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 23, 2006

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


At 6:27 AM, Blogger Mariner Optimist said...

Hey guys... just wanted to say that I love your blog, and keep up the great work.

I've waited 30 years for the Seahawks (and Mariners for that matter) to make it to the big stage. Figures it has to happen when the game is in gawdforsaken Detroit. Where is a San Diego Super Bowl when you need it? Heck, I'd rather go to New Orleans right now. Oh well, if we didn't have something to complain about, we wouldn't be Seahawk fans.


At 10:51 AM, Blogger Gavin said...

Thanks for the praise... it's been a lot of fun to write down the conversations Colin and I normally have anyways.
It is a little sad that the game is in Detroit, one of the reasons I won't be attending (the other being that Colin is poor). But it is the Super Bowl! Go Hawks!


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