The Seahawks Almost Always Suck In The Divisional Round

The Seahawks are 4-8 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. If you discount the three times the Seahawks were the #1 seed, our record drops to 1-8. Of those nine games, all of them were on the road; for what it’s worth, we’re 0 for our last 8 Divisional Round road games.

But, I would argue even the games we won (except, maybe that very first one, when we went down to Miami and shocked the world against Marino and a 12-4 Dolphins team that seemed destined for the Super Bowl) we played like absolute crap. So, once again, let’s take a stroll down memory lane (also, if it’s all the same to you, I’m going to disregard the games from the 1980’s entirely, because I was a toddler at the time).

Want to know why it’s so hard to win on the road in the Divisional Round? Maybe these examples will give you an idea.

But first, let’s start with our home victories. In 2005, the 13-3 Seahawks had about as easy of a road to the Super Bowl as you can imagine. The rest of the NFC was pretty mediocre that year. Nevertheless, a 6-seeded Redskins team came into Seattle and played us extremely tough. We had to overcome an injury to our MVP, Shaun Alexander, as well as three turnovers to squeak out a 20-10 victory. The weird thing is, we were able to take the Panthers to school in the NFCCG the next week, winning by 20 points, before obviously … let’s just move on.

Fast forward to 2013. Again, the 13-3 Seahawks had the #1 seed, this time hosting the Saints. Again, we had to face the 6-seeded team from the NFC, who barely beat the Eagles to get to us. We all remember this one; TERRIBLE weather game. When I think of the Russell Wilson-led Seahawks struggling in the pouring rain, I think of this game. We were up 16-0 through three quarters, but the Saints split that score down the middle early in the fourth quarter. It looked like from that point onward, the Saints were going to be unstoppable (indeed, they tacked on another TD late), but thankfully we pulled some magic out of our hat to win it 23-15. You’ll remember the very next week, we played a tremendous NFCCG game against the 49ers, before absolutely blowing the doors off of the Broncos in the Super Bowl.

The very next year, at 12-4 we somehow got the #1 seed again. This is arguably our best performance in any Divisional Round game; but it was still in doubt into the fourth quarter before that tremendous Kam Chancellor 90-yard Pick Six to salt it away. Oddly enough, our worst performance probably came in the NFCCG the next week, with all the turnovers and needing the dramatic comeback against the Packers to win it in overtime. Foreboding.

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Anyway, those are the three victories this century. Now, let’s get to the crux of my argument. Here are all the times the Seahawks have had to play in the Wild Card round, before going on the road to have their asses handed to them.

2006 – The year after our first Super Bowl appearance. We won the NFC West (at 9-7), and barely got by the Cowboys in that Tony Romo game. That sent us to Chicago to face a 1-seeded Bears team; I remember this game vividly. I was living in New York at the time, watching in a bar called The Black Sheep in Manhattan (it was my go-to establishment for watching NFL games). I still, to this day, can’t believe we lost to Rex Grossman. We started off frustratingly slow – down 21-14 at half – but totally dominated the third quarter, taking a 24-21 lead into the final frame. We had COUNTLESS chances to either add to our lead, or win it late, but instead the game went into overtime. Nevertheless, we won the coin toss, but again fucked up and had to punt. Rex Grossman completed a bomb into Seattle territory and that was that. Just, no excuse whatsoever.

2007 – Again, we won the NFC West, but again we had to play on Wild Card weekend, beating the Redskins in easy fashion. That left us going back to Green Bay in a snow storm. Most people only remember the “We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score” game, but not a lot remember the time we went there, took a quick 14-0 lead, then proceeded to be outscored 42-6 the rest of the way. One of Brett Favre’s last great games. That was the year the Giants beat the Patriots as a 5-seed in the Super Bowl, so clearly we know the impossible is sometimes possible, but I highly doubt it’s that way for us.

2010 – Remember the 7-9 NFC West champions? Remember the Beastquake sending us on the road in the Divisional Round, once again to Chicago? That Seahawks team was terrible and it showed. The Bears (with Jay Cutler, yeesh) went up 28-0 late in the third quarter, then 35-10 late in the fourth quarter before an improbable Hasselbeck-led rally made the final score a misleading 35-24.

2012 – This one hurts more than any other loss outside of the two Super Bowl defeats. That Seahawks team should’ve won it all! But, we lost one too many games in the regular season (I blame a road loss to a mediocre 7-9 Dolphins team in week 12, coming off of our BYE), so the 11-4-1 49ers won the division over the 11-5 Seahawks (even though we KILLED them in Week 16 at home). It was all set for us to meet them in the NFCCG for a rubber match on the season; all we had to do was get by the Falcons (after, once again, dispatching the Redskins in the Wild Card round). So, what did we do? We went down 20-0 at half. We made a furious comeback to take a 1-point lead with less than a minute to go; but the Falcons went straight down the field to kick the game winner, 30-28. Had we advanced, I have no doubt we would’ve beaten the 49ers again, and I don’t think it’s a stretch for us to have beaten the Ravens in the Super Bowl.

2015 – Super Bowl XLIX Hangover season. We somehow made it to 10-6, but the Cardinals were the divisional champs. We improbably won in Minnesota in the Wild Card round (Blair Walsh Game) to send us to Carolina. Once again, we fucking shit the bed in the first half, going down 31-0. And, once again, we made a furious comeback to pull the game to within 31-24. We scored on every drive in the second half except one where we punted; that ultimately decided the game (aside from, of course, all the turnovers and fuck-ups in the first half). Those Panthers would go on to destroy Arizona before biffing it against the Broncos in the Super Bowl. That’s a tough one; I like our chances in both of those games.

2016 – Honestly, I blocked most of this season out of my memory. It says here that we hosted the Lions in the Wild Card round? That doesn’t sound right. The Lions made the playoffs?! Then, we had to go back to Atlanta, and after taking a 7-0 lead, the Falcons would outscore us 36-6 before we tacked on a late, meaningless touchdown. Those Falcons would easily cruise to the Super Bowl before handing away the title to the Patriots with their terrible coaching.

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That brings us to this weekend. We were prevented from playing the Rams again in last year’s playoffs after losing to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round, but there’s no doubt in my mind we would’ve been destroyed. There seems to be significantly more hope for the 2019 Seahawks against these Packers, but I dunno. As I’ve said all along, it’s just HARD to win on the road in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, when you’re going up against a Top 2 seed coming off of a BYE. They’re a Top 2 seed for a reason; say what you will about their easy schedule, but they still won those games! They won those games – not for nothing – in a similar fashion to the way the Seahawks win a lot of their games!

We’re beaten up and tired after having gone on the road and taking out the Eagles. The Packers are fresh and healthy. Maybe if a few of their key players had gone down with season-ending injuries in Week 17, I’d be singing a different tune. But, the Seahawks are the team overburdened with injuries, while the Packers seem to be relatively healthy at all the right spots. It would take every ounce of magic the Seahawks have in them to prevail in this one, and I just don’t think we have any more magic left.

The 2019 Seahawks just aren’t very GOOD. That’s the bottom line here. I highly doubt we can play a second straight turnover-free game, I highly doubt all of our key guys are going to make it through this one healthy, and it just seems – again, based on experience – that we save our absolute worst performances for the Divisional Round.

I expect no different this weekend.

Should Seahawks Fans Lowkey Be Rooting For A Russell Wilson Injury This Pre-Season?

As I try to do most years, I read through the Deadspin “Why Your Team Sucks” post on the 2018 Seattle Seahawks.  As usual, it’s pretty funny and forces me to deal with some hard truths about this team (there are also ways to pick apart its logic, but in what way is that fun?).  At the end, they always have a list of comments from fans (pulled from Tweets or comments sections, I’m assuming), and it’s after reading through a bunch of these where I start to get bored and check out.  But, one comment caught my eye.  Someone named Trevor said, “This team is just a Russell Wilson preseason ACL tear away from an 0-16 season.”

That caught my eye because A) it’s absolutely true; can you imagine this team with Austin Davis or Alex McGough starting all 16 games?  They’d make the 1992 Seahawks look like the greatest team in the history of football!

Also, B) I had some thoughts along this line of thinking earlier this week.

