Why I’m Freaking The Fudge Out About Super Bowl XLIX

I have this vague sense of feeling pretty at ease before last year’s Super Bowl.  The overwhelming majority of people had Denver winning the game pretty handily, everyone was sleeping on our defense, and quite frankly, everyone totally dismissed our offense’s ability to get the job done.  In that game, I just had this feeling that it would be less about our defense against their offense and more about our offense against their defense.

As it turned out, I was off-base, because our defense controlled that game from the coin toss, but I will argue that if Denver ever figured out how to score on us, our offense STILL would’ve made it a comfortable victory.  Either way, with how their defense was banged up, I know I was EXCITED for the game to finally start, and yeah in that excitement there’s some nervous energy because you’ve got a million What Ifs running around your head, but last year was a cake walk of a two weeks compared to this year.

This year, I haven’t been sleeping well, I’m fucking stressed out at work, and while I know what it’s going to take to BEAT this team, a pretty big part of me questions how we’re going to achieve it.

There are a couple big things in play that are giving me pause.  For starters, our defense just flat out isn’t as good as it was a year ago.  In that, I’m looking squarely at our pass rush.  It’s better than it was in 2012, but it can’t hold a flame to 2013.  What does that mean?  Well, for starters, we’ve never really locked down that LEO rush spot.  We’ve yet to really replace Chris Clemons and it’s biting us in the ass.  On passing downs, when they flip Avril to the other side and push Michael Bennett to defensive tackle (which worked so amazingly in 2013), we’ve got either Bruce Irvin or O’Brien Schofield coming from that LEO side, and for whatever reason it’s just not cutting it.  This is where, you know, maybe a Cassius Marsh going down for the year hurts you.  Not that it’s all that reasonable to expect total greatness out of a rookie mid-round pick, but he was spry with a high motor and very well could’ve developed right before our eyes if he stayed healthy.  Likewise, with our interior rush next to Bennett.  I’m not gonna lie to you, Bennett can’t do everything.  But, when Jordan Hill came on strong at the end of the season, we were a completely different team.  In those last six games, we dominated the line of scrimmage from our nickel sets, and I would be WAY more confident in our pass rush right now if he was still with us.

This is the thing:  when the Patriots finally fixed their offensive line woes, they had some of the best interior pass protection in the league.  How do you rattle a quarterback like Tom Brady – who isn’t all that mobile – and prevent him from doing what he wants to do?  You pressure him up the middle.  While Brady isn’t going to run your pants off, quarterbacks like him who’ve been around for as long as he has, playing at as high a level as he has, are adept at one thing:  stepping up into the pocket.  Too often of late – since Hill went down and we’ve been unable to replace him – our defensive ends have been pushed out wide, while our tackles get nothing done up front, allowing quarterbacks to step up and make their throws with perfect timing and arm strength.  If you chop off their ability to step up, they’re not going to get as much on their throws and – since they’re not going to scramble for too many first downs – you don’t have to worry about them running toward the sideline for big gains.  Tom Brady will run a little if there’s a clear hole up the middle where he can get a cheap 7-10 yards before sliding down safely.  He’s less inclined to run if he’s got to try to beat a guy to the edge; with the speed on our defense, that’s a fool’s errand anyway.  And, besides all of that, with an interior pass rush, if the tackles try to block our ends out wide, that allows our ends to get a swat at the ball or otherwise hit Brady, when he would have stepped up and avoided it if the interior rush doesn’t get home.

This is what’s keeping me up at night.  Tom Brady, standing in a relatively clean pocket for most of the game, carving us up.  Yeah, our secondary is good, but they’re not robots.  If we give Brady 4-8 seconds to throw, he’s GOING to find a man open at some point.

The other thing that’s keeping me up is simple:  how do we score?

Against Denver, I was pretty solid in my belief that we weren’t going to run for a ton.  Marshawn Lynch wasn’t going to bust out for 150 yards and multiple touchdowns.  But, I figured our receivers were more talented than people gave them credit for, and we’d maybe bust Wilson loose on some runs off the edge with their linebackers and defensive ends injured.

This year, where’s it coming from?  Where are we steadily going to get our offense from?  When you think of Bill Belichick as a game-planner, what do you think of first?  Obviously, egomaniacal cheater.  But, what’s the SECOND thing you think of?  Every game plan is different.  Unlike the Seahawks – who put out their best 11 against your 11, with the same concepts game-in and game-out, and just dare you to beat us – the Patriots tailor a game plan specifically for their opponent that week.  Or, in this case, for the last two weeks.  They’ve had TWO WEEKS to tailor a game plan to stop the one thing we do the best.  What’s that one thing?  Running the ball.  Specifically, running the ball with Marshawn Lynch, but I don’t necessarily think they’re entirely focused on just that one aspect.  I’m pretty sure they’re giving close to equal time to game-planning for Wilson’s scrambling ability and his ability to run off of the zone read.

If the Patriots put the bulk of their efforts in limiting our rushing ability, where are we going to get our yards?  Granted, it’s pretty unlikely that they stop us from running ENTIRELY, but if they hold us to a poor average and stick us with a bunch of 3rd & Longs, I think we’re fucked.

Doug Baldwin on Revis Island.  I don’t think Baldwin will be held without a catch, but honestly, it wouldn’t TOTALLY shock me.  If Baldwin catches five balls in this game, I’ll be beyond impressed.  That puts Kearse, where?  With Browner covering/manhandling him?

This is what I don’t like.  I hate going into a game not knowing where we’re going to get our production.  Usually, I’ve got a pretty good idea.  But, usually, we’re not going up against one of the three or five best cornerbacks in football.  I mean, probably our BEST matchup on offense is Luke Willson against whoever.  First, who wants to pin their hopes on Luke Willson not dropping three balls in this game?  Second, what if they stick Browner on him and neutralize him entirely?  Then, I’ve got to pin my hopes on Moeaki?  Helfet?  What kind of offense is that?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve felt worse going into a football game.

I feel like this is the type of game where their offense plays our defense to a draw, but it’s also the type of game where their defense completely out-plays us and we’re stuck scratching and clawing, trying to pull another miracle out of our asses late in the game.  No WAY lightning strikes twice in back to back weeks!

Either that, or our offense defies expectations, but because we can’t manage any sort of a pass rush, this game weirdly turns into a shootout with one team having the ball with two minutes left, down a score, and it going against us because fuck me I hate my life.

Last year, I wanted to savor every minute of the build-up to the game, so convinced was I that we’d get our first championship.  This year?  God, I almost just want it to be over.  I can’t savor a God damn thing!

One thing I’ve got going for me:  whatever is going on right now certainly beats being the Team of Destiny, going into the game knowing you’re going to win, and then getting knocked on your ass in a heartbreaking defeat of epic proportions.  A Seahawks victory in this game is going to be appreciated fifty times over compared to last year’s gingerly walk in the park.  The only thing is:  will my heart have enough juice to survive it all?

I’ve got more on the matchup coming up tomorrow.  Hopefully, I’ll have some better things to say about the Seahawks’ chances.

The Nonsense Surrounding Super Bowl XLIX

I don’t like calling them “distractions”, because I don’t really think the players give two shits about all the crap people talk about in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.  They may be in awe of the whole experience of just playing in the big game, but all this other stuff?  It’s not going to affect how they prepare, how they practice, and ultimately how they play the game.  Once we hit kickoff on Sunday, all of this will be immediately forgotten.  As it should.

