12 Things to Watch in NFC Championship

I’ve received some flak for thrice posting lists of “11” during the lead-up to the biggest game the Seahawks have played in Seattle since hosting the Carolina Panthers in 2005 with an XL trip to Detroit on the line. Okay, okay, yes in hindsight I should have been posting lists of 12.

To make up for that, today, you all are getting a 12-item list. I’ve already covered why the Seahawks “suck,” I’ve given you 11 fun facts and explained why I “hate” the 49ers.

But now it’s the weekend, the game is tomorrow and I know all you 12’s out there are ready to burst with excitement. To improve your viewing pleasure tomorrow, I wanted to prepare you with another list, the 12 things to watch for on Sunday. The team that excels in the most categories of these 12 will most likely win the game.

  1. Open field tackling

    Naturally, this is going to be a very physical game with the potential for a lot of big hits and gang tackles. If the Hawks want to win, they can’t afford to miss tackles in the open field. If Brandon Mebane gets into the backfield and doesn’t bring Frank Gore down immediately, that’s the not end of the world. But if LaMichael James sneaks out of the backfield and catches a screen pass, the defense has to tackle James at the first opportunity.

  2. Audibles

    With the noise level at CenturyLink, the ability for the San Fran offense and the Seahawk defense to call pre-snap audibles, and avoid pre-snap penalties, is going to be very important. Seattle’s defense is used to this noise and should know how to effectively change plays using hand signals. San Fran, on the other hand, better come up with a way to effectively change the play at the line of scrimmage or they’re SOL.

  3. Keep Contain

    Near the end of the San Fran – Green Bay game two weeks ago, Green Bay brought a corner blitz on 3rd and long and when Kaepernick pump-faked, the defender left his feet, was blocked toward the pocket, broke contain and Kaepernick escaped the pocket to his left for a first down, essentially sealing the victory. In this contest, neither team can afford to let the quarterbacks outside the pocket and defenders NEED to keep contain when they are rushing the quarterback.

  4. Third down conversions

    During the last two games against San Fran at home, the Seahawks converted 16 of 29 (55%) third downs to San Fran’s 6 of 23 (26%). On the road , Seattle has converted just 9 of 25 (36%) third downs to San Fran’s 8 of 24 (33%). It’s clear that on third downs Seattle has to convert on offense and hold on defense to win

  5. Points off turnovers

    During the regular season, the Seahawks forced a turnover on an astounding 20% of drives, were +20 in turnover differential and scored 115 points off turnovers – allowing only 33. San Fran, was only +12, scored 121 points off turnovers and allowed 37. Simply getting a turnover isn’t enough in this game, scoring after a turnover is imperative.

  6. Holding Penalties

    It’s often said that there is holding on every play. Recently it’s been said the Legion of Boom commits a penalty on every play. At the end of the day, I think flags thrown for holding in the backfield will be far more influential than flags thrown for holding in the secondary.

  7. Game Changing Plays

    Sadly, the Seahawks once again take the field without Percy Harvin, preventing one of the league’s best game-changing players from influencing the outcome of this game. Who then, on either side, will step up and make the first Big Play. I’m talking about a kick return for a touchdown, a 70-yard catch-and-run or a pick-six. Whichever team has more Big Plays wins the game.

  8. Play-action Passing

    It’s no surprise that San Fran and Seattle love to run, they rank 3-4 in the league, respectively, in rushing yards per game. Both quarterbacks are known for the read option and their abilities outside the pocket. That being said, it’s going to be important for both teams to use the run to set up the pass and there’s no better way to do that than effective play action fakes.

  9. Field Position

    The Seahawks averaged only 21.2 yards per kickoff return but 11.1 per punt return; they allowed 24 and 3.8 respectively. Meanwhile, the Niners averaged 22.7 yards and 8.9 yards per kick and punt return, allowing 24.6 and 8.3. The Seahawks need to win the field position game both offensively and defensively to win.

