September 28, 2015

Seahawks 26, Bears 0

One of the striking things about living in Columbus is getting exposed to the largely negative and paranoid fan culture around the Ohio State football team. It seems like they are only happy for the most fleeting of moments: Immediately after beating Michigan (I'm with you there, Buckeye Nation- Fuck Harbaugh.) and immediately after winning the National Championship. The rest of the time, even when the team is winning- Winning conference championships, winning bowl games... There's a LOT of winning for tOSU, y'all - they seem enveloped by a shroud of gloom.

Last week after class I was talking to a student who was absolutely despondent about the prospects of his Buckeyes. His undefeated Buckeyes. I reminded him that they'd lost all of three games in 3+ seasons with Urban Meyer as Head Coach. I reminded him that they looked shaky early on last season and, you know, won the whole fucking thing at the end of a glorious post-season run. He replied "Yeah, but if they played Michigan State tomorrow, they'd get SMOKED."

I told him "But they aren't playing the Spartans tomorrow, are they? Have a little faith- You'll be happier,"

It struck me like a lightning bolt: I was happier with my 0-2 NFL team than he was with his 3-0 college football team. It seemed perverse, but I wonder who was more delusional- Him, or me?

The Seahawks hit the field yesterday in the midst of utter desperation: No 0-3 team has ever gone on to win the Super Bowl, and the last one to even make the playoffs was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. Any realistic hope for a trip to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50 would be snuffed out by a loss to the undermanned, woebegone Chicago Bears.

In the first half, there was plenty of fuel for the doomsayers: The offensive line allowed four sacks to a Bears defense that hadn't brought down the QB once in the season's first fortnight. Our front five also couldn't seem to create any daylight for Marshawn Lynch. For the first 28 minutes, the only points Seattle scored came on a field goal after a deception-boosted Richard Sherman punt return. The Hawks finally got some rhythm going on offense in the 2-minute drill, but the drive fizzled in the shadow of the Chicago end zone. Seattle led 6-0 at the half, but agitation levels for the Twelve Army were high- And they only increased with word that Lynch was out for the rest of the game with a hamstring injury.

At this point, it's fair to point out that we have seen this OVER AND OVER throughout the Carroll/Wilson era, particularly at home: The Hawks sputter through the first half, but in the second half all the tumblers fall into place and Seattle wins going away. The opposing defense gets worn down, the enemy offense gets harassed into some major snafu, and a game that was competitive at the half ends as a decisive Seahawks victory.

I knew all that, but I was still a jittery and twitchy 12 as the second half began.

Then, Tyler Lockett did his thing. 105 yards for a score, taking advantage of perfect blocking and his unparalleled speed to more or less settle things in Seattle's favor. A 13-0 lead against a Jimmy Clausen-led Bears side felt fairly safe, and it was. While Clausen avoided turnovers, all 10 Chicago possessions under his command ended in a punt, and the Bears offense never got closer than 45 yards away from a touchdown. With Kam Chancellor back on the field, the overmatched and shorthanded Windy City visitors faced an impenetrable secondary and could only muster 48 yards through the air. Yeah, you can grade the Legion of Boom on a curve and say the competition was weak sauce- But an NFL shutout is an NFL shutout, and Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard deserved every drop of his Gatorade shower as time wound down.

Those holes did open up in the Bears' defensive line in the second half, but it was undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls who sailed through them, for 104 yards on 16 totes. Russell Wilson ended up having a respectable day of his own- Avoiding turnovers, posting a triple-digit passer rating, and finding Jimmy Graham for his second touchdown of the young season. For all the fretting about Graham's role in the Seattle offense, he's on pace for 11 touchdowns- Which would end up tied for the second best season of the All-Pro's career, scoring-wise. It's far too early to lump Graham in with the likes of Deion Branch and Percy Harvin, y'all.

So Seattle choked out Chicago. That's cause for relief more than anything. A vastly more explosive Detroit attack visits for Monday Night Football on October 5, and then a trip east to face the unbeaten Bengals in an (ugh) 10 am pacific kickoff looms. If the Hawks play the way they did yesterday, they'll lose one or both of those contests,

Even more concerning? The Arizona Cardinals are taking a blowtorch to every team unlucky enough to wander into their path. It's easy to say that we've seen this before: The Cards run out to a hot start, but then sputter into irrelevance. This feels different, though, and we can't just assume that another Carson Palmer injury will be our salvation. If we faced the Cardinals next Sunday, we'd lose.

