Thursday, February 5, 2015

Patience Is A Virtue: Your Super Bowl XLIX Gong Report

Heartbreaking.  Devastating.  Crushing.  Disappointing.

Exhilarating.  Intoxicating. Awe-inspiring. Shocking.

Super Bowl XLIX was all of these things, and sometimes a member of the former list succeeded one from the latter in mere seconds.  It's easy to forget what a great game this was until The Call (if we're calling it The Tip and the Emerald City Miracle then this deserves a nickname too).  It will truly go down as one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, if not the greatest.  And yet, all we'll remember was 2nd and 1.  In my last post I urged you all to savor what this team had done under the control of Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and I'll reiterate that here.

Yes, we've suffered two of the three most devastating Seahawks losses in the last three years, but in a way that's a good thing.  Having such tough losses means your team was in a position to do something great, something meaningful.  For a franchise that at one time waited two decades between playoff wins, that's pretty damn good.  Erase The Call from your memory for a moment (sorry, I know, impossible) and think of all the great things that happened this season - 6 straight wins to finish the season and earn homefield advantage; doing so after everyone thought we were done and wouldn't even make the playoffs; Beast Quake II; that aforementioned Miracle.  There's enough great memories to fill a Century Link-sized storage bin.  Now think of the Texans... the Jags... the Browns... the Lions... the Vikings even... This one season eclipses anything any of those teams have done in the Super Bowl era.  And it's not like this team is disappearing next year.  I fully expect them to be back in SB50 at the Field of Jeans.  

The Call? Yeah, it bothers me. But I can already tell it won't hurt nearly as badly as XL did.  I was truly surprised to see some 12s react by saying losing this way was worse.  I respectfully disagree... After this game I was angry, frustrated, mostly confused.  After XL?  BLOOD RAGE ANGER HATRED VIOLENCE DISMEMBERMENT.  At least what we saw during XLIX was an even playing field. This was not marred by controversy or by a quarterback getting penalized for throwing an illegal block while trying to tackle the guy that intercepted him.  That game was stolen from us, and the pain lasted for years. This will suck, but I'm already looking forward to next season.  The core of the LOB will be back, Lynch will be back (in my opinion), and PCJS have a plethora of picks to play with in this draft.  Sure, this is after having to mortgage the Gross Domestic Product of most industrialized nations in order to pay for Master Wilson's raise; but if there's anything I've learned the past five years, it's not to doubt the overwhelming might and drool-inducing power of PCJS.  I suppose it's gong time...

1 Gong - The LOB in the 4th quarter.

Ten point lead with a little over 9 minutes to play? During that 6-game winning streak to end the season, you might as well turn off the lights and send everyone home.  This is easily the most disappointing aspect of this game.  I was ready to anoint this defense as one of the greatest of all time.  Combine the performance in XLVIII with a second consecutive Lombardi and arguments can be made.  Not so much now.  Or at least not so much yet.  I think we'll still be able to make this argument at some point; we just need more patience than expected.  Simply put, we just didn't have the answer for all of those short passes the Pats were more than willing to make, and when we gambled New England took advantage. I'll give them credit - Julian Edelman, whose douchery is now getting the national spotlight, took a vintage Kamtrak hit with about 10 minutes to go, then got right up and kept running.  Granted he was down by contact, but it's hard to remember any receiver taking that kind of hit from Kam and not letting it phase him.  Part of their performance was definitely due to injury - ET's shoulder, Sherman's elbow, Kam's torn MCL (!!!!!!), and poor Jeremy Lane's rubber wrist of God-awful unnatural bendiness.  Would the Pats offense have fared as well against a fully healthy Hawks D?  I'm not gonna speculate on that, because it would be too painful. If you'd like to though, feel free.

Typically when The Hawks win a close one and I get barraged by "they got lucky" comments at work, I usually counter by mentioning the opportunities the other team had to score earlier in the game.  The shoe's on the other foot now.  Had the LOB performed better in the 4th, the Seahawks could've kneeled to end the game, and The Call never has to happen.  We didn't lose the game on that play - we lost it much earlier; we just didn't know it at the time.   

2 Gongs - The Legacy of Kearse's Catch

Jermaine Kearse hasn't really lit it up during the regular season, and he may never will. But it seems like he's fairly automatic for at least one reception every playoff game that's either incredibly important or surreally magnificent. His laying-down deflect-o-rama catch of amazement would've surely been remembered as one of the top two or three receptions in Super Bowl history, and if we had won it may have eclipsed the Helmet Catch. If had we won. Now, it's barely a footnote. Sure, it'll get replayed plenty of times; but it'll never reach that rarified air of Best Catch Of All Time.    

3 Gongs - Chris Matthwho?

Chris Matthews came out of nowhere - well, not really, he came out of Foot Locker. But to everyone that said our receivers had no chance against the Pats' secondary, he did.  He made a huge impact after not having caught a single reception the entire season, which begs the question: HOW IN THE HELL HAS JOHN SCHNEIDER NOT WON EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR?  Even if you say that Carroll shouldn't win Coach of the Year because his team is so talented, which opposing fans have said and reaches entirely impressive levels of moronitude in itself, then shouldn't Schneider at least be recognized for choosing said talent?  I feel like at some point these guys will get their awards like Peter Jackson did for the Return of the King - that movie won everything and many thought it was one of those "rewarding him for the body of work" kind of things. Also it was because that movie kicked all kinds of Hobbit ass.  Maybe after the Hawks win a couple more titles Pete and John will finally get recognized.

