What now?

Okay, now what? The Seahawks aren’t in the playoffs. Even the Rams, with all the unexpected regular season success, were knocked out immediately. As a loyal Hawks fan, you may be thinking: who should we root for? Who do we root against?

Wild Card Weekend was, shall we say, an eventful several days. But admittedly, I couldn’t less about what happens in the AFC. The Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, and Titans never for one second struck me as Super Bowl contenders. But for the sake of analysis, I’ll say a few words about my thoughts on the two AFC games. It’s amazing to have seen the Kansas City Chiefs, once a 5-0 team that thumped the Patriots on opening night, sink so low. Sad. Marcus Mariota’s performance last Saturday, on the other hand, may very well end up in the history books. Now, he must duplicate the same performance in Foxborough, all while hoping the Patriots self-destruct amid the flaming rumors coming from their front office.

Jaguars vs. Bills, a matchup between two of the regular season’s biggest surprises, was perhaps the most mundane playoff game I’ve watched in years.

In the NFC, things were more interesting. The Rams, probably due to their several inexperience, stunk. Despite being the highest scoring regular season team, the Falcons held them to a meager 13 points. For the Saints, Kamara and Ingram did not disappoint. But even with all their efforts, the Panthers were 20 yards from a game-winning touchdown. The Saints did not control that game by any stretch.

I will be rooting for the Minnesota Vikings from here on out. This Sunday will be a tough test for them against the Saints, but if they win, they may become the first team to host the Super Bowl. What a story that would be.

A Season of Surprises

What a turbulent season. Injuries to the once-vaunted secondary, embarrassing offensive struggles, missed field-goals at the last second. These are the marks of a 9-7 team. For the first time in six years, the Seattle Seahawks will miss the postseason.

However disappointing the result, Seahawks fans should not regret the “ending of an era.” This team needs a major shake-up if we wish to see Pete Carroll coach in the Super Bowl again. Otherwise, mediocrity will become the norm.

Clearly, the Seahawks defense wasn’t the impenetrable wall we fell in love with. The Legion of Boom, despite their consistent dominance in the five years before this season, are certainly not our future. It is possible, perhaps probable, that Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas have all played their last games in Seattle uniforms. And don’t forget to add Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to the list of names, all forever enshrined in Seattle Seahawks glory.

No one knows what our roster will look like next year. However, a few things remain certain. Surely, Carroll and Schneider will feel a powerful urgency to fix up the offensive line. The team will be reshaped, with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner becoming the permanent core to build around. And needless to say, Blair Walsh’s services will no longer be needed.

The NFC West is only growing stronger. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco boast plenty of cap space to add to their promising young quarterbacks, and Arizona won’t just disappear. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks must have their best offseason yet.

Pummelled by Rams, Hawks’ playoff chances look dim

What a loss. Absolute annihilation, to put it mildly. Yes, I know what the score was—but don’t ask me to mention it. On Sunday, the Seahawks sucker punched the most energetic fan base in sports. No one knew we could play so atrociously. Seattle got outplayed in virtually every facet of football.

But hawks bashing aside, let’s take a moment to quiver about how scary the Rams look. Make no mistake of it. To be the bully, you have to beat the bully. The Los Angeles Rams have become the bully of the west. Their fans have every reason to feel excited heading into the playoffs.

Sure, I’m disappointed. Just several months ago I was writing about how promising the Seahawks looked this season. In my eyes, I could already see our beloved players and coaches hoisting the Lombardi trophy. I was optimistic. And now hindsight reveals how blind my optimism truly was. But strangely enough, I would do it all over again. I would express, in my words, the same outlandishly unwavering confidence that makes me so excited to wake up every Sunday morning. I haven’t doubted the Seahawks for one nanosecond, and I never will. Not even if the rest of the world thinks I’ve lost my sanity. Writing these blogs, it is simply my way of communicating my hope in my favorite team. That’s all there is to it. And it’s enough to keep my writing, even if they don’t make the playoffs this season. But they better make it next year.

Playoff Paranoia

With the regular season winding down, the sports universe prepares its annual revolution around NFL playoffs. Yes, the month of January will surely be an exciting one. What troubles me, however, is the double-digit percentage chance of the Seahawks not making the cut, a number that flew north after last week’s loss to Jacksonville. Seattle’s playoff campaign was also not helped by unexpected victories by both Atlanta and Carolina, formidable teams that would earn a wild-card spot if the season ended today. Of course, the Hawks probably don’t need to worry about those teams at all if they beat Los Angeles this weekend, as a home victory against the 9-3 Rams would likely give us the NFC West division crown. I say likely because I am not confident the final two games of the season–against Dallas and Arizona–are guaranteed wins. In fact, the Cowboys will almost certainly be favored when we play them in Dallas. Especially with Ezekiel Elliot on the field.

Simply put, this Sunday’s game is a must-win for Seattle. An 8-6 record is not a good place to be in mid-December for teams with serious playoff aspirations. It’s also not a place that Seattle is particularly familiar with. In the last five seasons, the Hawks have consistently clinched playoff berths early, sometimes long before Christmas. Oh well. This year’s different. But hopefully not too different.

