Thursday in Hawkville: Sunday proved to be a very happy birthday for Clinton McDonald

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 10:

Clinton McDonald

FOCUS ON

Clinton McDonald. So, what do you get a guy who already has so much for his birthday? How about a fumble recovery to ice the team’s first road playoff victory since 1983?

That was the case for McDonald on Sunday, which just happened to be his 26th birthday, when he fell on a fumbled snap by Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III with 6½ minutes to play in the Seahawks’ 24-14 victory. And McDonald’s reaction was typical of why the nose tackle has become such a popular player in only his second season with the team.

“I told him, ‘That’s a great birthday present.’ And he said, ‘It’s a birthday present for the team,’ ” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said after practice, which was held in the indoor practice facility. “That’s really his mentality. Like a lot of our guys, it’s whatever they can do to help us play at the highest level.”

Because of the win, and McDonald’s play, the Seahawks will play at a higher level – Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta, with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship game.

And this week, McDonald will be anchoring a nickel line that won’t have sack leader Chris Clemons, who will have surgery next week to repair the knee ligament and meniscus he tore in the game last Sunday. So the rush-end opposite first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin could be rookie Greg Scruggs; or perhaps outside linebacker Mike Morgan; or even Patrick Chukwurah, who was signed to fill Clemons’ roster spot on Wednesday but hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2007; or a combination of the three.

The given is that McDonald will continue to be the leader of that group.

“He is really, I don’t know if inspirational is the right word, but the guys really rally around him,” Bradley said. “He does a great job with that group of bringing everybody together – the young guys, the older guys, he kind of meshes between them both.”

There is the risk of trying to do too much to make up for the loss of Clemons, who has had double-digit sacks in each of his three seasons with the Seahawks. So McDonald also will be into risk management this week.

“I don’t feel like there’s extra pressure,” he said. “I just feel like we’ve got a man down and guys are made to step up in this situation. So we’ve just got to show what we know.”

Just as McDonald and Irvin, who had a fourth-quarter sack of RGIII, did after Clemons went out in the third quarter against the Redskins.

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried,” McDonald said. “We know what we’re missing in Chris Clemons. But at the same time, we’ve still got a game to play. We’ve still got to take that field and go out and produce.”

Patrick Chukwurah

PLAYER WATCH

Chukwurah. The just-signed defensive end and special teams player did more today than during his first practice with the team on Wednesday. He’ll likely do even more on Friday. It’s all part of trying to get him ready for some spot action against the Falcons.

“It’s tough,” Bradley said. “He’s been lifting (weights) in gyms and riding ellipticals. This is going to be a little bit different. But some of the third-down situations, if he’s a rusher, get 15-16 reps. That’s what we’re looking at.”

As well as special teams. “He’s been very good on special teams in the past,” said Bradley, who was with the Buccaneers when Chukwurah played with them in 2007. “They’re taking a look at him there to see where he is conditioning-wise, what he can handle.”

RUSSELL WILSON UP FOR ANOTHER AWARD

Russell Wilson, the Seahawks’ rookie quarterback, is a finalist for the Vizio Top Value Performer award as someone who has performed above and beyond expectations.

“Overlooked by the majority of the league, Wilson lasted until the third round of the 2012 draft. Earning $390,000 in 2012, he completed 252 passes for 3,118 yards and 26 TDs, tying a league record for passing TDs by a rookie. Exceeding all expectations, he’s an ideal choice for the Vizio Top Value Performer award,” is what they said about Wilson in naming him a finalist.

You can vote here for Wilson.

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as issued by the team:

Did not practice

S Jeron Johnson (hamstring)

RB Marshawn Lynch (foot)

CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring)

No change for the Seahawks, as Lynch, Johnson and Maxwell sat out for a second consecutive day to rest injuries that have sidelined them at times during practice in previous weeks.

For the Falcons:

Did not practice

CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)

Limited participation

S William Moore (hamstring)

DE John Abraham (ankle)

S Charles Mitchell (calf)

Full participation

CB Dunta Robinson (head)

The only change for the Falcons was Mitchell being limited after sitting out on Wednesday.

STAT DU JOUR

Lynch rushed for 99 yards in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Redskins, after having 33 in the first half. It was just the sixth time in 17 games this season, and the first in the current six-game winning streak, that Lynch has had more yards in the second half than the first. Here’s a look at his half-and-half performances, starting with the season opener against the Cardinals:

                                    First half       Second half

Opponent                  No.-Yards     No.-Yards

Cardinals                     10-40            11-45

Cowboys                     10-22            16-100

Packers                        16-71               9-27

Rams                            10-62            10-56

Panthers                        7-28            14-57

Patriots                          9-26              6-15

49ers                              9-55            10-48

Lions                               7-80              5-25

Vikings                          11-55           15-69

Jets                                14-39           13-85

Dolphins                          9-12           10-34

Bears                                7-51           12-36

Cardinals                          8-69             3-59

Bills                                    9-100           1-3

49ers                                12-64          14-47

Rams                                   8-66          10-34

Redskins                              8-33         12-99

UP NEXT

“Turnover Thursday” gives way to “No Repeat Friday” as the team will hold its final full practice before flying to Atlanta for Sunday’s game. The Saturday walkthrough will be held in the Atlanta area.

Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas got into the Thursday theme by picking off two passes, while cornerback Richard Sherman also had an interception.

YOU DON’T SAY

“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.” – Peter King in predicting a 17-13 Seahawks victory at SI.com


Thursday cyber surfing: Bruce Irvin ready for first NFL start

Bruce Irvin

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 10.

