October 24, 2016

Seahawks 6, Cardinals 6 (OT)

How do you choose to feel? I've been thinking about that a lot lately. In a lot of situations, it doesn't seem like that's something one can control. I certainly can't most of the time. But when you can muster the focus, choosing how to feel can make a big difference in how you see the world around you. 

I've been thinking about the election. As a long-standing member of the Democratic Party and as someone who believes Barack Obama is the best President of my lifetime (and if you are LGBTQ, he obviously is more or less our FDR), I wanted someone like Joe Biden to Elizabeth Warren to take office in January and consolidate/expand upon the progress we've made over the last eight years. Hillary Clinton wouldn't have been my first (or second) choice, but compared to the Tangerine Mussolini she is running against, she's the VASTLY more palatable alternative.

Imagine the election as a choice between two options for dinner. Hillary Clinton is Chipotle. It's not the BEST option one can imagine, but it's alright. Trump is the other choice, which is a plate of steaming dog shit topped with shards of broken glass. Like most people, I think a fairly "meh" burrito is an easy choice over mouth-shredding animal feces. Inexplicably, I know far too many people whose reaction to this choice seems to be "WHAT??? I can't have lobster??? Well I hope all you fuckers like razor-sharp glass encrusted with turd nuggets, because you deserve it!" 

Some people can't help letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

I also think about my life as a trans woman. Do I sometimes think that my life might have been better if I had transitioned, say, back in high school rather than in my late 30s? Not really. All those experiences made me who I am today. But it would be really easy to let myself get eaten up by regret and "what ifs." It takes WORK to stay positive and focused on the present and the possible. It takes effort to not react to getting misgendered and disrespected by filling up a mental compartment of bitterness and recrimination. When you live in a society that treats you with mockery and hostility, you can get poisoned by it. 

What I'm going to say next will sound downright silly, crazy and frivolous to anyone who isn't a rabid 12... But rooting for this team has made me a better person- Specifically, seeing what this team has evolved into under Pete Carroll has made me think harder about how I want to approach my life. 

At the VMAC this week, they'll focus on what the team needs to correct- As they should. They'll do their best to fix the offensive line issues that have been exposed when that unit has gone up against fierce front fours like those from Miami, Los Angeles and Arizona. Stephen Hauschka will work his ass off to get his season back on track. Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls will keep diligently rehabbing to get back to 100% and get back on the field, respectively. In Renton this week, they'll focus on the team's shortcomings to get ready for their upcoming trip to New Orleans and for the rest of this season. 

I don't want to dwell on any of that. I want to talk about two things: A defense that, without hyperbole, delivered one of the best performances of all time - And a collective refusal to relent, to give up as much as millimeter without a vicious fight, when the temptation to roll over and get 'em next time must have been irresistible.  

The next time someone misgenders me, I'm going to think about Kelcie McCray - He was on the field for 108(!) plays last night. Most importantly, in overtime, exhausted, lungs burning, he ran down J.J. Nelson and prevented him from scoring the game-winning TD for the Cardinals. He didn't give up, and neither should I. 

The next time I don't feel like hitting the gym, I'll think about what that defense did when they were on the field for 90 PLAYS and over 46 of the game's 75 minutes. They only allowed 4.9 yards per play. They only allowed 6 points. If they can do that, I can drive to Planet Fitness and pump my legs on the Hamster Wheel for an hour. 

When I don't feel like giving people rides to the polls between now and November 8th, I'm going to think about Bobby Wagner's 13 tackles and his blocked field goal. I'm going to think about Cliff Avril's 2.5 sacks and six hits on Carson Palmer, I'm going to think about that epic goal line stand in overtime, where Earl Thomas and then Bobby Wagner stopped David Johnson INCHES from the winning TD on successive plays before Bwagz spooked Catanzaro into clanging a 24-yard kick off the upright. The Seattle defense has shown us over and over again that every fucking inch of that turf is precious- And I'm going to do my best to make sure Ohio avoids the taint of Trump in the history books. 