Of course, the biggest, most inescapable story of these last two weeks has been the circus surrounding the New England Patriots and their under-inflated footballs.  I’ve been kind of passively following along with this bemused indifference, but I’m sure if I was a Pats fan I’d be outraged.  You’re telling me that instead of celebrating our great season, everything is going to be boiled down to some bullshit that ultimately didn’t even matter?

Well, you know what?  I’m sorry, but that’s too damn bad.  Because for starters, people STILL won’t let go of the whole Seadderall Seahawks thing, even though like half of those suspensions were for marijuana anyway, and aside from all of that, adderall has about as much impact on a football game as under-inflated balls.  So suck it, Patriots fans.  Eat a dick.  Also, your hands aren’t clean in the whole suspension for banned substances issue.  Just be glad no one gives a shit about Aaron Hernandez anymore, because I’m pretty sure murdering multiple people out-weighs a simple brain stimulant.

Am I as tired of the issue with the footballs as everyone else?  Of course.  But, it speaks to a larger issue, and that’s how the Patriots are pathological cheaters.  And what’s more:  they’re obviously TERRIBLE at it!  I know there probably aren’t a ton of ways you can cheat in this day and age, what with there being cameras everywhere, and with everyone capable of going on Twitter to rat out virtually anyone doing anything.  But, you’d think with Belichick being this so-called “genius”, he’d figure out a way to cover his tracks better.

Obviously, them spying on the Jets is the bigger of the two scandals, but this thing with the footballs constitutes a trend.  They absolutely deserved to be raked over the coals, even if it had no effect whatsoever in their crushing the Colts last week.  Don’t forget, we’re talking about a team whose only focus is the legacy of their head coach and quarterback.  Sure, they care about winning the championship, but they care for the wrong reasons.  The Seahawks want to win for themselves and their teammates.  The Patriots want to win so they can feel validated.  So the franchise can be considered the most elite.  They’re focused on nothing but the history books, while the Seahawks are living in the now.  That’s not nothing.

The second-biggest story of Super Bowl week is the story that WE’RE all sick and tired of hearing about:  Marshawn Lynch.  Specifically:  Marshawn Lynch Not Speaking To Reporters and Marshawn Lynch Grabbing His Nuts.

Oh, Pats fans are tired of talking about balls?  Join the club.

It’s weird to hate something as much as I hate the NFL, while at the same time love an entity within the NFL as much as I do the Seahawks.  Will the NFL’s bullshit policies stop me from watching the game of football?  Of course not.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop bitching about them endlessly for being hypocrites, evil fuckers, and all around punk bitches.

You know what I want to see?  I want to see the Seahawks – in the waning moments of a triumphant victory this Sunday – collectively gather together and in unison grab their crotches.  You want to penalize us?  You want to fine us?  Fuck you, NFL!  If you’re going to do it to Marshawn, you’re going to do it to everyone!  The whole post-Super Bowl celebration, nothing but crotch grabs.  Count me in.

As far as the whole not talking to the media thing, I’m pretty much over my initial outrage.  Lynch has found a way to circumvent the NFL’s draconian rules, he gets to keep his money, these twisted old fools in the national media get to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and maybe we can all finally get over it and move on.  I mean, seriously, who cares?

One thing that causes me a little more concern are these reports of Marshawn Lynch retiring after the season.  I tend to believe that he WON’T retire, because that just sounds crazy to me.  But, then again, it sounded crazy to me when Barry Sanders retired.  It sounded crazy to me when Ricky Watters couldn’t get a deal anywhere once his contract with the Seahawks ended.  And, it was crazy when Robert Smith of the Vikings had the greatest season of his career and then CALLED it a career.

Look, I’m like 85% confident that Lynch won’t retire.  But, that needle keeps getting pushed a little more towards 50/50 with every new report that comes out.  I mean, it DOES kinda make sense.  The NFL keeps on with their bullshit rules and their bullshit crackdown … I mean seriously, with all the off-the-field trouble the NFL has had to deal with this year, from beating women to beating children to drunken driving to drug and alcohol suspensions, and THIS is their main focus?  Preventing Lynch from grabbing his junk while at the same time forcing him to interact with the media?  THIS is your big stand?

The NFL is pathetic.  And, if they’re not careful, they’re going to push one of the greatest running backs in the game today right out of the league.

The more I watch Lynch and the more I see what he means to this team, the more convinced I am that we’re fucked the day he walks away from us.  Think of how great we have it now, and think of how great we had it with Shaun Alexander.  Now, think of how awful we were with Julius Jones & Co.  Don’t take Beastmode for granted, because believe me, it can be A LOT worse.

A little more under the radar have been some interview comments in recent days.  I’m, like, 100% convinced the media looks for perceived slights against an opponent more than the players of either team.  It’s like everyone says:  if you need bulletin board material at this point in the season, then you don’t deserve to be there in the first place.  But, you gotta write about something, and the Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year.

Something that caught my eye was Jeremy Lane saying something to the effect of, “Gronk isn’t very good.”  Granted, it’s just another comment in a long line of brash, cocky musings from this team, but I dunno.  While I won’t condemn him, I’m more of the school of Let Your Play Do Your Talking.  More than anything, I just don’t like hearing our third-best cornerback calling out probably the very best tight end in the league.  I don’t NEED that!  I don’t want to look back on a game we’ve lost because Gronk exploded for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns.  I have all the confidence in the world that our defense will figure it out and keep his production to a dull roar, but you never know.  I never thought Antonio Gates would have the kind of day he had earlier this season, for instance.

Then, there was that thing with Brandon Browner calling for his teammates to attack Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas because they’ve got a couple bum wings.  For starters, stop it.  Just STOP.  He’s good friends with these guys.  He’s also – not for nothing – not the most eloquent speaker in the world.  I don’t think he literally wants people to hurt his friends.  But, yeah, do you go after those guys a little bit more, knowing they have this weakness about them?  Of course!  If you were a Pats fan, you’d be outraged if they DIDN’T attack these guys!

Finally, out of the hullabaloo that was Media Day yesterday, we got a nice little bit of reciprocity from LeGarrette Blount, who said something to the effect of the Seahawks’ defense isn’t immortal.  They can be beaten.  There we go.  If that’s not on par with what Jeremy Lane said, I don’t know what is.  I happen to agree with the sentiment, mostly.  CAN the Seahawks be beaten?  Of course.  We’re not out there shutting teams out every week; you CAN score on us.  But, it’s tough to know what he really meant by it.  We can be beat?  Yeah, four teams beat us this year alone.  But, what’s the context?

Does Blount think they can run up 30 points on us?  That seems a bit far-fetched.  Over 25?  It’s possible, but not too likely.  In the low 20s seems a bit more in range.  But, I’ll tell you this much:  if the Patriots beat the Seahawks, it will have more to do with how their defense shuts down our offense than their offense being overly dominant.

The difference between what Lane said and what Blount said should be pretty clear.  Lane attacked one guy.  And, Gronk is Gronk, I don’t think it’s going to phase him.  It might lead to Brady targeting him more, to make a point.  But, it’s not going to make Gronk run faster or catch better.  See, but Blount talked about our entire defense.  You don’t think he’s going to have guys barking in his face every time he’s stopped for a 2-yard gain?  And, pity the moments where we stuff him in the backfield; he’ll never hear the end of it.

Anyway, that’s all I can stomach.  We’re in the home stretch now.  Two more days of build up, then we can all get rowdy as fuck on Saturday in anticipation of the big day on Sunday.  Soak it all in.