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times rehashes defensive end Bruce Irvin’s path to the NFL – a path that has led him into the starting lineup this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, “Irvin didn’t start this season, but was more than a backup. He was a situational pass-rusher on the field for about half of Seattle’s defensive snaps. He had eight sacks this season, more than any other rookie in the NFL. Sunday in Washington, after Clemons was injured, Irvin had a sack of quarterback Robert Griffin III that demonstrated just how fast Irvin is. ‘It’s his great asset,’ Carroll said. That quickness has carried him all the way to the NFL. And now, 10 years after he was headed toward a dead end in Georgia, Irvin is returning to the town where he grew up — for the first starting assignment in a career that is just beginning. ‘He can be a double-digit sack guy for a long time once he gets going,’ Carroll said.”

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times says that for everything Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has accomplished in four seasons in the NFL, he has still yet to win a game in the playoffs, “This year, Ryan has received MVP chatter for leading the Falcons to the best record in the NFC. His coach, Mike Smith, said Wednesday that ‘individually, it’s been his best year in terms of most of the markers you look for in a quarterback.’ Except one, and therein lies the paradox. In three playoff games over the previous four seasons, Ryan has yet to produce a victory. He has thrown for less than 200 yards in all three of those games, and has more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three). His playoff QB rating of 71.2 pales in comparison to his regular-season mark of 90.9. It’s getting dangerously close to being a legacy-killer for the quarterback selected third overall out of Boston College in the 2008 draft (15 spots ahead of Joe Flacco, who already has six playoff wins with the Ravens). But rectify that omission to his resume, and Ryan will be celebrated both as the man who led the Falcons out of the wilderness of a 4-12 record the season before he arrived, and the one who can take them to the next level.”

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says head coach Pete Carroll’s decision making as a head coach has improved, “It’s not that the coach is arrogant. He often gambles within games because he’s too hopeful. Carroll is the ultimate optimist. And during his USC tenure, that optimism often resulted in dramatic success. ‘I got going for nine years straight of going for it every single chance you get — forever,’ Carroll said. But he is learning that, in the NFL, being conservative is both a virtue and a life-saver. ‘I think we’ve cleaned things up,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a good formula for doing it. It’s interesting: It hasn’t come up as much. We haven’t had that many dramatic opportunities to go for it or not.” You get the feeling that, if the Seahawks advance far enough in the playoffs, Carroll will have to make some tough choices under great scrutiny. Will he continue to play it safe? Or will the riverboat gambler in him sneak out?”RM2_6589

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times checks in with newly-signed kicker Ryan Longwell, “Longwell beat out three other kickers who were invited to try out Tuesday, heading into Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Atlanta. ‘It’s kind of an honor to put on the helmet that you grew up watching,’ he said. Changing kickers at this point of the season is “a big deal to us,” coach Pete Carroll said, but Longwell’s experience — winning a Super Bowl with Green Bay in 1998 — helped earn him the job, not to mention a 55-yard field goal in Tuesday’s workout. ‘When you look at Ryan’s background, the great experience he’s had, the time he’s had in playoff situations and all of that, to make this transition for a younger guy might be more of an issue, and we think he can handle that,’ Carroll said.”

John Boyle of the Everett Herald has a look at the signing of defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, “The 33-year-old Chukwurah, who most recently played two seasons in the UFL before that league folded, hasn’t played organized football of any sorts for more than a year. Yet he was impressive enough in a tryout Tuesday that the Seahawks signed him over other better-known defensive ends, a result that even he had a hard time believing. ‘Honestly, no,’ Chukwurah said when asked if he still thought an NFL comeback was realistic. ‘I was really set on moving on and starting the next chapter, so it’s definitely a blessing.’ “

Boyle also writes that the Seahawks are not letting the playoff pressure get to them, “Any player you ask will tell you a Super Bowl title is the team’s goal. But it has been clear the last two weeks that this young team, which has gotten better faster than most expected, isn’t tensing up now as the stakes become higher. ‘This team is in a real good place,’ said veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. ‘It’s good for us that we can focus and just kind of take the challenges as they come, and not get too high or too low. We’re just trying to stay the course, and that’s been good for us.’ Seattle’s levelheadedness has led to pretty consistent play all season — the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than seven points all year — and keeping things the same in the postseason has helped a young team from succumbing to the pressure of the playoffs. ‘It’s very important to just maintain the same routine,’ said fullback Michael Robinson. ‘(Head coach) Pete (Carroll) does a great job of keeping practice the same.’ “

Tim Booth of the Associated Press says defensive end Bruce Irvin is ready to step in for the injured Chris Clemons, “For most of his rookie season, Irvin has thrived being used on passing downs as a rush end opposite Clemons. Getting pressure from both sides on quarterbacks has worked well for Seattle with Clemons getting 11 1/2 sacks and Irvin having another eight in the regular season to set a franchise rookie record. Now that Clemons is out, Irvin will be called on not only to pressure the quarterback, but also be stout in the run game. ‘I’m still depressed that (Clemons) is down. He’s like an older brother to me. He showed me a lot, man,’ Irvin said. ‘Next year, I’ll be in this same role, me and (Clemons) rotating and whatever. I’m not looking to come in here and ball out and take over (Clemons’) spot. I’m not looking for that. My time will come and when it’s that time it will all handle itself.’ “

Liz Matthews of 710Sports.com has her report from Wednesday’s practice – a practice running back Marshawn Lynch sat out with a foot injury, “Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did not participate in practice. Unlike most weeks when he is given a rest day for his balky back, Lynch was listed on Wednesday’ practice report with a foot injury.”

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com passes along a conversation with NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes, who believes that if the Seahawks can secure an early lead over the Falcons on Sunday, “it’s over”, “The Falcons, Seattle’s divisional-round opponent, have one of the league’s better passing attacks, ranking sixth in passing yards and fifth in touchdown passes during the regular season. Despite that, NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes doubts their ability to come back if they were to fall behind to the Seahawks. ‘If they get up early, it’s over. Have a nice day, Atlanta Falcons,’ Dukes told “Bob and Groz” on Wednesday. ‘The Falcons’ line is not built to handle that pressure.’ ” Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” share their thoughts in this short video.

