Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Super Bowl Preview: Seattle Rushing Offense

Yesterday the Crushed Optimists staff began their appraisal of the various Super Bowl matchups, highlighting the battle that will occur when the Steelers run the ball. The general conclusion from the staff of the Steelers rushing attack ranged from "mediocre" to "good", and both agreed that the game will not be won or lost there.

Now, we all know that Jerome Bettis is playing in this game. I'll be upfront for a minute. I have liked Jerome Bettis for awhile. I love watching him bounce off tacklers, and I love the way he carries himself; with a great mix of professionalism and pure joy at playing the game. It appears that he is also a wonderful person and it is remarkable the way that his teammates have supported him and fought for him the past couple of years. His is a great story.

However.

However.

When you look at the actual GAME, of which there will be one played on Sunday (amazing how easy it is to forget that while reading the 100th article about Bettis, or Hasselbeck becoming the next Favre, or Big Ben becoming the next Marino, or how great the Steelers fans are, or how stupid Texas A&M is), Bettis is just above a non-factor. He is a situational back that will get the ball 10-15 times, gain perhaps 30-40 yards, and MAYBE score a touchdown. That's the optimistic view of Bettis' impact on the game. (ed: I heard Dhani Jones on the radio this morning pick the Steelers because he figured there was no way Bettis was going to allow anyone to beat him in his hometown. I wanted to yell back at Mr. Jones that Bettis wasn't a major factor in this game anyways. That logic might fly if Big Ben was from Detroit, or Joey Porter was from Detroit, because they will be huge cogs in however the Steelers do come Sunday. But not Bettis. Not on the field at least.)

Gavin: I'm at the point of completely disregarding most anything I see with the name "Bettis" in the title. I'd rather read an article about Paris Hilton.

The rushing attack that matters to the outcome of this game much, much more comes when the Seattle Seahawks have the ball. It comes from MVP of the NFL Shaun Alexander and the best offensive line in the NFL. Again, this part might not decide the game, but the outcome of this battle will do FAR MORE towards deciding the game then the Steelers rushing attack; whether the Seahawks win this battle or the Steelers do (and both are definite possibilities). Let's look closer at the participants in this side of the duel.

First, here are some general stats for what was an absolutely dominant performance by the rushing offense this season. The Hawks rushed the ball 519 times during the regular season to 474 times passing the ball, strengthening the conclusion that Holmgren was EXTREMELY balanced in his play-calling this season. This is a multi-faceted offense, folks. You stop one, you have to stop the other. During those 519 rushing plays, the Seahawks got 2457 rushing yards for an outstanding 4.7 YPC average. Again, Pittsburgh's YPC average was 4.0, almost a yard difference. That adds up, people. For YPC, Seattle is tied for 2nd; only Atlanta's 4.8 is better. Pittsburgh is tied for 12th with New Orleans, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. This was an elite rushing offense this year, earning Alexander the MVP. And, yes, I know that at least 20% of the award should probably go to Walter, Hutch, and the rest, but if you watched Shaun last Sunday, you saw that he's better than your av-e-rage running back (tried for the Yogi the Bear reference there).

Gavin: Leave the cartoon references to me, loser.

Let's head back to Football Outsiders and check out how the Hawks managed against the better defensive lines in the NFL. Check the top 10 and you find Carolina, Arizona, and the NY Giants (we'll throw in Washington as well, who was number 11).

Our stats against those opponents, including both Washington and Arizona games:
Arizona: 37 att, 163 yds, 4.4 YPC
at Washington: 23 att, 119 yds, 5.2 YPC
at Arizona: 33 att, 208 yds, 6.3 YPC
NY Giants: 34 att, 127 yds, 3.7 YPC
Washington: 33 att, 119 yds, 3.6 YPC
Carolina: 51 att (WOW!), 190 yds, 3.7 YPC
Total: 211 att, 926 yds, 4.39 YPC

Not. Too. Shabby.

We're talking teams that, coming into the game, were focusing their entire defenses on Shaun and the rushing attack and we handled that just fine. That's the happy totals, but what of the single performers? Let's look first at Shaun and then at our offensive line:

Shaun Alexander: 370 att, 1880 yds, 5.1 YPC, 27 TDs
Those are absolutely phenomenal numbers, people. That's all-world stuff. This guy deserved the MVP for putting up one of the single greatest seasons by a running back in NFL history, including, of course, breaking the single season record for touchdowns. Shaun even improved his pass-blocking this year (still not great), and became a truly complete back. The "soft" tag? Until last week, Shaun had converted EVERY SINGLE 3rd and 1 opportunity handed him this season. EVERY SINGLE ONE!! That's remarkable; and it belies the ease with which he found holes with his offensive line. Again, check out some of his numbers on Football Outsiders. First, a brief explanation of the stats:

DPAR means a running back with more total value over a replacement player. DVOA means a running back with more value per play over a replacement player.

Alexander: 57.8% DPAR (ranked 2nd behind Larry Johnson), 20.7% DVOA (ranked 4th). His success rate on running plays was measured at 54% (against, 4th). Again, these stats classify Alexander as a great back who picks up the tough yards and succeeds more than most running backs in the NFL.

Compare to, oh, Willie Parker: 14.0% DPAR (ranked 16th), -1.1% DVOA (ranked 24th), and a success rate of 48% (ranked 12th).

Who would you rather have running the football in this game, huh?

Gavin: I'd like to take a little more in depth look at Shaun and what he did this year. As we saw with Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker, sometimes who you play or one great game affects your statistics to the point they can lie. For example, we saw that Jerome Bettis had one great game and a season of awfulness (but he's from Detriot, so apparently he is has been christened by the Holy Mother) and that Willie Parker was good against teams who couldn't stop anyone. How consistent was Shaun? Against teams ranked in the top half of the league in rushing defense, he went for 5.2, 6.4, 4.9, 2.9, 7.5, 3.5, and 6.6 yards per game. He busted a 20+ yarder in 6 of those 7 games. That's flat out amazing. Again, there is one outlier, the 2.9 average in that Dallas game. We remember what happened that game. The wide receiver injuries caught up with us, it was one week after the Ken Hamlin incident, and Dallas took advantage of our distractions. The wide receiver depth played quite a large part in that game as well. Those ypc numbers were even better than what Colin saw looking at the entire team. Shaun and this offensive line were able to dominate every time they were challenged up front except in the Dallas game. That's why those numbers from the Football Outsider are so much larger. We are that much better a rushing team than Pittsburgh. As Colin mentioned, the ability to succeed on third-and-one is the difference between an 80 yard touchdown drive and a 40 yard "feel good" drive. Shaun is now automatic at that, and his ability to gain that yard has allowed Holmgren to call some play-action to Jerramy Stevens for big plays.

Now, as for the offensive line, they were dominant this year. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Dominant.

Football Outsiders, though, only has us ranked 6th, which seems low, but we did have the 2nd highest amount of 10+ yards (25% of our running plays), and had the highest rated power success (the 3rd and 1 or goal line pushes) at 81%. That's immense.

Gavin: I had to admit I was really curious why we were at #6. Apparently we were a bit of an all or nothing running attack. We ranked #25 at being stuffed at the line on first down. I would put part of that on Shaun and how he has this tendency to improvise every now and then. It does put the importance on the passing game to open up the running game. Really interesting and not great stat. Pitt (by the way) is 9th. I suppose that means this one particular statistic isn't an overall indicator of success. I've always seen us as a better first down passing team anyways through play action. At the end of the day though, when this offensive line is called on to get a yard, they always get it.

These are guys who get a push going on either side of the line. Obviously Walter and Hutch are beasts, but this has been Tobeck's best season, Gray's best season, and Sean Locklear even came to the party and has taken on with success some of the best pass blockers in the NFL. I don't even know what to write about them. They are JUST THAT GOOD. Now, one thing I do worry about them is the tendency to pick up a silly holding call once or twice a game that stalls a drive in its tracks. That can't happen, especially early in the game. Seahawk stalled drives tick me off.

Gavin: No holding calls, Tobeck. Please, for the love...

Enough about the Seattle rushing offense. They're great. Didn't really need a bunch of stats to tell us that, right? How good is the Steelers rushing defense?

Answer: Pretty doggone good, which isn't awesome. They are ranked 2nd as a team against the run on Outsiders, and for good reason. Casey Hampton is a beast in the middle, and the linebackers (as well as Polamalu) are fast and plug holes quickly. They allowed a paltry 3.4 YPC average, which is phenomenal, and basically turned many an offense into a one dimensional team, including Indy and Denver in the past two weeks. Edge rushed 13 times for 56 yds (not good), and Anderson/Bell combined for 14 att for 67 yds. Combined that is 27 att, 123 yds, and a healthier 4.56 YPC. However, that number is slightly misleading because both teams ditched the run early on and focused completely on the pass because Pittsburgh was so far ahead, so the few times they did run later on in the game was against dime and nickel coverage, an easier task to rush the football. Suffice it to say that this defense has been dominant, and their strength is against the run.

Gavin: Good analysis on the rushing yards the past few games. I agree with you. They did a fantastic job shutting down the point of attack, generally because Troy Polamalu has made a pact with the devil giving him the ability to be in eight places at once. While the Steelers were ranked #2 in team rushing defense, the defensive line drops to #4. What does that mean? Not too sure. However, I am most interested in two phases. 1. How good are they at stuffing the run (no gain)? 2. How good are they at avoiding the big play (those 20+ yarders Shaun always gets)? Well, to answer #1, the Steelers ranked #6 in the league with stuffing 28% of either 1st down runs or less than a quarter of yards needed on 2nd or 3rd down. That's pretty doggone good (the Hawks are #8). Now, on third or fourth down on short yardage, the Steelers allow a 56% success rate, which is worse than your "weak" Seahawks. We can deal with that. To answer #2 we get some more good news. The Steelers gave up runs of 10+ yards 20% of the time, ranking 26th in the league. That means if you guess right on their blitz package (see Colin's keys below), you can bust it. Shaun and this offensive line have been consistently good at getting one-two of those a game this year. We will need them to do it again.

The real question is whether this huge rushing defense dominance in the postseason, against, remember, three party doggone good rushing teams (Cincy, Indy, and Denver), means that Seattle's rushing game will suffer, and that's a real question.

I believe we can rest easy knowing that Mike Holmgren is not going to throw away the running game anytime soon. He has been too consistent too long for that. The only problem, obviously, would occur if we got down by double-digits early, but even then I believe that Holmgren wouldn't panic and throw away the running game. He knows how important balance is to this offense. If you see Shaun carrying the ball less than 20-25 times this ballgame, then the Seahawks have lost by 20 and it was a rout. If Shaun carries the ball at least 20 times, then the game was reasonably close, and if he carries the ball 30-35 times, it most likely means we won and were able to run down the clock in the closing minutes.

Gavin: Again, I agree. Holmgren abandoned the running game a couple of times early in the year and learned from it. Shaun will get his touches. Even if Holmgren doesn't call it, Hasselbeck will.

There are a few main matchups to worry about here:
1. Tobeck vs. Hampton: Hampton is immense, and Tobeck might struggle to get Hampton off the line. If Gray has to help, the right side of the line might struggle to open holes for Shaun.

2. Jones vs. Porter: Erase Porter, for the most part, from the running attack if Jones goes at him. Jones has the athleticism to take even an All-Pro linebacker off his game.

3. Polamalu vs. Hasselbeck: Hasselbeck? Absolutely. Part of the genius of our rushing attack lies in Matt's ability to audible to the run against the blitz, causing huge holes for Alexander. If Matt can discern what Troy is doing, that will enable him to make the correct reads and perhaps fluster Polamalu into taking fewer chances.

The bottom line? Do not expect a dominant performance by the Seahawks rushing attack, but do expect a balanced offense, and do NOT be surprised to see Alexander finish the game with at least 20 carries, 120 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers just happen....

Gavin: Dominant is a strong word. I believe from looking at these stats that the Steelers will be unable to completely take our running game away. Shaun should average 4.2, 4.3 ypc and have at least one run over 20 yards. If he hits that, by the way, we probably win this game.

Tomorrow: The Pittsburgh passing offense!

posted by colin_hesse @ 10:49 AM  0 comments

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Return of the Nate

Is there a happier man this week than Nate McMillan? He gets to show up with his weak Portland squad during the week leading up to the Super Bowl, so no one really cares. Seattle sports fans are riding such a high right now that Rick Mirer and Shawn Kemp could probably get some applause at a bar. Feel free to cheer McMillan, folks. He's punished enough simply by coaching the Trail Blazers and when he's "retired" in two years he can watch games at the Key on the sidelines without any abuse.

posted by Gavin @ 4:43 PM  2 comments

Have fun with Pitt fans

Check out the 12th Man site we link to here for continued fun with Steeler fans. Hint: if you are a Pittsburgh fan and randomly find our little nook of the internet and feel like taunting, please, for the love of all that's holy, find the Caps Lock button and at least attempt to use some real grammar. It's too the point that I'm a little embarrassed to admit my own fan affiliation with your club.

My particular favorite comment at the 12th Man's site had to be the Pittsburgh fan who dared him to come up with one Seahawk he would rather have over anyone on Pittsburgh's team. I would, of course, argue that the conversation begins and ends with Walter Jones. If you scroll down to our analysis of Wee Willie Parker, you could see where our disrespect for Pittsburgh's shell of a running game comes from.

