Sunday, January 18, 2015

5 minutes and 32 seconds - Your NFC Championship Gong Report

4 pics? Whatevs.

In case you haven't noticed, which I'm guessing you most certainly have not, I haven't had a chance to update this blog for a long time.  A really long time.  A "since we were basking in our XLVIII post-coital glow" long time.  Seriously, tons of shit has gone down since I wrote anything, including this year's entire regular season, Percy Harvin, the rather inglorious yet overwhelmingly spectacular demise of Jim Harbitch and the San Francisco 9erstank, and the return to Super Bowl form of our beloved LOB.

With so many inspiring topics, why the lack of words, you ask?  Two reasons.  One - a promotion at work.  You know, the job that actually pays me real money, as opposed to this blog. With it came more money, which is pretty cool, but also less time. My night time activities turned from the occasional blog post to work.  Blech... Two - a certain little female 7 pound 2 ounce bundle of vomit-and-excrement-producing joy that now rules every waking moment I have arrived.  The nightly 3 am wake-up calls have seriously hampered any energy I would've used to write updates here.  But then the NFC Championship happened, and well, sometimes you just have to suck it up (and get the baby down early) to try to wrap your head around what the Seahawks pulled off.  So if you're new here, what follows is tonight's Gong Report (here's my first gong report from the 2013 season if you wanna check out the format) - in short, the more gongs, the better.  And a gonging we go...

1 Gong - Almost 58 minutes of the worst Sehawks football they have played in the Pete Carroll era. More to the point - by far the worst first half they have played in years.  Turnovers, relatively porous defense, poor special teams (why bring it out from 7 yards deep, Doug Baldwin?! WHY?!!!)... Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong. The bounces went Green Bay's way - the deflections off of our receivers that last year would have fallen innocently to the ground were gobbled up by opportunistic Packer defenders. By the time we finally got a first down (with 6:45 left in the first half - THE FIRST HALF FOR CRIMINY'S SAKE) I expected a Sarlac pit to open up and swallow Beast Mode whole after his 14-yard rush.  Pile on top of this Russell Wilson's worst performance, in any game, by faaaaarrrrr... it was had to stay positive.  I kept saying that this Seahawks team, like they had all year, would win the game during the 4th quarter when it mattered.  Admittedly, it got pretty damn hard to hold onto that optimism.

2 Gongs - Whatever remains of Richard Sherman's elbow. Going into this season as we all pined for a Hawks repeat, we heard a myriad of reasons for why they wouldn't repeat, the foremost of which was health,  And for a moment there, the naysayers seemed to be correct. The impact of early season injuries to Kam and Bobby was obvious - the defense was a shell of itself. It was no coincidence that Wagner's return coincided with the start of the Hawks' current 8-game winning streak. Which brings me to Richard's poor elbow - after etting it hyperextended by a Kam Chancellor collision---shudder---he cradled that left arm as preciously as if it were my 9-month old daughter.  Which, if he were cradling my 9-month old, would be pretty spectacular. However, it's not spectacular.  It's an injury,  An injury we can ill afford at this point of the season. Luckily, he has two weeks for doctors to figure out what's wrong and to help him heal and get in fighting form BECAUSE WE ALL HAVE TWO WEEKS BEACUSE THE SEAHAWKS ARE GOING TO SUPER BOWL XLIX HOLY CRAP IT'S HAPPENING.

3 Gongs - The Redemption of Jermaine Kearse.  Six targets.  4 interceptions, 1 incompletion. But oh that 6th target,... Russell had easily the worst game of his career, but two of his 4 pics were a direct result of Kearse not hauling in catchable passes.  Those deflections I mentioned earlier? All Kearse.  But then, after the most improbably and impossible of comebacks put the Hawks in position to win the game in OT, Russell showed faith in his maligned reciever and went right to him, for a jaw-dropping 35-yard TD that even the Clink faithful didn't see coming.

4 Gongs - The Greatest Comeback in NFC Championship history. That's not hyperbole.  There's no need to add any forced narrative that NFL commentators feel the need to ram down our throats.  It was, simply, the Greatest Comeback ever at this level.

I'm a Chicago Blackhawks fan, and during the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals they were down 2-1 with 1:16 left in game 6.  I was sure, as was everyone else watching the game, that there would be a game 7.  Then, the Blackhawks went out and scored twice in 17 seconds to win the Cup.  I was stunned.  I could do nothing other than watch speechlessly while the team celebrated their championship. My mind literally could not process what had just happened.  I didn't cheer, I didn't scream; I barely moved. Once it sunk in days later, I thought there was no way any sporting event could shock me more.  I was sure I had seen the best and most exciting possible game I would ever see, that there was no possible way professional sports could be better.  And then The Comeback happened.

When Jon Ryan perfectly executed the fake field goal attempt and threw that TD pass, I ran screaming outside and jumped at my brother-in-law. When Russell and Marshawn ran in their TD's, I hopped and shouted and high fived and slammed the wall. But when Wilson hit Kearse with that 35-yard bomb to clinch our second consecutive Super Bowl berth, I sat motionless for at least 10 minutes, completely silent. For the second time in my life, I was simply unable to comprehend what happened.  A small summary...

