Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, the draft experts at ESPN and ESPN.com, have posted their second mock drafts with the Seahawks selecting Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (Kiper) and LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery (McShay) with the 25th pick in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
Their mock drafts are an Insider feature, so they require registration and a fee. But here’s what each had to say about his selection for the Seahawks:
Kiper on Hankins (6-3, 335): “Another good spot for someone to call and trade up. As for the pick, if Seattle wants a penetrator on the interior of the D-line, Hankins really isn’t that guy. He doesn’t have the burst to split gaps and create havoc behind the line of scrimmage. What he can do is occupy multiple blockers, help other rushers find space and better matchups and make the Seahawks more difficult to run against as he holds up blockers intent on getting a body in front of Seattle’s tandem of great LBs in K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. Hankins is an impact guy when his motor is running and will particularly make a run defense sturdier immediately.”
McShay on Montgomery (6-4, 245): “Seattle’s defense was strong overall in 2012, but DE Chris Clemons tore his ACL late in the season and Bruce Irvin is at his best as a sub-package rusher. Montgomery has the size and strength to start opposite Red Bryant and help beef up Seattle’s run defense.”
McShay also has only five “skill position” players going in the first round, with only one in the Top 10 – West Virginia QB Geno Smith to the Bills at No. 8; Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to the Rams at No. 16; Alabama running back Eddie Lacy to the Bengals at No. 21; Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen to the Texans at No. 27; and Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter to the 49ers at No. 31.
Kiper has six “skill position” players in his first round, including a pair of tight ends – Patterson to the Dolphins at No. 12; Stanford tight end Zach Ertz to the Giants at No. 19; Allen to the Rams at No. 22; Lacy to the Packers at No. 26; LSU wide receiver Quinton Patton to the Texans at No. 27; and Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert to the Falcons at No. 30.
Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson had phenomenal rookie seasons for the Seahawks, but they finished second and third in the balloting for NFL Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, it was announced today.
Wagner, the middle linebacker who led the Seahawks in tackles during the regular season and also the playoffs, received 11 of the 50 votes to finish second to Luke Kuechly, the middle linebacker for the Panthers who got 28 votes.
Wilson, who tied the NFL rookie record by passing for 26 touchdowns during the regular season, finished behind two other quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, who got 29 votes; and Andrew Luck of the Colts, who got 11 votes. Wilson received 10 votes in the balloting for the Associated Press awards.
Pete Carroll finished third in balloting for NFL Coach of the Year behind the Colts’ duo of Bruce Arians (36½ votes) and Chuck Pagano (5½). Carroll received 5 votes.
HONOLULU – Count ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. among those who’s willing to admit he erred on the grade he gave the Seahawks after they made their selections in last April’s NFL Draft.
In fact, it seems the line forms behind Kiper, who has given the Seahawks an A in his regarding of the 2012 draft after initially slapping them with a C-minus.
It’s an Insider feature at ESPN.com, so you must register and pay a fee to see Kiper’s entire regarding. But here’s what he had to say about the Seahawks:
“Give John Schneider and Pete Carroll all the credit in the world. I had major questions on value and even need with some of their picks, and in most cases, the Seahawks proved me wrong. At the time I wrote, ‘Let’s be clear: I think the Seahawks drafted guys they really wanted, and with a plan in mind for how to use them.’ Did they ever. Russell Wilson might be the defining pick of the draft, already a star and a guy Seattle got at No. 75 overall. I really liked Wilson as a prospect, and said on the set I thought he’d be ‘a great test case’ for short quarterbacks. My question of the pick also had to do with the fact that Seattle had acquired Matt Flynn. If Wilson had been 6-foot-2, I think he would have been a top-5 pick – said it then, say it now. Is that evaluation still reasonable? Has Wilson proven that short QBs can’t all be lumped together? Ultimately, evaluators will still have questions about whether short QBs can succeed because they simply have so few of them to evaluate. The sample size for guys at Wilson’s size who’ve succeeded as he has is so small that not only is Wilson almost unique, I don’t see a QB like him coming along for years. But there’s no way around the fact that he was a great pick, perhaps the best of the draft when you consider where he was taken.
“I also had questions about the value of Bobby Wagner at No. 47 overall, but he was a home run, an impact starter and a guy who will be a fixture for years to come. Robert Turbin, Jeremy Lane and Greg Scruggs also look like great picks. The one pick I really questioned then and still feel the same way about is Bruce Irvin at No. 15 overall. There’s no question Irvin can rush the passer, but that’s really all he can do, and I still don’t see him as a good value at that spot because he’s so one-dimensional. I wrote then, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Irvin gets 10 sacks in 2012, but that’s really his game. He’s not a three-down player yet.’ He still isn’t, and is a total liability against the run, as we saw against Atlanta in the playoffs. He finished with 8.0 sacks, but has plenty of development left if he wants to become more than a situational player. I think you want more of a complete player at that point in the draft. Still, this was an exceptional draft, a very good one in terms of immediate value and likely a defining one for the franchise based on Wilson alone.”
Seahawks.com hands out its honors from the team’s 11-5 regular season and split of two games in the postseason:
MVP: Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. How can pick one over the other? How can you pick one or the other? We couldn’t, so the Beast Mode running back and steady-as-he-throws rookie QB share the honor, just as they shared the workload. There’s an entire story’s worth of thought process that went into this decision.
Best offensive player: Max Unger. It could go to Lynch or Wilson, obviously. But this is a share-the-credit selection, since both Lynch and Wilson were always quick to credit the line for its part their accomplishments. Unger, in his second season as the starting center, anchored that line and was voted All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. “He’s right all the time,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “I think to do this the consistency thing comes into play here. You’ve got to do it running the ball and protecting your quarterback down after down, and Max has done that.”