The next time I don't feel like I have anything interesting to blog about, I'm going to think about how the Seahawks CONSTANTLY are showing us things that no one has ever seen before. The first tie in franchise history. 75 minutes of indomitable willpower. The 4th game out of six thus far this season where the outcome wasn't decided until the final moments. The Seattle Seahawks are boundlessly frustrating but also relentlessly compelling. 

Last night will be a game we remember forever. It somehow morphed from a shitshow into some weird master class on Seattle grit. Also, the tie perhaps mortally wounded Arizona's hopes of winning the NFC West. 4-1-1 > 3-3-1, obviously. Which is great, because fuck Bruce Arians. That mother fucker can bite shit and pound sand. He's approaching Jim Harbaugh levels of hate in my book with his fake-ass football hipster crap. 

When we look back in January 2017, that OT goal line stand could end up delivering the Hawks the division title, a first round bye, or even home field in the NFC playoffs. This might seem bizarre for me to say this after last night - but I'm more convinced than ever that these Seahawks are going to win the Super Bowl.

We won't have to wonder how to feel in Houston on February 5, Twelves. 

Would you like to know more?

October 2, 2016

Seahawks 27, Jets 17

Ryan Fitzpatrick was having nice afternoon. 

He was coming off a 6-interception disaster at Arrowhead, but through 3 quarters against one of the league's toughest defenses he not only had been effective, but he was doing something not even the most elite quarterbacks could do - He was picking on Richard Sherman. 

Fitzpatrick had challenged Sherman, and had completed four passes to Brandon Marshall, including a gorgeous touchdown strike late in the first half. Was Sherman just having a bad day? Was Brandon Marshall just playing out of his mind? Was Fitzpatrick having a career day? Was Sherm... GASP... Slipping?

Early in the 4th quarter, the Seahawks were holding onto a 17-10 lead, but it felt tenuous. It felt like the game was trending towards New York. In three-plus decades as a 12, I hadn't seen a road victory over the Jets since I was eight years old. I had seen crushing defeats in '85, in '87 (a humiliating loss on MNF), in '98 (I don't need to explain that one), in '99 (when a win would have clinched the AFC West - We had root for Oakland in order to back in... Barf) and in '04 (one of the low points in the most frustrating division-winning season anyone could imagine). 

The Jets had the ball near midfield. Marshall blatantly pushed off Sherman, but the pass interference flag flew against Seattle, not New York. It was just one of many questionable calls against the Seahawks by a shaky officiating crew. Even the FOX broadcast team was stunned. If at that point, the Hawks lost their grip on the game, it would have fit a painful but familiar narrative. Not a great road team. Hard for them to win those 10 am pacific east coast games. And so on. 

Maybe for a moment, after he was gifted an ill-gotten PI flag, Ryan Fitzpatrick thought that he could do no wrong. Maybe he thought that he could keep picking on Richard Sherman. 

But he forgot that he was just a guy. He forgot that the most notable Jets quarterback since Joe Namath has been Flash Gordon. He forgot that he was up against the best corner in the game. He once again threw it in Marshall's direction- Only to have it snared out of the New Jersey sky by Richard Sherman. 

In my Columbus apartment, I went WWE-interview-level apeshit - Pumping my first and shouting "Fuck yeah!" at least a dozen times. It was instantly one of my favorite moments in Sherman's Canton-bound career, and the Hawks immediately capitalized and took complete control of the game.

Why did they do that? Because OUR quarterback is ANYTHING but "just a guy." Russell Carrington Wilson is incessantly maligned. He is consistently underrated. Pundits and bobbleheads find nothing more enjoyable than informing the world that he is "good but not elite." The WolfBadger was playing with a high ankle sprain and a strained MCL. Those injuries would send most players to the inactive list, at least for a few weeks... But RW3 was playing. Surely though, he was in trouble. He wouldn't be able to run away from that fearsome New York pass rush. Good, but not elite. 