I was thinking about this Seahawks rebuild that we’re all involved in right now – even though no one wants to call it a rebuild, so call it whatever the fuck you want; just know that this Seahawks team isn’t as good as the one that was contending for championships from 2012-2016 – and wondering what’s the best way to rebuild?

In my opinion, you want to milk as much as you can out of your championship window, then you want one season where you suffer a total collapse, then you want to draft the best player on the planet and snap right back into the next championship window.  Kinda like how the Colts were great with Peyton Manning, then sucked for a year when he was injured, then landed on Andrew Luck (which, jury is still out, but if he comes back to full health, he’s still a guy that can lead that team to the playoffs on the regular … even if he’s not as good a quarterback as Russell Wilson).  What’s the best rebuild in the history of North American professional sports?  Assuming you’re not the Packers, and you don’t have one hall of fame quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) pre-selected and on your roster already when you decide to move on from your previous hall of fame quarterback (Brett Favre), then you need the next best thing:  one year of total ineptitude.  The best rebuild of all time is the San Antonio Spurs of the 1990s.

Ever since David Robinson was taken in 1989, the Spurs were a legitimately great team, frequently winning 50+ games and making the playoffs every single year, except one.  That was the 1996-1997 season, when David Robinson got injured and only played in 6 games; that year the Spurs went 20-62.  The Spurs were so bad, they earned the #1 overall pick the following year.  Who did they draft?  Tim Duncan.  They proceeded to make the playoffs for 21 years (and counting) and have been the model franchise in the NBA, winning 5 titles in the process.  I’d say that’s a pretty fucking successful rebuild, and all they had to do was suffer one year where they were the absolute worst.

Would you trade one year of Russell Wilson’s prime, if you knew the Seahawks would go on to make the playoffs 21 years in a row (and counting) and win 5 Super Bowl championships?  I’m not promising that will happen, but go with me a little bit.

The 2018 Seahawks aren’t going to do anything.  You know it, I know it.  Because it’s the pre-season, and games that count haven’t actually started yet, we’re deluding ourselves into believing they’ll be interesting – and that there’s always a chance when you have a quarterback as good as Russell Wilson – but he can’t literally do everything.  He can’t even play defense!  History is littered with great quarterbacks who failed to do anything with mediocre teams.  Hell, that’s Dan Marino’s entire career!  That’s Philip Rivers’ entire career!  That’s the last decade for Drew Brees (post-Super Bowl), all but a few years for Brett Favre and John Elway and Steve Young and on and on and on.  There’s only one Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson is no Tom Brady (saying nothing of the fact that Pete Carroll is no Bill Belichick).  The best case scenario for the 2018 Seahawks is that enough of these prospects pan out that we jump ahead of schedule and MAYBE contend for a playoff spot in 2019; but really, it feels like a 2+ year thing in even the most optimistic of alternate universes.

Plus, all the while, we have a healthy Russell Wilson pulling our asses out of the fire just enough to get us to 8-8 this year.  And every year after that until we luck into some magical 3-year run of drafting where we can supplement this team with talent becoming of his elite greatness.  Do you trust this front office to re-build a championship roster armed with a consistent string of draft picks in the 18-20 range?  Where we’ll ultimately trade some selections away in hopes of beefing up a depthless roster, while trading down enough times to re-fill our draft coffers?

It’s no coincidence that this team was at its best in the draft – 2010-2012 – when they were picking in the top 10 or early teens (even 2011 was mediocre when you consider our first two picks were James Carpenter and John Moffitt).

I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea what the 2019 NFL Draft will have to offer, but I can say this:  an 0-16 Seahawks team with the #1 overall pick should be able to get some REALLY good players.  On top of which, ACLs (and the like) heal faster than ever before in the history of the league, with advancements in surgeries and rehab techniques.  Russell Wilson, by all accounts, should be back in plenty of time to start the 2019 season.  On top of which, 2019 will be the final year of his deal, and a significant injury might just reduce the cost it takes to extend him long term.

I mean, can you imagine this roster in 2019, plus whoever the best pass rusher in college is right now?  Plus, whatever stud we get at the top of the second round?  Can you imagine what this front office would be able to do, armed with high picks in every round?  Maybe we trade down from #1 to #3 and pick up a bounty of extra picks in the process, and STILL get that stud pass rusher!

Look, I’m just spitballing here.  Obviously, I’m not ACTUALLY rooting for Russell Wilson to get injured.  But, I’ll be damned if I’m not sick to my stomach at the thought of an endless string of .500 finishes as we squander the majority of our franchise quarterback’s prime in search of diamonds in the rough that turn out to be turds on the field.  Maybe one year of a total collapse is just the thing to speed up the whole ordeal.

Not Winners & Losers Of The Seahawks’ First Pre-Season Game 2018

Winners & Losers posts are fucking played out, so fuck it, I’m doing something different (that’s really sort of the same, but whatever).

Last night, the Seahawks played in their first pre-season game of the year and lost to the Colts 19-17.  The game was efficiently played through the first half, we saw a ton of different guys get out there and mix it up, and then the second half was a slog of mistakes, penalties, and absolute tom-fuckery that ended with a 3rd & 1 play just before the 2-minute warning.  The Seahawks used their final time out in an attempt to get the ball back for a come-from-behind opportunity.  The Colts ran the ball up the middle, Delano Hill (I believe) had a chance to stuff the running back for no gain, but he ultimately missed the tackle, leading to an Indy first down and a victory formation coming out of the 2-minute break.  So, let’s get to the premise of this post.

What I’m Geeked Out About After One Meaningless Pre-Season Game

Okay, so first of all, caveats galore:  it’s pre-season, it’s the first game of the pre-season, it’s against an Indy defense that probably isn’t all that good and probably wasn’t playing all their best players and probably wasn’t running anything but a vanilla scheme.

That having been said, I’m pretty fucking geeked out about the Seahawks’ #1 offense.  All of it!  Russell Wilson was on point!  The running game looked strong!  The offensive line gave Wilson all day to throw and opened up huge holes!  Receivers and tight ends got open!  The offense was crisp and efficient and was even able to overcome a penalty or two!  It culminated in a touchdown pass to Nick Vannett and the major players were done for the night.

Why am I so geeked out about all this, with all those caveats I mentioned?  Because this is what’s SUPPOSED to happen.  This is how your #1 offense is SUPPOSED to look against the dregs of the league in the first pre-season game of the year.  And yet, all too often in years past, under Darrell Bevell & Co., it’s been a fucking SLOG!  Much like in regular season games, this offense tended to take a while to get going even in the pre-season.  So, it was FUCKING refreshing to finally see these guys come out right away and ram it down the other team’s throat.

As always:  Fuck You Very Much Darrell Bevell & Tom Cable.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Good Way)

Even though Vannett had a drop (that, on replay, might’ve been a tad thrown behind him, but still, something you should catch), I liked what he brought to the table.  Any sort of production we get from the tight ends should be gravy (so long as they’re doing their jobs blocking), but if he can be a real weapon offensively, that’d be HUGE for our passing game.

There was a nice catch by Stringfellow and a couple good catches by Moore for the back-end of the receiving corps.  All in all, I thought our targets looked good.

Rasheem Green is probably the talk of the day defensively.  This pass rush looks as pathetic as I’ve ever seen it, and I’m sure he did most of his damage against backups, but nevertheless even THIS was more than I was expecting out of Green as a rookie.  I kinda expected him to look lost and overwhelmed even in the pre-season, so to see him really stand out as the best pass rusher on this team last night is an encouraging sign for his first season in the league.

Also promising:  Shaquem Griffin.  He didn’t make every single play, but boy was he all over the place!  He led the game with 9 tackles and had a tackle for loss mixed in as well.

I thought Akeem King really showed out in getting some extended playing time.  He had a nice pass breakup, showed some really good coverage overall, and even though he had that helmet penalty on special teams, I really don’t think it was totally his fault!  You could see on replay, he tried moving his head out of the way and leading with his shoulder, but the offensive guy lowered HIS head and yet it’s the defensive guy’s fault.  I think that’s a collosal load of bullshit and something the NFL really needs to adjust.  I’m with you 100% when it comes to getting rid of helmet-to-helmet hits and avoiding hitting guys in the head overall, but when it’s the offensive guy putting himself in harm’s way, I mean, how is the defender supposed to avoid it?  We’re teaching all these defensive guys to see the play and keep his head up and all of that; why aren’t we teaching the offensive guys the same thing?  I feel like a high percentage of these hits are the fault of the offense, and no one’s doing a damn thing about it.