Best defensive player: Richard Sherman. Only strong safety Kam Chancellor (.975) and free safety Earl Thomas (.958) played a higher percentage of snaps than Sherman (.948), but no one made more plays than the second-year cornerback. He led the team, and tied for second in the NFL, with eight interceptions. He also had 24 passes defensed, almost three times as many as Thomas (nine), who finished second on the team. Somehow snubbed when it came to voting for the Pro Bowl, Sherman was selected to the All-Pro team. If enough people were paying attention, he also should get some consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year – an award that is expected to be a slam-dunk for the Texans’ J.J. Watt. And Sherman saved one of his best efforts for the biggest stage – Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons. “I thought he had a fantastic football game,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They went after him. They challenged him. And I thought he was incredible.”
Best special teams player: Heath Farwell. Again, this was not an easy choice. And asking special teams coordinator Brian Schneider for help didn’t help at all, because so many of his players made special contributions. From Jon Ryan, who broke his own club record for net average (40.8) and was among the league leaders with 30 punts downed inside the 20; to kicker Steven Hauschka, who was 23 of 23 from inside the 50; to Leon Washington, who was voted to the Pro Bowl and returned the eighth kickoff of his career for a TD to tie the NFL record; to Michael Robinson, who was second to Farwell in coverage tackles (10); to Malcolm Smith, who scored off a muffed punt return and blocked a punt that was returned for a score. But for Schneider, it was all about the consistency with his units and no one was more consistent than Farwell, who had 15 coverage tackles to go with the league-high 21 he produced last season.
Offensive rookie of the year: Wilson, for all the obvious reasons and even more that weren’t that obvious.
Defensive rookie of the year: Bobby Wagner. While first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin led all NFL rookies with eight sacks, Wagner led the team, and finished second among all rookies in the league, with 140 tackles during the regular season and 17 during the postseason. The second-round draft choice also produced four interceptions and two sacks from his middle linebacker spot. The best part of everything that Wagner did? His attitude. “I’m the middle linebacker,” he said. “I’m supposed to make a lot of tackles.”
Free-agent addition of the year: Zach Miller. Yes, he was signed in free agency the previous year. But his contributions this season came much closer to displaying just how versatile – and good – a tight end Miller is. He’s a rock-solid blocker and also finished third on the team with 38receptions and tied for second with three TD catches. But it was Miller’s over-the-top efforts against the Falcons that forced the turn-back-the-clock tweak in this category: eight catches for 142 yards. All after he tore the plantar fascia in his left foot on the Seahawks’ first possession. “Zach had a terrific season for us,” Carroll said. “But in this game, when he had the opportunities, boy, he cashed in on all of them.”
Chris Gray Award: Paul McQuistan. Who better to win this than this generation’s Chris Gray? Gray was a warrior of a lineman who started a club-record 121 consecutive games from 1999-2006, after being signed to fill a backup role. That’s the same path McQuistan has followed. Signed to a future contract in January of 2011, he started a career-high 10 games last season and 16 this season – nine at right guard and seven at left guard, where he also started both postseason games. “He’s kind of our glue, that’s the way I look at him,” Cable said. “Paul has been so valuable. He has played multiple positions the last two years. He never misses a beat. It’s just that his wisdom and experience are so valuable for those young guys in there. So he truly has been the glue in that room, without a doubt.”
Best trend: Going 8-0 at home. This season’s team did it, joining the 2003 and 2005 teams as the only ones in franchise history to do it. Along the way, the Seahawks dispatched the Packers and Patriots, who went on to win their divisions, as well as the playoff-bound Vikings. They also avenged road losses to each of their NFC West rivals – beating the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals by a combined 94 points in the final month of the regular season after losing to them by a combined 17 points in the first seven weeks of the season. Think how different things might have turned out if the Seahawks had been able to play at CenturyLink Field in the postseason. Carroll has. “That’s why you own your division, so you can be positioned to play at home,” he said. “That’s what’s at hand, that’s the goal of this program – it’s to win the division so that you can start the playoffs where you want to, and try to keep it there.”
Worst trend: The inability to hold fourth-quarter leads. As well as the defense played – and that was ranked-No. 4-in-the NFL well – it allowed the Lions, Dolphins and finally Falcons to drive to game-winning scores after the Seahawks taken fourth-quarter leads. The Bears tied the score at the end of regulation, but the offense won that game in overtime. Win a couple of those other games and the Seahawks would have captured the division and opened the postseason at home. “That’s an issue, just finishing it off on that last drive,” Carroll said. “There are four games sitting right there. That’s a big-time season. But I’m not worried about figuring that out. It’s just a snap here or there. But it happened this year and you can’t ignore that.”
Best quote: This one is actually a remark incumbent starter, and since traded, Tarvaris Jackson made last spring – way before the fact, and way before Wilson became the talk of the NFL: “Russell, he’s not like a regular rookie.”
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 14:
A warm reception. When the Seahawks were leaving the airport after their return from Atlanta, and a 30-28 loss to the Falcons in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game, their buses were greeted by a crowd of several hundred cheering fans. When they reached VMAC, several hundred more were on hands and cheering just as wildly.
It might have been a Sunday evening with temperatures below freezing, but the warm reception helped the players deal with the disappointing loss.
“Speaking for myself, I play for the 12th Man,” wide receiver Golden Tate said today when the players were cleaning out their lockers. “That’s who I play for. I love them, and I hate that it had to end.”
That was part of the players’ amazement at the turnout. The Seahawks were returning from a season-ending defeat, not a victory that sent them to the NFC Championship game.
“To have the support we have from those guys, no matter what the outcome of the game, it’s awesome. I guarantee you there’s no other fan base that’s showing up at the facility in that weather after a loss with that type of support.