Football trash talk is always fun. It's even more fun when it comes from east-coasters who haven't watched five minutes of Seahawk football. At least the Philadelphia fans who took me to the Monday Night game have already let me know how much they respect the Hawks. Of course, they are also Pennsylvania homers rooting for the Steelers, but I shouldn't expect better from a group of fans who legitimately thought their squad was going to be "more physical" than the Hawks back that night before realizing yet again that their team was the one full of weaklings. Good times.

posted by Gavin @ 4:34 PM  0 comments

Super Bowl Preview: Pittsburgh Rushing Offense

It is time. Monday before the Super Bowl. A Super Bowl containing your Seattle Seahawks. Before we jump in, a quick side note. A few national writers have penned articles regarding how their cities don't care about this game. My response? If you are a football fan, you care about the Super Bowl. Maybe it's that we have never had our team there, but Colin and I grew up always getting excited about the Super Bowl, regardless of the matchup. If you have to have your team there to be excited, you are a spoiled idiot. Anyways, off the rant train and onto the preview...

Colin: Actually, let's stay on the rant train a minute. Basically, there are three groups of people who watch the Super Bowl. First, you have your actual football fans. We will watch at least part of the Super Bowl every year, whether it is the Rams vs. the Titans or the Bucs vs. the Raiders. It's just part of being a football fan. The second group are the individuals who just love an excuse to get together and eat some food and drink some brews. They could, for the most part, care less about who is playing; they wouldn't know anything about the team anyways. They might know who Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is, but that's about the end of the expertise. The third group are the people who hate football and are there because of a significant other, family and friendships, or just an insatiable desire to watch the commercials. Again, they don't care who is playing. So.... you have one group that will watch regardless, one group that just wants an excuse to party, and one group that hates all football. So, Skip Bayless..... shut up. Seriously, I thought you learned your lesson last time, but I guess not.

Much has been made of Pittsburgh's blue collar, in your face, rushing offense. They are supposed to be able to run on anyone at any time. They will "hit us in the mouth" with the run. Of course, this is the same team that has won their games through the air in the playoffs. So let's look more in depth at this "dominant" rushing offense led by the "better than Shaun Alexander" Wee Willie Parker.

During the regular season, Bill Cowher's commitment to the run was pretty evident, as the Steelers ran it 549 times to 379 passes. Of course, this discrepancy could be linked a little to the few games Ben Roethlisberger missed. For all those rushes, the success wasn't exactly there, as the "hit in the mouth" Steelers only averaged 4.0 ypc. That's not really all that impressive. In the postseason Cowher I believe has realized that his rushing game can be stopped and has flipped to passing to open the run, with 74 passes and 109 rushes. The higher rushing number is explained by Cowher playing extremely conservatively with leads, allowing both Indianapolis and Denver to creep back in those games.

Colin: What's incredible to me is the vast attention that will be paid to Jerome Bettis this week when he will, most likely, be of little importance in the actual game. Face it. Big Ben is THE offensive reason why Pittsburgh is in this game. Actually, I would break down the offensive and defensive realms of import as follows....

1. Pittsburgh's passing defense - Hasselbeck is the main cog in our offense. Let's be honest here. I love Shaun too, but we rise or fall based on the bald field general.

2. Pittsburgh's passing offense - Can Big Ben continue his rapid rise to glory? I see no signs to say otherwise. A huge task for our secondary.

3. Pittsburgh's rushing defense - It is time for Shaun to put all doubters forever to rest. I think he will.

That leaves....

4. Pittsburgh's rushing offense - It has been a less than impressive showing from the rushing game in the postseason, while the offense has overall seemed to shine. I just don't see the game being decided in this facet of the game unless Willie Parker becomes superhuman and our rushing defense forgets to make the trip to Detroit.

Before looking more in depth in the postseason, let's break down the two main rushers for the Steelers, Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis.

Willie Parker: 255 rushes, 1202 yards, 4.7 ypc, 4 TDs, 4 Fumbles (0 lost)
At first look those numbers are fairly impressive. 4.7 ypc is pretty darn good. Let's take a look at the actual games. Pittsburgh (like Seattle) played their fair share of good and bad teams. In games against teams ranked 17-32 against the run, Parker averaged 7.3, 4.4, 7.3, 2.6, 4.7, 5.8, 7.6, and 5.2 ypc. So besides one 5 carry for 13 yard effort, Parker and the Steelers were able to gash bad teams. Against the upper echelon of rushing defenses, Parker averaged 3.2, 2.6, 2.6, 4.5, 3.3, 3.6, and 3.2 ypc. Against the upper echelon of rushing defenses, this "quick hitter" had a long run of 24 yards (next high was 16). Against the upper echelon of rushing defense, Parker had 0 touchdowns. The most meaningless stat is final number of yards, and his high was 68 yards. Yes, I would definitely rather have him than Shaun Alexander.

Colin: Whoo hoo! Willie Parker! Yes! Here's a number I want to put forward. 4. 4. That is the number of rushing touchdowns that Parker achieved during the regular season. He did add one more with a passing touchdown, but that's not particularly impressive. And before all the Steelers fans come with the talk of, "Well, that's because Bettis gets those carries. Bettis gets the touchdowns!" Um.... Bettis had 6 rushing touchdowns on the regular season. 6. By the way, Verron Haynes had 3 and Big Ben had 2. I'm not scared of their rushing attack inside the red zone. Now, their play action inside the red zone.... that I'm worried of. But Willie Parker is not going to get a ton of yards and get into the end zone multiple times. He's a good, not great, rusher with above-average speed who has had some fumbling problems in recent weeks (remember Cincy?).

Jerome Bettis: 110 rushes, 368 yards, 3.3 ypc, 6 TDs, 0 Fumbles
Bettis is a short yardage guy, so averaging 3.3 ypc when teams are stacked to stop you isn't as bad as it looks at first glance. Still, if we just look at Bettis' ypc against the top rushing defenses, we have 3.2, 1.0, 2.8, 0.0, 1.5, and 5.9. The one outlier is the 17 carry, 101 yard effort against the Chicago Bears. That was nuts. He went off. Veterans have games like that (see Jerry Rice last year on Monday Night). That doesn't mean he will do that again. Again, this means we shouldn't really fear what Bettis can do against a good rushing defense.

Alright, so I've just seen the regular season numbers. What about the postseason?
Bettis: 5.2 ypc (against Cincinnati, you better believe I'm discounting that number), 2.7, 2.6
Parker: 2.4 ypc (against Cincinnati!), 3.5, 2.5, quick hitter only hit a long of 14 yards.

What exactly are we supposed to fear about these players? Even after Roethlisberger succeeded in loosening opposing defenses up through the air, the Steelers still could not run it effectively. This is why, again, the Broncos and Colts had multiple opportunities to come back in those games.

Colin: Let's make this simple. Combined these two elite backs rushed for 1394 yards on 329 carries (a 4.24 average) and 10 touchdowns. Are those fearful numbers? No. Are those numbers you have to pay attention to? Absolutely. There is the potential that Parker and Bettis get some yards and big gains. I just don't see them as near the top of possible gamebreakers for the Super Bowl.

Football Outsiders have some extremely interesting stats to further illustrate this point. They rank each running back with the number of points this person generated by being better than a replacement back. Shaun Alexander is ranked as being 57.8 points above replacement. Parker is ranked as being 14 points above replacement, while Bettis is right below him at 13.7. Better backs included Rudi Johnson (48), Warrick Dunn (41), Lamont Jordan (19.5), and Ricky Williams (14.1). Right below them are individuals like Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, and Mewelde Moore. The same group sees the Pittsburgh offensive line (for the run) as ranked #12, behind such behemoth lines as Houston (#8) and Miami (#11). As for pass protection, they fall to #23, which will be discussed later.

Final stat: Pittsburgh has Jerome Bettis, who is supposed to dominate on the 3rd and short and goal line situations. Well, Pittsburgh enjoyed a success rate of 68% on those plays, extremely respectable. Seattle, by the way? 81%. Baltimore? 76%.

Again, this is not to say that Pittsburgh has an awful running game. Of course not. They have a good running game. It's just not a dominant running game, and the offensive line hasn't performed at an elite level this year.

We do not fear these players because we have an elite rushing defense. What? The Hawks? Elite rushing defense? Let's take a look at the numbers.

At the end of the season the Seahawks ranked #5 in the NFL in rushing defense, averaging 94.4 yards per game allowed. Now, the rankings are a little off, because yards allowed is a ridiculous statistic to rank a team on. For example, the Hawks allowed 1510 yards for the season on 420 carries. The Denver Broncos (#2 ranked rushing defense) allowed 1363 yards but on only 344 carries. Do the math and the Hawks 3.6 ypc is better than the Broncos 4.0. If we rearrange the top ten by ypc Seattle comes out tied for fourth (note: this process actually also ranks Pittsburgh as #1, something we will have to discuss later). In case anyone's curious, this doesn't make a large difference in the points I made above with Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis. Indy would drop out of the top half.

That 3.6 ypc is very respectable and denotes a consistent and responsible attack. Let's look at each game.
Jacksonville: Fred Taylor (20 for 76, long 9, 3.8 ypc). Long 25 by Matt Jones.
Atlanta: Warrick Dunn (16 for 54, long 12, 3.4 ypc). Long 32 by Michael Vick.
Arizona: Marcel Shipp (10 for 41, long 15, 4.1 ypc).
Washington: Clinton Portis (25 for 90, long 13, 3.6 ypc). Long 18 by Mark Brunell.
St. Louis: Stephen Jackson (17 for 77, long 16, 4.5 ypc).
Houston: Dominack Davis (18 for 40, long 6, 2.2 ypc). Long 12 by David Carr.
Dallas: Marion Barber (22 for 95, long 14, 4.3 ypc).
Arizona: Marcel Shipp (13 for 20, long 4, 1.5 ypc). Long 15 by JJ Arrington.
St. Louis: Stephen Jackson (17 for 70, long 18, 4.1 ypc).
San Francisco: Maurice Hicks (11 for 83, long 50, 7.6 ypc).
NY Giants: Tiki Barber (26 for 151, long 49, 5.8 ypc).
Philadelphia: Ryan Moats (10 for 26, long 14, 2.6 ypc).
San Francisco: Kevan Barlow (11 for 33, long 11, 3.3 ypc).
Tennessee: Chris Brown (20 for 56, long 9, 2.8 ypc). Long 11 by Steve McNair.
Indianapolis: Edgerrin James (13 for 41, long 11, 3.1 ypc).
Green Bay: N. Herron (23 for 61, long 11, 2.7 ypc).

Before throwing in the playoff games into the mix, the Hawks did a few things very well. The first is only allowing one 100+ yard rusher the entire season, and Tiki needed overtime to hit that mark. This means that the Steelers shouldn't assume that they will be able to move the ball between the tackles with effectiveness. The second is that the Hawks only allowed 6 runs of 20+ yards all season. Only six!! That means our defenders, although young, are very disciplined and our secondary (probably Michael Boulware, the converted linebacker) are great tacklers. Most of the highs from these games are QB sneaks, and those just happen every now and then. Let's look at these stats through the same lens as before. Against good rushing teams (supposedly like Pittsburgh), the Hawks faced Atlanta (shut down Warrick Dunn), NY Giants (Tiki needed OT), Washington (mediocre performance by Portis), Jacksonville (3.8 ypc for Fred Taylor), Dallas (worst game they had against the rush all season), and Indy (exhibition game). Another conclusion we can draw is that the Hawks actually had more problems with quicker backs (like Tiki), than up the gut runners like Fred Taylor. Since the Steelers aren't good at blocking for Parker on sweeps, I'm not that concerned.

Moving on to the postseason, the Hawks have been nothing short of brilliant. While acknowledging the health issues of the opposing runners, the offensive line hasn't been able to generate any kind of a push that the numbers illustrate.
Washington: 2.4 YPC
Carolina: 3.0 YPC
That's some darn good defense right there, and is a primary reason why those two teams only conveted 21.4 percent of their third downs. Both of these teams entered the games believing (along with outside pundits) that they could ram the ball down our throats. Both left a lot wiser.

While the Seahawks aren't going to be confused with Tampa Bay anytime soon, they do a consistent and respectable job against the run, and we should expect more of the same in Super Bowl XL. We shouldn't expect anything like what we've seen in the postseason against beat up running backs, but we should expect to only allow the Steelers about a 3.1 YPC with no long runs.

Colin: Good points all around, Gavin. Again, we have already put forward the notion that the Steelers are a good, not great, rushing team. Now it appears that the Seahawks have risen to become a great rushing defense. Again, let's look at some stats, again from Football Outsiders....

Surprise! Guess which defensive line is ranked #1?? That would be Seattle! That's right, the Seattle Seahawks defensive line is ranked above Tampa Bay, Miami, and then Pittsburgh. Interesting.....

This is a line that is extremely disciplined and limits the big play. Give massive props to the leadership of one Lofa Tatupu, who constantly is shifting down lineman until the snap depending on what he is seeing from the offense. Part of this game will hinge on Tatupu's early recognition of the Pittsburgh alignment and his adjustments throughout the game.

Well, that's enough from me.... tomorrow we preview the Seattle running game!

Gavin: I probably wouldn't even classify the Steelers' rushing game as "good". I'd call it "mediocre" and we should be able to handle it well.

posted by Gavin @ 1:57 PM  3 comments

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Disgusted...

