Cornerback Antoine Winfield signs with Seahawks

Antoine Winfield

The Seahawks’ young, but oh-so-talented, secondary just got a lot more experienced.

Former Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield was signed today, the team announced. Winfield, who will turn 36 in June and has been in the NFL for 13 seasons, is expected to compete for the nickel back spot in a secondary that already includes two All-Pro players – free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman; and Pro Bowl-caliber players at strong safety and the other corner in Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Winfield was released last month by the Vikings in a salary-cap move, despite coming off a 2012 season when he had 101 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defensed. The passes defensed were a career high, while the tackle and interception totals were his second-highest totals.

Winfield played his first five seasons with the Bills, who selected him in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft after a senior season at Ohio State when he was named All-America and voted the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He signed with the Vikings in free agency in 2004 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

For his career, Winfield has 1,170 tackles and 27 interceptions. He also has started 16 games six times, the last coming in 2010.


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The NFL World according to Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman appeared on the NFL Network’s NFL AM this morning, and the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback had a lot to say on several topics.

Here’s a transcript of the interview:

On the San Francisco 49ers trading for wide receiver Anquan Boldin:

“That was a great move. I was really surprised they got him for a sixth-round pick. I thought the way he played in the postseason and the way he played all season he was worth a lot more than that. But that was a great move by San Francisco and they got a great player who still has a lot of football left.”

On the areas the Seahawks need to address this offseason:

“We have a pretty solid team as we stand; we have a lot of playmakers. Obviously with (Chris) Clemons going down last year with a knee injury, they’re going to probably try to secure that and get some depth there. We let Jason Jones go into free agency so I think the defensive line is where we’re going to pick up some pieces. We have great depth at linebacker and at defensive back. I’ve heard rumors of us picking up a defensive back or two, and obviously I’m always happy for more competition. My teammates are too; whatever makes us better. We just picked up a great weapon on offense but I’m sure Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) are going to do whatever they think is best for the team. They’ve done a great job so far.”

On if he expects the Seahawks the highest paid cornerback in the league when he becomes an unrestricted free agent:

“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m the one to comment on that. All I can do is play to the best of my abilities. We have a lot of great players on our team who are obviously going to want the same thing. We have Russell Okung, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner – we have a lot of great players who are also going to need to make their money and to get compensated for everything they’ve done. Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) will do a great job making sure we all stay in Seattle, and whatever that means – if that means me being the highest paid corner – then that’s what it means. If not, then it is what it is.”

On what would interest him the most about the free agency process:

“You see other teams all of the time; you play against them. But you never see organizations for what they are internally. You hear about them through other players and you see them through osmosis; how they treat other players and how they deal with other players. The Seahawks have one of the best organizations and one of the best teams in the way they treat the team and the way they develop our chemistry and treat us like more of a college family atmosphere. That’s why a lot of players who are currently here enjoy playing for Pete (Carroll) and those guys because it’s such a great environment. It’s almost like you’re not in the NFL; we haven’t been exposed to that side of it as much as other players have. I’m appreciative for that and I’m kind of not looking forward to seeing that part of the game.”


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Secondary thoughts from the Combine

Defensive BacksINDIANAPOLIS – It happened on an almost-weekly basis during the 2012 NFL season. Ask the opposing coach what impressed him about a Seahawks defense that would end up allowing the fewest points in the league and rank No. 4 in average yards allowed and the response would be, “They’ve got a couple of giants playing cornerback.”

That would be 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner on the right side and 6-3 Richard Sherman on the left side. And at the NFL Scouting Combine this week, the talk isn’t just about how well they played, but how they were obtained.

Sherman was a fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, while Browner was signed that same year – to a future contract in January, no less – after spending four seasons in the CFL.

As Pat Kirwan, a former NFL scout who is now an analyst for CBSSports.com, put it, “Every team in the NFL is trying to build what the Seattle Seahawks have created with four big secondary players who are physical and can take away the passing game in man-coverage schemes. The four corners at the top of this draft all have Seahawk size, but can they run like the guys out in the Northwest?”

The rest of the Seahawks’ secondary is comprised of 6-3 strong safety Kam Chancellor and All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas. Thomas (first round) and Chancellor (fifth round) were selected in the 2010 draft, the Seahawks’ first under GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.