The “What Ifs” Of This Seahawks Season

Coming off of that loss in Kansas City, the Seahawks were 6-4, three games behind the 9-1 Cardinals.  Sure, we would go on to face the Cards twice in the last six weeks, but if you assumed that the Cards would continue winning at their record pace, even if we somehow swept them in our season series, they could have theoretically still ended up a game ahead of us and with the top seed in the NFC.

What if that actually happened?

I mean, come on.  They lost to a terrible Falcons team somehow, then they lost the last game of the season against the 49ers when it didn’t really matter anyway.  Let’s say there’s this alternate universe where everything else happened as it happened, but instead the Cards beat the Falcons and 49ers and ended up 13-3 to our 12-4.

Well, as I mentioned before, they’d have the number 1 seed and a BYE in the first week of the playoffs.  That would’ve given them an extra week to try to get Drew Stanton healthy.  I don’t know if it was ever determined if he would’ve been able to play in a Divisional Round matchup or not, but that’s neither here nor there.  By virtue of getting the top seed, that would’ve pushed the Seahawks down to the 5-seed, playing in Carolina in the Wild Card round.

This makes things somewhat interesting going forward.  I’m pretty firm in my belief that the Seahawks would be able to win in Carolina.  Which, if everything else plays to form, means the Cowboys would still go to Green Bay in the second round, while we would’ve advanced to play in Arizona.

I have NO doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that we would be able to go into Glendale and win that game.  Especially if Lindley was still starting at that point, but even if Stanton returned.  In this theoretical world where they managed to finish 13-3, they still would’ve lost twice to us, and in impressive fashion.

With, again, everything holding as it happened, that means Green Bay would’ve beaten Dallas, sending us out on the road again to play the Packers.

Now, I actually did look this up.  On the date and time of the NFC Championship Game, in Green Bay, the weather was in the mid-30s and clear.  I know we’re talking about a road game, and I know we’re talking about an impressive atmosphere in Lambeau Field.  And, yeah, mid-30s is pretty cold.  But, I gotta wonder:  is it possible for us to play any worse than we did for the first 55 minutes of that game in Seattle?

Okay, so you caught me.  This is really just an excuse for me to talk about the game against Green Bay some more.  But, I’m seriously!  How much worse could it POSSIBLY have been if we had played that one in Green Bay?  Now, granted, in this alternate scenario, the Seahawks wouldn’t have had the BYE, instead playing an extra game.  There’s no telling how our injury situation may or may not have been altered.  But, if we assume no major catastrophes, then I would like to try to make the argument that we actually would have managed to play BETTER.

Let’s start here:  the weather.  I’m sorry, but you’re not going to shake me of my belief that the rain and the general sogginess had everything to do with our turnover mistakes.  Take the first ball to Kearse.  Is that a better-thrown ball in the clear skies of Green Bay?  Just a tad more on-target?  And, even if it’s not, is Kearse able to make a fingertip grab of the ball if it’s not as slick as it was in Seattle?

That first interception changes the whole dynamic of the game.  I would argue it changes the entirety of the events to come.  No turnover in our own zone.  No quick score by Green Bay.  No fumble by Baldwin on the kickoff return.  And so on and so on.

Now, does it mean we win the game?  That’s up for debate.  I think the Seahawks play better early, but “better” is relative.  “Better” could just mean playing to a 0-0 draw in the first quarter.  I’ll tell you this much:  without all the soul-crushing turnovers throughout the game, I think it plays out much more like we originally expected.  I think the Seahawks defense still plays great – and gets better as the game goes along – and with a few completed passes here and there, I think we’re able to crank out our running game earlier.

Let’s look at it this way:  I don’t think Green Bay had one smidgen of a problem playing how they wanted to play just because the game was in Seattle.  Home Field Advantage gets blown up a little too much around these parts, and I’ll admit I’m as guilty as anyone.  When you’re good enough to reach your conference’s championship game, the location really stops being a huge point of emphasis.  At that point, it boils down to:  Who Is The Better Team?  And, if the Seahawks were good enough to overcome five turnovers, they’re good enough to overcome whatever noise the Green Bay faithful are able to crank out, especially in a rain-free environment where the Seahawks could thrive.

It took just about everything going against us for Green Bay to be in the position they were in.  Most of that had to do with it being so wet.  The next time you decide to tout Seattle as having this great home field advantage, just remember what the weather can be like in January.  The rain doesn’t give a shit what jerseys you wear.  And, I know everyone THINKS that all our home games are these waterlogged affairs, but if you actually live in Seattle, you know the truth.  September is still summer.  October is usually pretty mild.  And the fact of the matter is, we might only play two or three games at the most – per year – with rain-like conditions.  It’s not something you get “used to”, because freaky shit can happen at anytime.  Freaky shit caused by rain.  That God damn rain.

So, who’s ready for the Super Bowl to start?

Dan Quinn Is Going To Atlanta

What’s sort of getting lost in all the excitement of the Super Bowl this week is that Dan Quinn is all but officially the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.  I know for a fact once the game is over, this will be a much bigger deal locally, as there will be an almost-immediate search for the candidate to replace Quinn as our defensive coordinator.

For starters, you have to give congratulations to Quinn.  I think he’s certainly deserving, given his body of work to date, and I honestly believe he’ll be one of the better head coaches to come out of this year’s circus.  I think Quinn and the coordinator from Arizona – turned Jets head coach – will have the most success of the ragtag crew that’s been hired this year.  I’ll also say this:  it’s about damn time!

Teams are idiots.  If the best head coaching candidate just so happens to be a coordinator on a Super Bowl team, why WOULDN’T you wait the extra two or three weeks to make sure you made the right choice?  It seems absolutely silly to do otherwise!  Is the “head start” you’ll get with those extra couple weeks going to make up for the years of wasted seasons because you hired the wrong guy?  This is the NFL!  The head coach in the NFL is more important than the head coach in any other sport!  To settle for less is ridiculous, and all those teams last year who missed out on Dan Quinn will rue the day when he turns things around in Atlanta.

From a Seahawks perspective, we have to suffer a lot of downside for not much upside in this move.  The upside is, I guess, we get to take pride in the fact that our success breeds a coaching tree that will see its branches spread throughout the league.  It’s the price you gotta pay for all the winning you do.  Would I trade away Dan Quinn if it means winning two Super Bowls with him?  Absolutely.  But, is it going to hurt to have him leave?  Again, absolutely.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do to replace Quinn.  Kris Richard, our secondary coach, is a hot name right now.  Some were saying he might follow Quinn to Atlanta to be his defensive coordinator, but those talks may have cooled.  Odds are, the Seahawks promote from within, which I think is the best move.  You reward your best players with long-term contracts; why wouldn’t you reward your best coaches with promotions?

The elephant in the room right now that nobody wants to talk about is:  how much is Dan Quinn thinking about his new job ahead of the task at hand?  This type of thinking gets dismissed pretty quickly, but it’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world to consider.  Especially if we lose this game and the defense looks terrible!  Do I think his impending hire in Atlanta will affect his duties this week?  No.  The man has pride in his craft as I’m sure most coaches do.  But, at the same time, he’s only human.  He’s probably got a million ideas running through his head about how he’s going to do things once he’s running the show; it’s not like you can just sweep those thoughts under the rug for a week.  The real question should be:  are we getting the most out of our coordinator this week, or at least, as much as we would if he didn’t have a job offer sitting right there on the table?

I dunno.  I’m not too worried about it.  Let’s just hope the Seahawks win and the whole argument is moot.