I can't tell you how disgusted I currently am with the UW men's basketball team. Drop them out of the top 25. If you can't hit free throws, can't take care of the ball, and generally look like you're sleepwalking you don't deserve to win games.

Count me off the bandwagon.

posted by Gavin @ 8:00 PM  2 comments

One Week Away...

People who like to tell you about their dreams generally don't appreciate how boring they are. We are all messed up enough without having to hear more about our subconscious. With that said, I had a dream last night. Basically, it involved the Hawks losing the NFC Championship Game and not playing in the Super Bowl. I woke up pretty darn depressed. In fact, it took me about ten minutes for the truth to sink in. We are one week away from one of the greatest sports days in Seattle history.

I was watching the NFL Network today and they have this whole "15 seconds" song that plays during their playoff promos. They started their Super Bowl coverage in Detroit with a few minute version of it and by the end I was pretty much ready for gametime.

One week away from Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander, Walter Jones, Lofa Tatupu, and the rest of the Hawks to show up in Detroit. To shock the world.

One week away from victory.

posted by Gavin @ 6:47 PM  0 comments

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Look Back at NFL Predictions

I thought I would pull out the Crushed Optimists preseason NFL picks with a week to go before the Super Bowl. You will notice that Colin had only five playoff teams correct while Gavin had only six.

Colin's biggest successes..... Seattle, Jacksonville (though not in playoffs), Pittsburgh.
Gavin's biggest successes... Seattle, Pittsburgh (Super Bowl champs!), Carolina

Colin's biggest laughers.... NY Jets, Buffalo, Chicago, NY Giants
Gavin's biggest laughers... NY Giants, Dallas, Chicago, Tampa Bay

So when we rip on the "experts", just know that it's not like we were perfect either. Far from it.

AFC East -------------------------- Gavin
New England: 11-5 ---------------- New England: 11-5
Buffalo: 11-5 ---------------------- Buffalo: 10-6
N.Y. Jets: 10-6 -------------------- N.Y. Jets: 8-8
Miami: 3-13 ----------------------- Miami: 4-12

AFC North
Pittsburgh: 12-4 ------------------ Pittsburgh: 11-5
Cincinatti: 8-8 -------------------- Baltimore: 9-7
Baltimore: 8-8 -------------------- Cincinatti: 8-8
Cleveland: 2-14 ------------------- Cleveland: 4-12

AFC South
Indianapolis: 11-5 ---------------- Indianapolis: 12-4
Jacksonville: 11-5 ---------------- Jacksonville: 11-5
Houston: 7-9 --------------------- Houston: 6-10
Tennessee: 6-10 ----------------- Tennessee: 3-13

AFC West
Kansas City: 13-3 ---------------- Kansas City: 12-4
San Diego: 11-5 ------------------ San Diego: 10-6
Denver: 7-9 --------------------- Oakland: 8-8
Oakland: 6-10 ------------------- Denver: 6-10

Division Champs:
New England -------------------- New England
Pittsburgh (bye) ----------------- Pittsburgh
Indianapolis --------------------- Indianapolis (home-field)
Kansas City (home-field) -------- Kansas City (bye)

Wildcard Teams:
Buffalo ------------------------- Jacksonville
San Diego ---------------------- Buffalo

1st round
New England over San Diego --- New England over Jacksonville
Indianapolis over Buffalo ------- Pittsburgh over Buffalo

2nd round
New England over Pittsburgh -- Indianapolis over New England
Kansas City over Indianapolis -- Pittsburgh over Kansas City

3rd round
Kansas City over New England - Pittsburgh over Indianapolis

AFC Champion: Kansas City - Pittsburgh

NFC East
Philadelphia: 12-4 ------------- Philadelphia: 12-4
Washington: 6-10 ------------- Washington: 6-10
Dallas: 5-11 ------------------- Dallas: 4-12
N.Y. Giants: 3-13 ------------- NY Giants: 2-14

NFC North
Minnesota: 12-4 -------------- Minnesota: 10-6
Green Bay: 8-8 --------------- Green Bay: 8-8
Detroit: 6-10 ----------------- Detroit: 8-8
Chicago: 4-12 ---------------- Chicago: 4-12

NFC South
Carolina: 10-6 --------------- Carolina: 11-5
Atlanta: 9-7 ----------------- Atlanta: 9-7
New Orleans: 8-8 ----------- New Orleans: 8-8
Tampa Bay: 6-10 ----------- Tampa Bay: 7-9

NFC West
Seattle: 11-5 ---------------- Seattle: 11-5
St. Louis: 8-8 --------------- St. Louis: 9-7
Arizona: 8-8 ---------------- Arizona: 8-8
San Francisco: 3-13 -------- San Francisco: 2-14

Division Champs:
Philadelphia (home-field) -- Philadelphia (home-field)
Minnesota (bye) ----------- Minnesota
Carolina ------------------- Carolina (bye)
Seattle -------------------- Seattle

Wildcard Teams:
Atlanta ------------------- Atlanta
St. Louis ------------------ St. Louis

1st round
Carolina over St. Louis ---- Minnesota over St Louis
Seattle over Atlanta ------- Seattle over Atlanta

2nd round
Philadelphia over Seattle -- Minnesota over Philadelphia
Carolina over Minnesota -- Carolina over Seattle

3rd round
Carolina over Philadelphia - Carolina over Minnesota

NFC Champion: Carolina - Carolina
Super Bowl Champion: Kansas City - Pittsburgh

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:49 PM  0 comments

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hey, Mexico! You, um, want Texas back?

From a link found on SportSpot.net,

It appears that Texas A&M is going to sue the Seattle Seahawks over the use of the 12th Man. Supposedly the Aggies have used the 12th Man "trademark" since the '20s, or something or other, and so the Hawks should stop it with the flag and the jerseys and all that stuff.

To note:

A&M President Robert M. Gates briefly mentioned the Seahawks' use of the trademark during a Wednesday student senate meeting, said junior political science major and student senator J.P. Morris."The 12th Man was started here at A&M," he said. "We started the whole concept, it sounds a lot like they stole the original idea. I don't like how they are using one of our registered trademarks."

A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne said the Office of Collegiate Licensing is working on having the Seahawks cease and desist their use of the trademark.

Wow. You know, that might just be the stupidest thing I've heard this week, and I just heard Skip Bayless say that he would rather have Willie Parker on his team than Shaun Alexander.

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:50 PM  1 comments

Ultimate Explosion!!

Most writers took today off as a break from Super Bowl chatter, so no Jerome Bettis or Ben Roethlisberger odes to post today. However, we do have some other interesting storylines to discuss.

- Jay Bilas posts 8 teams other than the top four who could easily crash Indianapolis and the Final Four. He does include Washington in that list, although I would feel a lot better about the Huskies' chances if they quit losing winnable game on the road like last night. California is a good team, but not that good. Get tough, for crying out loud. Bench Jensen if that's what it takes. Jensen gets pushed around easier than I would. I can't really quibble with his other selections either, especially since he does include Gonzaga. Really there isn't a dominant college team this year. Duke is a beneficiary of a much weaker ACC. This tournament will be wide-open (I think I like Michigan St right now).

- Mariner post! While I applaud the M's attempts at keeping King Felix's pitch counts down, calling him your #5 starter is (wait for it) asinine. Whatever they say, he is our ace. Pitching him after Gil Meche is the equivalent of drinking Coors Lite when it's Free Guiness night at the local drinking establishment.

- On to the Seahawks... I had to post this article from the Tacoma News-Tribune about the 3-4 defense only because it mentions that we faced more than just Dallas AND mentions that we were without Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram in said game. Kudos, local news scribes. I also found it fascinating to remember that we had a ton of success against an excellent 3-4 defense in Baltimore a couple of years ago with most of the same offensive players. While I've wiped the end of that particular game from my memory banks because of the large amount of pain it causes, I do recall that our receivers were able to get open against the blitz packages for large gains. Let's hope we can see that again. Michael Silver at CNNSI has a terrific article on Walter Jones and the rest of the Hawks offensive line. The quotes in there are great, especially when Walter starts getting morbid on plane flights. This offensive line is why I feel confident about our offense. They are that good.

- Back to the Senior Bowl, which I've been trying to pay some attention to. Mel Kiper Jr, he of the coiffed look, has his winner-losers, few of which I care about. I am curious about Jerome Harrison's prospects. Why everyone keeps paying attention to Penn St QB Michael Robinson is a bit beyond me. He's not even athletic enough to even consider playing the position, so he must have had some really bad advice not to use every day to show up as a RB/WR (ala Matt Jones). I was also disappointed to hear about Derek Hagan's performance, since whenever I watched ASU games Hagan seemed to be head and shoulders above the competition. I do like Chris Mortenson's look at Vandy QB Jay Cutler. There's always a third-fourth QB that can be the best (Big Ben). Perhaps Cutler's that guy. I still don't see him bypassing Leinart or Young. Mortenson also mentions his belief this is a much deeper draft than last year and I agree.

- Some idiots (our favorites Don Banks and Petey Prisco) have already started predicting draft spots. Here's what I find so funny about this. If there was a year where offensive line play should have shown up as THE key factor in many of the haves-have nots, it was this past season. Teams like Houston have to protect David Carr. Teams like Houston have playmakers like Dominack Davis. So of course they would draft another running back (Bush), although the Texans get a bit of a break since Reggie Bush is a freak of nature. Still, this idiocy is truly on display with one of the Crushed Optimists favorites, the Arizona Cardinals (they of the dark horse wild card shot). The Cardinals weren't able to generate any kind of a push for either Marcel Shipp or JJ Arrington. They weren't able to pass protect enough to keep Kurt Warner healthy. They desperately need line help. So of course both Prisco and Banks have them taking a running back, Memphis' DeAngelo Williams. Hello? Earth to pundits! Arizona needs people who can block! For chuckles, Banks predicts the Hawks to take a DE named Elvis Dumervil from Louisville. A DE could be nice, but I'm holding out for a RB.

- Oh, um, I should probably mention that Lofa Tatupu and Robbie Tobeck are both officially in the Pro Bowl now, since the Crushed Dad was literally incensed at the omission yesterday. Moustache almost caught on fire. Anyways, just another reason how Tatupu was snubbed in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting.

posted by Gavin @ 12:37 PM  7 comments

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Isn't Self-Righteousness Fun?

I wasn't going to do any more posting today, but Gene Wojciechowski (like I'm spelling that again) just begged for it with this long, unfunny, self-righteous spiel about fandom. His 10 most common myths are just ripe with idiocy. On to the "fun"...

1. Dude, my ticket pays their salaries. So if I'm dipping into my wallet, I'm ripping into the players and coaches. Dude, your single-game $32 Cubs ticket doesn't even pay for a shin guard, much less Kerry Wood's $9.5 million salary. So why don't you do us all a favor and suck on a pine-tar rag.

Nice work throwing in "dude" and thus letting us all know from the beginning that you see die-hard fans as uneducated yokels. Probably red-staters in Jesusland. Also good job stating the obvious. Fans, of all people, know that Kerry Wood makes more money than we can dream of. That's part of the reason for being able to give them some crap... they don't have to care about us, because they can go back to their Hummer with the built-in XBox after the game with some homies.

2. But without me, there is no team. Yeah, the teams love your money. In some cases, ticket sales support player payrolls, especially in the NHL, where the television contracts pale in comparison with, say, the massive NFL broadcast rights fees. And, yeah, the 3.1 million fans who came to Wrigley Field last year provided much of the revenue necessary for a payroll that reached nearly $90 million.

Gene goes on to write about other revenue streams the team has. Here's where my question is... if fan attendance is so unimportant, why were teams like the Minnesota Twins facing contraction? Hmmm? Without fans, there are no $50,000 suites, there are no lucrative TV deals, and (perhaps for the best) there are no idiot writers telling us how to think.

3. We're the 12th Man. Our team needs us. Your team needs you to spend lots of money and disrupt the other team's snap count. That's it. Those 12th Man banners and flags are wonderful, they really are, but let's get something straight: You're not the one who knocked Nick Goings into the land of CAT scans; that was Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. And safety Troy Polamalu and the Steelers didn't need the 12th Man's help as they won three consecutive road games to reach the Super Bowl.

Here's a nice little shot at Seattle. Awesome. The writer probably wasn't at the game on Sunday, where the noise on the field was louder than a jet engine. Think that doesn't affect a team? There's probably a reason why the Steelers were the FIRST #6 seed to reach the Super Bowl. Winning games on the road is HARD. Get that, Gene? Hard. This coming from the same set of writers who believe Pittsburgh might be the greatest team ever because they won on the road.

4. The referee deserved it. He cost us the game. No referee deserves to be hit in the back of the head with a half-full plastic beer bottle. If caught, the bottle throwers should have to spend five minutes in a very small room with NFL ref/weightlifter Ed Hochuli.

True, refs do not deserve being hit with plastic beer bottles. That's why it has rarely degenerated to that and why fans are prosecuted who go that route. You putting it in that list makes it seem like it's mainstream when at this point you were more than likely trying hard to figure out six more "myths" to hit your word count for this inane article.