The staff at SportsPressNW.com passes along several notes from Atlanta head coach Mike Smith’s Wednesday press conference.RM2_6350

Mike Sando of ESPN.com passes along QBR ranks from Wild Card weekend, “Wilson made positive contributions, impressing those who have watched mostly from afar to this point. The visuals were all there: Wilson flipping a touchdown pass to fullback Michael Robinson, Wilson running interference downfield so his running back could gain additional yardage, Wilson firing downfield strikes to Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice. If tight end Anthony McCoy hadn’t dropped a pass deep in Redskins territory, Seattle might have fared better than its 1-of-6 showing in the red zone. On the whole, however, this performance from Wilson was hardly consistent with the ones that separated him from Robert Griffin III and made him second to Peyton Manning in Total QBR from Week 8 through regular season’s end.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson joined ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike”, and you can listen to the full audio podcast here.

ESPN The Magazine has a look into Wilson’s past as a professional baseball player, sharing conversations with the scouting supervisor of the Colorado Rockies, Wilson’s baseball coach at North Carolina State, the editor of Baseball America, and more.

Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com says Russell Wilson may be the best young quarterback in the League, “If Russell Wilson is too short, give me short! Facing Baltimore, first overall selection Andrew Luck wilted under a steady blitz. Experienced quarterbacks want to be blitzed — if Baltimore tries the same at Denver, Peyton Manning will eat the Ravens’ lunch. But Luck is just a rookie, and looked like one during his first-round exit. Facing Seattle, second overall selection Robert Griffin twisted his knee late in the first quarter, lost his amazing quickness, then lost the game. RG III throws himself at a defense, taking big hits. Experienced quarterbacks avoid big hits. But Griffin is just a rookie, and looked like one during his first-round exit. Then there was Wilson. Washington blitzed him hard, and by the fourth quarter, he wanted to be blitzed, because he was beating this tactic like a veteran — see more below. Wilson ran for 67 yards, including the game’s longest rush, but whenever a defender had him in his sights, he stepped out of bounds, slid or threw the ball away. Wilson played like a seasoned veteran. One reason is that he had the most college starts of the young-gun quarterbacks. Wilson started 50 games in college, versus 40 for Griffin and 38 for Luck. Add another dozen starts to RG III and he will avoid big hits. Add another dozen starts to Luck and he’ll be looking forward to the blitz. Wilson already has these skills.”

And Chris Burke of SI.com offers an X’s and O’s break down Sunday’s matchup between the Seahawks and Falcons, “Will Seattle continue to use Irvin off the left edge this coming Sunday? Carroll said only that Irvin will start at the “Leo” spot — a position in Carroll’s defense reserved for a fast rusher, almost like a 3-4 outside linebacker. Irvin, as mentioned, has done a lot of his work from left end, but will the Seahawks try to play the matchups? Playing Irvin on the left means he’ll deal with Clabo; on the right is Baker. Neither is a slouch, but Clabo, a 2010 Pro Bowler, may be the stiffer test of the two.”


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 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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Monday in Hawkville: Calf injury leaves Steven Hauschka’s status in question for Sunday’s game

A recap of the events at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 7:

Steven Hauschka

FOCUS ON

Steven Hauschka. The Seahawks’ kicker has a strained muscle in his lower calf, so his status for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta is in question.

“We don’t know how significant it is,” coach Pete Carroll said during his weekly day-after Q&A session with the media. “He feels better today than he did yesterday.”

Hauschka was injured during the team’s 24-14 victory over the Redskins in their wild-card playoff game at FedEx Field on Sunday. He was able to kick field goals, hitting from 32, 29 and 22 yards. But punter Jon Ryan had to handle the final three kickoffs.

“He really did a great job of kicking through it and making the plays we needed him to make,” Carroll said.

Carroll said the team will have kickers in for tryouts on Tuesday, just in case.

“There are a lot of scenarios here for us,” Carroll said. “So we’ll see what happens tomorrow and then see what happens the next day.”

Hauschka made 24 of his 27 field-goal attempts during the regular season, with one kick blocked and the two misses coming from 61 and 51 yards.

SURGERY FOR CLEMONS

Chris Clemons, who has led the team in sacks in each of his three seasons with the Seahawks, has been lost because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee. He was injured in Sunday’s game.

“He will have to have surgery,” Carroll said. “So we’ll miss him, which is a big loss for us in a lot of ways. Chris has been a great football player. He’s been just a symbol of consistency for the years we’ve had him.”

With Clemons out, first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin will step into the Leo end spot for this week’s game against the Falcons.

BRADLEY, BEVELL DRAW INTEREST

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have been linked to vacant head-coaching jobs in the league, and Carroll confirmed that interest.

“Both those guys have been contacted,” Carroll said. “I think it’s a real positive for the program when people want to talk to your guys. I’ve always felt that’s a real cool thing.”

It will not, however, be a factor in this week’s preparation for the Falcons.

“There’s a time and a place,” Carroll said. “Both guys are very aware of what we’re doing and what we’re in for here. Neither one of them is going to let this distract them or get in the way. There are very limited opportunities for any of that. They’re not going to travel and go places and run around and all that.

“In all due respect for what we’re after right now, it’s low on their list. Both these guys feel exactly the same way about it. They’re both fantastic candidates. They’re equipped. They’ve got their act together. They’re going to be head coaches, whether it’s now or in the near future. So we’ll see how it goes.”

 MORE KING-SIZED PRAISE FOR SEAHAWKS

Last week, Peter King at SI.com shared that he voted for both Russell Wilson (offense) and Bobby Wagner (defense) as NFL rookies of the year. Today, he lists all his votes for the Associated Press honors, including fullback Michael Robinson and cornerback Richard Sherman on the All-Pro team.

