw yourselves out of the #1 pick.
  14. Oakland Raiders (2-12) – Okay.
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) – Uh huh.
  16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) – Fucking irritating team.  WHY ARE YOU STILL PLAYING MCCOWN???
  17. Tennessee Titans (2-12) – You are one pathetic loser!

Husky Basketball Keeps On Chooglin’

The Huskies have played just one game since their big win over San Diego State.  The big win that finally got us back in the world of the ranked basketball teams.  The big win that spells great things for our post-season chances.

That one game was on Sunday, at home, against Eastern Washington.  Doesn’t sound like much, right?  I mean, the Big Sky Conference?  Come on.  But, like the dogfight the Husky football team found itself in with Eastern earlier this year, the basketball team was in a similarly-contested fuckfest.  The difference this time, however, is Eastern figures to be in the NCAA tournament this year (or, at least, be a major contender for its conference’s automatic bid, if not a contender for an at-large bid).  They’re a Top 50 RPI opponent, and those are always the ones you want to win, no matter how small of a school.

Going into this game, you knew it was going to be vastly different than the defensive snoozefest that was the San Diego State game.  Eastern can shoot the ball, they like to run, and they’ve got scorers at pretty much all positions.  Indeed, the Huskies struggled to keep pace early, going into halftime down 11.

That’s when the stars of the team took over.  As usual, the Huskies leaned heavily on Andrews and NWG, who put up 18 & 19 points respectively.  Both players were relatively cold in the first half, but ended up hitting some big shots down the stretch to seal the deal.

The star of the game, though, was Robert Upshaw.  The Huskies saw what’s possible when you unleash the big man and let him start to play more extended minutes (26 in this game, which is a season high).  He still didn’t find himself starting in the second half, but after a few minutes, he played the duration (sitting out a couple of late possessions, as he’s a free throw liability).  Upshaw finished with 21 points (8 of 10 from the field, almost exclusively right around the basket), 9 rebounds, and 6 blocks.  And OH MY GOD, were those blocks impressive!

I missed quite a bit of the first half, but it sounded like Eastern was hot from the perimeter.  Which is why the second half was so shocking, because it seemed to me that the Eagles were making a concerted effort to drive the lane and attack Upshaw on a near-constant basis.  I don’t know if that was our defense funnelling them to the paint, or if that was a conscious decision they made, but it was foolish and ultimately cost them the game.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Eastern probably wanted to try to get Upshaw into foul trouble.  Needless to say, he’s the best defensive big man we’ve got on the team.  Shawn Kemp Jr. didn’t fare very well in this game, and overall hasn’t had a huge impact in the last few games.  And Jernard Jarreau saw his minutes cut drastically in this game, with Upshaw being so effective.  Upshaw did have a couple fouls in the first half within a few minutes of one another that probably cut into his minutes.  But, guess what:  he ended up the game with two fouls, while playing almost all of the second half.

That’s the thing that will take some time for people to understand:  Robert Upshaw isn’t a walking foul-out like most big men we’ve had in years past.  He’s very balanced, very poised, and able to keep his position without biting on ball fakes all the time.  Truly, he’s the most remarkable defensive big man I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform.  He’s got the size everyone covets.  He’s got the long arms.  But, this was really the game that put me on notice:  Robert Upshaw is FOR SURE an NBA player.  If he can develop even a small semblance of a post game, he’s going to go far in the league.  That, and I suppose improved free throw shooting.

The Huskies often found themselves behind in the second half, down anywhere from three to ten points.  It seemed like every time we went on a run to get it close, they’d counter with some crazy shot to balloon it back out.  If the Huskies were going to win that game, they had one shot, and it was at the charity stripe.  We put the Eagles into foul trouble pretty early on in the second half, which was the way to go.  Drive the lane, draw fouls, get to the line.  Slow the game down, get some cheap points, and wear them down with your superior talent.  Which is what the Huskies did, but we SUCKED at free throws.  Upshaw finished 5 of 14 from the line, but I think he started out something like 2 for his first 10.  We eventually turned our team percentage back to respectable, going 24 of 37 overall, but that required a massive effort out of our starting guards (Andrews, NWG, and Mike Anderson) going a combined 17 of 19.  We’ll need Upshaw and Kemp to be better at the line this year if we don’t want to kick away games we should probably win.

Overall, though, that’s a pretty small criticism.  I’d be much more upset if I’m an Eagles fan.  Aside from constantly targeting Upshaw being the losing battle that it was, their guys were jacking up some RIDICULOUS threes from about 30 feet, fading away.  I know, if you’re a Big Sky school, going into an opposing Pac-12 arena, you’ve got to have some hot shooting luck on your side, but they almost had as many airballs as they did made threes (finishing 10 of 30 overall from behind the arc).  As it stood, the Eagles’ free throw shooting really gave them their best shot in this thing (they finished 17 of 21 at the line, which is VERY impressive for a smaller school on the road).

The Huskies find themselves 8-0 and #16 in the nation (up one spot from last week).  We play Grambling State tomorrow, before a neutral-site game against Oklahoma on Saturday.  Overall, we’ve got just four more non-conference games before we face Cal on January 2nd.  The Sooners are 15th in the nation, and will be the biggest challenge before we go into conference play.  If we manage to win these next four games, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see us approach the Top 10.  Even if we slip up on Saturday, if we can pull out the other three games, we should at the very least head into Pac-12 play as a ranked team, which is good for everyone.

