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!

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


At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Gary said...

Let me jump into this before I get an imploring phone call from one of the Optimists seeking my opinions on the game.
I leave the detailed analysis to you; you're far more informed than I am at that level. Let me just share some keys I see for both sides of the ball.
Seattle defense: discipline. Carolina's bag of tricks includes reverses, screens and who-knows-what-else that's been dreamed up just for this game. It only takes one or two of these to work to be gamebreakers. Our coverage guys need to avoid overpursuit.
Seattle offense: depth. I don't anticipate this game looking much like the last one. I won't be surprised if Shaun, DJ and Engram have limited impact in the outcome of the game. Just like in the World Series where someone always seems to contribute above their reputation, I anticipate that being the case in this game. For the Seahawks, top candidates are Jurevicius and Stevens; maybe Hackett.
Carolina defense: opportunistic. To shut down the Seahawk offense, Carolina is going to have to gamble. Anticipate pass routes. Stack the line on running plays. Force turnovers (we're not going to hand them out for free like last week). In answer to Colin's question, I do expect an interception this week; I'm hopeful it's limited to one.
Carolina offense: protect. That's shorthand for success resting on the offensive line. If Goings gets yards, it will be because the line has opened the lanes for him. If Delhomme gets untracked, it's because he doesn't have to run for his life like Brunell did much of last week. I don't expect much by way of a Seattle blitz, but our defensive line is capable all by themselves of creating pressure. If the Carolina offensive line struggles to keep us out of the backfield, they'll have a real long day.
Getting to go to this game is the biggest sports experience of my just-past-middle-aged life (thanks Gavin). Should be a great one!

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous jswatz said...

Any guesses as to why we saw so little of Jurevicius, Stevens and Hackett last week? (or this is at least all I remember of that group: all of 3, albeit big, catches...but only 3. And how many for Engram?). Maybe there were more, but if you guys think Carolina will blitz a lot, short slants to all these guys across the middle could carry us most of the way down the field. How would you forecast Holmgren's mindset about these guys' roles?

Also, the optimist in me says Alexander has a huge game and is the difference in our win. The 'Seattle-crushed' says he was sick last week, might have healed some but will be wary to receive another concussion--the whole subconscious "avoid pain" complex that football players must have suppressed by now to be where they are (except after being hit hard). I'm not saying Alexander was hit that hard (ok, actually it looked bad on tv in realtime, but Shaun looked fine on the sidelines by the second half...). Have the doctors given him a full ok to play and would you rate him at 70%? Higher/lower?


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