King also tabs GM John Schneider as NFL Executive of the Year. All of King’s selections are available here.

Don Banks at SI.com also voted Wilson the offensive rookie of the year, and his feeling vindicated after his performance against the Redskins: “It was an almost impossible choice, but I voted for Seattle’s Wilson as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in last week’s AP balloting, and after Sunday, I’m feeling fine about that choice. Team results don’t mean everything in an individual award, of course, but Wilson and the Seahawks will play on while (Andrew) Luck’s Colts and (Robert) Griffin’s Redskins are going home for the offseason. Does anyone who calls themselves a judge of NFL talent still think Wilson is too short at 5-foot-10 or whatever he is? You can argue Wilson has a better team around him than Luck or Griffin, but all three wound up in the playoffs, and only Wilson found a way to get his team a win – on the road no less, where Seattle went 3-5 this regular season, and hadn’t won in the playoffs since 1983.”

THOMAS FUNDAMENTALLY SOUND

Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas has been named to the 2012 All-Fundamentals Team, which not surprising after watching the way he tracked the ball and then displayed his closing speed in making an interception against the Redskins on Sunday.

You can view here the rest of the team, and also see and hear what they have to say about Thomas.

STAT DU JOUR

Marshawn Lynch has joined Shaun Alexander as the only backs in franchise history to have two 100-yard rushing performances in the postseason, and Lynch did it on Sunday by tying Alexander’s playoff-record total. Here’s a look at their triple-digit games, as well as the others in club history:

Player, opponent (date)                                         Yards

Marshawn Lynch, Redskins (Jan. 6, 2010)            132

Shaun Alexander, Panthers (Jan. 22, 2006)          132

Marshawn Lynch, Saints (Jan. 8, 2011)                 131

Dan Doornink, Raiders (Dec. 22, 1984)                 126

Curt Warner, Dolphins (Dec. 31, 1983)                 113

Shaun Alexander, Bears (Jan. 14, 2007)                108

UP NEXT

The players were “off” on Monday and also will be “off” on Tuesday. But they’re required to get in a workout once during the two-day period. They will return on Wednesday to begin practice for Sunday’s game in Atlanta.

In case once wasn’t enough, the NFL Network will replay Sunday’s game at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Need another reason to watch, or re-watch?  They had the loquacious Sherman wired for sound during the game.

YOU DON’T SAY

“What a matchup this weekend. Wow. 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.” – Carroll on Sherman and fellow cornerback Brandon Browner going against Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Juilo Jones, who combined for 171 receptions, 2,549 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches during the regular season


Game at a glance: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14

Marshawn Lynch

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.”

UNSUNG HERO

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.”

INJURY REPORT

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.

WORTH NOTING

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


Friday cyber surfing: Marshawn Lynch’s play speaks for itself

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 4 – two days prior to their Wild Card game on the road against the Washington Redskins.

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times highlights the play and persona of running back Marshawn Lynch, “For all the attention the quarterbacks in Sunday’s game are bound to get, it’s Lynch who is the foundation for Seattle’s offense. ‘He’s as smart a football guy as I’ve been around,’ said Tom Cable, the Seahawks’ assistant head coach. ‘Some people don’t get to know that because he won’t share that with you. He won’t open up very much.’ This is by choice after a career that has seen him praised as a prodigy in Buffalo, celebrated as a Pro Bowler and later characterized as a pariah. And nearly three years into his second chance in Seattle, we’re still trying to get a picture of what this Skittles-chomping, defense-stomping force of nature is really like. ESPN.com NFC East blogger Dan Graziano has a video preview and prediction of Sunday’s Wild Card matchup between the NFC East champion Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson has been nominated for NFL Rookie of the Year ’12, and you can cast a vote for Wilson here. Our Insider Clare Farnsworth has more on the rookie Wilson and those that are challenging him for the honor here.

Larry Stone of the Seattle Times says containing Redskins running back Alfred Morris will be a priority for the Seahawks on Sunday, “Morris outrushed Lynch by 23 yards this season. And whereas Lynch is rightly lauded for his relentless running style, Morris has more yards after contact than Lynch, 643 to 558. Shanahan saw that play-sustaining ability when he watched tape of Florida Atlantic before the draft. ‘Here’s a guy that was on a football team that didn’t have a great record, and you could see some runs — some 4- and 5-yard runs — that we thought were special at the time,’ Shanahan said. Coupled with Griffin, whose running ability is well-documented, Morris presents a formidable challenge for the Seahawks defense. ‘They force you to play sound football, because if you don’t, they’re going to expose it,’ defensive tackle Alan Branch said. ‘That’s what their offense is meant to do. Hopefully, we read our keys and stay in our zone, and hopefully we can knock it out.’ “

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times catches up with cornerback Brandon Browner, who returned from his month-long suspension earlier this week, “Coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that the team will see how rusty Browner is after the month away. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said Browner has been doing extra work in practice to help regain his sharpness. So does Browner think he’ll be ready for Sunday’s playoff game at Washington? ‘Most definitely,’ he said. ‘It starts in the head, mentally. I’m mentally tough. I know I’ll be a little bit tired out there, but at the end of the day I’m fighting for a playoff victory, so I’ll be all right.’ “

John Boyle of the Everett Herald writes the Seahawks are confident their early season road struggles are behind them, “That win in Chicago helped spark a 5-0 finish, which included three consecutive blowouts, and another road victory over Buffalo in Toronto. Heading into what they hope is the first of three road playoff games — again, assuming Minnesota doesn’t win two playoff games as well — the Seahawks are confident that their game now travels well. ‘We had trouble on the road early in season, but lately we’ve been playing great ball, home or away,’ safety Earl Thomas said. ‘We’re very excited about this championship opportunity. It’s a big stage. We’re blessed to make the playoffs and we’re going to make the most of it.’ “

Boyle also passes along Thursday’s injury report for both clubs, noting rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane did not participate with a knee injury, and Lynch was a full participant after a limited outing on Wednesday when he rested his back.

