June 28, 2017

Seahawks 30, Raiders 24

The eighth game on the schedule for the Oakland Raiders was a trip up to Seattle to face the Seahawks.  The Raiders were coming off a 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns and the Seahawks were coming off a tough 13-9 win over the Carolina Panthers.  The Seahawks won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Steven Hauschka sent the opening kick deep into the end zone for a touch-back and the Raiders started at their 20.  Like usual, they started out running the ball up the middle.  Running back Darren McFadden carried the ball twice for a gain of one yard.  But completions from quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Andre Holmes and tight end Mychal Rivera got the Raiders going in the right direction.  On third and eight from the Seattle 37,  Carr completed a pass good for 16 yards to Rivera.  He was hit by cornerback Richard Sherman and the ball came loose.  Luckily for the Raiders, it rolled out of bounds.  They would get as far as the 30 and the drive stalled there as Carr’s pass to Rivera on third and three fell incomplete.  Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made an appearance and his 48-yard field goal attempt was good.  The Raiders led 3-0 with 9:10 to go in the first quarter.

The Seahawks took over at their 28 and three carries by running Marshawn Lynch quickly moved them to the 40.  A short scramble by quarterback Russell Wilson and completions to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and Lynch put the Seahawks in Oakland territory.  On second and four from the 42, Wilson threw deep up the right side for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.  The pass was incomplete, but a flag appeared and the call was defensive pass interference on cornerback DJ Hayden.  Really?  THAT was interference?!?!  I thought both players had a right to the ball.  I found that to be highly sickening.  That gave the Seahawks a first down at the six.  On first down, Lynch ran up the middle and was greeted rudely by defensive tackle Justin “Jelly” Ellis and thrown for a loss of three yards.  But while Ellis was in the process of throwing Lynch to the ground, he also had a handful of facemask.  That brought out another flag and moved the ball to the three.  Lynch got the call again and took it up the middle.  It looked like his forward progress was stopped, but he kept pushing and eventually found the end zone.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 7-3 with 4:07 to go in the first quarter.

Each team punted on their next possession and with two minutes remaining in the quarter, the Raiders took over at their 15.  McFadden ran up the middle again and guess how many yards he got?  That’s right!  No gain.  Got to love the imaginative play calling by offensive coordinator Greg Olson.  He’s truly an amazing kind of guy with a future as bright as a dark room.  On second and ten, Carr found wide receiver Brice Butler for a gain of 12.  Then the impending disaster happened.  Carr looked for wide receiver James Jones on the right side and the pass was picked off by linebacker Bruce Irvin and returned 35 yards for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks were now up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.

What’s one of the rules you should follow when you play the Seahawks?  Don’t throw on Richard Sherman.  Well, on third and five from his own 25, Carr did just that.  I don’t know what he was thinking.  The pass was up the right sideline intended for Holmes.  First, Holmes was not open.  Second, he wasn’t even looking for the ball.  Sherman picked it off and ran it back to the Oakland 18.  But the Raider defense only allowed them to go two yards on three plays.  Hauschka came into the game and his 34-yard field goal was good.  The Seahawks were now up 17-3 with 12:15 to go in the second quarter.

Neither team did much with the ball until the 3:50 mark of the second quarter.  The Seahawks were backed up at their 12-yard line.  A nine-yard run by Lynch and a three-yard completion to Lynch netted a first down at the 24.  That was followed by a 16-yard pass to tight end Luke Willson.  A holding penalty on the Seahawks moved them back ten yards.  But a taunting penalty on Hayden gave the Seahawks a first down at the Oakland 34.  What the hell are you taunting for?  You’re on a winless team and you’re down 17-3.  It was a nice tackle, but there’s no reason to stand over a player and taunt him.  I’m not sure what he said, but it was within earshot of a zebra and he promptly threw the flag.  Completions to Baldwin, running back Robert Turbin and some scrambling by Wilson moved the ball to the five.  From there, Lynch took it the rest of the way for another Seahawk touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 24-3 at halftime.

The Seahawks started the second half at their 34-yard line.  Three plays gained three yards and punter Jon Ryan was brought into the game.  The punt was blocked by defensive end Denico Autry.  The ball bounced backward and was recovered by Butler in the end zone for a Raider touchdown.  That was a nice start to the second half for the Raiders.  Janikowski made the point after and the Seahawks lead was cut to 24-10 with 13:52 to go in the third quarter.

After that, both defenses were playing very well.  The Raiders forced the Seahawks to punt on their next two possessions.  The Seahawks looked good too.  But they had it much easier because they knew half the plays were going to be runs up the middle by McFadden.  With a little under five minutes to go in the third quarter, rookie return man TJ Carrie fielded a punt at the Oakland 43 and returned it back to the Seattle 30-yard line.  This was a golden opportunity for the Raiders to put some more points on the board.  Carr completed a screen to McFadden and he took it up the right side for a gain of 23 and a first down at the seven.  Then came the obligatory McFadden run that gained two yards.  That was followed by an incomplete pass to forgotten wide receiver Denarius Moore.  On third down, Carr found Jones for a gain of four.  He was brought down just short of the goal line.  With the ball so close to the end zone, head coach Tony Sparano opted to go for it.  Carr took the snap and was immediately flushed out of the pocket.  He regained his composure long enough to loft a pass to the right side of the end zone and Rivera was able to haul it in for a touchdown.  Janikowksi made the point after and the Seahawks now led 24-17 with three minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Seahawks started at their 20 and on second and ten, Wilson completed a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Kevin Norwood.  Two runs by Lynch and a defensive holding penalty on the Raiders gave the Seahawks a first down at the Oakland 49-yard line.  From the 49, Wilson tossed a short pass to the left that was caught by Lynch.  He turned on the speed and took it up the left sideline for a gain of 39 yards.  They wouldn’t get any farther than that and Hauschka came on for another field goal attempt.  The kick was good and the Seahawks led 27-17 with 14:50 to go in the game.

The Raiders needed to get moving and they went nowhere.  Three plays netted six yards and punter Marquette King got off a nice 59-yard punt that was fielded at the Seattle 15 by Baldwin.  He proceeded to take it straight up the middle for a gain of 38 yards.  From the Oakland 47, Wilson scrambled up the middle for a gain of 19.  They got as far as the 22 and it was time for another field goal attempt.  Hauschka made his 40-yard attempt and the Seahawks went up 30-17 with 9:19 to go in the game.

The Raiders managed to get a first down on their next possession, but that was it.  King punted again and seven plays later, the Seahawks punted right back to the Raiders.  With 4:14 to go in the game, the Raiders needed a quick score.  On first down, Carr was sacked for a loss of seven by defensive end Michael Bennett.  But Bennett was flagged for a facemask penalty and that gave the Raiders a first down at the Seattle 49.  Passes to Rivera, Holmes,  Butler and running back Maurice Jones-Drew quickly moved the Raiders down to the seven-yard line.  Three plays later, Carr rolled to his left and it looked like he was going to run it in.  Instead, he tossed the ball to the back of the end zone where Rivera hauled it in for his second touchdown of the game.  Janikowski made the point after and the Seahawks now led 30-24 with 52 seconds to go in the game.

We all knew what was next.  It was time for an onside kick.  With the rain coming down, I thought maybe a slippery ball would give the Raiders an advantage.  The kick was a good one and it looked like the Raiders may come up with it.  Teams that have no wins don’t get that kind of break.  The ball was recovered by Kearse at the 50-yard line.  And that was that.  Final score: Seahawks 30 Raiders 24.  The loss dropped the Raiders to 0-8 and the win improved Seattle’s record to 5-3.