-Russell scrambles in to make it 19-14 with 2:13 left in the game.  A little over two minutes.
-Brandon Bostick, in a play that will surely haunt his dreams all offseason, muffs the Hawks' onside kick attempt, which Chris Matthews recovers. At this point, I think some of us just knew.
-Ensuing possession, Lynch runs a shockingly easy 24-yard TD. Hawks lead 20-19.
-2 point attempt - Wilson to Willson on an almost impossible loft to the opposite side of the field. Watch that conversion, Again and again and again.  And know joy. Hawks 22-19.
-Packers rally to tie the game, and then the rest is history. Beautiful, NFC-clinching history.

Keep in mind that all of this took 5:32 of game time. 5 minutes and 32 seconds!!! I'll watch this game over and over in the coming years, as will we all, and I don't think I'll ever truly understand that it actually happened. At least not that way. We were dead in the water.  When Wilson threw his fourth pic with about 5 minutes left, I began to accept the loss. The Packers outplayed us in every aspect of the game, and deserved to win, but then that last 5:32 happened. This will surely go down as the greatest non-Super Bowl win in  Seahawk history, which is shocking since I said the same thing one year ago about The Tip.  So hell, next year could very well produce a more exciting game, a more shocking finish, but right now my brain simply can't process how anything could beat this. Soak it in 12s, and realize the history we witnessed today.  Then, remember that we're on our way to Arizona for XLIX.  Holy shit.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Speechless - Five Words for XLVIII

7th round draft pick for Super Bowl MVP? Of course.

I had it all planned.  About halfway through our two-week XLVIII Wait Of Death, I started contemplating a Seahawks victory, and a blog post theme popped into my head.  In years past, my superstitious side would have slapped myself in the face for prematurely expecting success - PCJS and this team, however, let my superstitions die a slow yet certain death this season.  As victory daydreams danced around my 12-tinged brain, the theme that prevailed revolved around Super Bowl XXXVI between the Rams and Patriots, the first Patriots title on their way to a dynasty. It was practically a carbon copy of what I expected from XLVIII.  What the hell, I'd compared the construction of this Seahawks team to dynasties before, so why not again?  (Shoutout to twitter follower @Jenny_Boom21 for tweeting about the XXXVI comparison too - I swear I thought of it before your tweet and didn't steal the idea from you!)  If the Seahawks won, the similarities would be there... A 2nd year starting quarterback still wet behind the ears... A perfectly planned defensive game plan by a defensive-minded head coach... Putting the brakes on an all-time great offensive squad... Sounds familiar, right?  

A funny thing happened though - Super Bowl XLVIII was actually played.  Much like how they treated the Broncos offense, the Seahawks put a dramatic stop to my theme idea.  In XXXVI at the half, the Patriots had a stunning 14-3 lead; after that though, the Rams made a game of it and tied it at 17 with 1:30 remaining.  The Pats then went surprisingly aggressive, and ended up winning on a last second Adam Vinatieri field goal. Sure, some the similarities held true through the first half of XLVIII - but the way the Seahawks bullied and harassed Denver like the 7th grade math geeks they were ended my theme idea.  They not only piled it on, but also put on the single greatest defensive performance in Super Bowl history (more on that later).  

Since the game ended I have run out of superlatives for the Seahawks' performance.  I thought I had a good vocabulary, but the Seahawks have stolen every last word I could have used.  To keep saying "overwhelming"... "stunning"... "awesome"... "dreamily magicalicious"... just seems redundant.  It was such a thorough and complete dismantling of the AFC champions, I have to abandon my "Gong Report" format. If you've read the blog, you know I typically look for one- or two-gong moments - moments of ineptitude or areas of weakness.  I have always striven to be (relatively) objective towards this team, and know they are not infallible.  However, when watching that game, how could anything not be 4-gong worthy? What am I going to complain about?  That the Seahawks took three drives to score a TD? That Kam Chancellor wasn't awarded the MVP (my personal pick)? That clinic they put on left me speechless, and without words... almost.  In the end, five words encapsulate this game and its effect on me.

Immediate - The Seahawks scored immediately on the safety (12 seconds!)... Every time a Bronco receiver caught a ball they were hit immediately... It seemed like any time the Broncos had a positive play it was followed by a turnover immediately.  This was no more evident than on Manning's first completion of the game.  He hit Demaryius Thomas for what looked like at least a 6-7 yard gain, and against most teams it probably would have gone for 15-20 yards.  But as I believed in my pre-XLVIII post, the Broncos simply were not ready for the speed and physicality of the Legion of Boom.  Kam Chancellor did what Kam Chancellor does, and laid a vicious (yet legal) hit on Thomas, driving him back five yards for a paltry gain of two.  Keep in mind, he didn't grasp Thomas and carry him back; the hit itself was powerful enough to throw Thomas back those five yards.  Yards after the catch my ass. This happened all day - Welker, Decker, Thomas ("weapons!")... they all had so little room after catching the ball, where all season the AFC defenses let them do what they wanted. The Broncos got punched in the face, and had absolutely no answer for it.

 Dominating - It is incredibly validating and gratifying that this defense is getting serious consideration in the press for "best of all time" arguments.  The '85 Bears and the '00 Ravens are the two best defenses I've seen since I started watching football as a wee Chinaman, and if I had to choose between the two, I'd pick the Bears.  But when you think about the great defensive performances in Super Bowl history - let's add the '90 Giants, '00 Buccaneers, '01 Pats, '07 Giants to the mix for good measure - only one of them faced what was, at the time, the highest scoring offense in NFL history. That would be the '07 Giants, who still gave up more points than these Seahawks in their game, and that, let's face it, wouldn't compare with us man-to-man. The only defense to beat an all time #1 scoring offense (again, at the time) was the '83 Raiders.  '83 Raiders versus '13 Seahawks? Exactly.

