August 22, 2014

Top 10: Seahawks Beat Bears!

Tonight the Chicago Bears visit Seahawks Stadium, and as usual in recent years their fans have sky-high expectations (which are almost certain to be dashed by another Jay Cutler injury). This is the "realest" game of the preseason, and the Bears will offer a decent test to a Seahawks team that looks primed for another Super Bowl run. Seattle has played Chicago only 16 times in 38 seasons, but many of those dust-ups have been particularly devastating/rapturously joyful for the Twelve Army. 

The last time the Bears came to Seattle, the Seahawks wore this: 

Oof. I admit that I liked those jerseys at the time (I even bought one), but that had to be out of some misguided, malignant desire to give a figurative middle finger to all those folks who were HEAPING derision upon us at the time. The game itself was uglier still: In September 2009, we didn't yet know that Jim Mora was going to complete the total destruction of our team, but one of the first harbingers of doom was his ugly post-game rant against Kicker Olindo Mare following a 25-19 home loss to the Bears.

The most agonizing defeats to the Bears went down in the post-season at new Soldier Field. In the 2006 Divisional Playoffs, the underdog Hawks pushed the heavily favored Bears to OT (in the last great game of Shaun Alexander's career) only to crap away the opening Sudden-Death possession and lose on a Robbie Gould FG. I'm among the legions of Twelves who will go to the grave convinced that Seattle would have made a repeat trip to the Super Bowl if they just could have scored on that initial OT drive. Ugh.

In the 2010 Divisional Playoffs, the Hawks got absolutely pulverized by the Bears, but scored a bunch of meaningless points in the 4th to make the final score a somewhat respectable 35-24 (Fun fact: that 11-point margin of defeat was the smallest of the season for the 8-10 Seahawks. Man, that season was WEIRD).

While it's easy to get stranded in those arid mental valleys of defeat, we've also climbed to many picturesque peaks of triumph against the Bears. Here's all 10 glorious vistas...

10. 12/12/82 Seahawks 20, Bears 14
This was an unremarkable game between two teams heading for losing seasons, but it's still notable for a couple of reasons. First, this was one of my earliest experiences rooting for Seattle as a 7-year-old proto-Twelve. Earlier that season I was rooting for Washington... Because I thought they were from Washington State (Facepalm). Once I figured that out, I started paying more attention to the Seahawks, and like many fans back then one player in particular enraptured me: Steve Largent. Number 80 hauled in 8 Jim Zorn offerings for 111 yards that day, and Seattle evened their record at 3-3 after an 0-2 start before the '82 Players' Strike. Weird notes? Jim Zorn outgained Walter Peyton on the ground, but Sweetness connected on a 39-yard TD pass to Brian Baschnagel.

9. 11/5/78 Seahawks 31 @ Bears 29
The 4-5 Hawks entered Soldier Field as 3-point underdogs, but they'd escape Chicago with a win that'd start a 5-2 streak to conclude the 1978 campaign. Sherman Smith dashed for 125 yards and two touchdowns, and Largent added 126 yards and a brace of touchdowns of his own. Sidebar: Chicago's coach that year was Neill Armstrong. Think about how many times he had to say "No, I'm not THE Neil Armstrong." Think about the mental discipline he had to exert to keep from rolling his eyes and sighing EVERY DAMN TIME it came up. Poor bastard.

8. 9/23/84 Seahawks 38, Bears 9
How did the Seahawks win with Dave Krieg only completing 6 passes? How did they win with Largent catching just one pass and while gaining a paltry 203 yards of total offense? The Seattle defense OBLITERATED Chicago's offense, sacking Chicago QBs 4 times, forcing 6 turnovers, and scoring a trio of touchdowns. This was also only the 2nd Seahawks game I ever attended, and Largent's lone catch will be forever burned into my memory banks. It's at the 0:27 mark of the clip below. WOW.