“The support we’ve gotten all season has been outstanding, and we appreciate it so much.”
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman seconded that notion.
“That meant a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to have those kinds of fans and to have that kind of support in this city. It makes you want to play hard. It lets you see that all your hard work is for something.
“It’s hard to explain that kind of feeling. It’s amazing. It’s the middle of the night. It’s 20-something degrees. They care about us as players, as a team. And we care about this city. It really leaves you speechless, because they’re nothing you can say to describe the feeling of that kind of support.”
The rookie class. The Seahawks stunned many of the “experts” with some of the players they selected in the NFL Draft last April. It started in the first round, when they took defensive end Bruce Irvin. It continued in the second round, when they drafted middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. It reached the hysterical level when they went for quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round.
Let’s see, Wilson passed for 26 touchdowns to tie the NFL rookie record set by Peyton Manning in 1998, among many other things; Wagner led the team in tackles during the regular season and postseason; and Irvin led all rookies with eight sacks during the regular season.
“We had a tremendous rookie class,” Wilson said. “Everybody said that this rookie class wouldn’t do anything and we’ve shown we can play. The goal is, we’ve got to prove it again next year.”
The NFL Network was at VMAC last week to tape this feature on the Seahawks’ rookie class which aired during its Sunday pregame show.
Zach Miller did indeed tear the plantar fascia in his left foot, as the veteran tight end said after Sunday’s game. He was on crutches and had his foot in a protective boot today.
Defensive end Chris Clemons, who tore a ligament in his left knee in last week’s wild-card playoff game against the Redskins, has yet to have his surgery. But he was scheduled to meet with specialist Dr. James Andrews this week.
“This has been an extraordinary year in terms of that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I mentioned to the team how fortunate we were to get out of this tear with really one major rehab.”
The Seahawks will have the 25th selection in the first round of April’s NFL Draft, and 10 picks overall.
“We’ve got 10 picks going into this draft, which is fantastic for us,” Carroll said. “I can’t imagine all the work that John (Schneider, the GM) is going to turn out with all those opportunities.”
STAT DU JOUR
Matt Hasselbeck and Dave Krieg hold pretty much every passing record for the Seahawks. But Sunday, Wilson did something in his second postseason game that Hasselbeck (11 starts) and Krieg (seven) didn’t in their combined 18 playoff starts – pass for more than 350 yards. Here’s a look at the top postseason passing-yard games in franchise history
Player, opponent (date) Att. Comp. Yards TD Int. Rating
Russell Wilson, Falcons (Jan. 13, 2013) 36 24 385 2 1 109.1
Matt Hasselbeck, Rams (Jan. 8, 2005) 43 27 341 2 1 93.3
Matt Hasselbeck, Packers (Jan. 4, 2004) 45 25 305 0 1 67.4
Dave Krieg, Bengals (Dec. 31, 1988) 50 24 297 1 2 56.8
The offseason. The players took their exit physicals, had their exit meeting with Carroll and cleaned out their lockers today. The midseason program begins in mid-April.
YOU DON’T SAY
“The thing I said to the guys afterward was that 25 seconds didn’t define our team. … This has been a great year for us.” – Carroll on the Falcons driving to their game-winning field goal by completing passes of 22 and 19 yards
Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 14 – one day after the Seahawks’ 30-28 divisional-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times recaps Sunday’s game, “Twenty-five seconds. That’s how long Seattle’s defense — which allowed the fewest points in the league during the regular season — needed to hold on. Turned out 12 seconds was all the Falcons needed to complete two passes and put kicker Matt Bryant in position for the game-winning field goal that turned Seattle’s incredible comeback into ash. ‘We’re a real resilient young team,’ defensive tackle Red Bryant said. ‘We had our opportunities. Atlanta made some great plays, and was able to get the game-winning field goal.’ “
O’Neil highlights the play of Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, “Russell Wilson completed his first 10 passes in the second half, threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another. He threw for 385 yards, not only the most for a Seahawk in a playoff game but the most ever for an NFL rookie in the postseason. ‘He is an amazing football player,’ coach Pete Carroll said afterward. ‘He proved himself again and again. It is undeniable that you look at anything he did and put a star on it.’ ‘
O’Neil has his “2-minute drill“, naming Wilson, Seahawks tight end Zach Miller and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez his players of the game, “Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 385 yards, not only a career high and franchise playoff record, but also the most ever for a rookie quarterback in a playoff game. Seahawks tight end Zach Miller had not had more than 59 yards receiving in a game since joining Seattle. He had a career-high 142 yards against Atlanta despite playing with a torn plantar fascia suffered on the third play of the game. It was the second-most receiving yards by a Seahawk in a playoff game behind Darrell Jackson’s 143 in 2005.”
O’Neil and Larry Stone of the Seattle Times share their game notebook, “He [Zach Miller] suffered a torn plantar fascia on the third play, and was taken to the locker room where he had a painkilling shot. Miller returned to catch eight passes for 142 yards, both game-highs. It was nothing short of remarkable, not just because of his injury, but because he had never had more than 59 yards in any game as a Seahawk. That receiving total was a career-high for Miller, who played four seasons with the Raiders before signing with Seattle last year. ‘It was nice to get some balls like that,’ Miller said. ‘But I’m disappointed that we didn’t win when we were so close. If there is any solace, I don’t feel it right now.’ Miller’s receiving total was one yard off Darrell Jackson’s franchise record for receiving yards in a playoff game.”