For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 24 of 41 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  Mychal Rivera led the team in receptions with eight and two touchdowns.  Darren McFadden had the most receiving yards with 47.  The ground game continued to be anemic as the Raiders rushed for a grand total of 37 yards on 18 carries.  Ten of those yards came on one play.  I find that to be truly pathetic.  Defensively, linebacker Sio Moore led the team in solo tackles with eight.  He was the only Raider with a quarterback sack.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 17 of 35 for 179 yards.  Marshawn Lynch and Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions with five and Lynch had the most receiving yards with 76.  On the ground, Lynch led the way with 67 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.  Defensively, linebacker K. J. Wright led the team in solo tackles with ten.

Despite trailing 24-3, I liked the fight the Raiders showed in this game.  They didn’t give up.  I firmly believe that if Dennis Allen were still the coach, the Seahawks would have won 51-10.  Sparano has his players playing hard.  Unfortunately, Greg Olson is still the offensive coordinator.  If he continues with his predictable and unimaginative play calling, the team will continue to suffer.  Up next on the schedule is a visit from the Denver Broncos.  They’ll be looking for a win after getting thrashed by the Patriots.  It could get pretty ugly if the defense is unable to stop Peyton Manning and his weapons.  Until then, take it easy.

The Frustrated Raider Guy

Super Bowl XLVIII

This Super Bowl matched up the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos and I for one thought this was going to be a great game.  There was lots of speculation leading up to this game as far as the weather was concerned.  Will it snow?  Will it rain?  Will a huge snowstorm hit the area and force the game to be rescheduled?  The answer to those questions was a resounding “NO!”  The temperature was in the 40s and there was just a slight chance of precipitation.

Seattle won the toss and deferred to the second half.  Kicker Steven Hauschka hit the opening kickoff six yards deep into the end zone and return man Trindon Holliday returned it to the 14.  Quarterback Peyton Manning led the offense on to the field and started in the shotgun formation.  As he called the signals, center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over his head and it rolled toward the end zone.  A mad scramble ensued and running back Knowshon Moreno fell on it for a safety.  Well that most certainly was an original beginning to the Super Bowl.  A grand total of 12 seconds had run off the clock and the Seahawks were already up 2-0.

Denver punter Britton Colquitt hit a 64-yard punt that was fielded by return man/wide receiver Golden Tate at the 16.  He returned it to the 36 and quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense went to work.  Running back Marshawn Lynch got the call on first down and was brought down after a gain of three yards. From the 39, wide receiver Percy Harvin ran up the left side for a gain of 30.  That put the Seahawks at the Denver 31.  A false start penalty moved them back five yards and that was followed by an incomplete pass to tight end Zach Miller.  That was followed by a six-yard completion to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse.  On third and nine from the 30, Wilson fired a bullet to Kearse and he caught it for a gain of 12 yards and a first down at the 18.  The next two plays gained four yards and on third and six from the 14, Wilson ran up the left side and was pushed out of bounds just before he got to the first down marker.  Head coach Pete Carroll challenged the spot, but it was ruled that Wilson was still just short of the marker.  Instead of going for it, Hauschka came into the game and his 31-yard field goal attempt was good.  With 10:21 to go in the first quarter, the Seahawks led 5-0.

Hauschka sent the kickoff through the end zone, but the Seahawks were penalized for unnecessary roughness.  That put the Broncos at their 35.  But three plays gained just eight yards and they were forced to punt.  The punt was fair caught by Tate at the Seattle 28-yard line.  On third and seven from the 31, Wilson threw to his left and the ball was caught by Tate for nine yards and a first down at the 40.  From the 40, Wilson found fullback Michael Robinson for seven yards.  Lynch was stuffed for a loss of one on the next play, but Wilson found wide receiver Doug Baldwin across the middle for a gain of six.  That was good enough for a first down at the Denver 48.  From the 48, Harvin caught another pass for a gain of five.  Then the Seahawks decided to get fancy and tried a crazy flea-flicker play that didn’t work.  On third and five from the 43, Wilson floated a deep pass up the left side for Baldwin who hauled it in for a gain of 36 yards.  A holding call moved them back ten yards and Lynch continued to struggle to get positive yardage.  On third and 14, Wilson looked for Kearse in the back of the end zone.  Kearse had possession of it for a second, but the ball was knocked out by linebacker Nate Irving.  That meant it was time for another field goal.  Hauschka made his 33-yard attempt and the Seahawks led 8-0 with 2:16 to go in the first quarter.

Aside from a five-yard completion to wide receiver Wes Welker, the Broncos still couldn’t get going.  On second and five from the 25, Moreno ran up the left side and the ball came loose.  The Broncos recovered it at the 23 and that set up a third and seven from the 23.  Manning looked for tight end Julius Thomas and the pass was picked off by safety Kam Chancellor at the 39.  He returned it two yards and the Seahawks set up shop at the Denver 37.  Another end around to Harvin gained 15 yards and tight end Luke Willson caught a five-yard pass.  Lynch ran up the middle for a gain of six and a first down at the 11.  Lynch was thrown for a loss of one on the next play, but Wilson found Baldwin for a gain of seven on second down.  That set up a third and four from the five-yard line.  Wilson threw to the back corner of the end zone for Tate, but the pass was incomplete.  Then a flag appeared.  Cornerback Tony Carter was flagged for pass interference and that gave the Seahawks a first down at the one-yard line.  Two plays later, Lynch ran it in for the first touchdown of the game.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 15-0 with 12 minutes to go in the first half.

The Broncos started at their 16 and Manning went to the air immediately.  Two completions to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and a short run by Moreno finally got the Broncos a first down at the 30.  Two more passes to D. Thomas and another carry by Moreno netted another first down at the 40.  On third and nine from the 41, Manning found Welker across the middle for a gain of 16 and the Broncos found themselves in Seattle territory.  Another catch by D. Thomas and a short carry by running back Montee Ball moved them down to the 32.  A holding penalty moved them back ten yards and a pass to tight end Jacob Tamme went for a loss of two yards.  From the 44, Moreno ran for a gain of nine.  That set up a third and 13 from the 35.  The Seahawks brought some pressure and defensive end Cliff Avril got to Manning just as he let the ball go and it was picked off at the 31 by linebacker Malcolm Smith.  That was bad for the Broncos and it got worse as Smith returned it all the way for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks went up 22-0 with 3:21 to go in the first half.

Holliday managed to return the ball to the 33 on the ensuing kickoff.  It looked like he fumbled, but he was ruled down before the ball came loose.  With time running short and knowing the walls were closing in, Manning knew he had to get his team into the end zone.  He spread the ball around to three different receivers and they quickly moved down to the Seattle 27.  An incomplete pass to J. Thomas, a six-yard catch by Moreno and a false start set up a third and nine from the 26.  Manning dumped a short pass to Moreno that came up two yards short of the first down.  What do you do now?  Go for the field goal?  No.  Head coach John Fox decided to go for it and Manning looked for D. Thomas.  The pass was incomplete and the Seahawks took over at their 19 with one minute to go in the half.  Two carries by Lynch ran out the clock and the Seahawks led 22-0 at halftime.

For once, I actually enjoyed the halftime show.  Good sound, good lighting and it was good to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a few minutes.  Back to return the kickoff to start the second half was the dangerous Percy Harvin.  Instead of trying to kick it through the end zone, kicker Matt Prater sent a knuckle-ball down the middle to keep the ball away from Harvin.  Nice try, but Harvin still got his hands on it.  He headed straight up the middle and returned it for an 87-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks now led 29-0 with 14:48 to go in the third quarter.  To open the game, the Seahawks scored 12 seconds into the first quarter.  Then, they scored 12 seconds into the third quarter.  Interesting.