7. 10/19/03 Seahawks 24, Bears 17
The Seahawks came into this game 4-1 and as 11-point favorites over the 1-4 Bears. The Hawks sputtered out to a 17-6 lead and the Twelve Army watched in horror as Chicago scored a field goal, a touchdown, and a two-point conversion in short order to tie the game. Seattle got the ball with four minutes left, and Shaun Alexander gobbled up 48 of his 101 rushing yards on that final drive, including a 25-yard touchdown run to put the Hawks back on top. A Marcus Trufant interception on Chicago's ensuing drive sealed the win, but this near-miss was a harbinger of the collapses to come (later that season in Baltimore, and... well... the entire 2004 season).

6. 9/19/99 Seahawks 14 @ Bears 13
Ladies and gents, this was the one and only highlight of the brief Glenn Foley era in Seahawks lore. In fact, it was Foley's only start at QB for the Seahawks. At least he made the most of it, throwing for 283 yards, 2 4th quarter TDs and no picks. This was a pretty typical 10-am-start sleepwalking performance for Seattle until the final quarter, when the Seahawks sprung up off the mat and erased a 13-0 Chicago advantage. In the final minutes, Foley hit Fabian Bownes (who?) for the game-winning 49-yard score.

On a personal note, this game went down on my first weekend after moving out to Columbus for grad school, and the Seahawks win took the edge off the spectacular loneliness and isolation I was feeling at the time. More about the 1999 season here...

5. 11/18/07 Seahawks 30, Bears 23
The Twelve Army was still smarting from that OT divisional playoff loss at Soldier Field 10 months earlier, and demanded a small measure of satisfaction in the rematch at Seahawks Stadium. Chicago jumped out to a worrisome 10-0 lead early, but Matt Hasselbeck came through with an all-time great performance: 30/44 for 337 yards, 2 TDs and 0 picks (isn't Beck's 2007 season incredible in retrospect, given that Seattle absolutely couldn't do a damn thing on the ground?). D.J. Hackett flashed his (ultimately untapped) potential with a 9-catch, 136-yard day, and the defense sealed the win by forcing a Rex Grossman fumble late in the 4th quarter. Side note: this was also the game where The Traitor Josh Brown LIT UP Devin Hester on a kickoff return... ahhh, memories.

4. 12/18/11 Seahawks 38 @ Bears 14 
Despite missing important starters like Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, the Bears were still favored to beat the Seahawks. No one should ever get too high and mighty about dominating Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown, but the Seattle defense DID rack up four sacks and four interceptions that day, including the momentum-shifting 3rd Quarter pick-six from Red Bryant. Big Red snatched Hanie's errant toss out of the air and rumbled 20 yards for the score that put Seattle ahead for good in one of the highlights of the 2011 Seattle campaign.

3. 10/17/10 Seahawks 23 @ Bears 20
The 2-2 Seahawks were supposed to get mangled by the big, scary 4-1 Bears, but Seattle shocked every Non-Twelve alive and delivered the first big road win of the Pete Carroll era. Marshawn Lynch scored a TD in his first Seahawks action after being traded by Buffalo, and the Hawks hung on for the victory after getting TERRORIZED by a late Devin Hester punt return TD. As I wrote in this space at the time:

Usually it's Seattle's QB who takes a 3-hour beating when the Hawks hit the road. Not today... It was amazing to watch the Seahawks defense beat Jay Cutler to a dazed, fuzzy pulp with six sacks, a safety, and a fuck-load of hits/hurries.

Usually it's an opposing WR that runs wild all over Seattle for 10 catches and 135 yards. Not today... Mike Williams fucking TOOK the #1 WR job today with a "comeback player of the year" sort of performance.

It went on and on... Russell Okung took a big step towards me buying his jersey with a complete ERASURE of Julius Peppers. The young guys in our secondary got beat a handful of times, but overall they played great, buttressed by the veteran leadership of Lawyer Milloy and future Ring-of-Honoree Marcus Trufant. Jon Ryan pinned the Bears inside the 20 what, like 17 times? It sure felt that way.

Beast Mode/Young Nastman are going to spearhead a great ground attack, hopefully well into the middle of the decade. It was heartening to see Lynch turn negative plays into something positive, if not at least neutral, more than once. 