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says while this playoff loss hurts, the future for the club is bright, “Eventually the pain will subside and this young team will begin to remember all of the good from this season. And, as they gather for offseason workouts and begin the long preparations for next September, they will look back on this 11-win year and tell themselves this was just the start of something big. ‘Next year will be my ninth,’ Hill said, about a half-hour after Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal, ‘and it’s been a fun ride. You don’t get many teams as good as this. And it’s only the beginning, man. A lot of young guys, a lot of pieces in place around here. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to shake.’ Look around this locker-room-in-mourning and all you see are possibilities. ‘We felt like this was our year,’ fullback Michael Robinson said, ‘and we’ll feel like next year is our year. That’s one thing about a Pete Carroll-coached team, we won’t lack for confidence and we’re going to come to fight you. We need to bring as many of these players back as possible and keep our core group together.’ “
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times has his take on yesterday’s Seahawks loss, “Here’s the thing about the Seahawks, though: Despite their blunders, despite a run defense that allowed 167 rushing yards to a poor running team, despite trailing 27-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, they refused to break. And they nearly pulled off their greatest comeback victory ever. Wilson led them, throwing for 385 yards (an NFL postseason record for a rookie quarterback) and two touchdowns. Tight end Zach Miller, who had eight receptions for 142 yards, caught a touchdown pass during the rally. Lynch, who was held to 46 rushing yards, still did his part, plunging into the end zone from two yards out as the Seahawks took a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left. Their fight was remarkable.”
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune has a look at Wilson’s performance, “Wilson engineered what should have been the biggest comeback in playoff history in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, giving the Hawks a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds to play in the game. As he has been in this record-setting season, Wilson again was a clear-eyed, cold-blooded quarterbacking machine, who passed for 385 yards, and ran for 60 more. And if the guy is to be downgraded for anything it’s only that he’s a bit of a procrastinator. That, and the fact that he hasn’t figured out a way to get on the field with the defense on the final drive. The Seahawks have seen the improbable out of Wilson for so long, they’ve exhausted their amazement, so the Falcons were kind enough to supply some. ‘He’s got the ‘it’ factor, man,’ said Atlanta safety William Moore. ‘You can’t control a guy like that. That dude is going to be a big problem for defenses in the league. He can do it all — he can run, he can throw, and he has the moxie you like to see in good quarterbacks. He was truly a game-changer.’ “
Boling also comments on the play of Miller, “Miller has been one of the ultimate “team” players, having sacrificed the attention of catching passes last season while the Seahawks needed him to stay on the line to help with shaky protection last season. But his efforts have been highly visible this season. ‘He had a fantastic football game,’ Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. ‘He got hurt early in the game and he stuck in there an finished it. The guy was all over the place. He did well catching the ball and making plays. It was his day today and Russell found him all day long.’ “
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune has his game recap, “Matt Bryant’s late-game theatrics overshadowed another masterful performance by Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who rallied his team just like he’s done all season. The Seahawks fell behind for a second straight week, this time trailing 20-0 at halftime — the team’s largest deficit of the season. But Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said there was no panic from his players at halftime. ‘I can’t imagine that anybody expected that we were going to have a chance to get back into that game, except for the guys in that locker room,’ he said. ‘And they knew we were going to have a chance to get back into that game. They felt it the whole time.’ “
John Boyle of the Everett Herald has his thoughts on yesterday’s divisional playoff, “What went down in the fourth quarter was nothing short of an amazing comeback. Wilson was spectacular, passing for a Seahawks playoff record 385 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for 60 yards and another score. But that emotional roller coaster just wasn’t necessary. If the Seahawks didn’t have two empty trips to the red zone in the first half, if Marshawn Lynch hadn’t fumbled, if the defense hadn’t put on one of its worst displays of tackling of the season, the Seahawks could have been in a position to win comfortably. ‘We just didn’t play well in the first half,’ Seattle tight end Zach Miller told reporters. ‘We had some drives but we didn’t get points out of them. Obviously that came back to haunt us. I thought that we played really well in the second half and put us in a position to win, but it didn’t happen.’ “
Boyle also breaks down Sunday’s game by the numbers, “4—Losses on the road this season in which Seattle’s defense gave up a fourth-quarter lead late in the game (at Arizona, at Detroit, at Miami and Sunday in Atlanta). 2—Empty trips into the red zone for the Seahawks in the first half, points they desperately could have used by the end of the game. 0—Punts by the Falcons in the first three quarters, though Matt Ryan was intercepted twice before the Seahawks forced a punt. 0—Sacks by the Seahawks, who clearly missed defensive end Chris Clemons. A blitz by Marcus Trufant produced the only hit on Matt Ryan all afternoon.”
Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com says the Seahawks missed defensive end Chris Clemons, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend against the Washington Redskins, “Matt Ryan, with seemingly endless amounts of time in the pocket, finished 24 of 35 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. One of those picks came when the Seahawks brought defensive backs Marcus Trufant and Winston Guy off the left edge. That was one way Seattle tried to manufacture a pass rush in the absence of pressure from its defensive line. ‘We felt like we had to to get pressure,’ Carroll said of the more blitz-heavy approach. ‘Even all the way down to the end.’ “
Art Thiel of SportsPressNW.com has reaction from Wilson, “The whipsaw brought a devastating end to a brilliant season that was within reach of the Super Bowl. Wilson had a splendid second half, finishing with a club-playoff-record 385 yards, two passing TDs and one on the ground. Yet after the win, he was almost as remarkable with his response to defeat. Instead of moping, Wilson simply refused to give in, demonstrating why the team has fallen for a rookie they all came to cherish. ‘When the game was over, I was very disappointed, but when I got to the tunnel, walking off, I got so excited for the opportunity next year,’ he said. What? The kid just had a metaphorical arrow shot through his heart, and he already pulled it out. ‘I told (QB position coach Carl Smith) afterward, ‘I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get to the off-season and work and work and work . . . to get to the next season and play.’ “
Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his reaction following Sunday’s Seahawks-Falcons matchup, “What it means: The Seahawks lost a heartbreaker after their fourth-quarter pass defense faltered once again, a recurring theme for Seattle. The Seahawks had taken a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds remaining. But they couldn’t stop the Falcons from moving quickly into position for the winning field goal with eight seconds left. The team will have to address that aspect of its performance in the offseason.”
