December 23, 2013

Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10

Four years is a long time. A lot can change. 

In December 2009, I was at a low point in my life. I didn't know how to constructively deal with my gender identity issues, and that tainted damn near everything else in my life. I was anxious, fat, and depressed. Just look at this Wobegon bastard: 

At the same time (and in no way helping my state of mind), my Seahawks were at what felt like the lowest ebb in franchise history. As I wrote back then about the moldered, rancid MoraHawks: 

How bad were the 2009 Seahawks? Not only did no members of the team get selected to the Pro Bowl, but the team's two best players were probably Kicker Olindo Mare and Punter Jon Ryan. No other Seahawks team in franchise history lost in blowout fashion more than the '09ers, who lost seven games by margins of 17 points or more. The 2009 Seahawks had no 1,000 yard rusher, no 1,000 yard receiver, and no defender with more than five sacks or more than three interceptions.  

Not only did this team lose, but they often lost big with little fight and even less pizazz. The expansion Hawks of '76 and the 1980 4-win team had Zorn and Largent to at least create a modicum of offensive excitement, and the '92s boasted Cortez Kennedy's DPOY performance, a memorable MNF win over the hated Broncos, and a 1,000-yard rusher in Chris Warren. Even in 2008 the Seahawks were more competitive, dropping close games to the Patriots, 49ers, Dolphins, Redskins and Cardinals, and beating Brett Favre's Jets in Holmgren's final snowglobe home game.

Even most of Seattle's wins in 2009 were disheartening. Yes, it was a blast killing the Niners' season with a late FG, and it was fun to see the Seahawks flatten Jacksonville 41-0... But falling behind the 2-win Lions 17-0 at Qwest before winning ugly? Ugh. Two more wins over the overmatched, 1-win Rams? Nothing to celebrate, other than a feeling of relief that the Seahawks didn't dishonor themselves with defeats.

Embarassing, non-descript shittiness. That's the legacy of the 2009 Seahawks. 

Tim Ruskell left the cupboard bare with bad drafts and worse free agent signings. Jim Mora piloted this poorly constructed vessel straight into the rocks and immediately blamed it on a placekicker. Four years ago, the Seahawks were the worst team in the NFL. They were old, slow, and overpriced. Collectively, they surrendered in the final month of the season. They lost their last four games by a combined score of 123-37. They were adrift. There was no hope for the future. You could have said the same thing about me back then, too. 

With the support of those close to me, I finally started taking incremental steps toward transition. I had to make numerous unpleasant/harrowing decisions, and then I had to deal with the consequences of those choices. I had to overcome fears that had paralyzed me for nearly my entire life. I had to jump out of the plane and stitch together a parachute on the way down. While frightening challenges still lie in front of me, today I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. Just look at this contented chick: 

When Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over the Seahawks, they made HUNDREDS of roster moves, and many of those brought down howls of protest from the Twelve Army (Remember Josh Wilson?). Not every move they made worked out (Charlie Whitehurst? Tarvaris Jackson? Matt Flynn?), but after four years of tough decisions and meticulous labor, the Seahawks have blossomed. They've gone from the least talented team in the NFL to the absolute deepest. A year into Barack Obama's first term, both the Seahawks and I were despairing and past hope. A year into his second term, both myself and the team face futures that crackle and blind with limitless promise. 

That doesn't mean there won't be setbacks. Last week at work, this little mouth-breathing walking turd got in my face and asked me if I was a man or a woman. That pissed me off, as did yesterday's loss to the Cardinals. 

What an odd game, huh? The typically automatic Steven Hauschka banged a 24-yard field goal attempt off the left upright. Seattle averaged 5.2 yards per carry on the ground, but only had 20 rushing attempts. The Seahawks intercepted Carson Palmer four times, yet found a way to lose. The officials apparently couldn't tell the difference between the ground and Doug Baldwin's arm, failing to overturn an incorrect call of an Arizona interception that snuffed out Seattle's last scoring chance. 

Arizona's winning drive was kept alive by an improbable Palmer scramble/dime and one of the LATEST defensive holding flags I've ever seen. That winning drive was punctuated by a ridiculous touchdown catch by Michael Floyd, who hauled in the ball AFTER it was tipped by Byron Maxwell. 

It's tempting to just jump up and down screaming "Ahh! We sucked!" It's more important to remember that the Cardinals are a solid team, one that would be headed for the playoffs if not for the misfortune of residing in the stacked NFC rather than the thinner AFC. We didn't lose to a collection of random chumps (in fact, the Seahawks three losses this season have been by a combined 15 points to teams who've collectively racked up 30 victories). It's also willful ignorance to wave away questions about yesterday's officiating, which was biased against Seattle in ways both subtle and egregious. A potent maelstrom of a formidable enemy, awful officiating and just plain old bad luck combined to produce a rare home loss for the Seahawks. While concerns about our offensive performance are legitimate, they're no reason to extrapolate from yesterday's disappointment that our quest to hoist that Lombardi Trophy is doomed to fail.