Let’s Talk About Competitions

You know I love me a good punter competition!  Of course, the main downside is that you’ve got to see the incumbent half the time (to keep up appearances, I suppose) and give him the first opportunity (because he is the veteran and whatnot).  The other big downside is that you kind of have to root for your offense to totally suck, which obviously makes for boring football to watch.

I thought, you know, Jon Ryan was fine.  I wish him well and I hope another team snaps him up and he punts in this league for many more years to come.  But, I’m ready to just hand the keys over to Michael Dickson right now, because he was phenomenal!  He’s got that ball BOOMING and it doesn’t even look like he’s trying all that hard!  I feel like he could punt it the entire length of the football field, and at some point, when we’re backed way up in our own endzone, I want to see him unleash a furious hellscape of a punt that makes us all simultaneously cream in our pants.

As for the kickers, way too early to tell.  I want this battle to go to the bitter end.  Janikowski made both of his extra points; Myers made his 43-yard field goal.

Finally, I’m just going to bypass all the more interesting competitions (I thought all the RBs looked good, except of course for C.J. Prosise who – SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE SUR-PRISE – missed the game with an injury) and talk about the backup QBs.  Austin Davis is almost certainly going to win that #2 job, and he moved the ball pretty well on his first drive of the game, but GOD DAMN did that interception in the endzone leave a bitter taste in my mouth.  I was thrilled to see him on the sidelines coming out of halftime.

As for Alex McGough, he was definitely Captain Checkdown, but what do you expect from a 7th round QB playing in his first NFL game?  I thought the backup offensive line did him no favors.  He showed good mobility, but all too often I found myself SCREAMING at him, “THROW IT AWAY!”  He ultimately took two too many sacks when he had clear opportunities to throw it out of bounds and live to fight another day, and that’s ultimately on him.

He also had that one scramble play that went for a HUGE gain to Stringfellow (who was erroneously flagged for offensive PI – which, I guess you have to say it was pre-season for the refs too, because they looked pretty bad on occasion), which goes to show you this kid has moxie and a lot of potential to be maybe a Doug Flutie type of player.  I still think Davis has the clear lead, but I’m not TOTALLY going to write off Mr. McGough.

Other Things That Caught My Eye (In A Bad Way)

I was disappointed in something I thought would be a strength for this team:  its depth.  Coming out of the draft, I thought – even though our top-flight talent wasn’t what it was in this team’s prime – we at least had much better guys on this roster from players 54-90.  But, that proved to be wishful thinking on my part.

Obviously, a number of starters were out injured (notably Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Byron Maxwell, and Doug Baldwin), but I pegged this as a team that would dominate the 4th quarters of pre-season games (i.e. our third stringers are better than your third stringers), and that just wasn’t the case last night.

I thought the pass defense was a little lacking, for good reason.  Tre Flowers was the starter opposite Shaquill Griffin, and he had predictable rookie mistakes.  He showed some promise, but he was also getting picked on pretty regularly.  The good thing is, he’ll likely have ample opportunities to grow through some of these pains the next three weeks.

I saw a ball get completed in front of Shaquill Griffin that I can guarantee you Richard Sherman (if healthy) would’ve broken up.  Look, right or wrong, I’m going to be comparing every play that goes his way to Sherm in his prime; I’m sorry, that’s just what happens when you replace a legend.  What’s His Name had to replace Dan Marino when he retired, and look at where he is now!  (forgotten).  Other than that one catch, I thought Griffin looked fine, but it’s something I’m going to monitor very closely.

I thought our linebackers looked pretty terrible in that first quarter, as you saw the Colts throwing to WIDE OPEN running backs on the regular.  K.J. Wright got beat, Bobby Wagner got beat; guys looked like they were out of position; and quite frankly guys looked like they were ill-prepared for a quarterback coming off of a year-plus out of football for a shoulder injury.  I mean, what did you expect?  Andrew Luck to sling the ball 50 yards down field?  OF COURSE he was going to throw quick, short passes!  We should’ve been on top of that.

I also didn’t love what I saw out of Austin Calitro, backing up Bobby Wagner, but you know, he’s an undrafted rookie playing behind an All Pro, so I won’t get my panties all in a wad.  He has a long way to go; I just pray to the high heavens that Wagner never gets injured.

As I predicted, this team kind of got pushed around on 3rd/4th downs early in the game.  The Colts were ultimately held to field goals most of the time, but nevertheless they were able to put up some pretty sustained drives throughout (especially their starters).  Need to find a way to get off the field.

The backup O-Line looked as miserable as I remember from the last three years.  While the starters looked GREAT, the backups leave a lot to be desired.  It also doesn’t help that our two backup right tackles – Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Battle – left the game with some serious-looking injuries.  One to the knee, one looking to be a high ankle sprain.  These were the two guys pushing Germain Ifedi for that starting right tackle spot, so this is probably the worst news of the night.  Ifedi might be better than he was last year, but I still don’t like the idea of him winning the job by default.

Chuck Knox Passed Away

Sad news over the weekend, for Seahawks fans, and real hardcore NFL fans (as well as, obviously, his friends and family and former players and whatnot), as Chuck Knox passed away from complications related to dementia.

He’s currently the 2nd-winningest head coach in Seahawks history (behind Mike Holmgren, and just ahead of Pete Carroll, who should pass both of them in 2018, if he can just get us to 8-8), and the 10th-winningest head coach in NFL history.  There were lots of stories about how tough his teams were, and how he won at all three stops he made in his tenure in the league, but the story as it relates to Seahawks fans has to do with all those teams in the 80s that captivated the Pacific Northwest, in ways having only been surpassed (at the time) by the Supersonics of the late 70s and the Husky football teams since the dawn of time.

The 1983 Seahawks went 9-7, secured one of the two wild card spots, and went all the way to the AFC Championship on the back of a couple upset victories against the John Elway-led Broncos and the Dan Marino-led Dolphins in Miami, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Raiders.

We parlayed that into a 12-4 season the very next year, another wild card berth (thanks to the fucking Broncos going 13-3), and some revenge over those Raiders in the wild card round, before falling to the Dolphins in Miami (who would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the 49ers, in Dan Marino’s only appearance in the big game).

It’s a testament to Chuck Knox and the physicality of his Seahawks teams that we were able to do so much with some pretty average quarterbacks.  Jim Zorn and later Dave Krieg were really propped up by an elite running game and a hall of famer at wide receiver, Steve Largent (the best receiver to have ever played the game until Jerry Rice entered the league).

I didn’t really become a Seahawks fan until after those glory years, sometime around 1986, 1987, and especially 1988 (as I was 5, 6, and 7 years old, respectively).  So, the bulk of my Seahawks memories were forged in the Ken Behring years.  My memories of Chuck Knox were ones of respecting the man, but frustrated at all the losing and mediocrity.  I would later learn, that had this franchise been run by someone halfway competent – and not someone who just wanted to run this team out of town – we could’ve drafted Brett Favre when he came out of college.  The 1990s might’ve looked VERY different had that been the case.

For one thing, you figure Knox would’ve stuck around beyond the 1991 season.  I believe he was so disenchanted with the whole organization that he couldn’t stick around, which is what led to us bottoming out in 1992 under Tom Flores, followed by us drafting Rick Mirer and continuing to be the height of disappointment for the rest of the decade until Mike Holmgren came around.

Can you imagine, though?  The Seahawks with a different owner?  Drafting Brett Favre?  With Chuck Knox sticking around another 6-7 years or more?  Maybe winning a Super Bowl or two, with his great running games and defenses anchoring a hall of famer at quarterback?

I’ll tell you what I believe:  I believe we’d be talking about a hall of fame head coach in Chuck Knox and one of the top 4 or 5 winningest head coaches in NFL history!  Mike Holmgren might never have become Mike Holmgren without Favre in Green Bay; maybe he would’ve ended up at another team.  And, you figure when the 90s came to a close, and Knox was ready to hang ’em up, he probably would’ve had some unknown protege all lined up to succeed him.  WHO KNOWS WHERE THE SEAHAWKS WOULD BE TODAY?  Or, more importantly, how successful we could’ve become.