5. I sit in the Bob Uecker seats. I'm so far away from home plate I need a connecting flight to reach the field. So, trust me, the players can't hear a word I'm screaming. No, but the dad and his 7-year-old kid to your right can hear you just fine. So can the elderly couple to your left. And the mom and her two daughters in the row in front of you are going to need new ear canals by the fourth inning.

Yes, loud public swearing is bad. That's probably why at the seven Hawks games I went to or the 10+ M's games I went to this past year I was around exactly zero loud swearing brutes who crushed my game experience. Do you ever sit in the stands, Gene? Oh, that's right... you get to be in the press box every time. That's why you are so in touch with the common man.

6. I sit near courtside. The players and coaches know we're just ragging on them in good fun. Sure they do. That's why, if it were legal, they'd like to beat you to a fine pulp, pour the pulp into a FedEx envelope and overnight your remains to the next of kin. But they can't, so they pretend not to hear a 5-6 cosmetic surgeon with a rent-a-date tell them how to D-up on Kobe.

Is it just me or am I back in high school. Don't hurt their self-esteem! Maybe they'll cry! Instead you should just politely clap along. Remember, your noise doesn't really matter. Maybe all we should do is read articles about the games written by authors who know better than us. Come on... there is absolutely no problem ragging on some players. Again, they're millionaires. Why the heck should they care about what we say? Now, of course there's a line. I don't think Gene Woj??????kowski cares.

7. It's a ball game, not a Washington think tank. I'm not saying fans should wear tweed and discuss Chaucer between innings. Cheer. Boo. Enjoy an adult beverage or two.

But don't actually say anything. Just make noise. Not much noise, because it doesn't really matter.

8. If the players trash talk, so can I. The players are actually playing in the game. You're shelling salted peanuts and making sure your daughter doesn't lose her American Girl doll. So maybe it's time you quit acting as though you have to stop Dwight Freeney.

This argument makes absolutely no sense. So basically because the players are in the game gives them license to do everything us ignorant yokels with dolls can't, like spit on each other and such? Yes, because they're getting paid millions to throw a ball around absolutely gives them the license to act like children. Since when does talking some trash mean we're acting like we have to stop Dwight Freeney? Is that supposed to be funny? If I wanted to act like I have to stop Dwight Freeney I'd probably have a lot more of those "adult beverages" you so kindly allow us to consume.

9. If they don't want me to drink, they shouldn't sell beer. Teams want you to drink. They just don't want you to need a liver transplant by halftime.

And again Gene is attempting to try and fill up his "10 myth" quota. Because all fans are peanut-eating, doll carrying, insult throwing drunks. Unlike him.

10. There's no way that right winger can climb over the Plexiglas and get me. Why don't you mention that to Ottawa's Brian McGrattan or Toronto's Tie Domi. But first, insult their mothers.

And Gene draws a sigh of relief for finally coming up with 10 myths. Thank you for educating me, Gene. Good job earning that paycheck. I have a few truths for Gene.
1. A majority of fans aren't stupid.
2. A majority of fans aren't drunks.
3. A majority of fans aren't abusive.
4. A majority of fans enjoy being a part of games that they love.
5. Your article was worthless.

posted by Gavin @ 5:37 PM  2 comments

Ultimate Explosion!!

Actually don't have to throw in the Disrespect Edition this time... Colin already picked that one up today. Only a few other items of note today...

- I watched my first Sonics game in a while last night against the Jazz. Normally, playing the Jazz in Utah resembles a wrestling match. However, last night's game only reemphasized what I wrote yesterday about giving Bob Hill a shot. He has actually stuck with a rotation and players are beginning to grow into their roles. Luke Ridnour is playing with real confidence, night and day from the beginning of the season. It is no longer just the Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis show. Hill recognized that our defense sucked in two areas, the two/three and in the paint. So he is actually playing Damien Wilkins consistent minutes, and Wilkins is responding. Even his offense is coming along with more rhythm. I can't say enough about what I saw from Johan Petro and Robert Swift yesterday. They had energy, they were confident, they pounded the boards, and owned Greg Ostertag/Collins/Kirilenko around the basket. I don't ever want to hear the "we sure miss Jerome James" again if those two continue to play like that. Our defense is going to continue to show large improvement with those young centers.

- There were a couple of articles that actually gave some props to Seattle yesterday and so Colin and I, in the midst of all our complaints, should probably mention them. Seth Wickersham has a great line that I wish Clark Judge/Petey Prisco could have read. He believes that the Hawks are being underrated just like the Patriots a few years ago because they are coming out of the "weaker" conference. The "weaker conference" argument is ridiculous. The second article is here, by Roy Borges from, of all places, Boston. Read it. Our team is used to getting disrespect this year, and they are used to responding. I don't see the Super Bowl being any different.

posted by Gavin @ 1:37 PM  0 comments

Link of the Day - Those Steelers are SOOOOOO good!

Count ESPN's Scouts Inc. on the Steelers bandwagon. Of course, this is the same group that overwhelmingly picked Carolina to also beat us, but what the hey. All this stuff is Insider, so I won't paste the links, but I will put a few key quotes in here about matchups and team strengths and weaknesses.

First, Scouts posted a piece dealing with five key matchups in the game. Here's a snippet of all five.....

1. Hasselbeck vs. Polamalu

Their conclusion: Hasselbeck must play very well if the Seahawks are going to become champs.

2. Tatupu vs. Parker/Bettis

Their conclusion: It will take all 11 players to slow down Pittsburgh's running game, but Tatupu will be the guy leading the charge.

3. Alexander vs. Farrior

Their conclusion: The running will be tough in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh will test Alexander's toughness. The Steelers will be looking to hit Alexander in the mouth early and let him know that he will have to earn every yard.

4. Jones vs. Porter

Their conclusion: While some teams have to slide a tight end to help on Porter, Seattle will let Jones handle him one-on-one. His ability to do that will allow Seattle TE Jerramy Stevens to stay involved in the passing game.

5. Trufant vs. Ward

Their conclusion: Trufant will have to play his most physical game of the season in coverage and also in run support, because Ward is the best blocking wide receiver in the game.

Do you notice a pattern here? Apparently the Seahawks individually will have to play the best game of the season/of their career in order to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Heck, Trufant and company just handled Steve Smith, but watch out! Here's Hines Ward! Hasselbeck might be the best quarterback in the NFC but, oh no! Here's Troy Polamalu! Tatupu might be the unquestioned leader of the defense as a rookie, but baaaah! It's the Steelers' "potent" offensive line and superior running attack! Shaun Alexander might be the MVP of the league and an 1800 yard rusher, but he's soft! James Farrior and the Steelers are TOUGH and they will HIT HIM IN THE MOUTH! Man, I bet Carolina wishes they had thought of that. If only they had tried to hit Shaun hard instead of tackling him soft and pussy-ish. At least they respect Walter Jones, the only Seahawk who just needs to put in a regular performance to hold down Joey Porter.

Anyhoo, let's move on to their preview and game pick.

They begin the preview with looking at nine basic categories and picking which team is better in that category.

The Hawks, according to them, have a better quarterback (WOW), a better running back, a better offensive line, a better defensive line, and a better coach. The Steelers have a better group of wide receivers, better linebackers, a better secondary, and better special teams.

To me, all those picks are pretty respectable. You could perhaps make an argument that the Hawks have a better group of wide receivers, and Pittsburgh's secondary is simply average without Troy Polamalu, but they do definitely have a better overall group of linebackers and better special teams. So, looks like the Hawks are better in 5 of the 9 categories. That should mean we would win, right?

Right?

Nope. The overall edge goes to the Steelers. Let me give you the basic reasoning for this pick.

1. Cedrick Wilson - The X-Factor offensively for the Steelers, someone who was basically nonexistent during the regular season but has come up with huge plays during the postseason.

2. The opening up of the Pittsburgh offense and the play of Big Ben - I'm sure that, unless you work in Pioneer Square (see post from yesterday), you realize that Big Ben has played remarkable football this postseason and caught both the Colts and Broncos off-guard with their passing game in the first half. Don't expect the Seahawks to make the same mistake. Big Ben might still beat us, but we will be ready for it.

3. The Steelers play a 3-4 defense - We've heard enough of this one already. At least THEY do know that the Texans and 49ers also had 3-4 defenses.

4. Seattle will be forced to use a lot of 3 receiver sets which will take Mack Strong out of the game and force Shaun wide all the time - Ummmm, we go with 3 wide sets a lot every game, and Mack still has plenty of time to make an impact. Have to call foul on this point.

5. Marquand Manuel is a "try hard" player who struggles in coverage and will allow Heath Miller to go nuts - This, for once, is an actual point. I don't believe Manuel "struggles" in coverage, but face it. Tight ends like Shockey have owned us this season, and Miller could be a big factor in this game.

6. Robbie Tobeck will have to play the best game of his career to handle NT Casey Hampton - That line sounds pretty darn familiar. Hmmmm. A Seahawk having to play the best game of his career to handle an opposing player. Hmmmm.

7. Special Teams - I don't even want to discuss this. I cringe every time Scobey handles the ball or Rouen comes on to punt.

They conclude by saying that our offensive line will have to play its best game of the season (wow, way to make a new point, guys), and they just can't pick against a team that dismantled the top three AFC seeds. So..... 24-20 Steelers.

I love life! I love everyone! 10 days to go! Please, Seahawks, prove all these doubters wrong!

posted by colin_hesse @ 11:13 AM  0 comments

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ultimate Explosion - Disrespect Edition I

Even the Explosion is under a new theme for the next couple of weeks, as the disrespect adds up. Before I get to all the complaining, here's what else is going on that the Crushed Optimists staff finds interesting.

- I'm willing to cut Bob Hill some slack as Sonics head coach for no reason except his taking Reggie Evans completely out of the lineup. If you have read this blog for a while, you know that I am not a big Reggie Evans fan, ever since he spent the entire San Antonio series ineffectively trying to shoot over Tim Duncan. Nick Collison is much better. It's also nice to see Johan Petro and Robert Swift play better than Jerome James, so we can quit that storyline now.

- The Huskies are playing California and Stanford this week. Those are two tough games that they need to win. We gave away two home games and need to make those up. Top ten teams win these two games.

- Mariners FanFest is this weekend. Does anyone care? Anyone?

- It's hard to think about, but the Senior Bowl is this week. This is one of the more fun weeks of the offseason before the draft, having the ability to scout potential draft picks. One of the nice things for Seahawk fans is the strength of the running back class, as there are some large needs for us there (even as a backup).

- Here's at least one nice column about the Hawks today, from SI writer Jeffri Chadiha.

On to the complaints...

Today on NFL Live, Trey Wingo, Mike Golic, and Sean Salisbury focused their Opening Drive segment on, of all questions, why the Hawks aren't favored. Trey started out with some good arguments in our favor (more balanced team, etc) and then passed it over to the "analysts" for some "analysis". Now, here's where ESPN should probably have mentioned that both Golic and Salisbury have ALREADY picked against Seattle. Instead, with completely straight faces, they agreed that it was very odd that the Hawks were underdogs. Salisbury especially cracked me up. He said something to the effect of, "I'm going to give you my expert opinion... I have no idea why Seattle isn't favored." I wanted to scream, "Maybe it's because morons like you don't respect them and throw out new words that mean 'physical' to explain why! Maybe it's because Big Ben is apparently Jesus reincarnate! Maybe it's because MVP Shaun Alexander is never expected to do anything!" But then I took a deep breath and wondered where my heart medication was.

Next up on the hate train are our favorite punching bags at CBSSportsline.com, Petey Prisco and Clark Judge. In their weekly faceoff, they are asked why the #6 seed is favored over the #1. Here's what we have, first from Judge.

"Because the Steelers are the better team from the better conference. Let's face it, it didn't matter who emerged from the AFC; that team was going to be the Super Bowl favorite."

Let's think about this for a second. Because the AFC was strong, the team that came had to be the favorite. Yes, good job completely neglecting real analysis.

"So that team is the sixth seed. Big deal. The Steelers have the momentum you like at this time of year, conquering the AFC's top three clubs in successive weeks -- and doing it on the road -- after winning their last four regular-season starts, including a huge victory over Minnesota in Minneapolis."

The Steelers have momentum? Yes, sure. How exactly does that compare to what would be a 14 game win streak if you don't count the Green Bay "Seneca Wallace throws to Taco Wallace" affair. I wonder how the Steelers' momentum compares to Washington's momentum or Carolina's momentum, both of whom were supposedly way hotter than us.

"Sure, I believe Seattle is underappreciated, but that's what happens when you live in the NFC West."

Again, good job completely dismissing them because they played Arizona. You get paid how much for this?

"The Seahawks won 13 of their last 14, led the league in sacks, had the top red-zone offense and No. 2 red-zone defense, and had the league MVP. That's terrific."

The first stats in this entire screed, and they are EXACTLY why the Hawks should be favored! I'm going to go stick an icepick through my eye.

"But Pittsburgh plays in a tougher division and tougher conference. And its road to Detroit was steeper, much steeper. It not only got through all of that, its performance improved each week. Oddsmakers like that; so do I."

Remember when Washington and Carolina were supposed to beat us, Clark Judge? Remember that? Remember how Seattle improved each time out, looking dominant on Sunday? Remember that Clark Judge? Apparently not...

On to Prisco... remember, this is from the same jerk who called us the most overrated team in the league just a few short weeks ago.