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com says the Redskins will present a challenge for the Seahawks run defense, “The Seahawks held three of their final four opponents to fewer than 90 yards rushing. But while that might suggest an end to their struggles against the run, it could have also been a product of the way the games played out. Seattle jumped out to early leads in three of them, forcing opponents to throw the ball more in an attempt to catch up. Sunday’s game should provide an answer as to whether or not those issues are a thing of the past. Washington’s offense is similar in many ways to Seattle’s in terms of style and personnel. Both teams run a variation of the option, each with a powerful running back and a dynamic rookie quarterback who can beat teams with his arm and legs.”

Brock Huard and Mike Salk of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” discuss the candidacy for Rookie of the Year in this short video.

Tim Booth of the Associated Press writes that Russell Wilson is ready for the big stage of the NFL playoffs, “While this is his first time in the NFL playoffs, the feel and sense around the team’s facility reminded Wilson of his preparations a year ago when he was getting ready to lead Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl against Oregon, a game the Badgers lost 45-38. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn’t hesitate earlier in the week when asked if he was worried about Wilson getting too wrapped up in the noise of the postseason. ‘I just expect him to be very poised, have everything under control and play well,’ he said.”

Jarrett Bell of USA Today takes a look at the way teams have built winners through the NFL draft, “If he isn’t already, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson might be held up as another example of how many teams miss on great potential. Wilson, 5-11, was considered too short to be a first-round pick despite his production at North Carolina State and Wisconsin, smarts and athleticism. He lasted until the third round, 75th overall. Wilson joins RGIII as the only qualifying rookies to post 100-or-better passer ratings, and he tied Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record with 26 touchdown passes. ‘After he got here, you didn’t know how tall he was,’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this week.”

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his “best guesses” for Week 18, picking the Seahawks over the Redskins, 24-17, “The Seahawks are the only road team favored by oddsmakers in the wild-card round. They are healthier than the Redskins and have the healthier, hotter quarterback now that Seattle is running more of its offense through Russell Wilson. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III remains a threat, of course, particularly on play-action throws. The Seahawks’ run defense also will be tested in this game. Those are concerns for Seattle. But with Griffin limited by a knee injury, the Seahawks should end a playoff road losing streak that dates to the 1983 season.”

Sando breaks down the play of Wilson and Robert Griffin III in three key categories: third down, red zone, and fourth-quarter/overtime, “Some of the numbers [for Wilson] are difficult to believe: 9.3 yards per attempt on third down; 18 total touchdowns in the red zone; 74 percent completions and 9.6 yards per attempt in fourth quarters and overtimes. Griffin has impressive numbers in some of the categories as well, but they lag behind the standard Wilson has set over the same time period. In many cases, they lag far behind: 5.7 yards per attempt on third down; eight total touchdowns in the red zone; 56.9 percent completions and 5.9 yards per attempt in fourth quarters and overtimes.”

Sando compares and contrasts the play of the Seahawks’ Lynch and Redskins’ Morris.

And we close out today’s “cyber surfing” with Sando’s “Final Word” on Sunday’s Wild Card matchup, “Rookie showcase. Washington’s Robert Griffin III (102.4) and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (100.0) are the only qualifying quarterbacks in NFL history to finish their rookie seasons with NFL passer ratings in triple digits. They also are the first full-time rookie starting quarterbacks to face one another in an NFL playoff game. Houston’s T.J. Yates was a replacement for Matt Schaub when he went against fellow rookie Andy Dalton in the playoffs last season. Wilson and Griffin aren’t alone among rookies playing prominent roles for their teams. The Redskins, led by Griffin and 1,600-yard rusher Alfred Morris, have a league-high 46 touchdowns passing, rushing or receiving from their rookies this season. The Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts are tied for second with 30 apiece. Seattle also got 12 sacks from its rookies. Bruce Irvin had eight of them. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner finished his rookie season with 140 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks as an every-down player.”


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Monday in Hawkville: Pete Carroll connects reality of finale to fun of playoffs

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 31:

Pete Carroll

FOCUS ON

Reality ball and fun. Coach Pete Carroll used both terms today when discussing the Seahawks’ 20-13 victory over the Rams in their regular-season finale on Sunday and their playoff game this week against the Redskins at FedExField.

First, the Rams’ game, which was a return to reality for the Seahawks after they had won by 58, 33 and 29 points in their previous three games: “It was a game that was good for us, in that it was hard and tough and we were behind and had to work our way back. I think that was good after the games that we’ve had, to get back to real football – reality ball, how it can be.”

And how it was, as well. Five of the Seahawks’ first seven victories came by two points (Packers), four points (at the Panthers), one point (Patriots), 10 points (Vikings) and six points in overtime (at the Bears). They also beat the Cowboys by 20 and the Jets by 21.

The win over the Rams didn’t come until quarterback Russell Wilson capped a 90-yard drive by scoring on a 1-yard run with 1:39 to play and cornerback Richard Sherman intercepted Sam Bradford’s fourth-down pass at the goal line with 33 seconds left.

“That’s high odds going against you,” Carroll said of the late scoring drive. “But we got great play. Guys executed beautifully at that time. The quarterback did a great job, made a couple big plays scrambling and running.

“And we scored early enough to give the defense a chance to do their thing, as well. And it was good to see that because we’ve had some issues at times. I think the thing that was exciting for us is that we kind of expected to pull this thing off here at the end.”