Chuck Knox was really one of the good ones.  He’ll be missed by all longtime Seahawks fans.

We Lost The Tez

Respect …

Seattle has been hit pretty hard over the last week.  First, we lost Chris Cornell, who was an absolute titan of my youth, as superfans of the 90’s Seattle music scene don’t get much bigger than me, and now we’ve lost Cortez Kennedy, who died of unknown causes at the age of 48.

I’ll withhold any sort of rant until we get more information, but it doesn’t look good that Tez was complaining of headaches in the days leading up to his death.  The more this happens, the worse it’s ultimately going to be for the game of football.  I mean, we can’t have our superstars dying before the age of 50!  Everyone always says they were gone too soon whenever someone dies, but it actually means something when you’re only 48 years old.

I’ve been having a hard time keeping it together as I read all the tributes and well-wishes to him and his family the last day or so.  I’ll generally always root for guys who play for my team, but it’s nice to know that someone so great at football was also such a great person in life.  There are so many stupid fucking dickheads in the world, I forget sometimes that there’s a lot of goodness and kindness in the world too.

Growing up, Steve Largent was my favorite football player of all-time, but Cortez Kennedy quickly became my #2.  I was looking through the 1990 NFL Draft, wondering whatever became of the guys drafted around Tez (who was picked third by the Seahawks).  Jeff George was picked first by Indy, and he ended up being an explosive bust.  Kind of like a poor man’s Jay Cutler.  But, you know, you can understand why they grabbed him #1 overall.  Then, the Jets picked running back Blair Thomas with the second overall pick, and I had to laugh.  Thomas was out of the NFL by the end of the 1995 season, and you could argue he was part bust (injury-related) and part bust (coaching-related).  I mean, who drafts a running back #2 overall, then puts him in a 4-running back rotation?  That’s insane to me.

So far, there have been three other Hall of Famers to come out of the 1990 draft:  Junior Seau at #5 to the Chargers (also lost too soon, due to football-related brain issues), Emmitt Smith at #17 to the Cowboys, and Shannon Sharpe WAAAAY down at the second-to-last pick of the seventh round to the Broncos.  It’s pretty crazy that you could make a very good argument that Tez was the greatest 3-Tech Defensive Tackle of all time, Seau was the greatest Middle Linebacker of all time, Emmitt Smith was the greatest Running Back of all time, and Sharpe was the greatest Tight End of all time, all coming out in the same draft.

What was good for the NFL was also good for the Seahawks in that 1990 NFL Draft.  On top of Tez, the Seahawks got Terry Wooden, a starting outside linebacker, in the second round; Robert Blackmon, a starting strong safety, also in the second round; and Chris Warren, a starting running back, in the fourth round.  On top of some of the holdover talent, it’s mind-blowing that the Seahawks would be a 2-win team only two years later, but I guess that’s what happens when you neglect the quarterback position for so long.

Tez was truly in his prime from 1991-1996, when he made the Pro Bowl each of those six years, and was First Team All Pro in three of those years (from 1992-1994).  He had his 1997 season cut short due to injury, but bounced back for two more Pro Bowl seasons in 1998 & 1999.  He was more of a rotational guy under Mike Holmgren, particularly in his final year in 2000, and he only got to enjoy one playoff appearance (in 1999, in a loss to Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins), but he was a Seahawk through and through.  For most of the 1990s, Tez was literally the only reason to ever watch a Seahawks game.  I take great pride – and I know he takes great pride – in the fact that he was a career Seahawk, even though he had multiple offers to play elsewhere as his career came to a close.

The best part of Tez’s game was that he wasn’t just a sacks guy.  He was a complete, all-around defensive tackle.  Yes, he got his share of sacks (14 in 1992, when he was Defensive Player of the Year), but I don’t remember EVER seeing an interior defensive lineman with the number of tackles that he’d get.  73 tackles in 1991, 92 (!) tackles in 1992, 77 tackes in 1993.  I mean, how do you even do that?  That’s on top of the fact that he was almost constantly double-teamed, because if you didn’t double-team him, he’d absolutely blow up every single play.  And, that’s on top of the fact that he rarely left the field.

A 3-down interior lineman with high sack totals AND high tackle numbers?  And you want to try to argue with me that he’s not one of the best 3-Tech DTs of all time?  Get the fuck off my planet!

I didn’t know the man, I was never lucky enough to meet him in person, but one of my favorite stories about him is the reason why Tez wore the number 99 in his DPOY season of 1992.  Earlier that year, his best friend (and fellow University of Miami alum) Jerome Brown died in a car crash.  Brown was drafted by the Eagles in 1987 and was also an interior defensive lineman.  He started off his career a bit slower than Tez, but in 1990 and 1991, he was First Team All Pro, and on the path towards the Hall of Fame.  Jerome Brown wore the number 99, so in honor of him, Tez wore that number for the 1992 season, when he absolutely tore apart the National Football League.  That’s the type of friend Tez was; that’s the type of person the world lost yesterday.

It wasn’t a given that the Tez would make the Hall of Fame, but it damn well should’ve been.  He had to wait a few years before he got his crack, and you could tell no one would appreciate it more than him.  I was beyond thrilled the day it was announced (the only way I could ever be happier is if Edgar makes it), because no one was more deserving of such accolades.  I’m just happy he was alive to experience it.

I’m beyond bummed out right now.  I encourage anyone reading this to go down a YouTube rabbit hole of Tez highlights.  You won’t be disappointed.

My favorite pic …

Time To Kick It Into Higher Gear, Seahawks

I don’t know much about cars; do you really kick gears?

The Seahawks did a great and impressive thing last week:  they stepped toe to toe with one of the better offenses in the league, and they came out on top.  When you look at the probable major players for the NFC playoffs, you’re going to have to overcome some impressive offenses:  Arizona, Green Bay, and Carolina (even though nobody thinks of them as having an impressive offense, go really look at the numbers they’re putting up this year with essentially no one but Cam).  It’s going to be vital in some of these potential playoff matchups (if, indeed, that’s where the Seahawks end up) to have our offense clicking to match theirs.

On the flipside, we have this week’s matchup against the Vikings.  They DON’T have an impressive offense.  In fact, it’s pretty feeble.  It’s Adrian Peterson and A LOT of game managing out of their quarterback.  But, their defense is rock solid in just about every aspect.  When you look at teams like the Vikings, Arizona and Carolina again, and to a lesser extent the Falcons, you’re going to see some good defenses in the playoffs as well.  Getting our guys going against these stout fronts will make all the difference in getting back to a third Super Bowl in three years.

Finally, the big thing about this week’s game is that this is the last really good team we’re going to face until the playoffs (if you think like I do, that the Cards will be resting the bulk of their starters for the bulk of that game in week 17, as they’ll have the 2-seed wrapped up by then).  I see this as the true litmus test of the second half of this season.  To date, until defeating the Steelers, the Seahawks had lost every game against every quality opponent they faced.  They’re now 1-4 in those games, with – as I mentioned – one final test to go.  If these are the same Seahawks we watched struggle to a 4-5 start, then I would put all my money down on the Seahawks LOSING this weekend in another heartbreaker.  BUT, if they’ve somehow turned a corner (like they did towards the end of 2014 and 2012), then the Vikings will be just another mediocre opponent we’ll have no trouble defeating by 7-10 points.

The formula couldn’t be simpler:  stop Adrian Peterson and you stop the Vikings.  At that point, it’s just a matter of getting to 17-20 points to give yourself enough of a cushion to withstand any late-game heroics.  Do I think the Seahawks are capable of doing that?  Mmm, I think anything’s possible.