Podcast – Talking Seahawks, Packers, & Super Bowl With A Packers Fan

If you’re like me, you’re wildly hungover because you spent all night last night drinking beer and making podcasts.  It’s a helluva life, isn’t it?

I brought in my good buddy – who grew up in Green Bay, WI – to talk about the NFC Championship Game and to give his two cents on the upcoming Super Bowl.  I’m not gonna lie to you, since we never edit our podcasts over at weakstream, this one’s a hair over two hours long.  BUT, as I said, if you’re like me, you’re hungover, so why not give a listen?  OK, I can think of about a million reasons, the top one being this MIGHT not make your headache go away.  On the plus side, I’ve got a new microphone coming in the mail, so podcasts of the future should be less terrible, sound-quality-wise.

Download it HERE.

Great Quarterbacks Are Helped By Great Defenses

You can tell by reading just a smattering of the comments below this article that Seahawks fans aren’t going to take too kindly to the implied message.  The undercurrent of anti-Seahawks sentiment is so rich and frothy, I expected it to have been written by Jeffri Chadiha, until I noticed it used stats and facts to make some legitimate points.

What everyone will see when they read it is:  Russell Wilson isn’t a great quarterback.  They’ll see:  Russell Wilson isn’t even that good, and that the Seahawks are winning in spite of his Dalton-esque bungling.

Something even REMOTELY negative is mentioned, and the claws are out, ready to attack.

I will say this:  I’m not a big fan of QBR.  I feel like it should be a good statistic – and I do think there’s probably something better out there than straight passer rating – but at least passer rating is something I can understand.  It’s something I can sit here and calculate if I so desire.  QBR feels like a lot of mumbo jumbo masquerading as a be-all, end-all in football stat-hood.

Riddle me this when you talk about Wilson’s 13.6 QBR in last week’s game against Green Bay:  does it take into account two passes that hit Jermaine Kearse right in the hands before bouncing off and into the outstretched arms of a defender?  I will gladly point out that two of those picks were clearly Russell Wilson’s fault.  They were poorly thrown balls that appeared to be desperate attempts to get back into a game when we had plenty of time to do so.  But, I feel like the tipped passes were solid.  They weren’t PERFECT, obviously, but at an NFL level, they should have been caught.  Yet, seemingly, those two interceptions are weighed the same as the duck he threw into double-coverage and the duck he under-threw down the left sideline.

And, I like the idea of a quarterback stat that measures his ability to run with the football as well as pass, but how in the holy Hell do you approach perfection in the QBR system?  In passer rating, the best you can get is 158.3.  I’ve seen LOTS of guys have perfect passer ratings.  But, how do you get 100 in QBR?  It seems like an impossible achievement that requires no incompletions, 500 yards, more than 5 passing touchdowns, and probably 150 yards rushing with another 2 rushing touchdowns.  I mean, there’s just no way!

But, I digress.  Anecdotally, if you watched the game, you could safely say Russell Wilson had a bad game until the final three minutes and overtime.  How much of that was due to the weather (not easy to catch a wet ball, I’m told) and how much of that was due to our offensive line getting manhandled early in the game, I guess QBR doesn’t give two shits about that.

Getting back to the article, though.  Most Seahawks fans will read it as ESPN picking on our poor superstar quarterback.  But, if you will take a moment to calm down, I think the point they’re really making is one of the most obvious arguments you can make:  great quarterbacks are helped by great defenses.

Isn’t that a shocker???  Oh, you mean one guy can’t go out there and beat an entire team by himself?  I’m blown away!

Look back, throughout history, and you’ll find this is a truism of practically every single NFL champion since the dawn of time.  Even take a gander at the very best quarterbacks in recent history.  Tom Brady, for instance.  He won his three championships back when the Patriots had a dominating and underrated defense.  He lost his other two championships – in spite of putting up some of the best offensive numbers in league history – because his defenses were weak, and couldn’t get the job done when it mattered most.

Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl.  Their regular season defense was pretty awful, but when they got Bob Sanders back for the playoff run, a switch flipped and they were dominant in the post-season.  The year Drew Brees won it all happened to coincide with one of the best Saints defenses we’d seen in decades.  The Steelers with Roethlisberger, the Ravens with Flacco, the Packers with Rodgers, the Giants with Eli, even the Rams with the Greatest Show On Turf had an underrated and solid defense!

Now, factor in all the times these great quarterbacks – Brady, Manning, Roethlisberger, Brees, Rodgers – DIDN’T go all the way.  Many of them have even struggled to just get into the playoffs!  Why, if these are some of the greatest quarterbacks of our time, would they struggle to maintain success year-in and year-out (either making the playoffs, or in the case of Brady and Manning – who always seem to make it – win championships)?  Could it POSSIBLY be due to the fact that their defenses aren’t always so hot?

Imagine that.  The Steelers have a crummy defense and Ben Roethlisberger can’t somehow magically lift the entire team on his back and carry them into the Super Bowl.  WEIRD!

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  Great quarterbacks still need at least competent defenses to achieve their goals.  Just as great defenses need at least competent quarterbacks.  If you’ve got one, but not the other, you’re not going to win a ton of games.  Just ask the Houston Texans.

Russell Wilson is going to forever get dinged – as far as his legacy is concerned – because this Seahawks defense is an all-time great.  The fact of the matter is, we DON’T know how great Russell Wilson truly is, and we never will, until he’s confronted with a situation where our defense stinks and he needs to carry more of the burden.  Until that happens, expect to see more articles like the one written above.  There’s no point in fighting it, because it’s an argument you can never win.  It’s like trying to change someone’s political or religious beliefs; you can’t do it!

To quote Homer Simpson:  “You tried your best, and you failed miserably.  The lesson is:  never try.”

And, for the record, I honestly hope we never do find out how great Russell Wilson is.  I want this defense to be elite for the rest of my life.

Players To Watch In Super Bowl XLIX

You know who the big dogs are on the Seattle Seahawks.  The top ten, in some order, looks like this:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Earl Thomas
  • Richard Sherman
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Michael Bennett
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Cliff Avril
  • Max Unger

So, I’m not going to sit here and tell you why all these guys are important.  You KNOW why.

This one’s dedicated to the specific Patriots we should probably be concerned with heading into the game next week.  These are the guys everyone will be talking about until this low simmer we’re all on ratchets up to a huge boil.

Let’s start with Tom Brady, because why not?  He’s the only sure-thing Hall of Famer on that team (though, there are some other possibilities, that we’ll get to).  Tom Brady has been one of the best quarterbacks in football pretty much since he took over the starting job with New England in 2001.  His career passer rating is 95.9 – which is outstanding – and he hasn’t even really missed a beat.  In 2014, he had his usual gaudy numbers, adding up to a passer rating of 97.4.  And, with the exception of a few peak years with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady has done all of this with a largely anonymous group of receivers (sound familiar?).

Tom Brady is a quarterback who clearly makes the people around him better.  He has an unquestioned dedication to the game of football and that’s why his teams have always gone to the playoffs and why they’ve had so much success once they’ve gotten there.  Also, it doesn’t hurt that the rest of the AFC East has largely been one big shitshow the entire time, but that’s neither here nor there.

Unlike Manning, Brady doesn’t run his own offense.  He’s not his own offensive coordinator.  If it’s going to help the team win, Brady is more than willing to defer to the running game, if that’s what it takes.  I guess that’s the difference between being a 6th rounder vs. a #1 overall draft pick.  I guess that’s the difference between being led by one of the most successful and talented head coaches in NFL history (even if he is a big, lousy cheater sometimes) vs. a random smattering of guys who are more than willing to let their star quarterback just do his own thing.