"They're better. The Steelers were the sixth seed because they played in a tough AFC, plus they had to deal with injuries. They lost their quarterback for three games. Left tackle Marvel Smith's injury forced them to start a rookie in that spot for some time, so the Steelers struggled to get things going on the offensive line."

Funny how no one seems to remember the injuries the Seahawks have had to deal with. No one remembers the loss of Ken Hamlin, both starting corners for a few games, and Jaime Sharper. No one remembers how Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram were gone for a while. Nope. Pittsburgh had it way tougher. Poor Pittsburgh. Poor Petey.

"The past six weeks, it (the o-line) has been outstanding. And that's a big reason the offense is clicking. The defense has played well all season."

Besides those games when the defense sucked they have played well.

"But the real reason the Steelers are favored comes down to one number: 3.4. That's what they allowed per rush in the regular season. The Seahawks base their offense off what they do in the running game, which means a lot of Shaun Alexander. It won't be easy running against the Steelers."

If I remember correctly, Carolina was supposed to be pretty good against the run. If I remember correctly, our offensive line made them cry like infants.

"They are also the so-called "hot" team. Winning three games on the road the way they did impressed people. They knocked off the two best teams in football on the road."

And here, again, we have the real reason. Pittsburgh is the "hot" team. No matter that they are the "worse" team, they are the "hot" team. So Seattle gets penalized for winning more games so they could win at home. Damn! I knew we should have choked more away to where we would have had to win on the road to get to the Super Bowl! Then Pete Prisco would pick us to win!

"The feeling is Seattle, even though it was the No. 1 seed in the NFC, isn't as good as a handful of teams in the AFC. Thus, we have a four-point line. And it's probably not high enough."

And we end with an unnecessary cheap shot. So here's another. Prisco is a insecure moron who is more consistently wrong with his analysis than a drunk chimp.

End communication.

posted by Gavin @ 2:29 PM  0 comments

Link of the Day

Well, I have now read a few stories about this, so I thought I would put this out for people to comment on. Let's put it this way: There's a week and a half to go before the big game, which means that some writers are perusing the bottom of the barrel looking for ideas.

Here's today's tru-ism:

Seattle is too laid-back for a Super city.

Um..... ok...... why?

Notice all the bandwagon fans they decide to interview for the article.

"I root for them because I'm here," said Steve Oliver, who hails from Columbus, Ohio, and lives downtown. "But I'm not waving a flag for them off the balcony of my condo."

Sedat Uysal, owner of Cafe Paloma in Pioneer Square, has little love for professional football in Seattle. He opposed construction of Qwest Field. He resents what home games do to parking in the neighborhood. He wonders why folks can't channel all that energy toward something bigger than moving a ball up and down a field -- say, protesting social injustice or the war in Iraq. Still, he said he'd probably watch the game on Feb. 5.

Monica Corsaro a Methodist minister leading an Equality Day rally at the capitol in Olympia on Monday, called out to the crowd, "We are gay, we are straight, and we are Seahawks fans!" to roars of appreciation. (God loves the Pittsburgh Steelers too, she noted.)

At Rainbow Natural Grocery on Capitol Hill, Pinn Palermo, admittedly sports-oblivious, acknowledged that the home team victory had created a discernable atmospheric tremor. "I will say that when they won, there was definitely a change in the air," the part-time cashier said. "But I'm also a yoga instructor, so I feel these things."

So we have a transplant from Columbus, some moron who thinks everyone should protest Iraq with at LEAST the same enthusiasm of the Super Bowl this week, a Methodist minister, and an admittably sports-oblivious cashier who "feels" the change in the air.

You're right. If you use THOSE people as the barometer, Seattle doesn't deserve to have a Super Bowl team. In fact, just let Pittsburgh win. Their fans obviously deserve it more.

I have another story for those yahoos. One of a boy, his brother, and his father, who would continue to watch Seahawks games during every single lean year, even that 2-14 snoozefest. A family that remembers every Dave Krieg fumble, every Brian Blades reception, the Boz, Kelly Stouffer, the indomitable Rick Mirer, Tom Flores and his love of the draw on 3rd and 18, the AFC West title won on the last Sunday of the year with a huge win over the Raiders, Ruuuuuu-fus, Largent, Cortez, John L. Williams, the horror of Ken Behring, the joy of hiring Mike Holmgren, the devastating losses against Miami (Marino's final year), at Baltimore (ump didn't know clock management), at NY Jets (non-touchdown by Vinny), home against the Rams (huge comeback), etc., etc., etc.

There are plenty of Seahawks fans who have suffered for many, MANY years. I won't say we deserve a Super Bowl win MORE than a Pittsburgh fan. I will say that we deserve a Super Bowl appearance, and a Super Bowl win. We are true fans, and I believe it takes a lot more to be a fan of a perennial loser like the Seahawks than to be a fan of a "Steeler Nation" where the team is a perennial contender. Again, I don't mean to take anything away from true Steeler fans, and you know who you are, but, c'mon, it's like all the people who were Cowboys fans a decade ago. Now you can't find many who proudly wear the silver star. Same with Oakland, and same with the 49ers.

So, whatever, writers. Come up with your awesome storylines.

11 days. 11 days.

I hope I can make it until then.

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:35 PM  4 comments

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NFL Hiring Practices

I should probably admit my bias straight up here. I am pretty interested in racial issues in our country and come down pretty square in the middle most of the time (i.e. Al Sharpton et al are morons but there is a problem). With that stated, I am concerned with how this offseason has commenced with NFL hiring practices.

There were 10 NFL head coaching vacancies just a bit ago. That's a full third of the league. Of the 10 vacancies, 9 have been filled (only Oakland remains). Of those 9, only one is a minority, and that is the "retread" Herm Edwards. Something is fishy in the state of Denmark.

We can argue semantics until we are blue in the face, but at the end of the day, in a sport where the majority of players are black, the lack of coaches is pretty poor, especially considering the success many have had. Tony Dungy and Marvin Lewis have resurrected perennial losers. Lewis had to wait another five years before truly being given his chance. Romeo Crennel had to win Super Bowl after Super Bowl before Cleveland came calling. Lovie Smith made the Rams play defense. The point being, it's not like the coaches who have been given a chance have been terrible.

What's the deal? Why the apparent lack of progress? My first thought actually has to do with college. Good college coaches like Nick Saban (and now Kirk Ferentz) are always in demand. When there are only two (I believe) Division I head coaches who are black, it doesn't exactly flood the ol' talent pool. This means that there are far more white options available. Do the percentages, pick a name out of the hat, and chances are the minority doesn't win.

Let's be honest, there were some solid white coaches who didn't get a shout. Why Jim Bates isn't someone's head coach is beyond me. Same goes with Mike Martz (for all his flaws) and Mike Sherman. Those are proven winners. Steve Mariucci deserves another shot. Here's the flaw again... the pool is too full of one kind, so teams choose the "best candidate" which just so happens to always be white.

Paul Tagliabue has stated some help will be forthcoming to potential minority head coaching candidates in the form of training and networking. That networking is the next large problem, what is termed "institutional racism". I don't particularly buy that all NFL owners are racist. That would seem odd to people who hand out millions of dollars to minority players to discriminate against them. But in many cases the NFL search is one large "good ol' boy" network. Even Herm Edwards landed his job because of his prior relationship with Chiefs GM Carl Peterson. Eric Mangini is only 35 and has just one year of being an NFL coordinater but since he was friends with the Jets assistant GM and has the name Bill Belichick on his resume he could walk in. Mike McCarthy could say he knew Brett Favre and get the Green Bay job. Institutional racism keeps solid head coaching candidates like Ron Rivera on the sidelines.

I mean seriously, why does Ron Rivera not have a job this offseason? Did any coordinater have a better season (besides that awful game plan against Carolina)? What about Tim Lewis, who until Antonio Pierce went down was leading a young, aggressive Giant defense to the playoffs? Or Donnie Henderson, whose NY Jets defense hit the league hard last year? Even Mike Singletary has been turning heads. At least one of these men deserved a chance.

If you want to quibble over individual hires, here are my thoughts...

Kansas City - Herm Edwards - major coup getting a guy who has been to the playoffs a few times.
Buffalo - Dick Jauron - what? Ridiculous hire of a retread. Buffalo could have done way better.
Houston - Gary Kubiak - legitimate example of a white coordinator who deserved a job years ago.
New Orleans - Sean Payton - Colin likes him. I have never been that impressed with anyone who had his play calling responsibilities stripped by the one and only Jim Fassel.
Green Bay - Mike McCarthy - I don't like this on any level. Terrible.
Detroit - Rod Marinelli - Hiring process was bad, but I withhold too much judgment. I think Rivera or Henderson were better candidates.
St Louis - Scott Linehan - The Rams are already set on offense, so they should have looked to defense. Still, Linehan deserved a job.
Minnesota - Brad Childress - any offensive coordinator who doesn't call plays and who can't devise a system that involves running the football isn't worth much in my books.
New York Jets - Eric Mangini - 35 year old who has proven nothing passes over better talent. Go Jets.

Progress is funny and one cannot look at one season as a watershed. Still, it is apparent the league still has a problem and until teams take more chances on unproven coaches who happen to be minorities, "institutional racism" will continue to be a problem. If you'd like another take on this, Michael Smith of ESPN is different than me.

posted by Gavin @ 2:18 PM  2 comments

Your Friend and Mine, Don Banks...

is BACK with another dandy in his recent CNNSI article where he proclaims proudly in his crystal ball two "truths" that made me laugh more than the "Snickers" commercial where the bald guy uses the candy as a toupee and gets called out by his coworkers (him crying in the car at the end gets to me every time, and, yes, I'm a heartless wretch).

Bankism #1: Expect Seattle to struggle against the Steelers' 3-4 defense. The Seahawks have faced only one 3-4 formation all season, at home against Dallas in Week 7. The Seahawks won 13-10, but they needed a gift Drew Bledsoe interception to help them score 10 points in the game's last 40 seconds in avoiding defeat. Seattle only had 289 yards of offense against the Cowboys, with Shaun Alexander being held to 61 yards on 21 carries. The Seahawks were just 3 of 13 on third downs against Dallas, which stuffed the Seattle ground game by putting so many bodies at the line of scrimmage.

So..... we should struggle against the 3-4 defense? Hmmmm. Let me put a couple of points out there about that Dallas game.

FACT: The Seahawks actually faced TWO 3-4 formations all season. The other formation came on a Sunday night game against the Houston Texans where the Seahawks won 42-10. The Hawks rushed for 320 yards, the offense got 459 yards, and the best receiver in the game was Peter Warrick, who caught 3 passes for 53 yards. Banks, my man, go do some flipping research! C'mon, I'm pretty sure SI pays you enough to Google the Seahawks opponents!

Gavin: FACT: Colin is wrong on his FACT. The Seahawks actually faced three 3-4 formations, as the San Francisco 49ers also play that scheme, so really four games (a quarter of the season if you feel like doing some math). At San Francisco we struggled in the second half as we let our guard down, at home we dominated. Basically, it is pathetic that Banks didn't know this.

FACT: The Seahawks played the game against the Cowboys again without D-Jack and Engram. Their top receiver that game was Stevens, who caught 5 passes for 60 yards. Second up was Urban with 3 catches for 57 yards. That whole 3-13 on third down stat? Hasselbeck sans D-Jack and sans Engram equals fewer weapons.

FACT: The Cowboys have some durn good cornerbacks. In fact, that secondary was the best that we played all year; yes, better than Carolina. Terrance Newman absolutely owned his side of the field in particular. The Pittsburgh secondary, especially the cornerbacks, is not as good as the Cowboys. Polamalu is excellent, but not THAT much better than Roy Williams.

FACT: The "gift" interception came AFTER we had driven down the field to tie the game at 10-10. The momentum was already on our side, and it was very likely that, if we had gotten the ball first in overtime, we would have scored. I get sick and tired of people saying that we were given that win. Ridiculous.

FACT: The reason that Dallas was able to put so many bodies on the line of scrimmage was because of our injured receiving corps; thus, our running game had to go up against 8-9 in the box. Again, do some research, Banks!

Bankism #2: If Pittsburgh races out to an early lead against Seattle, just as it did against Indianapolis and Denver the past two Sundays, Super Bowl XL will be all over but the confetti throwing.

FACT: That's a stupid thing to write. One could just as easily substitute "Seattle" instead of "Pittsburgh", and "Carolina" instead of "Indy and Denver", and the sentence basically also works. If a team gets up by 17-21 points, they will most likely win. Now, if Banks means that the Steelers will definitely win if they get an early 7-10 point lead, I would beg to differ. Seattle has been through some tough games in the past; has taken some body blows, but has come back with some fire in the belly. Think Dallas. Think Washington.

FACT: This is the same person who, last week in his Crystal Ball, predicted that Nick Goings would outgain Shaun by 40 yards. That, in and of itself, should cause us to take everything he writes with a big heaping helping of salt. And yes, I probably will be writing about that prediction ten years from now. It was that awful.

FACT: That is one super schnozz you have there, Don Banks. Almost bigger than mine, and I have a big one. I recommend a mustache, or a picture where half your face isn't masked by the shadow of the schnozz. And the half-smirk, half-smile? Not working either.

posted by colin_hesse @ 11:19 AM  2 comments

Monday, January 23, 2006

Still Recovering...

My voice is scratchy, I think I'm coming down with something, and I can't frown. That's what happens when you expend just about every iota of emotional energy possible over the span of three hours and your team clinches a spot in the Super Bowl.