Included among those top four corners that Kirwan mentioned is Desmond Trufant, the University of Washington product and brother of Marcus Trufant, the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice in 2003 who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next month.


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Seahawks sign 10 to future contracts

Phil Bates

The Seahawks have signed 10 players to future contracts, including eight who spent time on the practice squad this season – wide receivers Phil Bates and Bryan Walters, cornerbacks Chandler Fenner and Ron Parker, running back Derrick Coleman, tight end Cooper Helfet, linebacker Kyle Knox and defensive tackle Myles Wade.

Also signed were linebacker Korey Toomer, a fifth-round draft choice last year; and wide receiver Stephen Williams, who was with the Cardinals in training camp last summer but waived/injured in August.

These future signings can be insignificant moves. But in the past two years, players signed by the Seahawks in January included cornerback Brandon Browner, who has become a starter and played in Pro Bowl last year; guard Paul McQuistan, who started all 16 games this season and 10 last season; and wide receiver Charly Martin, who played in four games this season before being placed on injured reserve.


NFC Divisional Playoff Matchup Box: Seahawks at Falcons

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

Matt Ryan

Matchup microscope

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.

Worth noting

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).


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Friday in Hawkville: Marcus Trufant looking to add to his playoff memories

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 11:

Marcus Trufant, Doug Baldwin

Cornerback Marcus Trufant (left) defends wide receiver Doug Baldwin (right) during practice this week.

FOCUS ON

Marcus Trufant. No one on the Seahawks’ 53-man roster has played in more postseason games (10) than the veteran nickel back. And no one grew up watching this team longer than the Tacoma-born Trufant, either.

So, as the team puts in its final preparations for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta, who better to lead us through a trip down Postseasons Past?

We asked Trufant for his favorite team memory from the six playoff teams he has been on, and his selection was the obvious.

“The (NFC) Championship game we played during our Super Bowl run (in 2005) was pretty big,” he said of the 34-14 victory over the Panthers. “To be able to do it at home, be able to do it in front of the fans, it was a pretty good feeling.”

Especially for a player who followed the team as a kid growing up.

“It does kind of hit you like that,” Trufant said when asked if there was a moment in that game where it hit home that he had just helped his hometown team get to the Super Bowl. “But it’s just one of those things. It is football. And if you do right and your team is hitting on all cylinders, then the opportunity is there.”

Just as it for this season’s playoff team, which is one victory from a return to the NFC Championship game.

“For us now, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Trufant said. “We’ve just got to fight to be right. Try to do everything well and just try to practice hard and get better every day.”

We also asked Trufant for his favorite individual postseason memory, and his response was very telling for a player who has been a team-first, individual-accolades-a-distant-second warrior since the Seahawks selected the cornerback from Washington State University if the first round the 2003 NFL Draft.

“You know what? After a while a lot stuff just seems to run together,” said Trufant, who had a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown to ice a wild-card win over the Redskins in 2007.

“So I’m about being in the present. I’m just trying to help out the team to get another victory. We want to take it one step at a time and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

LONGWELL, CHUKWURAH READY

Kicker Ryan Longwell and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah just joined the team this week to replace the injured duo of Steven Hauschka and Chris Clemons. Coach Pete Carroll said after practice that both are ready for Sunday’s game.

“I thought Longwell did a good job,” Carroll said. “He hit his kicks and fit together nicely with (holder) Jon Ryan to get the timing down. … He’s a seasoned vet. He’s been through it. If anybody can handle it, he will be able to handle all the buildup to it.”

As for Chukwurah, who last played in an NFL game in 2007, Carroll said, “Pat did fine. He’s in a backup role for us. But he showed enough that he’s going to be dressing for the game.”

INJURY REPORT

The official end-of-the-week status report, as issued by the team:

Doubtful

CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring)

Questionable

S Jeron Johnson (hamstring)

Probable

RB Marshawn Lynch (foot)

WR Sidney Rice (knee)

Lynch practiced on a limited basis today after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday to rest a sprained foot. “He’s fine. He’ll be alright,” Carroll said. Johnson also got his first work of the week, on a limited basis. Maxwell and Rice did not practice, but Rice is expected to be ready of the game after practicing fully on Wednesday and Thursday.