But we don't face them next Sunday, do we? The Hawks that will host Arizona on Sunday Night Football in mid-November will be battle-tested and ready for the challenge - But it might take a pair of XLVIII-esque efforts to fend off Arizona's siege upon our NFC West fiefdom.

For now? Be happy and hope Shawn has a quick-healing hamstring. We can't play Rawls Ball indefinitely.

What do you think, sirs?

September 24, 2015

The Chancellor Returns (and a Look at Seahawks-Bears History)

(This is not actually a picture of Kam Chancellor pooping a football)

They were a young, brutal, talented team. They had an efficient young quarterback, a bruising force at halfback, and a defense that tore through the enemy like a debris-flinging tornado. They were coming off a trip to the Super Bowl, but one of their superstars held out in an attempt to finagle a better contract out of the club.

They opened the season with a road loss to a divisional rival, and followed that up by dropping a close game to a rival DESPERATE for payback. After that 0-2 start, the holdout superstar returned. They would end the season on a 12-2 run and win another World Championship.

Am I predicting what will happen to the 2015 Seahawks? Kinda. But what I just described was the story of the 1993 Dallas Cowboys. With Kam Chancellor returning to the VMAC, the historical paralells between those early-90s Dallas teams and our Seahawks couldn't be clearer.

I for one welcome back Kam with open arms. Yeah, his holdout was a stupid, unproductive, destructive decision. He cost himself a lot of money, some credibility in the Seattle locker room, and a lot of goodwill from the Twelve Army. However, given what he has done for this team and this fan base over the years, anyone who isn't willing to cut him some slack is a myopic dope. The vitriol hurled at Chancellor from some elements of the Twelve Army is frankly disturbing and creepy. The team doesn't own him, and neither do you. These guys are autonomous, you know, PEOPLE. Someone tweeted at me a few days ago that he was burning his Chancellor jersey. Fuck you, pal. If you are out there reading this, and you try to turn around and cheer for him now? I kinda wish Kam could hit your fickle ass at full speed. Dipshit.

Anyway, we now turn to Chicago. This looks like an impossible assignment for an overmatched Bears team. It is. My prediction? A 30-12 Seahawks victory. How about we look back at our Top 10 wins over the Bears? Enjoy!

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 an 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 did I 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?  

September 22, 2015

Packers 27, Seahawks 17

The most breathtaking moment in the Wachowski's otherwise failed sequel The Matrix Revolutions was when Neo and Trinity briefly fly above the dense cloud cover to glimpse the brilliant blue sky above... Then the hovercraft crashes and kills Trinity, mainly because they didn't know what else to do with her character. Ugh. That movie was a crushing disappointment, wasn't it? I hear Sense8 is good, though. It's on my massive "Netflix Homework" pile.

Where was I going with that metaphor? Oh yeah... On Sunday night we saw momentary glimpses of what the Seattle Seahawks can do, and of the team we know they are. Bobby Wagner forcing fumbles and saving points in the Red Zone. Earl Thomas dropping the hammer on folks. Russell Wilson tormenting defenders with his lethal combination of speed, agility, and improvisation. Marshawn Lynch's wanton barbarism aimed at the enemy. You could see a team that is once again a Super Bowl contender.

But for most of the night? That was obscured behind an opaque curtain of incoherence and ineptitude. Green Bay scores were set up by Seattle penalties multiple times. More than once the team seemed to lose its composure in the hostile environment of Lambeau Field (Let's be real- To win Super Bowl 50 the Seahawks will probably need to win one or more games like that. If we assume we can only win championships if we hold the #1 seed and HFA, that's a defeatist mindset. The great NFL dynasties all won road playoff games on their way to hoisting Lombardi Trophies at some point. We can go forth and do likewise). The offensive line couldn't consistently clear a path for Marshawn. Russell Wilson sullied a solid performance with a back-breaking interception. The defense? Just degraded enough without Kam on the field that they could slow down Aaron Rodgers, but not get the stops when they needed them (e.g., the 2012 MNF win and the 2014 NFC Championship Game).