Going into Week 17, the Seahawks are 12-3 and tied for the best record in the NFL. With a win over the 7-8 St. Louis Rams, they'll clinch the NFC West and Home Field Advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. Walter Thurmond III (who was originally given a chance to play by that infamous Josh Wilson trade) will be back on the field to bolster an already dominant defense. It's a monumentally important game, and as we've seen through this season, the biggest games have tended to bring out the best in these Seahawks. 

As Twelves, maybe we've gotten a bit complacent recently. Hell, maybe the team did too. But EVERYTHING we want to accomplish this season is still well within our reach. As bad as the Twelve Army seems to feel right now, you'll all feel much better in a week, and you won't even remember yesterday's game on February 3rd. 

Four years is a long time. A lot can change. But the biggest and best changes? They're yet to come. 

Would You Like To Know More?

December 16, 2013

Seahawks 23, Giants 0

For pretty obvious personal reasons, I've been thinking about transitions and transformations a lot lately. When an individual or a group fundamentally changes their identity, how do they handle it? How do other people react to that fundamental change? 

Before October 2004, the Boston Red Sox had a very distinct identity. They had a storied history, a venerable ballpark, and a reputation for falling apart JUST SHORT of championship glory. They were "cursed," and the term "Red Sox fan" was almost always preceded with "long-suffering." Nine years and three World Series Championships later, the Red Sox are an empire as evil as the one down in the Bronx in the eyes of most non-aligned fans. Their fans? They've gone from "long-suffering" to "insufferable" to the general public. Their regional NFL neighbors have gone through a similar phenomenon: Twenty years ago the Patriots were one of the most irrelevant franchises in the NFL, and an afterthough in their own city. Now, they're perennial contenders who are roundly detested outside their own fan base. 

The Seahawks have always had a unique identity based upon NOT having a unique identity. Up until very recently, the Seahawks were most notable for their consistent grey mediocrity. One of the most depressing factoids about our team was that Seattle had the most seasons with between 7 and 9 wins in the 16-game-season era. They weren't good (or bad) enough to make much of an impression on the general public, particularly given that they played in a city geographically isolated from the tastemakers on the Eastern Seaboard. The NFL nation was indifferent to the Seahawks, and the team rarely forced them to take notice. 

Seahawks fans? They've rarely been indifferent about this team (The Forgotten Years represented the only era of sustained blackouts, but with an owner actively trying to skip town, withdrawal in disgust was an understandable response for many Twelves), but they've also always tended to expect the worst. The lead would get blown. The star player would blow out his knee. The high-profile draft pick would be a bust. The ball wouldn't bounce our way. The inexplicable call by the officials would go against us. Pessimism, fatalism and cynicism became encoded in the worldview of a wide swath of the Twelve Army. 

I'm fascinated by not just the process of transformation, but by how people's perceptions "lag" behind the actual changes. In my own case, I know that even well-meaning people are going to "slip-up" for a while and use the wrong pronouns when referring to me, even though my appearance has radically changed. Once people form a solid impression of another person, or a group, or an institution, it takes time and a LOT of new information to alter that impression. 

That's why you get media bobbleheads who still think the Seahawks are a bad road team (6-2 this year, with the two losses by a total of eight point to two playoff teams), and/or they are doomed when kickoff happens at 10 a.m. Pacific Time (6-2 in their last eight such match-ups). That's why I still run into Twelves who refuse to accept our new reality: We have been transformed. We are not who we are before. We're not irrelevant. We're cool. We're not underdogs. We're the favorites. Some Twelves still expect it all to come crumbling down. They're lagging, and they might not catch up until Pete Carroll is thrusting a Lombardi Trophy into the New Jersey night on February 2. 

After our 23-0 erasure of the New York Giants yesterday, the Seahawks' dominance can be measured in many ways, but every measure points to the same conclusion: The best team in football hails from South Alaska, and when they're done every team in their path will be a blanket of ash on the ground. They have the best record. The defense leads the league in almost every significant statistical category, as do our special teams. The offense would seem to be the "weak link," but they still are 5th in the NFL in scoring and 2nd in rushing yardage. If the offense had operated at its usual level of efficiency yesterday, the score would have more like 35-0. Seattle offered up a mistake-riddled, penalty-plagued performance and STILL won by more than three touchdowns. Think about that for a second. 

Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III can both make strong cases for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and the only reason someone from another team might win is if Sherm and ETIII split the votes of writers looking to reward Seattle's defensive dominance. The defense is so talented that backups like Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane looked like Pro Bowlers against the befuddled Eli Manning and his flummoxed and frightened receivers. Given the chance to start, both might develop into actual Pro Bowlers. Malcolm Smith also shined filling in for K.J. Wright, and Seattle's front four traumatized Manning and euthanized New York's ground attack. On special teams, Steven Hauschka is tied for the league lead in field goal percentage, and leads the NFC in scoring. The punt coverage unit is on pace to allow the fewest return yards in NFL history, and Golden Tate is second to only Kansas City's Dexter McCluster in punt return yardage. 