Brady is dangerous in the same way that Russell Wilson is dangerous, in the fact that all they care about is winning, at any cost.  It just so happens that Brady has never REALLY had a dominating running game to defer to.  He’s never had a Marshawn Lynch to lean on.  Early in his career, though, Brady DID have an outstanding defense backing him, which was the real driving force in their three Super Bowl titles.  As Brady emerged from that early period in his career, the talent on defense diminished, so he was required to do more.  And, to his credit, he succeeded in almost every way.  That 2007 squad will go down historically as one of the very best teams of all time.  But, when shit got real, they were nipped by the Giants, and that’s that.

Nowadays, Brady doesn’t have the cannon he once did.  You’re not going to see the jump balls he threw to Randy Moss.  Part of that is the talent around him (Brandon LaFell isn’t anywhere near Randy Moss’s UNIVERSE), but part of that is just Brady getting older.  37 years old.  Over 50,000 yards on that arm.  In that respect, he is like Manning, or a latter-day Marino.  He’s going to hang around in that pocket (when he’s not sneaking for that first down on 3rd- & 4th-&-inches), he’s going to rely on rhythm passing from 0-10 yards in front of him, and he’s going to try to dictate tempo by going hurry-up to keep the defense on its heels and tired.

We saw this last year!  None of this is new!  We were worried about the same damn thing with the Broncos and it ended up being a non-issue!  Tom Brady CAN be affected if you get in his face.  You don’t necessarily want to send wave after wave of blitzers after him, but then again, maybe you do.  I mean, the Jets seem to have the Patriots pretty well figured out, and they’ve been running out a Junior Varsity quarterback out there for the last couple decades!  All Rex Ryan DOES is blitz!  I’m not saying that’s what the Seahawks will do – we tend to be among the least-blitzing teams in the NFL, in spite of our mascot’s name – but in theory, if things start getting hairy, it’s not a bad idea.  Let our corners press, and start throwing five and six guys after him on the reg.

If you let Tom Brady stand there all day, he’s going to pick you apart.  Unlike Manning – who’s so afraid of taking a hit that his internal clock is running on fast-forward at all times – Brady will hang in the pocket as long as necessary.  It’s not what he wants, I’m sure, but if the defense is going to press and bump receivers off of their routes, then we’re going to have to punish Brady accordingly for having the gall to wait it out until they get open.

I don’t necessarily see this as a game where the Patriots are going to try to slug it out with us on the ground.  We’re not the Colts, who are a wet paper bag when it comes to stopping the run.  Of course, we’re not necessarily the Ravens either – who make it a point to go all out in stopping the run.  We are who we are.  We’re going to stop your run the same way we stop everyone else’s run.  So, in that sense, I wouldn’t expect the Pats to completely abandon it the way they did in the second half of that Ravens game, but at the same time, we’re probably going to get a heavy dose of passing regardless.  On the year, Brady threw the ball 36 times per game.  That’s about what I’d expect out of this one as long as it remains close.  If it gets out of hand one way or another, figure to add or subtract about 15 to that total.

Pressure Brady, and everything else should fall into place.  A great way to do that?  Put the lockdown on Gronk.

The Pats have four primary receiving threats.  Here’s what they looked like in the regular season:

  • Rob Gronkowski:  82 catches, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs
  • Julian Edelman:  92 catches, 972 yards, 4 TDs
  • Brandon LaFell:  74 catches, 953 yards, 7 TDs
  • Shane Vereen:  52 catches, 447 yards, 3 TDs

Gronk’s just a beast.  He broke out in his rookie year of 2010 with 10 TDs, then turned into a total monster in 2011 with over 1,300 yards and 17 TDs.  The two subsequent years were marred by injuries and he lost large swaths of playing time.  You had to wonder if he would even be able to return to the game.  At the beginning of this year, it seemed like the team was a little too overly-tentative with him.  He’d be off the field for huge chunks of games and the offense struggled accordingly.  In the first four weeks, he had 13 catches for 147 yards and 3 TDs, while mostly playing around the red zone.

After the Pats got crushed by the Chiefs and fell to 2-2, they had no choice but to let Gronk do his thing.  The Patriots won 7 in a row and 10 of 11 overall to close out the regular season, with Gronk putting up the following numbers in that span:  69 catches, 977 yards, and 9 TDs (with an average of approximately 6 catches, 89 yards, and just under a TD per game).  Absolutely unreal.

As you can tell, Gronk IS the red zone offense for this team.  If I were a gambling man, I’d put a very large chunk of money on Gronk scoring a TD in this game, with a good portion of that on him scoring the FIRST touchdown in the game.  I’m sure you’d hardly win a damn thing on that wager, but what are you gonna do?

Seahawks fans are going to sit here and say, “Well, we’ve dismantled guys like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas; I’m not worried about Gronk!”  That would be a mistake.  Guys like Graham and Thomas are glorified, slow-footed wide receivers.  They’re soft.  Breathe on ‘em wrong and they’ll go home crying to mama.  Gronk is built more in the Tony Gonzalez & Antonio Gates mold.  Remember those guys?  Remember how they were able to pick apart our defense for huge catches and scores?  Those guys thrive on contact, as does Gronk.

People are going to talk about the Gronk & Chancellor matchup, and believe you me, I’ll be looking forward to it as much as anyone else.  There’s nothing I’d like to see more than for Bam Bam to knock Gronk on his ass.  But, the underlying theme will be people talking about Kam shadowing Gronk all day, and that’s just not the case.  That’s not how the Seahawks operate.  We’re going to stick a linebacker on him just like most teams.  Since our linebackers – especially K.J. Wright – are better in coverage than most teams, we should be able to prevent Gronk from racking up a ton of yards.

But, it’s in that red zone where I’m worried.  When they opt to run Gronk out wide, with someone like Simon or Maxwell on him.  Good cover guys, sure, but I could see our corners draped all over him like a Snuggie and see him STILL come down with the ball at the goalline.

Don’t dismiss this guy just because he’s annoyingly awesome and you’d LOVE him if he was on the Seahawks.  To keep the Pats in check, we’ve got to keep Gronk in check, and that’s all there is to it.

Edelman is their possession guy.  Their Doug Baldwin, if you will.  On third down, Brady has two targets:  if Gronk is double teamed, or otherwise covered, he’s looking for Edelman in a crossing route or out in the flat.  We HAVE to control this guy.  If the Pats start converting a ton of third downs, it’s likely going to be because Edelman is getting open and squirming his way to the first down marker.

What I expect the Seahawks to do is put Jeremy Lane on him all day.  This more or less worked out okay last week, with Lane doing the heavy lifting on Randall Cobb.  Aside from the touchdown, Cobb was held to 6 catches for 49 yards.  Throw that TD into the mix, and Cobb still only had 7 catches for 62 yards, so it’s not like he was this unstoppable force (I think, too, Lane either fell down or ran into someone on that TD; but, that’s going off of memory and I’m too lazy to go back and watch it again).

Here’s the deal:  Edelman is no Cobb.  Cobb is probably the best slot receiver in the game.  Edelman is good, but he’s really just a poor man’s Welker.  I don’t think the Seahawks are sunk if we leave Lane on him.

What I’d LIKE the Seahawks to do is put Maxwell on him all day.  Maxwell is taller, with longer arms, but he’s still a strong presence as our nickel corner.  If the Seahawks are able to shut down Edelman, and roll coverage to Gronk to minimize his impact, I just don’t see any way the Patriots are able to move the ball consistently.

