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!

Monday, January 16, 2006

NFC Championship Game..... Hooooo!

For those Seattle-ites who:

1. Live in a cave.
2. Were watching the Weather Channel 24 hours a day over the weekend
3. Get their NFL news from Peter King
4. Think that Qwest Field is the new "Dungeons and Dragons" arena
5. Vote a straight party line (since we're talking Seattle, talking "D" here)
6. Still believe that Eddie Bauer is "hip" and "fresh"
7. Actually buy thousands of dollars of items from REI in the fantastical notion that you will actually go camping more than once a year
8. Spent the whole weekend lying on the couch yearning for the new season of "24" (ed: funny story. I set the VCR to tape the first two hours only to find out later that the tape was set to begin on Monday, not Sunday. Ouch.)
9. Was an engineering major in college
10. Believe that the NFL only exists in New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and possibly Green Bay if this guy named Brett Favre still plays quarterback there....

The Seattle Seahawks won their first playoff game since 1984 on Saturday 20-10 over the Washington Redskins, making Saturday one of the better days of my life. We are advancing to the NFC Championship game, where, at Qwest Field, on Sunday, we will play the Carolina Panthers, fresh off their unsurprising defeat of the Chicago Bears. Honestly, unless your name is Gavin, who in the world thought that the Bears would win that game? You had a team playing WAY above their heads all season, beating up on a division that put even the NFC West to shame (I base that on absolutely no statistical evidence. Call that statement a Prisco-ite, or a King-special), I mean, come on now. The funny thing about that game, which Gavin will probably bring up in the preview, is that the offense didn't lose that game for the Bears. The defense lost the game. That vaunted defense and Charles Tillman lost the game. And now the Panthers will get much love and kissing and heavy petting (isn't John Fox sexy?) from a variety of sportswriters not named John Clayton, and they will talk about how this isn't a "sexy" matchup and neither team is "great" and the Seahawks are a "finesse" team and Steve Smith is "the next coming of Flaxor, destroyer of worlds" and that will be the only statement that is actually true.

Anyways, Gavin and I will have plenty to say about that game as time approaches, but, for now, it's time to look back at what went right (and wrong) Saturday afternoon in Seattle.

Tom Rouen (stud): His punting in the first half was awesome. This is an invidiual that I have ridiculed many a time this year, as his consistent 35 yard punts have been less than impressive. Well, again and again he knocked the Redskins inside the 20 yard line, where it was just going to be hard for the 'Skins, with that offense, to drive the length of the field and score. That was his best game of the season. By far.

Jimmy Williams (super-fantastical-uber-loser): Wow. The first punt he allows to roll 15 yards past where he was standing for no apparent reason (Hey, Jimmy? Remember the rule that allows you to fair-catch a football? The defense can't even hit you? Remember?). The second punt he fumbles and somehow recovers. The third punt he catches without a fair-catch signal with a Redskins defender literally breathing on his neck. The fourth punt he returns for one yard. And the fifth punt he fumbles (AGAIN) and this time Washington recovers. That's pathetic. If he steps back out there to return punts on Sunday I will have some serious questions for Mike Holmgren. Such as.... were you watching the same game on Saturday? Put Engram back there. Put Warrick back there. Anyone. Just not Williams.

Josh Scobey (loser): Not uber-loser, though he came close, but that fumble was absolutely stupid as well. What in the world was he doing on that play? Diving over five more defenders? Well, I have no idea, but I do know that if Williams and Scobey repeat this display on Sunday, we sure aren't sniffing Detroit. We'll just keep on sniffing Tacoma.

Matt Hasselbeck (hero): 16/26, 215 yds, 1 TD passing, 1 TD rushing. This was an unbelievable performance by the true leader of our team. Shaun goes down, Holmgren tells Matt it's his time, and Matt takes control. Make no mistake. The Redskins have an amazing defense, one that is at least on par with the Panthers and the Bears if not better. This was the #1 defense a year ago. Here are some numbers:

The Panthers, this year, gave up 282.6 yds a game. The Redskins, with a much worse offense (meaning more possessions for the other team), gave up 297.9 yds a game. That's the difference of less than two first downs. On yards per play, the Panthers gave up 4.6 yds. The Redskins, 4.9 yds. Carolina allowed a 40.7% success rate on third down. The Redskins, 36.5%. Carolina allowed 16.2 points a game. The Redskins, 18.3 points a game. These are very similar defenses, and Hasselbeck just took control of one of them and won the game by himself, without the help of MVP Shaun Alexander.