As I mentioned in my review of the Steelers game, I like our defense to make a big leap forward in the coming weeks.  I like Shead as our other starting corner.  I like getting Lane back and him having a full game under his belt.  I think we’re JUST starting to get our groove back as a whole, defensively.  But, I think it’s highly probable that we’re not giving Teddy Bridgewater enough credit for limiting mistakes and getting the ball into the hands of playmakers.  The Vikings have a good, young receiver (Stefon Diggs) and a quality, underrated tight end (Kyle Rudolph), and I think they’ll be able to move the ball through the air just enough.  I also think it’s impossible to stop Adrian Peterson for a full 60 minutes.  We’ve got a very good run defense, but then again, is it good because of the long line of stiffs we’ve been playing against?  Take a look:

  1. The Rams, pre-Gurley (Benjamin Cunningham led with 45 yards on 16 carries)
  2. The Packers, featuring Fat Eddie Lacy (James Starks actually led with 95 yards on 20 carries)
  3. The Bears, featuring Jimmy Clausen & no Alshon Jeffery (Forte, with 74 yards on 20 carries)
  4. The Lions, ’nuff said (Ameer Abdullah with 33 yards on 13 carries)
  5. The Bengals, featuring Disappointing Jeremy Hill, and playing from way behind (Giovani Bernard with 80 yards on 15 carries)
  6. The Panthers, first solid rushing team (Jonathan Stewart with 78 yards on 20 carries)
  7. The 49ers, ’nuff said (Carlos Hyde with 40 yards on 11 carries)
  8. The Cowboys, no Romo (Darren McFadden with 64 yards on 20 carries)
  9. The Cardinals, decent rushing team (Chris Johnson with 58 yards on 25 carries)
  10. The 49ers again, this time no Hyde (Shaun Draughn with 37 yards on 12 carries)
  11. The Steelers, primarily a passing team (DeAngelo Williams with 29 yards on 8 carries)

I mean, really, LOOK at that list!  Carolina ran the ball well, aside from J-Stew.  Starks had a solid game.  Bernard burned us pretty good at times.  But, NONE of those guys are even close to what a healthy A.P. can do.  Are we SURE the Seahawks’ run defense is that good?  We’ll find out this weekend.  If it isn’t as good as we thought, we’ll be in big trouble.

Lose this game and it’s not necessarily the end of the world.  Drops us to 6-6, with three easy games (at an injury-riddled Baltimore Ravens; home vs. Cleveland; home vs. the Rams – who we always beat at home) and another potentially-easy game against the Cards.  10-6 would still be possible with a loss this weekend.

But, a loss also leads to shifting expectations.  I don’t think we’d have any business believing that this is a championship team.  If we can’t beat the Vikings, what would make us believe that we’d beat a try-hard Cardinals team, or a still-good Packers team, or a flawless Panthers team?  We’d be making the playoffs just for the sake of being there, and we’d probably get bounced in the first round by the winner of the NFC North.  Especially if that team is the Packers and we have to go back to Green Bay again, this time in the bitter cold.

A victory in Minnesota this weekend, however, puts a total re-set on the season.  It would mean the Seahawks ARE legit, and they HAVE flipped the switch at the exact right time.  At that point, I’d expect the Seahawks to win out, nab that 5-seed, and go into the winner of the NFC East and DESTROY them with ease.  My excitement level for the final four weeks will be off the charts.

As a closing aside, the last few years we’ve been talking about the great dynasties of past decades.  The Vikings of the 60s, the Steelers of the 70s, the 49ers of the 80s, the Cowboys of the 90s, the Patriots of the 00s; but, one “dynasty” I’ve always had a soft spot for is the Buffalo Bills of the early 90s.  Yeah yeah, I know, they lost four straight Super Bowls, and from a historical perspective, they’re laughingstocks.  But, do you know how IMPOSSIBLE it is for a team to go to four straight Super Bowls?  The Dolphins went to three in the early 70s (winning two), everyone else it’s two in a row or less.  Just getting to four straight Super Bowls, even winning none of them (though, coming to within a missed field goal of winning that first one) is an all time miracle of professional football.  That’s being consistently good enough to be dominant year after year, while at the same time catching fire in the playoffs.  And the Bills weren’t beating up on a down conference, either!  They had Marino’s Dolphins, Esiason’s Bengals, Moon’s Oilers, Schottenheimer’s Chiefs, and Elway’s Broncos to contend with year-in and year-out.  Some of the greatest players and coaches of all time coached in this era, and still the Bills went to back-to-back-to-back-to-back Super Bowls.  Unreal!

I’m not making an argument that I’d trade places with those teams or anything, but I like the idea of the Seahawks making a serious run at going to four straight.  Well, this would be year three.  In years 1 and 2, the Seahawks were division winners and top seeds in their conference.  In years 1 and 2 for Buffalo during their run, the Bills were division winners and top seeds in their conference.  In year 3 for the Bills, they had some struggles and finished second in their division.  But, they nabbed the top Wild Card slot, won a crazy playoff game where they came back from being down by 32 points (still the greatest comeback of all time), and scratched and clawed their way back to their third Super Bowl (knocking off the #1 seed in the Divisional Round, then beating their divisional rival in the Championship Game).

This year’s Seahawks team looks like it’s headed for a Wild Card spot.  We already had our huge “comeback game” against the Packers last year, but who’s to say we don’t win some crazy Wild Card game this year, face the Panthers in the Divisional Round, and then have to go down to Arizona for the NFC Championship Game?

For what it’s worth, that fourth Bills team easily won its division and reclaimed their #1 seed in the playoffs.  So, we have that to look forward to, if my prophecy comes to fruition (except, no more getting beat in the Super Bowl, thx).

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.

#1 – Russell Wilson

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

I try to have a great appreciation for greatness.  When I was younger, I tended to gravitate my affection towards the underdogs on the roster.  Yes, of course, I liked the superstars.  Steve Largent, Gary Payton, Ken Griffey Jr., Cortez Kennedy, Shawn Kemp, Randy Johnson, and so on.  But, the softest spot in my heart was reserved for the loveable losers.  Your Bob Wells types.  Paul Skansi.  Vinny Askew.

Nowadays, I try to be a little more discerning.  Yeah, that Derrick McKey signed photograph I had growing up was pretty sweet, but wouldn’t it have been a lot cooler if that was a GP signed photo?  Today, Felix Hernandez is my favorite athlete.  Why?  Because he’s fucking amazing in every possible way.  My favorite Seahawk tends to fluctuate by day, depending on my mood, but lately it has ranged from Marshawn Lynch to Kam Chancellor to Earl Thomas to Richard Sherman.  Great players, all.

I’ve never had a quarterback as my favorite, though.  Matt Hasselbeck came the closest – and if we had indeed taken the ball and scored in that Green Bay playoff game, he’d probably be cemented at the top of my list – but he always managed to fall a little short in games.  Yes, he was good.  Yes, he was the best we had at the time.  Yes, he led us to a bunch of division titles.  But, he could never quite get us over the hump.  It’s easy to blame certain factors around him – injuries to our offensive line & running game late in his Seahawks career; a poor secondary in the prime of his Seahawks career; a lack of overall talent around him early in his Seahawks career – but Hasselbeck deserves a small slice of the blame pie as well.  Failing to win a championship under Holmgren was a team effort; let’s just leave it at that.

I’m rambling, of course, but all of this is prelude to me saying that I could REALLY see Russell Wilson make a big leap up on my Favorite Athletes leaderboard.  He’s already kind of up there anyway, but it more or less goes without being said.  No one out-works Russell Wilson.  His preparation is up there with guys like Peyton Manning, J.J. Watt, Drew Brees, and players of yore like Jerry Rice and Ray Lewis.  Fucking machines.  Guys who eat, sleep, and breathe football.  Guys for whom nothing else matters than being the very best.  What makes the Seahawks so special is that there are a number of guys on his very own team who match his passion for winning, like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.

Hand in hand with that is:  you’ll never see Russell Wilson in the news for any sort of negative reason.  He’s not going to be associated with a police investigation like Ray Rice, Josh Gordon, or the San Francisco 49ers as a whole.  You can worry about anyone else on this team, but Russell Wilson isn’t even a consideration.  When he’s not working on his craft, he’s hanging with kids at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  You’ll also never see him in the news for saying the wrong thing.  Russell Wilson will never be the source of bulletin board material because – as I said before – he’s a fucking machine.  That includes his interactions with the media, which are downright boring (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).  Let Richard Sherman poach the headlines; I’m fine with that too.  Russell Wilson is just going to quietly go about his business of dismantling your entire operation, praising you to the moon while he does it.

Not gonna lie to you, if I’m a 49ers fan, I’d probably find Russell Wilson more irritating than Richard Sherman.