  10. Kicking Game

    In order to win the field position battle, the Seahawks need a strong game from punter Jon Ryan. Ryan has been one of the best in the league the past two seasons limiting return yardage and avoiding touchbacks. Meanwhile, Steven to-the-Hauschka was near-perfect this season, making 33 of 35 field goals with only one true miss. Phil Dawson made 32 of 36 but is already 6-for-6 in the postseason and kicked four field goals when these teams last met.

  11. Communication

    I separated this from audibles because it involves more than just pre-snap reads. During a game with this much on the line, regardless of fan noise, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh are going to be taking in a lot of information from coaches, officials and players and will need to communicate well with others in order staying focused, operate within the game plan and avoid costly mental errors.

  12. 12th Man

Is it Sunday yet? #GoHawks

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11 Reasons I “Hate” the 49ers on #BlueFriday

Richard Sherman was recently asked why the 49ers and Seahawks hate each other so much. His answer was rather surprising.

sherman

Maybe it’s something unique to sports, but it seems that hatred toward another group of people is acceptable in a competitive environment. I hate the Lakers. I hate the Yankees. I hate USC. I hate the 49ers. Doesn’t it seem like, more often than not, people hate good teams? Maybe I should smile every time I hear somebody say they hate the Seahawks – it could be seen as a sign of respect.

During the past couple seasons as both the Seahawks and 49ers have risen to the top of the NFL, I have heard more and more Seahawks fans say “I HATE the Niners.” Granted, I have also uttered this phrase on occasion (often followed by the word “fans”), I think it’s important to discuss why I “hate” the 49ers. If you are going to hate something, there should be a valid reason… right?

No, I’m not talking about reasons like:

  • They suck
  • They are annoying
  • They are stupid
  • Just because

I’m talking about the legitimate reasons that a Seahawks fan would feel one of the many definitions of hate. Why do I hate the 49ers? Although it could be summed up in one sentence, that’s boring, so I figured I’d expand on that with a list.

I hate the 49ers because:

  • Their fans purchased a billboard in Seattle Fife, and all additional proceeds went to charity. Resulting, weeks later, in this awesome competition.
  • They finished the season 12-4 but only lost to playoff teams: Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina, New Orleans.
  • Since Michael Crabtree returned, they are 7-0 and currently in the midst of an 8-game winning streak.
  • Jim Harbaugh passionately supports/defends his team even if it results in 15-yard penalties.
  • Harbaugh has won at every level he’s coached. First San Diego, then Stanford and now with San Francisco.
  • Despite what their Instagram pages show, Colin Kaepernick is not the horrible guy Seattle fans want to think he is.
  • While we have the Legion of Boom and the Seawall (D-Line), but the Niners have Glen Dorsey, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Dante Whitner on defense.
  • Frank Gore is still near the top of his game despite being 30 years old. He just rushed for 1000+ yards for the 7th time in his nine-year career.
  • Since Harbaugh took over for Mike Singletary, the Niners have won two NFC West titles in three years and made it to the NFC Championships in each of those three seasons.
  • Despite being the five-seed, San Fran beat the Packers on the road in sub-zero temps and then knocked off Carolina at home, knowing they’d have another shot to play the Seahawks in Seattle.
  • Yes, they have won five Super Bowls in franchise history and the Seahawks have only been to one Super Bowl…so far.

Bottom line: I hate the 49ers because they are so damn good and I would hope Niner fans hate the Seahawks for the same reason.

Does that mean I think they are better than the Seahawks? Hell no! But dammit, I do respect that team. Like the Seahawks, they play physical, but not dirty; they run their mouth, but also back it up. They are the Frazier to our Ali; the Randy Orton to our John Cena; the Cristiano Ronaldo to our Lionel Messi.

I could not imagine a more perfect opponent for the NFC Championship. NFL fans are in for a real treat on Sunday and it’s a good thing Monday is a holiday because I’m probably not the only one who’s going to be hungover.

Is it Sunday yet? #GoHawks.

11 Fun Facts on ‘Get Pumped Up’ Day

Hump Day is cancelled, today is Get Pumped Up Day.

Throughout my athletic career I’ve played “big games” at nearly every level. And looking back, it’s difficult to fully describe the range of emotions an athlete feels when they get pumped up for the biggest game of their season.

