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Seahawks – Critical Games for 2016 Season

Cool Seahawk Logo

With the NFL pre-season underway, I thought I would take a peek at the regular season schedule and check for 6 critical games for the Seahawks.

Week 2 – at LA Rams

No matter what record the Rams have, they always seem to give the Seahawks fits.  This will be the home opener for the Rams at the Memorial Coliseum.  Rams last played in LA in 1994 so you know they are going to be hyped up.  Jeff Fisher always has a trick or two up his sleeve so Hawks need to be prepared for that.  I think a heavy does of Christian Michael and Thomas Rawls will be on the menu as well as some play-action fakes to keep the Ram defense honest.  As always, the game will be close and a win here is critical for both teams.

Week 3 – San Francisco 49’rs

I do believe the rivalry will be re-ignited with the presence of Chip Kelly, the new head coach for San Francisco.  And I really hope the Seahawks just pound the living snot out of the 49’rs to wipe that condescending and  smarmy expression off Kelly’s face.  San Fran isn’t much of a threat to the Hawks but they still need to remain wary.  Pretty sure (about 90% sure) this will be a win for the home team.

Week 7 – at Arizona Cardinals

A lot of mutual respect between the Hawks and the Cards.  Good, hard-nosed football between 2 innovative coaches who put faith in the players to perform rather than a system.  Toss up as to who will win but it won’t be by more than a field goal.  Depending on the standings, this could decide the NFC West despite having eight games left in the season.

Week 10 – at New England

Seahawks need to control their emotions because if they use revenge as a motive to try and beat New England, that’s just what Bill Belichick wants them to do.  Master of mind games, he will use that motivation to force the Hawks into mistakes.  Hawks defensive line needs to pressure Brady as much as they can and the secondary must have an exceptional game covering those pesky receivers that Brady throws too underneath.  They need to make Brady throw before he wants to.  They may get one or two sacks but if they can pressure him, they can force him to make bad throws.  I, as much as any Seahawk fan, would love if the Hawks can steal a victory here but they have to play smart and not get caught up in getting revenge for them stealing a Super Bowl from us.

Week 13 – Carolina Panthers

You don’t think the Seahawks watched Super Bowl 50 and took notice what the Broncos did to make Newton pout like a baby?  Look for Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to pressure and contain Newton as well as Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel to come up the gut and get in his face.  I also see Frank Clark being a difference maker as he has the speed and strength to deal with Newton if he tries to take off and run.  It will come down to defense vs. defense and a last second field goal.

Week 17 – at San Francisco

One can only hope the Seahawks have secured their playoff spot by the time they get to San Francisco because you know darn well that Chip Kelly will want to end the season with a win over a division rival.  Regardless of where the Hawks are at by the end of the season, a sweep over the 49’rs is always sweet (it was sweetest when Harbaugh was there, right?) and would put a nice finish to the regular season.

Looking forward to hearing a lot of fireworks going off after every game.  The 12’s are some of the greatest fans in the NFL.

Go Hawks!

Seahawks vs. Vikings – No Lynch? No Problem, Hawks Win 24-13

Hawks Vikings

I woke up this morning and grabbed the Seattle Times off the front porch, made coffee and amid the headlines about the Seattle Mariners retiring Ken Griffey Jr.’s number, my eyes drifted toward a small blurb about Marshawn Lynch not playing in tomorrow’s playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.

To be honest, I don’t think this will be a determent to the Seahawks.  Yes, it would have been nice to have Beast Mode behind Russell Wilson, with all of his playoff experience and his ability to rise to the occasion when needed.

But consider just how well the Seahawks have played (except for the Rams game) over the second half of the season without him and Jimmy Graham.  All they did was set franchise records for most yards in a season (6,058) and for the fourth time in team history, finished among the top four in total offense in the NFL.

The Seahawks have ridden Lynch to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.   And while I appreciate the talent and drive that Lynch has on the field, I think the true identity of this team has come out in Russell Wilson.

Wilson went nuts in the second half of 2015.  Much of that came after the bye when the team made adjustments to the passing game in getting the ball out quicker from Wilson.  The result of that, Wilson was sacked only 15 times in the second half after getting dropped 33 times in the first.

Benefitting from Wilson’s excellent second half has been Doug Baldwin who has really come into his own, setting team record for most receiving TD’s in a season (14) and achieving 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career.

Let’s not forget about Tyler Lockett who was drafted to upgrade the return game.  Not only has he done that but he also finished with 51 catches for 664 yards and six TD’s.  The Seahawks may have found the deep threat they have been seeking in this kid.  He has the talent to become one of the best receivers in the game.