(It's bracing to go back and read my old posts. Remember when we thought Mike Williams was going to become an All-Pro WR? Remember when I used to call Justin Forsett "Young Nastyman?" And I did seriously want an Okung jersey back then?) 

2. 12/2/12 Seahawks 23 @ Bears 17 (OT)
I can't really improve upon what I wrote at the time... Here's an excerpt:

The Seahawks trailed 14-10 late in the 4th, but on the final regulation drive Russell Wilson started picking up chunks of real estate with his arm and his legs, and suddenly Seattle was across midfield. Wilson made a spectacular throw on the run to Sidney Rice, and Golden Tate topped that with a stupendous effort to score the winning touchdown with only 20 seconds left to play. Twelves loosed a million celebratory tweets- We were going to pull it off. 

Effervescent joy turned into black, curdled despair in an instant. Jay Cutler chucked it deep to an inexplicably open Brandon Marshall (who DOMINATED Seattle DBs all afternoon) and Chicago was in field goal range. Our old nemesis Robbie Gould banged home the tying field goal... Overtime. The most painful Seahawks loss since Super Bowl XL loomed. I started dreading the aftermath, and plotted my strategy for avoiding media coverage of this devastating collapse. Every Seahawks fan alive KNEW that if Chicago got the ball back, we would lose. We no longer trusted our defense to secure victory- Our only chance was to win the coin toss and drive all the way into Bears territory and score ANOTHER touchdown. I was a wreck. I was sitting in front of my computer, shaking, frazzled and gently weeping... and with no real expectation of victory. 

Eighty MORE yards (and the Bears defense) stood between the Seahawks and a narrative-shifting, season-altering victory. Russell Wilson's temperament is thankfully much more stable than mine, and he led the Hawks on a triumphant 12-play, 7-and-a-half minute march. Wilson personally chewed up 28 of those yards on the ground, and only threw two passes over the entire drive. One was a perfect dart to Doug Baldwin to convert a 3rd-and-10, and the other was the game-winning touchdown pass to Sidney Rice, who got over the goal line before getting absolutely DESTROYED by a Bears defender. 

Two drives. 177 yards. Two game-winning touchdowns. That's what Russell Wilson delivered on Seattle's last two possessions. On a day that seemed to fit all the cliches of failure in Seahawks lore, Wilson decided to punch up the script and write a more interesting ending.

Seattle wouldn't lose again in the 2012 regular season, and they'd outscore their last four victims by an aggregate score of 170-43.One sobering note: Sidney Rice's winning touchdown takes on somber overtones now that he is out of football due to concussions sustained on plays like the final one in overtime that day.

1. 12/20/87 Seahawks 34, Bears 21
The Seahawks came to Chicago needing a win to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Considering that they faced a trip to Arrowhead the next week, Seattle's post-season hopes seemed dim. Not only was it a 10 am kickoff with the wind chill in the 20s, it was also the final regular season home game for the great Walter Payton. To the vast bulk of the football public, the Seahawks might as well have been wearing unis that said "Opponent" like Homer Simpson wore before he fought Drederick Tatum.

The Seahawks responded by delivering their best performance of that 1987 season. Walter Payton was held to 79 yards rushing; the Seattle defense, led by Brian Bosworth (who wasn't bad at all in '87), Eugene Robinson, and the Nash/Bryant/Green wall, forced 5 turnovers. Dave Krieg was basically flawless, Curt Warner scored twice, and John L. Williams delivered one of the greatest TDs in team history (1:45 mark of following clip).

What do you think, sirs?  

August 14, 2014

Top 10: Seahawks Beat Chargers!

Did you know that the San Diego Chargers are the only former AFC West foe the Seahawks have a winning record against? It's not even an impressive winning record, with the Hawks winning only 26 of 49 total regular season meetings. Whenever you hear an old-school Twelve blathering about how they miss being in the NFC West, please point out that our combined record against the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs while we were in the AFC West was 63-81. That's a .437 winning percentage. For some perspective, the NL Central DEAD LAST Chicago Cubs have a .437 winning percentage today. Shout it from the rooftops: Realignment was the best thing that ever happened to the Seattle Seahawks.