For the Falcons:

Out

CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)

Questionable

DE John Abraham (ankle)

S Charles Mitchell (calf)

Probable

S William Moore (hamstring)

CB Dunta Robinson (head)

Abraham, who leads the Falcons with 10 sacks, has been limited all week.

STAT DU JOUR

Last week, the Seahawks allowed the Redskins to drive 80 yards to a touchdown on their first possession, but managed to come back and win the game. That’s not advisable this week, because the Falcons have been almost unstoppable when they score a TD on their opening drive. Here’s a look at what the Falcons did on their opening drives during the regular season, and how that worked out for them:

Opponent, outcome                        First drive

Chiefs, W, 40-24                               Touchdown

Broncos, W, 27-21                            Touchdown

Chargers, W, 27-3                             Touchdown

Panthers, W, 30-28                           Punt

Redskins, W, 24-17                           Punt

Raiders, W, 23-20                             Interception

Eagles, W, 30-17                               Touchdown

Cowboys, W, 19-13                          Punt

Saints, L, 31-27                                  Touchdown

Cardinals, W, 23-19                          Interception

Buccaneers, W, 24-23                      Field goal

Saints, W, 23-13                                Touchdown

Panthers, L, 30-20                             Punt

Giants, W, 34-0                                  Touchdown

Lions, W, 31-18                                  Punt

Buccaneers, L, 22-17                         Punt

In the games where they’ve scored TDs on their first possession, the Falcons are 6-1 and the wins came by an average of 17 points. In their other two losses, they opened with punts. In their other seven wins, when they opened with five punts, a field goal and an interception, the average margin of victory was five points.

“We just don’t want to get too caught up in that,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “We want to play the whole game fast and explosive, regardless of what happens the first series. So we know we’re going to have to make some adjustments as this game goes on. But the biggest thing is to keep our poise with the crowd noise and things like that – nothing that our guys haven’t come across before.”

UP NEXT

The team flew to Atlanta following today’s practice and will hold its Saturday walkthrough there.

The winner of Sunday’s game will meet either the 49ers or Packers in the NFC Championship game next Sunday. The Packers and 49ers play in San Francisco on Saturday night.

YOU DON’T SAY

“The big thing is having the corners that allow us to be aggressive. But the other thing is having a guy that can play the middle third that cover from redline to redline. You really need those three components.” – Bradley in discussing the virtues of cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas in matching up against the Falcons’ trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez


Friday cyber surfing: Seahawks-Falcons previews and predictions

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today – “Seahawks Blue Friday” – January 11.

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times profiles Seahawks general manager John Schneider, “As much as coach Pete Carroll has molded this team on the field, Schneider is the one responsible for picking out the raw materials, whether it’s finding a top-shelf pass rusher like Chris Clemons on the nether regions of another team’s roster or picking a potential franchise quarterback like Russell Wilson in the third round. It’s Schneider who reports to owner Paul Allen when 2010 fourth-round pick E.J. Wilson doesn’t work out and Schneider and the scouts who have steered the Seahawks to starter after starter in the draft. ‘I owe so much to John Schneider and what he’s done,’ Carroll said last week. ‘He’s been extraordinary in supporting me, and allowing me to do the things that I want to do and how we want to do it with players that complement it in always a competitive, active approach to what everyone is doing.’ “

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times has a look at Russell Wilson’s competitiveness as a lead blocker, “Sometimes Wilson blocking for the Seahawks has made good sense tactically, Carroll added. Coming off a read option, the quarterback is often in a “crucial spot” during the play to make a difference. Part of it, also, is Wilson’s competitiveness. ‘Every play for him, he plays it to the end,’ said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. The key? Just use your head. ‘Which I don’t have to remind him,’ Carroll said. ‘He knows. He really does have a sense for it and he’s not going to bloody his nose laying somebody out. He’s going to try and make a block though and make a difference.’ “