What is there to say about Kam Chancellor anymore? My sympathies almost always lie with the player in these circumstances. The NFL generates about $12 BILLION in revenues every year. and that number continues to climb. We are learning more and more about the extreme danger that players subject themselves to every time they step on the field. The league must do more than make the game safer and provide for post-career health care for its players- Given the mind-boggling amount of money the players generate with their labor, it's hard to complain about ANY player's contract, or fault them for wanting to stack that paper as high as they possibly can. So yeah, I'd typically side with Kam here, given that he's BLED for this team. He's fought through injuries and played safety at an elite level anyway. He played through XLIX with a torn MCL in his knee and a deep bone bruise, for fuck's sake. Up until very recently, he was a fan favorite- and on a trajectory for the Ring of Honor, if not a bust in Canton.

But now, as his holdout drags into Week 3, even I am losing my patience with this situation. I'm usually the beacon of hope for y'all, but I'm starting to fear the worst. Given that Chancellor is displaying a Butch Coolidge level of misplaced pride, and that the club has little-to-no incentive to set a massively destructive precedent for future contract negotiations, I have a terrible feeling about how this is going to end. PCJS have shown no compunction about cutting guys loose who either don't perform or who sew discontent in the locker room. Right now, Kam is doing BOTH those things. I doubt he'll ever suit up for the Seahawks again at this point. I really hope I'm wrong. The good news is that I'm wrong A LOT.

Kam, we still love you. I still love you. Come back and all is forgiven. I have a poster of you I'm DYING to put up on the wall in my new apartment. Give me a reason to, y'know?

So the Hawks are 0-2. Two games behind in the NFC West AND the race for the NFC's number one seed. I'm among those exhorting y'all not to panic... But the winning needs to start NOW. Back-to-back home games against the collectively 0-4 Bears and Lions should get Seattle back to .500 by early October, but realistically the Hawks need to rattle off wins in five of their next six games. Why? That would put them at 5-3 (at worst) going into a gargantuan SNF game against Arizona at home, and it's not likely the Cardinals would roll into that game any worse than 6-2. Win then, and you're at 6-3 while (momentarily) holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. Everything would be fine...

In mid-November. That's where we are at, Twelves. We are in survival mode for the next two months. We have to beat undefeated Cincinnati on the road in a 10 am kickoff. We'll have to best an undefeated Carolina team DYING to finally beat us. We'll have to win at Santa Clara after a short week on Thursday Night Football, etc etc etc. It's going to be a puke-inducingly turbulent ride from here on out, y'all.

But they can fix things enough that they can soar back above the clouds and stay there. And their story will have a FAR more satisfying conclusion than the Matrix trilogy. Seriously. Goddammit, Wachowskis. Why would you make a Matrix movie where ALMOST NOTHING happens in the Matrix? That was, you know, what was cool about the first movie? Cripes. I actually sorta liked Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas though... So I guess you've got that going for you?

What do you think, sirs?

September 17, 2015

A Brief History of No-Win Scenarios (and of Beating Green Bay)

The other night I was in a particularly dark mood- The ongoing turmoil in my personal life, coupled with last Sunday's loss in St. Louis, had left me in a fogbank of doom. I happened to flip on ESPN2, and they were giving our 2010 playoff win over the Saints the "NFL's Greatest Games" treatment. 

I watched it and thought about what was going on in my life at that time. I knew that I was transgender, but I had no idea how I could possibly pull off the dozen minor miracles needed for me to actually start living authentically. I was wrapped up in an itchy, bed-bug-festooned blanket of despair, and it looked like that hopelessness would be punctuated by a brutal playoff beating for my Seahawks. 

Instead, we got the first real taste of life in Pete Carroll's world: He somehow cajoled a Championship-worthy performance out of a team that had lost 9 games by an average of 21 points. The worst team to ever sneak past the bouncer into the NFL playoff club chased the defending Super Bowl Champions out of the VIP lounge. Matt Hasselbeck dropped dimes like it was 2005 (after the worst season of his career), the 25th-best defense in the league slowed down Drew Brees JUST enough, and Marshawn Lynch gave us the first glimpse of his groin-grabbingly transcendent talent... 

It would be overly flippant to say that victory inspired me to start my transition, but it did drive home an important lesson: That even in what seem like hopeless circumstances, victory is possible. We saw it in 2011 with an upset win over Baltimore, in 2012 with comeback wins over New England and Chicago (and the epic- but subsequently squandered- comeback in the divisional playoff at Atlanta), in 2013 with wins after falling in 20-3 and 21-0 holes against Houston and Tampa Bay, and in 2014 with the rise from a stumblebum 6-4 start to the NFC's top seed and the beyond improbable theft of the NFC Championship from Green Bay (more on that later).  