I'm not going to say the Seahawks were a better defense than the '85 Bears or the '00 Ravens... yet... but when comparing a 60-minute Super Bowl performance?  There is no comparison.  Neither of those teams faced offenses that come close to what the Broncos did this season, not to mention the Seahawks domination was in an era of rules that are designed to give offenses and quarterbacks every edge possible. Of the top 14 passing yardage seasons of all time, two - TWO - were thrown before 2007. And the best of all time was just thrown by Manning, who the Seahawks absolutely manhandled. The Broncos went the entire season without failing to score on consecutive drives.  In XLVIII their first seven drives yielded 0 points and produced a safety, two interceptions, and a fumble.  It's simply staggering. Peyton's single greatest QB season of all time versus Tony Eason in '85 and Kerry Collins in '00?  

When that Kamtrak hit on Thomas happened, I threw a fist in the air and let out a defiant scream. Why defiant?  Because the 12s were the only ones that saw this defensive performance coming.  We may not have expected it to be so complete, but we all knew what they were capable of because we had, you know, seen more than a single Hawks game this season.  The rest of the NFL fans and national media were in shock.  The 12s, not so much. There were plenty of other plays I could point to to bolster my point - Smith's pick-6 and fumble recovery just to name a couple - but one play in the 2nd quarter stood out to me. Manning throws to Jacob Tamme in the flat, and Tamme gets caught from behind for a two-yard loss by... Brandon Mebane.  All 310 pounds of him caught Tamme from behind.  Not Wright, or Wagner, or Thomas.... Mebane.  When yout tight end is gettting caught from behind by a 300 pound lineman, the day is probably not yours.*

*This all not to mention an offense that, while not "dominant", produced two absolutely spectacular TD catches by Kearse and Baldwin.  Let's not forget that in the midst of all the glory the defense is rightfully getting.  

Controversy - Or, more accurately, the lack thereof. The haters are out there, and they are loud.  If there were any single reason to take away Seahawk credit from this victory, they would in a second.  If the Seahawks had won by one score and there were a couple iffy calls?  CONTROVERSY!  If the weather had been snowy and brutal like it was mere hours after the game?  UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD!  If a single Bronco had been injured and couldn't return?  THE SEACHICKENS WOULDN'T HAVE WON
IF 'insert Bronco player here' HAD BEEN IN THE WHOLE GAME!

The Friday before the game at work, a coworker of mine, who happens to be a Peyton fan* and was sporting her orange jersey, decided to talk some trash.  I overheard her conversation with some colleagues, and heard her mention that if it were snowing, that would unreasonably favor the Seahawks, and the Super Bowl wouldn't be a neutral game. She was already making excuses and taking away our victory BEFORE THE GAME HAD BEEN FUCKING PLAYED.  Here's an idea... if your team can't win in inclement weather, oh I don't know, build one that will like the Seahawks have.  Build it around a group of tough physical players rather than one gimpy-necked QB.

Fact is, it couldn't have been better for the Hawks - the weather was perfect, both teams were the healthiest they'd been during the entire season, and the playing field was as even as it could possibly have been.  And we still won 43-8.  This team left absolutely not doubt about who the best squad was.

*This is a unique phenomenon I'd never seen on the East Coast. Plenty of fans in SoCal either root for different teams each year or are fans of players. She has a Manning Colts jersey as well. It's completely foreign to me to not be a fan of a TEAM. Maybe it's me but i just don't get that.

Cathartic - This win was cathartic not just for me, but for Seattle.  For me, it validated 30 years of loyalty and (for most of it) mediocrity.  I think I've written about this before, but before the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, my teams had gone through a total of just over 100 sports seasons without any titles.  I just saw two of my teams win titles in one calendar year. (If you ever hear me complain about anything sports-related from here on out smack me in the face, immediately).  It erased memories of the Oilers loss, Bo Jackson  on MNF, Testaverde's "TD", the Dead Behring Era, XL... the list goes on. And XLVIII makes all of that drudgerous shit worth it.  

From the Seattle side, it erases memories of Dikembe clutching the ball on the ground, the Mariners winning 116 games and NOT EVEN MAKING IT TO THE WORLD SERIES*... the unholy criminal stealing of the Sonics... 35 years without a title (sorry, Storm)... Seattle can now look to the 2013 Seahawks and say "champions", and it makes all that suffering a-okay.  In fact, all of this, for both myself and Seattle, makes this title that much better. 

*Tip of the hat to blog reader @j_stewart97 for reminding me about Dikembe and the 2001 M's. Your memory of Seattle's low points deserves mentioning.

Crying - I cried at the end of the game and many of you reading this are probably like "yeah, what's the big deal, we all did."  For me though, crying isn't exactly a daily occurrence.  On a personal note, I don't show emotion well.  My Dad, who was born and raised in China and moved here in the early '60s, made expressing emotion pretty much forbidden.  If you've ever met a man raised in China, you probably noticed his facial expressions ranged from "stoic" to "slightly less stoic".  So crying has never been my thing.  I can probably count the number of times I've cried in my life on both hands.  The death of my grandmothers, the birth of my daughter and a few movies are the only times I remember shedding post-adolescence tears (both of my grandfathers passed before I was born).  As a kid when I went to see Dances With Wolves I bawled like a little girl. I lost it at the end when Kevin Costner and his wife were leaving the tribe and his Indian friend is on top of the cliff yelling "KEVIN COSTNER YOU ARE MY FRIEND AND YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY FRIEND!  YOUR HAIR IS GLORIOUS AND IF YOU STAY WE CAN DRINK BEER AND WATCH SEAHAWKS GAMES!"  I'm paraphrasing, but I'm pretty sure that's an exact translation.  