Now, the fun that is the reward from winning their final five regular-season games and seven of their past eight to reach the playoffs: “It’s more fun, because of where you are and the focus and all that. There will be a feel about the playoffs, there’s always kind of that air about it. You can sense it. It’s different.

“But the key is not allowing that to factor into what it really takes to prepare well, and not miss the message. They’ll be excited to play and everybody’s going to have great focus this week, just because it is the playoffs. But that’s something we’re trying to create on a regular basis, so when we get to this time we’ve already ‘been-there/done-that.’ ”

The Seahawks advanced to the playoffs in 2010, their first season under Carroll, and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in a wild-card game in Seattle. They then lost to the Bears in Chicago in the divisional round.

So this Seahawks team is looking to do something no Seahawks team has done since 1983: Win a playoff game on the road.

“It’s about consistency when you get into this opportunity,” Carroll said. “You’ve got to bring what you’ve got. Don’t show up without your stuff on that day. We know how to do that. Now we have to see if we can bring it to life and not get distracted by the fact it’s the playoffs.”

BROWNER RETURNS

Cornerback Brandon Browner returned to the Seahawks today from his four-game suspension.

To clear a roster spot, cornerback Walter Thurmond was placed on injured reserve. Thurmond injured a hamstring in practice earlier this month and has missed the past three games.

“We couldn’t get him over the hump on it,” Carroll said. “He kind of re-tweaked it again last week, and that means it’s going to be a couple of weeks again.”

Browner, an alternate to the Pro Bowl last season who was added to the NFC squad as an injury replacement, started the first 12 games on the right side.

“He’s worked out real hard. His weight’s in good shape,” Carroll said. “He’s still fast and all that. He’s going to have fresh legs. But we’ve got to see how he does. Unfortunately, we have guys that can play. If he’s not quite right or he doesn’t get off to a good start during the week, we’ve got other guys who can play for him.

“But we’re going to give him a heckuva chance to play. We’re thrilled to get him back. We’ll see what happens.”

The club also signed rookie defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga and cornerback Ron Parker to its practice squad.

Meatoga was with the Raiders earlier this season. He fills the spot that opened when linebacker Allen Bradford was signed to the 53-man roster on Friday. With Parker being added, wide receiver Corbin Louks was released. Parker was with the team in training camp, released on the roster cut to 75 players and then signed to the 53-man roster off the Panthers’ practice squad Dec. 5 before being released last Friday.

SIX SEAHAWKS FINISH AMONG LEAGUE LEADERS

Leon Washington finished second in the league and led the NFC in kickoff return average (29.0).

Sherman tied for second in the league in interceptions (eight) and led the team with 24 passes defensed; while Chris Clemons tied for ninth in sacks (11.5) and Bruce Irvin led all rookies in sacks (eight).

Marshawn Lynch slipped to third in the league is rushing when Redskins rookie Alfred Morris ran for 200 yards on Sunday night. Lynch finished the regular season with 1,590 yards, while Morris had 1,613. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson led the league with 2,097. Lynch also was fourth in total yards (1,786) behind Peterson (2,314), the Titans’ Chris Johnson (1,964) and Bucs’ Doug Martin (1,926); tied for sixth in first downs (79); and tied for seventh in scoring among non-kickers (72 points).

Wilson was fourth in the league in passer rating (100.0) behind the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (108.0), Broncos’ Peyton Manning (105.8) and Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (102.4); fifth in fourth-quarter passer rating (102.7); fifth in third-down passer rating (96.2); and eighth in completion percentage (.641).

Jon Ryan was ninth in net punting average (40.8) and tied for seventh in punts inside the 20 (30).

As a team, the Seahawks ranked No. 3 in rushing offense, No. 4 in total defense, No. 6 in passing defense and No. 10 in rushing defense. The offense was No. 17 overall and No. 27 in passing offense. They also were plus-13 in turnover differential, which tied for fifth in the league.

Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the team in tackles with a franchise rookie-record 140, while linebacker K.J. Wright (96) and strong safety Kam Chancellor (91) finished 2-3. Heath Farwell led the team with 15 special teams tackles.

KING VOTES WILSON, WAGNER FOR ROOKIES OF THE YEAR

Peter King at SI.com has a vote for the NFL awards given each year by the Associated Press, and he tabs Wilson as the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Wagner as the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

King on Wilson: “Wilson over Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck. Morphing from a laughed-at 5-foot-11, 75th pick in the draft into a tornado-like force at quarterback by December (three games, 150 points, including 42 against the mighty Niners), and playing like Fran Tarkenton with a better arm, Wilson nipped Griffin in my opinion. But if you want either other man, I have zero problem or argument with you.”

King on Wagner: “Bobby Wagner, edging Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward and Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly. Wagner turned a suspect group of Seattle linebackers, the weak point of the Seahawks defense, into a competitive group by being great against the run (more tackles than Patrick Willis) and good dropping into coverage (three interceptions, excellent instincts).”

STAT DU JOUR

We ran the chart of the rookie QBs with the best passer ratings in league history last week, but that was before Wilson and Griffin rewrote it on Sunday. So here’s the new Top 5, with those who fell out of it and the other rookies in this year’s class:

Player, team (year)                                Rating

Robert Griffin III, Redskins (2012)       102.4

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (2012)        100.0

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (2004)     98.1

Dan Marino, Dolphins (1983)                 96.0

Greg Cook, Bengals (1969)                      88.3

Dropping out:

Matt Ryan, Falcons (2008)                      87.8

Cam Newton, Panthers (2011)              84.5

Other 2012 rookies:

Nick Foles, Eagles                                     79.1

Andrew Luck, Colts                                  76.5

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins                        76.1

Brandon Weeden, Browns                     72.6

UP NEXT

New Year’s Day, of course. The players had today “off” and will be “off” on Tuesday as well, although many were in today for a workout, treatment or to get a jump on their video preparation for Sunday’s game.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Whatever awards come Russell Wilson’s way, we understand it. He’s just such a complete kid. That’s a really cool award for what he’s done off the field. He’s just on on all cylinders hitting it. The players would recognize that. The people in the community would recognize that. And the coaches certainly know that, as well. Anything with Steve Largent’s name on it is pretty cool.” – Carroll on Wilson being voted the Steve Largent Award by his teammates


ESPN panel votes John Schneider NFL executive of 2012

John Schneider

Seahawks general manager John Schneider topped a list of candidates for NFL executive of the year, edging out Denver Broncos general manager John Elway and Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, in a vote by several staff members of ESPN.com.