309 yards and three touchdowns later, the conventional wisdom was shredded. Yes, Wilson could slay you with his arm alone. Give him weapons like Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin and it didn't matter that he was short or anchored to the pocket. He would just bleed you all day long, because Angry Doug aint gonna drop the ball and Graham is like The Incredible Hulk with tackified gloves. We are witnessing something glorious - The Leveling Up of Russell Wilson. After a performance like the one he delivered at MetLife Stadium today, no fair-minded observer can deny that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. 

Of course he didn't do it alone - Graham had another 100-yard day, and Christine "The Awakening" Michael had 90 yards and a TD on 23 touches. The defense absolutely strangled New York in the second half - The Jets' only score after halftime was on a bizarre fumble recovery after a Seattle strip-sack. Sherman got a second interception later in the 4th quarter, and Earl Thomas got another pick of his own, too. 

The Seahawks go into their bye week tied for first in the NFC West with the surprising Los Angeles Rams (and with a 2-game lead over the Cardinals and Niners). They'll come back in two weeks spry, rested, and healthy - and ready to lay waste to the rest of the NFL. This is the best defense in football, and now they are starting to rack up the takeaways. A healthy Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham will terrorize opposing defenses, and Seattle will make a run at securing home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. 

Enjoy the bye week, 12s, Kick back and watch some Red Zone Channel next Sunday, root against the Rams, etc. When our boys come back on October 16, it'll be the start of a 4-month march to Houston. It will be wonderful, and violent, and glorious. 

Would you like to know more?

September 19, 2016

Rams 9, Seahawks 3

The weird alchemy that has allowed the deeply mediocre Jeff Fisher Rams to beat the mighty Seahawks most of the time apparently continues to hold sway after a profoundly frustrating 9-3 defeat in Seattle's return to the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Against the Seahawks, the Fisher Rams are 5-4, against the rest of the football universe they are an abysmal 23-33-1. It's not a stretch to argue those wins against Seattle are what has kept Fisher employed by Stan Kroenke - Fisher is a garbage coach whose teams have only posted two winning seasons in the past decade (and the last one was in 2008). A win or two a season against a divisional rival/perennial contender like the Seahawks is juuuuuuuuust enough to take to your owner and say "See! We beat Seattle! And we went 8-8. Good times are just around the corner."

When these teams meet again on Thursday Night Football in December, the Seahawks will blind millions of viewers with their "Action Green" abominations uniforms, and probably roll in with something like a 9-4 record. Los Angeles will probably be 6-7 or worse... And that game will probably be decided in the 4th quarter because at some point Jeff Fisher clearly leased part of his soul to Lucifer in exchange for victories over a team with better talent, better coaching, and better ownership.

Anyway, let's talk about that game, if we must.

So much of this is familiar, isn't it? The early season offensive struggles. The howls about the state of the offensive line and the quality of Bevell's playcalling. The proclamations of imminent doom. My refutations of said proclamations. ZZZzzzzzzz...

The short version? It actually will be OK. We're 1-1, but so are all our main rivals for the NFC's #1 seed (Arizona, Green Bay, and Carolina. Apologies if I don't take a hobbled Minnesota side and dubiously 2-0 Giants squad seriously yet). The Seahawks have three winnable games (Santa Clara, at the Jets, Atlanta) and a badly-needed bye before a huge late October SNF dust-up with the Cardinals.

The defense? Yes, they've only allowed one touchdown and 19 total points in two games. The run defense is stout and the pass rush seems fiercer than at this point a year ago. There's little indication that they'll be any worse than a top-5 unit this season. However, they are still vulnerable to big plays from opposing tight ends, and they haven't yet forced a turnover this season. As well as they've played, we need them to reach another level to keep winning games while the offense struggles.