So crying doesn't happen often, but when the confetti fell, and Paul Allen raised that trophy, the tears fell as well.  Waiting 30 years for something will do that to you I guess, so it's understandable.  But aside from my marriage and the birth of my daughter, I've never felt a moment of such pure, unadulterated emotion and elation.  Like all of you, seeing Carroll, Schneider, and all 53 men on that roster celebrate after the game is something that I will never forget, and those tears, like this team, would not be denied.


Let's see, there's 1, 2....10.... LOTS.
(photo credit: @meganbloomer1)

This win will reverberate for years, even if we don't win another one, and over the coming months I'm sure we will see and read about things that happened during the game or parade that will again bring the emotion. You've probably seen all of the "12s" in the game by now.  First score 12 seconds in... Harvin's kick return that took 12 seconds... Lynch had 39 yards (3 + 9 = 12)... and so on.  Hell, even the date of the parade gave us a 12 (Feb 5, 2014... 2-5-14... 2 + 5 + 1 + 4 = 12... and a hearty thanks to blog reader @nickelduque for tweeting that little bit of genius).  Everybody, meet fate.  Fate, everybody.  

But I have to look to that past, as I often do, out of love for the history of not only this team but also this league to put this win in context.  Whenever I think of my fanhood, I go to the one season that single-handedly made me the fan I am - 1992.  You would think a season like '83 or '84 would do it, but there's always been a special place in my heart for the 1992 team.  Yes, I'm speaking of the 2-14, historically offensive-inept Seattle Seahawks.  I was in my senior year in high school, and, especially since I lived in Pennsylvania, that year I took so much shit for that team. It ranged from simple "they suck" taunts to being asked why I didn't just switch teams.  I slowly but surely grew angrily defiant, the same defiance that would emerge vocally during Kamtrak's hit.  What's that, they suck?  FUCK YOU, they're my team.  Oh, they scored 6 points in three games?  FUCK YOU, they're my team.  Oh, I should become a Steelers fan?  FUCK YOU, the Seattle Seahawks are my team!  That season taught me I'd never abandon this team, and a little over 20 years after that season I was handsomely rewarded.  

Cortez Kennedy and a Hawks MNF win that season are what gave this blog its name.  Stan Gelbaugh came in and led the Hawks to an OT victory, and Tez is my favorite pre-PCJS era Hawk of all time. That's where TezBaugh comes from, and I wear that season, and my fanhood with a badge of pride.  I'm sure we all have, consciously or subconsciously, dedicated this XLVIII victory to some past Seahawks player or coach.  For me, it'll always go back to 1992, the year that made me realize just how much this team meant to me. So to that 1992 team I say what I've been waiting 30 years to say: The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl Champions, and no one will ever take that away from us.

Oh, and that 1992 MNF win?  It was over the Denver Broncos.  Fate indeed.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

12s, XLVIII, and Mechanical Resonance

This will make sense. I promise.

As we 12s search for mass quantities of plutonium and try to unravel the mysteries of generating 1.21 jigowatts in order to make February 2, 2014, 3:00 P.M. happen NOW, I can’t help but think back to The Game That Shall Not Be Named.  It’s impossible not to compare the feeling of those two excruciating weeks of waiting in 2005 to now – and I’m realizing that I feel a whole hell of a lot better about this big game than that last one. 

One of the most embarrassing aspects of Seattle’s first trip to the holiest of holy games in 2005 was undoubtedly the number of 12s at Ford Field that afternoon.  The stadium was awash in urine-shaded towels, making that contest a de facto Pissburgh home game.  Of course, this had a lot to do with Detroit’s proximity to Pissburgh; however, I can’t help but feel that our fanbase was quite a bit smaller then.  This 2013 Hawk team’s attitude, brashness, and swagger have attracted the fringe fans (and yes, the bandwagons too) in a way that the 2005 team never could.  Who was the biggest talker on the Seahawks roster those two weeks in ’05?  Jerramy Stevens.  This year?  Yeah, you get my point.  I’m thinking a certain Stanford graduate has Stevens beat in the charisma category in spades. 

There is no doubt in my mind the 12s will be better-represented at MetLife Stadium on February 2nd, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we outnumber the donkey fans.  The emergence of the 12s on the national landscape has been gradual, but it has definitely been noticeable.  All of the major sports networks have given this fan base much more attention, and we’re popping up in more and more commercials.  We’re becoming a thing, a cool thing.  Terrible Towels, cheeseheads, America’s Team (uproarious laughter), the 12th Man.  Like it or not, we’ve become a brand, a brand that has been well marketed as of late.