The only bad thing about Matthews' performance?  It really emphasized the need for a true #1 receiver for Wilson to rely on.  There were several plays where Russell had a good 6-7 seconds of great protection without being rushed at all, and no one got open.  SOMEONE'S gotta get open during all of that, and I think if we have that guy Wilson's numbers enjoy a pretty big spike. (LARRY FITZGERALD ARE YOU READING THIS PLEASE SAY YOU'RE READING THIS)

4 Gongs - Balls to the Wall for 29 Seconds

One of my favorite moments of the game was when, after getting the ball back with 31 seconds left in the first half, I realized the Seahawks weren't going to just hand off a couple times and let the clock run out.  They were aggressive, fearless, and undaunted, and the 29-second drive that culminated in Matthews' TD catch made halftime about 300 times more enjoyable than if the score had been 14-7. The decision to take one last shot for the endzone with 6 seconds left was beyond ballsy - if it failed and time had run out it could have made Carroll and Bevell look foolish and over their heads.  Wait a tic...

Plenty of 12s have been calling for Darrell Bevell's head for that last pass call to end the game, but I have to believe that decision was made by both Carroll and Bevell together.  And here's what I don't get - if you're gonna be so critical of Bevell for calling that pass play, why aren't you singing his praises for that 29-second TD drive?  Surely he deserves some credit for that.  When things go well (like being the offensive coordinator for the best running team in the league) no one says his name, but as soon as he passes the ball anywhere within the red zone people lose their shit.  Soon I hope we see The Call for what it truly was - a reasonable call that only failed because Malcolm Butler was well coached and knew what to anticipate.  Yes, I'm a Darrell Bevell Sympathizer, and I've got a membership card to prove it.        


For about 59 minutes and 40 seconds, this game - and many others games the Hawks played this year - Super Bowl XLIX played out like a microcosm of the season: our offense starts slowly; our defense holds firm, bending but not breaking; we go into the half tied or separated by a single score; then slowly but surely, as sure as the tides will change or a 12 is called a bandwagon, the Seahawks assert themselves in the trenches, letting their run game and physically brutal defense take over.  Before you know it, the opposing team has no chance to win.  

That's how it played out, up until that ill fated call.  But that's also why I'm optimistic this team will bounce back and be right in the same position, with the same opportunity, a year from now.  Having a good run game and physical defense will never get old in the NFL, and the Hawks will have both again (remember what I said about Lynch coming back?).  This team can still make history, and I think it will; we just have to be patient.   Next season we can become just the third team ever to earn three straight Super Bowl berths, joining the early 70s Dolphins and early 90s Bills (oh those poor poor Bills).  We can also become the first ever team to compete in stadiums that are home to divisional opponents in consecutive Super Bowls.  Admittedly I have done zero research on this, but it's gotta be true, right?  And how sweet will it be to hoist the Lombardi in the House of Kaepernick?

Think about it 12s: we just had the two best seasons in Seahawks history in consecutive years.  We're about to have our best. 

Go Hawks.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Take Time To Smell The XLIX Roses

Back in April, the reason from my break in writing posts for this blog arrived, and ever since it has consumed my every waking moment.  Feast your eyes on the hideous beast of most fearsome power, but not for too long, for it will pierce your eyes to strangle your soul.

ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER THIS FOUL CREATURE'S POWERFUL GRASP, FOR YOU WILL KNOW PLEASURE NO MORE!!!!  Okay, giggles aside, I love this kid, and she's given me some good perspective that only a second child can.  You never intend to compare your kids but of course it happens, and this one is much more animated and, well, happy than her older sister was as a baby.  My wife and I have a unique situation in that the older sister is 7 years old, so we've had plenty of time to forget all that baby stuff.  We're also better at parenting (I think?) so I think it's easier now to appreciate and savor the little things.  After you kid gets older, you forget how awesome it is to sniff their head (seriously it's like crack), to hear them giggle for the first time, to hear their first sounds as they express themselves.  Hell, just to listen to them breathe.  It doesn't sound like much, but that shit is fantastic.

When you have your first kid, you're too busy being absolutely fucking clueless to notice these things.  Everything that happens with your first kid - literally everything - is happening to you for the first time, and you're really on your own.  Overreaction is the norm.  She has a diaper rash? Oh shit, which ointment is best? And what if she has an allergic reaction to it? And what if it doesn't work? What's that? She coughed? Was it a dry cough or wet cough? How wet? There was a second cough? EMERGENCY ROOM HERE WE COME!!! She just shit? Good.  Wait, what?! Her shit that she just shit isn't the exact same color as her previous shit?  OH JESUS HER INTESTINES HAVE EBOLA.