Seahawks Say “Bye Felicia” To The 49ers

Can there be a more satisfying victory in sports, than to vanquish your most hated rival at the nadir of their very existence?

Kicking them when they’re down?  Please.  We knocked ‘em out and took a dump on ‘em while they were down!

It feels so amazing to know that the Seahawks have essentially ended the 49ers’ season twice in the same calendar year, in the city of Seattle.  So, how did we do it?  Well, how do we ever do it?  Punishing defense and just enough on offense.

This one was a little touch and go there in the first half.  The 49ers had a 7-3 lead and the Seahawks hadn’t really done much of anything on offense.  I figured it was only a matter of time before we got on the touchdown train, but there was a concern that maybe they’d have too big of a lead to overcome.

We just needed to go into halftime reasonably close.  That was the key.  In the first half, the 49ers were pretty much having their way with us on the ground.  Granted, Kaepernick never really found his footing, but this had the potential to be a game where all he’d need to do was make a play or two and they’d have us by the balls.  If we could just get into halftime without too big of a deficit, I was CONVINCED we’d be able to make the adjustments to slow them down on offense and let us get back into this game.

The offense started to move the ball better midway through the second quarter.  Costly penalties had prevented us from taking advantage.  But, finally, in our two-minute offense, we were able to get back into 49ers territory.  We were guaranteed at least a field goal opportunity if we didn’t royally fuck up.  With 8 seconds left, on third down from right around the 30 yard line, the Seahawks opted to take one last crack at the endzone.  With no time outs left.  I’m not gonna lie to you, part of me wanted us to just kick that field goal on third down, but there’s no way I would’ve expected the interception.

My heart stopped.  Once Eric Reid got toward the sideline, he had a convoy.  The only Seahawk in the screen was Little Russell Wilson, who SURELY would be swallowed up whole like Pinocchio in the belly of the whale.  This was going to be a 10-point swing, turning what should’ve been a 7-6 barnburner into a 14-3 runaway.  And yet, I don’t know how he did it, but Wilson threw his body into the fray, slowing the runner down just enough for someone else to run in there and make the tackle.  End of half, relatively minor harm done.  7-3.  We could work with this.

In the second half, you could see it all overwhelm the 49ers.  Our defensive adjustments resulted in slowing down their running game.  We also found our ability to pressure the quarterback.  On top of that, injuries really doomed this game from a 49er perspective.  Most notably was the loss of both running backs, Frank Gore (who scored their lone touchdown) and Carlos Hyde (who was their most productive runner).  Once they were out of the game, and our offense stopped bungling all of our opportunities, things got a lot more comfortable for Seahawks fans.

The key of the game very well could have been the hit on Wilson that sustained our drive and resulted in a touchdown two plays later.  It didn’t look to me that the defender hit Wilson with the crown of his helmet, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?  Besides that, even if we kick a field goal there, we’re still up 13-7 with most of the fourth quarter to go.  I don’t know if that changes much of anything about the 49ers’ subsequent clock-killer drive.  I think they still end up turning it over on downs, and I think we still end up winning that game.  But, if this is something that’s going to drive 49ers fans crazy until next season, then by all means THANK YOU refs!  It’s about time we got a call in our favor!  Shit, I’m tired of dining out on the Fail Mary all the time …

With this win, combined with the Packers losing over in Buffalo of all places, the Seahawks have the inside track on a first round BYE.  Here’s what you need to know:  if the Seahawks win at Arizona next Sunday night, followed by at home in Week 17 against the Rams, we’ll have one of the top two seeds.

If it’s just Seattle and Dallas tied at 12-4 going into the playoffs, then the Cowboys will have the top seed and we’ll be #2.  However, if Seattle and Dallas are also tied with either the Packers or the Lions (they both can’t finish with 12-4 records, because they play one another in the final week of the season), then Seattle will take the top seed due to having a better record against common opponents.  In this scenario, hilariously, the Cowboys would actually fall to the 3-seed and play in the Wild Card round (where they belong, if I’m being honest).

All you need to know is:  if the Seahawks win out, good things will happen.  But, here’s something to keep in mind for Week 16:

  • Green Bay plays at Tampa; should be an easy Packers win
  • Detroit plays at Chicago; that’s a toss-up right now, but you figure the Lions SHOULD win
  • Dallas hosts Indianapolis.  I don’t know if the Colts have a whole lot to play for, since they have lost to both Denver and New England, so they’re probably out of the running for a first round BYE

The great thing is, we don’t necessarily NEED the Cowboys to lose that game, if both the Packers and Lions manage to win theirs.  If the Packers and Lions win next week, we’re virtually guaranteed that one of them will be 12-4 at season’s end (unless, of course, that week 17 matchup ends in a tie, causing my brain to explode).

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s go to the kudos:

Bobby Wagner, led the team in tackles once again.  He also had a sack, a QB hit, and two tackles for loss.  Monster game all around.