I’m seeing this from my own little perspective too.  Went grocery shopping today.  Saw a 12.  Was at the mall the other day.  Saw a 12.  At Disneyland?  I typically see at least 15-20 Twelves every time I go now (a few years ago I would see maybe 5).  Twitter’s made a huge difference for me as well.  Back during Super Bowl XLOL, it didn’t exist yet (though it was launched only 5 months after that game).  However it’s become invaluable in helping me connect with 12s, something that was extremely difficult living in California.  I have quite a chunk of followers, and they live in Cali, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alabama (among others I’m sure), and even Canada, Britain and Australia.  Before twitter I knew there had to be other 12s out there somewhere.  Now, I KNOW they’re there.  They really, truly exist.  They’re actual people.  And that makes this wonderful fanbase seem, from my perspective, so much larger than it did in 2005.  I also see it in the stats from my blog .  They can see where my readers are from - most are the US and Canada of course.  However, there’s quite a few page hits emanating from Germany, Russia, Poland, the UK, South Korea, France, Vietnam and Egypt.  Now, these hits may be because these foreigners are bird-ophiles looking for Hawk porn, I don’t know.  But it more or less proves that 12s are all over the world. 

What does all of this make me think of? A late-80’s hair metal band that hit semi-big with a cheesy love song and that fell off the map by the late ‘90s, of course.  You may remember the band Tesla.  Their hit Love Song gave them a wee bit of clout as one of the decade’s numerous hair bands.  If you’re not familiar with them, refresh your memory.  

They’ve always been one of my favorite bands, and in the hair metal pantheon, they seem like a good halfway point between bands with dudes thatlooked like chicks and the gritty from-the-streets attitude that Guns N Roses brought to the table. Not to mention that in my opinion their debut album, Mechanical Resonance, is criminally underrated.  The basic idea of that album’s title (really basic; if you teach physics take it easy on me) is that when two objects vibrate at the same frequency the vibrations are amplified.  It’s like when a singer hits a certain note and a glass shatters.  Everything vibrates naturally at a certain frequency, so when another object hits the same frequency… boom, stuff explodes.  The more objects vibrating, the more power.  Tesla (the band, not the renowned inventor they named themselves after) had a theory that if every stereo in the world were playing their album at the same time at maximum volume, the mechanical resonance created would literally make the world explode Alderaan-style.

Star Wars Alderaan Destruction

Which brings me, finally, at long last, to my point.  The 12 family has been waiting for this moment for decades.  “Joy” doesn’t begin to describe what we will feel should (when) this team complete this most exquisitely dreamy of seasons with a XLVIII victory.  When we won the NFC Championship, I simply couldn’t contain myself, which, if you’re a twitter follower of mine and saw the vines I shared, you know.  Hopping, screaming, laughing, running in the street… it all happened.  Which, frankly, scares me for what may happen should (when) we win on February 2nd.  And I have to imagine the same holds true for many of you.  The moment that whistle blows and the Seahawks earn their first world championship, the collective hopping/screaming/laughing/crying of all the 12s from literally all over world will create the mechanical resonance that Tesla named their album after, and it will be so powerful that…. Well, let’s just say that it’ll register higher than the Beast Quake. 

So on February 2nd… after the Broncos take an early lead… and then Marshawn Lynch slowly but surely imposes his will… and Russell Wilson makes a clutch play with a long pass to Doug Baldwin… and the best defense the Seahawks have ever assembled holds the vaunted Bronco offense in check… and the Seahawks win 27-20… yes, the 12s from around the globe will MAKE THE WORLD EXPLODE!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Believe


Pete Carroll and John Schneider have taught me to believe, and never more so than on Draft Day, 2012. Or, more precisely, when Russell Wilson scrambled and threw an arcing pass of beauty to Sidney Rice against the Patriots for a winning touchdown with barely over a minute left.  That, I'm pretty sure, was when we ALL believed.  That was when I learned to how to stop worrying about PCJS and to start loving their moves (kudos to those who notice that film reference). When Master Wilson was chosen as the starter, I'll be honest -  I was angry.  Flynn was our million-dollar man, and I was sure he was the answer.  I still remember the moment we signed him - I was in a Payless shoe store when I saw the tweets confirming the deal.  I immediately texted my bro-in-law/converted 12, and we felt joy.  But then they signed this small Wisconsin kid.  AND THEY NAMED HIM THE FUCKING STARTER?! WE'RE GOING TO WASTE A YEAR OF ONE OF THE GREAT DEFENSES THIS FRANCHISE HAS KNOWN?!! THIS DEFENSE IS BLOSSOMING BEFORE OUR VERY EYES AND WE'RE GONNA SPEND ALL YEAR WITH A MEDIOCRE OFFENSE WAITING FOR THIS ROOKIE TO DEVELOP?  ANGER RAGE VIOLENCE BLOOD HATRED!

Sometimes I'm dumb.

Since then the draft record speaks for itself, and my hatred has morphed into overwhelming happiness. I feel I owe it to them to make this XLVIII-preview post about believing.  So here are 12 - yes 12 dammit! -beliefs I have heading into Super Bowl XLVIII.

I Believe...
...Super Bowl experience won't mean shit. it's a popular narrative every year, as if the team with more experience magically has what it takes and automatically wins.  Hell, I've even seen the question posed by sports network experts - "Does the Super Bowl experience give the Broncos an edge?"  The Broncos, who have 4... FOUR... players with Super Bowl experience.  True, we have none.  But 4. Out of 22 starters. That's... carry the one... divide by the circumference... 18% of the starters.  I'm sorry, lazy tv pundits that need to push old narratives - that will mean nothing.