Now almost no one gives Seattle a chance to emerge from Lambeau Field victorious this Sunday. No Kam Chancellor. A shaky offensive line. An insanely motivated opponent playing in front of a rabid home crowd. Hopeless. 

Have the Seahawks always won in circumstances like this under Pete Carroll? No. Have they consistently defied expectations and delivered performances that made games like this a 60-minute brawl? Hell yes. 

The Seahawks will win Sunday night. How about 27-23? That sounds about right. 

Until then, entertain yourself with this look back at our previous eight wins over Green Bay. Enjoy! 

8. 11/15/87 Seahawks 24, Packers 13 
How did the Seahawks win a game where Dave Krieg put up a 41.6 QB rating and they turned the ball over 5 times? They ran for 193 yards, including 123 yards and a TD from Curt Warner. Seattle's defense recovered three fumbles and picked off Packers QBs twice, helping the Hawks improve to 6-3 on their way to a wild card playoff berth.

The Packers used to play a couple games a year down in Milwaukee, and those were usually the dates on the schedule against less "attractive" opponents. Before they stopped the Green Bay/Milwaukee split after the 1994 season, the Seahawks would face the Packers four times in Milwaukee and only once at Lambeau. Evidently our team from South Alaska wasn't worthy of prime dates up in Green Bay?

Anyway, in 1984 the Seahawks rolled into Alice Cooper's favorite town 5-2 and expecting an easy win over the 1-6 Packers. Lynn Dickey and James Lofton made the Hawks work for this victory, though. Dickey torched Seattle's usually dominant 1984 defense for 364 yards and three TDs, and future Hall-of-Famer Lofton had 5 grabs for 162 yards. After one quarter, Seattle trailed 17-7, and they were well on their way to a surprising defeat (Seattle also committed 17 penalties that cost 128 yards of field position. Damn!). Thankfully Krieg and Largent almost matched Dickey and Lofton- Mudbone racked up 310 passing yards, and Largent hauled in 7 catches for 129 yards and a TD. The defense would also sack Dickey 6 times and pick off three of his passes, helping Seattle get out of town with a 6-point victory. 

I actually still have the videotape of this one- what I remember is Derrick Fenner just going OFF on the Pack, and thankfully my memory didn't fail me this time. Both teams came in at 6-6, so this was effectively an elimination game for the losers. Despite facing a Packers team led by Anthony Dilweg at QB (wait-who?), Seattle was a significant underdog- A dome team wasn't going to win an outdoor December game with temps down in the 20s, right? 

The Hawks had a nice little streak of good luck going at this point- They had won three of their last four games. One was the miraculous "Kreig-to Skansi" win at Arrowhead, and the other two were consecutive 13-10 OT wins over Houston and San Diego. On that chilly Milwaukee day it certainly helped us that Dilweg played down to his awful-sounding name- The dude went 6 for 22 for 69 yards and a pick before he was replaced by Blair Kiel (Man- they really had a dry spell at QB between Dickey and Don Majkowski, huh?). Kiel was a HUGE improvement, but by then Seattle had built a 20-0 lead primarily on the legs of Fenner, who toted the ball 20 times for 112 yards and a TD. Kiel would throw two 4th-quarter touchdowns to make all us Twelves sweat, but the Hawks hung on to win 20-14. 

It was Monday Night Football, and the return of Mike Holmgren to Lambeau Field as Seattle's Head Coach. I remember pacing back and forth in my pathetic graduate dorm room at Ohio State, sweating and on the verge of puking before this one. Very few outside of the Twelve Army gave us any chance of victory, and it looked like Green Bay would snatch the early lead until Shawn Springs scooped and scored on a blocked field goal attempt. In my Springs jersey I ran out in the hallway braying like an ass, frightening the foreign students on my floor who had no fucking clue what a Seahawk was.  

Favre would answer with a long TD pass to tie the game, but Cortez Kennedy sacked Favre thrice and Springs snatched two of Seattle's four interceptions. Ricky Watters gashed GB for 125 yards on 31 carries and sent the Pack into a downward spiral that led to 8-8 and Ray Rhodes getting canned after just one year as Head Coach. 