You know your emotions will be running wild but you can’t let them get the better of you. You are ready to explode with energy but need to control it so you don’t burn out. You are tired of waiting and eager to take the field, but you know that once you do you can’t hold anything back.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more pumped up for a sporting event than for this Sunday’s NFC Championship in Seattle. More so than any other time, this is the one game where I wish I was on that field playing for the home team.

Don’t feel the same way? Watch this video and try not to run through a brick wall once you’re done. Hell, I had trouble staying in my seat while watching this the first time.

I’ve had coworkers ask me if I’m “nervous” leading up to this game. It’s part of your standard water cooler sports conversations during the NFL season; ask an NFL fan about their team’s upcoming opponent, discussing their team’s chances of winning and then offer the typical “good luck” as you both head back to your cubicles.

I’m not so much nervous as I am extremely excited.

As a Seahawks fan, I know that our team has an opportunity to beat the “other” best team in the NFC, claim bragging rights and advance to our second Super Bowl in franchise history. As an NFL fan, you get to watch two teams that are almost statistically identical, that have fanbases who detest the other, and players and coaches who want nothing more than to shut up the opposition.

Division foes, playing for a conference championship. Is it Sunday yet?

  Pass YPG (Rank) Rush YPG(Rank)
Seattle Offense 202.3 (26) 136.8 (4)
San Francisco Offense 186.2 (30) 137.6 (3)
Seattle Defense 172 (1) 101.6 (7)
San Francisco Defense 221 (7) 95.9 (4)

11 Fun Facts

  • The Seahawks and the 49ers have played each other 30 times, never once in the playoffs, and the overall record for both teams is 15-15.
  • Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh have coached against each other nine times between college and the pros. Harbaugh holds the edge with a 6-3 record.
  • Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have won two NFC West titles in four seasons. Harbaugh’s Niners won the NFC West the other two seasons.
  • The Seahawks were the most penalized team in the league with 134 total penalties, San Fran had 111. However, the 49ers committed 49 pre-snap penalties to the Seahawks’ 46.
  • Seattle was the beneficiary of 106 penalties for 953 yards. San Francisco benefited from 107 penalties for 971 yards.
  • Frank Gore rushed for 1,128 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch finished with 1,257 yards and 4.2 yards per carry.
  • Seattle gave up 44 sacks on Russell Wilson this year and also sacked opponents 44 times. San Fran gave up only 39 sacks on Colin Kaepernick and got to the opposing QB 38 times this year.
  • Six Seahawks have 20 or more catches and four have been targeted more than 40 times. Conversely, only three 49ers have 20 or more catches and only two have been targeted more than 40 times.
  • The Seahawk defense intercepted 28 passes, recovered 11 of 20 forced fumbles and scored three touchdowns. San Fran’s defense had 18 interceptions, recovered 11 of 13 forced fumbles and also scored three touchdowns.
  • San Fran’s kick/punt returners averaged 22.7 return yards per kickoff and 8.9 per punt. The Seahawks’ kick/punt returners had 21.2 return yards per kickoff and 11.1 per punt. Neither team had or allowed a punt or kick return touchdown.
  • Candlestick Park averaged 69,732 fans per 49er home game – 99.3 percent of it’s 70,207 person capacity. CenturyLink Field averaged 68,197 fans per Seahawk home game – 101.8 percent of its 67,000 person capacity.

11 Lame “Reasons” the Seahawks are the “Worst”

Amidst all the hooplah for the upcoming NFC Championship game between the Niners and Seahawks, I stumbled across this article on 11 reasons why San Francisco fans should think the Seattle Seahawks are the worst. I almost LOL’d when I read how tame and stupid these “reasons” were. I figured I had to comment on each one just to point out the absurdity.

1. They play in Seattle.
Miz really
That’s as original as you can get for reason numero uno? And then to link to an article about the reason Portland is better than Seattle doesn’t do much to sell your point. I’m just… really? Really? I hope it gets better.