I Believe...
...Peyton Manning will have less than 50 yards passing at the end of the first quarter. I have the utmost respect for Manning and this offense - it's not the highest scoring offense in history for nothing.  But there is simply nothing that can prepare you for the speed and physicality of the Hawks defense.  I think it'll take Peyton and all his weapons (am I the only one puking over how they always refer to his receivers as "weapons" and ours as "pedestrian") at least a quarter to adjust to the LOB, among others. The best scoring defense the Broncos have faced all year?  That would be the Chiefs, who had the 25th ranked pass defense.  So in other words, they were not, like the Seahawks, the 1st ranked passing defense.  Sure, we probably can't contain them all game playing man-on-man, but no team in the league is better equipped to do so than ours.  This is not to mention if we get some early pressure on 18. Peyton doesn't like being rushed, and he hates getting dirty.  One big hit/sack in the first?  He'll be doubting himself all game.
     All year the Broncos have hung on the big play - they were 2nd in the league in pass plays over 25 yards*, and Demaryius Thomas led the league is yards after the catch.  So let's take a look at a perfect example of this. (apologies for the shaky hand held video - best one I could find)

Deamryius Thomas is a legitimate deep threat, and for good reason.  But watch where he catches the ball - initially it's for 3 yards.  Then he uses his speed to bust out 77  YAC and the TD.  You really think no one on the Seahawks can catch this guy before he makes it 20 yards?  15?  10 even?  The Seahawks are one of the most sound tackling teams in the league.  How many beautiful open-field tackles have we seen this year by ETIII/Sherman/KJ Wright/Wagner?  And guess which defense led the league in YAC allowed this season with only 85 per game?  I'm thinking you guessed correctly. Against the Seahawks, this TD doesn't happen. And 50 yards in the first won't happen for Peyton either.

*A big shoutout to for a lot of these stats.

I Believe...
...Big Balls Pete will display his huge, uh, balls.  I'm sure PC has tons of sneaky shit up those Seahawk-blue sleeves of his, and I see one of two things happening, if not both: an onside kick, or some flea-flickery type of trick play.  And of course can't we all see Harvin being involved in that somehow? Pete's gonna fuck with John Fox, because he can.  And he's got big balls. I've got balls on the mind.

I Believe...
...Jeremy Lane will help the special teams make a huge impact.  Whether it's limiting punt return yards with a solid tackle or springing a huge Harvin/Tate return with a key block, Lane has been huge on ST all year.  We pin them back inside their 20... the defense holds... Broncos punt... Tate goes all explosive Tate-y with some help by Lane.  Special Teams will make a difference.

I Believe...
...Master Wilson will "break out" for over 250 yards and 2 TD's.  After being (relatively) suffocated by two of the top five defenses in the league in two playoff games, I think Russell will be surprised by how much room there is to work with when facing the Broncos' 27th ranked pass defense.  Factor in said Broncos defense's complete focus on stopping Beast Mode, and I think it all works in RW's favor. My worry is the Denver pass rush - if they break through and make RW rush himself too much that could spell trouble.  Then again, we've seen it a dozen times - Wilson leaves the pocket, scrambles like an oil-slicked gazelle, buys his receivers and extra 10 seconds, and then hits one of them for 50 yards. Speaking of his receivers...

I Believe...
...Tate and Baldwin will combine for more yards and TD's than Welker, Decker and D. Thomas combined.  Notice I didn't say receptions.  Tate and Baldwin don't touch the ball as often as the vaunted Bronco weapons, but when they do they make the most of it.  Fun fact - 57% of Tate's yards this season have been after the catch, compared to 50% of Demaryius Thomas'.  So while he's not necessarily as explosive, he may be harder to catch.  I could see Tate taking the "pedestrian" trash talk full tilt by scoring on a long TD and walking slowly in over the goal line.  And the hatred of the Seahawks will be massive and overwhelming.  And we'll all love it.

I Believe...
...One of my top five favorite plays of the game will be a Kamtrak hit on Julius Thomas... or Welker... or Decker... None of these guys have been hit this season as hard as Chancellor is capable of, because no one is capable of hitting like Chancellor.  And when it happens, it will be a rude awakening for that Bronco offense.  Pain will happen.

I Believe...
...Peyton Manning will throw two interceptions, and one will cost the Broncos the game in the 4th quarter.  Which is when we'll get to see the shaking-head frowny face Manning look while he walks back to the bench.  The pick won't be nearly as dramatic as Sherman's tip, but then again what could be? And that 4th quarter interception will be made by... wait for it... wait for it... Byron Maxwell. He'll be a hero, and it'll showcase just how deep the LOB is.  The Seahawks will go on a nice, long, Beast Mode-y drive after that to ice the game, and the blue, green and grey confetti will fall like the snow that will probably already be falling.

I Believe...
...Russell Wilson, in only his 2nd year, wins the Super Bowl MVP.  I think Lynch doesn't eclipse 100 yards, which leaves it open for RW.  And unfortunately you can't give an entire defense a Super Bowl MVP award.  Or can you?

I Believe...
...This inaugural Super Bowl Championship will make The Tip (or Immaculate Deflection, as some are calling it) that much more classic of a play, arguably one of the top 5 in NFL playoff history.  The Beast Quake, if it had led to a championship, would probably be there too, but there's something about these big plays happening on championship runs.  The Immaculate Reception*, The Catch, David Tyree's helmet catch - none would have the same importance if the teams had lost those games/championships.

*I get the desire to call it the Immaculate Deflection because it sounds cool and all, but it sounds cool because Immaculate Reception is already in our collective vernacular due to the success of the Steelers.  But The Tip was OUR play. I want to distance it as far from the Steelers as I can.  So The Tip is it, at least for me.