To piggy back on Colin's last post, I did see some of those apologies, all of which are very sweet (especially Bayless, the anti-Christ). They still will be picking the Steelers, but so is the rest of America. East Coast Bias is fun sometimes. Anyone who thinks the #6 seed in the AFC should be favored over the #1 seed in the NFC at face value is on crack.

I've scanned the internet and located some must-read articles...

- Gene Woj???????kowski from ESPN discusses our dominance. Uses cliches probably intended to be funny.

- John Clayton (he of the "picked Rams and Cardinals over us in the preseason) raves about us. I've almost forgiven John for the preseason since he seems to be the only pundit who can pick us without using the word "weak" or "Shaun Alexander's contract". Not quite though. Freakin' Arizona.

- Petey Prisco (he of the "Hawks most overrated team in the league") has the audacity to proclaim our defense one of the league's most underrated.

- Clark Judge is the one national guy to give credit to John Marshall for the plan on Steve Smith. It didn't seem that complicated to me, and I still don't understand how Chicago doesn't play the same defense. Beat the crap out of him on the line of scrimmage and then double him. How hard was that? The local coverage was a bit better.

- Art Thiel, as usual, has the absolute best local take on this game. It is a must read.

A few quick thoughts on this game, since Colin did a pretty darn good job on it below (hint: read it).

- This crowd was insanely loud from the beginning. I don't think Carolina, for all their bravado, was truly prepared for the insane chants of the truly desperate. When John Kasay ran on the field for warmups in the pregame and was loudly booed I knew there was going to be issues. I have to admit, not only did I tape the game, I watched it again last night simply to see how the crowd noise came through on the TV. It sure was fun to listen to how rattled Joe Buck was by it.

- The defense on Steve Smith wasn't particularly imaginative or brilliant. It was a double team. How hard would that have been for Chicago to implement? Now, our front four were brilliant. Jake Delhomme didn't have time to breathe. He couldn't take a step forward, and couldn't find anyone open even when they were.

- Our offensive line was brilliant. As Colin and I predicted, Carolina could do nothing with their front four. Shaun Alexander's numbers were great, and he did make some insane cutbacks, but on many of his runs he wasn't even touched until he hit the secondary, so he only had to make a corner miss. While he did miss his first third-and-one run, he didn't do anything else wrong on those short yardage situations.

- Marcus Trufant is taking the next step to being a shut down corner. Even on the one instance where he didn't have help and they tried going over the top he had better position on the ball than Steve Smith. When he was beaten by Drew Carter, that was one heck of a catch.

- We should see more of Seneca Wallace. He's too big a weapon to leave on the bench.

- It's the Super Bowl! Can you believe it!

posted by Gavin @ 1:53 PM  0 comments

Media Mea Culpa's

There have been several.

So far I've heard, in the past hour, actual apologies to Seahawks fans from Skip Bayless, Mike Golic, and Sean Salisbury. Peter King sounds mildly apologetic in his column (emphasis on mildly), and so does Clark Judge.

Of course, tomorrow they will be full of reasons why the Steelers will whup up on the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

You can count on that.

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:28 PM  0 comments

On The Road To Detroit



Gavin posted earlier this week his take on the biggest sports moment in Seattle history.

Edgar's double

The 1991 Husky championship

The 2001 Mariners

The NBA Finals run of the Sonics against MJ and Pippen

The 1979 Sonics Championship

This was bigger. This was better.

All week I watched show after show. I read article after article. And I came away frustrated that no one truly believed in the Hawks. Sure, some ended up picking Seattle, but it seemed like that pick came under duress and only after they made sure to say something to the effect of, "But Carolina is the better team," or "Only because DeShaun Foster is out".

I read that Nick Goings would rock Shaun Alexander. I heard that Shaun Alexander would be a non-factor. I heard that Jake Delhomme was a better quarterback then Matt Hasselbeck. I heard that John Fox was a better coach then Mike Holmgren. I read that Steve Smith was going to dominate us; that he was the true MVP of the league. I heard that our defense wasn't up to par. I read that the 12th Man would have no influence on the game because the Panthers were road warriors. I read that the Seahawks were Sea-Frauds that shouldn't be in Skip Bayless' personal Super Bowl. I even heard one person say that Carolina had a better offensive line then Seattle! I heard that Carolina was the more physical team; that Seattle was a finesse team, was soft. I read that the Seahawks had an easy, fluff schedule and didn't deserve to be there. I read that Indianapolis and New England, two teams out of the postseason, were still better teams then Seattle.

I heard. I read. I saw.

I waited.

And the Seahawks came through. They actually came through. What I thought they were capable of, both offensively and defensively, they did.

This game does not lend itself to a regular recap. Here are my top ten thoughts (in no particular order) of how the Seattle Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 34-14, cementing yesterday as the best sports event of my lifetime.

-- Mike Holmgren is a pretty durn good coach: Come on. You were skeptical of this fellow after the disaster of last year's playoff game against the Rams. Players were angry. The offense seemed to be stymied in the 4th quarter. Holmgren seemed to be regularly outcoached by Mike Martz, which was a travesty. Well, yesterday was THE best coached game by a Seahawks head coach that I have ever seen. Let's look at the offense. Holmgren came into the game knowing that: 1. Alexander had struggled in the postseason; 2. Ken Lucas knew our offensive tendencies; and 3. Their secondary matched up quite well on our wide receivers.

Here, then, was our first scoring drive, the second drive of the game:

1-10-SEA43 (7:47) S.Alexander right tackle to SEA 49 for 6 yards (B.Buckner).
2-4-SEA49 (7:19) M.Hasselbeck pass to J.Stevens to CAR 48 for 3 yards (W.Witherspoon).
3-1-CAR48 (6:36) S.Alexander right guard to CAR 45 for 3 yards (B.Short).
1-10-CAR45 (5:56) M.Hasselbeck pass to S.Wallace pushed ob at CAR 17 for 28 yards (K.Lucas).
1-10-CAR17 (5:36) M.Hasselbeck pass to J.Stevens for 17 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Let me clue you in on a few things you might notice on this drive. Shaun had two runs.... both to THE RIGHT. Holmgren also immediately zoned in on Stevens, knowing that Stevens was the one matchup that physically advantaged us. Stevens is too big, fast, and athletic for a linebacker or secondary player. Third, Holmgren showed that he was not going to be the conversative fellow that Lucas remembered, immediately going to a trick play where Seneca Wallace (SENECA WALLACE) ran a perfect route where he caused Lucas to bite short and then go deep out. Holmgren was addressing all his concerns early, allowing Shaun to gain confidence, Lucas to lose confidence, and the Panthers knew that they might have to play more zone coverages, which opened some stuff up for our receivers. This was brilliant play-calling.

-- John Marshall is a pretty durn good coach: People, I'm a realist. And the realist in me has to say that the Bears defense was better then ours. They had more talent, they were more physical.... they were the better defense. And yet..... our defense MASSIVELY outperformed the Bears vaunted "D". Why? John Marshall, who devised simple yet innovative ways to keep Steve Smith from taking this game over, and, in the meantime, found a use for Kevin Bentley, the ugly stepchild of the linebacking corps. Bentley would rock Smith coming off the line, taking him off his route and forcing him into the waiting coverage of Trufant and, sometimes, Boulware/Manuel. One of the most pivotal plays in the game came I believe in the second quarter (I can't find the exact play in the GameCenter). One of the pet plays the Panters loved to run was the wide receiver screen. Teams would be playing off of Smith and so Delhomme would toss it over to him and let him pick up the easy 8, or he would break a long one. It was yet another way to get Smith involved in the offense. Well, the Panthers attempted the play and DD Lewis read it immediately, broke to the ball and actually had the ball glance off his shoulder pads. That play OOZED excellent coaching and preparation. All of a sudden the Panthers couldn't run the ball AND they couldn't run any screens. They were forced into ONLY throwing intermediate and deep routes, and they were done.

-- Lofa Tatupu is the Defensive Rookie of the Year: We Seahawk fans already know this, but, FINALLY, the rest of America is finding out. Once AGAIN Tatupu stepped up on the big stage and absolutely owned the Panthers offense. Sure, he might have had only three tackles, but, heck, the Panthers were only on offense for 18 minutes, which is incredible. However, two of his plays almost ended the game right then and there. First, his interception of Delhomme was a thing of beauty, baiting Delhomme into the throw, racing across the middle and returning the ball to their 20 yard line. He outsmarted Delhomme. Badly. Second, he took Nick Goings out of the game with a huge hit, even ending the game with a mild concussion. Think about that a minute. Tatupu played the majority of this game WITH A MILD CONCUSSION, AND HE WAS DOMINANT!! Um.... hello, people? Wow. Wow.

-- The 12th Man is amazing: Gavin can talk about this more, because he was there, but, believe you and me, it came through loud and clear on the television, and the announcers couldn't help but continue to note it at various points during the game. Qwest Field has become a nightmare for opposing teams. That is amazing. All of you who were there, great, GREAT job. The rest of us were with you in spirit. What is weird to me is how great Seattle sports fans are. I mean, Qwest Field is the loudest place in the NFL, and, when the Sonics are good, Key Arena is the loudest place in the NBA. Why doesn't this matter to people? Seattle is hungry, HUNGRY for a champion, and the people here will support you hard-core if they see potential.

-- The RIGHT side of our offensive line is excellent: We went to our right numerous times during the game. Carolina would consistently stack the left side, and we would respond by taking huge chunks of yardage on the right side. We're not one-dimensional, teams. Sure, Jones and Hutch are phenomenal, but we don't always use them. You actually make it easier on us to run the ball when you do this. That being said, another of my favorite moments happened on Alexander's 15 yard run to the 1 yard line that set up the score making it 17-0. Not Shaun's run, but watching Walter Jones SHOVE Mike Rucker 15 yards downfield was awesome. Jones was farther upfield then Shaun when he was finally tackled. That's amazing.

-- Marcus Trufant had his best game ever: We have heard, continually, that Marcus Trufant was a shut-down corner, that he was one step away from establishing himself as elite. We have heard that, but I had yet to SEE that until Sunday. Sure, he had plenty of help, but he defended several balls extremely well, only allowing one deep ball to Carter. I felt very proud to be wearing his jersey.

-- Matt Hasselbeck has arrived as an elite quarterback: Again, we already knew this. But others did not. On several shows I saw him being ranked as the worst of the four quarterbacks playing in the championship games. Behind Jake Delhomme. Behind Jake the Snake. Behind Big Ben (actual argument for that one). His final numbers? 20/28 for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns. The second touchdown was FANTASTIC; a great pump fake that completely fooled Chris Gamble, leaving D-Jack wide open for the score. But the most impressive thing was the way he managed the game. Make no mistake. He was completely in control from beginning to end. He took what the defense had to give him without gambling, without playing outside himself. They were short throws, or intermediate throws, but they were on the money and the correct decision. Just a great game from a great player.

-- The most impressive unit of the day? The defensive line: Absolutely. They consistently got pressure on Delhomme all game with usually only the front four going at it. Rocky Bernard, playing for a huge contract, got 3 sacks. Fisher and Wistrom got Delhomme on the run numerous times. Tubbs and Darby plugged the running game and rendered it impotent. Face facts. Sure, you might be facing a lesser quality running back, but he's still good enough to play in the NFL, and we shut him down. The line was fantastic. Superlatives do not exist. We will need them to play that well in Detroit.

-- Peter Warrick? Yes. Tom Rouen? No.: Sure, Warrick didn't have a great day, but he didn't fumble it, which made the day great by my standards. As for Rouen, after a very good kicking day against the Redskins, he had one good punt downed at the 1 yard line, but, besides that, his line drive punt that was returned for a touchdown (yes, I'll get to that) was just horrific. You don't give the ball like that to Steve Smith? C'mon, man!

-- Um, Mr. Official? Mr. Official?: Why do I always feel that Seattle teams are always underdogs in the ref's eyes? How else do you explain the ref picking up the flag on that runback? Fortunately the Hawks didn't allow that to beat them, but, wow, that was a sucker punch in the gut for me watching at home. The only point in the game that serious doubt crept into my mind. There were also a few holding calls that seemed iffy, but the big one, no question, was on that punt return.

Besides all that, wow! We're in the Super Bowl!

posted by colin_hesse @ 10:15 AM  2 comments

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Perhaps the Stupidest Thing Written in a Long Time

Don Banks, SI football reporter, in his article written last week:

If NFL MVP Shaun Alexander plays on Sunday, I like the Panthers' Goings to out-rush him by at least 40 yards.

Well, let's see how that worked out, shall we?

Nick Goings: 5 carries, 2 yards

Shaun Alexander: 34 carries, 132 yards, 2 TDs

Wow. When you're wrong you're wrong, eh?

posted by colin_hesse @ 7:36 PM  2 comments

NFC Championship Sunday


Gavin (D-Jack), Dad (Tatupu), and Colin (Trufant). We're ready for this action!

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:48 PM  3 comments

Friday, January 20, 2006

NFC Championship Preview: Carolina Panthers at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

It's time.

Time for Gavin and I to sluff off whatever garbage the media has been peddling (Jake Delhomme, by the way, is the best quarterback of all time. And John Fox is the second best coach in the NFL behind Belichick).