One of my favorite things to do is just pull up Wilson’s numbers and gaze affectionately at them.  Here they are, in two full seasons:

  • 32 games, 24-8 record, 2 Pro Bowls, 10 game-winning drives, 8 comeback victories
  • 509 for 800, 63.6% completions, 6,475 yards, 52 TDs, 19 INTs
  • 8.1 yards per attempt, 100.6 passer rating
  • 190 rushing attempts, 1,028 rushing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 5.4 yards per attempt
  • 4-1 playoff record, 82 for 130, 63.08% completions, 1,096 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 102.0 passer rating, 8.43 yards per attempt, 26 rushes, 169 yards, 1 TD, 6.5 yards per attempt
  • 1 Super Bowl Championship

Want some more mind-blowing tidbits?

  • Russell Wilson is tied with Peyton Manning for 2nd all time among passing TDs in a player’s first two seasons in the league (behind Dan Marino’s 68 at this point in his career)
  • Russell Wilson is one of four quarterbacks to have a career passer rating of 100 or more in his first two seasons (minimum 100 attempts), behind the following:  Kurt Warner, Dan Marino, and Nick Foles of all people
  • Russell Wilson is 5th in completion percentage in his first two years, behind Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner, and Tom Brady (minimum 300 attempts, because I’ll be God damned if I’m going to live in a world where Elvis Grbac leads a list in ANYTHING but sexual impotency)
  • Russell Wilson is first in wins, with the following rounding out the top 5:  Roethlisberger & Luck (22), Marino (21), Flacco & Ryan (20)

The point of all this is:  Russell Wilson is a God damn national treasure.  And there’s no way we’d be where we are without him.  Yes, the defense has been off-the-charts good since he entered the league, but that won’t last forever.  As early as this year, we could see a steep decline in defensive effectiveness.  And, just as soon as that happens, the burden will fall on Wilson’s shoulders.

It’s year three for Wilson.  This is now his team.  Yes, it’s been his team since 2012, but this year it will REALLY be his team.  He’s bound to take a dramatic step forward as the game continues to slow down for him.  He’s got the talent in place to have a really big year.  And, if the defense takes a step back, we’re likely to need it.

The quarterback is always the most important position, for every football team.  You could make the argument that the Seahawks would’ve still been pretty great last year.  If Tarvar had started all 16 games instead of Wilson, we probably still would’ve made the playoffs, with a remote chance of winning it all.  But, I don’t think Tarvar gets us the division.  I don’t think he gets us home field.  And, if I’m being honest, I don’t think he even gets us a win in the Wild Card round.

Russell Wilson is the X-Factor.  He’s often overlooked because of the name recognition of the guys he was drafted with:  Andrew Luck & RGIII.  He’ll probably never throw for the yards that Luck throws for.  He’ll never be the serious running threat that RGIII is.  But, he’s a winner.  The type of winner that those other two guys aren’t (at least, not yet).  Wilson is also overlooked because it’s perceived by the national pundits (I’m looking at you, Jeffri Chadiha) that the defense is doing all the heavy lifting, and Russell Wilson is just along for the ride.  You could make that argument in 2012 and 2013 and get your work published, while still looking like a total ass-clown by people who follow the Seahawks closely and don’t form their opinions based on SportsCenter highlights.

But, 2014 is where the narrative all changes.  Maybe not right away, as it takes time for these movements to take hold.  But, as the season progresses and we look at the jump in effectiveness.  As we witness Wilson approach 70% completions and 9+ yards per attempt.  As we see the Seahawks rack up even more wins than the 13 we had last season …

You’re going to find Russell Wilson in more than just a few discussions about the MVP of the league.  No, he won’t throw for 5,000 yards.  He likely won’t get to 4,000 yards either.  But, he’s going to continue to get his fair share of the touchdowns in this offense, as it averages over 30 points per game and contributes to a repeat performance as the #1 seed in the NFC.  14-2?  15-1?  Not without Russell Wilson.

Without Russell Wilson, we’re probably looking at 8-8 or 9-7 at best.  Yeah, he’s 6 wins all by himself.  I’d say that makes him pretty damn important.

The Key To Roster Building In The NFL

I’ll preface this by saying:  you can’t do anything without a quarterback.  That’s obvious.  Everyone knows it, so there’s really not even much point in bringing it up, except if you don’t bring it up, then wise-asses will come on here and tell me I forgot about the quarterback position.

There are all kinds of different types of quarterbacks that can win you a championship, as evidenced by the last decade or so of NFL champions.  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are going to go down as all-time greats.  Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re BAD; just means that no one is going to put them in their Top 10 All Time Greatest Quarterbacks list.

For the record, my picks:

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Tom Brady
  3. John Elway
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Dan Marino
  6. Steve Young
  7. Johnny Unitas
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Warren Moon

But, that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the quarterback is crucial.  It’s too early to say where Russell Wilson will fall on that list, but I’d venture to say we’d still be ringless if he had to carry a team with an underperforming defense last season.

And that’s what the elite quarterback will afford you.  The elites – like Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Brees, etc. – can cover up for just a so-so defense.  Of course, the fact that all of those quarterbacks only have one championship apiece will tell you that a quarterback can’t do it by himself (and, truth be told, the years their respective teams won it all, their defenses weren’t that bad).

The more talent you have around your quarterback, the less perfect your quarterback has to be (hence why Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both have two championships each).  But, the NFL has a salary cap, and teams have got to find a way to fit 53 players into that cap (plus a little extra to make up for injuries and such).  So, HOW you build around your quarterback is just about as important as the quarterback itself.

There isn’t exactly one specific way to run your team, but I’ll tell you this much:  you’re not going to get very far without a good defense.  That means one of two things:  elite pass rush, or elite secondary (or, ideally both).  Without really delving deep into things, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least half of NFL teams are pretty happy with their quarterbacks.  I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that at least half of the teams have a guy under center capable of winning it all (assuming everything breaks right and they have a good team around them).  So, you figure that at least half the time, your defense is going to face a pretty good quarterback.

Now, if you’re going to build a defense to combat all those pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, you’ve got to have one of the two aforementioned qualities:  an elite pass rush or an elite secondary.  It’s all about disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do.  If you’ve got the pass rush, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw early; if you’ve got the secondary, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw late (and hopefully give your adequate pass rush enough time to get home).  So, it would stand to reason that if you’re building your roster to win a championship, you’re going to focus the bulk of your defensive salary cap on edge rushers and/or the secondary.

What you DON’T want to do is start pumping a bunch of money down into your linebackers and interior linemen.  Unless that interior lineman is in the Cortez Kennedy/Warren Sapp mold, you’re probably overpaying.  You can find wide-bodies just about anywhere, on the cheap, no problem.  Ditto linebackers.  People will point to some of the quality guys like Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, and I will admit that those dudes are pretty awesome at what they do.  But, you know who else is pretty awesome?  Bobby Wagner.  He’s a second round pick making a fraction of what those guys are making and will make.  Bobby Wagner isn’t heralded in the least, but he’s still awesome.  And, I would venture that you can find a TON of Bobby Wagners in the draft, which will save you money in the long run over massive extensions for the Kuechlys of the world.

Take a look at the Seahawks.  We’ve pumped some serious money into Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, and soon we’ll devote a whole bunch more into Richard Sherman.  Pass rush & secondary.  Where are we finding savings?  How about three linebackers (Wagner, Wright, Smith) all drafted in the 2nd round or later, all still on rookie deals.  Now, the Seahawks MIGHT extend one or more of those guys when the time comes, but I bet they’ll be mid-range contracts that don’t kill our cap for years to come.

We’re also saving money on our interior line.  Brandon Mebane has a $5 million APY, and that leads the team on interior line spending.  Tony McDaniel is on a short-term, on-the-cheap deal, and the rest of our interior guys are on rookie contracts.

Of course, the Seahawks could always use a little more pass rush security.  Maybe Cliff Avril gets extended beyond this year.  Maybe we hit on someone in the draft.  Maybe we pick up another team’s cast-off.  Or, maybe we just try to hold the fort and steal another team’s outgoing free agent next year.

The point is:  pass rush & secondary = big money players.  Linebackers & interior linemen = savings.

On offense, the Seahawks have proven that a run-first model isn’t entirely out-dated.  Nevertheless, their spending in this area kinda sorta is.