Sando has a chart showing the 2013 NFL Draft order, and after yesterday’s loss to the Falcons it can be deciphered that the Seahawks will hold the No. 25 overall pick.
Sando also says Wilson is the least of the team’s worries, “Wilson totaled 435 yards passing in three Seattle defeats through Week 7. He had rookie postseason record 385 in a single season-ending defeat Sunday, playing well enough to give his team its only lead with 31 seconds remaining. Yardage isn’t always a reliable measure of quarterback performance, but the contrast was irresistible and wholly reflective in this case. Wilson went from having little positive impact during early season defeats to giving Seattle its best chance to win. Some of that had to do with the coaching staff trusting Wilson with more of the playbook.”
And Peter King of SI.com has his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, pinning the Seahawks as the League’s 5th-best team, “5. Seattle (12-6). Welcome to the playoffs, Mr. Wilson. See you back soon, and often. The game is better with you in it.”
ATLANTA – A recap of the Seahawks’ 30-28 loss to the Falcons in their divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Russell Wilson. In the end, the Seahawks came up short. But there would not have been the dramatic comeback without the resilient efforts and calm-as-they-come leadership of the rookie quarterback who was deemed by many to be “too short” to play in this league. It was so impressive that he should change the spelling of his last name to Will-son, because he did everything in his power to will his team into the NFC Championship game.
“The kid is going to be amazing,” veteran fullback Michael Robinson said. “He’s going to do nothing but get better.”
What Wilson did in this game, on this stage and after the Falcons had taken a 20-0 halftime lead, was pretty amazing, too.
He was 3 of 3 for 59 yards in the nine-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half that ended with his 29-yard TD pass to Golden Tate. He was 4 of 4 for 69 yards on the eight-play, 80-yard drive on the Seahawks’ next possession that ended with his 1-yard TD run. He was 3 of 3 for 57 yards on the four-play, 62-yard drive to was setup when All-Pro safety Earl Thomas intercepted a pass and ended with Wilson’s 3-yard TD pass to Zach Miller. He was 3 of 4 – proving that he is indeed human, on occasion – for 50 yards in the seven-play, 61-yard drive that ended with Marshawn Lynch’s 2-yard TD run and gave the Seahawks their momentary lead.
Put it all together and Wilson had a career-high 385 passing yards while completing 24 of his season-high 36 passes to finish with a passer rating of 109.1. Oh, and he also was the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 60 yards on seven carries.
“Our quarterback did a great job today leading us back,” Robinson said. “We couldn’t have done it without him.”
In the end, it wasn’t quite enough. But without the way Wilson played in the second half, there would not have been all the handwringing about the way this one ended.
“I think you saw with Russell Wilson’s development, how far he can take us,” Miller said. “Obviously he’s a franchise quarterback. He’s a guy that wins game for you. We saw that today. He should have been credited with a comeback win today.”
Miller. The Seahawks’ tight end said he felt something pop in his foot on the team’s first series of the game, and his self-diagnosis was a torn plantar fasciitis.
“I kind of knew what it was,” Miller said. “I’ve done it on my other foot before, so I know I can play with it.”
His return was listed as questionable, but return Miller did. With a vengeance. Before this one was over, he had caught eight passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. In a game that featured the Falcons’ trio of Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones, as well as teammates Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, no one caught more balls for more yards that the sore-footed Miller.
“Zach Miller did a tremendous job today, and all season,” Wilson said. “He’s a true fighter. He makes great catches. He’s runs great routes. He’s a great blocker. He’s a tough, tough player. He’s unbelievable.”
It wasn’t just that Miller had eight receptions, it’s when he had them. It was Miller who caught Wilson’s first two completions – for 23 and 8 yards – after the Seahawks’ first two possessions resulted in a three-and-out and a lost fumble. It was Miller who opened the next possession with a 34-yarder. He later added a 20-yarder and a 9-yarder on the final series of the half, when Miller was one of most productive players in an offense that was struggling. In the second half, Miller had a 19-yarder on the drive to the first touchdown. Then there was a 26-yarder on the drive to the second touchdown. The next drive ended with his TD catch.
All from a tight who was playing on a bad foot.
REDEPMPTIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Matt Ryan. You might have heard, the Falcons’ QB was oh-for-his-career in the postseason. Despite winning 56 regular-season games in five seasons, it was his 0-3 record in the playoffs that was the talk of this town all week.
Ryan finally silenced it, throwing for three touchdowns while completing 24 of 35 passes for 250 yards. But when his team needed him most, with 31 seconds to play and the Seahawks up 28-27, the QB they call “Matty Ice” was just that as he passed for 22 yards to Harry Douglas and 19 yards to Tony Gonzalez to setup the Falcons’ game-winning field goal.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: Roddy White’s falling grab of a 47-yard pass from Ryan for the Falcons’ second touchdown. There were seven touchdown plays in this game. But this one came with style points. First, because White beat All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who broke up three other passes during the game. Then there was the effort that went into it. But also because it gave the Falcons their 20-0 halftime lead.
Defense: William Moore’s stop of Robinson on a fourth-and-1 play from the Falcons’ 11-yard line in the second quarter. Down 13-0, and after Robert Turbin had been tackled for no gain on third-and-1, the Seahawks went to Robinson – who converted 6 of 7 third-and-1 situations during the regular season to rank among the league leaders. But not this time, because of the play the Falcons’ safety was able to make.