Jermaine Kearse also has had a solid season with 49 catches for 685 yards and 5 TD’s.  But he also does the little things that allows other players to shine.  On crossing routes, he often frees up the other receiver in ways that he doesn’t get flagged for picking the defender.  He blocks well and has made some of the most clutch catches to keep drives alive.

The combined stats for the trio of Baldwin, Locket and Kearse is 178 catches for 2,418 yards and 25 TD’s.  I’m pretty sure that any team in the NFL would love that production from their wide receiving corps.

And it’s not like the rushing game was tossed out the window after Lynch went down and later when Thomas Rawls got injured.  In stepped cast-off Christine Michael and Bryce Brown along with Fred Jackson who has been good as a third down back.  And let’s not forget fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu who get the calls to either block on short yardage situations or leak out pass the defensive line to gain critical yardage in screen pass situations.

No Jimmy Graham or Luke Willson?  In steps Cooper Helfet and Chase Hoffman, both of whom had some clutch catches in the Arizona game.

So we don’t have Lynch…that’s OK, we have everyone else that will keep it going until Lynch is ready to play.

Let’s not forget that defense which for the fourth year in a row finished in the top five in the NFL.  They were second in total defense, giving up 291.8 yards a game, second in passing defense, allowing 210.2 yards per game and first in the NFL against the run, allowing a mere 81.5 yards per game.

The key to this game will be the same as it was when the Hawks beat the Vikings 38-7 in week 13.  Mitigate yards gained by Adrian Peterson and dare QB Teddy Bridgewater to beat them with his arm.

And all Bridgewater has to do is throw into the teeth of the Legion of Boom of Richard Sherman, Deshawn Shead, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.  That is if he has enough time avoiding the rush of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane and Bruce Irvin.

The weather isn’t going to factor into this game.  It will affect both teams the same.  What it will boil down to is overall talent between the two teams.  And while the Vikings defense is ranked 13th overall, the way the Seahawks offense has been clicking, they will wear them down with the run game and the short passing game.

I’m not afraid of the Vikings offense which finished 29th overall in 2015.  While they are ranked 4th in rushing (I mean come on, it is Adrian Peterson) they are ranked 31st in passing and 31st in receiving.

So what’s the focus going to be?  On Peterson, put at least two spies on him and try to create turnovers.  Peterson has fumbled 7 times this year, losing 3 of them.

I’d put Bobby Wagner on him first and second down and have Bruce Irvin cover him on third down if he comes out of the backfield.  Wagner is a sure tackler and Irvin has the speed to stay with Peterson and isn’t bad in coverage.

That is if Peterson can get past the road block of Brandon Mebane or Aythyba Rubin up the middle or if he can get around the corner and avoid Bennett and Avril.

Looking forward to this game as the Seahawks will beat the Vikings 23-13.

GO HAWKS!

12th man flag

 

Seattle Seahawks – Team of Destiny? I’m In!

Seahawk Im In

From the few who’ve read articles I’ve written on Beer Thinker Sports, it’s a known fact that I am an unabashed Detroit Lions fan. And make no mistake, this article is me jumping on the Seahawk bandwagon…I admit it freely.

While most of my articles have been about the Lions, I’ve also written about my second hometown team, the Seahawks. Let me tell you that the Hawks recent success has buffered the pain and agony of being a Lions fan.

This season though, had me worried of being a fan of both teams. Lions started out the season 1-7 despite having success of an 11-5 season last year. Seahawks weren’t much better over the first 8 games going 4-4, including a game saving win by Kam Chancellor over the Lions in week 4.

If you look at both teams, on paper, one could say that they are pretty evenly matched. But the one distinct advantage the Hawks have over the Lions: Heart.

The 2015 Seahawks may be the most exciting team Pete Carroll and company have put together yet. He continues to stick to his guns and play rookies and undrafted free agents that have a quality that he looks for. Again, heart.

And just what is the definition in this respect? In my opinion, it’s the player that won’t give up, isn’t afraid to make a mistake but learns from them as to not repeat them and will give his all until the final second ticks off the clock.

Perfect example is that victory over the Lions in week 4. Lions had the perfect play drawn up against a tired Seahawk defense when Lions QB Matthew Stafford found Calvin Johnson at the 8-yard line with an open lane to the end zone with about 1:45 left on the clock.

Trust me here when I say I was on my feet yelling “Yes!” at the top of my lungs when the play developed. Johnson was hit at about the one but leaning forward over the goal line when it happened.

Kam Chancellor, in only his second week, clinging to Johnson punched the ball from his grasp…and sealed the victory for the Seahawks.

I was devastated. But had to admire Kam’s heart. He never gave up, never stopped and found a way to make a play.