Time to actually take the bull by the horns and preview this sucker ourselves. Just like last week, we welcome your comments and additions to this preview as we work through the defense, offense, and special teams (without Jimmy Williams! Yes!).

This is the biggest game in Seahawks history, and, like Gavin wrote earlier, a win on Sunday would be the high sports point in our lifetime. Whoo. That's big.

Gavin, what better way to start off a preview then by looking at the concussed MVP of the league, Shaun Alexander. Bill Simmons made fun of Shaun disappearing in a big game again, but Simmons had a point. Shaun has done nothing in any of our postseason appearances, and he even had a costly fumble before being concussed last Saturday. What should we expect from the MVP?

Gavin: Man, start off with a hard one. I'm honestly not sure what to expect from Shaun. I read a great article this week that had stats from most of his primetime efforts and since the Oakland and Minnesota games he really hasn't shown up. Against the Redskins (supposedly he was also sick) he was the same tentative runner we've all come to know and love prior to Super Shaun. Our offensive line is too good to not stick with the play more often than not. The strength of that line is why I still believe Shaun will play well. If he wants his big contract, he needs a big game. If not, he's going to wonder where all the suitors went. Frankly, we need Shaun. Carolina's defense is too good to be one dimensional. We got away with it against the Redskins but barely. I don't see 150 yards, but I do think if he's healthy all game he'll break a couple and flirt with 100. What about yourself? More than that, what will our offensive line do to break him out?

Colin: Yay, a response from Gavin! Yay! Way to turn my own question right back at me, Gavin! Yes! Put that engineering degree to work! Absolutely! Biting sarcasm aside, I have to think that Shaun knows FULL WELL that no one outside of Seattle will look upon him as the MVP of the league if he does not have a big outing against the Panthers. Honestly, if the writers had to vote for the MVP right now, would anyone be surprised if Steve Smith won? Amazing how an entire season's worth of work can disappear under the glare of the postseason. It depends on the aftereffects of that concussion, but I know that doctors don't screw around with people who are concussed, so you can be darn sure he is healthy enough to play on Sunday. I expect us to run right at Mike Rucker, who is an undersized defensive end with a terrific motor, very much like Bryce Fisher but a tad better. Working the running game through him would accomplish the task both of running to our stronger side and wearing down one of the Panther's best rushers. The ankle injury to DT Kindal Moorehead will be interesting as well, because if he is not able to play his regular amount of snaps, you can be sure we will also attempt to run straight at DT Brentson Buckner, who, as a 12 year vet, isn't really able to take a full-time load anymore in the league but is a very effective substitute. Option number three depends on how healthy Julius Peppers is. You can be sure he will start and play, that's a given. But the shoulder injury combined with his sickness might make HIM less effective as well. A lot of "if's" here, but the Panthers defensive line is a tad worn down, so I expect Holmgren to use Shaun early and often both to get him on track and to begin wearing down the Panthers defense, whether the run is working early or not. Bottom line: I too expect Shaun to be right around the 100 yard mark with at least one touchdown. It's go time for Shaun, and even though him having an amazing game on Sunday might mean he leaves for greener pastures, we're talking Super Bowl here, so I really don't care. Gavin, let's talk about some of the injuries the Panther's defense is working through right now. Do any of them matter? Do you think, during the game, any of them WILL matter?

Gavin: You better believe those injuries will matter. Peppers is more hurt than people are letting on. You cannot take on an offensive line the quality of Seattle's as banged up as Carolina is and believe you will be consistently successful. We are just too good. Mike Rucker might be the most healthy of the four and his reward is a full day of Walter Jones. How will the Panthers be able to stay in their gaps if they're hurt and lack some of the drive? More importantly, are they too hurt to even dream about pressuring Hasselbeck without bringing a blitz? A hurt Peppers can't be that much better than Jevon Kearse, Leonard Little, or the other top sack men that Sean Locklear has beaten this year. It is far easier to be injured and play wide receiver than in the trenches. There's just so much more contact. I look for us to test the health of the opposition early and often. I alluded to wide receiver health. Both Bobby Engram and Darrell Jackson have missed the last two practices and are listed as questionable. Are they less effective?

Colin: Are they less effective? Probably, but not by as much as people might think, especially Jackson. This is the same Jackson who would tell you he was operating at 60% out there against Washington on Saturday and came through with a tremendous performance. The chemistry between Hasselbeck and Jackson has never been better, and Jackson's hands have never been better. I read Scouts Inc.'s preview of this game today and they said that Seattle didn't possess an elite receiver. Strange. I thought Jackson WAS an elite receiver, and he showed that against Washington. As for Engram, he has surprisingly not been a huge part of our offense recently anyways, so I would expect more of a no-show from him matched up against Chris Gamble or Ricky Manning. Carolina's secondary is just too good; one of our receivers will be shut down. Now, if they go to more zone coverages looking to stop the run, THEN I would expect Engram to come through in the clutch like usual. It just seems like these two have been playing injured all season and have come through when we needed them too. Why stop now? Your thoughts, and do you think the Carolina secondary has what it takes to out-physical our wide receivers?

Gavin: Man, you can tell Colin's been ready for this. He's writing novels. Before answering your question, there was one more point that needs to be made regarding Shaun. With thanks to the 12th Man's preview for reminding me, Shaun faced most of these same defensive players last year and went off for 195. Remember, the reason Carolina sucked last year were all those offensive injuries. We faced Peppers. We faced Rucker. We faced Dan Morgan. Shaun went for 195. Interesting thought.

Anyways, back to the wide receivers. As I wrote above, I think it's easier for a wide receiver to play through pain than a lineman. D-Jack was hurt bad last week. D-Jack came through huge last week. Same with Bobby Engram. I agree, they've played hurt since Week 4. They're not going to stop now. Carolina has a strong intimidating secondary. Their success will depend slightly on what we give them to work with. We have the weapons to win. Bobby Engram should not be lined up on the outside. He will be taken out of the game. However, if he's on the inside against either Ricky Manning of a safety he can make those third down grabs we've come to know and love. We need to see a lot more of Joe Jurevicius in this game. No one is going to push Joe around for 60 minutes. There's some talk about how Ken Lucas knows us. Well, we also know Ken Lucas. We know he loves biting on short routes and getting burned deep. Not coincidentally, we have given up far fewer long pass plays this year without him. This means we should try a few go routes with Jackson, similar to last week. More importantly, how good are the linebackers in coverage?

Colin: You're darn right I'm excited for this. All week I've watched and read numerous analysts fawning over Fox, Smith, and Delhomme, and not talking AT ALL about the Hawks. Hasselbeck supposedly is the 4th best quarterback left in the postseason, which is ridiculous. Holmgren is the 4th best coach left, which is also ridiculous. Shaun won't matter at all. Our defense doesn't stand a chance. Yada yada yada. Anyways, speaking of the 12th Man, kudos to them for getting mentioned in USA Today. Those guys do great work, and they deserve any sort of mention.

As for your question, I honestly don't know how good the linebackers are in coverage. You have Will Witherspoon (80 tackles), Dan Morgan (77 tackles), and Brandon Short (59 tackles) as your main three guys. Morgan's a tad banged up, but besides that these guys really can play. Now, if they bring in Manning in coverage, Witherspoon and Morgan will have some more ground to cover but they appear to be mostly up to the task. This is a team that was ranked 9th against the pass, allowing 191.1 yds per game. Seattle, by the way? 25th against the pass, allowing 222.4 yds per game. A difference of 30 yards separates the men from the boys, I guess. One thing these guys have been able to do in the postseason is intercept the football. Do you expect Matt to give the ball to the Panthers at any point during this game?

Gavin: And Colin busts out some stats! It is pretty interesting that our secondary can be looked at as that much weaker because of 30 yards. I'll answer my question for you. It's not going to matter how good the linebackers are because they're going to be blitzing most of the time to try and get some semblance of pressure on Hasselbeck. I really don't see how Carolina's front four pressures him otherwise, and if Hasselbeck has lots of time they could have four Pro Bowlers out there in coverage and we'll move the football. As for the interceptions, Hasselbeck got lucky on three plays last week, so there's no way I say no with any assuredness. I'm especially concerned in the first half, when his emotions are running a little higher. I think he easily could pull a whirly-bird and give it up. Carolina doesn't drop picks like Washington, apparently. However, Carolina did let Rex Grossman look pretty good after a horrific start. How did Chicago pull that off and why should Carolina believe they've improved?

Colin: Well, believe it or not, but Carolina allowed 192 yards through the air last week, which is exactly their average, so it's not like Chicago went off or anything. I guess it's whether or not you think that actually allowing Grossman to get to the average is a bad thing. I would say that Carolina did allow Berrian to catch 5 passes for 68 yards, and most of those catches were over the middle if I remember correctly. I think that's the soft spot, the middle of the field. That means go time for Engram (discussed earlier) and Stevens. Stevens. Now there is a conundrum. This has been Steven's breakout year, but I still remember his propensity for drops earlier in his career. Will he catch a case of the dropsies? Will our receivers?

Gavin: And the Crushed Dad jumps on just before I call him! I can't necessarily post everything here that he has to offer, so check out the comment section. Dad and I will be losing our voices together on Sunday. Now, Colin, about that 192. Remember, Grossman started the game off 3-15 (or something ridiculous like that), so that 192 should (and does) look worse in that light. As for Jerramy Stevens, we definitely need his playmaking ability in this game. He was instrumental in the beginning of the second half in loosening up the coverage schemes on our receivers. As with the rest of our players, I need to trust what he did during the regular season, which is catch the ball all over the field. I wouldn't be surprised if we try a deep seam route with him if the safeties are crowding the line of scrimmage. Before we move to the defense, I had one more question. What is the biggest x-factor for the Seahawks to move the ball effectively? I say it's Matt Hasselbeck's decision-making (avoiding turnovers, audibling correctly).

First off, here's a great take on the game from a Seahawks fan on Page 2. Talks about how big this game is to Seattle and all Seahawks fans. Just don't read the article by Skip Bayless that is linked to in that article.

Now, as for the biggest x-factor? I agree that the correct audibles are a huge x-factor, and Matt will have to make quick, strong, effective decisions, especially times where we audible from the pass to the run, making huge holes available for Shaun. So I'm not going to disagree with you per se, but will say that another huge x-factor (maybe not bigger, but one that I feel needs to be addressed) is the way that our wide receivers handles the physicality of the Panthers secondary. Think about the game that our receivers performed the worst. Dallas. And yes, I realize that D-Jack and Engram weren't there, but you can be darn sure that Carolina watched tape of that game and will come in hitting our receivers early, hard, and often. Will our guys get rattled and thrown off their routes? Will we be a "finesse" team?

Honorable mention: The health and effectiveness of Julius Peppers. This will strongly affect both our running AND passing games with the pass rush and run defense that Peppers brings to the table. Big, big deal.

Alright, let's move on to the defense against what really is a productive Panthers offense led by all-world star Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme, who just never looks fazed on the road and under pressure. So, Gavin, let's start with the main question that has been on everyone's lips ALL WEEK LONG. What about Steve Smith?

Gavin: We will not stop Steve Smith from being a factor. No one is dumb enough to suggest that. Still, our experience last week with one Santana Moss should prove illuminating. On 95% of plays Moss was double-teamed, and on a few occasions this meant that Brunell was looking for him too much and ending up having to scramble or throw the ball away. Smith is better than Moss, but not by much. They are the same small, fast, gamebreaker wide receiver style player. With the fact that the Panthers have gone all season without a viable second option our chances look even better. At least the Redskins had Chris Cooley. The last defensive play of the game last week was made because Michael Boulware was assigned over-the-top protection on Moss. So I do believe we can hold Smith from 70 yard touchdowns. This then means limiting his YAC, which will depend on our tackling. Luckily our corners are pretty darn good tacklers, especially Marcus Trufant. This will be tested on Carolina's first series when they run one of those wide receiver screens to Smith they so love. On the reverse our outside linebackers (Leroy Hill and DD Lewis) have to remain disciplined. Our run defense is good enough that they shouldn't have to overpursue to make plays, especially against Nick Goings. That means we should always be ready for Smith coming around the other direction. That's my plan of success. What's yours? What wide receiver do we need to be worried about if we focus too much on Smith?

Colin: Your second question is answered very easily. Drew Carter. That guy is an absolute speedster who will probably draw some single-coverage because of the focus on Smith and will get a few deep balls thrown his way, probably covered by Kelly Herndon. I am concerned about that, but still..... you have to throw a ton of stuff at Smith, no matter if Carter catches a deep one or not. Smith is the game breaker. Smith is the person that we can't let beat us.

As for how we will do on Smith, here's what we ended up doing against Santana Moss. 7 catches, 103 yds, 1 TD. That's a pretty doggone good day for a wide receiver, but it still felt like we limited Moss (ed note: Peppers did practice today, still listed as questionable, but it is 90% likely that he will play on Sunday). I suspect we will say to Steve Smith, "Here. Pick up 100-120 yards. That's fine. Maybe even a touchdown. But you won't be the absolute difference." Think of the Shaq/Kobe plan from the Lakers run a few years ago. Defenses would just plan on Kobe and Shaq getting theirs and limiting the role players. That's what I feel we will try to do. Partially limit Smith and really put the hammer down on Nick Goings and the running game. Speaking of Goings, you would think he was Larry Johnson the way analysts have been fawning over this guy. And yes, he did go over 100 yards repeatedly last year. Here's one thing you probably didn't know about that number: He usually needed over 30 carries to get to 100 yards. That's not really good. He averages less than 4 yards per carry, and doesn't break the big one. Gavin, what do you expect from Nick Goings?