Brandon LaFell is a real wild card.  His overall numbers this year are MUCH better than I was expecting.  He’s their deep threat, if the Patriots even have a deep threat.  LaFell – while playing for the Panthers the last few years – was never really much of a problem for us.  The types of catches he makes – on fade routes and other types of throws into the corner – are the types of balls we defend the best.  I can’t imagine LaFell gets even a LOOK if he’s lined up on Sherman’s side.  I could, however, see him getting a good chunk of targets if he’s opposite Sherman, and he’s being guarded by the likes of Tharold Simon.

See, there’s a risky game to play if the Seahawks shadow Edelman with Maxwell, and that’s Simon on LaFell.  I like Simon, I think he would win most matchups against someone like LaFell, but I think if he’s out there, he’s GOING to get picked on, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a huge penalty or otherwise a big catch going New England’s way.

So, maybe stick with Maxwell on the outside.  Either way, if we’re assignment-sound, I wouldn’t expect to have too much trouble with their passing game.  It’s just:  can we get off the field?  That’s going to require winning on first & second down, and that’s going to require tight coverage on third down.

As for Shane Vereen, I’m not too concerned.  He’s a poor man’s Darren Sproles, and we’ve been able to handle Sproles pretty well in our matchups with him.  I’d expect someone like Bruce Irvin to be big in this one, especially on early downs.

***

On defense, it starts with Darrelle Revis.  He’s not at his peak like he was with the Jets, but he’s still probably a Top 5 cornerback in this league.  It sounds like last week, they stuck Reggie Wayne on Revis Island and Wayne didn’t have an impact whatsoever.  Sounds pretty scary, until you remember the week before where the Ravens threw for nearly 300 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Don’t forget that Ravens game, because I think it’s really important.  The Ravens were VERY balanced, with 129 yards out of Forsett on the ground, topped off by a pretty good day out of Flacco.  Flacco didn’t shy away from Revis, just like Russell Wilson won’t.  The Ravens got beat because their defense – especially their secondary – can’t hold a flame to ours.  If we can get after the quarterback the way they did (the Ravens didn’t have a ton of sacks, but they hit Brady pretty good), I wouldn’t expect anywhere near the type of offensive success the Pats had in that game.

I expect Revis will follow Doug Baldwin all around the field.  So, look for Baldwin to have a pretty ineffective day.  That’s going to put more pressure on Kearse and the rest of our pass-catchers to pick their games up.  New England isn’t impossible to move the ball on, even with some of their relatively big names on defense.

Brandon Browner obviously comes to mind, but we know what to expect out of him.  He’s likely going to stick to a side – maybe even shadow Kearse all day – and put a hurtin’ on whoever comes near him.  Also, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see Browner slide inside and take on one of our tight ends.  A matchup I like even less than the Revis/Baldwin one is a Browner/Willson matchup.  I think Browner would eat our #1 tight end for lunch.  Hopefully, we get the Willson/Random Linebacker matchup I’ve been looking forward to all week.

Kyle Arrington is another guy to keep an eye on.  He’s another cornerback, and apparently is their speed guy (as he took on T.Y. Hilton last week).  I’d look for Arrington to spend his time looking after Lockette, which has the potential to be a nice little mismatch in our favor, as Lockette is 6’2 and Arrington is only 5’10.

Another big one to watch out for is Chandler Jones.  #95 in your programs, he’s a 6’5 monster of a defensive end.  While he only netted six sacks this year, he did miss some time with injury and has been a terrifying beast in the games I’ve seen.  I don’t recall offhand where he generally lines up, but I seem to have him squaring off against Britt in my mind’s eye.  I wish I knew more about his tendencies.  If he’s as aggressive as I think he is, I think we can take advantage of him in the read-option game.  I’d watch for him to crash hard on the fake to Lynch, with Wilson running right around him for big gains.

If only Percy Harvin wasn’t such a massive jack-hole, I could see the jet-sweep being a HUGE play for us, like it was in last year’s Super Bowl.  Why couldn’t we have just kept him inactive each and every week – and away from the team facility entirely - then busted him out for one game a year?

Next up, watch out for a pair of outside linebackers in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.  Collins especially, #91.  That guy is a FREAK.  He’ll line up on Okung’s side, and could rush the passer or go out into coverage.  He led the team in tackles and really filled up the stat sheet.  I wouldn’t mind seeing us run right at him, to have him swallowed up in our zone blocking scheme, but I gotta wonder if that’s wise.  If he’s able to shed blocks, we might be looking at a long day running the ball.

That’s because the key to the whole defense is Vince Wilfork.  The mammoth nose tackle whose listed weight is 325, but is probably pushing 360.  The Ravens were successful rushing because they managed to run outside the tackles.  But, that’s not really the Seahawks’ game, as we like taking it right at you.  Max Unger and either James Carpenter or J.R. Sweezy will have their work cut out for them.  Considering Carpenter is the only guy on our line who could POSSIBLY move Wilfork’s wide body out of the way, I would expect Wilfork to shade toward Sweezy’s side of Unger.  If Wilfork’s taking up two blockers, that’s going to hurt our running game, because we depend so much upon Sweezy and other guys getting to the second level.

That’s why, again, I like our chances with the zone read.  If we can break off a 100-yard rushing day out of Russell Wilson, that’s going to start opening up things down the field.

If the Seahawks win this game, Russell Wilson will need to have a game for the ages.  Let’s hope he’s got one more left in him.

Which Seahawks Team Had The More Difficult Path To The Super Bowl?

Yesterday, I did a little comparison of the rosters between last year and this year.  Obviously, it wasn’t comprehensive – as it’s JUST a look at the Super Bowl rosters and not taking into account all the injured players who helped get us to those points – but I think we can all agree that the 2013 Seahawks were the clear Best Team In Franchise History.  But, either way, we’re talking about two VERY good teams.  It takes a buttload of talent to make it to the Super Bowl; and it takes a special kind of buttload to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls.

My take on these two teams is this:  the 2013 Seahawks were more special, because it was our first championship.  You never forget the first time.  Those players will be fixtures in my sports fandom until the day I die.  But, what these 2014 Seahawks are doing is more DIFFICULT, and not just because of what we saw against Green Bay last Sunday.

I look at it like this:  go ahead and check the standings and how they compare between 2013 and 2014.  Now, check the Seahawks’ schedule between 2013 and 2014.  If you count the games where we faced legitimate opponents, you’ll see it’s pretty clear.  The 2013 Seahawks had to square off against 7 legit opponents.  Two vs. SF and AZ, then games against Carolina, Indy, and New Orleans.  The rest of the AFC South was a joke, the Rams were mediocre as usual, the rest of the NFC South was terrible, and the Giants and Vikings were God awful.  Now, granted, those 7 games were against real tough teams – including the 49ers who were the clear Second Best Team In Football – but I don’t think last year’s run really compares.  We kicked off our season with back-to-back great teams (and 3 in our first 5 games), but there was a huge lull in the middle where we played 1 good team in six weeks.  THEN we had a bye week before catching the Saints at home!  By the time we got through that powderpuff stretch, we were 11-1 and on cruise control the last four weeks as we finished up going 2-2, losing both of our difficult matchups in the process while still locking down the #1 overall seed.

In those 7 big games, we ended the regular season 4-3.  We more than made up for it with the gauntlet we had to take down in the playoffs, as I would argue the Saints were the 3rd-best team in the NFC and probably the 5th-best team in the NFL.  Then, we had to squeak by the 49ers again, before we slayed the best offensive team in NFL history.  So, when you include playoffs, the Seahawks had 10 really hard teams (but, then again, when you’re in the playoffs, just about every game is hard).