Now Seattle needs to win just one more game to clinch home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. With two home games remaining, it would be a stunning turn of events if they fumbled away the #1 seed. The Seahawks haven't lost home games in consecutive weeks since November of 2008, and it's hard to see how this team could drop both of its remaining contests, even against strong divisional foes like Arizona and St. Louis. All that stands between us and a trip to the Super Bowl is four home games, and we haven't lost at home since Christmas Eve 2011. 

People will adjust to how I've changed. Eventually, (almost) everyone will be calling me "her" and "she." 

People will also have to adjust to how the Seahawks are changing. EVERYONE will have to call them "World Champions," and soon. 

What do you think, sirs? 

December 12, 2013

Top 5: Seahawks Beat Giants!

For two non-divisional rivals separated by 2800 miles, the Seahawks and Giants share a surprisingly rich history, including arguably the most memorable regular season victory in Seattle franchise lore. The next chapter will be written at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey this Sunday, where the Seahawks hope to move one step closer to securing the NFC's top seed against a 5-8 Giants team limping toward the end of another disappointing campaign.

Side note: Does any Coach/QB combo share a stranger legacy than Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning? "Leading The Two Worst Super Bowl Winners Of All Time" is a decidedly odd thing to have on one's resume, but that's what Coughlin and Manning can boast of. Aside from those playoff hot streaks in 2007 and 2011, they're 0-3 in the playoffs. Without those two Super Bowl wins, Coughlin's career looks like Dennis Green's in terms of winning percentage (Coughlin has a lower career winning percentage than Chuck Knox, Mike Holmgren AND Pete Carroll, by the way). Without those rings, Eli's career is most similar to luminaries such as Carson Palmer and Chad Pennington.

Obviously, I'd commit atrocities on a Walter White/Jesse Pinkman level just to experience the Seahawks winning a single Championship, but I think Coughlin and Manning illustrate the fallacy of putting too much weight on Super Bowl wins when judging a the career of a player or coach. Is Eli a better quarterback than his brother Peyton because he has one more Super Bowl ring? No way. Is he better than ringless QBs like Dan Marino, Warren Moon, or Dan Fouts? Fuck no! Is Coughlin a better coach than Bud Grant or Don Coryell? Once again, nope.

Anyway, I expect the Hawks to cruise to a relatively easy victory this Sunday. 27-10 sounds about right, and it will be just the first of two wins in that stadium for the Seahawks this season. Sunday will be the 16th meeting between these teams, and while Seattle has only won six of the first 15 dust-ups with NYG, these five were particularly memorable. Enjoy!

5. September 24, 2006: Seahawks 42, Giants 30
When does a 12-point victory over a formidable playoff  team from the previous season feel almost like a defeat? When you run out to a 42-3 lead, but then allow a handful of garbage-time TDs that spook a fanbase with too-fresh memories of multiple 4th-quarter collapses in 2003-2004. Matt Hasselbeck fired a career-high five touchdown passes, including two to Darrell Jackson, and it was 35-0 before the 1st half ended. The Seahawks were never in any REAL danger of losing this game, but traumatized Twelves were afflicted with flashbacks of 2004 the entire 4th quarter. It was a strikingly unsatisfying victory.

4. October 9, 2011: Seahawks 36 @ Giants 25
The Seahawks rolled into MetLife Stadium as 10-point underdogs to the eventual World Champion Giants, but stunned the football world with a victory so shocking it elicited this reaction at one Las Vegas Sports Book:

"No Joke" indeed. Here's some of what I wrote at the time (and it turned out to be somewhat prophetic): 

They overcame a hostile crowd, a talented NFC East opponent, and multiple key injuries. The winning touchdown drive was led by a much-maligned back-up Quarterback (Charlie Whitehurst) who threw that winning TD to an undrafted free agent (Doug Baldwin).

More than all that, Seattle overcame DECADES of "Same old Seahawks" mental conditioning- How many Seahawks teams have played well on the road in a first half, only to squander multiple opportunities to put a vulnerable foe away, and wilt in a 2nd half? How many times have we seen a miracle play like that Victor Cruz TD catch early in the 4th break the will of previous Seahawks teams? I am sure MILLIONS of Seahawks fans thought at that point: "Well, game over- Guess the football gods just hate us." 

We found out today that when it comes to the "football gods," these Seahawks are Richard Dawkins-level Atheists. They are playing football unbound to expectations, unchained from history. Pete Carroll has torn down the crumbling edifice that was rotting when he arrived, and now we can start to see what he is building in its place: Something beautiful and fearsome- Something designed to endure and excel.

Nothing the Giants threw at the Hawks broke their fighting spirit, and that is the BIGGEST culture shift we've seen since Carroll's arrival. T-Jack gets injured? Whitehurst wobbles, but eventually leads the team to victory. Eli Manning throws for 420 yards? The defense neutralizes that by forcing him into FOUR turnovers. Marshawn Lynch fumbles in the red zone? He bounces back with a TD and 98 yards on only 12 carries. We are seeing this team take developmental LEAPS every week, and it's a delirious joy to behold. 