It was officially time for the Broncos to get into “panic mode.”  They went from their 23 to the Seattle 38 with little trouble.  But the Seahawk defense stiffened and forced another punt.  The punt was downed at the eight and on first down, Lynch got loose, but was tripped up at the 26.  If he had broken one more tackle, he likely would have scored.  That was the only eventful play of that possession and punter Jon Ryan got off a 45-yard punt that was fielded at the Denver 36 by return man/wide receiver Eric Decker.  He returned it to the 45 and the Broncos had yet another opportunity to put some points on the board.  On second and nine from the 46, Manning hooked up with D. Thomas for a gain of ten and a first down at the Seattle 44.  From the 44, Manning hit D. Thomas in stride across the middle.  As Thomas ran up the left side, the ball was knocked loose by cornerback Byron Maxwell and recovered by Smith at the 20 and he returned it seven yards.  The Broncos were also flagged for unnecessary roughness and that gave the Seahawks a first down at their 42-yard line.

A short carry by Lynch and a 12-yard completion to Willson moved them to the Denver 43.  From the 42, Wilson found wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a gain of 19 and a first down at the 23.  On the very next play, Wilson found Kearse on the right side and he was the recipient of some very poor tackling.  That enabled him to find the end zone for another Seahawk touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks were now up 36-0 with three minutes to go in the third quarter.

The Broncos started at their 20 and had no choice but to throw the ball on every down.  Judging by the looks on their faces, they looked like they would rather not even finish the game.  But completions to Welker, J. Thomas and Moreno had them moving in the right direction.  A pass interference call gave them a first down at the Seattle 41.  Two more catches by Welker and one by Tamme got them a first down at the 14.  With the final seconds of the quarter ticking away, Manning took the snap and fired a strike to the end zone that was caught for a touchdown by D. Thomas.  They decided to go for two and it was good as Manning hooked up with Welker again.  At the end of the third quarter, the Seahawks led 36-8.

The Broncos tried an unsuccessful onside kick that was recovered at the Denver 48 by Miller.  From the 48, backup running back Robert Turbin rumbled up the left side for a gain of 33 yards.  But that was brought back by a holding call and it moved the Seahawks back to their 42-yard line.  Miller caught a pass for ten yards and Tate added eight more to set up a third and two at the Denver 40.  From the 40, Baldwin caught a six-yard pass for a first down at the 34.  Then Kearse got in on the action again and made a nice catch for a gain of 24 yards.  That set up a first and goal from the ten and Wilson found Baldwin who bounced off a couple of defenders and dove into the end zone.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 43-8 with 11:45 to go in the game.  That 11:45 was also known as “garbage time.”

Neither team scored again and the Seattle Seahawks came away with a 43-8 thrashing of the Denver Broncos for their first Super Bowl win.  Malcom Smith was named MVP as he had a great game with an interception for a touchdown, a fumble recovery and six solo tackles.  Their defense as a whole played very well.  Although they registered only one sack, they pressured Manning throughout the game, forced four turnovers and rarely let the Denver receivers get loose for big gains.  All in all, it was a very impressive performance by the Seahawks and the Broncos are now the only team to lose five Super Bowls.  Their overall record in Super Bowls is 2-5.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 18 of 25 for 206 yards and two touchdowns.  He also had 26 yards rushing on three carries.  Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions with five and receiving yards with 66 and a touchdown.  On the ground, Percy Harvin had the most rushing yards with 45 on two carries.  The Broncos did a good job of containing Marshawn Lynch as he finished the game with 39 yards on 15 carries.  18 of those yards came on one carry.  All totaled, the Seahawks rushed for 135 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith tied for the lead in solo tackles with six.

For the Broncos, Peyton Manning completed 34 of 49 for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Demaryius Thomas set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions and he also had the most receiving yards with 118 and a touchdown.  There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the Denver ground game.  Knowshon Moreno led the team in rushing with 17 yards on five carries.  They finished the game with a total of 27 yards on 14 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Danny Trevathan led the team in solo tackles with seven and he had one tackle for a loss.

And that’s that.  I enjoyed writing these playoff articles and I’ll be returning as the Raider Guy later in the year.  Up next is the combine, then free agency starts and then the draft will take place in May.  Until then, take it easy.

 

Seattle 23, San Francisco 17

The NFC championship game featured two NFC west rivals as the San Francisco 49ers headed to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.  The 49ers were coming off a 23-10 win over the Carolina Panthers and the Seahawks made it to the next round by defeating the New Orleans Saints by a score of 23-15.  The loud Seattle crowd was pumped up for this one as the Seahawks started at their 20.  On first down, quarterback Russell Wilson rolled to his left and looked for an open receiver.  He was greeted rudely by linebacker Aldon Smith who sacked him for a loss of seven, forced the ball loose and while Wilson was trying to locate the ball, Smith recovered it at the Seattle 15.  That excellent field position for the 49ers would only result in a field goal attempt as the Seahawk defense was up to the task of keeping the 49ers out of the end zone.  Kicker Phil Dawson made his 25-yard attempt and the 49ers led 3-0 with 12:45 to go in the first quarter.

Both defenses were playing well and the next three possessions resulted in punts.  But with 14:49 remaining in the second quarter, the 49ers took over at their 14.  On third and nine from the 15, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a pass intended for wide receiver Michael Crabtree.  The pass was incomplete, but cornerback Richard Sherman was flagged for defensive holding.  That kept the San Francisco offense on the field and seemed to energize Kaepernick.  Two scrambles by Kaepernick netted 70 yards and the 49ers were knocking on the door as they had a first and goal from the Seattle ten-yard line.  Running back Frank Gore got the call on first and second down and gained nine yards.  That was followed by what was thought to be a touchdown run by running back Anthony Dixon.  But the replay showed he came up just short of the goal line.  With the ball being literally inches away from the end zone, they decided to go for it.  Dixon ran up the middle again and this time there was no doubt he was in the end zone for a touchdown.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that starting guard Mike Iupati was injured on the play and would not return.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers led 10-0 with ten minutes to go in the first half.

The Seahawks started at their 24 and Wilson got the drive off to a good start with a seven-yard completion to wide receiver Doug Baldwin.  On third and three from the 31, Wilson kept the drive going with a four-yard completion to wide receiver Golden Tate.  A short run by running back Marshawn Lynch set up a second and seven from the 38.  Wilson took the snap and ran to his right, then to his left, then backwards, then he spotted Baldwin wide open and heaved a deep pass down the middle where Baldwin caught it for a gain of 51 yards.  Baldwin was injured on the play, but he would return soon.  After that brilliant play, the Seahawks went nowhere and had to settle for a field goal attempt.  Kick Steven Hauschka made his 32-yard attempt and the 49ers now led 10-3 with 5:47 to go in the first half.

The 49ers gained a grand total of zero yards on three plays and punter Andy Lee got off a 43-yard punt that was downed at the Seattle 37-yard line.  Four carries by Lynch and a nine-yard completion to Baldwin on third and eight from the 49 got the Seahawks a first down at the San Francisco 42.  They would get as far as the 38 and on fourth and six, Seattle head coach Pete Carrol decided to go for it.  Wilson looked for Tate, but it was incomplete.  After the play, the flags came flying and our good friend Jim Harbaugh went out of his mind again.  Jim, what did I tell you about all that ranting and raving that you do?  The penalty was a personal foul on cornerback Carlos Rogers but it was a dead ball foul.  That meant that the 49ers would get the ball back at their 23-yard line.  Kaepernick took a knee to end the half and the score remained 10-3.