2. Wait, isn’t that the Sounders’ home stadium?
home-games
I know it might seem crazy, but yes the Sounders are such a popular team in the area they have been known to sellout the 68,000-seat capacity of CenturyLink field and average more than 44,000 fans per game. Nearly double that of second-best LA Galaxy with a little more than 22,000 per game and almost four times the average attendance of the Bay Area San Jose Earthquakes.

3. According to a lawsuit, Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett abandoned a puppy at a boarding facility and caused it to have an emotional breakdown. A puppy emotional breakdown
Speechless
Okay, there’s not much I can say about this. Although it is pretty lazy to reference a lawsuit and then not link to said lawsuit. Why then would I even believe this propaganda? Oh, it is a real lawsuit. If you didn’t know about this, don’t worry, it only recently came to light and there could very easily be more information that hasn’t been reported.

4. Seahawks rookie DT Jesse Williams tattooed “YOLO” on his face. Which… actually kind of has a poetic sense of irony on a level we’re pretty sure he’s not aware of.
so what who cares
What is YOLO but this generation’s Carpe Diem? The only reason it’s annoying is because young people rally around it and it started with a Drake song. Also, Jesse Williams was places on Injured Reserve way back in August before the season started. Why you got to hate on an injured player.

5. They’re selling tickets to Sunday’s game in Seattle to people who live in Canada, but NOT people who live in CALIFORNIA.
home field meme
I’m not sure San Fransicoans are the best at geography if they can’t understand that Vancouver, Canada is 142 miles from the CLink. That’s only a two-and-a-half hour drive. Meanwhile, it’s 470 miles from the CLink to the California border and 807 miles to San Francisco. Why then would we want to sell seats in the best stadium in football to Californians?

6. The fans created seismic activity a couple of times on Marshawn Lynch’s TD runs, which is really not good for Seattle.
beast mode
So, your “criticism” is to point out that the Seattle fans are so rabid and Marshawn Lynch is such a beast that we were able to move the earth during multiple Beast Mode runs? I’m not quite sure how that is a diss. Oh because some of our buildings might not withstand a major earthquake. Once again though, I’m not seeing the negative information here. Why would anybody dislike our fanbase because of how loud we cheer? Wouldn’t someone not from Seattle want us to cheer louder to cause a bigger earthquake to then topple Seattle buildings? Now I’m just confused.

7. One of their best quarterbacks ever is only the second most successful Hasselbeck, after Elisabeth.
confused gif
Once again, I don’t see the logic as to why this “fact” would make San Francisco fans dislike the Seahawks. First of all, I doubt the liberal Bay Area is a huge fan of super conservative Elizabeth Hasselback. Second, I’m not sure why she’s successful, because she’s on TV or because she finished fourth on one season of Survivor? At least Matt Hasselback made it to the Super Bowl, made three pro bowls and was a starting quarterback in the NFL for 11 seasons.

8. This jersey.

I know a lot of people differ on their opinions of this jersey, but I loved them. People also hated the current Seahawks jerseys when they were unveiled a couple years ago and now those are heralded as one of the most popular in football. Plus, had the Seahawks not rolled out the lime green jerseys for a game we lost 25-19 in which Seneca Wallace was the starting quarterback and Olindo Mare missed two fields goals, I wonder whether opinions on the jerseys would be different.

9. Also, this jersey.

Okay, I’ll give you the 12th man jersey, frankly I am just not a fan. However, I can say that the 12th man FLAG is where it’s at. Look at how cool it looks atop the Space Needle.

10. Brian Bosworth: hairstyle icon, or Bebop from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I’m going to go with hairstyle icon. I mean look at that picture, how cool does The Boz look right now? Well, not right now…back then. And since I was born in 1987 – the year Bosworth was drafted by the Seahawks – I don’t have much ground to stand on when it comes to defending Bosworth. Seriously though, look how cool he looks.

11. Pete. F***ing. Carroll.

That gif says it all. Pete Carroll is the F***ing man! I’m sorry was this a post about how much Seattle sucks or how all the reasons the Seahawks are awesome? Nice try San Fran fans.