Schneider received eight total votes – one more than Elway and four more than Grigson. ESPN AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky has the story here, which includes Kuharsky’s opinion as well as thoughts from several other voters.

Here’s a breakdown of the votes:

  • Schneider – 8
  • Elway – 7
  • Grigson – 4
  • Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons – 2
  • Trent Baalke, San Francisco 49ers – 1
  • Bruce Allen, Washington Redskins – 1

Kuharsky voted for Schneider, recalling a conversation he had with with fellow ESPN.com blogger Mike Sando, who covers the NFC West, “I’ve had a close view of the Colts’ transformation from a 2-14 disaster to a 10-5 team heading to the playoffs.  As I broadened that view, however, I leaned on something Sando said as we discussed this: Take away the obvious moves, the moves your mom would know to make — signing Manning [Elway], drafting Luck [Grigson] — and find out who’s the choice. I voted Schneider, and so did seven others, enough for him to edge Elway.”

Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll’s 2012 draft class has produced the NFL’s rookie sack leader (Bruce Irvin, 8.0 sacks), a starting middle linebacker who is a serious candidate for defensive rookie of the year (Bobby Wagner), and of course starting quarterback Russell Wilson, who many believe can challenge Luck and Washington’s Robert Griffin III in the race for offensive rookie of the year. Not to mention the club picked up a physical running back in Robert Turbin to match the “Beastmode” attack of Marshawn Lynch, a cornerback in Jeremy Lane who has stepped up and played well in place of the suspended Pro Bowler Brandon Browner, a college defensive lineman turned starting NFL offensive guard in J.R. Sweezy, and several other contributors.

Added Sando, “I voted for Schneider because I thought the moves Seattle made required more skill and foresight. Elway and Grigson did more than simply acquire Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, of course. But without those moves, neither would factor into the discussion. Those were moves 99 percent of fantasy football general managers would have made.”


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Wednesday in Hawkville: Think Schneider for NFL Executive of the Year

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 26:

John Schneider

FOCUS ON

John Schneider. Add another name to the list of those associated with the Seahawks that deserves consideration for honors this season. With Schneider, it’s NFL Executive of the Year.

The Seahawks’ team that will host the Rams in its regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field on Sunday is 10-5 and clinched a playoff spot with last week’s decisive victory over the NFC West-leading 49ers. And the core of this team that has become the sixth in franchise history to post double-digit victories has been constructed the past three years by Schneider, the general manager, and coach Pete Carroll.

This year’s draft class included quarterback Russell Wilson, who was selected in the third round by Schneider and is a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-round pick and candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; first-round pick Bruce Irvin, who leads all rookies with eight sacks; running back Robert Turbin, a fourth-round pick who has provided the physical presence that was missing to complement leading rusher Marshawn Lynch; cornerback Jeremy Lane, a sixth-round pick who could start his third consecutive game on Sunday; and J.R. Sweezy, a former college defensive lineman and seventh-round pick who is the likely starter at right guard against the Rams.

“We’ve just continued to grow,” Carroll said. “Our way of thinking was hindered last year when we didn’t have the offseason (because of the 136-day lockout) to get our guys ready, because we wanted our guys to play early. That was hard as it could get, to see our philosophy and our approach to playing the young guys come to life.

“This is really the culmination of the three years, and the approach showed up this year I think successfully. You can see that we had a terrific draft and we’ve utilized those guys and they’ve grown to where they’re regular football players for us now.”

While it’s been three giant steps in the right direction for Carroll and Schneider, Carroll added, “We still feel like we’re in early stages. But we have been through three drafts, and he’s done a marvelous job with the drafts and with all of the transactions we’ve done.”

And with Carroll, that means tweaking the norm, because he looks for players with unique talents, rather than those who look as if they stepped out of the NFL-specs machine.

“To me, he’s an absolute joy,” Carroll said of Schneider. “Because we can talk about everything, work through everything and understand that we have to come to an agreement using all of the strengths and the savvy that we have. And we’ve turned out a pretty good product.

“I can’t imagine anybody doing a better job general managing than John has done. He’s just done an incredible job.”

FIVE VOTED TO PRO BOWL

Left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger were named starters on the NFC Pro Bowl team today, while kick returner Leon Washington also made the squad and running back Marshawn Lynch and free safety Earl Thomas are reserves.

To further the point Carroll made above, Okung and Thomas were the first-round draft choices in the first year Carroll and Schneider were in charge, while Washington and Lynch were acquired in trades during that first year.

For more on the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl selections, click here.

EDWARDS IMPRESSED WITH WILSON

Former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an analyst for ESPN, has selected his 10 most impressive players for 2012 and a certain rookie quarterback made the list.

Edwards on Wilson: “Wilson has been answering questions about his size (5-foot-11) his whole career. I think it’s time to put those to rest. The Seahawks have done a tremendous job expanding the playbook for Wilson over the course of the season, giving him only as much as they thought he could handle. He has terrific poise, is extremely accurate down the field and has led the Seahawks to road victories in Chicago and Buffalo before blowing out San Francisco on Sunday. In the red zone this year, he has 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions.”