“They did a great job,” Robinson said. “One of our staple plays. They brought extra D-linemen in; they set the safety off the edge. We didn’t have enough blockers for them.”
Honorable mention to Thomas’ interception, which stopped a Falcons drive just as it was getting started and set up the Seahawks’ third touchdown.
Special teams: When you kick the game-winner to send your team into the NFC Championship game – as hosts of the conference title game – it has to be you. So Matt Bryant it is, who hit a 49-yard field goal with eight second to play. The kick put the Falcons back up by two after the Seahawks had taken a one-point lead with 31 seconds remaining.
The Seahawks had more yards (491-417) and more first downs (28-24) than the Falcons, but two fewer points.
The Seahawks season ended in the divisional round of the playoffs for the sixth time. It also happened in 1984, 27-20 to the Dolphins in Miami; 1988, 21-13 to the Bengals in Cincinnati; 2006, 27-24 in overtime to the Bears in Chicago; 2007, 42-20 to the Packers in Green Bay; and 2010, 34-24 to the Bears in Chicago.
Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner had a game-high seven solo tackles and an interception.
Playing without sack leader Chris Clemons, the Seahawks went without a sack for only the second time this season.
Lynch averaged 6.5 yards per carry during the team’s six-game winning streak, but a Falcons defense that had allowed an average of 4.8 yards per carry during the regular season held him to 2.9 (46 yards on 16 carries).
Ryan Longwell, who just joined the team on Wednesday, kicked four PATs.
YOU DON’T SAY
“We felt like this was our year. And next year we’re going to feel like next year is our year. That’s one thing about a Pete Carroll-coached team, we’re not going to lack in confidence and we’re going to come to fight for 60 minutes.” – Robinson
When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Significance: The winner advances to the NFC Championship against the winner of Saturday night’s Packers-49ers game
Records: Falcons were 13-3 in the regular season to win the NFC South and clinch the conference’s top seed in the postseason; Seahawks were 11-5 in the regular season and beat the Redskins in last week’s W playoff round
TV: FOX (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area), with Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Chris Myers and Laura Okmin
Radio: 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller
Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner vs. Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones: Big on Big. Long against Long. Physical versus Physical. These four going at each other is all of that, and more. And the tandem that wins most often will go a long way in deciding which team advances to the NFC Championship game. There isn’t a bigger corner tandem in the NFL than Sherman and Browner, who combined for 11 interceptions, 30 passes defensed and five forced fumbles. There isn’t a more productive wide-out tandem in the league than White and Jones, who combined for 171 receptions, 2,549 yards and 17 touchdown catches. Usually a defense tries to stop the run and force an opponent to pass. But the Falcons use their passing game to open things up for the running game. Sherman and Browner will need to be on top of it, to prevent Jones and White from using their speed in getting over the top on them.
One to watch
Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Falcons QB Matt Ryan: Wilson already has done something in his first playoff game that Ryan has been unable to accomplish – win it. That happened last week, when Wilson led the Seahawks to a 24-14 wild-card victory over the Redskins. He is stepping up a stage this week, but the Seahawks’ rookie QB has been unfazed by circumstance or game plan during the team’s six-game winning streak. Ryan, a first-round draft choice in 2008, has 56 victories during the regular season. But he’s also 0-for-3 in the postseason. Then there’s this: Ryan has thrown 11 TD passes and nine interceptions at home this season, compared to 21 TDs and five picks on the road. So the pressure is squarely on Ryan, rather than Wilson, in this one.
Fun to watch
Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch vs. Falcons linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon: Lynch has been on a roll, even for a back who rolls as consistently well as Lynch. He is averaging 111.8 yards and 6.5 yards per carry during the team’s six-game winning streak. And it was Lynch who ran for the game-winning TD last week against the Redskins. It’s also his presence as one of the options in the Seahawks’ zone-read option that has made the tactic so successful down the stretch. Nicholas (116) and Weatherspoon (114) are the leading tacklers for a Falcons defense that allowed 100-yard rushing performances to the Buccaneers’ Doug Martin (142), Cardinals’ LaRod Stephens-Howling (127), Panthers’ Cam Newton (116), Redskins’ Alfred Morris (115) and Broncos’ Willis McGahee (113). Morris and Martin ranked among the Top 5 in the league in rushing, but Newton and McGahee were 24th and 26th, while Stephens-Howling was No. 30 – in the NFC.
One tough task
Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor vs. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll set the stage for this one by offering, “Nobody can cover him. He’s just killed everybody for a whole career.” And what a career Gonzalez has had. He has become the most productive tight end in NFL history, and his 1,242 receptions rank second only to Jerry Rice. In a passing game that features Jones and White, it was Gonzalez who led the Falcons in receptions with 93. When he caught his first NFL pass in 1997 for the Chiefs, Chancellor was 9-years old. But if there’s anybody who can contain Gonzalez, and make an impression doing it, Chancellor has the length (6-foot-4½ wingspan), coverage skills and physicality needed to pull it off.
This is the first postseason meeting between the Falcons and Seahawks. … The Falcons are looking for their first postseason victory since 2004. … They have advanced to the postseason in three consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. … Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel holds the NFL postseason record with four interception returns for touchdowns, and has seven overall in the playoffs. … This is the first time since their six-game winning streak started that the Seahawks will face a passing offense ranked higher than No. 18. The Falcons are No. 6, while the Bears were No. 29, the Cardinals No. 28, the Bills No. 25, the 49ers No. 23, the Rams No. 18 and the Redskins No. 20. … The Seahawks have scored at least 20 points in their past 10 games, after doing it only twice in their first seven games. … The Seahawks will play without sack leader Chris Clemons, who tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during the third quarter of last week’s game against the Redskins. … Bruce Irvin, who will replace Clemons at the Leo end spot, led all NFL rookies with eight sacks during the regular season and added a ninth last week. … Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the Seahawks in tackles during the regular season (140) and also against the Redskins (nine).
Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 9.
Kicker Steven Hauschka has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a calf injury in the Seahawks’ Wild Card win over the Washington Redskins. To replace Hauschka the club has signed veteran kicker Ryan Longwell, age 38, who last kicked for the Minnesota Vikings in 2011.
Defensive end Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL last Sunday against the Redskins, has also been placed on injured reserve. In Clemons’ place, the club has signed defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, who last played in the NFL in 2007 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and spent two seasons after in the UFL, leading the league in sacks.
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has a look at the Seahawks’ physical nature, “…if you’re surprised by the way Seattle is playing, well, you haven’t been paying attention to how this Seahawks team is constructed nor how it has played. Bigger and badder might as well be this team’s motto, for better and — far less frequently — for worse. Sunday, the Seahawks faced a team that Carroll said targeted specific players with the intention of provoking a reaction. ‘They go after individual guys,’ Carroll said of Washington’s approach. ‘And they have guys that are really pressing the edge, which is fine. Our guys responded and matched it up, and did the right thing. No penalties, no issues. No runs, no hits, no errors.’ And absolutely no apologies.”
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times writes that the Seahawks’ success has made Seattle relevant again in the sports world, “The Hawks’ wild-card win over Washington on Sunday was the most-watched television program on any network since NBC’s Olympic coverage. According to Nielsen Media Research, 38.1 million people watched. In the Seattle area, 76 percent of the televisions on were tuned to the game, a larger audience than last year’s Super Bowl. From KJR to the water cooler, the air is crackling with chatter about the Seahawks. From the pulpit to ESPN you hear praises sung for Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner. This team believes, truly believes, in itself. And the city believes with it. Hawks players believe in the notion of the next man up, whether it’s Frank Omiyale filling in for Russell Okung at tackle, or cornerback Jeremy Lane replacing Brandon Browner.”
John Boyle the Everett Herald says the Seahawks have truly bought in to head coach Pete Carroll’s approach, “When a team learns to actually treat every week like a championship week, consistency comes with that and those blowouts go away. That’s why two years after losing 10 times by double digits, the Seahawks’ five losses this year came by a combined 24 points. When players truly buy into the idea that it’s all about the finish, they can overcome a 13-point deficit against New England or a 14-point deficit in a road playoff game. ‘It just shows how much confidence we have in our ability and the resolve in our team to fight the whole game,’ tight end Zach Miller said by phone after his team’s comeback in Washington. ‘We know games aren’t won in the first quarter or the first half, they’re won all the way in the fourth quarter.’ “
Boyle also notes that the Seahawks are not going to take the Atlanta Falcons lightly, “…even if the Seahawks are suddenly the ‘it’ team in the NFL, they aren’t buying the talk that the Falcons are vulnerable. Yes, the pressure is on Atlanta, which is 0-3 in the postseason in the last four years, and yes, the Seahawks are playing incredibly well (warnings aside, I’m leaning towards picking Seattle), but this game no doubt represents a big challenge for the Seahawks. ‘We have tremendous respect for the Atlanta team,’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. ‘Mike Smith has done a great job with this club for a number of years. They have been on their game and on the top of the league for some time now with really good efficient play, good defense, good running game, good throwing game, highlighted players all over the place, and a real good discipline about their style of play. So it’s going to be a fantastic challenge for us.’ “
Brady Henderson of 710 Sports.com writes how defensive end Chris Clemons’ season-ending injury impacts the club’s pass rush, “…Irvin would transition from a situational pass rusher to the weakside defensive end, a every-down position in which Clemons has thrived. Less clear is which player would assume Irvin’s role. Irvin led all rookies with eight sacks, seeing most of his playing time in passing situations opposite Clemons. Fellow rookie Greg Scruggs, a seventh-round pick, is one option. Scruggs had two sacks and six tackles in 11 games. Danny O’Neil of The Seattle Times and 710 ESPN Seattle discussed this issue when he joined “Brock and Salk” on Tuesday. O’Neil thinks replacing Irvin is the bigger concern. ‘I don’t think the drop-off between Clemons and Irvin is as significant as what it does to your depth,’ he said.” 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard and Mike Salk discuss the topic further in this short video.
Tim Booth of the Associated Press highlights running back Marshawn Lynch’s playoff performance, “Seattle needed all of Lynch’s 132 yards rushing, and especially his 27-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, to dispatch the Redskins. His sidestep cut that left Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall grasping at air allowed him to get to the outside on the touchdown run and was another sign of Lynch’s shiftiness, which sometimes gets lost because of his brute power. Lynch’s performance on Sunday tied the franchise record for most yards rushing in a playoff game and bettered what he did against the Saints by 1 yard. He rushed for 99 yards in the second half and overcame a costly fumble at the Washington 1 on the first drive of the second half that could have shaken others. Not Lynch. ‘You don’t ever have to worry about his mindset,’ Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said after the game. ‘He got to the sideline, he was upset about it, and he just said, `Give it to me again. Keep feeding me.’ “
Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his latest “NFC West penalty watch“, which also includes a note on the Seahawks’ divisional-round opponent – the Atlanta Falcons, “The Seahawks’ divisional-round playoff opponent, Atlanta, incurred a league-low 68 penalties this season, counting declined ones. But even the Falcons suffered more penalties for illegal contact (two) than the Seahawks incurred during the regular season.”
