Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pity about the first half

The first half was so dreadful that it almost erased everything Seattle achieved this season.

The second half reminded us why the Seahawks made it as far as they did.

Carolina played well and deserved to win.

Assessments can wait for later.

Thank you, Seahawks, for another very good season.

Kam vs. Cam

When we played Carolina last year, Cam Newton carved us up with passes to Greg Olsen. In our base defense, Kam Chancellor is responsible for covering the opposing tight end.

As a runner, Newton keys one of the league's best running attacks. As the eight man in the box, Bam Bam also keys our run defense.

So, much of this game comes down to our quarterback vs. their strong safety.

The first game was close, but that was without all-world middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a fleet tackling machine. We also upgraded at cornerback by cutting Cary Williams and replacing him with a rotation of converted safety DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane, who returned from injury.

Our offense has seesawed radically of late. After a six-game streak of scoring 30 or more points, Seattle sputtered against St. Louis, blew out Arizona and then eked out a mere 13 points against Minnesota. Hopefully, the return of Marshawn Lynch and Luke Willson will help spark the kind of production we will need to bury Carolina.

King MortStar's prediction: Hawks win, 24-17.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Seahawks vs. Vikings and "Muskrat Love"

Bam Bam Kam strips AP (Photo Credit: ESPN)

Hawk Haters dismiss Seattle's victory over the Vikings as mere luck.

They're wrong. Unless they're using the correct definition of luck: When preparation meets opportunity.

The Seahawks earned that win. Blair Walsh choked on his fourth and final field goal try because Richard Sherman came within a fraction of an inch of blocking his third attempt. Walsh and his holder hurried both the third and fourth attempts. In neither case did his holder dare to spend a split second to spin the laces away from the kicker. On that last kick, Walsh kicked it even quicker, and he shanked it. Go ahead and hate on the man if you've never missed a layup or a 2' putt under pressure.

Even if Walsh had split the uprights, Seattle still had a few seconds to get into field goal range. With Tyler Lockett returning kickoffs, Russell Wilson under center and Stephen Hauschka kicking the ball, I liked our chances.

(By the way, how cool is it that several members of the Legion of Boom make regular appearances on special teams? I love how Coach Carroll's ethic of selfless competition makes star players want to contribute wherever they can, even in relatively unglamorous roles. I hope we get to see Kam Chancellor hurdle the deep snapper again at some point.)

Seattle's defense certainly earned the win. The Vikings averaged more than 22 points per game during the regular season. Only two teams held Minnesota to fewer than 10 points: San Francisco in the season opener, and Seattle, both times we played them.

Once again, Seattle's defenders smothered Adrian Peterson and the league's best rushing offense. Gap discipline was absolute. Kam Chancellor came through with the crucial strip. Michael Bennettrator invaded the backfield at will. Sherm came up big in run defense, scoring several solo tackles. Peterson is nearly as hard to stop unassisted as Marshawn Lynch.

The Philippine Dream's one-handed snag (Photo Credit: The Big Lead)
The linebackers and the Legion of Boom kept the Viking passing attack contained until that last drive.

Tom Cable's O-Line earned the win. They helped Christine Michael outgain AP (70 yards vs. 45 yards) on a comparable number of carries against a similarly stout run defense. They provided decent pass protection for DangeRuss against a tough Vikings pass rush. Aside from a few errant snaps, it was a solid performance.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wisely used designed rollouts and read options to provide some additional protection for Wilson.

But Seattle consistently failed to sustain drives. Given the tendency of balls to travel shorter distances in the cold, I wouldn't have called quite as many long passes--none of them worked. Moreover, instead of letting headset problems waste most of our timeouts and incur delay of game penalties, I would have turned DangeRuss loose to run a no-hurry no-huddle offense. (It works just like the two-minute offense, only slower.)

After three quarters of frustration, the offense finally came to life in the fourth quarter. Only a consummate athlete like Wilson could make something of a play when the snap sails past him. A slower quarterback would be wise simply to fall on the ball, but DangeRuss knew his speed bought him time to take stock of the situation, scoop up the ball, roll right and hit Lockett for a big gain. Wilson and the rookie receiver earned their share of the win on that play.

Two plays later, Doug Baldwin fulfilled Cris Collinsworth's prediction by using the referee as a pick to get open for a touchdown. With that reception--and his spectacular one-handed grab--the Philippine Dream earned a victory. Last night on the NFL Network, Nate Burleson claimed that after his circus catch, Baldwin told Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, "I'm the Captain, now."

I'm not normally a proponent of smack talk, but I hope that's true. The only way to improve it would have been for Baldwin to add, "And you're Tennille."

Except that Angry Doug and Munnerlyn are both too young to know about "Muskrat Love."

The Captain & Tennille (Photo Credit: The Daily Mail)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Did they learn that at Stanford?

Coach Pete Carroll with two Stanford alumni (Photo Credit: Juneau Empire).

Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman--both 2011 Stanford alumni--form cornerstones of the Seattle offense and defense. Most of the time, they provide inspirational leadership for the team and our city.