The 49ers got the ball to start the second half and only managed to get one first before Lee punted the ball away again.  Tate fielded it at the Seattle 30 and returned it ten yards to the 40.  It was time for Mr. Lynch to get into his “Beast Mode.”  He ran up the middle on first down for a gain of 11 and followed that up with a five-yard carry.  Wilson found Baldwin on second and five for a gain of four yards and that set up a third and one from the San Francisco 40.  Lynch took the hand-off, started to his right, cut back to the left, bounced off a blocker and headed up the right side for a 40-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the score was tied at ten with 9:51 to go in the third quarter.

The 49ers took over at their 17 and Gore ran up the right side for nine yards.  Running back Kendall Hunter followed that up with a gain of two and a first down at the 28.  From the 28, Kaepernick threw one down the middle for Crabtree that was caught for a gain of 22 yards.  Following that, Kaepernick scrambled up the left side for 22 more and a first down at the Seattle 28.  Kaepernick was sacked for a loss of eight by defensive end Michael Bennett.  He fumbled, but the ball was recovered by center Jonathan Goodwin.  Goodwin then proceeded to turn into a running back and he was dragged down at the 26.  From the 26, Kaepernick looked for wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the end zone.  Although safety Earl Thomas was in position to pick the pass off, Boldin came down with it for a touchdown.  Dawson made the point after and the 49ers took a 17-10 lead with 6:29 to go in the third quarter.

Dawson’s kickoff went three yards deep in the end zone and Baldwin ran it up the right side for a gain of 69 yards.  That was just what the Seahawks needed to tie the game up again.  Well, that didn’t happen.  Aside from a 13-yard completion to Tate, they went nowhere.  Hauschka came on for a 40-yard field goal attempt and the kick was good.  That made it 17-13 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

The 49ers got the ball back at their 20, went nowhere and Lee punted again.  Tate fielded it at the Seattle 38 and was brought down immediately.  11 yards on two carries by Lynch and a 13-yarder to Baldwin moved them to the San Francisco 38.  Running back Robert Turbin got four yards on first down, but an intentional grounding penalty moved them back to the 50.  From there, Wilson found tight end Zach Miller for a gain of 15 and that was enough to get Hauschka into field goal range.  He was late getting onto the field, but it looked like there was enough time to get the play off.  Instead, the Seahawks called timeout and brought their offense back on the field.  Smith jumped offside and that gave Wilson a free play.  He took full advantage of the situation and fired a pass to the right side of the end zone.  It was caught by wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks went up 20-17 with 13:44 to go in the game.

A holding call on the kickoff moved the 49ers back to their 11-yard line.  Passes to tight end Vernon Davis and Boldin netted a first down at the 25.  A three-yard carry by Hunter and a six-yard scramble by Kaepernick set up a third and one.  But a delay of game moved them back five yards and on third and six from the 29, Kaepernick was sacked by defensive end Cliff Avril and the ball was recovered by Bennett.  Although Bennett had a nice convoy of blockers to lead him to the end zone, he stumbled over his own feet and was touched down at the San Francisco six-yard line.

Lynch got the call on first down and was stopped for a short gain.  A false start moved them back five yards and a pass to Tate was incomplete.  Then the fun began.  Wilson completed a pass to Kearse down the middle for nine yards.  At the one, he was hit by linebacker NaVorro Bowman.  Not only was he hit, Bowman clearly took the ball away from Kearse.  A huge pileup ensued and Bowman was hurt on the play.  He would leave the game with a torn ACL.  To add insult to injury, not one of the seven zebras saw Bowman take the ball from Kearse.  They ruled that Seattle would maintain possession and that the play was not reviewable.  It would have been reviewable if it had occurred in the end zone or the sideline.  All I can say to that is “WOW!”  Seriously?  You can’t challenge that?  I thought that was it for Harbaugh.  But he didn’t storm the field and after Bowman was carted off, order was restored.  The Seahawks decided to go for it on fourth down and everyone knew Lynch was going to get the call.  However, he couldn’t handle the hand-off and the ball came loose.  It rolled backwards and was recovered at the 15 by fullback Michael Robinson.

Given new life, the 49ers took over at the 15.  Things got off to a good start as Hunter ran up the right side for 11 yards.  But on first down from the 26, Kaepernick looked for Boldin on the left side and threw a terrible pass that was picked off by safety Kam Chancellor at the 40.  He was touched down at the 40 and once again, the Seahawks had good field position.  On third and eight from the 38, Wilson found Tate for ten yards and a first down at the 28.  On second and eight from the 26, the Seahawks were flagged for offensive pass interference.  That moved them back to the 36.  They got as far as the 29 and Hauschka was brought into the game again.  His 47-yard field goal attempt was good and the Seahawks led 23-17 with 3:37 to go in the game.

The 49ers went to work from their 22 and running back LaMichael James ran up the right side on first down and looked like he was going to throw.  Apparently there was nobody open and he was brought down for no gain.  Kaepernick found Boldin for eight on second down, but his pass on third down fell incomplete.  That set up a crucial fourth and two.  Kaepernick took the snap, rolled to his left and tossed a 17-yard pass to Gore for a first down at the 47.  Kaepernick scrambled for four yards on first down and hooked up with Boldin for four more.  It was now third and two from the Seattle 45-yard line.  Kaepernick calmly threw to his left and the ball was caught for a gain of 16 yards and a first down at the 29.  The 49ers stopped the clock with their first timeout.  From the 29, Kaepernick found Davis for 11 more and things were looking real good for the 49ers.  Well, maybe not.  From the 18, Kaepernick threw to the right corner of the end zone for Crabtree.  The pass was tipped by Sherman and picked off by linebacker Malcolm Smith.  That sealed the deal.  Sherman was flagged for taunting after the play and the Seahawks took over at their ten and ran the clock out from there.  Final score: Seattle 23 San Francisco 17.

For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick completed 14 of 24 for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  He also led the team in rushing with 130 yards on 11 carries.  Anquan Boldin had the most receptions with five and the most receiving yards with 53 and a touchdown.  With the exception of Kaepernick, the 49ers went nowhere on the ground. Gore, James, Hunter and Dixon combined for 31 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.  All totaled, they had 161 yards rushing on 28 carries.  Defensively, NaVorro Bowman led the team in solo tackles with six.  He also had a sack, a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery that nobody in a striped shirt saw.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 16 of 25 for 215 yards and one touchdown.  Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions with six and receiving yards with 106.  Marshawn Lynch had a good day on the ground and finished the game with 109 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.  All totaled, the Seahawks rushed for 115 yards on 29 carries.  Defensively, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner tied for the lead in solo tackles with five apiece.  Chancellor also had an interception.

Well, the stage is set for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on February 2nd.  It will be the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos fighting it out for the Lombardi Trophy.  Kickoff will be at 6:25 eastern time.  I have not seen too many teams slow down the Denver offense and the “Legion of Boom” will definitely have their hands full.  All I want to see is a good game and it should be a good one.  It would also be kind of cool if a snowstorm hit too.  Snow or not, I’m sure it will be cold outside.  Until then, take it easy.

 

Seahawks 23, Saints 15

The first game of the divisional playoffs had the New Orleans Saints hitting the road again to play at Seattle.  The Saints were coming off a 26-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles and the Seahawks were coming off a bye week.  Heavy rain and heavy winds were expected throughout this game as Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka sent the opening kick through the end zone.  The Saints ran three plays and gained a total of four yards.  Punter Thomas Morestead sent a wounded duck off the side of his foot that only went 16 yards and the Seahawks took over at the New Orleans 40-yard line.

Two plays netted negative one yard and on third and 11, quarterback Russell Wilson tossed one up the left side for wide receiver Percy Harvin.  The pass was incomplete, but Harvin got nailed by safety Rafael Bush and that resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty and a first down at the 27.  They got as far as the 20 and were forced to try a field goal. Hauschka came on and his 38-yard attempt was good.  That put Seattle up 3-0 with 10:19 to go in the first quarter.