The offensive line is going through its (sadly) regularly scheduled struggles. The biggest concern isn't the running game (though that has been fairly anemic), but the long-term health of Russell Wilson. We've already seen him sprain his ankle, thus limiting his mobility and hampering his accuracy. We've already seen multiple quarterbacks around the league go down for varying lengths of time. At this point, we are playing with matches in a kerosene-soaked branch of Dunder-Mifflin, just crossing our fingers and hoping we can get to the bye week without the WolfBadger getting seriously injured.

Thomas Rawls left the game yesterday with a leg contusion (Wow - That sounds way worse than it actually is, doesn't it?), but even before then Christine Michael was running more effectively and with more authority - Only to somewhat spoil his promising performance by coughing up a game winning-drive-killing fumble late in the 4th quarter. Encouragingly, Jimmy Graham was worked more fully into the offensive game plan and Tyler Lockett returned from a knee injury to make a spectacular catch that put us in a position to steal the win (before CMike's fumble).

As usual, the gloom and doom pervading the fan base is unwarranted. We've seen this before, and it's nothing that hasn't kept this group from making deep playoff runs in the past. But we are one Russell Wilson injury away from a lost season, and that's the specter that is haunting my brain today. Hopefully against Santa Clara the offensive line can get enough push to establish the running game and keep RW3's exposure to wanton violence at a minimum.

What do you think, sirs?

September 14, 2016

You Can't Swim in a Town This Shallow

I know how I'm supposed to feel about the Rams moving to Los Angeles. I know I'm supposed to feel for the poor fans of St. Louis, who cruelly had their team snatched away from them. As a fan of a Seattle team, I've had a front-row seat for that sort of injustice. As we all know, our beloved Hawks almost bolted for Southern California in 1997. Some blogger even imagined what that would have been like a while back... And I agree with Richard Sherman that billionaire owners should be paying for their lavish new stadiums rather than relying on taxpayer funding (Easy for me to say, right? My team is set. Buckle up for more blatant hypocrisy!).

However... Eff St. Louis! The Cardinals moved there from Chicago, and they left. The Rams moved there from Los Angeles and then moved back. As Michael Bluth once said, "You really should lock that down." In addition, as I've said many times before, going to a game in St. Louis was like watching a football game inside a REALLY NICE brand new Costco (and one where all the local fans were preoccupied with the town's baseball team). Not exactly the best football atmosphere in America. 

On a brazenly selfish tip, the Rams moving to Los Angeles is a unalloyed good for our Seattle Seahawks. First, it eliminates an annual 10 am pacific kickoff. Second, it's a much shorter trip to L.A. from Seattle than from the Emerald City to STL. Third, the bad blood between the cities should amp up the rivalry. Finally, with Pete Carroll's ties to USC creating a LOT of 12s in greater Los Angeles in recent years, and with the ease of travel between SEA and LAX, I expect games at the Coliseum to feature frequent and quite audible chants of "SEA! HAWKS!!" 

Sidebar for all you new Los Angeles Rams fans - You don't get to brag about ANYTHING the team did in St. Louis. Nope. You didn't give a fuck when they won XXXIV. You weren't paying attention when the Mike Martz Rams were torturing us. So fuck off. Don't bring that shit. You're pretty much an expansion team - and unless you're at least 40 years old, I don't want to hear you blathering about how great Eric Dickerson was "for us" either. 

I'll admit I don't know a ton about Los Angeles. I've only visited once (when I was 12). Most of what I know about the area comes from pissy Death Cab For Cutie songs, the incredible documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, and my 20+ year obsession with the O.J. Simpson murder case (SERIOUSLY - You all need to watch both the FX series and the ESPN documentary ASAP). Sunday's game will go down at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and a sellout crowd of over 90,000 is expected to fill the ancient arena. I know a bit more about that... 

The Seahawks played exactly one game against the Rams in the Coliseum. WAYYYY back in 1976. The expansion Hawks were no match for L.A.'s perennial contenders (back in the 70s they had a nasty habit of being awesome until they had to go to Minneapolis in the playoffs, where they shattered like the frozen T-1000 in the 3rd act of Terminator 2), and they lost 45-6. This was so long ago that Tom Dempsey was the Rams' placekicker. Gerald Ford was still President. I was 18 months old. 