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that the Seahawks will look to improve in the red zone this week against the Falcons, “During the regular season, the Seahawks were No. 2 in red-zone efficiency (second to only Houston), finishing 51 of 54 inside the 20-yard line (94.4), including 31 touchdowns and 20 field goals. The Seahawks were one of two NFL teams not to commit a turnover in that span. However, things changed in Seattle’s first playoff game at Washington. The Seahawks finished 1 of 6 inside Washington’s 20-yard line, settling for three Steven Hauschka field goals. Marshawn Lynch also lost a fumble near Washington’s goal line, and Wilson almost threw an interception on a pass intended for Doug Baldwin. ‘We believe it’s critical every week and we didn’t do a good enough job last week in the red zone,’ Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ‘We got down there a lot, but we weren’t able to convert them into touchdowns. That’s a focal point each and every week. We need to focus that we’re turning those into seven points, which really helps our defense. If we can get teams behind, obviously any team’s defense is going to be able to play better when they’re in the lead. So we need to keep working there.’ “

John Boyle of the Everett Herald previews the matchup between Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and Falcons receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, “Football, perhaps more than any sport, can come down to a chess match between coaches; to one team exploiting another team’s weakness; to neutralizing another team’s strength. But sometimes, football at its best is a one-on-one battle where the outcome of a play, or maybe even a game, comes down to which player does his job better at a given moment. And if ever there was potential for some exciting mano-a-mano matchups, it would be in Sunday’s playoff matchup between Atlanta and Seattle when two of the NFL’s biggest, most-physical corners line up across from two of the league’s most productive receivers, who aren’t exactly known for shying away from physical play. ‘What a matchup this week is, wow,’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. ‘They’ve got great receivers. Roddy and Julio. Those guys are fantastic players. You’re going to see the biggest, longest looking guys going one-on-one out there. It’s going to be really a great matchup to watch, and our guys are going to try and play really good football — just like we always do — and not change anything. They’re so good, so it’s going to be an interesting aspect of this game.’ “

Boyle also passes along Thursday’s injury report for both the Seahawks and Falcons, noting running back Marshawn Lynch sat out practice again with a foot injury, “For the second day in a row, the Seahawks practiced without running back Marshawn Lynch, who is listed with a foot injury. Pete Carroll did not mention Lynch when asked Wednesday about injuries from Sunday’s game, so there’s a good chance the injury is not serious, but we should know a lot more Friday.”

Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman, contributing for 710Sports.com, asks which team would you rather be right now, the Seahawks or Falcons? “Which team would you rather be? The Falcons are 13-3 but lost twice in December and haven’t won a game since Dec. 22. They lost their last game of the year at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team they tried to beat by leaving their starters in for most of the game. Atlanta’s high-powered offense managed just 278 yards and didn’t score a touchdown until late in the third quarter that day. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have put together one of the most impressive runs not only in franchise history, but NFL history. They outscored opponents 193-60 in December and, unlike the Falcons, put up some impressive numbers during that stretch.”

Brock Huard of 710Sports.com passes along his latest “Chalk Talk“, breaking down Marshawn Lynch’s 27-yard touchdown run in last Sunday’s Wild Card win over the Washington Redskins.

Tim Booth of the Associated Press highlights the matchup between the Seahawks corners and Falcons wideouts, “Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game between Seattle and Atlanta will feature a fascinating matchup between Sherman and fellow Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner and the Falcons’ receiving duo of White and Jones. It’s the big, physical cornerbacks of the Seahawks, who because of their skills allow Seattle’s defense to be unique, against the big, physical and fast star receivers of the Falcons who make the offense go. ‘I expect our guys to try to play like they always play. They don’t need to change anything because we’re not doing anything different, we’re going to try and hang with them, and we’ll find out what happens,’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ‘This is probably the best pair and pair that you could match up, and because of the size, and because of their physical nature in the way that they play, it’s going to be really exciting to see.’ “

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski joined 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” to talk about the divisional round game between the Seahawks and Falcons, and you can listen to the full audio podcast here.

Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his report from Thursday, “WR Julio Jones, WR Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez present some potential match-up problems for Seattle. Only the group of WR Miles Austin, WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten seem to rival the group threat presented by the Falcons. But don’t expect the Seahawks to change how they do things defensively. Seattle has made their way by playing physical press coverage on the outsides with a speedy S Earl Thomas to cover the deep middle of the field. They intend to run their defense the same way they have all season. ‘We have to stay to our principles,’ CB Richard Sherman said. ‘They have a really intricate offense and they use their players well. They know exactly how to use everyone and get the most our of them but going away from yourself in the playoffs, you’re shooting yourself in the head. This is what got us here. We have to play our style. That’s what got us here and you live by your style, you die by your style. That’s what we’re going to do.’ “

Mike Sando of ESPN.com passes along his predictions for the playoff games this weekend, “Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET: Atlanta was going to be my pick here once the Seahawks lost defensive end Chris Clemons to a season-ending knee injury. Seattle is traveling across the country in consecutive weeks. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Seahawks also drew the dreaded 10 a.m. PT kickoff. The Seahawks are the more well-rounded team, however. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch are a tough combination to beat right now. Count me in for an all-NFC West championship game, but hedge your bets. It could be wishful thinking unless Wilson and the passing game are sharper this week. Sando’s best guess: Seahawks 27, Falcons 20.”

Sando also questions the strength of the Seahawks defense if the game is close late in the fourth quarter, “Those following Seattle all season know the details. Others should consider the following while analyzing a defense that nonetheless led the NFL in points allowed for 2012:

  • The Detroit Lions converted three times on third down against Seattle during their drive to the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in Week 8.
  • The St. Louis Rams converted on third-and-10 and third-and-13 against Seattle while driving to a fourth-quarter field goal during a 19-13 victory in Week 4.
  • The Miami Dolphins completed an 18-yard pass on third-and-7 during their drive to the tying fourth-quarter touchdown against Seattle before prevailing on a last-second field goal in Week 12.

I’ve singled out late-game collapses on third-down in these road games. Seattle was arguably a defensive stop away from winning at least two of those games.”

Peter King of SI.com has his playoff picks in, and he picks the Seahawks to top the Falcons, 17-13, “Most significant NFL Wednesday injury report line: ‘ATL – DE John Abraham (ankle), limited.’ He’d better not be limited Sunday, two weeks after what looked to be worse than the apparently nasty ankle sprain Abraham suffered in the last game of the season. Not quite sure why, with Seattle missing its best pass rusher (Chris Clemons, torn ACL on the FedEx cow pasture last week) and Abraham likely not at full health, I pick only 30 points to be scored here. I think both secondaries will play stout and smart, and the physicality of the Seattle back four (or five, or six) will have a big impact on the game.”

And in the spirit of “Seahawks Blue Friday”, we leave you with a Seahawks rally that took place yesterday at King St. Bar & Oven in downtown Seattle:


Wednesday cyber surfing: Seahawks physical nature offers no apologies

Red Bryant

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.”


Tuesday in Hawkville: Brandon Browner up to the challenge

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 8:

Brandon Browner

FOCUS ON

Brandon Browner. Pete Carroll admits he wasn’t sure what to expect from the Seahawks’ cornerback in Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game against the Redskins because Browner had just returned from serving a four-game suspension.

But the coach’s apprehension didn’t last long, as Browner was quickly back to being his physical self while helping put the clamps on the Redskins’ passing game in the 24-14 victory at FedExField.

“He slipped and fell one time, but other than that he played a very good football game,” Carroll said. “He exceeded my expectations of how he would go in this game. He took some deep balls and challenged some stuff underneath and did a great job.”

It was a promising – and needed – performance, with what the Falcons will throw at the Seahawks in their divisional-round game this Sunday in Atlanta. Or perhaps who they’ll throw at the Seahawks is a more appropriate way to put it, since the Falcons’ passing game features Roddy White and Julio Jones, who combined to catch 171 passes from QB Matt Ryan for 2,549 yards and 17 TDs.

“He’s ready to go,” Carroll said of Browner. “We needed him to comeback like he did – we didn’t know – and he pulled it off.”

POSITION WATCH

Right guard. Rookie J.R. Sweezy started Sunday’s Wild Card playoff game against the Redskins, but John Moffitt also played after being inactive the previous two games. Carroll liked the way the tag-team rotation worked.

“They both played well, they did a good job. Both of those guys were solid in the game,” said Carroll, with the Seahawks’ rushing for 224 yards as Exhibit A in that assessment. “They have a little different style about them, and they both came through alright.”

Will both continue to play against the Falcons this week?