Earl Thomas was a life-saver, especially in the first half when the 49ers were gashing us on some runs.  If Thomas wasn’t there to clean up our messes, they might’ve really run up a big lead.

Jordan Hill, two more sacks!  This guy is seriously making me happy.  He’s looking more and more like a diamond in the rough of our 2013 draft class.

K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, and Kevin Williams each tallied a sack.  The pressure was pretty non-existent in the first half, but they more than made up for it in the second half.

Kearse had a solid game, Baldwin had a couple big catches, and Paul Richardson had his first career TD.  Not a lot of passing in this one, but they caught the ones that counted.

Pretty iffy game out of Russell Wilson, with 50% completions and that ugly interception.  There were some other overthrows and otherwise off-target passes, but I’m going to give him a passing (!) grade on this one because people were giving him grief for some reason over his performance last week against the Eagles, and because he managed to break up that convoy on the interception return.  Most quarterbacks don’t make that play.  Russell Wilson and his never-give-up attitude is a rare breed, and we’re lucky to have him.

The Seahawks Have A Job To Do

Well, the Rams really could’ve done us a solid last night.  But, instead they decided to shit the bed, smear the shit all around trying to half-assedly clean it up, then covered it with the comforter to try to hide the fact that they shit the bed.  But you know, and I know, and the Rams know, that the room still smells like shit and it’s only a matter of time before the maid comes in and discovers what the Rams have done, but by then we’ll be on a plane back home and …

I forget where I was going with this.  Let me back up.

The Cardinals just beat the hapless Rams last night.  In St. Louis.  Bumping them up to 11 wins and for all intents and purposes comfortably IN the playoffs in some capacity.  And now they get 10 days to prepare for us to come to town, but that’s a post for another week.

Right now, we’ve got some business to take care of.  Some trash to take outside.  Some lawn to fertilize.  The 49ers are in town this weekend, reeling from back-to-back losses to the Seahawks on Thanksgiving, and the Raiders last week.  They’re 7-6 and, I believe, will be eliminated from the playoffs with one final death blow.

The 49ers aren’t a good team.  I don’t need to tell YOU that, but I will, because it’s so much fun.  It’s so much fun to watch Jim Harbaugh struggle.  To watch his house of cards tumble all around him.  Yes, these 49ers lost to the lowly Raiders.  Yes, they were held to 3 points by a resurgent Seahawks defense.  But, keep going back, you’ll notice a delightful trend.  Like a hard-fought 4-point victory at home against RGIII and the Redskins (the since-benched RGIII, that is).  Like another hard-fought 6-point victory against the Giants.  Like an overtime win against the ridiculous Saints.  Like a 3-point loss at home to the Rams.  It goes on and on.  Their most-impressive wins are either Week 1 at Dallas, or Week 4 at home against the Eagles.  And, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s not September anymore.

Remember at the start of the season when we looked at these three games specifically – at Frisco, at Philly, back home vs. Frisco – as the most difficult games of the year?  And then, when we lumped the Cardinals into the mix, grudgingly accepting them as a threat even while keeping our doubts about us, marking this 5-game stretch as not only critical, but possibly lethal to our chances?  AND LOOK AT US NOW!  We are in a VERY solid position to go 5-0 in this stretch, as long as we can stay healthy and continue T’ing C of B.

Just two weeks ago, the Seahawks held the 49ers to 3 points in their home stadium.  What has changed?  Nothing has changed.  In fact, the Seahawks are looking HEALTHIER than they were two weeks ago, as there’s a 50/50 chance Max Unger returns this week.  He’s been practicing, after all, so we’ll see.

In that last game, we held them to 164 yards and 4/11 on third down.  We took the time of possession by a good ten minutes and, in spite of giving them an 85-yard edge in penalties, we still dominated them in every facet of the game.

Now … the game is being played here.  In Seattle.  Where the 49ers have not only struggled in recent years, but they’ve been laughed off the face of the fucking Earth.  Usually it’s blowouts.  Obviously, in the NFC Championship Game last year, instead of a blowout, we were able to treat them to a heartbreaking, demoralizing finish.  Either way, the 49ers haven’t had success here in the Russell Wilson Era.  So, what makes you think they’re going to have success this weekend?  When they’re in the middle of their worst stretch of play since Jim Harbaugh was hired, while at the same time our defense is back to its 2013 level?

Am I the only one who thinks this is a no-brainer?  Obviously, I’m not, because Vegas has pushed the spread on this game to over 10 points, the last time I checked.  It’s the most the Seahawks have ever been favored over the 49ers since Pete Carroll has come to town.

I’m pretty comfortable in saying the Seahawks are going to win comfortably.  The only way I can see them keeping it close is if we’re sloppy with the football, giving it away and whatnot.  If our offense is struggling the way the Rams struggled to move the football last night, then maybe I could see the 49ers hanging around.  But, we’re not employing Shaun Hill and the Loser Brigade.  We’ve got Russell “Always Finds A Way” Wilson.  Even if we struggle in the red zone again, we should be able to put up enough field goals to make this a laugher, with the way our defense has been rolling.