Of course, the Raiders moved into the Coliseum in 1982 and stayed until 1994. My earliest memory of the rivalry playing out in the Coliseum was our resounding defeat at the Raiders' hands in the 1983 AFC Championship Game. I was 8, those bastards made me cry, and a life-long hatred was forged. Here's our top 5 victories in the Coliseum (OK, our only five wins in the Coliseum...). Enjoy! 

What a mirage the start of the 1994 campaign was... Rick Mirer still seemed like he'd turn out to be a great NFL quarterback at this point. He fired three TD passes and racked up a 140.2 passer rating. Chris Warren churned out 112 yards from scrimmage and found the end zone twice as the Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 start. They'd excite the 12 Army with a 3-0 start... before going 3-10 the rest of the way. Head Coach Tom Flores would get shitcanned after the season, and with good cause. 

Seattle came from behind to win, outscoring the Silver and Black 17-3 in the final quarter. Curt Warner had one of his last great games, scoring a TD and running for 102 yards on 21 carries. Brian Blades accumulated 113 yards on seven catches, including the go-ahead score with just minutes remaining. 

The Raiders coughed up five turnovers, Curt Warner ran for over 100 yards, and the Hawks beat the eventual Super Bowl champs for the 2nd time in three weeks. As I mentioned earlier, they'd get payback in the AFC Championship Game a few months later. 

DAVE KRIEG STILL HAD HIS STRIKE BEARD! Yup, Krieg hadn't yet shaved off the bushy facewarmer he grew during the 1987 players' strike. Mudbone fired two touchdowns to Ray Butler, but the big star of the day was Curt Warner, who racked up 145 yards and scored twice himself. Fredd Young also snagged a pass from the unfortunately named Rusty Dilger and ran it in for six for good measure. 

L.A. and Seattle came into the Coliseum that day with a combined record of 15-15, but the winner would make the playoffs. On that damp, dreary, Seattle-like day, the Seahawks were playing for their first AFC West title. Both defenses seemed to have brought the wrong shoes for the muddy track... The teams traded scores all day, but the Hawks pulled ahead in the 4th and held on for the biggest regular-season road win in team history, keyed by a spectacular John L. Williams TD on a perfectly executed "middle screen." 

What about this Sunday's game? I expect the usual Seahawks-Rams bloodpisser, with Seattle coming out on top 17-15. Let's say Bobby Wagner stuffs a late 2-point conversion try by Todd Gurley to seal the win? 

What do you think, sirs? 

September 12, 2016

Seahawks 12, Dolphins 10

In my apartment, I have a framed poster from over 30 years ago. It looks like this (but mine isn't signed): 

First of all, how 1980s is that shit? You've got the obvious reference to the original Ghostbusters film, the reminder that the L.A. Raiders were our main rivals in 1984, and a pretty cheesy nod to the Rocky films (Did you ever want to watch a bunch of white people yelling at a movie screen like it was a live sporting event? You should have gone to see Rocky III or IV in the theater back then. Yipes). The Steve-Carrell-after-climbing-out-of-a-dumpster lookin' fella? That's Steve Largent. When he retired in 1989, he owned almost every receiving record in NFL history. Take a second and go watch this video about him... 

He was the first Seahawk to get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and before Walter Jones came along, he was the greatest player in franchise history. 27 years after he left the game, and after fundamental changes in the way the game is played that MASSIVELY increased wide receiver production, he still is the franchise leader in every significant receiving category. He was known for three things: His spectacular ability to catch almost everything thrown his way, his nose for the end zone, and his effectiveness at converting on third downs. 