I figured that if the Lions had scored on that play, they were going to win the game. After all, the Lions defense had harassed Russell Wilson all day and sacked him 6 times. And after giving up only a field goal in the second half, the defense was primed to give the Lions a rare West Coast road win.

But the collective heart of the Seahawks, as well as Kam’s ability to dig deep, denied the win.

Was it a turning point for the Hawks? I’m not sure. While the win evened their record at 2-2, they did lose the next two games to be at 2-4. There was the epic meltdown against the Bengals, blowing a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter as well as the 15 point lead against the Carolina Panthers at home.

The Seattle press wasn’t really lambasting the Seahawks but were beginning to question Pete Carroll’s coaching decisions. Allowing the offensive line to be in rebuild mode, with several players that were being defensive linemen converting to offensive line which resulted in an alarming rate of sacks on Russell Wilson. At one point, with the rate of sacks being allowed, the Seahawks were on target to give up over 65 sacks over the season.

Where I think the turning point for this season was the home loss against the Arizona Cardinals in week 10. The Cardinals came out hot in the first half, building a 22-7 lead. But the Seahawks made some adjustments and starting to peck away at the Cardinal lead. At the end of the third quarter, it was 25-17 as the Hawks gave up only a field goal in the third.

And in the fourth quarter, Marshawn Lynch scored on a 3 yard run and Bobby Wagner recovered a fumble and ran it back for another TD. Both 2 point conversions failed but the Hawks were right back in it, leading 29-25.

But Carson Palmer playing out of his mind this year, tossed a 4th quarter TD and Andre Ellington busted a 48 yard TD run to re-take control of the game.

But the heart of the team became evident in this game…and I think it brought them together to reel off 4 straight wins and all in pretty convincing fashion. Hawks averaged just over 35 points a game over the stretch of the 4 games and the defense allowed just 14 points a game.
The offensive line has finally come together and Wilson has only been sacked 10 times in that 4 game stretch. With the line playing as it is, it has allowed Wilson to show just how talented he is. He’s thrown for 16 TD’s and no interceptions over the last 4 games. That puts him with only 2 other quarterbacks in NFL history to accomplish that feat, those being Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Not bad company to be in.

He is the first Seahawk quarterback to have two 5 touchdown games in a season. He is also the first Seahawk QB to have at least three touchdown passes in four straight games. He is the only quarterback in NFL history to have four straight games with at least 3 touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 70% completion rating.

Wilson isn’t the only Seahawk to play at a historic pace. WR Doug Baldwin, an undrafted free-agent who came to the Seahawks in 2011, put up some fantastic numbers over the last 3 games: 17 catches for 321 yards and eight touchdowns. He is on pace to be the first 1,000 yard receiver for the Seahawks since Bobby Engram accomplished that feat in 2007.

And the defense, the Legion of Boom, is back. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are getting after QB’s. Along with rookie Frank Clark, the rest of this season is going to be very tough on opposing quarterbacks. Kam, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Deshawn Shead have brought back the attitude of the Legion, that nothing is going to get by them and no team is going to score on them. And if they do, they will pay for it.

And the dismantling of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday just clarifies each point. Russell Wilson added to historic pace with 3 more TD’s with Doug Baldwin catching two of them. Jermain Kearse made some very clutch catches and caught 7 passes for 110 yards.

And what about Christine Michael? Coming off the scrap heap for a second chance with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft? Once a promising RB with comparisons to Adrian Peterson, he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys as the Seahawks felt, and rightly so, that Thomas Rawls beat him out as back-up to Marshawn Lynch.  He played sparingly with Dallas before being released in November. He signed with Washington as a practice squad player but was released November 17th, his career seemingly over at age 25.

The Seahawks and Pete Carroll are all about giving players another chance.  And Michael responded well to this opportunity, heeding safety Earl Thomas’ advice to reel it back and play without pointing fingers at himself for doing well. The result was 16 carries for 84 yards and a repentant Michael gave credit not to himself, but to the offensive line for his success.

Perhaps this will be the window of opportunity for Michael to have a successful career in the NFL.

Who knows, right? I don’t see Lynch coming back in 2016 as he is breaking down. I think the smart thing for him would be to retire now while most people can remember just what a remarkable running back he was.  With a tandem of Thomas Rawls and this version of Christine Michael, the running game would be in good hands.

The Hawks are 9-5 right now. If they can win out, that will put them at 11-5 which most likely will put them as the number 2 as a wild card. They will most likely travel to the NFC East division champion, most likely the team from Washington which I see them as winning.

Next up are the St. Louis Rams, a proverbial thorn in the Seahawks side if there ever was one…if they can win that game, I believe there will be a re-match with the Patriots and this time, the outcome will be very different.

I’m in!

GO HAWKS!