In 2014, the Seahawks not only had to contend with a more difficult schedule, but they had all the other distractions away from the game.  Just being a Super Bowl champion, for one.  Having that target on your back.  Getting everyone’s best game because they want so desperately to beat the best.  Then, you’re talking about losing a sizable chunk of your depth because you just can’t afford to pay everyone.  Starters like Tate, Giacomini, Browner, Clemons, and Bryant.  Role players like Thurmond, McDonald, and Maragos.  Key contributors from last year, playing for other teams.  THEN, you’ve got guys getting paid in the offseason.  It’s great for fans to see their favorite players locked up and happy, but you never know how that’s going to affect locker room chemistry.  And, quite frankly, you never know how the players who’re getting paid will respond.  Will they still have that desire?  Will they still wake up at the crack of dawn every day and put in the work to maintain their level of excellence?

We know a little bit about how Marshawn Lynch felt about it, because he threatened to hold out and retire and all this stuff before getting a bump in pay.  Still didn’t stop all the early-season chatter from the media that he was disgruntled and still thinking about retiring.  Or that the team was fed up and ready to cut him loose after the year ended.  Oh, and we can’t forget the whole Percy Harvin situation.  What a shitshow THAT was.

Hashtag Russell Wilson Isn’t Black Enough.

All of this stuff, plus the usual smattering of injuries every team has to deal with.  3/5 of our offensive line missing significant time, Kam and Bobby and Maxie all missing time.  Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane being lost for the year, along with a bunch of our young role players like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill and – most recently – Paul Richardson.

And, in the middle of all of that, if you look at the schedule, we faced 10 legitimate opponents (11 if you want to count Carolina, but I’m inclined to throw that entire division in the toilet where it belongs).  We kicked off the season with three tremendous teams in Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver, before being saddled with the week 4 bye.  You can say what you want about the Chargers, but they finished the season with a winning record and that was a game on the road.  Plus, they were a much better team early in the year compared to their late-season swoon.  I’m counting ‘em.

Once you get past that point, there was an 8-game stretch that I’d pegged at the beginning of the season as the stretch where we’d need to make our hay.  I didn’t see ANY of those teams being able to give us much of a game.  As it turned out, the Cowboys were pretty great, the Chiefs were better than expected, and the Cardinals were 9-1 and three games ahead of us when we got to play them.  I’m also counting the Chiefs as one of the legit teams as they ALSO finished the regular season with a winning record and that game was ALSO on the road.  As it turned out, the most difficult part of the schedule – the last six weeks – turned out to be much easier than expected.  But, I’m still counting Arizona and Philly as legit, because Arizona’s defense never quit this year, and Philly’s offense was still pretty solid even with Mark Sanchez.  It’s debatable as to whether or not I should include the 49ers in this list, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Granted, 8-8 is a pretty mediocre record, but we’re still talking about a roster that was comprised of most of the same parts that took that team to the NFC Championship Game last year and to the Super Bowl the year before, with the same coaching staff as well.  When you lump in how they’re our most bitter rival and prioritize beating us over any other team, I’m saying that’s a legit matchup.

So, to recap, two against Arizona and Frisco, with solo games against GB, Den, SD, KC, Phi, & Dal.  With a possible 11th if you want to count Carolina, but I’ll leave that up to you.  And, in doing so, we went 7-3 (8-3 with the Panthers).

Of course, with the level of competition, you have to take into account the level of turmoil.  Things were spiraling out of control as this team started out 3-3, playing four very good teams in that stretch, and losing a heartbreaker to a sub-par Rams team (who nevertheless managed to beat some pretty impressive teams this year on their way to a 6-10 record).  As I said before, we were 6-4 when we played 9-1 Arizona.  We pretty much needed to win out and get help.  And we got that help by Arizona losing their top two quarterbacks; otherwise this season may have played out VERY differently.  To elevate our game at the last possible moment, win six in a row to finish with the #1 seed yet again … I don’t know what else you can say.  Just a remarkable job.

Then, with the playoffs, we’re talking about rematches against the Panthers and Packers.  I don’t hold the Panthers in very high esteem, but I think the Pack ended up being the second-best team in the NFC this year (and probably third-best in the NFL).  Of course, the Packers are always going to be some variation of good as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing.  But, for once, they remained pretty healthy on both sides of the ball, and when that happens, the Packers are as formidable as any team.  I don’t think this year’s Packers team was necessarily better than last year’s 49ers team, but they’re pretty close, and they sure as shit gave us a helluva game.

To cap off the season, we get to face the #1 team in the AFC, the New England Patriots.  For the last 9 weeks, you could argue that the Seahawks and Patriots have been the top two teams in the league, so this is just as exciting as getting to play Denver was last year.  To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the Seahawks don’t get any respite in that regard.

I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m looking at it all through biased eyes because this year’s team is still fresh in my mind.  But, I can’t see how you don’t find this year’s team much more impressive than last year’s, even if the level of talent isn’t quite as elite.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013′s overall roster to 2014′s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.

More Reactions On The Seahawks Winning The NFC Championship Game

In a way, I’m still processing things.  Until I’m fully able to wrap my mind around the single greatest comeback win in Seahawks history (note:  I didn’t say largest, I said “greatest”), it’s going to be hard for me to move on.  In that sense, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.  But it will, probably just as soon as I finish with this post.

Before I begin, I’d like to talk about the doubters a little bit.  I didn’t pick up on it during my initial viewing of the telecast - as it’s not like there were thousands upon thousands of people streaming for the exits with time still left on the clock – but yeah, some people at the game left early.  Probably enough for the players to pick up on it, but not so much that Joe Buck & Co. ever mentioned it.  I don’t necessarily think this is a huge deal, or one that’s going to overwhelmingly taint the perception of the 12th Man among the players or fanbase in the area, but it is something that’s been referenced.  We’re supposed to be the best fans in the world!  Do the best fans in the world leave the game early and miss out on the greatest comeback of all time?

Let me come at this from another angle:  if you’re trying to tell me that you – as a viewer of that game – expected the Seahawks to win, with five minutes left, down by 12, and the Packers having the ball, then you’re either a liar or the most delusional person in the world.  I’m not talking about the players; of course they have to believe in themselves and believe that it’s never over until the clock is at all zeroes.  I’m talking about EVERYONE else.

In speaking for myself, I can honestly say I’d given up hope.  In that sense, I don’t even think I got the full experience of pure joy out of the whole thing.  Because, as it was happening, I kept thinking or saying to myself:  “No way.  No fucking way this is happening!”  Over and over, for the duration of the comeback.  Even when we scored the go-ahead touchdown, all I could think about was how much time was left on the clock and how badly we needed to convert that 2-point conversion.  My brother and father were jumping up and down; I was locked in my seat, unwilling to even remotely celebrate until the whole fucking thing was over.

That’s why I don’t begrudge the fans who left the game early.  I feel sorry for them, because they’re going to be kicking themselves for the rest of their lives.  But, I don’t blame them.  Hell, I almost gave up watching.  I was THIS close to being in my car, half-heartedly listening to the conclusion of that game on my radio, driving home to Seattle from Tacoma where I watched the game at my dad’s house.