We can still win our division for the fourth time in five years. To realize that perennial goal of ours, our defense must step up. And the running game must improve. And Jimmy Graham needs to show up. Sure, this is a lot to fix in such a short period of time. But I do believe in miracles. This belief was introduced to me when I became a Seahawks fan. Since then, my faith in my favorite team has only grown stronger.

 

A Spark in Seattle

Sunday’s resounding victory ignited a spark in Seattle when we needed it most. Despite how the NFL analytics confidently pointed to an Eagles victory, the Seahawks defied the noise, standing triumphant at perhaps the most critical time. Now, the Hawks are 8-4, ahead of other wild-card contenders and poised to make a powerful playoff push. And recent history suggests a favorable record for the Seahawks in December. There are only four games left–the Jaguars, Rams, Cowboys, and the Cardinals. Can we run the table? I say maybe, and some may even say probably. But there is one thing that supersedes a donut in the loss column. The NFL pundits are correct: the Seahawks must establish a reliable running game before it’s too late.

As it stands right now, Russell Wilson is the Seahawk’s leading rusher. Wilson is also accounting for over 82% of our offense’s total yardage. This stunning statistic speaks to the appreciating value of our quarterback. However, by examining the last 50 years in NFL history, we won’t find a super bowl team with so much depending on one player. That is why we must use the last quarter of the regular season to develop a more multifaceted attack. After constantly shuffling through a list of erratic running backs–Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, and J.D. McKissic–Coach Carroll may have finally struck silver. Against a formidable Eagle rush defense, Mike Davis rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries. And, Davis caught four passes for 37 yards, showcasing his dual-threat ability. Let’s see how he performs this Sunday against the Jaguars number-one ranked defense. After beating the Eagles, the Seahawks point in a promising direction.

 

State of the Seahawks

            Look, the sports media can underestimate the Seahawks all they want to. Given Seattle’s past several performances, including that sluggish offensive performance in the first half against the 49ers, as well as our liabilities in the defensive secondary, we should not be viewed as legitimate super bowl contenders. Not yet. Of course, the media’s assessment may spin 180 degrees if we can pull off a home upset against the invincible Eagles. It won’t be easy. But if anyone in our conference can show Philadelphia who the real NFC powerhouse is, it’s Seattle. Over the past five years, we have demonstrated consistent excellence like no other team outside of Foxborough. The Hawks have already lost two home games at CenturyLink, despite apparently having the strongest home field advantage in the league. One of those losses was just embarrassing. Since their morale-boosting win against us, the Washington Redskins have lost three straight, against the Vikings, Saints, and Cowboys. The Seahawks must redeem themselves by grabbing a monumental win this Sunday. They aren’t as bad as some people think they are. We will make the playoffs. In fact, in my estimation, we will probably win the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams are one of the most overrated teams in the entire league. Okay, I still view them as a solid team with encouraging playoff aspirations. But NFL experts prematurely assume that they are a lock to win our division. No. Week 15, the Hawks face the Rams—in Seattle. Remember that we already beat them in their house, though it was a close game that we could have easily lost in the waning seconds. If we win in Week 15, in a pivotal division matchup, we win the division. Yes, even if we lose against Philadelphia this week. But I am optimistic about both games. The Seahawks have a record of lighting up towards the end of the regular season. To the rest of the NFL, I wish you luck for the crucial month of December. I wish every team a merry Christmas. But be warned. Seattle will show up in December, and dare I say it—January.

Seahawks Fall To Falcons

Don’t blame Blair Walsh on this one Seattle fans. Yes, if not for a couple Walsh misses, the Hawks would be 8-2. But for every Seahawks player or coach not named Russell Wilson, do better.

At first glance, it appeared certain that the 52-yard field goal was going in. Replay showed the kick missing by inches. But the Seahawks should not have relied on Blair Walsh’s juice to save the day—it was Pete Carroll who made the uncharacteristic risks that ultimately cost us the game.

Coach Carroll, who usually uses his challenges wisely, was ill-advised to believe that Doug Baldwin had completed the catch with less than ten minutes left in the fourth quarter. By throwing the challenge flag for an indisputable incompletion, the Seahawks lost a pivotal timeout that could have spared another 20-30 seconds on the final drive. With extra time, Russell Wilson could have comfortably rallied his offensive troops closer to the goal line, potentially giving Blair Walsh a shoe-in three pointer. Alas, a 52-yard kick was all we got—just one yard closer, and there would be overtime, with all the momentum on Seattle’s side.

One more thing. What in the world was that fake field goal? Aside from the embarrassing execution, I cannot conceive a logical argument for why Carroll pulled the trigger with less than ten seconds left in the half. Was the special team’s unit committed to scoring a 25-yard touchdown on that play? If not, why not just take the field goal going into halftime? I strongly admire Pete Carroll, the heart of the Seahawks organization. But there were several coaching decisions last game that left me shaking my head.

We must remain patient. At 6-4, there is still a lot of time left in the regular season to make a seismic statement. Let’s not forgot the one advantage of losing a game—it compels the team to properly reflect on why the game was not won.