Marshawn Lynch has the fourth-highest average per-year salary on the team (behind Harvin, Thomas, and Okung).  His contact runs out after the 2015 season.  Nobody really expects Lynch to see the final year of that deal as it’s currently configured, because nobody really expects Lynch to continue playing at the high level he’s been at the last three or four years.  Plus, there’s the whole issue with Russell Wilson getting his money after the 2014 season (when the team can negotiate an extension and finally pay him what he’s really worth).

As you can see from all the free agent deals for running backs this off-season, they’re not getting the kind of money they used to get even 10 years ago.  It sounds crazy when you think of someone like Chris Johnson, who can only get a 2-year deal; he was once the best runner in football and he’s NOT THAT OLD.  Same goes for these other guys.  What kind of a deal would Ben Tate have gotten even five years ago?  Now, he’s playing for peanuts, as is MJD, Darren McFadden, and every other running back who hits free agency.

Why is that?  Because teams are reluctant to go with the one-back system and instead opt for a By-Committee approach.  Because injuries are a son of a bitch.  And because all too often, a no-name guy from the back-end of the draft will enter the mix in the NFL and be just as good, if not better, than these over-paid mama’s boys (Trent Richardson) who somehow still get drafted high.

All of this tells me one thing:  you’re foolish if you’re pumping too much money into the running back position.

The Seahawks have the luxury of paying Marshawn Lynch a high salary because they’re paying next-to-nothing for Russell Wilson (and the quarterback position at large).  But, when Wilson’s commanding around $20 million per season, you’ve got to find ways to cut corners somewhere.  I would wager the Seahawks will pull some of that money out of the running back position (which is a shame, because everyone loves Marshawn Lynch with a passion).

It’ll be difficult, for the Seahawks more than others, because we DO rely on the run so much to make our offense go.  The run sets up the play-action pass.  The run keeps defenses honest.  The run also reduces the risk of turnovers, because if we’re successfully running the ball, then we’re not throwing as much.  If we’re not throwing as much, then we’re not throwing as many interceptions.  Bing, bang, boom.  So, the Seahawks can’t throw just any ol’ scrub in the backfield and expect to succeed.

To do what I advocate, you have to draft wisely and you have to draft often.  Finding value in a guy like Christine Michael (if he does, indeed, turn out to be the elite runner we all expect) will set us up for a good long while.  Yet, even if we were saddled with only Robert Turbin and whoever else via draft, I’d be content.

Because as long as you put value and talent into your offensive line, it really shouldn’t matter who you have at running back.

Under my system – which incidentally is the one the Seahawks have been using – you’ve got to have a great left tackle.  Russell Okung fits that mold.  He’s not quite Walter Jones, but then again, who is?  You SHOULD be able to cut corners a little bit on the guard spots, as long as you’ve got a great center.  The Seahawks have Max Unger, who is pretty terrific.  I’d like to see a breakdown of the best centers and how often they’re involved in lengthy playoff runs, because I think they’re WAY more important than most people give them credit for.

Under almost no circumstances should you be paying elite money to a guard.  Unless you know you’re getting someone like Hutch in his prime.  At which point, you should probably find a value center and make due with a so-so right tackle.  Obviously, you can’t pay everyone, but you should probably have at least two guys who are worthy of high-paying contracts.

If you’re a bad team, get that left tackle with a high draft pick.  There is ALWAYS an elite left tackle coming out in the draft.  So, if you have a high draft pick, make that guy your first priority.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful coach like Tom Cable, so try to get yourselves one of those.

The model isn’t perfect, obviously.  The Seahawks had two great linemen and a bunch of injuries last year and really struggled to protect the quarterback.  That’s where your QB comes into play.  You can put a crappy QB behind an elite O-Line and make some hay.  You probably won’t win many championships, but you can consistently make the playoffs.  The worse your O-Line is, though, the better your quarterback must be.  Russell Wilson probably isn’t an elite QB just yet, but he was good enough to make up for all the injuries and inconsistencies we suffered last year.

And, of course, that leads us to the passing game.  You can run the football all you want, but unless you can throw the ball when it counts, you’re not going to go all the way.  Ask Adrian Peterson about that, I’m sure he’s got some stories to tell.

Like I said at the top, you need the quarterback, but it helps if he has talent to throw to.

Some quarterbacks – like Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. – will turn any receiver into a 1,000 yard threat.  Others – I’m looking at you Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, etc. – need their receivers to elevate their games.

Andy Dalton would be a poor man’s Kyle Orton if he didn’t have A.J. Green.  Kaepernick was God-awful last year without Crabtree!  And Jay Cutler’s a fucking mess WITH guys like Brandon Marshall, but just imagine how terrible he’d be without him.

Now, say what you will about our receivers, but I think they’ve been pretty great.  And, until Percy Harvin came along, they’ve been relatively cheap as well.

Again, a great quarterback will make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I have no doubt that someone like Russell Wilson makes someone like Jermaine Kearse a better football player.  It’s tough to say what Kearse’s ceiling would be in an offense that passes as much as New Orleans or Green Bay, but I bet it would be higher than you’d think if you had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing the ball around 35 times a game.

Our offense doesn’t need to over-spend at the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  If you can get someone like Percy Harvin, you probably should do it.  If you draft someone and he turns out to be the next Calvin Johnson, then you should probably do whatever it takes to keep him.

This can be a little tricky, because if your #1 receiver is making top quarterback money, AND if you happen to have one of those top quarterbacks, then you can get into a situation like they’ve got down in Detroit.  The Lions should probably worry about pumping their resources into an offensive line, or a secondary, to round out their team (and not, for instance, over-pay for someone like Golden Tate, but you didn’t hear that from me).

There are talented receivers out there in the draft and among the undrafted free agents, but you gotta be smart about it.  I would more than be in favor of an A-B-C salary structure for your top three receivers.  Your A-player gets the lion’s share, your B-player gets a healthy mid-level contract, and your C-player is probably a rookie or a young guy on a cheap deal.

In short, on offense, you’re going to want to pump a lot of money into the quarterback and the offensive line.  Stay away from overpaying running backs and tight ends (unless you’ve got one like Jimmy Graham that plays more like a wide receiver anyway).  And, just be smart about paying your receivers.  If you’re only going to throw 20-25 times per game, maybe don’t throw all your eggs into the receiver basket.  But, don’t leave the cupboard completely barren either.

The point of all of this is to say that the Seahawks are doing it the right way.  If you root for another team, and they happen to be struggling, then follow the money.  Where are their big-money contracts going?  Would they be better off putting that money elsewhere?  Are they making the same mistakes over and over?  Then, you might be a redneck Mariners fan, and get out of my brain.

How Might The Broncos Defeat The Seahawks In Super Bowl XLVIII?

I feel like if you took a poll of football fans, the vast majority just wants it to be Sunday already.  Let’s face it, in the two full weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, you can be inundated with just the most trivial of bullshit.  I mean, really, who gives a FUCK if Marshawn Lynch doesn’t want to talk to the media?  Well, besides the media, of course, who by and large are entitled cuntbags who whine at the drop of a hat if everything doesn’t go their way.  Lynch makes a good point:  if the fans don’t care, then what’s the problem?  Trying to say that he’s being a “distraction” is completely asinine.  Do you REALLY think the Seahawks are losing their focus on this game because Marshawn Lynch did a couple of 6-minute interviews during Super Bowl week, when he was supposed to be there longer?  Do you REALLY think Marshawn Lynch is going to sweat all this noise when he’s got the football in his hands Sunday afternoon, following his lead-blocker into battle?

It’s all just contrived nonsense by the media who gets paid really good money to cover a child’s game.  Just like the weather.  Who cares that it’s cold in New York?  The media.  Because you gotta write about something.  That’s why, when Richard Sherman did his thing at the end of the NFC Championship, we’re talking about throwing a raw piece of meat to a starving pack of wolves.  You want to make a media member’s day?  Say something the least bit controversial.

Except, where has the controversy been this week?  After Richard Sherman did his “I’m So Sorry” parade across America, there’s been nothing.  No locker-room material, no outrageous stand on gay people or gun laws, and no taking the bait of the loonies walking around with media credentials.  Ergo, the media has nothing to talk about, so they make up some bullshit about how Beastmode is a distraction.  And you know what sucks about it?  If the Seahawks end up losing, or if Lynch has a key fumble or something, they’re going to go back after the fact and say, “Yep, we were right!  His not talking to the media was a distraction and that’s why they lost!”