Your Seahawks aren't just "rebuilding," my fellow Twelves- Right now, TODAY, they are a dangerous team learning how to be lethal. Enjoy this, my friends. Enjoy it.

As a bonus, here's a video taken by a Twelve of Brandon Browner's win-sealing Pick-Six:

The 7-7 Seahawks were facing elimination from the AFC playoff race in the Meadowlands against a limp Giants squad that had only won once since September. Despite the East Coast venue and the 10 am Pacific Time kickoff (uh-oh), New York was so awful that Seattle came into the game as slight favorites. The Seahawks were out-gained by the Giants 440-183 (!), but the defense forced FIVE NYG turnovers (Seattle would be #2 in the NFL in 1983 in turnover differential), including interceptions by Dave Brown and Keith Simpson. Dave Krieg's pair of 1st-half TD passes to Steve Largent and Paul Johns provided enough cushion for Seattle to escape with a win and set up a winner-take-all showdown with New England for the AFC's final Wild Card spot (The Seahawks took all, by the way). 

The 1986 Seahawks are the biggest "what might have been" story in franchise history. They were the only team in the league to beat both Conference Champions that season. They finished the year with a 10-6 record and as the hottest, most dominant team in the AFC... only to miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker. Sigh.

One of those wins over a conference champ came in a classic blood-pisser at the Kingdome. The Giants outgained the Seahawks (again), but Seattle decisively won the turnover battle (again). Four Phil Simms interceptions (and seven Seattle sacks) sunk the Giants that day, and touchdowns from Curt Warner and Gordon Hudson (Yeah, I know- I had to look him up. His TD catch that day from Dave Krieg was the only score of his brief NFL career) were enough to secure a hard-fought victory. The win left both teams at 5-2. The Giants wouldn't lose again on their way to a Super Bowl XXI win. The Seahawks responded with a four-game losing streak that would ultimately keep them out of the playoffs. Shit. Well, we can still imagine what a Pasadena rematch might have looked like, right? 

There are two things people remember about this game: Jay Feeley missed three game-winning kicks (allowing Jeremy Shockey to give us perhaps the best premature celebration of all time) and the Twelve Army forced ELEVEN New York false starts with its incessant roar (WOW!). Here are some other things we should all remember about this game: 

-Joe Jurevicius was a BAWSE. Eight catches, 137 yards, and two touchdowns. Has any player who was only a Seahawk for a single season ever had a bigger impact than JJ had in 2005? TEN touchdowns on only 55 catches, and he was our 2nd leading receiver after Booby Engram. He left us as a free agent for Cleveland in 2006, where his career ended prematurely due to a staph infection. Ewww. Poor bastad. 

-Shaun Alexander capped a 31-carry, 110-yard day with what looked like the game-winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter. The Hawks led 14-13, and faced a 4th and 1 from NYG's four yard-line with only four minutes remaining. The usually conservative Mike Holmgren decided to go for it rather than kick a short field goal, and Alexander rewarded The Big Show by punching it in and giving Seattle an 8-point lead. Since the defense allowed the Giants to promptly march downfield and tie the game, Holmgren's gamble saved the day. 

-Even after three Jay Feeley misses, it felt like the best Seattle could hope for was a rather embarrassing tie, not a victory. After the third installment of Feeley's "Shank Trilogy," the Hawks fell into a 2nd and 21 situation after an intentional grounding call on Matt Hasselbeck. Groan. It looked like we'd hand the ball back to the Giants yet again. 

Then D.J. Hackett made the play that kept the Seahawks on track for Super Bowl XL, beating Gibril Wilson and hauling in a 38-yard bomb from Hass that set Seattle up on the fringe of field goal range. Four consecutive Shaun Alexander carries for 19 yards set up a 36-yard game-winning attempt for Josh Brown, and his kick was true. 

-This game is significant for two reasons. First, if the Seahawks lost that day, they very well may have squandered the NFC's number one seed to the Giants or the Bears. Secondly, it was the coming-out party for a new generation of Twelves. Coach Holmgren gave the game ball to the "12th Man," and their rattling of the Giants' collective psyche proved that it wasn't just the Kingdome that gave the Seahawks a distinct home-field advantage- Twelves are just fucking lunatics (and yeah, it didn't hurt that Seahawks Stadium was designed in part to be the loudest outdoor venue in the NFL, either).

What do you think, sirs? 

December 9, 2013

49ers 19, Seahawks 17

It's the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks trail by two in the 4th quarter, but a great punt return by Golden Tate sets them up deep in New Orleans territory. A field goal would give Seattle the lead, but a touchdown would force Drew Brees to reach Seattle's end zone in order to win the game. Would our offense put seven on the board?

It's the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are clinging to a one-point lead over Peyton Manning and the Broncos late in the 4th quarter. Would Seattle's top-ranked defense rise to the challenge and secure a World Championship?