Monday Night Showdown

At 6-3, Seattle seem well-positioned to make the playoffs. But if the Hawks want a realistic shot of advancing to the Super Bowl, they need to win the NFC West. With the Los Angeles Rams sitting at 7-2 in the current standings, winning out must be the mentality.

In our final seven regular season games, the Seahawks will face the Falcons, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Rams, Cowboys, and Cardinals. This final stretch, which includes several NFC powerhouses, will determine whether the Hawks are truly Super Bowl contenders.

On Monday night, the Hawks must beat Atlanta at home. Although the Falcons are only 5-4, a major surprise after their incredible performance in last year’s playoffs, they have the same quarterback and the same wide receivers who dismantled our defense in the NFC divisional round just ten months ago. We will desperately miss Richard Sherman this Monday, but Matt Ryan certainly won’t. Hopefully newly-acquired cornerback Byron Maxwell can give Seahawks fans a nostalgic reminder of how dominant he was opposite of Sherman in our 2013-2014 Super Bowl run. Maxwell could not find individual success on any other team, shown by his brief runs on the Eagles and the Dolphins. But it seems increasingly likely that Seattle’s defense will rely on Maxwell for the rest of the season, including January.

Staying in the west, NFL pundits are starting to jump on the Rams bandwagon—which seems premature given the easiness of their schedule thus far. To Sean McVay’s credit, LA looks much improved from last season’s pitiful 4-12 squad. But it should be noted that the real test for LA has yet to come; in the next five games, they will duel the Vikings, Saints, Eagles and Seahawks. In my estimation, they will not exceed 10 wins this season. The Seahawks will win the NFC West; count on it.SeahawksVFalcons

Sherman Out For Season

Sherman Injury

Like most NFL experts had predicted, the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Arizona Cardinals without any significant last-second drama. However, the 22-16 victory against an unfriendly division rival seemed to generate more regret than revel. This result arises from accomplished and outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman’s season-ending achilles injury. After the game, Coach Pete Carroll expressed wholehearted disappointment on the massive blow without mincing words. Carroll said, “I don’t even know how to address this right now…We’ll miss the heck out of him. He’ll be with us every step of the way when he can, but we’ll miss the heck out of him.” Needless to elaborate, the Seahawks path to this year’s Super Bowl just became a lot harder.

On top of Sherman’s news, several other Seattle players suffered minor to severe injuries last night. Recently-acquired left tackle Duane Brown limped to the locker room in the first half and never returned. Just when our front office finally negotiates an encouraging addition to Seattle’s awkward offensive line! In addition, emerging defensive end Frank Clark suffered a thigh injury. We can expect Clark to return to our main lineup soon, along with Brown and defensive tackle Jarran Reed. For now, let’s see if Seattle can overcome the absence of key players against the next challenges: Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Sorry if this week’s edition painted a somewhat dim portrait of the state of the Hawks. The truth of the matter is, in spite of all of our costly injuries, Seattle’s success will depend on Russell Wilson far more than any other Seahawk.  As long as Russell Wilson continues to save the day with his unparalleled football IQ and his late-game heroics, the Hawks will surely outlast the Rams to win the NFC West. I have never felt more confidence in the ability of our quarterback.

One Goal: The Superbowl

My saddest moment watching the Seahawks came on February 1st, 2015; the day our beloved hometown team lost in heart-rending fashion to the New England Patriots. The day our determined quest to attain that elusive back-to-back Superbowl ended with despondent tears and blazing expletives. The one day where Quarterback Russell Wilson and Running back Marshawn Lynch failed to deliver in the waning seconds. If you are a Seahawks fan, I share what is likely your most agonizing memory in sports.

Seattle lost that Superbowl on the one-yard line. As we wait for the Hawks to reclaim the NFL mantle, I will write as The Last Yard, hoping one some day, that excruciating trauma will be washed away by a second Superbowl victory.

Before I give my thoughts on our current season, I’d like to visit some of Seattle’s highlights from last season. There were some wonderful Seahawks games.

The Seahawks shined against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 of the 2016-17 season. From a Carolina fan’s perspective,ThadCastle writes, “it was tough to watch this game.” Indeed, the 40-7 route over a Cam Newton-led team provided a valuable morale boost. ThadCastle identifies a surging star on the Hawk’s roster, Running Back Thomas Rawls, who carried our ground game with “106 yards and 2 TD’s.” Since then, we have not seen the young back perform with such dominance, in spite of his revealed capabilities. I urge Coach Pete Carroll and Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell to groom Rawls into a consistent and formidable threat for opposing defenses.

ThadCastle also surveyed the exhilarating events from last season’s Wild Card Weekend. He says, “Seahawks beat the Lions handily thanks to a stellar defensive performance.” In fact, Seattle’s defense held Detroit’s high-powered offense to only six points! If we can replicate that classic Seahawks annihilation more often, we are well on our way to Minneapolis: the site of Superbowl 52

In truth, whatever happens this season, I will cheerfully enjoy watching my favorite team fight until the end. However, anything short of a Superbowl victory will surely keep me on my toes for another year.