I Believe...
...The bus ride during their return home will be attended by 45,000 Twelves.  On Saturday's trip to the airport, this happened.  It was so absolutely powerful and emotional to watch this, when an estimated 30,000 fans waved, screamed, and flew their 12 flags JUST TO SAY GOODBYE TO THE TEAM. Not for winning.  Just to say goodbye.  I'll admit - I got a little choked up. The Twelves desire for a championship has never been so palpable, so overwhelming.  A win on Sunday? The buses won't be able to move.

I Believe...
...After the game we're going to see a ton of coverage of people losing their shit in Seattle, and it'll be the best part of the night.  One of my favorite Super Bowl moments of the last decade was after the Saints win - seeing all that footage of people going apeshit in bars and running out onto the streets was amazing. The Saints were such a woebegone franchise, and throw Katrina into the mix - the reaction of the Saints fans was understandable and moving.  I expect more of that should (when) we win.


Having read all of that, you'd probably think I'm expecting us to blow Denver out, and i'll be happy to revisit this post after game to point out my mistakes.  But it's quite the contrary... I've gone on record as saying we'll win a tight game 27-20, and I'm sticking to that.  That, however, is my head talking.  My gut?  It tells me this game will be easier to watch the the NFC Championship.  I just can't feel any other way, after all that has happened this season.  So dear 12th Men, Women and Children... thanks to PCJS, Master Wilson, Beast Mode, Sherman and the LOB, and all the rest, that's what I BELIEVE.

What about you?

Monday, January 20, 2014

NFC Championship Gong Report: SuperHawks over 9erstank

And I thought he couldn't get any dreamier.

In 2010, my beloved Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and gave me my first taste of title glory as a sports fan.  After I finished skipping through fields of chocolate-covered puppies surrounded by ice cream mountains, it occurred to me that there was one way the playoff run could have been better: if we had beaten my most hated team in all of sports, the Detroit Red Wings.  But then the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs happened.  The Blackhawks met the Red Wings in the 2nd round, and quickly found themselves in a 3-1 series disadvantage.  Plenty of NHL teams have come back from being down 3-1, but it's a hell of a mountain to climb.  The Blackhawks climbed that mountain, and with aplomb.  They forced a game 7, and then won it in overtime.  This was the most emotionally satisfying (as well as draining) playoff victory I had ever experienced.  That is, until the NFC Championship.

In the past few years, the 9erstank have usurped that "most hated team in all of sports" from Detroit's grimy hands, which makes the Seahawks 23-17 victory even better than I had ever imagined it could be.  42-13 will always have a place in our hearts, but this win was so much better.  Down 10-0 early... Never holding a lead until the 4th quarter... Ripping a team's heart out as they're knocking on the endzone's door... How could this have happened any other way? How could it have possibly been better than that?  A lot of things had to happen to make this what it was - quite simply, the greatest game I've ever seen the Seahawks involved in, and an instant classic.  Here come your NFC Championship gongs...

1 Gong - The "Seahawks offense is average " narrative that was stuffed down our throats all week by media experts and that will continue to be stuffed down our throats for the next two weeks.  Everyone was talking shit about our receiving corps (methinks Doug Baldwin's 6 catches for 106 yards would beg to differ) and said we didn't have enough weapons to keep up with the 9erstank, and these same people will say there's no way we can keep up with the Broncos.  I'd say it's Math happy fun time...

Divisional round -
Seahawks: 23 points against the league's 4th best scoring defense
Broncos: 24 points against the league's 11th best scoring defense

Championship round -
Seahawks: 23 points against the league's 3rd best scoring defense
Broncos: 26 points against the league's 10th best scoring defense

That's the same Bronco team with all those amazing weapons and their QB that the entire country will be rooting for.  The same Bronco offensive juggernaut that has not faced a top-5 defense all season. We just faced two of them in consecutive weeks, and last I checked our paltry little 46 points were more than the other teams scored.  To say people pushing this narrative are full of shit would be as big an understatement as saying that Michael Crabtree is a whiney douchebag.

2 Gongs - That first play from scrimmage.  Oh, that first play. For a second I thought that Wilson, as he's done innumerable times, juuuuuuust got away from the drunk driving gun nut, but then that ball squirted out and I could hear the collective "OH SHIT" from 12s all over the world.  The pass protection was an issue and it seemed like Wilson had less than a second before the pocket collapsed on every play (it brought back memories of that 3-4 game stretch earlier in the season when our OL was not much more than an ER sign-in sheet).  But I'm chalking it up to the strength of the 9erstank defense. Now might not be a good time to mention that the Broncos led the league with 52 sacks.

3 Gongs - Colin Kaepernick's 4th quarter stat line of hilarity: 6/10, 70 yards, 0 TD's, 2 INT's, 1 fumble.  Don't worry, Colin.  You can always tell your friends that you won the first three quarters of the game.  But putting your team on your back and leading them to victory when it matters most?  You may want to watch film of our QB's 4th quarter performance (incidentally, our QB is probably watching game film right now).

4 Gongs - 4th and 7. Ball on the San Fran 35.  Could try a long field goal (which they tried pretty hard to do, but Hauschka was a bit tardy running onto the field, AND THANK GOD FOR THAT).  Could punt and pin the 9ers deep in their zone. But Big Balls Pete isn't called Big Balls Pete for nothing. Why wouldn't you go for it so that Master Wilson could throw a beautiful TD strike to Jermaine Kearse? Because of course.

