September 23, 2013
Seahawks 45, Jaguars 17
(Photo courtesy of Rod Mar)
As the Seahawks chloroformed the helpless, declawed Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday, my mind wandered a bit. My thoughts drifted back into the past, into The Forgotten Years. I thought about how many times the Seahawks used to fail in circumstances similar to Sunday's, facing a less talented team but somehow finding a way to lose via mental errors, lack of focus, and/or poor preparation.
I also thought about the darkness of those times, of blacked-out games, a half-empty Kingdome, public apathy, and the constant threat of decampment to Los Angeles. With committed, obscenely wealthy ownership, a keen general manager, an outstanding, charismatic head coach, and the greatest home field advantage in professional sports, there's no danger of the Seahawks skipping town (or becoming uncompetitive any time soon). I felt a twinge of sympathy for hard-core Jaguars fans, who are not only enduring a terrible season, but also must live in constant fear of their team fleeing to Southern California. I've been in their exact position, and it's no fun pouring your heart and soul into a team everyone else treats like it's absolutely irrelevant. I thought the Jags showed some fight yesterday, which reflects well upon Gus Bradley (But multiple Jaguars talking trash while trailing by four TDs is something Ol' Gus might want to clean up).
My thoughts also meandered into the future. It's GREAT that the team itself is absolutely, obsessively focused on nothing but the next opponent, but I'm a fan. I can look beyond the next game as much as I'd care to... So let's do that!
I can't avoid the feeling that everything is clicking into place for the 2013 Seattle Seahawks. Not only are they 3-0, but the rest of the NFC West is failing to live up to the division's ample preseason hype. The Rams and Cardinals are somewhat predictably 1-2, but San Francisco's 1-2 start is stunning. I think the Seahawks might have broken the Niners last week. They still seemed dazed in yesterday's loss to Indianapolis. Perhaps their ears were still ringing?
Now the Seahawks' goal isn't winning the NFC West (which is obviously still crucially important), but securing home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. From now on, I'll be looking at the NFC Conference Standings like it's the English Premier League. The only thing that matters is staying at the "top of the table." From now on, I'll be more focused on Chicago, New Orleans, and Atlanta than San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona. Win that #1 seed, and the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl.
Speaking of Super Bowl XLVIII, another thought occurred to me yesterday: The potentially unusual conditions that game might be played under could work to Seattle's advantage. What if we have a Super Bowl played in a snow-globe-y MetLife Stadium against, let's say, the Denver Broncos? Would you rather have the team that sports a run-heavy offense, a mobile QB, and a Championship defense... Or the pass-happy team led by Peyton Manning (who, while clearly one of the best QBs of all time, doesn't have a great track record in the snow... or in the playoffs... and is only 1-1 in the Super Bowl)? The knee-jerk reaction will be "Snow? It snows in Denver, not Seattle! The Broncos will win!" The knee jerks will be wrong.
Many upcoming games that looked daunting in August don't put a jolt of anxiety into me anymore. After the next two (admittedly challenging) games at Houston and Indianapolis, the Seahawks have exactly THREE games left on their schedule against teams with winning records right now (v TEN, @ ATL, v NO). Seattle's most challenging remaining home game is likely against the Saints on SNF December 2nd. Another 8-0 regular season home record appears well within our reach. The conditions couldn't be more perfect for a Super Bowl run than they are right now for your Seattle Seahawks.
But yes, we did actually play a game yesterday. For me, the most impressive stretch was the final 44 seconds of the first half. Seattle was dominating, but "only" leading 17-0. Jacksonville was driving, and a score before the half probably wouldn't have changed the game's outcome, but it would have at least extended the competitive portion of the contest. Then a Chad Henne pass was batted up into the air, and Bobby Wagner made a spectacular diving interception to snuff out the Jags' best scoring chance of the half.
Many coaches would have told their QB to take a knee after the change of possession, content to jog into the locker room with a 17-point edge. Big Balls Pete aint "many coaches," though (for better or worse). The accelerator stayed mashed into the floor and Russell Wilson capped a 5-play, 34-second drive with the 3rd of his four TD passes (and 2nd to Sidney Rice). 24-0. Game over.
Wilson was incandescent. He completed 66% of his passes, fired four TD strikes, and racked up a 117.5 passer rating before popping on a baseball cap midway through the 3rd quarter. I remember thinking maybe it was too early and our lead was too small (31-7) to yank Wilson in favor of T-Jack. One perfect 35-yard TD bomb (and a ridiculously insane catch by Doug Baldwin) shut me up. Jackson played even better than Wilson in a statistical sense, putting up a rating of 158.3 and running for another score late in the game. The presence of a competent QB2 on our roster is another factor that makes me feel like this team is destined for greatness- Even if we lose Wilson for a handful of games, T-Jack can keep us on track towards home field in the NFC playoffs.
There's plenty of other laurels to hand out on offense: Golden Tate, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin all reminded us that John Schneider faces VERY tough choices in terms of which WRs to "pay" in the offseason. Zach Miller caught two early TDs, and rookie Luke Willson chipped in five catches for 76 yards. Marshawn Lynch gashed the Jags in limited action, and Christine Michael picked up right where Beast Mode left off. Seattle's offense is a battering ram covered in straight razors, y'all.
Don't let the 17 points allowed fool you- Seattle's defense choked the life out of Jacksonville's offense. They forced three turnovers, sacked Chad Henne four times, and held the Jags running game to 2.1 yards per attempt. Giving up a couple of TDs in garbage time shouldn't obscure how transcendent this defense has become. They have a real shot at being SPECIAL. Like 1985 Bears/2000 Ravens special.
Now the Seahawks enter the toughest stretch of their schedule: four out of five on the road, including three games against teams with winning records. If the Hawks go 3-2, they'd hit midseason at 6-2 with a great shot at the postseason. They're aiming higher than that, and I think they'll hit the bullseye. NOTHING is out of this team's reach now, my friends.
On a personal note, I'll be at the next Seahawks home game in three weeks. As I've written in this space before, it's going to be a big fucking deal to me. Wish me luck!