“I don’t really care if it’s one guy or two guys,” Carroll said. “We just want to get good solid play out of it, and I think it was kind of nice in (the Redskins’) game to not have J.R. under the gun. He didn’t have to play every snap in the game and we got to rest him a little bit and keep him fresh – and keep his mind clear, too. It’s a lot to intake for a young guy at that spot, and these guys were coming after us and doing all kinds of things.

“I think Tom did a great job of mixing that for those guys.”

That would be Tom Cable, the line coach and also assistant head coach. As for which one might start against the Falcons, Carroll said, “We’ll see how the week goes and let Tom call that.”

STATS ’N STUFF

The playoffs are only a week old, and only eight teams participated, but the Seahawks emergence from the Wild Card round ranked No. 1 in rushing offense and passing defense. They are No. 2 in total defense and No. 4 in total offense.

Marshawn Lynch’s 132 rushing yards rank second to the Texans’ Arian Foster (140), and he is third in total yards (141) and fourth in first downs (six). Leon Washington is second in punt-return average (9.5 yards) and fifth in kickoff-return average (23.0).

Russell Wilson’s passer rating of 92.9 ranks third behind the Ravens’ Joe Flacco (126.5) and Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (104.9), and he is second in third-down passer rating (88.9) to the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (116.7).

Free safety Earl Thomas shares the lead with his one interception.

STAT DU JOUR

The Wilson wow-factor continues to grow. His 100.0 passer rating during the regular season ranks No. 2 in the League since 2001 for a player in his first 16 starts. Here’s a look at who the Seahawks’ rookie QB trailed and, more importantly, who he ranked ahead of:

Player, team (record)                               Att.  Comp.  Yards    TD   Int.   Rating

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (15-1)      335     219     3,133     21     9     105.2

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (11-5)           393     252     3,118     26   10     100.0

Aaron Rodgers, Packers (6-10)               536    341     4,038     28    13      93.8

Philip Rivers, Chargers (14-2)                 460     284     3,388     22      9      92.0

Tom Brady, Patriots (13-3)                      481     313     3,360      23    13     90.1

Jay Cutler, Broncos (7-9)                          437     275    3,385      22    15     89.3

Matt Ryan, Falcons (11-5)                        434    265     3,440      16    11     87.7

Cam Newton, Panthers (6-10)                 517    310     4,051      21    17     84.5

Carson Palmer, Bengals (9-7)                   529    332     3,683      26    20     84.0

Matt Schaub, Falcons/Texans (4-12)       474    298     3,424      16   16      81.8

Redskins’ rookie Robert Griffin III had a 102.4 rating this season, but he started 15 games.

UP NEXT

The players return from a couple of “off” days to begin practicing on “Competition Wednesday” in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

YOU DON’T SAY

“The bottom line is, Wilson’s amazing. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s able to see those windows and get the ball in there, even though his official height is 5-foot-10 5/8. Before the draft, people were worried that he’d have an issue with blocked passes, but on Sunday, he didn’t have a single throw knocked down. (Andrew) Luck, on the other hand, had several passes blocked. I’ll tell you what, there are going to be a whole bunch of future quarterback prospects who measure around 6-feet tall who had better send Wilson a card. His performance as a rookie will really open the NFL up to a whole new type of player.” – former Cowboys VP of player personnel Gil Brandt, assessing the play of the three rookie QBs from Sunday’s wild-card games at NFL.com


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Tuesday cyber surfing: Seahawks putting misconceptions to rest

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 8.

Russell Wilson

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are putting several misconceptions about their play to rest, “Seattle is not built to come back from big deficits. This is a logical assumption given the Seahawks’ propensity for running the ball. Seattle rushed on 55 percent of its plays during the regular season, the highest percentage in the league. And for all Wilson’s success, he has yet to throw for more than 300 yards in a game. Doesn’t sound like a team that can play catch-up, does it? There’s also not much of a sample size in that regard, as Seattle scored first in 13 of its 16 regular-season games. But Sunday was the third time this season Seattle found itself down by double digits, and the second consecutive time it came back to win. The Seahawks trailed the Patriots by 13 points in the fourth quarter and scored two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to win in October. At Washington, the Seahawks were more methodical, running their way back into the game.”