The 49ers are the least of my concerns.  They’re a beached whale gasping its dying breaths.  Colin Kaepernick has regressed to the point where he can’t get out of his own way and stop turning the ball over on ill-conceived throws.  Michael Crabtree is so far below mediocre, you could pull a man off the street and get blanket coverage.  Frank Gore is on his way out of the league.  The offensive line is a mess.  Their linebackers are all backups on any other team.  They have a little shred of respectability in their run defense, and some marginal talent in their secondary.  But, my money is on the Seahawks having their way with them.

It’s going to be a great day on Sunday.  We’ll close the book on the 2014 San Francisco 49ers.  We’ll be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Jim Harbaugh’s reign with that team.  And, we might be looking at one of the last days of Colin Kaepernick:  Franchise Quarterback.  If he doesn’t get out of the tailspin he’s been in, you could be looking at a career-backup for some other team.

I wonder how he’d feel about playing behind Russell Wilson for pennies on the dollar …

The Huskies Are Playing In The Cactus Bowl

Lost in all the excitement of literally anything else is the fact that the Huskies have themselves a bowl game!  On Friday, January 2nd, at 7:15pm, the Washington Huskies will travel to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

The 8-5 Huskies went 4-5 in the Pac-12, finishing 8th overall.  We had the worst record among bowl-eligible teams in the conference.  But, this is the 21st Century, and they can’t give away these bowl openings fast enough!  It’s not quite Everybody Gets A Ribbon Day, but it’s close.

Nevertheless, consider it a positive, because we get an extra however-many practices with our guys to prepare them for the game in just over three weeks.  That’s valuable experience for our returning players for next season.

As for the matchup itself, I dunno.  The Cowboys are apparently in a “down year” or a “rebuilding year” or whatever.  They wouldn’t even BE here if they hadn’t beaten 20th ranked Oklahoma in overtime, in their final game of the season.  Other than that, they lost every game they played against ranked opponents (which was actually quite a lot; they faced Florida State, TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State, and Baylor).  That’s gotta be one of the more difficult schedules I’ve seen anyone play in a long time!  On the one hand, you could say they’re battle tested, but in almost all of those tough games, they lost by double digits.  As it stands, they’re probably an equal foe to the Huskies, and this should be a pretty good game.

Overall, they don’t do much on offense, and are even worse on defense.  Their QB play is a little iffy, their running backs don’t look too crazy, and there’s not really any dominant receiver to worry about.  The Huskies have all the talent in the world on defense, and with the extra preparation time, we should be able to hold them down pretty good.

On the flipside, it’s all about offensive execution for the Huskies.  Can we run the ball?  Can we push the ball down field through the air?  Can we limit mistakes?  Ultimately, I think we can, and I think this has a chance to be a walk-over for the Huskies.

As for the game itself, let’s just thank our lucky stars we got a good spot in the lineup.  Granted, it’ll be after 10pm on the East coast when the game starts, but who gives a shit about the East coast?  We’ve got a Friday night slot the day after New Year’s.  I don’t know about you, but I like having sports on the television on Friday nights, so this game is going to be right in my wheelhouse.

The rest of the Pac-12 games start on the first Bowl day of the season, December 20th, with Utah facing off against Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Then, on the 27th, ASU goes up against Duke in the Sun Bowl, and later that night USC faces Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.  On Tuesday the 30th, Stanford takes on Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl (what?).  And, on New Year’s Eve, we’ve got Arizona going up against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.  Then, of course, there’s Oregon/Florida State in the opening round of the playoff on New Year’s Day.  Wrapping it up, playing right before the Huskies on the 2nd, we have UCLA vs. Kansas State.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I see some really good things out of the Pac-12 this bowl season.  Except, of course, for Oregon, who I hope goes down hard.  I’d even be willing to listen to everyone suck the SEC’s dick for another decade if we can keep the Ducks from winning a national championship.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 14

I think, regardless as to how it plays out, as a fan you’re always happy when your team is able to win its division.  You’re ecstatic when your team is able to finagle its way into a first round BYE.  And, you’re on cloud nine when you’ve got home field throughout the playoffs.

At this point, I wouldn’t put a lot of confidence in Seattle’s chances at getting that top seed in the NFC.  Even if we win out – which I DO have a lot of confidence in us achieving – we’ve got the Cowboys and the Packers to contend with.  The Packers have 3 losses with 3 games to play:  at Buffalo, at Tampa, and at home vs. Detroit.  It’s certainly not IMPOSSIBLE for the Bills to beat the Packers, but it would go down as a VERY big shock to the NFL landscape.  It would require an uncharacteristically bad game out of Aaron Rodgers and/or an early game-ending injury out of Aaron Rodgers.  So, for your sanity, just count on that being a win for the Packers.  Tampa is about as hapless as it gets, so don’t even go there.  That puts the onus on the Lions in week 17, playing in the frozen climate that is Green Bay.  Certainly, the Lions have the best chances of anyone to beat the Packers in this regular season slate, but don’t be shocked if they fall short.

Then, there’s Dallas.  Yes, the Tony Romo & Jerry Jones & Jason Garrett-led Cowboys.  I know they’re the laughingstock of the league (non-Bay Area edition) and that they always fall apart in December and are the kings of mediocrity, but they’re a thorn in our side and they’re driving me crazy.