In order to get psyched for Friday night's preseason home opener, here's our Top 10 wins over our old Southern California rivals... Enjoy!

BONUS GAME: 12/24/06 Chargers 20 @ Seahawks 17
Why am I wasting time writing about a loss? Seattle came into this one on a two-game skid, losing at Arizona and completely crapping their pantaloons on national television against the Niners. The mighty 12-2 Chargers were coming to Seahawks Stadium, and while a loss wouldn't knock Seattle out of the playoff hunt, another home blowout loss would have psychologically killed the reeling Hawks.

Thankfully, the Seahawks showed some moxie and took a 17-13 lead late into the 4th, buttressed by one of the last great games of Shaun Alexander's career (140 yards on 31 carries with 2 TDs). Late in the game word spread: The Cardinals had beaten the 49ers, and the NFC West title was Seattle's once again. Phillip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for a late go-ahead TD to spoil some of those good vibes, but the Hawks would take the regular season finale at Tampa before defeating Dallas in the 2006 NFC Wild Card Game. The salvaging of the 2006 season started in this loss to the Chargers.

10. 12/14/86 Seahawks 34 @ Chargers 24
This was part of the magical 5-game winning streak that ended the 1986 season. Dave Krieg out-dueled future Hall-of-Famer Dan Fouts, going 15-21 for 305 yards, with 4 TDs and zero picks. Steve Largent snagged two touchdowns and Curt Warner ground out 93 yards rushing. Side note: For almost the entire decade of the 1980s, the Seahawks OWNED the Chargers, going 12-2 against them from 1981-1989.

9. 9/21/97 @ Seahawks 26, Chargers 22 
This was the first win I attended as a Seahawks season ticket holder back in 1997, and it was a dramatic one. The Hawks fell behind 13-3 early, but Warren Moon hit Mack Strong for a short touchdown and Galloway for a 53-yarder in the 4th. A late Steve Broussard TD sealed the win, and I went home happy after two embarrassing losses to start my tenure as a season ticket holder.

8. 10/26/96 @ Seahawks 32, Chargers 13
 Remember how I said the Hawks dominated the Bolts in the '80s? Well, San Diego won 10 out of our first 13 meetings in the 1990s until this satisfying 1996 blowout. Chris Warren glided for 146 yards and a touchdown, and Darryl Williams ran a pick back 79 yards for another score. This one was a rare moment of joy in a dreary 7-9 campaign.

7. 11/27/87 @ Seahawks 34, Chargers 3
The Chargers came into the Dome at 8-1, with (still plausible) dreams of hosting Super Bowl XXII. After this comprehensive demolition they'd go on to end the season with five MORE losses, and end up out of the playoffs at 8-7. Curt Warner, John L. Williams and Steve Largent all scored, and Fredd Young notched two sacks in this season-killing win.

6. 10/29/84 Seahawks 24 @ Chargers 0
On Monday Night Football the Hawks blanked the Chargers at Jack Murphy Stadium, powered by Krieg's trio of TD strikes to Steve Largent. This game was the start of a 4-game stretch that saw Seattle's defense allow only 20 total points. Perhaps the Chargers were still bummed about their Padres roommates getting wiped out in the 1984 World Series?

5. 11/16/81 @ Seahawks 44, Chargers 23
At this point, the Seahawks had never defeated the Chargers, and the 3-7 Hawks looked doomed going into an MNF tilt against the playoff-bound Bolts. Even if you don't remember the game (I don't), you might have seen Dan Doornink's electrifying 80-yard TD scamper on an NFL Films highlight reel. Sure, the Chargers would go on to win the greatest game ever played, and the Hawks would meekly finish 6-10, but Seattle's 0-8 streak v. Air Coryell was over.