Seattle rode this upset win over the Packers on MNF to a winning season and a playoff appearance (Well, there was that horrific collapse over the season's last six weeks, but still...). 

A SNOW GAME IN SEATTLE! This one was a great example of why Seahawks Stadium was a HUGE upgrade over the Kingdome- As loud as the Dome could get, it could never provide us with a memory quite like this one: Shaun Alexander shredding the Green Bay defense inside a snow globe. 

Hasselbeck and Favre cancelled each other out, both chucking three interceptions- But the Pack had no answer for Alexander, who delivered one of the last great performance of his career (we tend to forget the great games he had in our losses to San Diego and Chicago later that season). SA rambled for 201 yards on 40 (!) carries, but Seattle still found itself trailing a 4-6 team at home 21-12 in the 2nd half. Hasselbeck would finish strong with three late TD passes and the Hawks would end an unforgettable night with a 34-24 win. 

This game only happened a year ago? Wow. Percy Harvin (Seriously- It feels like he was on the team for XLVIII and that was it) had 100 total yards, Russell Wilson fired two TD passes, and Marshawn Lynch added two more scores and 110 yards as Seattle opened up their title defense in style. 

Let's cut the shit: It was a catch. The short version? Tate established possession and had two feet down in the end zone before Jennings got his mitts on the ball and got HIS feet on the ground. Touchdown, Seahawks! That one play aside, this was still a great win for the Seahawks on the national stage of Monday Night Football. As I wrote back then: 

The focus on officiating going full-on Chernobyl obscures a huge plotline of last night's game: The emergence of a Super-Bowl quality defense in Seattle. The eight first-half sacks jump off the stat sheet, but the Seahawks absolutely DOMINATED the reigning NFL MVP and one of the most powerful offensive attacks of all time. Aaron Rodgers could only lead Green Bay into the end zone once, and that was with a big scabby assist from a bullshit DPI on Kam Chancellor. Twelve points allowed against a team only months removed from averaging 35 ppg is more than impressive- it's a sign that we might just have the best defense in football. The defense was so comprehensively spectacular that it's hard to single out any players for individual plaudits. The moment that will stick with me is the complete smothering of Green Bay's final attempt to run out the clock (which was set up by one of about a dozen superlative Seattle special teams plays)- When we absolutely needed a stop, they got one. The Legion of Boom is starting to get a 2000 Ravens/2002 Bucs vibe going, and that should soil pantaloons all over the league.

What else can I say about this one? Between this and the - ugh- "Fail Mary," I can totally understand why the Packers and their fans want to slice our boys up with dull, rusty straight razors. 

I'm still sort of baffled by the timidity with which Green Bay played that day. settling for field goals twice after getting to our one-yard-line early on, going to the ground after Russell Wilson's 4th interception, and just generally not opening it up and relying on their league MVP quarterback to go out and win the game. Here's some of what I said back in January: 

We won because the defense played heroically, largely shutting down Aaron Rodgers for the 3rd time in 3 years. We won because Marshawn might be the most clutch playoff running back since Emmitt Smith in the early 90s. We won because our pedestrian wide receivers got open and made plays when it mattered. We won because we played with aggression and joy while our opponents were absolutely paralyzed by cowardice and fear. OVER AND OVER Green Bay had opportunities to crush Seattle, but refused to take them, Mike McCarthy played George McClellan to Pete Carroll's U.S. Grant. I think every Twelve feels about Big Balls Pete the way President Lincoln felt about General Grant: "I cannot spare this man- He fights." 

Carroll has molded a roster in his image, a tribe of scrappers whose mental and physical toughness has become legendary with no need for embellishment. They are at once superhuman and DEEPLY human: Their exuberance over the success of their teammates is genuine, as were the tears that flowed from our franchise quarterback after the game.

In the stands, my brother and I hugged and howled and laughed. After the team streamed into the locker room, I went to the ladies room. In a quiet moment to myself, I collapsed into sobs. I was exhausted and emotionally overloaded, but incredulously thankful. Thankful that we won? Yes. Most of all, I was just happy it wasn't over. There would be one more game for this team I love- A team I love not just because they win, but also because of HOW they win. A team that approaches the game the way I want to approach my life: With hope, joy and limitless energy.