They have a tiebreaker over us based on our head-to-head matchup, because we somehow let them come into our home and walk all over us.  The ONLY reason why we’re in the playoffs right now and they’re not (if the season ended today) is because Detroit also shares a 9-4 record with us.  In a 3-way tiebreaker with the Lions and Cowboys, we come out ahead on wins in common games and conference games.  But, if the Lions fall out of that 3-way tie, then the first tiebreaker immediately reverts to head-to-head matchup, which as I said before, Dallas wins.

That’s a problem!  While the Cowboys have the most difficult remaining schedule (at least, in my opinion) the rest of the way (at Philly, vs. Indy, at Washington), it’s not impossible for them to win those games.  Philly has flaws (as we just witnessed), Indy has flaws (as the Browns just exposed), and the Redskins are terrible.  If Dallas wins out, and Seattle wins out, and Green Bay wins out, then we’re looking at Green Bay & Dallas as the NFC’s top two seeds, with the Seahawks hosting either the Lions, Eagles, or Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs (sending us to Dallas in round 2 if we were to win, followed by a road trip to Green Bay or back to Seattle against either the winner of the NFC South or whoever comes away with the 5-seed in the NFC Championship Game).

It’s discouraging that the Seahawks don’t control their own fate beyond the NFC West.  Everyone just ASSUMES the Cowboys will lose a game between now and season’s end, but that’s far from guaranteed.  Ideally, we’re going to need Philly to win at home against the Cowboys this week, otherwise things might get VERY hairy.

But, getting back to my original point, as a Seahawks fan, you just want to see the Seahawks get in.  Of course, it’s better to have that first round BYE, but it’s by no means ALL IMPORTANT for the Seahawks to have that in order to advance to the Super Bowl.

The two Super Bowl teams in franchise history have had the luxury of home field advantage throughout.  That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, as it’s pretty fucking difficult for teams to come in here and win.  But, there’s something to be said for being a team that can win the tough ones on the road.  If things go as planned, and the Seahawks win out, we will finish the season 7-1 at home and 5-3 on the road.  I know, it’s not like we’re talking about big time road warriors or anything; but if the Seahawks who lost in St. Louis and San Diego (and Kansas City, for that matter) were playing as well as THESE Seahawks have been playing against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Eagles, you’d be looking at a team that’s cruising into the top overall seed.  In any event, the Seahawks have won twice in a row on the road against supposedly really good teams.  It took a bunch of flukey shit for us to lose in St. Louis.  We were pretty injured for that Chiefs game.  And it was 120 degrees in San Diego way back in week 2.  If you shuffled this year’s schedule like a deck of cards and caught some of these teams during their weaker moments, who knows where we’d be right now?

The point is, I like that the Seahawks are looking at having another winning road record.  I like the fact that CenturyLink Field has already been demystified by losses to the Cardinals late last year, and to the Cowboys earlier this year.  We’re NOT just a team that’s impossible to beat at home!  We’re a well-rounded team that can win anywhere, at any time of day.  Under the white lights of a national audience, we only get stronger.  You can’t say that about everyone.  I mean, shit, the Cowboys are only 3-4 at home!  Who’s afraid of going to Dallas to play THEM in the playoffs?  That atmosphere is as sterile and impotent as anything Santa Clara has to offer, with all the comforts of being in a climate-controlled environment.  Shit, at this point, that sounds a HELLUVA lot more inviting than playing under potential rainstorms in Seattle!

Regardless, these Seahawks are a scary bunch.  No one in football wants to play us at our best.  Don’t forget, when you’re talking about the Seahawks, you’re talking about the Champs.  The target is still on us, remember?  Except, it’s really not.  Not anymore.  So many people (Seahawks fans included, myself especially included) wrote off this team earlier this year.  They’re still focused on Green Bay and the big dogs in the AFC.  And yet, if you really think about it, where does the pressure lay?  The Packers can’t afford to lose another game, otherwise they might fall out of the top 2 seeds.  The Cowboys can’t afford to lose another game, otherwise they might fall out of the playoffs entirely.  Same goes for the Eagles, Cardinals, and Lions.  And sure, the Seahawks are in danger if they screw up somehow, but does anyone REALLY see that happening?

The 49ers are a Chernobyl right now.  The Cards have their hands full tomorrow in St. Louis, with another road game in Santa Clara sandwiching a home game against us; color me unimpressed with Arizona’s so-called home field advantage.  Don’t forget, we handled them pretty easily down there last year.  Then, in week 17, we get our usual home date with the Rams.  The Seahawks don’t lose at home to the Rams in week 17, it just isn’t DONE!

Yes, the Seahawks could use some help around the NFC to get one of those top two seeds, but I’m not going to go out and say they NEED help.  The Seahawks are in control of their own fate regardless.  Two playoff games before the Super Bowl or three playoff games before the Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter.  The Seahawks ARE going to the Super Bowl, and it seems like we’re the only people who know it.