IT’S INSANE!  It’s absolutely and totally insane.  The Seahawks don’t have to win to disprove that idea, but you better bet your ass that’ll be the narrative anyway.  Because members of the media are all susceptible to groupthink, whether they realize it or not.  You hear them on the radio, you read their articles, and you get the same nonsense from each and every one of them.

So, yeah, I get it.  I get why people are ready for it to be over with already.  And, furthermore, if you’re a fan of the Seahawks or the Broncos specifically, you’re REALLY itching for this game to get going.  You’re probably bouncing off the walls!  Your sleep has likely been affected, your productivity at work has probably declined, and therefore you’re just a little bit irritable (like I am) about these stories you’re reading.

But, you know what?  A small part of me wishes that these two weeks would last forever.  As long as the Super Bowl has yet to be played, the season is still going.  My team is still alive.  And, most importantly, my team hasn’t LOST.  I almost dread the thought of losing more than I relish the notion of us being world champs.

For the record, I do think the Seahawks are going to win on Sunday.  I’ve said it many times throughout the year:  the Seahawks at their best are better than every other team in this league.  It’s a fact.  But, that’s just it, you never know what version of this team you’re going to get.  You know regardless, it’s going to be pretty good.  It’s a team that’s going to be IN every game it plays.  I would never for one second anticipate a blowout loss.  But, will we get the team that thrashed the Saints on Monday Night Football?  Or, will we get the team that came VERY close to blowing that game in St. Louis (also on Monday Night)?

The phrase “on any given Sunday” applies to the Seahawks just as it applies to every other team in the league.  When you’re as good as Seattle has been, you know that more often than not, on any given Sunday we’ll be looking at a Seahawks victory.  When you know your team is as good as this one, that makes the regular season stakes pretty low.  The edge ramps up in the playoffs, but still, you’re talking about the #1 team with home field advantage.  There was no good reason why the Seahawks should have lost those games against the Saints & 49ers, because we were just plain better than those teams.

But here, we’ve got the Super Bowl.  The last game.  It’s not just Win Or Go Home, it’s Win Or Have Your Soul Crushed.  Win or lose, you’re going to hear the same narrative coming out of this game:  The Seahawks Are Set Up For A Long Run Of Greatness.  You’ll be told that this won’t be our only Super Bowl appearance.  But, you don’t know!  Yeah, I’m a firm believer that we’ve got a dynasty on our hands, but this team’s meteoric rise in such a short time (with such a young roster) is no guarantee of future success.  I’m sure Dan Marino thought he’d be playing in multiple Super Bowls throughout his career after he made the big game in his second season.  15 seasons and a Hall of Fame career after that Super Bowl defeat, Dan Marino had exactly zero other Super Bowl appearances.  It’s not fair and it’s not logical, but that’s how it went down.  There’s nothing saying the Seahawks are assured of shit going forward.

That’s why Super Bowl XL was so important, and that’s why Super Bowl XLVIII is so important.  You never know when you’ll make it back.  Hell, there are still teams who’ve never been!  In one sense, we’re lucky we’ve got these Seahawks.  But, in another sense, we need them to take advantage of this opportunity while we’ve got it.

As I wrote yesterday, the Seahawks SHOULD have won Super Bowl XL.  It took crippling mistakes on 11 of 12 offensive possessions for us to lose that game (as well as numerous defensive mistakes and refereeing blunders, but that’s neither here nor there).

These Seahawks SHOULD win Super Bowl XLVIII, but the same things are at play.  We can talk about turnovers and “big plays” until we’re blue in the face, but there are other ways to screw up this game.  Untimely penalties.  Uncharacteristic drops.  Shoddy play-calling.  Soft defense.  An inaccurate quarterback.  Or, just flat out being tied with two minutes to go, kicking off to Peyton Manning for the go-ahead score.

Anything can happen.  And if enough of this bad shit happens, we’re looking down the barrel of another Super Bowl defeat while Peyton Manning gets to cement his legacy as the world’s greatest quarterback.  Is that what you want?  Do you want the Seahawks to help cement another man’s legacy as one of the greatest?  Do you want to give John Elway the satisfaction on his smug, butchered face?  Do you want to see Horseteeth McGee holding up yet another Lombardi Trophy?  Oh, real impressive work, Elway!  You won a championship by roping in a hired gun hall of famer in his prime!  Like any one of us couldn’t have done what you did!

So yeah, actually, I CAN wait for the Super Bowl to happen.  In fact, I was perfectly calm before I started writing this fucking post.  Now my heart’s beating fast and I’ve got all these worries … what the Hell am I doing on here anyway?

If the Seahawks lose this Sunday, bank on it being because Peyton Manning was able to do what Colin Kaepernick couldn’t:  come through with the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.  Bank on our defense not getting the requisite turnovers it needs to really thrive.  Bank on Denver receivers somehow finding ways to get open time and time again.  I’m not necessarily expecting Denver to run the ball all that well, but that’s always a concern.  And, of course, bank on the Seahawks not being able to throw the ball as well as we’d like.

Of all the bullshit media narratives going on this week, the one I’m sick of the most is probably, “The Russell Wilson Problem”.  It goes by many alternatives:  The Offensive Line Problem, The Wide Receiver Problem, and so on, but essentially it boils down to this:  the Seahawks have struggled when the passing game has struggled.  Look at the best game of the year – the first Saints contest.  Is it a coincidence that it also happened to be Wilson’s best game?  I’ll admit, I’m sick and tired of hearing about this issue, but it’s also the issue I’m most afraid of coming true.

It’s why I’ve been calling for this team to open things up a little bit and start throwing the ball around more.  Our offense is never better than when it’s playing from behind and is forced to throw its way back into a ballgame.  You know all the examples by now.  But, get this, in that Saints game, there was a remarkable dedication to the pass from the get-go, and we were rewarded with one of our most comfortable victories of the season.  It wasn’t the shutout against the Giants, but again, you’re looking at an offense that should’ve scored 40!  Instead, we scored 23 and one of those touchdowns was off of an interception that gave us the ball at the Giants’ 16 yard line.

Now, obviously, I’m not going to sit here and expect them to change their whole philosophy (even though, as I stated before, what better time to install a radical new gameplan than in the two weeks before the Super Bowl?).  So, that means that we’re going to come out heavy, running the ball a lot, and slowing the game down.  It also means we’re going to need Russell Wilson to be perfect in those few situations where a pass is absolutely necessary.  Like, on third down and more than 3 yards to go.

And, here’s the key element to all of this:  we can’t wait around for Russell Wilson to settle into a groove.  What are some of his flaws?  He tends to overthrow receivers early in games (probably due to being amped up for the game).  He tends to abandon the pocket prematurely.  He tends to miss open receivers because he’s so worried about someone hitting him from behind (because we’re a little TOO preoccupied with preventing turnovers).  Well, normally, it’s okay, because our defense is good enough to keep us in games until Wilson figures it out.

But, we’re playing the Denver Fucking Broncos and Peyton Fucking Manning.  They’re going to get theirs.  It’s unrealistic to believe we’re going to hold them to just field goals.  It’s especially unrealistic to believe we’re going to shut them down entirely.  To be honest with you, I’d be shocked if we won the turnover battle on Sunday.  I think, if nothing else, it’s going to be even.  But, I’m afraid that we’re going to lose it by a fumble or two.  I can’t help but see a clean game out of Denver, especially if their defense is able to whoop up on our asses.  Because they know, if their defense comes to play, it’s only a matter of time before Manning and Co. puts up some crooked numbers on the scoreboard.  So, their offense won’t necessarily have to take the risky chances it would if they were down by a couple scores.  Eventually, they will just push through with points by being careful and precise.

If we play a clean game and they play a clean game, it might be enough to just limit turnovers and big plays.  It might be enough to force Denver into a bunch of 10-play drives because they’re dinking & dunking their way down the field.  It might be enough to be the team who has the ball last.  But, if we’re not getting them to turn the ball over (which I fear we won’t), and Russell Wilson comes in with a stinker of a game until the fourth quarter, when our comeback is all for naught, then I’m afraid we’re in for another disappointing end to a once-promising season.

It’s almost enough to make me lose my mind.  Maybe I should save myself four hours of grief and anxiety and hit up a movie theater instead.