Both feel perpetually disrespected and underestimated. A dauntless determination to defeat disrespectful detractors fuels the phenomenal performance of both athletes.

Unable to make the cut as a wideout at Stanford, Sherman shifted to defense. A mere fifth-round pick, he emerged in the NFL as a perennial All-Pro and Pro Bowl cornerback. Some continued to discount him because we always lined him up on the left, enabling opposing offenses to avoid him rather easily. However, Kris Richard adjusted our scheme this season, allowing Sherman to shadow each team's #1 receiver most of the time.

Baldwin went undrafted and toiled in anonymity, blocking selflessly and making the best of the paucity of receiving opportunities in our run-first offense. That finally paid off this year in the form of his first 1,000-yard season, the team touchdown receiving record and recognition as a Pro Bowl alternate.

Both possess fiery temperaments that make them polarizing figures, mostly loathed by Hawks haters.

Sherman became probably the most hated player in the game for awhile after his unhinged rant against Michael Crabtree in 2014. To his credit, he then turned over a new leaf and skilfully rebuilt his reputation as a thoughtful sportsman.

Baldwin remained generally ignored until his novel touchdown celebration during Super Bowl XLIX, wherein he mimed pulling down his pants, squatted over the football and pretended to drop a deuce.

Baldwin's poopdown (Photo Credit: Twitter)
This is not how you want to get famous.

NBC cut away fast from Baldwin's defecation celebration, but not fast enough.

Angry Doug was frustrated because Darrelle Revis had shut him down to that point and talked a lot of smack along the way. But that's no excuse.

Appropriately, the officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike contact.

To his credit, Baldwin later apologized and showed up this season with a constructive new attitude. Inspired by his Filipino mother, Baldwin has apparently replaced the sizable chip on his shoulder with the wings of an angel.

Living in the Bay Area, the epicenter of Hawk hate, I feed off the loathing I regularly receive from the many Niner fans I encounter. (I have nothing but pity left for the Raider faithful, because so few remain.)

As long as their antipathy constitutes pure jealousy for Seattle's success, it merely amuses and energizes me.

However, I squirm when our players disgrace our great franchise and offer ready fodder to our unworthy detractors. I hate having to apologize for the behavior of Seattle players.

The soul of the Seahawk franchise has always been built upon a foundation of decency, high character and good sportsmanship: Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, Dave Brown, Curt Warner, Cortez Kennedy, Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Marcus Trufant, Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas III.

This is widely misunderstood, in part because has Seattle become best known in recent years for Sherman's mouth, Baldwin's squatting and Beast Mode's Skittles, crotch grabs and reluctance to talk to the media.

Those antics tend to distract our detractors from the real foundations of our team's success: Coach Carroll's philosophy of selfless competition, the righteousness of Russell Wilson and the badassitude of the Legion of Boom

richardshermanLast week, it happened again. In the midst of our triumphant domination of the Cardinals, Sherman revived Baldwin's dookie taunt: the same mimed pants drop and deuce drop (sans ball), followed by pointing at the Arizona bench just in case anyone missed the message.

Once again, the officials threw a richly-deserved flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Did Baldwin and Sherman learn this $#!+ at Stanford? Like many overpriced private schools, the Farm cultivates a haughty intellectual reputation. Is it part of the curriculum to inculcate a fecal fixation of nigh-Teutonic proportions?

Seattle team leaders need to mount an intervention to ensure that Baldwin and Sherman can maintain their personal dignity and that of the team and the city going forward.

As they consider their conduct during games, I wish all NFL players would remember that millions of us are watching with small children. I should be able to cite the behavior of my favorite Seahawks as models of sportsmanship for my son to follow, not as counterexamples or cautionary tales to avoid.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Retaking the AP test in a hostile venue

It will look something like this (Photo Credit: Bleacher Report)

Seattle roared back from that home loss to the Rams more convincingly than anyone expected.

Media reports claimed that the Cardinals players clamored to their coaches, demanding that they field Arizona's starters for the season finale against their hated division rivals.

That made it all the more puzzling when Bidwill's Redbirds played like kittens and quitters.

Fired up beyond belief, the Seahawks showed up with a mindset seldom seen since Super Bowl XLVIII, and dominated almost as comprehensively, exposing Arizona in all three phases of the game.

It was as if the loss against St. Louis had never happened. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's magic touch came back. Despite lacking our two best linemen, our O-Line could suddenly block again. Christine Michael ran for more than 100 yards. Russell Wilson reverted to flawlessness. Reserve tight end Chase Coffman emerged as a bona fide receiving threat.

The Legion of Boom shut down Carson Palmer and the vaunted Arians offense.

Tyler Lockett repeatedly gouged the Cardinals with spooky-brilliant punt returns.

And we did all that without Russell Okung, JR Sweezy, Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor--all of whom appear set to return this week. It looks like Luke Willson may be the only scratch, but it looks like Cooper Helfet and Coffman can carry the load.

It was unfortunate that Green Bay's continued collapse denied Seattle the fifth playoff seed. However, getting stuck with the bottom berth just sets up the Seahawks for an epic road run in the postseason.