Green Bay is unlikely to repeat those mistakes from last January- But the Seahawks haven't lost that nasty edge, either. Expect Marshawn to have a huge night. Expect a big special teams play. Expect a takeaway at a key moment. Expect what everyone else thinks is impossible, because they have accomplished feats like this often enough to call it a trend. 

What do you think, sirs?

September 14, 2015

Rams 34, Seahawks 31 (OT)

One of the very hard lessons that life teaches us is that we have to accept those we love as they are- Rather than judging them against who or what we wish they would be. Doing that is a recipe for heartbreak, bitterness and disappointment. 

After three seasons with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson as the coach and quarterback combo, we know many things about the current iteration of the Seattle Seahawks: 

-They'll never get blown off the field. Their games will be decided in the 4th quarter, even if the Seahawks have to claw back into the game after falling far behind early. They are tenacious. 

-They will commit a lot of penalties. Many will be stupid. Michael Bennett will jump offsides a lot. 

-They'll simultaneously be dangerous in 2-minute drill situations, while frequently butchering basic clock management. 

-Pete Carroll will make audacious decisions. Sometimes they'll work (like going for it on 4th and 7 in the 4th quarter of the 2013 NFC Championship Game). Sometimes they'll spectacularly fail (like the weird "squib kick becomes an onside kick" to start OT yesterday). 

That's who the Seahawks are: They are tough, talented and nasty- But also often flaky, scatterbrained, and intemperate ("hormonal?"). We saw all of these qualities and more on display in St. Louis on Sunday. Once again, the Seahawks got off to a sleepy start for a 10 am kickoff (with the exception of Flash Lockett, who delivered a caffeinated jolt with an early 57-yard punt return TD). 

SIDEBAR: Is there a compelling reason that ANY game involving a west coast team should kickoff in the 10 am pacific window?  Just like how high school classes probably shouldn't start before 11 am, there's no reason west coast teams should be put at the competitive disadvantage that accompanies those early starts. I would LOVE IT if the Rams moved to Los Angeles and removed one 10 am start from the Seahawks' schedule. 

Without Kam Chancellor patrolling the middle of the field, the Seahawks gave up a startling number of "explosive" plays (The Rams completed 8 passes of 20 yards or more). The most distressing was the tying touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter from Nick Foles to Lance Kendricks- Who beat Chancellor's replacement (Dion Bailey) BADLY for the score. Even with those shortcomings, the defense almost won the game in the 4th quarter anyway. Earl Thomas forced a fumble that set up the tying field goal, and Cary Williams sacked Foles, forced a fumble, scooped and scored to complete a stirring 4th-quarter turnaround from a 24-13 deficit to a 31-24 lead. Still, the defense couldn't preserve the lead they created, and it's whipped up the frenzy around Chancellor's holdout to an absolutely feverish level. 

Should Chancellor end his holdout? OF COURSE. His position is completely untenable under the current collective bargaining agreement, and the team can't afford to set an incredibly expensive precedent by caving to his demands. However, I can't get on board with the vitriol and venom that a lot of Twelves are spitting at Chancellor. He's making bad decisions based on wounded pride and a misplaced adherence to whatever his "principles" are- But sooner than later, he's going to end up wreaking havoc for us yet again. I've already said enough stupid things in this space that I'd love to retract (Flynn should start over Wilson, anyone?). I'm going to leave well enough alone with Kam and hope for the best. 

Speaking of Wilson, he was merely OK yesterday. Some of that can be blamed on not-yet-congealed offensive line, but there were numerous instances where he held onto the ball too long and made decisions that really should be left back where they belong: His rookie season. The offense as a whole only seemed to come to life in 2-minute drill situations. Hopefully the Hawks will go "uptempo" move often as the season progresses. Jimmy Graham's 4th quarter TD displayed the extra dimension he brings to Seattle's offense, but 6 catches for 51 yards are fairly paltry numbers for such a valuable weapon. 

Carroll's odd decision to squib-kick to start overtime was compounded by Hauschka's "mishit" of the kick into a true "surprise" onside kick (it even surprised his own team). Once again, Big Balls Pete left the Twelve Army and the NFL-watching nation flummoxed- But it's totally unreasonable to think that he'll "grow out" of that tendency at this late point of his career. We can only hope that his penchant for treating the game like a crapshoot doesn't manifest itself at a more pivotal moment this year. 