With all that experience, your second child is a lot easier. You're better prepared for the challenges a baby presents, and thus it's easier to notice those little things I mentioned earlier.  Her sister is old enough to help out at times too, which is huge.  And not the "can you please help me even though me having to explain to you how to do what I need will take more time and effort that if I had done it myself" kind of help.  Actual, real help.  This has made it all the more easy to enjoy the younger one's infancy and really take in all of her little quirks. Oh, and just what in the hell does this have to do with the Seahawks?  I'm getting there...

This second consecutive Super Bowl run is like that second daughter.  It's a gift - albeit one I expected - but a gift most NFL fans never get to experience. The threat the Seahawks losing XLIX has made me appreciate last year even more.  It's forced me to look back at last year and realize how special and rare it is.  It's not that I didn't savor last year at the time (or that I expect to lose this year); however, at some point, XLVIII will get further and further buried in the past. This trip to XLIX serves as a reminder to truly appreciate the team PCJS have built.

Think about the XL team - Hasselbeck, Alexander, Jones, Tatupu, D-Jack, Trufant.  Now think of this era... Wilson, Beast, Sherman, Chancellor, ETIII, Wagner, Baldwin.  I mean no disrespect to that Holmgren squad, but they pale in comparison to what we're watching now, if not always in ability then certainly in personality. I've never had so much fun watching a Seahawks team play.  How many unbelievable have we seen the last three years?  They're getting too numerous to count, or at least to list here.

My biggest worry is that it'll be too late before we understand and appreciate what we have here.  At some point we're going to start saying "Kam just isn't hitting as hard as he used to".  Or "I remember when Sherman would've made that pic".  Or "Remember when Russell would've avoided that sack and made something out of nothing?"  Time is a bitch, and some years from now (the number 8 gazilliondy comes to my wishful-thinking mind) it will catch up to the PCJS era Hawks.  Which is why this was the best possible time for the Seahawks to begin winning titles.  I, like may of you, waited literally decades to witness a Lombardi presentation.  While most of that wait sucked, this couldn't possibly be a better time to enjoy success.  The last time a team repeated as Super Bowl champions, the following things didn't exist: YouTube, Twitter, Vimeo, downloading TV shows on iTunes, and the NFL Network.

Now is the time to savor this team, to stop and smell the Carroll-scented roses.  Now is the time to soak up every hit, every score, every play that you possibly can.  Now is the time to savor the greatest team the Seahawks have ever assembled.

Now is the time to take advantage of YouTube by watching Kam Chancellor's hit on Vernon Davis during 42-13 in slo-mo HD so that you can see the raindrops fly off their helmets...  Now is the time to watch Golden Tate give a block on Sean Lee so vicious it gave Lee's mother a concussion... Now is the time to watch Wilson to Rice to beat the Pats... the comeback against the Bears... 58-0... the first playoff road win in over two decades against Washington on their Field Of Torn ACL's... every fucking moment of 2013...   Now is the time to find people like @NorbCam and watch stuff like this:

Now is the time to get on Twitter and meet literally thousands of fans you never would have connected with before... to instantly see the front page of the Seattle Times after one of the most jaw-droppingly insane playoff comebacks ever... to see countless photos of the Seahawks Sendoff as our team left for their XLIX-bound airplane that you never would've seen otherwise...

Now is the time to go on Vimeo and watch Rain City Redemption, every second of it BECAUSE IT IS FUCKING AMAZING.  Shit, go watch it now.  NOW, I INSIST.

Now is the time to go on iTunes and buy every playoff game then to watch them all and relive them over and over and over...  Now is the time to watch The Tip... Now is the time to watch XLVIII, over and over and over... Now is the time to watch Kam leap offensive lines in a single bound, twice... Now is the time to watch Earl Thomas use his dislocated shoulder to slam Eddie Lacy out of bounds... Now is the time to watch a couple pedestrian receivers help win the game in OT against the Packers.

Now is the time to realize and appreciate that, if this team can pull off the repeat and eventually become a dynasty, no other dynasty's fan base had these luxuries (other than the... sigh.... Patriots).  No other fan base was able to rewatch every single moment of their playoff runs.  Steelers fans in the 70s, Niner fans in the 80s, Cowboys fans of the 90s?  They're relegated to either watching the half hour NFL Films Super Bowl recap shows or to rely on their increasingly waning memories.  Mind you those NFL Films shows were pretty spectacular, but they're nothing compared to watching the entire game.  Which we can do.  Whenever the fuck we want.

And after this Sunday, we'll be able to savor the second half comeback that the Seahawks make, when, as they have so many times this season, they walk into the locker rooms at halftime facing a deficit...  We'll be able to savor watching this team slowly but surely take over during the fourth quarter, asserting their physical will as they were built to do...  We'll be able to savor Steven Haushka kicking a go ahead field goal with minutes left...  We'll be able to savor watching this generation's greatest defense keep Tom Terrific from making one more of his miracle comebacks... We'll be able to savor a Beast Mode touchdown that seals his MVP and puts the game away... We'll be able to savor watching this Seahawks team, our team, repeat as champions in an era when repeating is next to impossible... We'll be able to savor, endlessly, this team's second Lombardi trophy in as many years.

Go Hawks.

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?