O’Neil also notes defensive end Chris Clemons, who led the club in sacks during the regular season with 11.5, is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL and meniscus, “Rookie Bruce Irvin will start at defensive end, a spot he is suited for. The real question is depth behind him. Irvin had eight sacks in the regular season, most among all NFL rookies. No other Seahawk had more than three. Rookie Greg Scruggs could also see time as a reserve, and Carroll did not rule out the possibility Seattle would sign another pass rusher.”

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are defined by their toughness more than anything else, “They aim to take every football game to a physical and mental brink. Can the opponent go there? Or rather, will the opponent go there? This season, the answer has often determined whether the game will be a competition or an endurance challenge that only suits the Seahawks’ stamina. It’s not about deception. The Seahawks have advanced to the NFC divisional playoff round in the most transparent fashion of any team in the NFL. Their schemes are simple. Their game plans are detailed, but not complicated. Their ingenuity lies in the way they use their personnel and their flexibility to look behind prototypes and put players in the best positions to succeed. But the Seahawks have few tricks. They’re coming straight at you, at maximum speed, again and again and again. Can you match it? Will you match it?”

John Boyle of the Everett Herald has a look at the Seahawks’ Wild Card win over the Redskins by the numbers, “24—unanswered points scored by the Seahawks after falling behind. 74—yards gained by Washington in the final three quarters. The Redskins had 129 yards of offense after their first two possessions, then never got the ball past midfield the rest of the day. 27—the length of Marshawn Lynch’s fourth-quarter touchdown run that put Seattle ahead for good. As impressive as that run was (DeAngelo Hall is probably still picking grass out of his facemask after whiffing at Lynch on the play) it wasn’t Lynch’s best effort in the fourth quarter of a playoff game.. 6.6—Marshawn Lynch’s average yards per carry (he had 132 yards on 20 carries), marking the fourth time in five games Lynch has averaged better than 5.5 per carry. He has also gone over 100 yards in five straight games and nine of his last 11 games.”

Tim Booth of the Associated Press writes that the Seahawks were finally able to solve their road playoff woes, “The 14-point hole was the largest deficit overcome in Seahawks playoff history and the largest of any game this season. Wilson directed Seattle back from a 23-10 fourth-quarter deficit to beat New England 24-23 in Week 6. Being down 14 in the first quarter seemed easy compared to that. ‘I think people take notice we’ve put together a lot of games together,’ Carroll said. ‘When you look at our schedule you can misread the schedule a little bit if you just look at the W’s and the L’s. We’ve played really good solid football for a long time. It hasn’t just sprung up at the end of the season.’ “

Mike Salk of 710Sports.com shares his thoughts on where the Seahawks would be without the read-option offense in this short video.

ESPN.com divisional bloggers Mike Sando (NFC West) and Pat Yasinskas (NFC South) discuss Sunday’s divisional round playoff matchup between the Seahawks and Falcons, “Sando: The Seahawks are playing without the burden of expectations. They are very good at quarterback, running back and in the secondary. The read option has added an unconventional element to their offense. Still, winning a 10 a.m. PT game on the road against a very good offensive team will be tough. The Seahawks have started slowly in their past two games. I think they’ll have a harder time if that happens again. Along those lines, have the Falcons been able to jump on teams early at home and finish them off? One memory I have is watching Arizona pick off Ryan five times. Yasinskas: The Arizona game was the only time in Ryan’s life (including college, high school and youth league) that he’s thrown five interceptions in a game. That was a fluke. Some of those balls were tipped. Ryan generally is very efficient. And starting fast is one of the trademarks of Ryan and the Falcons. Since Ryan entered the league in 2008, the Falcons have scored more points on their first offensive drives than any team in the NFL. They pride themselves on starting fast, and they’re particularly good at that in the Georgia Dome.”

ESPN.com Insider Field Yates breaks down whether or not the Seahawks have what it takes to win on the road in Atlanta. The article requires an ESPN Insider subscription, but here’s a snippet: “By the numbers, these teams mirrored each other in the passing game during the regular season: Atlanta had the sixth-best passing offense, while Seattle had the sixth-best passing defense. Among the remaining playoff teams, Atlanta had the third-best passing offense in 2012, and Seattle the third-best passing defense. It’s a true strength-versus-strength tilt, with Atlanta’s explosive downfield passing game giving Seattle perhaps its toughest test since October.”


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