***

  1. Green Bay Packers (10-3) – Some things are even more powerful than my first-place jinx.  And those things are the Atlanta Falcons and their defensive ineptitude.
  2. Denver Broncos (10-3) – This running the ball horseshit needs to end now, or else I’m going to be 2001 Mariners’d out of the fantasy football playoffs this year.  Gonna need Sanders to have a nice, big game this week.
  3. New England Patriots (10-3) – Getting a lot of heat this week about a possible Seahawks/Patriots Super Bowl.  Not gonna lie to you, I’d be for it.  Over/under on the times people use variations on the phrase U Mad Bro?:  7 million.  I’m taking the over.
  4. Seattle Seahawks (9-4) – Number four with a bullet!  To be frank, I think the Seahawks could beat any team in the nation right now, the way the defense is playing.  But, there has to be a penalty for that mid-season swoon.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Every team from here on down has serious flaws that will cost them in the playoffs.  I can’t trust their defense, and I still think Luck is a little too mistake-prone for comfort.
  6. Detroit Lions (9-4) – The defense is solid, but the offense is oddly inept.  It’d be pretty rad to see the Lions match up with the Seahawks in the playoffs, though.
  7. San Diego Chargers (8-5) – I don’t much care for their defense or their running game.  I also don’t much care for their remaining schedule; they’re by no means a lock to make the playoffs.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) – Obviously, there are issues at quarterback and in the secondary.  Just need them to take care of business this week and after that, who gives a shit?
  9. Arizona Cardinals (10-3) – Again, big time trouble at quarterback.  Only, they don’t have Nick Foles possibly looming on the horizon to save them.
  10. Dallas Cowboys (9-4) – Very good up and down on offense.  But, Tony Romo’s struggles have to be in the back of your mind at all times.
  11. Baltimore Ravens (8-5) – Easiest remaining schedule of the bunch in the AFC North.  Gotta like their chances to run the table.  Plus, their defense should get healthy come playoff time.  Scary team in the AFC, to be honest.
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) – Too up & down to be threatening.
  13. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) – Just not that good.
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) – Even worse than the Bengals, if that’s possible.
  15. Miami Dolphins (7-6) – Probably needs a quality head coach.  Wouldn’t mind seeing Jim Harbaugh there next season if I’m a Dolphins fan.
  16. San Francisco 49ers (7-6) – Obviously time for a change.  They should see if they can trade Harbaugh & Kaepernick to the Dolphins for Tannehill and a mid-round pick.

The Loser’s Bracket:

  1. St. Louis Rams (6-7) – Honestly:  the team I fear the most in the Seahawks’ remaining three games.
  2. Houston Texans (7-6) – At worst, they’ll be 8-8.  At best, probably 9-7 and on the outside looking in at a playoff spot.
  3. Buffalo Bills (7-6) – At best, they’ll be 8-8.  At worst, at least they’re staying in Buffalo and have discontinued those awful Toronto “home” games.
  4. Cleveland Browns (7-6) – Good GOD is Hoyer a fucking disaster!  I’ve seen paper airplanes made by 6 year olds fly with better accuracy than his footballs!  Also, don’t ask what I’m doing around 6 year olds with paper airplanes.  NO COMMENT.
  5. Minnesota Vikings (6-7) – Pretty brutal schedule the rest of the way, but at least it looks like they’ve got the best rookie quarterback of the bunch this year.  That’s not nothing!
  6. Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – Don’t blame the Falcons for losing to the Packers.  After all, they did us a solid by taking out the Cards.  You can’t expect them to do EVERYTHING for us.
  7. Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) – I, uh, yeah.  I dunno.  They got home games against Tampa and Cleveland before a road game in Atlanta.  The Falcons’ other games are home against Pittsburgh and at New Orleans.  The Saints go to Chicago and Tampa for their other two games.  I’ve got the Panthers at 6-9-1, the Falcons at 6-10, and the Saints at 7-9 (with an outside shot of them also losing at Tampa, which would be the ultimate fuck you to the NFL playoff system).
  8. New Orleans Saints (5-8) – Hello darkness, my old friend.
  9. Chicago Bears (5-8) – They’re really blowing the last good years of Matt Forte’s career.  You hate to see it.
  10. New York Giants (4-9) – With Eli, ODB, and maybe an explosive running back in next year’s draft, we could see the Giants turning this thing around as early as next year.  Watch out, America.
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) – Look, it’s pretty obvious that they’re angling for Marcus Mariota, and I for one hope they get him.  My question is:  do I go out of my way to draft Mariota next year in fantasy?  I play in a QB-heavy keeper league, so the answer to this question is kind of important.
  12. Washington Redskins (3-10) – If they’re smart, they’ll cut RGIII loose, fire Jay Gruden, and hang Dan Snyder with piano wire.
  13. New York Jets (2-11) – Can you imagine if there was a Ryan brother who focused exclusively on being an offensive coordinator?  Would every play be a Hail Mary?
  14. Oakland Raiders (2-11) – OK, you beat the 49ers, so you’re solid in my book.
  15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) – Blake Bortles or no Blake Bortles, if the Jags get the number one pick, I still say they continue to go after a quarterback until they get it right.
  16. Tennessee Titans (2-11) – You are one pathetic loser!