I'm oddly serene about this loss. It's probably the worst performance we'll see from the team this season, and we still almost escaped with a win against a divisional rival that has played us very tough in their building recently. They now head to Lambeau for a game no one will expect them to win. It's the perfect spot for a bounce-back triumph, and I believe the Hawks will leave Green Bay victorious next Sunday. Even if they don't, it's no reason to panic. At least not until/unless they drop the home opener to the Bears and fall to 0-3.

We know this team very well. They're not going to fundamentally change. The good news is that there is one more immutable aspect to their character I forgot to mention earlier...

They are winners. And they will still win VERY big this season. 

What do you think, sirs?

September 10, 2015

DKSB's Un-Impeachably Accurate 2015 NFL Predictions!

Welcome back, Twelves! I don't know about y'all, but I've never been more ready for a Seahawks' season to start than I am right now. For me, it goes beyond a desire to move past the traumatic ending of Super Bowl XLIX and bear witness as our Hawks re-establish the dominion of the Emerald Empire. After that game, I collapsed in sobs into the arms of my partner. She was also there for Super Bowl XLVIII, and it made me ecstatically happy to share that triumph with her. I loved that she was there for my highest peak and my lowest valley- But she's gone now, ending our relationship this July. Two months later, I still feel like someone dug my heart out of my chest piece-by-piece with a melon baller. The color and the meaning have felt drained out of my life, and that's made it hard to write very much of anything that is worth a shit. 

That changes this Sunday. The world will change from black and white to College Navy, Wolf Grey, and Action Green (yes, Nike gave our team colors insipid names). Meaning will return. Is it fucked up that I need a football team to take the field to inject some sense of meaning and purpose to my life? Yeah. Has my mind made this an absolutely tangible thing that I NEED? Hell yeah. 

I don't just need the Seahawks now. I need all you guys. The Twelve Army is the ONLY place I've ever felt any sense of true belonging, and I want to experience this transcendent season alongside all of you. I don't really feel like writing. But I know that a lot of people out there look forward to reading what I have to say about the team, particularly during the season. So this is for you, because I am with you. We speak in a single booming roar, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let myself be left out of that chorus this year. So I'm back. Let's go... 

Now, the usual preamble: 

All preseason predictions are, to a greater or lesser degree, bullshit. The beauty of this game is its unpredictability. Anyone who tells you they KNOW who will make the playoffs, who will win the Super Bowl, etc, is trying to sell you something. Folks with deeper, more detailed knowledge of the game might be able to give you slightly more accurate predictions, but at the end of the day it's still at best educated guessing. 

I've always had particularly deep contempt for implausible preseason predictions. In particular I'm talking about when some lazy sportswriter predicts the records for all 32 teams and comes up with an impossible aggregate record. That's why every year I go through the ENTIRE regular season and predict the winner of EVERY game, so all the pieces fit together. What follows is my own particular flavor of bullshit, which you can dissect in the comments at your leisure.  

Onto my predictions for the 2015 season: 

NFL MVP: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis 
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh 
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Zimmer, Minnesota

NFC West
Seattle 12-4 (#1 seed) 
Arizona 11-5 (#5 seed)
St. Louis 7-9 
Santa Clara 5-11

NFC North 
Green Bay 11-5 (#3 seed) 
Minnesota 10-6 (#6 seed) 
Detroit 9-7
Chicago 6-10 

NFC South 
New Orleans 9-7 (#4 seed) 
Atlanta 8-8
Carolina 8-8 
Tampa Bay 5-11

NFC East 
Dallas 11-5 (#2 seed) 
Philadelphia 9-7 
New York 9-7 
District of Columbia 6-10 

Wild Card: Green Bay 38, Minnesota 20; Arizona 27, New Orleans 20 
Divisional: Seattle 31, Arizona 16; Dallas 28, Green Bay 26 

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Seattle 26, Dallas 23 (OT) 

AFC West 
Denver 10-6 (#4 seed) 
San Diego 9-7
Kansas City 8-8 
Oakland 6-10 

AFC North 
Pittsburgh 11-5 (#3 seed) 
Baltimore 10-6 (#5 seed) 
Cincinnati 9-7 (#6 seed) 
Cleveland 6-10 

AFC South 
Indianapolis 12-4 (#1 seed) 
Jacksonville 8-8 
Houston 7-9 
Tennessee 4-12 

AFC East 
New England 12-4 (#2 seed) 
Buffalo 8-8 
Miami 7-9 
New York 4-12 

Wild Card: Pittsburgh 35, Cincinnati 24; Baltimore 27, Denver 17 
Divisional: New England 30, Pittsburgh 25; Baltimore 31, Indianapolis 30 

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Baltimore 33, New England 23 

SUPER BOWL 50 (Santa Clara, California) 

SEATTLE              35
BALTIMORE        16 


Sadly, we won't get revenge on the dastardly, loathsome New Englanders in Super Bowl 50, but the Hawks will roll over the surprising Ravens in what will be more or less Seahawks Stadium South in Santa Clara. Let's take a closer look at this Seahawks season...