Did the Seahawks play well in San Francisco yesterday? Of course. Did the officials give the Niners a substantial boost? Obviously. Was this a far less important game for the Seahawks than it was for the 49ers? Totally. Twelves shouldn't gnash their teeth over this loss, but situations like the ones our boys faced yesterday are going to happen again in the playoffs. Did the Seahawks pass those tests? Sadly, they didn't.

Seattle is still (rightfully) a prohibitive favorite to secure the NFC's number one seed, and then represent the conference in Super Bowl XLVIII. Unfortunately, our march towards hoisting the Lombardi Trophy on February 2nd won't be filled with low-stress 34-7 Seahawk blowouts. There will white-knuckle, nauseous moments where our boys will have make a big play against elite opposition to survive. Yesterday's game doesn't mean they WILL fail when those moments arise, but it does show us that Seattle will have to play at the peak of their abilities to become Champions. Yesterday, even though they played well, it wasn't good enough against a motivated opponent, on the road, and up against less-than-impartial officials.

That sounds EXACTLY like the environment we're likely to face in XLVIII, doesn't it?

Up until that final San Francisco possession, the Seahawks slightly outplayed San Francisco, and it looked like they'd be rewarded with a hard-won 17-16 victory. Then two plays and a fairly inexplicable strategic decision kept San Francisco's slim hopes for another NFC West crown alive. First, after holding Frank Gore to a relatively quiet 60 yards rushing, the Hawks' normally stout defense broke down and allowed him to gallop 51 yards into field goal range. I'm sure I wasn't the only Twelve who immediately had flashbacks to Gore's gashing and slashing of the much weaker Seattle defenses of 2007-2010 vintage.

Even then, if the Hawks defense held on a crucial 3rd-and-7 later in the drive, Russell Wilson would have been left with plenty of time to whip the offense down the field into Steven Hauschka's range. For the only time all day, the defense allowed The Detestable Colin Kaepernick to make a truly important play: On a designed run, The Detestable Colin Kaepernick slithered through our defenders for 8 yards and a first down that allowed them to run out almost all of the time left on the clock before Phil Dawson's go-ahead kick.

The final Seattle breakdown was strategic. After that Kaepernick run, the smart play would have been to concede a touchdown immediately. Seattle would have gotten the ball back down by 5-7 points, and with ample time to answer the SF touchdown. I heard plenty of people on twitter talking about forcing a turnover, or Red Bryant blocking the field goal, or that conceding a touchdown "just wasn't in our DNA." Bullroar. Just think about it: Which of the following probabilities is highest:

A) Forcing a fumble.
B) Blocking a 22-yard field goal attempt.
C) Driving 80 yards in two minutes for a touchdown.

If you picked A or B, you're doing it wrong. In similar situations, Mike Holmgren and Bill Belichick have "wussed out" and conceded scores, and they're aren't exactly coaching dunces. Hopefully we won't be in another situation like that this season, but if we are I hope Pete Carroll handles it differently.

Even though Russell Wilson outplayed Kaepernick, it wasn't his finest hour. He simply missed on a couple of big throws, and his pedestrian 81.6 passer rating should silence all the "Wilson for MVP" talk for the moment (admittedly, I was pushing that angle HARD after his otherworldly performance against the Saints). Golden Tate was Seattle's standout performer against the Niners- He caught 6 passes for 65 yards, and contributed a 38-yard punt return that put the Hawks in position to score a soul-crushing 4th quarter TD. Unfortunately, Seattle's offense fizzled short of the San Francisco goal line.

Thankfully, even after yesterday's frustrating loss, the news is almost all good for the denizens of the VMAC today. The Seahawks simply need to win two of their last three contests (@ NYG, v AZ, v STL) to secure home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. When those playoffs begin, Seattle is likely to have access to the services of Percy Harvin, Walter Thurmond III, and perhaps even Brandon Browner. It will still be a nearly impossible task for an enemy team to venture into Seahawks Stadium and leave victorious.

I expect this Seahawks team to finish with a franchise-best 14-2 regular season record. I expect them to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. I expect them to be World Champions. But for that to happen, they'll need to pass the same kinds of tests they failed in that Candlestick Point toilet yesterday. They are hungry enough, talented enough, and tough enough to pull it off.

What do you think, sirs?

December 5, 2013

A B.A.L.T.Y. Salute

"I'm better at life than you." - Richard Sherman

"Disarm the settlers
The new drunk drivers
Have hoisted the flag
We are with you in your anger
Proud brothers
Do not fret
The bus will get you there yet" - Guided By Voices, A Salty Salute 

This Sunday's game in San Francisco has turned out to be much more important to the 49ers than the Seahawks. The Niners are still in some danger of missing the playoffs entirely, and they are absolutely desperate to show that the team that lost their last two meetings with Seattle by a aggregate score of 71-16 wasn't the "real" 49ers. Their panic is evident in the helpful email the front office sent out to SF season ticket holders instructing them how to give their team home field advantage (Wait... I thought Niners fans held a deep conviction that crowd noise was unsportsmanlike).