Presumably, the Vikings will put up a better fight at home than they did in Seattle back in November. But the Seahawks still match up very well against Minnesota. Adrian Peterson remains a dangerous runner, and he has something to prove after getting held to a humiliating yardage total in Seattle, but his back is ailing and if there's one thing the Seattle defense does reliably, it's shut down one-dimensional running attacks and dare marginal passers like Teddy Bridgewater to test the Legion of Boom.

King MortStar's prediction: Seattle 23, Minnesota 16.

Go, Hawks!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

DangeRuss & the Legion of Boom vs. the Team of Destiny

So deeply wrong: ex-Seahawk defensive lineman Red Bryant is a Cardinal now (Photo Credit: Seahawks)

Carolina may have a better record, but the Cardinals look like this year's Team of Destiny.

Arizona leads the NFL in points scored and yards gained, thanks to Carson Palmer's MVP-caliber quarterbacking in the balanced offense of Bruce Arians, who may win his third NFL Coach of the Year award in four years. They score touchdowns more often than they punt.

Their defense is nearly as good, ranking fifth in points and yards allowed. At cornerback, All-Pro Patrick Peterson has made a case to be NFC Defensive Player of the Year. For extra meat on the interior defensive line, they have recruited former Seahawks Red Bryant and Cory Redding

Now riding a nine-game winning streak, the Cardinals last lost a game in October. Their current tear included a Week 10 desecration of Seahawks Stadium. The redbirds haven't had this much regular season success since 1925, when they played in Chicago. If Arizona beats Seattle tomorrow, then that would make 2015 the greatest regular season in the history of the Cardinals franchise.

Of course, the Angry Birds are thinking much bigger than that: the franchise has only tasted one true championship in its history, and that was also in Chi-Town, in 1947. This coach and this team give the Cardinals the best shot they've ever had to win a Super Bowl.

Our division rivals sees this game as a mere warm-up for the playoffs: Behead, pluck, skewer and roast the Seahawks to show them what is in store for them if they earn another trip to Arizona in the playoffs.

What Is at Stake for Seattle?

By losing, the Seahawks would condemn themselves to a barely respectable 9-7 record, probably backing into the playoffs as the sixth seed. Seattle would likely face the fading but still potent Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, where history has not been kind to us in the postseaon.

Winning, on the other hand, would salvage a solid 10-6 record and a fifth seed ticket to face the flaccid Foreskins of the NFC Least. More important, it would serve notice that Seattle is a team to fear in the playoffs.

After letting the Lambs lay us out last week, few fear the Seahawks right now.

What Hope Is There?

Nor much.

Despite my typical starry-eyed optimism, the Diehard feels grim about tomorrow.

Sure, on a good day, the Legion of Boom can hang with Arizona's explosive offense and keep Seattle in the game.

However, it is hard to see how a Seahawk offense that couldn't score against St. Louis could turn around in one week and light it up against an even better Cardinal defense.

What Went Wrong Last Week?

Three forces conspired to doom Seattle last week:

1. St. Louis played very well, while the Seahawks played less well.
2. Seattle had some bad luck.
3. The Rams outcoached us, especially on offense.

In my opinion, offensive coaching was the most decisive factor. St. Louis adapted its game plan to the limitations of its personnel and the universe of the possible as dictated by Seattle's defense.

In stark contrast, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and O-Line coach Tom Cable failed to adapt our game plan to our personnel situation and to the strengths of the Rams defense.

Namely, Seattle is shorthanded at tight end, has injuries on the offensive line, and has two relatively inexperienced running backs in Bryce Brown and Christine Michael. Given the remarkable strength of the St. Louis defensive line, Bevell and Cable should have known that the same recipe that had been working might not work against the Rams. They should have been ready to call read-options, spread formations, designed rollouts, screens and multiple receiver sets to give Russell Wilson a fighting chance. Instead, they expected the makeshift O-Line to handle a defensive front comprised almost entirely of All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and first-round draft picks. DangeRuss got pummeled as our offense sputtered.

Some blame Brown and Michael and pine for the return of Marshawn Lynch. I want Beast Mode back as much as anyone, but it would not have mattered last week, because there was no room to run. If Lynch had grinded out twice or thrice as many yards as his replacements, that still wouldn't have been enough.

If Bevell and Cable fail to adapt their schemes, then we're likely to see the same outcome tomorrow. Last week, St. Louis needed a defensive touchdown to eke out a victory.

Another suggestion: You know what you can do when you're running short of tight ends? If you just need someone to block, then you can insert an extra offensive lineman and have him report as an eligible receiver. You could also put Derrick Coleman in at fullback and have Will Tukuafu line up as a tight end.

Another suggestion: Do we have any trick plays on offense? A flea flicker, a wide receiver pass, anything?

Yet another suggestion: Practice onside kicks. That was pathetic.

What Happened to Our Home Field Advantage?

Seattle has allowed three opponents to defile Seahawks Stadium this year. 5-3 represents the franchise's worst home record since 2011. (That was Pete Carroll's sad sophomore season; we went 4-4 at home and 7-9 overall with Tarvaris Jackson under center.)

Go, Hawks!