***

There’s another take-away from this game I’d like to address.  Something I got out of listening to the post-game show on the radio (about 60-90 minutes after the game, when I finally got my wits about me to make the long drive home).  Now, I know, when you listen to the post-game show on the radio station that’s also the “radio partner” of the team in question, you’re going to run into a good amount of homerism.  This is fine.  It’s expected, and quite frankly, sometimes it’s refreshing to hear about and read about nothing but the greatest things about this team.  When you’re feeling good about a big win, sometimes all you want to do is keep those good times going for as long as humanly possible.

Anyway, the issue at hand here is the way a certain segment is treating this outcome.  Like we not only deserved to complete that comeback victory, but that it would be asinine to think – even for a moment – that the Packers maybe should’ve won and maybe let that game slip away.

I know Seattle made the plays when it needed to, but it was Green Bay who gave away that game.

Make no mistake, WE are the lucky ones.  The Seahawks WERE lucky to win that game.  In one sense, the best team won that football game – because I think if you replay that game 99 more times, the Seahawks probably win somewhere in the realm of 85 of those games.  But, in the more concrete sense, the best team DIDN’T win on this given Sunday.  For, the Packers WERE the better team in that game.  And, to suggest otherwise is to give in to your basest homeristic instincts.

You can argue that the Seahawks made the plays when they needed to, and they put themselves in a position to win.  Except for two things:  we needed an onside kick to win it, and I would argue just as importantly, we needed to win that coin toss before overtime.  If Brandon Bostick does what he was supposed to do on that onside kick – which is block Chris Matthews, preventing him from catching the football, allowing the guy with the REAL hands on the Packers to retrieve the kick (Jordy Nelson, who was right behind Bostick, in perfect position to make the play) – we’re not sitting here today, looking forward to the Super Bowl.  One momentary lapse in judgment by a – third string? – tight end.  Or, one hinky bounce of a coin flipping it over to tails-side-up, and we’re looking at a repeat Packers/Patriots Super Bowl.

So, don’t come at me with anything but humble recognition that we’re VERY lucky to be in this position.  And, if you want to go so far as to say it’s a fucking miracle, I won’t stop you.  Because, with that kind of gut-wrenching ending, I gotta wonder if there isn’t some sort of higher power up there with a rooting interest in these Seattle Seahawks.

Oh, that’s right!  This is the type of game that’s not only completely unbelievable and totally implausible, but it will also make a devout non-believer take a step back and question his entire system of beliefs!

You can see why I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this.  I know, I know, it’s just a game and all that.  But, is that not the most amazing, the most fantastic finish you’ve ever seen?  Anyone tasked with creating a piece of sports fiction who came up with the very same events that transpired on Sunday would be denounced as a hack and left to the doldrums of the Internet, tittering away on a blog nobody reads (ahem).

This isn’t something that happens.  Just in general, how many football games have you seen where one team turns the ball over five times, gets the ball back with three minutes to go, down by two touchdowns, with but one time out to their name, and that team comes back to win?  I’ve been watching football since I was six years old or so.  For the better part of 27 years now.  The only other comeback I can remember as vividly is the Buffalo/Houston game where the Bills came back down 32 points in the second half.  In a more general sense, I’ve probably seen similar comebacks – I dunno – ten times or less?  And I don’t even know how similar we’re talking about, because the Seahawks couldn’t do ANYTHING.  Inept isn’t even a strong enough word for our offensive performance for the first 57 minutes of that game.  The Seattle Seahawks’ offense was the United States Congress of football offenses.  I wouldn’t have trusted the Seahawks to even kneel with the football without somehow bungling it up!  So, for that team that we saw to do what it did, on top of securing an onside kick, in the pressure-packed situation of playing for a spot in the Super Bowl … that’s something we’ve never seen and something we might not ever see again.

But, on top of that just not happening, it CERTAINLY doesn’t happen to the Seahawks!  When do we ever get the long end of the stick in these situations?  Before last year, I’d say never.  We’re always the team and the fanbase coping with extreme, intense defeat.  But, not now!  Not with this group of guys.

So, no, I wouldn’t say “miracle” is too strong of a word.

***

I’ve got one more point to talk about and I’ll give it a rest for a while.  There were so many huge, game-turning moments to pick from, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches.  I don’t think there’s really any one moment that tops the others; we needed everything that DID go right to go right to pull off the comeback.  Our defense, early in the game, holding Green Bay to field goals (overall, holding them to five in total).  Their coaching staff, not going for it on 4th & 1 countless times to try to put the dagger in our backs.  The successful fake field goal for a touchdown.  Marshawn Lynch’s punishing running.  The onside kick.  The coin toss.  The successful third down completion to Baldwin.  The overtime touchdown to Kearse to finish it.  Russell Wilson’s ability to turn it on when we needed him the most and his belief in our ability to win it.  ALL OF THAT and many more that I’m forgetting.  But, as I was laying in bed last night, running everything through my head again, I had a weird thought:

What if the play of the game was Russell Wilson’s third interception of the first half?

Allow me to elaborate.

Two minute warning, 3rd & 8 on Green Bay’s 18, Seahawks down 16-0, Russell Wilson throws some sort of fade to Kearse that’s picked off in the endzone.  Let’s say that ball just falls harmlessly incomplete.  What happens next?

It’s possible that Seattle goes for the fake field goal there.  After all, they’d installed it during the week and had planned on using it, as Green Bay rushes hard off the edge to block.  But, what if they kick it instead?  What if the impetus for the fake field goal wasn’t just because the opportunity presented itself, but rather because there was less than five minutes left in the third quarter and we absolutely needed a spark and a touchdown in that situation?  What if, it being under 2 minutes to go in the first half, Seattle just takes the points to have points on the board going into half?

Then, it would’ve been 16-3, and likely nothing much else changes.  We kick off, they get the ball around their 20, we stop them, and go into half down 16-3 instead of 16-0.

That puts us into the second half and I don’t think much – if anything – changes in the play-calling of either team.  I mean, it’s just 3 points.  I think Green Bay still goes run-heavy, and I think we still finally manage to drive back into the Red Zone with less than five minutes to go in the third quarter.

What happens THEN?  Maybe we do the fake field goal anyway.  Maybe instead of it being 16-7 (like it was), we’re looking at 16-10, and it’s a whole new set of variables going forward.  I dunno.

BUT, what if the Seahawks just totally abandon the notion of faking the field goal at this point.  What if we settle for it being a 16-6 game?  After all, that’s not all that different than it being 16-7.  One point.  Still puts us in a position to give up the field goal to put them at 19 points.  Still leaves us an opportunity to go for a late touchdown, except we’d just pull to 19-13.  Still gives us the opportunity to kick an onside kick, and maybe it goes down exactly as it did and we get it back.

That would give us just a hair over two minutes to go get the go-ahead touchdown.

EXCEPT, in this situation, there would be no point in going for 2, as being up 21-19 is pointless.  So, we’d kick the extra point, and then Green Bay would have 1:25 to drive down and kick the game-winning field goal.  Leaving us in the exact same position we were in with the Atlanta game two years ago.  This time, losing 22-20.

I feel like everything I’ve just laid out for you is entirely reasonable and plausible.  And, as such, it leads me to strongly believe that Russell Wilson’s third interception was THE most important play of the game.

Okay, so maybe I’m an idiot.  But, still, I feel like we’ll be studying this game for the next thousand years, picking it apart like some biblical tome, looking for meaning where there really is none.  I HAVE BEEN PROFOUNDLY AFFECTED BY THIS VICTORY AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF!!!

I should just take a page out of Belichick’s book, put it all out of my mind, and recite the mantra:  On To New England.  On To New England.  On To New England.