Another kickoff through the end zone put the Saints at their 20 again.  Running back Mark Ingram got the drive off to a good start as he gained 18 yards on two carries.  Quarterback Drew Brees completed a 13-yard pass to running back Khiry Robinson and the Saints were in Seattle territory.  Ingram ran up the left side for 12 more yards and was pushed out of bounds.  On his way back to the huddle, he let anyone with earshot know how great he was.  Nice run, Mark.  Now get back to the huddle.  Gaining 12 yards won’t get you into the Hall of Fame.  The Saints got as far as the 27 and the drive stalled there.  Kicker Shayne Graham fresh off a good game last week came on for a 45-yard field goal attempt and it was wide left.  With five minutes to go in the first quarter, the score was still 3-0.

Some good runs by running back Marshawn Lynch and a 13-yard pass to Golden Tate had the Seahawks heading into New Orleans territory again.  On first down from the New Orleans 46, Wilson completed a pass to Lynch for a gain of seven.  Running back Robert Turbin got the call on the next play and got five yards and a first down at the 31.  They would go no farther than that.  Hauschka made his 49-yard field goal attempt and the Seahawks led 6-0 with 37 seconds to go in the first quarter.

On second and six from the 24, Ingram ran up the middle and the ball was knocked loose and recovered by defensive end Michael Bennett.  That set the Seahawks up at the New Orleans 24-yard line.  Harvin ran a reverse up the right side for nine yards on first down and Lynch finished off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run right up the middle.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks were up 13-0 with 14:17 to go in the second quarter.

The next three possessions all resulted in punts.  But with six minutes to go in the first half, the Seahawks got the ball back at their 29.  Two runs by Lynch totaled 19 yards and a short scramble by Wilson and a 16-yard pass to Harvin moved the Seahawks down to the New Orleans 35.  Lynch got the call again and gained three yards.  But a holding penalty moved them back to the 40.  No problem.  Wilson completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for a first down at the 15.  But once again the Saints defense stiffened and the drive stalled at the eight-yard line.  Hauschka was inserted into the game again and he made his 26-yard field goal attempt.  The half ended with the Seahawks up 16-0.

The second half started and it looked like the sun was about to come out.  Things were looking a little brighter in Seattle for a few minutes.  That didn’t last long and the sun was quickly covered up by more dark clouds.  Then it started to rain again.  There were lots of punts in the third quarter and neither team seemed to be able to get the ball rolling.  With 6:22 to go in the third quarter, the Saints got the ball back at their 39 and an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Seahawks got them a first down in Seattle territory.  They got down to the Seattle 44 and on fourth and three, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton decided to go for it.  Brees felt pressure from his left and he ran to his right.  Wide receiver Lance Moore was open across the middle, but the throw was off target and the Seahawks took over at their 43.  They went nowhere and punter Jon Ryan got off a short punt that went just 26 yards and was downed at the New Orleans 26.

With just a little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Saints knew they had to get their offense moving.  A six-yard pass to wide receiver Marques Colston and a six-yard run by Ingram got them a first down at the 38.  Brees then found tight end Josh Hill down the middle for a gain of 23 and a first down at the Seattle 39.  They were moving now and Brees found Colston again for 25 more yards.  A short run by Ingram and a nine-yard pass to Moore made it first and goal from the two.  Two plays later, Robinson found the end zone for a touchdown.  That was followed by Ingram running it in for the two-point conversion.  That made it 16-8 with 13:11 to go in the game.

The ineptness continued for both offenses until the 5:30 mark.  The Saints started at their 28 and a holding call moved them back ten yards.  Then Seattle was flagged for defensive holding.  From the 23, Brees floated one up the left side that surely looked like it would be picked off as there were two Seahawks standing in front of wide receiver Robert Meachem.  Both defenders went up for the pass and the ball bounced off them and landed squarely in the hands of Meachem.  He was dragged down at the Seattle 25-yard line.  A delay of game penalty moved them back five yards and that was followed by three incomplete passes.  Graham came into the game and once again, his kick sailed wide left.  The Seahawks dodged a bullet and remained up 16-8 with 3:51 to go in the game.

The Seahawks took over at their 38 and on third and three from the 45, Wilson put one up the left side for wide receiver Doug Baldwin and he hauled it in for a gain of 24 yards.  The Saints challenged the play, but it was ruled a complete pass and the Seahawks had a first down at the New Orleans 31-yard line.  Saints, do you think Marshawn Lynch might get the ball on the next play?  I bet he does.  Sure enough, Lynch ran up the left side for a 31-yard touchdown.  Hauschka made the point after and the Seahawks led 23-8 with 2:40 remaining.

The Saints started at their 20 and two passes to Colston and one to Moore moved the Saints to the Seattle 40.  Brees found Colston again for 16 yards and running back Darren Sproles caught a short pass for a gain of six.  An illegal substitution penalty on Seattle got them five more yards and a first down at the 13.  On third and ten from the 13, the Saints were flagged for offensive pass interference and that moved them back ten yards.  That made it third and 20 and Brees completed a 14-yard pass to Sproles to set up a fourth and six from the nine.  Brees tossed a pass to the right side that was hauled in by Colston for a touchdown.  Graham made the point after and Seattle led 23-15 with 26 seconds remaining in the game.

The only thing the Saints could do was try an onside kick.  The ball hit wide receiver Golden Tate in the hands, but he couldn’t control it and the ball was recovered by Colston.  The Saints had a shot to tie it up.  Brees completed an eight-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham and then spiked the ball.  From the 49, Brees completed a 13-yard pass to Colston on the right sideline.  Instead of stepping out of bounds, he hesitated and threw the ball across the field to running back Travaris Cadet.  The only problem with that was it wasn’t a lateral.  It was an illegal forward pass and with that penalty comes a ten second runoff.  In other words, the game was over.  The Seahawks hung on to win 23-15.

For the Saints, Drew Brees completed 24 of 43 for 309 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.  Marques Colston led all receivers in receptions with 11 and yards with 144 and a touchdown.  On the ground, Khiry Robinson had the most yards with 57 and a touchdown.  As a team, the Saints rushed for 108 yards on 26 carries.  Defensively, safety Roman Harper led the Saints in solo tackles with five.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson has seen better days as he completed 9 of 18 for just 103 yards.  Losing Percy Harvin to a concussion didn’t help matters and Doug Baldwin led the team in receptions with two and yards with 30.  The ground game was where the damage was done.  Marshawn Lynch led the way with 140 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.  All totaled, the Seahawks rushed for 174 yards on 35 carries.  Defensively, safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner tied for the lead in solo tackles with seven apiece.

Up next for the Seahawks is a visit from one of their division rivals.  The San Francisco 49ers are coming to town on Sunday at 6:30 eastern time.  When they met in week two, the Seahawks had no problem with the 49ers and came away with a 29-3 win.  But when they met in San Francisco in week 14, the 49ers won 19-17.  That should be quite a battle to determine the NFC champion.

As I concluded this article, I was informed of a family emergency and won’t be able to do recaps of the remaining games today. I hope to have the rest of the articles up tomorrow.