The Seahawks only need to win two out of their last four games to secure the #1 NFC seed and home field advantage through the playoffs. This isn't a game Seattle NEEDS to win. At all. Even if SF drops a 50-0 shutout on us this Sunday, they'd still need to win a game at Seahawks Stadium to reach another Super Bowl, and they've shown NO indication that is a challenge they can handle.

Despite this asymmetrical motivation, the Seahawks will win Sunday, in part because they are simply a more talented team. More importantly, Seattle is the mentally tougher team and they hold a distinct psychological advantage over their Northern California rivals. In a close game in the 4th quarter, who would you rather have as your quarterback? Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick? If you pick a certain bicep self-lover, I'd wager heavily that you're wearing red and gold right now.

A Seattle win this Sunday would clinch the franchise's 6th NFC West Championship since joining the division in 2002. Since realignment, this division has been Seattle's property, with the Niners only winning the division 3 times ('02, '11, '12), the Cardinals winning it twice ('08, '09) and the Rams winning it once ('03). No divisional foe can match Seattle's level of overall success since realignment either, and it certainly appears that the dawn of a new era of Seahawk dominance is imminent.

This is where Niners fans screech about their five Super Bowl trophies, right? Well, they won the last of those titles in January 1995. If that Lombardi Trophy was a person, it would be old enough to vote by now. That glorious history gets more faded and yellowed with each passing year, doesn't it? Look at it this way: If the Hawks win XLVIII and Twelves are still bragging about it and using it to lord over rival fans in January 2033, that would be supremely douchetacular, right? Even President Chelsea Clinton would probably be appalled by such behavior.

As I've said before- The Niners and their drunken acolytes can have the past. We'll take the future AND the present. You should have won that sixth ring last year, because your window has slammed shut until Russell Wilson retires to focus on fighting crime and curing cancer. Just for fun, here's the latest iteration of our Top 10 wins over the 49ers:

10.  September 26, 2004: Seahawks 34, 49ers 0
Ahh, the good old days of just straight-up beating the shit out of awful Niners teams. The Seahawks forced four SF turnovers, Shaun Alexander scored thrice, and San Francisco was shut out for the first time since 1977.

9. December 21, 1997: Seahawks 38, Niners 9
The Niners came in with the NFC's #1 seed locked up, and treated this like a glorified preseason game. Despite that, this was still a rousing win. Warren Moon wrapped up his spectacular 1997 Pro Bowl season with four TD passes, including two to Joey Galloway. 1997 was my first season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, so that game has an added bit of personal significance...

8.  November 20, 2005: Seahawks 27 @ Niners 25
This was one of the shakiest performances of Seattle's 2005 NFC Championship season, but it showed the Hawks' ability to pull out a victory even when they weren't playing their best football. The Seahawks had a 27-12 lead going into the 4th, but they allowed Ken Dorsey (Wait... What?) to rally the 49ers to within a 2-point conversion in the final seconds. But this was 2005, NOT 2003 or 2004- This lead wouldn't get blown. Under pressure Dorsey's pass fell harmlessly to the turf and Seattle's sprint to XL continued unabated.

7. October 12, 2003: @ Seahawks 20, Niners 19
This was a big early-season ESPN Sunday Night test for the 2003 Seahawks. Even though the Hawks came in 3-1 and SF was 2-3, the Niners were defending division champs and just a year earlier T.O. had humiliated Seattle on MNF with his Sharpie stunt. The boys in blue ran out to a 17-0 lead, which evaporated into a 19-17 4th-quarter deficit. The Twelve Army watched anxiously as Josh Brown booted Seattle to a 20-19 lead with five minutes left, which was immediately followed by a Frisco march down the field.

Thankfully Chad Brown forced a Garrison Hearst fumble in the final minutes, and the Seahawks' march towards the 2003 playoffs continued.

6. September 30, 2007: Seahawks 23 @ Niners 3
Remember a few years ago, when the national football press seemed to insist every fall that the glorious revival of the 49ers was jusssssst around the corner? Early in the 2007 season, a trip to Candlestick was supposed to be the changing of the guard. Then this happened:


Yup, I have no problem reveling in the memory of Rocky Bernard smashing Alex Smith's shoulder into meat-flavored goop. I'd love to see Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril do likewise to Colin Kapernick.

5. December 6, 2009: Seahawks 20, Niners 17
The Niners arrived at Seahawks Stadium needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive against the (frankly pathetic) MoraHawks. Though 2009 was an unmitigated clusterfuck, this was a spectacularly satisfying win... As I wrote in this space back then:

Let me say this clearly: Fuck the Niners. Fuck 'em. For all the bluster and chest-beating and media slobbering over them, these Niners haven't accomplished DICK yet. Nothing. Zilch. 2009 will be ANOTHER season that will end with them in their usual place: sitting at home, watching the playoffs. Once again, with feeling: FUCK the Niners.