The Huskies Are Back, Baby! (Men’s Basketball Edition)

It’s been a while since the Huskies beat a ranked non-conference opponent.  In fact, you have to go all the way back to Tuesday, December 22, 2009, at home against Texas A&M.  You MIGHT remember that game as the one where that one guy (Derrick Roland) broke his leg in a freak accident under the basket, ending his college career.  You might remember that season as the last time the Huskies made the NCAA Tournament (but you’d be wrong; the Huskies made it to the Tourney in 2011 as well; though this was the last time the Huskies made it to the Sweet 16).

We’re talking FIVE years since the Huskies have had a victory as big as the one on Sunday night, against 13th ranked San Diego State.

Since that A&M game, we’ve played seven ranked non-conference opponents and have lost them all.  It’s the primary reason why we haven’t gone to the NCAA Tournament in so long (especially in 2011-2012, when we won the regular season conference title, but were bounced down to the NIT).  I’ll be honest, I’ve thought all along that this team is the best one we’ve had around here in a while, but when I heard about the Aztecs and how good they are on defense, I had my doubts.  I thought it’d be close, but I figured they’d have the horses to pull away.

So, imagine my surprise at the beatdown we laid on them Sunday!  We held them to 15 points in the first half, and 36 points overall.  It was truly remarkable and it’s put the Huskies back on the map in a big way!

Granted, it wasn’t the prettiest of games.  You don’t watch two teams play a basketball game, with neither being able to surpass 50 points, and say to yourself, “My, that was an enjoyable exhibition of athletic prowess!”  But, I would argue, this also wasn’t just a game full of wildly crazy shots being bricked up.  You saw a notoriously good defensive team in San Diego State go head to head with an underratedly good defensive team in Washington.  And, on this day, the Huskies came out on top.

I absolutely cannot say enough good things about Robert Upshaw.  This kid is a stud through and through.  He tacked on another 4 blocks to go with 7 rebounds and 7 points in an all-around dominant performance.  When the Huskies go to their 2-3 zone with him in the middle making life miserable for anyone who dares enter his airspace, it’s just lethal.  Robert Upshaw is where basketballs go to die.  I’m honestly giddy at this point, because we’ve NEVER had a big man with his height, his adeptness around the hoop, his athleticism, and his hands.  What’s more, he’s not a foul-out waiting to happen, he’s able to block shots to teammates (as opposed to the showy blocks out of bounds that tend to get the fans all excited, but ultimately don’t help your team quite as much), and he can hit the occasional free throw.  This here is a complete player who certainly has the ability to play in the NBA if he keeps progressing.

I can’t tell you how huge this is.  The Huskies have needed a quality big man for the last half decade, and now they’ve finally got him.  Right now, he’s not starting, but I wouldn’t expect that to hold forever.  Either way, with Kemp producing at a high level, it’s a good problem to have.  When they’re both on the floor at the same time, inside scoring is nearly impossible.  When just one of them is on the floor, you don’t really miss a beat.

In this early going, the Huskies are relying on their three bigs (lump Jarreau into the mix) and their starting back-court in Williams-Goss and Andrews.  In the game against the Aztecs, NWG and Andrews combined for 28 of 49 points, with each of them hitting critical threes at the most opportune times.  San Diego State never really had a chance to get back into this game, because whenever they even thought about going on a run, the Huskies had a response.

The offense is just plain better with NWG on the floor.  In this game, both he and Andrews played 36 of 40 minutes.  In the early going, Andrews is averaging a shade over 30 minutes per game and NWG is averaging even more, at a little over 34 minutes per.  They’re both amazing athletes who can probably handle the load, but you’d like to see those numbers come down just a little bit, if we want to keep them fresh for the long haul.  But, I can understand the over-reliance.  NWG is the engine.  The bench guys may develop into quality role players, but they’re going to need to build up experience and confidence.  Until they do that, we’re going to have to continue to lean heavily on the stars.

On the plus side, Mike Anderson is a quality role player right now.  He’s yet to really pour in the baskets, but he does enough of everything else to be one of those glue guys.  Hustles, plays solid defense, rebounds, can hit the occasional shot.  Then, we’ve got Donaven Dorsey and Quevyn Winters who – once they get acclimated to the game – have the potential to really rain down the shots from outside.  Once they get going, this Huskies team will be something special.

As for right now, we’ve got a 7-0 Huskies team that’s ranked 17th in the nation.  HOW ABOUT THAT???  In the eyes of the nation, we’re the third-best team in the Pac-12 behind #3 Arizona and #13 Utah.  This year couldn’t be going any better so far.

And, quite frankly, you won’t find many happier than myself.  I’ve been on the Romar bandwagon for the duration, even in these lean last couple of years when he wasn’t so popular.  When everyone was talking about getting rid of him.  Truth be told, Romar is my favorite head coach in any sport right now, and is probably on my own personal Mount Rushmore of Favorite Seattle Sports Head Coaches (with George Karl, Lou Piniella, and I gotta go with Pete Carroll over Holmgren because he actually brought us the championship).  No one deserves this success more than Romar, and I hope this is just the beginning of another epic run by the best Husky head coach in men’s basketball history.

The Seahawks Are Back, Baby!

In week 1, opening night of the season, the Seahawks thumped the Green Bay Packers:  who are now the consensus best team in the NFC and arguably the best team in football.  The Seahawks more or less controlled that game from the start; only relinquishing an early lead thanks to a turnover in Seattle territory.  It ended up being a drubbing the Seahawks won by 20 points.