Over a quarter century has passed, and we've seen nothing else like him. Even the very best Seattle receivers have missed something... Brian Blades? Reliable and productive. Bobby Engram? Same deal. Joey Galloway? Explosive but never really correctly utilized. Darrell Jackson? Underrated for sure, but not nearly as consistent as number 80 was. 

I'm here to tell you that today, in 2016, the Seattle Seahawks finally have a wideout in Largent's class. His name is Doug Baldwin. 

I can hear the howls from Anchorage to Boise already. No way! Not even close! And if you just give the numbers a cursory once over, Baldwin is nowhere near Largent's career numbers. But if you dig deeper, the parallels jump out at you. 

Largent was drafted in the 4th round by the Oilers, only to get traded near the end of his first training camp to the Seahawks for an 8th round pick (Yup - a pick so low that THEY DON'T EXIST ANYMORE). Doug Baldwin went undrafted out of Stanford and signed with Seattle as a free agent. Both players would lead the Seahawks in receptions and receiving yards in their rookie campaigns, 35 years apart. 

Largent was consistently underestimated because of lack of size and (perceived) lack of speed, while Baldwin led a group of Seattle receivers called "pedestrian" by ESPN's Cris Carter. Both used those slights as motivation - Largent largely silently (until he unloaded over a decade of pent-up fury upon Mike Harden) and Baldwin very loudly and publicly

Largent's numbers swelled in the late 70s and early 80s, in part because he was BY FAR the team's most dangerous offensive weapon. Baldwin's career has followed a different trajectory, in part because Marshawn Lynch had been the main focus (and the identity of) the Seattle attack. But since Lynch largely disappeared from the offense after his injuries in 2015, Baldwin's numbers have EXPLODED. Over his last 11 games, including the playoffs, Baldwin has 60 catches for 940 yards and 14 touchdowns. If you extrapolate those numbers into a 16-game season, that's 87 receptions for 1367 yards and 20 touchdowns. 

As great as Steve Largent was, he never had more than 79 catches in a season. 

As amazing as #80 was, he never had more than 1287 yards through the air in a season. 

As prolific a scorer as our favorite Golden Hurricane was, he never had more than 12 touchdowns in a season. 

We are witnessing Doug Baldwin go supernova, and it's glorious to behold. 

You know that poster I showed you up at the top? Just a few months before that, Largent had the defining moment of his career in the 1983 divisional playoff at Miami. The underdog Hawks trailed the Dolphins 20-17 late in the 4th quarter, and the so-called "Killer B's" had held Largent without a catch all day. At the biggest moment, though, Largent delivered. He snagged a reception on 3rd down that kept the drive alive, and finally got loose deep, snaring a perfect throw from Dave Krieg to set up Curt Warner's winning TD. 

33 years later, playing for sliiiiiiightly lower stakes, Doug Baldwin stepped into the role of The Mighty Finkiller. Angry Doug had a fine performance overall, but with the Hawks trailing 10-6 with only minute left, a Largentian performance was needed to secure a victory. A hobbled Russell Wilson wouldn't be able to sprint for first downs - He'd have to get rid of the ball quickly to a reliable target. 

On 4th and 4 from midfield, the WolfBadger would find Baldwin over the middle to keep the drive alive. Later in the possession, Baldwin got down to the Miami 2. Two plays later he'd bring in a fade from RW3 to complete the comeback and crush Miami's dreams of stealing a win in Seahawks Stadium. Baldwin's day? Nine catches for 92 yards and the winning TD. 

Am I saying that Baldwin is better than Largent? Hell no. Am I saying that he's the best wide receiver we've seen since Largent, and he's on a trajectory that would at least someday make that debate less than laughable? Yup. 

Unless Wilson ends up missing significant time with that ankle injury (please Please PLEASE no), I'll boldly claim this: Doug Baldwin will have the best single-season receiving performance in franchise history in 2016. 

Won't be long until we see cheesy posters with Baldwin on them, bragging about how we're going to stomp Arizona's ass. Shit - Can someone with photoshop skills whip that up for me? :) 

What do you think, sirs?