All week all we heard about was how Coach Bug Eyes and the big, mean 49ers were going to come into Seattle, pistol whip our players, pillage Pioneer Square and generally lay waste to all things Seahawks. Mr. Commercial Star Mike Singletary would motivate his talented minions to subjugate our poor, defenseless Seahawks on their way to reclaiming what the media sees as the SF birthright: the NFC West title.

The Seahawks decided not to play the victim in this perfectly composed narrative. Of course, it helped that Singletary passed up 3 sure points by arrogantly going for it on 4th and goal early in the game. It also helped that the over-rated Frank Gore killed a Niners scoring drive in the 4th by coughing up the ball, and that Michael Crabtree was scared shitless by a charging Lawyer Milloy on what could have been SF's winning TD in the waning minutes.

4. September 12, 2010: Seahawks 31, Niners 6
One year later, the Seahawks would notch an even more satisfying victory over SF in Pete Carroll's first game as Seattle's Head Coach. As I wrote back then:

It was rapturously awesome to see the Seahawks not just beat the 49ers, but physically punish and abuse them. Alex Smith was never going to be the next Montana or Young, but today we saw him just as lost and helpless as he was in 2007. The only difference between today and that game at the Stick three years ago was that Smith's shoulder survived.

When was the last time the Hawks delivered such a cathartic win? Such a statement that not only would Seattle win the day, but that the future belonged to us too? Simultaneously, our hated rivals tumbled back into Limbo, into the dreary knowledge that the glorious Niner restoration STILL isn't happening. In the words of R.E.M., The Future Never Happened.

There's already a lot of Seahawks fans trying to downplay this win. Fuck that. I predicted that the Seahawks would win the NFC West, and now I GUARANTEE they will... You, my friends, will have a home playoff game to watch in January. I will be at Qwest screaming until my soul spills out, and Mike Singletary and his Niners will be at home, watching on television.

And indeed, my prophecies of 2010 came to pass...

3. December 27, 2003: Seahawks 24 @ Niners 17
The Seahawks went to Candlestick Park for a Saturday afternoon game just after Xmas, needing a win and some help the following day to qualify for the postseason for only the 2nd time since 1988. Seattle entered the game at 9-6, but sported a pathetic 1-6 road record coming into the game. Niners coach Dennis Erickson was hoping for a win to finish the season 8-8 (which was a habit he picked up back in Seattle during the 1990s), and to exact vengeance upon his old employers and the coach who replaced him in Seattle.

The Hawks quickly fell behind 14-0, and lamentations of "same old Seahawks" rang out across the land like church bells. Another winning but playoff-free season loomed.. It was '78, '79, '86, and '90 allll over again... but the Seahawks clawed and gouged back into the game, and then something amazing happened late in the 3rd:

Matt Hasselbeck threw a PERFECT pass to Koren Robinson in the back of the end zone... and K-rob (for once) HELD ONTO IT and got both feet in bounds. 21-17 Seahawks. Josh Brown extended the lead to 7, and Shaun Alexander ate up most of the 4th quarter on the ground. The D stopped a last-gasp Niners drive, and Seattle triumphed in a game very few expected them to win.

2. September 15, 2013: Seahawks 29, Niners 3
I can't really top what I wrote about this one three months ago:

Colin Kaepernick, darling of the national press, anointed for greatness by Jaworski, had ANOTHER atrocious evening at Seahawks Stadium, leaving him without excuses to lavish kisses upon his biceps. Frank Gore, who once provided a steady stream of nightmare fuel to faithful Twelves, was rendered irrelevant. Anquan Boldin, who ran through Green Bay defenders last week as if they were dandelions sprouting from the Candlestick Park turf, had one catch for seven yards... in garbage time. Seattle forced five Niner turnovers, and the defending NFC Champs started losing their cool in a manner not seen since the darkest days of Mike Singletary's reign. Against the rest of the NFL, they look like Champions. Against us? They're just a collection of posturing chumps. 

Marshawn Lynch has become the eater of Forty-Niner souls. He BARELY (by 2 yards) missed out on another 100-yard rushing day against SF, but his three TDs (and spectacular trolling of the Niners after TD #2) earned him offensive MVP honors in my book. Richard Sherman deserves special recognition for erasing Boldin, hauling in an interception, and even lowering the boom on a hapless SF wideout with a perfect, explosive tackle late in the game. Walter Thurmond III, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett also stood out, but it took a total team effort to snuff out one of the NFL's elite offensive attacks. 

1. December 23, 2012: Seahawks 42, Niners 13
This game was our announcement to the football world: The Seahawks have arrived, and they are going to lay waste to the NFL. After the Hawks had already run out to a 14-0 lead, Kam Chancellor DESTROYED Vernon Davis with a clean (but unfairly flagged) hit. The Niners were in range for an easy field goal that would cut Seattle's lead to 11, but Red Bryant and Richard Sherman had other plans. Big Red blocked the kick, and Sherm scooped and scored. Seahawks Stadium was delirious and deafening, and the rout was ON.