 

Falcons 30, Seahawks 28

The third playoff game on the schedule had the well traveled Seattle Seahawks heading down south to take on the Atlanta Falcons.  The Seahawks were coming off a 24-14 win over the Washington Redskins and the Falcons had a first round bye.  The Falcons won the toss and elected to receive.  Return man Jacquizz Rodgers fielded the kick three yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the 25.  Running back Michael Turner got things off to a good start and rumbled up the right side for a gain of 15 yards.  Turner got the call again and got a short gain.  Quarterback Matt Ryan then hooked up with tight end Tony Gonzalez for nine yards and a first down at the Seahawk 49.  A couple of carries by Rodgers and a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Roddy White put the ball at the 28.  Turner and Rodgers gained seven yards on the next two plays and that brought up a third and three at the 21.  Ryan threw for White in the end zone, but the ball was knocked away by cornerback Richard Sherman.  That brought in kicker Matt Bryant to attempt a 39-yard field goal and the kick was good.  The Falcons took an early 3-0 lead with 9:40 to go in the first quarter.

Two carries by running by Marshawn Lynch and an incomplete pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Sidney Rice forced the Seahawks to punt.  The Falcons started at the 50 and on third and three from the Seahawk 43, Ryan’s pass intended for Gonzalez was picked off by linebacker Bobby Wagner.  That gave the Seahawks the ball at their 33-yard line.  A scramble by Wilson got them to the 50.  From the 50, Lynch ran up the middle for a nice gain, but the ball was knocked loose by linebacker Sean Witherspoon.  There was a mad scramble and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux came up with it at the Falcon 39.

From the 39, Ryan connected with wide receiver Julio Jones for 13 yards.  Turner then got another carry for a gain of four.  The Seahawks were flagged for a horse collar tackle and that moved them down to the Seahawk 29.  A short run and a false start made it third and 14 from the 33.  Ryan calmly stood in the pocket and completed a 16-yard pass to White for a first down at the 17.  From the 17, Ryan floated one up the right sideline for tight end Chase Coffman.  He was ruled out of bounds at the one-yard line.  From there, Gonzalez made a nice catch in the back of the end zone for a Falcon touchdown.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons went up 10-0 with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter.

The Seahawks started at their 20 and on the strength of two receptions by tight end Zach Miller, got down to the Falcon 44.  On third and eight from the 42, Wilson’s pass to wide receiver Golden Tate was incomplete.  They punted again and the ball was downed at the 13-yard line.  From the 13, Rodgers burst up the middle, bounced off a big hit and ran 45 yards to the Seahawk 42.  Completions to Jones and White netted another first down at the 30.  The drive came to an end at the 19 and Bryant made his 37-yard attempt to put the Falcons up 13-0 with 9:13 to go in the first half.

Passes to Miller and Tate put the Seahawks at the Falcon 20.  A three-yard gain and a six-yard catch by Lynch made it third and one at the 11.  For me, the answer to getting a first down on third and short is to give it to Lynch.  He was standing on the sideline and the carry went to Robert Turbin for no gain.  Seahawk head coach Pete Carrol decided to go for it on fourth and short.  This time, Lynch was back on the field.  But he didn’t get the ball.  Fullback Michael Robinson did and he was stuffed for no gain.  I honestly don’t understand why Lynch wasn’t used to get the first down.  The Seahawks turned the ball over on downs.

With 5:33 to go in the half, the Falcons looked to increase their lead.  A 33-yard run by Turner on second and seven from the 15 got them off to a good start.  A defensive holding call on the Seahawks got them into Seahawk territory.  On first down from the 47, Ryan went deep down the middle of the field and the pass was caught by White for a 47-yard touchdown.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons now led 20-0 with 4:16 to go.

The Seahawks got the ball at their 20.  Some scrambling by Wilson and passes to Tate, Rice and Miller had them at the Falcon 19 with time ticking away.  A nine-yard pass to Miller and a four yard-pass to Tate made it first and goal at the nine.  That was followed by a three-yard pass to Rice, a false start and an incomplete pass to Tate.  On third and goal from the 11, Wilson was sacked by Babineaux.  With no timeouts, Wilson tried to get his offense set for one more play.  Time ran out and they didn’t get the play off.  The Falcons took a 20-0 lead into the locker room.

The Seahawks knew they really had to get something going quickly or this game may end up being a blowout.  Another touch-back meant they would be starting at their 20 again.  An 11-yard completion to Rice, a short gain by Lynch and a 17-yard scramble by Wilson had the Seahawks at midfield.  Carries by Lynch, Wilson and Turbin netted another first down at the Falcon 40.  Wilson was sacked on the next play for a loss of eight by defensive tackle Vance Walker.  But, on second and 18, he hooked up with Miller again for 19 yards and a first down at the 29.  Tate took it the rest of the way as he caught a pass on the left side and weaved his way into the end zone for a touchdown.  Newly acquired kicker Ryan Longwell made the point after and the Seahawks now trailed 20-7 with 9:47 to go in the third quarter.

Rodgers returned the kickoff to the 20 and the Falcons went looking for another score.  A five-yard carry by Turner and a six-yard pass to Gonzalez moved them to the 31.  Ryan then spread the ball around to Rodgers, Jones and wide receiver Harry Douglass for a first down at the Seahawk 44.  On second and ten from the 44, Ryan tossed a short pass to Jones who turned it into a 21-yard gain.  On third and nine from the 22, Gonzalez caught another pass for a gain of 11 and a first down at the 11.  On first down, Rodgers caught a pass for six yards to make it second and goal from the five.  From the five, Ryan completed a pass to running back Jason Snelling who took it in for the score.  Bryant made the point after and the Falcons now led 27-7 with 2:11 to go in the third quarter.

The Seahawks were now officially in “panic mode.”  Lynch ran up the right side for five yards and Tate caught another pass for a gain of 24 yards.  That was followed by a 12-yard pass to Rice and a 26-yard pass to Miller.  All that passing got them down to the Falcon 13.  From the 13, Wilson threw a short pass to the right side that was caught by Turbin for a gain of seven yards.  A carry by Turbin moved the ball to the one-yard line and made it first and goal.  On second down, the Falcons brought the pressure up the middle, Wilson faked the hand-off to Lynch and took the ball in for a touchdown.  Longwell made the point after and it was now 27-14 with 13 minutes to go in the game.

I was thinking the Falcons may want to take some time off the clock on their next drive.  They had the ball for exactly one minute and 58 seconds.  That’s because on second and 11 from the Falcon 32, Ryan went deep into double coverage looking for White.  White fell down at the Seahawk 39 and the ball was easily picked off by safety Earl Thomas.  That gave the Seahawks another chance to close the gap.  They went 62 yards in four plays with the big plays being a 24-yard pass to Rice and a 30-yard catch and run by Turbin.  That got them a first and goal from the three.  From there, Wilson found Miller wide open for a touchdown.  Longwell made the point after and it was now 27-21 and there was an eerie hush over the Atlanta faithful.

Again, I thought the Falcons would pound the ball with Turner and Rodgers to take the clock down.  But, with 9:13 to go, they called three pass plays that got them exactly three freaking yards and took only 1:50 off the clock.  They punted the ball back to the Seahawks who took over at their 40.  The Falcon defense rose up this time and forced a punt.  The ball hit the goal line for a touch-back and the Falcons went to work from their 20.  This “drive”  got them a grand total of 14 yards (12 came on a carry by Turner) and took 2:32 off the clock.

So, with exactly three minutes to go in the game, the Seahawks found themselves at their 39 with a chance to take the lead.  A three-yard run and a seven-yard catch by Lynch got them a first down at the 49.  Tate was wide open in the middle of the field on the next play and Wilson connected with him for a gain of 19.  That made it first down at the Falcon 32.  Wilson scrambled for a gain of five and on third and five from the 27, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and looked for a receiver.  He found Lynch and he took the ball down to the three-yard line.  The Falcons were flagged for 12 men on the field and that moved the ball to the two.  From the two, Lynch ran off right guard for a touchdown.  Or was it?  The ball came loose as he entered the end zone, but replay showed it had crossed the plane before it came loose.  Longwell made the point after and that put the Seahawks up 28-27 with just 31 seconds to go.