Edwards also gives cornerback Richard Sherman honorable mention, offering: “Although his status for the playoffs is uncertain, Sherman has had an excellent season. A smart player, Sherman is very physical at the line of scrimmage and has great change-of-direction and ball skills, especially with his back to the quarterback. He has selective memory, which is important as a cornerback, and doesn’t fear anyone. He has evolved into a true shutdown corner.”

OPPONENT WATCH

Brandon Gibson. The Rams’ second-leading receiver (48 receptions) and leader in touchdown catches (five) played at Washington State University and obviously is developing into a nice complement to leading receiver Danny Amendola.

“Gibby’s done great,” Jeff Fisher, the Rams’ first-year head coach, said today during a conference-call interview. “He’s been making plays since we arrived. He’s real smart. He’s tough. He can make the tough catch.

“It’s fun to see him, not only on Sundays, but make some tremendous catches on the practice field. Most of the catches should be easy and are easy, because Sam (Bradford) is an accurate passer. But every once in a while he needs to put it someplace and Gibby can go get it. He’s one of those guys you want on your football team. He’s fun to coach and fun to be around.”

POWERING UP, PART DEUX

Monday, we mentioned that the Seahawks had jumped to No. 3 in Peter King’s “Fine Fifteen” at SI.com and to No. 6 in the Power Rankings at ESPN.com. Today, they continued their ascent in some other Power Rankings.

No. 2 in Bryan McIntyre’s Power Rankings at YahooSports.com: “The Seahawks showed that they’re for real with a 42-13 blowout of the 49ers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night. From an advanced metrics standpoint, the Seahawks are the No. 1 team in the NFL, ranking in the Top 5 in Football Outsiders’ offensive, defensive and special teams DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). With a win over the Rams and losses by the 49ers and Packers, the Seahawks will get a first-round bye in the playoffs.”

No. 5 in Pete Prisco’s Power Rankings at CBSSports.com: “They are building something special up there for the long haul.”

No. 5 in Don Banks’ Power Ratings at SI.com: “As I said last week, let the Seahawks hang up a stupid number against the stout 49ers defense, and a legitimate case of Super Bowl Fever will break out in the Pacific Northwest. All systems go on that front. Seattle’s only fear might be peaking before the playoffs arrive.”

O-LINE “MADDEN-ED” AGAIN

For the second consecutive week, the Seahawks’ offensive line has been selected as the winner of the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award.

“With great balance on offense behind the steady play of offensive line and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks are now poised to make a playoff run,” Hall of Fame coach John Madden said in the release announcing the selection of the Seahawks’ line.

The starting unit is comprised by – from left tackle to right – Okung, Paul McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy and Breno Giacomini. And because of the lopsidedness of the 42-13 win over the 49ers, backups Frank Omiyale and Lemuel Jeanpierre played in the second half.

Wilson threw for a career-high four touchdowns, while Lynch ran for 111 yards and scored twice.

The Seahawks’ line joins the 49ers (three times), Texans (twice), Giants (twice) and Vikings (twice) as multiple winners of the weekly Madden honor. But the Seahawks are the first unit to win it in back-to-back weeks.

PRACTICE-SQUAD SHUFFLE

Tight end Cooper Helfet has been signed to the practice squad. Defensive end Monte Taylor was released to clear a spot. Helfet was signed in May as a rookie agent, but was waived/injured on the roster cut to 53 players in August.

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by the team:

Did not practice

DE Red Bryant (foot)

OT Breno Giacomini (elbow)

LB Leroy Hill (hamstring)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

TE Anthony McCoy (back)

WR Sidney Rice (knee)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

Full participation

FS Earl Thomas (ankle)

With Giacomini sidelined, Omiyale worked at right tackle. Greg Scruggs filled in at defensive end Red Bryant. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse got snaps at split end for Rice. Washington and Turbin shared the reps at running back with Lynch out.

For the Rams:

Did not practice

CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh)

RB Steven Jackson (illness)

LB James Laurinaitis (back)

CB Scott Wells (knee)

Limited in practice

S Craig Dahl (knee)

Full participation

WR Austin Pettis (shoulder)

STAT DU JOUR

Among the Seahawks’ 10 victories are wins over three other teams that have won double digit games, which ties for the most in the league. Here’s a look at the league-leaders in that category, as well as a look at how many of those wins the teams that have won more than 10 or more games have:

Most wins vs. teams with 10-plus wins

Team                            Wins     Teams

Seahawks                      3          Packers, Patriots 49ers

Texans                           3          Broncos, Ravens, Colts

Patriots                         3          Broncos, Colts, Texans

49ers                             3          Seahawks, Packers, Patriots

Rams                             2          Seahawks, 49ers

Giants                           2          49ers, Packers

Vikings                          2          49ers, Texans

Teams with 10-plus wins vs. other teams with 10-plus wins

Team (record)            Wins      Opponents

Seahawks (10-5)           3          Packers, Patriots, 49ers

Patriots (11-4)               3          Broncos, Colts, Texans

Texans (12-3)                3          Broncos, Ravens, Colts

49ers (10-4-1)               3          Seahawks, Packers, Patriots

Falcons (13-2)               1          Broncos

Ravens (10-5)                1          Patriots

Packers (11-4)               1          Texans

Colts (10-5)                    1          Packers

Broncos (12-3)              1           Ravens

UP NEXT

“Competition Wednesday” gives way to “Turnover Thursday” as the players continue to prepare for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Rams.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Watching @DangeRussWilson this weekend really took me back. He has to be this season’s #NFL Rookie of Year. @Seahawks.” – a tweet from former Vikings and Giants QB Fran Tarkenton, who Wilson has been compared to this season and especially during NBC’s telecast of Sunday night’s game against the 49ers