Gavin: I almost would expect that if you asked most pundits if they would rather have Goings or Shaun Alexander they would say Goings. Apparently he's the greatest third string back in the history of the league. Only John Clayton has tempered his praise. Here's what Goings will do... hold on to the football and run to the line of scrimmage. He won't break it to the second level. He won't hit a home run. He will allow Lofa Tatupu and friends to find him quickly and limit his damage. That puts a lot more pressure on the offensive line to open holes for him, and (lest the rest of America forget) this is still an offensive line that has failed to open up holes for any Carolina back until the last couple of weeks. I expect a similar performance to what we saw from a limited Clinton Portis last week. About three yards a carry. Why have the Panthers all of a sudden found a rushing attack?

Colin: I wish I knew. This was a team that couldn't run the ball except against the Falcons, which everyone in the league could do. In the postseason they have gone up against the beleaguered Giants defense (ouch) and a Bears defense that just didn't seem to show up to the game and was put on his heels by Steve Smith from the 2nd play of the game. However, the top two running backs for Carolina last week didn't really perform awesomely. Foster ran 16 times for 54 yds, and Goings ran 10 times for 34 yds. That's not All-Star stuff. Heck, their best running game last week came with.... wait for it.... Steve Smith, who carried the ball 3 times for 26 yds. So, I wouldn't go as far as to say that the Panthers have really "found" a rushing attack. I don't expect the running attack to beat us. People talk about how Goings is a "complete" back, whatever that means. Guess what? Portis was a "complete" back as well. We beat him up.

Special note: Both Mark Schlereth and Merrill Hodge (spelling?) pick Seattle over Carolina, Woody Paige concurs and Skip Bayless picks Carolina by 3. I'm watching every show today, baby!

New question, Gavin. What is the biggest question for our defense going into this game?

Gavin: Skip Bayless picked Carolina? Are you serious? Actually, it's pretty nice to be on the other side of the AntiChrist on something.

I'm assuming you mean the biggest question for our defense that isn't "how do you cover Steve Smith"? To me that's how well we get pressure on Jake Delhomme. Delhomme is a good quarterback. No one is going to argue that. Delhomme is also awful under pressure. Seriously, the biggest difference between Chicago Game #1 and Chicago Game #2 were the 8 sacks. The Bears were unable to generate any type of rush to get into Jake's grill and force the bad pass. Plus, the more time Jake has the more time Steve Smith has to get open. Now, Carolina again is dealing with some injuries to their offensive line, but I don't expect those injuries to play a huge factor. I will say that we should be able to get some pressure from our ends. Bryce Fisher and Grant Wistrom need to collapse the pocket, because G Mike Wahle is good enough inside to limit the penetration of a Rocky Bernard. We can commit more blitzers more often, since Carolina has so few legitimate options, but we need our front four to make plays. So how are our linebackers going to do?

Colin: Quick note: Bill Plaschke picks Seattle BECAUSE of Nick Goings (wow!), Jay Mariotti picks Carolina because of Smith and Delhomme (and because D-Jack is "out", which is not true), Woody Paige picks Seattle because of a big game by Alexander, and Michael Smith doesn't pick anyone because he feels both teams are equal. Plaschke then makes fun of Mariotti for thinking that D-Jack is out, and all Mariotti can do is yell, "He's listed as questionable! Look it up!"

Now, on to our linebackers. How are they going to do? How about awesome? Honestly, this might be the one area of our team that I am the LEAST concerned about. Lofa Tatupu was just incredible last week, and Leroy Hill wasn't a spring chicken either (like how I pulled that reference out there, eh?). Tatapu, I'm sure, was watched hours and hours of film and knows Delhomme and the Panthers offense inside and out. Hill will get pressure if needed, and even DD Lewis seems to have improved as the year has gone along. Seriously. Tatapu showed the rest of the country why he was the defensive rookie of the year last week. You really think he would fade at all for this week?

Colin: Additional picks. Tony Kornheiser has not fallen in love with Seattle, so he is picking Carolina. Big surprise. Michael Wilbon actually picks Seattle because he picked them before the playoffs began.

Gavin: I almost feel better at times with some of these people picking against us because it is so obvious they know nothing about our team. As for our linebackers, anytime you have a group that young there can be issues. Last week they dominated, flying to the ball all over the place and keeping Chris Cooley from being much of a factor. This week if anything their job is easier. No Cooley. No Portis. Just a third string back named Goings and a TE in Kris Mangum who keeps on dropping passes. That should free them up even more to get pressure on Delhomme. I would really like to see Leroy Hill have several cracks at the quarterback each half. Speaking of Kris Mangum, I have to admit I'm really not scared of him, which means our safeties can focus even more on shutting down Steve Smith. What's the Carolina x-factor?

Colin: I mentioned Drew Carter earlier, but I'm going with Ricky Proehl as the Carolina x-factor. Here's a pro's pro who does nothing but get open and make big catches. It might only be one catch, but you can be sure it will be meaningful. I'm a tad scared as to his ability to find a weak spot in the zone and sit down, because you can be sure that no one will be really focused on him doing anything special. That leads to a secondary x-factor. IF (big if) Steve Smith isn't getting open early, will Delhomme start forcing the ball to him or will he look for the single-covered receivers LIKE Carter or LIKE Proehl? That will be a big factor as well. Tell me about OUR x-factor on defense.

Gavin: Damn. That's a tough one. I'd like to say Bryce Fisher (to be able to pressure Delhomme), but I have to stick with my boy Michael Boulware. We've seen this postseason how important a tremendous safety is (Troy Polamalu, Sean Taylor). Boulware isn't a player in their league yet, but this is a great chance to put his stamp on the position. At some point in this game, Marcus Trufant or Andre Dyson will be beaten. Probably at multiple times by one Steve Smith. Boulware has to be there. When he's there, he has to make a play. His skills at closing have improved this year quite a bit, and now there's no better opportunity. He stopped Santana Moss. Now he has to stop Steve Smith. Good luck. Colin, I think I've run out of questions. What haven't we discussed?

Colin: Two things that I don't think we need to spend a great deal of time on. We have Peter Warrick as the new punt returner (big plus!) and the need to not turn the ball over three times like last week. On the turnover front, I just can't believe that we will be pressured into multiple turnovers again, but a turnover-FREE game will definitely make our chances higher. Gavin, quickly discuss what you see in special teams and then maybe go ahead and make your final analysis and pick if you're ready.....

Gavin: I can't believe I forgot special teams, because special teams didn't forget me last week. At this point we need to make a serious distinction here, because Tom Rouen had his best game as a Seahawk last weekend and Josh Brown has become as good a kicker as we've had for a while. Even our coverage units were solid. Now the receiving game... now that's another story. There are two problems. 1. Holding onto the ball and 2. Blocking. Jimmy Williams just didn't have a step to breathe when he caught the ball last weekend. He made one good catch and got hammered. Then his confidence was gone and he was looking upfield while trying to catch the ball... never a good sign. Peter Warrick will at least add some explosiveness. At this point I don't care if he lets the ball roll. I just want our offense to get the ball. As for Josh Scobey, he's fumbled about four-five times now. He's done a decent job this year getting us out to the 30 (if there are no blocks in the back), but we cannot afford him coughing it up again. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but can't. Don't try to do anything special, Josh. Just get us the ball. Who wins the turnover battle? I think it'll be one-one, as both Hasselbeck and Delhomme get caught trying to force one.

Final analysis: The more I think about this game the more confident I am in our offense. I believe Washington had a better defense (if not by much). We should be able to pound the ball with Shaun and protect Matt long enough for him to make his reads. On defense I think we have the tools and have shown the ability to keep a playmaker like Steve Smith in check. I think we have shown the ability to stuff the running game. I think Carolina looks better than Washington, but not by enough to make a difference. Seattle 27, Carolina 20.

Colin's Crushed Line: The Panthers have the edge in the secondary, in Steve Smith, in overall playoff mojo, and perhaps the defensive line depending on Julius Pepper's health. The Hawks have the better quarterback, the better running back, the better offensive line, the better linebacking corps, and the best home field advantage in the NFL. That means close game. I look for Carolina to stake themselves out to a halftime lead of 14-10, but then the Hawks will come out and play an amazing 2nd half to win it, led by Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu. Hey, I'm a Hawks fan. I wouldn't expect a Panthers blog to pick against them, and they sure shouldn't expect me to pick against the Hawks. Final: Seattle 24, Carolina 21

Gavin: By the way, just because we've made our picks doesn't mean we're done... there's still two full days left before this thing. So please comment and let us know. Let the discussion continue until the ball is kicked off!

Here's something I'd forgotten about... red zone defense. Colin jogged my memory by picking a final score for Carolina of three touchdowns. I disagree with it hopefully because of how strong our red zone defense has been. Against Washington, if we'd allowed a touchdown on that drive after Jimmy William's interception we would have been in serious trouble. Instead our defense buckled down inside the ten and forced the Redskins to settle for three. This is the same thing we've seen all year (won us the Dallas game). We should be able to stuff the Panthers... all their touchdowns this postseason have basically been long passes to Smith. Not having any semblance of a running game will just make that much easier. Your thoughts?

Gavin: A couple of interesting stats... Carolina's defense has generally been touted as far superior to ours. Yet in the all-important third down conversion stat the Panthers actually lag behind the Hawks. Seattle allows a 38 percent percentage rate comparatively to Carolina's 41%. So our team is actually better at getting opposing teams off the field. Weird. Second, we are well aware of how our team led the league with 50 sacks. I was curious to see how the Panthers matched up. Well, not bad with 45. Now, 10.5 of those were Julius Peppers (hurt), 7.5 were Mike Rucker (Walter Jones-ified), and 5 were from Kindal Moorehead (hurt). That means a full half of their sacks mean a lot less come Sunday. I rest my case.

Gavin: Reader jswatz shows up late to the party! He asks, "How would you forecast Holmgren's mindset about these guys' roles?" That would be Hackett, Jurevicius, and Stevens. Well, I sure hope his mindset is that they are extremely important. Stevens jumpstarted our offense in the second half last year. Jurevicius made the one huge catch. If Holmgren doesn't get them involved I take back a few nice things I've said about him recently. Not sure about Hackett... depends on Jackson's health. As to your second question regarding Shaun, he should be good to go!

Colin: Gavin's going nuts over here, but I wanted to quickly chime in with a thought on red zone defense. Here's the big thing. I don't think Nick Goings can pound in the rock. That means that Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith will have to find openings with seven or eight defenders in the end zone. That might be hard. (By the way, when I came up with my final score, I wasn't thinking about this at all). More tomorrow!

Colin: And tomorrow is now here. Excellent. ESPN's KC Joyner (the NFL stats guy) has an interesting article (sorry, INSIDER status) about the Seahawks vulnerability to Steve Smith. He admits starting researching the article thinking that he would find that the Seahawks would be extremely vulnerable and that Steve Smith would have a huge game against them. What he found was that Trufant had a great year, Herndon had a good year, Dyson was a tad worse, but the three combined were solid if not spectacular against other top receivers. He predicts us to contain, but not stop of course, Steve Smith.

Colin: Random ESPN expert picks (strange, but once again it looks like everyone was all talk about how bad the Seahawks were....): Picking us are Ron Jaworski, Mark Schlereth (as stated earlier), Eric Allen, and Chris Mortenson. Picking against us are Sean Salisbury, Mike Golic (both of them were discussed earlier this week), and supposedly Merrill Hoge, which is different then what he said on-air yesterday. Can't have it both ways, Hoge. Be a man, make a pick! Secondary note: I enjoy tremendously that the link is to ESPN's "talent". Man, that word is sure defined loosely nowadays, eh?

Gavin: All these "experts" seem to want it both ways, like Hoge. The Seahawks are weak, the Seahawks have issues, blah, blah, blah, but they'll still win. Random side note: these tv and newspaper "experts" are the same ones who pick College Football championships... and you wonder why I think those championships are a farce. Anyways, the purpose of this post is to shed some light into the worship of one Nick Goings. All I've heard this week is how there won't be a big dropoff for the Panthers because of all the 100 yard games Goings had last year. So I took a look at the stats. Nicky's first game was against Arizona, and he went for 121 yards on 22 carries. That's a 5.5 yard average. Dang. That's impressive.... until you see that he had his season long run that game for 57 yards. Do a little math and you have 64 yards on 21 carries (3.04 ypc). The next week was Tampa Bay (23 c, 106 y). Again, nice stats (4.6 ypc) until you take out the one long 28 yarder (22 c, 78 y, 3.55 ypc). This is when defensive coordinators figured Goings out. His longest run the rest of the season (5 games) was 19 yards and he only scored 3 touchdowns the final 6 games. Each time he hit 100 yards it took 30+ carries. His YPC numbers were 3.4, 3.5, 2.5, 3.8, 3.5. The bad news was that he only fumbled once. To me this is the definition of a "Willie Bloomquist", the definition of a replacement level talent. Nick Goings is not a great running back... there's a reason he's third string, and the numbers prove it.

posted by colin_hesse @ 8:00 PM  2 comments

 


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