LANDOVER, Md. – A recap of the Seahawks’ 24-14 victory over the Redskins in their NFC wild-card playoff game at FedExField on Sunday:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks’ Beast Mode back had an all-over-the-map game that matched the effort of the team he led to the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983.
The Pro Bowl running back started slowly, with 5 yards on two carries in a first quarter Dominated – yes, with a capital D – by the Redskins. He warmed up a bit in the second quarter, scooping up a fumble by QB Russell Wilson and running for 20 yards on the drive towards the Seahawks’ first touchdown and contributing 14 yards to the half-ending drive that resulted in a field goal.
In the third quarter, Lynch had 26- and 15-yard runs in a drive that put the Seahawks on the front porch of the Redskins’ goal line, only to fumble at the 2-yard line. But in the fourth quarter, he had an 18-yard run in what proved to be the game-winning drive to his 27-yard touchdown run that made it 21-14 with seven minutes to play.
When all was said and run, Lynch had rushed for 132 yards (a franchise tying record for the postseason) on 20 carries, caught a 9-yard pass, turned one potentially disastrous play into a positive and atoned for another by pushing the Seahawks into next Sunday’s divisional-round matchup with the top-seeded Falcons in Atlanta.
Of the fumble play, Wilson said, “The ball just came out funny on the (center) exchange. Marshawn had my back. He was right there, picked up the ball and had a huge gain. That was big for us. I think that was one of the biggest plays of the game, to be honest with you. For Marshawn to be able to pick that ball up in the situation that we were in, the way he played right there, that was big-time.”
Jon Ryan. When a calf injury Steven Hauschka got in the second quarter limited him to kicking field goals, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl-caliber punter added kickoff duty to his resume.
And Ryan didn’t just step in, he stepped up. And like the rest of the team, he got better as the game progressed. His first kickoff went 58 yards to the Redskins’ 7-yard line. The second went 63 yards to the Redskins’ 2. The third? A 69-yarder that went 4 yards into the end zone.
“Johnny Ryan really came through,” coach Pete Carroll said.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense: It has to be the game-winner, as Lynch made his way into the right corner of the end zone in a pile of bodies – and with Wilson leading the way. These two were the focal points of the five-game winning streak to close the regular season, so it seems only fitting that they would be involved in the play that propelled the Seahawks to the next round of the playoffs.
“That’s not even his job,” fullback Michael Robinson said of the QB turning into a blocker. “Just awareness and football IQ allowed him to figure Marshawn was coming back. Great job by the quarterback.
“I hate to see him take hits. He’s like my little brother. I just hate to see it, but he’s a tough little man. And as he goes, we go.”
Offered Wilson, “Marshawn always tells me, ‘Russ, I got your back. No matter what, I got your back.’ So I just try to help him out every once in a while when he gets down field and I just try to make a play for him and help our football team win.”
Defense: Earl Thomas’ interception in the second quarter. The Redskins were up 14-10, so if the pass from Robert Griffin III had found its way into the hands of Pierre Garcon at the Seahawks’ 24-yard line, well, that scenario doesn’t need the what-if conclusion. Cornerback Brandon Browner, in his first game back after serving a four-game suspension, was all over the Redskins’ wide-out like a second jersey anyway. But Thomas’ playing-free-safety-like-a-centerfielder pick was just the kind of play the Seahawks needed at the point in the game.
“A lot of quarterbacks in this league like to play with me when I’m in the middle of the field,” the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl free safety said. “They know what we’re going to do, because they know we’re in single-safety high. A lot of quarterbacks try to look me off and do all that kind of stuff. But he didn’t have time to do all that. And I was able to make a great break on the ball and finish the play.”
Special teams: Wilson’s pass to tight end Zach Miller for a two-point conversion following Lynch’s fourth- quarter TD. OK, so maybe that’s an offensive play. But it took the place of a special teams play and the two-pointer gave the Seahawks a seven-point lead with seven minutes remaining.
“That was just a great throw by Russell,” Miller said. “He put it right on my body and I big-bodied the defender, just like we drew it up.”
804 homecoming: A special category for a special play, as Wilson passed 4 yards to Robinson for the Seahawks’ first TD. Each grew up in Richmond, Va., which is less than a two-hour drive from FedExField.
“Oh man, it was awesome – 804 threw it to me, 804 scored a touchdown,” Robinson said, using the Richmond area code. “It just feels good to know there were some people from Richmond out there in the crowd. It’s my first time playing this close to home. Love Richmond, and I’ll always love Richmond.”
Defensive end Chris Clemons is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury to his left knee he got in the third quarter. The Seahawks’ sack leader did not return to the game.
As he did 11 times during the regular season, rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the Seahawks in tackles with nine.
Rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin replaced Clemons when he went out and contributed a sack and a tipped pass to the Seahawks’ dominating defensive effort in the second half, when they limited the Redskins to 63 yards.
Defensive tackle Alan Branch also was a force for the Seahawks’ defense with a sack among his season-high five tackles and a QB hit.
The Redskins allowed an average of 95.8 rushing yards during the regular season to rank fifth in the league, but the Seahawks ran for 224 (a franchise record for the postseason) – 67 by Wilson, 22 by Robert Turbin and 3 by Robinson, in addition to the 132 by Lynch.
The Seahawks, who won one of their first six road games this season, now have a three-game road winning streak.
The Seahawks also have a three-game winning streak over the Redskins in the postseason, as they also eliminated Washington in 2005 and 2007 playoffs.
YOU DON’T SAY
“No, I don’t think that at all. Because I don’t really believe he was in anybody’s shadow.” – Carroll when asked if Wilson emerging as the only one of the three rookie QBs to start in the playoffs on Sunday had allowed him to step from the shadows of RGIII and the Colts’ Andrew Luck