The Falcons started at their 28 and Ryan quickly hooked up with Douglass for a gain of 22 yards.  Just like that, they were at midfield and called their second timeout.  From the 50, Ryan completed a pass to Gonzalez at the 31.  In two plays, the Falcons went 41 yards.  What kind of defense was that, Seattle?  With 13 seconds remaining, the Falcons called their final timeout and Bryant came on for the crucial field goal attempt.  The Seahawks called timeout, but Bryant kicked the ball anyway.  It sailed wide right.  But, with Seattle calling that timeout, Bryant had another chance.  This time, his kick was good and the Falcons led 30-27 with eight seconds to go.

The ensuing kickoff was very short and the Seahawks recovered it at their 46.  Wilson completed a pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and he ran out of bounds at the Falcon 46 with two seconds to go.  So, what do you do?  Try a 64-yard field goal?  You’re in a dome, why not give it a shot?  Longwell was standing on the sideline waiting for a chance.  That chance never came.  Wilson threw a deep pass for the end zone that ended up being picked off by Julio Jones.  That’s how the game ended.  Final score: Falcons 30 Seahawks 28.  The Falcons will go on to face the 49ers in Atlanta for the NFC championship.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 24 of 36 for 385 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  Zach Miller had a stellar day and led the team in receptions with eight and yards with 142 and one touchdown.  Wilson was also the leading rusher with 60 yards on seven carries and one touchdown.  All totaled, the Seahawks rushed for 123 yards on 28 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Bobby Wagner led the defense with seven solo tackles, an interception and one pass defensed.

For the Falcons, Matt Ryan completed 24 of 35 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.  Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones tied for the lead in receptions with six and Roddy White had the most receiving yards with 76 and a touchdown.  Michael Turner rumbled for 98 yards on 14 carries and as a team, the Falcons racked up 167 yards on 26 carries.  Defensively, Sean Witherspoon and cornerback Asante Samuel led the team in solo tackles with five apiece.  Witherspoon also forced a fumble.

Well, after years of frustration and saying he was 95% sure he was going to retire, Tony Gonzalez finally got his first playoff win.  Hey it had to happen eventually, right?  It was fitting that his catch on the final drive put the Falcons in position for the game winning field goal.  They’ll have their hands full next week against the 49ers.  One game remains on the schedule and that’s the Texans and the Patriots.  I’ll be back at the conclusion of that game for a recap.

 

Seahawks 24, Redskins 14

The fourth and final game of wildcard weekend had the Seattle Seahawks visiting the Washington Redskins.  Of all the games, I was looking forward to this one the most.  It was the battle of rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson.  To be honest, of the rookies playing in this game, the one who impressed me the most this season was Redskin running back Alfred Morris.  The Redskins won the toss and elected to receive.

Starting at their 20, the Redskins got off to a good start with runs of eight and nine yards by Morris.  A nine-yard pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon and a three-yard run by Griffin moved the Redskins to midfield.  A 30-yard pass to Garcon and an 18-yard run by Morris made it first and goal from the three-yard line.  On third and goal from the four, Griffin fired a dart to running back Even Royster for a Redskin touchdown.  Kicker Kai Forbath made the extra point and the Redskins went up 7-0 with ten minutes to go in the first quarter.

The Seahawks went nowhere on their first drive and punted.  The Redskins took over at their 46 and on third and three from the Seahawk 47, Griffin faced some pressure, but managed to complete a ten-yard pass to wide receiver Santana Moss.  A neutral zone infraction on the Seahawks and an eight-yard run by Griffin gave the Redskins another first down at the 24.  Tight end Logan Paulsen caught a 15-yard pass on third and one and the Redskins were knocking on the door again.  They found themselves in another third and goal situation from the four.  This time, they had the same result as their previous drive.  Griffin had loads of time and hit Paulsen in the end zone for another Redskin touchdown.  Forbath made the point after and the Redskins went up 14-0 with a little over two minutes to go in the first quarter.  Long after Griffin got rid of the ball, he was knocked down by defensive end Bruce Irvin and he was flagged for unnecessary roughness.  After that hit, Griffin left the field, but would return shortly.

The Seahawks started at their 20 and a 12-yard completion to tight end Zach Miller on third and 12 got them a first down at the 30.  A short run by running back Marshawn Lynch, a 19-yard scramble by Wilson and a nine-yard pass to Lynch moved the Seahawks into Redskin territory.  On first down from the 39, Wilson put up a floater and wide receiver Sidney Rice did a great job of catching it and keeping both feet in bounds for a gain of 27.  But a delay of game penalty and three incomplete passes stalled the drive at the 14.  Kicker Steven Hauschka  was brought in to try a 32-yard field goal.  The kick was good and that made it 14-3 with 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.

After giving up two early touchdowns, the Seahawk defense made some adjustments and really started bringing the pressure and forced the Redskins to punt.  The punt was fair caught by return man Leon Washington at the Seahawk 27.  Two runs by Lynch and an offside penalty on the Redskins moved the ball to the 45.  On first and five from the 45, Wilson fumbled, but the ball was picked up by Lynch and he took it down to the Redskin 36.  On second down from the 35, Wilson threw a screen to fullback Michael Robinson for a gain of 19 yards.  An 11-yard run by Wilson made it first and goal from the five.  On second and goal from the four, Wilson tossed the ball to his left and it was caught by Robinson for a Seahawk touchdown.  Hauschka made the extra point and the Seahawks closed the gap to 14-10 with just under five minutes to go in the second quarter.  Hauschka injured his calf on the point after attempt and punter Jon Ryan kicked the ball off.

The next “drive” for the Redskins ended abruptly.  On second and seven from the 29, Griffin threw a deep ball into double coverage intended for Garcon.  The ball was picked off by safety Earl Thomas.  He was brought down at the Seahawk 26 and with 3:36 remaining in the first half, Wilson went to work.  On third and five from the 31, he completed a six-yard pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin.  On the next play, he hooked up with Baldwin again.  This pass went for 33 yards and he was brought down at the Redskin 30.  Two more runs by Lynch netted 11 yards and another first down at the 19.  On fourth and two from the 11, Hauschka limped onto the field and nailed a 29-yard field goal to end the half.  At halftime, the Redskins led 14-13.

The Seahawks picked up right where they left off on their first drive of the second half.  Lynch, Robinson and rookie running back Robert Turbin moved the Seahawks from their 30 to the Redskin 32.  A 15-yard pass to wide receiver Golden Tate and a 15-yard run straight up the middle by Lynch put the ball at the two-yard line.  On second down from the one, Lynch got the call again and defensive tackle Barry Cofield put his helmet right on the ball.  It came loose and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins came up with the fumble recovery.

The Redskins took over at their three and managed to move the ball to the 26 before punting.  On this drive, defensive end Chris Clemons was injured and it has been reported he has a torn ACL.  He will miss the rest of the playoffs.  The Seahawks got down to the Redskin 28, but on third and eight, Wilson was sacked for a loss of nine by cornerback Josh Wilson.  That took them out of field goal range and they punted.  The Redskins were flagged for holding on the return and they started from their own six-yard line.  As the game went on, it was becoming more and more evident that Griffin was playing in excruciating pain.  From the six, Griffin was sacked for a loss of four by defensive tackle Alan Branch.  He managed to complete a pass to Garcon on third and 14, but he was brought down short of the first down marker.  Redskin punter Sav Rocca came on and hit a nice 53-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Seahawk 37.  The Redskin defense did a good job and forced another punt.