Bonus 4-Gonger - The Tip*.

Back in 1981 during the 9ers' first championship run, Dwight Clark made The Catch to beat the Cowboys in arguably one of the 5 most iconic plays in NFL history.  Only time will tell if Richard Sherman's tip to Malcolm Smith will attain that notoriety, but the parallels between the two plays are huge.  Joe Montana engineering a game-winning drive and winning with their offense was a staple of that 9er era.  They did have good defenses, but those defenses always took a back seat to what the offense was doing.  In the case of The Tip, what more symbolic way for this team to win than to do it with a defensive play?  If this defense can add a XLVIII victory over a #1 ranked offense to their resume, it has to be considered one of the greatest of all time, especially given the pass-happy era they're playing in.

*I think in time, this play will be right up there with the Beast Quake and Edgar's double in Seattle sports history (let the debate begin!).


Think back for a moment to this summer, to training camp, to how impossibly long those couple months were as we waited for the season to begin.  All those expectations and all that anticipation have led to this.  This is exactly where we knew the Seahawks could be during the final week of January, AND IT ACTUALLY FUCKING HAPPENED.  This team sits 60 minutes away from the greatest heights they have ever reached, and to call this magical would be a disservice to the word "magical".  I don't think it was a coincidence that this is the season I got to see my first ever game in Seattle.

Oh, and this season?  This is the season when no superlative went unused.  This is the season where both the team and its fans broke records. This is the season we crushed the dreams of our most hated rival in the playoffs.  And in two weeks, this will be the season that the Seahawks will be referred to a "Super Bowl Champions".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Divisional Playoff Gong Report - Seahawks over Saints

A couple weeks ago I had the wickedly should-be-illegal pleasure of leaving my warm and comfy SoCal confines and flying up to Seattle for the season-closing Rams game.  This was, after 30 years of rampant 12th-hood, my first ever game in Seattle.  It was an understandably amazing and emotional day for me at the game, and I had to hold back from greeting every Seahawk fan I saw.  It's instinctual for me down here since there aren't may 12s (though the numbers are growing, and quickly) to acknowledge every one I see.  It could be a "Go Hawks", or even a simple nod, but I have to do something.  When you're surrounded by 68,000 of them, however, it's hard to do that.  Also, when you're surrounded by 68,000 fellow 12s, it's a wonderful and magical thing.  A few things that stood out:

-The noise is real, and if anyone tries to tell you it's fake you go and smack that person in the face with a big old bag of dicks.  For every Ram play it got loud... louder... louder... and then it reached the kind of noise that makes it feel like someone inserted a tuning fork into your brain and struck it madly.

-Unsolicited crowd chants. It's a weird and pathetic thing that at the vast majority of sporting events I've attended in SoCal, fans don't make much noise unless they're told to.  They have to be prompted by signs on the jumbotron saying "Get Loud!"  Seriously, that's literally what happens.  It was very heartening to hear organic "Sea-HAWK" chants ring out throughout the game.

-Rainier beer is delicious.  Especially when drunk at a bar in Pioneer Square after a Seahawks win.

All of this made the victory over the Saints more difficult, in a way.  After celebrating with Hawks fans in Pioneer Square, it made me a tiny bit sad to not be skipping along and high-fiving complete strangers in the bask of playoff victory glory.  I stress the word "tiny".  

How about some playoff gongs?

1 Gong - My decision to have new furniture delivered on the day of a Seahawks playoff game.  They arrive right around 1:15 so I ended up having to listen to the first couple drives on the radio en route to my brother-in-law's.  We've watched every game there this year so why change that?  Anyway, huge rookie mistake on my part.  I feel shame.  

2 Gongs - Bountygate, the Sequel.  Anyone with half a cornea that watched that game has to know the Saints defenders were all about taking Percy Harvin's life every chance they got.  Methinks during Payton's year off he took that extra time to think of fun new incentives. And hell, it worked.  Obviously I want Harvin to heal quickly and be fine for the NFC Championship (oh those two words feel so good to type) but I have a creeping dread that he will wind up spending the rest of his career as the NFL's version of Mr. Glass.  

3 Gongs - Russell Wilson's performance.  The numbers look dreadful, and he wasn't helped that much by the weather, but once again Russell did a lot of little things at just the right time to help his team win.  And it again underscores how deep this team is.  Our QB has an off day? That's alright, our #1 defense will take the lead.  

4 Gongs - Beast, Beast, Beast.  A name so nice I had to say it thrice.  Should we advance to the Super Bowl, it will be on the back of the greatest running back to ever wear a Seahawk uniform.  Yeah, I said it.  And I'll not hesitate to say it again.  Given the rain you had to know they were going to rely on Lynch, and the Saints had to expect it.  They knew it was coming, but they couldn't do a damn thing about it.  The numbers were staggering, and I don't expect them to be that high against the 9erstank, but I think the winning score that propels us into the Super Bowl for the first time in 8 years will  be scored by Beast Mode.  And I desperately hope he kisses his bicep after scoring it.

We now have what will probably be the two most hyped conference championship games in NFL history.  The four best teams in the league have deservedly made it this far, and the two best teams in the league are about to throw down in the most brutal bloodfest ever held at the Clink.  I couldn't be happier about it.  I was secretly hoping the 9erstank would win to set this up (gasp! bite my tongue), and this next chapter in the league's best rivalry has all the makings of an instant classic.  You'll hear and read plenty about it this week, so I'll just leave you with this...