I admit, when Shaun went down, some of "those" thoughts came into my head. "Not again." "It's great being a Seahawks fan." "Maybe next year." Well, Hasselbeck took those thoughts out of my mind with that great drive to give us a 7-3 edge at halftime. Washington, remember, had just scored. Our offense had done little to nothing all game after Shaun fumbled away the first drive (more on that later). Qwest Field was quiet. And we started at our own 26, hardly terrific field position. 12 plays and 5:37 later, Hasselbeck threw a tremendous 29 yard touchdown pass to D-Jack that was perfection. Only D-Jack could make the catch and it was a a relatively easy ball to make a play on. Brilliant. But that wasn't the only play in that drive Hasselbeck made. There were TWO scrambles that obviously caught the Redskins off guard, one resulting in a first down, one resulting in a makeable 2nd down. There was the initial 3rd and 10 completion to D-Jack for our first 1st down in a LONG time. From that drive onward, Hasselbeck was in control of this game. I knew that we could still lose it, thanks to our crappy return guys and a defense that was tiring, but I knew that, if possible, Hasselbeck would make a play to win it.

Finally (well, hopefully) people can forget his fateful call against Green Bay two seasons ago (THAT WAS BANNISTER'S FAULT, PEOPLE), and the drop by Engram last year. In both those game he has played well, and it's about time people knew just how good he can be.

Shaun Alexander (initial loser, then question mark): 6 carries, 9 yards, a HORRIBLE fumble caused by thin air negating a fantastic first drive that seemed to be ready to make a huge statement in this football game. Even before Shaun went down it didn't look like he had his usual drive, his power running game stifled by the Washington defense. This was the same old Shaun we had seen in previous postseason games. If he does play Sunday, which seems likely, you HAVE to believe that he will be yearning for a huge game to put some of the doubters to rest. Classy move by Tim Ruskell in making a point to come up to Shaun and console him on Saturday. That's a true leader, folks.

Lofa Tatupu (major hero): America saw the Defensive Rookie of the Year play on Saturday, and hopefully that put to rest the rumours that Shaun Merriman was "The Man". Tatupu, a rookie, A ROOKIE, played brilliantly. Brilliantly. In fact, I was most impressed with him than any other Seahawk on Saturday, mostly because I expected Hasselbeck to play well. But, honestly, I didn't quite know what to expect with Tatupu, first playoff game and all. 10 tackles to lead the defense, but, more importantly, he made all the right calls, shifting the defensive line around constantly to combat what Washington was doing. What he has done this season gives me hope for the next ten years. That's how good he is. One of the signature plays of this game was Tatupu running 40 yards downfield to cover a wide-receiver, who ended up shoving Tatupu off, resulting in offensive pass interference. That was Tatupu playing better coverage than half our secondary can.

Defensive line (hero): Our front four played consistently well all game long, whether it was Fisher and Wistrom applying pressure or Tubbs and Darby absolutely swallowing up Clinton Portis (17 carries, 41 yards!). I mean, everyone knew that if you made Washington a one-dimensional team, they would suffer. And that's what we did. Washington tried everything to get Portis going. They ran up the gut. They countered. They ran to the sides. Nothing worked. Plus, we got pressure on Brunell using only our front four, allowing seven to drop back into coverage. Fisher's huge sack on 4th down came while we were rushing only three. THREE! These guys will have to put together another huge game, because Carolina's line played extremely well against the Bears and will be a big challenge.

Walter Jones (beast): Who's Phillip Daniels? 4 forgettable tackles, though they did credit him for a forced fumble. Heck, the entire O-Line was great, giving Morris a few holes and protecting Hasselbeck phenomenally whether the 'Skins were blitzing or not. Great job, guys.

Darrell Jackson (BAM!): Yet another hero, he of the 9 catch, 143 yard game. Sure, Steve Smith had the best game by a wide receiver this past weekend, but D-Jack was close. He was everywhere when we needed a big catch, and he caught the football when it was thrown his way. Fantastic touchdown catch, great use of his body to make some crucial third down conversions.... he was something special, and, like everyone else, will be called on again this next week.

Michael Boulware (game-saver): Who else but Boulware would turn in the game-saving play? 52 seconds left, 4th down for the Redskins at the Seahawks 33. Brunell decides to heave one towards the end zone for Santana Moss who, by the way, is an OUTSTANDING wide receiver who is somehow being only covered by Boulware. Boulware makes the play, incomplete pass, game over, I can breathe again.

I'm sure there are more people and plays to talk about. Leroy Hill was special. Josh Brown kicked two crucial field goals. Marcus Trufant had a pretty good game. Joe Jurevicius had a few great catches. Holmgren drew up a great game plan. The fans were phenomenal.

We won, people. Enjoy it.

Till Sunday.

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:22 PM  0 comments

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