A limping Robert Griffin led his team onto the field in hopes of putting some more points on the board.  On first down from their 22, Griffin took the snap and “ran” up the left side for a gain of nine yards.  That play call totally boggled my mind.  You have perfectly good running backs who could do the same thing.  After the play was over, Griffin limped back to the huddle.  Morris got the call on the next play and gained five yards for a first down at the 36.  They would only gain three more yards and Rocca punted the ball away again.  Washington fielded it at the eight and returned it to the 21.

A seven-yard pass to Tate and an 18-yard run by Lynch moved the Seahawks to midfield.  On third and ten, Miller made a nice catch and run for a gain of 22.  He was finally dragged down at the Redskin 32.  On third and five from the 27, Lynch reminded everyone why he is known as “The Beast.”  He ran up the right side for a 27-yard Seahawk touchdown.  Wilson completed the two-point conversion with a pass to Miller and the Seahawks now had a 21-14 lead with seven minutes to go in the game.

I really thought I’d see backup quarterback Kirk Cousins come into the game for the Redskins.  I was wrong.  Griffin remained at quarterback and on first down from the 24, he was sacked for a loss of 12 by Irvin.  On second and 22, it got even worse for Griffin.  A bad snap sent the ball bouncing crazily toward him.  There was a big pileup at the five-yard line and the Seahawks came away with the ball.  Griffin stayed down for several minutes as trainers worked on him.  He managed to get to his feet and walk off the field, but that was the last we’d see of him.  The Seahawks took over at the five and gained a grand total of one yard.  Hauschka made the 22-yard field goal and the Seahawks upped the lead to 24-14 with five and a half minutes to go in the game.

The Redskins got the ball back at their 18 and Cousins found wide receiver Leonard Hankerson for gains of 15 and 12 yards.  Another bad snap was picked up by Cousins and he was thrown for a loss of four yards.  After that, Cousins threw three straight incomplete passes and turned the ball over to the Seahawks with 4:16 to go in the game.  Lynch and Turbin split some carries and they ended up punting the ball back to the Redskins with a minute to go.  Cousins threw four incomplete passes and that’s how the game would end.  Final score: Seahawks 24 Redskins 14.

For the Seahawks, Russell Wilson completed 15 of 26 for 187 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.  He also had 67 yards rushing on eight carries.  Tight end Zach Miller led the team in receptions with four and in receiving yards with 48.  Marshawn Lynch led the ground game with 132 yards on 20 carries, one touchdown and one lost fumble.  As a team, the Seahawks had a total of 224 yards on 37 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Bobby Wagner led the Seahawks in solo tackles with five and had one tackle for a loss.

For the Redskins, Robert Griffin completed 10 of 19 for 84 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.  He also had 21 yards rushing on five carries.  Kirk Cousins didn’t do much better as he completed three of ten for 31 yards.  Pierre Garcon was the leader in receptions with four and receiving yards with 50.  Alfred Morris led the ground game with 80 yards on 16 carries.  In my opinion, he didn’t get enough carries in this game.  As a team, the Redskins ran for a total of 104 yards on 23 carries.  Defensively, safety Reed Doughty led the Redskins in sacks with two and the most solo tackles with seven.  He also had two tackles for a loss and one pass defensed.  All totaled, the Redskins sacked Wilson five times.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is being heavily criticized for leaving Griffin in the game too long.  Griffin entered the game with a knee brace and was obviously not anywhere near 100 percent.  Yet, Shanahan left him out there despite the fact that he was in obvious pain.  That’s nothing new for Shanahan.  When he was in Denver, quarterback Brian Griese had a badly injured shoulder and Shanahan didn’t take him out.  There’s also a sound byte from Super Bowl 32 where he asked running back Terrell Davis if he was feeling okay.  Davis replied “I can’t see.  I’ve got another one of my headaches.”  Shanahan said “Well I need you to get back in there for the next play.  We’re going to fake it to you.”  Davis ended up being okay and was named the MVP of that game.  But what the hell are you doing putting a blind running back into a game?

The playoffs continue next week with Baltimore at Denver on Saturday at 4:30 eastern time followed by Green Bay at San Francisco at 7:30.  Sunday’s games will feature Seattle at Atlanta at 1:00 and Houston at New England  at 4:30.  Those are definitely some interesting match-ups!  Until then, take it easy.

 

Heisman 2011: A Week 4 Snapshot

In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club in New York created an award for the most outstanding player in collegiate football. Eventually it was renamed in honor of the club’s athletic director, John Heisman. It has become one of the most prestigious annual awards in all of sports and pundits begin weighing in on potential winners in the preseason.

With each successive week the focus becomes sharper. By the time the award is presented in early December, there is typically an odds-on favorite. The interest is particularly keen this year, with a large field of candidates.  Here are some of the most commonly mentioned candidates.

Andrew Luck
The Stanford QB was runner-up in the Heisman balloting to Auburn’s Cam Newton last year. A redshirt junior, he surprised many by forgoing the NFL to play a third collegiate season. He was the preseason favorite and has performed well to date. Stanford had a week four bye, but Luck has led them to a 3-0 record with 786 passing yards on 57 completions. He has tossed eight TDs and only one INT.

Kellen Moore
A redshirt senior, Moore has led his Boise State Broncos to both prominence and BCS contention over his three seasons. Though a Heisman finalist last year, he is often dismissed by pundits due to his stature (6 ft. 0 in., 190 lbs.). His size hasn’t inhibited his success, however. Moore is 41-2 as a starting QB. He’s already thrown for 995 yards and 12 TDs this season (against two INTs). The Broncos are 4-0 and have their sights set on a national championship.

Marcus Lattimore
The South Carolina tailback burst on to the Heisman stage this year with 611 rushing yards and eight TDs. He also has a TD through the air and 139 receiving yards for the Gamecocks. Though only a sophomore, he has carried his team to a 4-0 record overall record and 2-0 in the SEC.

Robert Griffin III
The Baylor Bears don’t get a lot of attention, often being overshadowed by more prominent Big 12 schools. Their junior QB has brought them notoriety this season though. Once a player earns a universal nickname, his stock is bound to rise. “RG3” has earned a lot of Heisman mentions this season. His Bears are 3-0 and he has 962 passing yards and 13 TDs (with no INTs).

Landry Jones
The Oklahoma Sooners have enjoyed top billing in the weekly AP poll much of this season. Landry Jones is a primary reason for that prominence. The redshirt junior QB has 1,022 passing yards this season for the 3-0 Sooners. He has five TDs against four INTs.

Russell Wilson
Wilson is a redshirt senior QB for the Wisconsin Badgers, having transferred from North Carolina State, where he enjoyed much success in the ACC. He has led Wisconsin to a 4-0 start throwing for 1,136 yards and 11 TDs and one INT.

Geno Smith
Every writer is entitled to a dark horse candidate. I’ll take Geno Smith, junior QB for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Smith has thrown for 1,471 yards so far, with nine TDs and three INTs. West Virginia is 3-1, having lost to LSU last Saturday. Despite the loss Smith threw for 463 yards against the Tigers, one of the best defenses in the NCAA.

One other player who emerged last weekend with 288 yards rushing and two TDs is LaMichael James, a junior tailback for Oregon. During the preseason he was widely expected to be among the contenders, but has not had a Heisman performance until last Saturday against Arizona. Going forward he may find his way into the conversation.

These players all have impressive credentials, making for interesting competition. Unlike many recent years’ competition, this could be a toss up in December.

 

Check out this disscussion on Moore and Lattimore at: Heisman Hopefuls Kellen Moore and Lattimore

 

Pete Sonski blogs about college football. He welcomes feedback here and on Twitter @PSPRGuy.