4. 9/15/85 Seahawks 49 @ Chargers 35
Both QBs had RIDICULOUS stat lines in this one...
Dan Fouts: 29/43, 440 yards, 4 TDs, 1 int
Dave Krieg: 22/32 307 yards, 5 TDs!!, 0 int
Seattle speedster Daryl Turner? He just had 7 catches for 121 yards and FOUR TDs! This was probably the highlight of the Seahawks' mind-meltingly inconsistent 1985 season

3. 12/30/01 Seahawks 25 @ Chargers 22
The Hawks were fighting for thier playoff lives in the penultimate game of the 2001 season, and it looked like they were about to blow a late lead. San Diego tied the game with seconds left, and overtime looked inevitable.I was home visiting the Tri-Cites, watching the game on TV with my family. The rest of you may have had a similar experience screaming this during the ensuing kickoff...


Roger's big kickoff return set up Rian Lindell for the 54-yard game winner at the gun. Trent Dilfer fired three touchdown passes in arguably his best performance as a Seahawk, with two of those TDs being snagged by D-Jack.

2. 12/29/02 Seahawks 31 @ Chargers 28
Matt Hasselbeck out-dueled Drew Brees (and not for the last time), piling up a career-high 449 yards passing. Seattle trailed 28-14 in the 4th quarter, but Beck fired one touchdown pass to Koren Robinson to draw Seattle within seven, and scored the tying touchdown himself with a lone second left in regulation. Rian Lindell would sink the Chargers again (in OT this time), and Hasselbeck wrapped up an astounding 10-game stretch where he'd throw for over 3000 yards and help salvage a 7-9 season after an abysmal 1-5 start.

1. 9/26/10 @ Seahawks 27, Chargers 20
It seems strange, but less than four years ago the Seahawks were an almost entirely different team. The Marshawn Lynch trade hadn't happened yet, so our leading rusher was still Justin Forsett (Aww. I just made myself miss Young Nastyman). Russell Wilson was still at North Carolina State, and Richard Sherman was still being coached by Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. The Hawks took the field as heavy underdogs against the mighty Chargers, and if all you did was look at the statline, you would have thought San Diego won in a blowout. But as I wrote in this space back then:

Yeah, the Chargers outgained the Seahawks 518-271. Who gives a fuck when you've got Leon Washington racking up 253(!) kickoff return yards and two spectacular touchdowns? Yeah, Philip Rivers threw for 455 yards. Good for him and his fantasy owners. He also threw 2 key interceptions to Earl Thomas (including the game-clincher late in the 4th) and took a pretty fucking brutal beating. Finally, the Chargers didn't turn the ball over five times. The Seahawks TOOK the ball away 5 times, you sumbitches! 

As we know now, that upset of San Diego was only the appetizer before the biggest upset in NFL playoff history a few months later. This was also the day we saw Earl Thomas' first steps toward football immortality.

Any other warm and fuzzy memories of blacking out the Chargers you wanna share, Twelves? Have at it in the comments section!

August 6, 2014

Fuzzy Preseason Memories: Owens' Drops Bury Matt Flynn

The Seahawks open up their preseason slate at Mile High Stadium Thursday night, and it will probably be like most preseason openers in franchise history: Memorable only to the players who use it as a springboard onto the 53-man roster. It's not always so easily forgettable, though. Seattle last visited Denver two years ago, and it turned out to be perhaps the most pivotal exhibition game the Hawks have ever played.

In Seattle's preseason opener, presumed starting quarterback Matt Flynn turned in a solid (but not spectacular) performance, completing 11 of 13 passes for 71 yards and an interception. So what? Not bad for an initial outing with a new team and a new playbook, right? The problem was that 3rd round pick Russell Wilson TORCHED Tennessee for 59 rushing yards (including a 32 yard touchdown scamper) and completed 12 of 16 passes for 124 yards and another TD. As the Hawks prepared to travel to Denver, there were already whispers of a quarterback controversy brewing in Renton. Of course, I did my best to tamp that down in this space. As I wrote then:

Matt Flynn is just the right mix of demonstrated ability and untapped potential, and he's flashed enough in Renton so far to make him the ONLY choice for QB1 right now. Weirdly enough, this might not be the majority opinion among Seahawks fans- I've seen legions of them pointing at Russell Wilson and screaming "NOW! NOW! NOW!" like they were Veruca Fucking Salt and RW was a Oompa-Loopa. Why? Because he went all Madden Rookie Mode on a bunch of Titans defenders destined for jobs in the CFL or various Arena Leagues? Because he's a better "story" than Flynn? Because (holy shit I've actually seen people say this) he reminds you of Tim Tebow somehow? BARF. Stop it. For the love of fuck, STOP IT.