-After gutting out a 17-13 win at St. Louis Kickoff Weekend without Kam Chancellor, the stellar-but-steamed safety returns to the starting line-up for the massive SNF tilt at Lambeau Field. Bam-bam Kam's key 4th-quarter interception seals a hard-fought 27-22 Seattle victory. 

-On Monday Night Football in Week 4, Russell Wilson's brace of TD strikes to Jimmy Graham paces Seattle to a 31-19 win over Detroit. 

-In front of your favorite blogger in Week 5 at Paul Brown Stadium, the Seahawks triumph 24-23 on a 53-yard Hauschka boot as time expires. I scream until I faint. 

-At home against Carolina in Week 6, Frank Clark's pair of sacks and a forced fumble helps Seattle cruise to yet another victory over the Panthers. 

-On Thursday Night Football, Marshawn Lynch rambles for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle stakes a permanent claim to Levi's Stadium with a 38-14 blowout win over the Niners. 

-Chatter of an undefeated season is silenced by a 23-16 loss at Dallas. Russell Wilson's trio of interceptions inspires a tsunami of "hot takes" about how the big money has dulled his edge. 

-Sunday Night Football. The 7-1 Seahawks host the 6-2 Cardinals. Wilson throws 2 touchdown passes and runs for another, shutting everyone up. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas each intercept Carson Palmer and order is restored in the NFC West with a 28-19 win. 

-After another blowout of Santa Clara, the Seahawks crap away a double-digit 4th-quarter lead and lose at home to Pittsburgh 31-27. Talk radio in Seattle BLOWS THE FUCK UP. Never has the fanbase of a 9-2 team been so incensed. 

-Seattle finds themselves underdogs in frigid Minneapolis against the playoff-bound Vikings. In a snowglobe worthy of John Facenda narration, Bobby Wagner's late stop of Adrian Peterson on 4th and Goal from the Seattle 1-yard-line preserves a 16-12 Seahawks triumph. 

-Another date on national TV, this time in Baltimore. A late Seahawks comeback effort falls short after a Marshawn Lynch fumble. Seattle loses 20-16. 

-Seattle seems hung over against Cleveland, coming off three straight games that were decided on the final possession. The Browns run out to a 17-0 lead, but a Tyler Lockett Punt return TD jump-starts the team and a drowsy Seahawks Stadium crowd. The Hawks pull away for a 35-20 win. 

-After a win over St. Louis, the 12-3 Seahawks clinch the #1 NFC seed. They drop the season finale in Glendale, and are declared "vulnerable" by the nattering nabobs of negativity in the press. 

-Two weeks later, in a rubber match with Arizona that actually, you know.. matters? Doug Baldwin scores twice and Carson Palmer is knocked out of the game after a getting sandwiched by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Seattle wins 31-16. 

-The 3rd straight NFC Championship Game in Seattle, and Dallas is the trendy pick. The game goes to overtime deadlocked at 20, and Dallas takes the opening possession and kicks a field goal. The Seahawks must score on their possession to survive. Tyler Lockett takes the short kickoff 97 yards for the winning touchdown. Bedlam. Yawn. Another trip to the Super Bowl. 

-Super Bowl 50. In front of a rabidly pro-Seattle crowd, the outcome is never really in doubt. The Hawks run to a 21-3 halftime lead and feed the Beast in the 2nd half. Marshawn Lynch runs for 139 yards and takes home the MVP award. People will still bitch about him not getting the ball at the end of XLIX, though. 

TEAM MVP: Earl Thomas
ALL-PROS: Lynch, Graham, Wagner, Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman
PRO BOWLERS: All-Pros plus Wilson, Hauschka, Avril, Bennett

There you have it. Tell me what I got wrong in the comments. GO HAWKS!