Those were the Seahawks we knew and loved from 2013, even if a few of those players from last year were on other teams.  Those were the Seahawks we expected through the duration of the 2014 season.

Yet, one week later, the Seahawks went down to San Diego and got whupped.  The defense couldn’t do a damn thing, and the offense struggled just enough.  Following that, the Seahawks recovered at home, defeating the Broncos.  But, we let the Broncos rally late and force overtime.  Things just didn’t look right.

Then, we had the BYE week, then an ugly win in D.C., then an ugly defeat at home to the Cowboys, followed by a total mental collapse in St. Louis.  Those were the dark times, and I’m sure you remember them well.

I bring these up not only to show how far we’ve come in such a short period of time, but to marvel and wonder at HOW we’ve come all the way back.  To a point where we’re now playing even BETTER than we did way back in week 1!  The Seahawks have won 6 of their last 7 games, but when you look closer, things hadn’t totally recovered with the flip of a switch.  Winning in Carolina was a struggle.  Beating the Raiders at home turned out to be more than we bargained for.  Even in our 21-point victory over the Giants, we were tied going into the fourth quarter!

At that point, we’d won three in a row, and it would be reasonable to think maybe we’d gotten over our hangover.  But, then we turned around and got pasted by the Chiefs in Kansas City.  Yeah, the score was pretty close, but they ran the ball down our throats.  We were minus one Mebane and things were starting to look grim for our season, especially with five of six games remaining being played inside of our division.

And then, I guess Bobby Wagner came back and all of a sudden we’re world-beaters again?  Does that even make sense to anyone?  Granted, our defense looks rejuvenated.  I just never thought I’d be looking at Bobby Wagner as the most important player on this team.  But, apparently, it’s true.

It could have been easy to overlook our previous two victories – over the Cardinals and 49ers – as us catching them at the right time.  The offenses on those two teams are struggling more now than they have at any point prior.  So, there’s something of a Chicken/Egg argument to be made.  But, after mopping the floor with the Eagles, it’s safe to say the defense is back, and this team is poised to go on a big run.

This was the final test.  OK, fine, they’ve got Mark Sanchez at the helm, so it’s kind of like this “test” was an open-book, take-home test.  But, still.  He led the Eagles to four wins, including an impressive rout in Dallas on Thanksgiving.  And the Seahawks had let arguably worse quarterbacks have pretty solid days this season (Kirk Cousins throwing for 283 yards and 2 TDs, anyone?).  Sanchez or no Sanchez, the Eagles’ offense is mighty potent, and we made them look ridiculous.  Chip Kelly had more tantrums in front of the officials than the Eagles had first downs!  If it weren’t for a bungled snap to the punter and a goofy 35-yard TD pass over one of our linebackers, the Seahawks might have shut out the vaunted Chip Kelly Eagles.

And there I was, in total awe at the majesty of their offense!  I thought they could do no wrong; that they could plug in any quarterback and drop 35 like it was nothing.  Truth be told, I came away much more impressed with what they’re doing on defense.  That front seven is legit, against the run and the pass.  It’s no cakewalk scoring on the Eagles.

Of course, that’s nothing, because truly the most impressive unit in all of football is our Seahawks defense.

My first tip of the cap goes to Byron Maxwell for being everywhere.  That dude shut down more drives yesterday than anyone else on the team!  We already knew he’s a quality cornerback on the outside, but with Tharold Simon pushing him into the nickel, he’s proven to be just as dominant wherever he’s put.  Maxwell is going to be a VERY rich man next season (unfortunately, for some other team, I have to imagine).

Speaking of Simon, congratulations are in order for the kid’s first interception of his career!  Here’s to many more, as he continues to get picked on, with Richard Sherman playing on the other side of the field.  Bobby Wagner, of course, led the team in tackles and was all over the place.  Jordan Hill lived in the backfield, registering a sack, a hit, and a couple tackles for loss.  If this guy isn’t the new Clinton McDonald, I don’t know who is.  Michael Bennett was his usual dominant self, adding another sack to his season total.  And, add Marcus Burley to the sack train with a well-timed corner blitz!

Offensively, you have to start with Doug Baldwin having himself quite a day.  5 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.  Jermaine Kearse had himself quite a day, even if the numbers aren’t huge.  It’s nice to see the team force him the ball a little more.  Kearse strikes me as the team’s toughest receiver to bring to the ground, so if we’re bound and determined to not throw the WR screen to Richardson or our other speed guys, might as well go with Kearse and let him pinball his way to positive yardage.

The running game as a whole gets the nod here.  Just as it’s drawn up:  you establish the run early for it to pay dividends late.  It never fails, once the Seahawks are able to lean on an opponent with a lead in the second half, chunk yardage starts falling off the bone like so much delicious barbecue.

Finally, it wasn’t quite a 300-yard passing day, but Russell Wilson went 22/37 for 263 yards and 2 TDs.  Every week, we get a little bit closer to fully clicking on offense.  This week, we were able to move the ball on nearly every drive.  Sooner or later, it’s all going to lock in and we’ll be dropping 40-bombs.