I'm very excited by Russell Wilson's potential, and I think he's got a VERY good chance at being an excellent NFL QB someday... and if the Seahawks were rebuilding and not shooting for a playoff run right now, maybe I'd be more open to the idea of throwing Wilson out there week 1 and seeing how he responds. Seattle isn't shooting for 6-10, though- They are shooting for (wait for it) #10winsandaplayoffspot. Tossing Wilson out there now could fuck up our season AND RW's career over the long-term. Given the terrible fury our defense is about to unleash upon the NFL, Flynn has an amazing opportunity. He doesn't need to be Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers to lead Seattle to the Super Bowl- If he can reach the level Hasselbeck was at in the mid-00s, he will be a World Champion.

Oh boy. That's the "Dewey Defeats Truman" of sports blogging, isn't it? Hindsight allows us to see how laughably wrong I was, but as the Seahawks headed to the Rockies in mid-August 2012 the future was not set, and the job was still Flynn's to win. Enter Terrell Owens. I managed to get myself pretty excited about PCJS bringing in the 38-year-old future Hall-of-Famer...

I can see exactly what Pete Carroll sees in Owens: A year of VERY cheap but significant production at WR. Owens doesn't need to be better than (Sidney) Rice or (Doug) Baldwin to help this team make the playoffs- A healthy, focused T.O. gives us a possibly dangerous 6-pack of WR/TE targets for whomever wins the QB scrum: Rice, Baldwin, Owens, Tate, Winslow and Miller.

I thought we all learned from the Ruskell era that an OCD-level of focus on "character" is a recipe for an awful football team. What has Owens ever done to REALLY earn such violent revulsion from so many Twelves? I honestly don't get it.

Against the Broncos Owens would earn the undying hatred of not just the Twelve Army, but probably of Matt Flynn as well. Why? Early in the 2nd quarter, with Seattle trailing 7-3. Flynn lofted a PERFECT 46-yard touchdown bomb to Owens. Here's what T.O. did with it:

It was one of five passes from Flynn that Owens would flub. Flynn would finish the game 6-for-13 for 31 yards and a 53.0 passer rating. Let's say T.O. caught those 5 passes for 85 yards (the 46-yard TD and about a 10-yard average on the other 4 catches). Flynn's day is then 11-13 (again) for 116 yards and a TD. His rating would have leapt to 129! Wilson would put up a 128.3 rating with 155 yards passing, 33 yards rushing, ans two touchdowns. RW3 would puree Kansas City's defense the next week and win the starting job, but I've always wondered how different recent Seahawks (and NFL) history would have been if Owens had hauled in those Flynn offerings.

It's simplistic to argue Flynn would have won the QB1 job if Owens had done HIS job, but the choice to start Wilson over Flynn wouldn't have been nearly as clear or easy if T.O.'s hands weren't slathered in teflon that day in Denver. If PC had chosen to stay with Flynn, he would have had plenty of evidence to back up that decision, and the Seahawks probably would have still been a playoff team in 2012 and 2013 with Flynn under center. Would they have been Champions? No. Without Russell Wilson's ability to create explosive plays with his legs and his arm, Seattle's offense would have been far less productive, putting inordinate pressure on the Seahawks' defense. That probably would have meant early playoff exits in both 2012 and 2013.

My larger points? The preseason doesn't "count," but what goes down can be positively monumental. That's more than enough reason to watch all the action from Denver Thursday night. Also, fuck Terrell Owens- Not just for those drops in Denver two years ago, but for the Sharpie stunt on MNF back in 2002. Prick. Finally, you shouldn't listen to me. I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about. That's probably an oversimplification, but it's worth remembering (and owning) when we're dead wrong. It's humbling, to say the least.

What do you think, sirs?