Russell Wilson threw four TD passes (two to Doug Baldwin), and Marshawn Lynch gashed the Niners vaunted defense for 130 yards and two TDs. Seattle defense ERASED Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore, and 67,000 (or so) Twelves went home happy and hopeful.

I have a feeling that we have two victories left this season that will end up HIGH on the 2014 version of this list, don't you?

What do you think, sirs?

December 3, 2013

Seahawks 34, Saints 7

Seattle sports fans are accustomed to heartbreak and pain. As a sports town Seattle is a more picturesque Cleveland or Buffalo, experiencing more mediocrity and downright torment than ANY fanbase could be expected to endure. They've seen World Championships wrestled away via incompetent officiating. They've seen MULTIPLE ownership groups pilot their franchises into hopeless, non-competitive despair. They've seen a beloved franchise with a storied history bolt for the middle of Red State Nowhere, with a huge assist from the league's commissioner. Seattle fans have plenty of reasons to think that the game is rigged against their teams, and they'd have plenty of excuses to withdraw in disgust... But they don't. If a Seattle team is merely competitive, if they simply give fans some HOPE, they're rewarded with the most rabid support one could possibly imagine.

Seattle fans, your reward for all those decades of perseverance is here. That reward is the 2013 Seattle Seahawks.

I can already hear the cries of "Don't jinx it!" I can feel people recalling other Seattle teams that reached the brink of championships (the 2005 Seahawks... the 1996 Sonics), or those who had great regular seasons only to unexpectedly fail in the playoffs (the 2001 Mariners, the 1994 Sonics). As Mom said once, "Jam a bastard in it, you crap!" These Seahawks are different. There's nothing gimmicky or fluky about them. They are simply BETTER than every other team in the NFL. They are stronger, faster, smarter, and meaner than any team they're going to face this season. They're our '85 Bears... Our '89 Niners... Our '92 Cowboys... Our '03 Patriots.

They're going to win the Super Bowl, and they JUST MIGHT also go down as one of the greatest teams in NFL history. There, I said it. I've said plenty of stuff on this blog that made me look like a boob later on (COUGH... Wilson shouldn't start... COUGH), but I have zero fear of that statement boomeranging on me later. These Hawks are that fucking good.

How good? So good that the defense held future Hall of Famer Drew Brees to 147 irrelevant yards passing, and one of the NFL's most potent offenses to seven meager points. So good that the offense blasted through the Saints' 5th-ranked defense like they were 11 black and gold pinatas. So good that people are going to have to recognize that the rightful NFL MVP is our sub-6-foot, 3rd round quarterback.

No quarterback in the league is playing better than Russell Carrington Wilson right now (Nope, not even Peyton Manning). In a duel with his idol, Wilson didn't just win decisively. This was a Mortal Kombat-style Fatality/Perfect Victory. The only thing Wilson didn't do (he just threw for 310 yards, 3 TDs, had a 139. 6 passer rating, and led the team in rushing) was rip out Brees' spine and smack his corpse around with it. The WolfBadger was in total command, and unlike RGIII/Kaepernick/Luck, he keeps getting better every week. There's NO player in the league I'd trade Wilson for under any circumstances, and if he does indeed lead us to a XLVIII win, he'd have to be anointed as the greatest QB in Seahawks history... after 32 regular season games. That's how amazing DangeRuss is, kids.

Obviously, Wilson is surrounded by talent. Seattle has so much talent that they can be missing multiple key starters and still dominate the 2nd best team in the NFC. If the only info you got was from ESPN, you KNEW the absence of Harvin, Browner and Thurmond was going to doom the Seahawks last night. Twelves knew better, and sure enough Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate and Zach Miller didn't just compensate for that missing talent- They rampaged. They marauded. They KILLED.

Seattle's defense should terrify every offense coordinator and quarterback in the league. Earl Thomas is the Defensive Player of The Year, Richard Sherman is the league's best corner, and the front seven has become a whirling cyclone of fury destroying anything and everything in their way. How can Peyton Manning or Tom Brady look at film from last night and have any reaction other than "fuuuuuuuuuck?"

Oh, what's that? Brady or Manning won't have to play the Seahawks in Seattle, and the home crowd gives the Hawks their mutant powers? Yeah, it's true that us Twelves help make it nearly impossible for visiting teams to leave Seattle victorious. It's also true that home field advantage will give the Seahawks a clear path to New Jersey next February. The awful truth for the rest of the league is that on a neutral field (particularly one where weather might be a factor) Seattle is STILL going to be the better team. The Hawks are 9-1 in prime-time games under Pete Carroll, and there will be no time more prime than XLVIII.

Your Seahawks are the best team in football, and might just be HISTORICALLY great. Revel in this glory, Twelves! Two more wins = the #1 NFC seed. Two more wins means I'll be there at Seahawks Stadium for the NFC Championship Game. I'll be there with y'all to send our boys off to MetLife Stadium and the greatest moment in Seattle sports history.

As PC said once: "Don't it just feel great?"