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Christmas Eve in Hawkville: Making the playoffs just a step in the journey

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 24:

FOCUS ON

Christmas Eve Eve. For Pete Carroll, Sunday night began with him holding his grandson, Dillon, on the sideline before the Seahawks’ game against the 49ers. It ended with the team’s third-year coach embracing a playoff berth after a beyond-convincing 42-13 victory.

But Carroll is not satisfied. Far from it.

“My goal has never been the playoffs,” he said today during his weekly day-after Q&A session with reporters. “It’s try to win the division, because that puts you in the playoffs at home. And that’s what you want. The second season starts, but you want to position yourself in the best spot that you can get it.

“So we never say around here, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get to the playoffs.’ I never thought that. That isn’t good enough.”

That’s still out there for the Seahawks, if they beat the Rams at CenturyLink Field this Sunday while the Cardinals are beating the 49ers in San Francisco. But regardless of where the Seahawks finish, they’ve made it apparent that they can make some noise in the postseason.

To say they’re are on a roll does not do justice to just what the Seahawks have done during their four-game winning streak. Starting with the fourth quarter of their overtime win against the Bears in Chicago in Week 13, the Seahawks have scored on 24 of their 32 full possessions – not counting when the clock expired at the end of the first half or they kneeled to run out the clock at the end of the second half. And that doesn’t include the four touchdowns scored by the defense and special teams.

“We have to take care of our business first,” Carroll said. “What’s most important right now is we maintain consistency, and we maintain the level of play, and the focus to the details, and the discipline it takes to practice each day with intent, and do things right. And put together another good week so we can play well again.

“We’ve been playing well for quite a while. I can feel it in the room and the guys understand it. But that doesn’t mean anything unless we go do it again.”

GUY BACK, BUTLER GONE

The Seahawks have activated rookie safety Winston Guy, who returned last week with a roster exemption after serving a four-game suspension.

Guy, a sixth-round draft choice, was inactive for eight of the first 10 games before his suspension.

To clear a roster spot, wide receiver Deon Butler was released. Butler was re-signed Dec. 15.

INJURY UPDATE

Leroy Hill (hamstring) and Malcolm Smith (groin) came out of Sunday night’s game with injuries, and the next-man-up at weakside linebacker is Mike Morgan, who started one game and played most of the second on the strongside for K.J. Wright earlier this season.

Carroll expects Marcus Trufant to practice on Wednesday after missing the past four games with a hamstring injury. But he is not sure if Walter Thurmond will be able to return by then. Thurmond has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury.

PLAYER WATCH

Jermaine Kearse. Signed as a free agent in April after the NFL Draft, the rookie free agent from the University of Washington was released Aug. 31 on the roster cut to 53 players. He was then signed to the practice squad (Sept. 3), released from the practice squad (Sept. 8), re-signed to the practice squad (Sept. 11) and then signed to the 53-man roster (Oct. 30).

Sunday night, Kearse caught a 17-yard pass from Russell Wilson on a third-and-8 play to sustain a 15-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Wilson’s first TD pass to Doug Baldwin and also had two coverage tackles on special teams.

“Oh man, this is a lot of fun,” Kearse, who also went to Lakes High School, said in the locker room after the game. “Especially being in this environment, my rookie year, being with this team, in my hometown; it’s a ton of fun. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Especially because he’s playing for a coach who rewards those players who work hard. Kearse is just one example of a rookie – and a practice-squad rookie, at that – who has reaped the Carroll-bestowed chances.

“Coach has given be a great opportunity to be part of this team,” he said. “Whether it’s special teams or offense, whatever opportunity I get I’m going to run with it. I felt good about today. It was a great team win and I’m happy to be part of this organization.”

PLAYOFF PATTER

If the season ended today, which of course it doesn’t, the Seahawks would play the Redskins in Washington in the first round. That, of course, could change because the only playoff spots not settled involve the NFC West, NFC East and NFC North.

The Seahawks and 49ers are both in, with the 49ers winning the division if they beat the Cardinals on Sunday; or the Seahawks winning it if the 49ers lose and they beat the Rams. One wins the division, while the other gets the No. 5 seed.

In the East, the Cowboys play at the Redskins on Sunday with the winner taking the division and No. 4 seed. With a loss, the Redskins are the No. 6 seed, if the Vikings and Bears also lose. If the Cowboys lose to the Redskins, they’re out. Then it’s the Vikings for the No. 6 seed, if they beat the Packers; or the Bears, if they beat the Lions and the Vikings lose; or the Giants, if they beat the Eagles and Cowboys, Vikings and Bears all lose.

POWERING UP

The Seahawks have made a pre-Christmas move in two of the power rankings that have surfaced early in this Christmas week. Here’s a look at where they rank, and what they’re saying:

No. 3 in Peter King’s “Fine Fifteen” at SI.com: “A tour de force victory Sunday night over the big, bad wolf of the NFC West that stamped the Seahawks as a real Super Bowl contender. No team has a bigger home-field advantage than the Seahawks (7-0 at CenturyLink this year). Too bad the ‘Hawks will likely have to win three straight on the road to get to the Super Bowl.”

No. 6 in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings: “The Seahawks are on a 100-13 scoring run at home and have put up 150 over the past three weeks.”

STATS ’N STUFF

After rushing for 176 yards against a 49ers defense that was allowing an average of 91.1, the Seahawks rank No. 2 in the league in rushing offense. They have spiked their per-game average (161.7) by averaging 226.5 in their four-game winning streak.

The Seahawks also are plus-12 in turnover differential, which ties for sixth in the league.

Marshawn Lynch remains second in the league in rushing (1,490) and is tied for fourth among non-kickers with 72 points. He’s also fifth in total yards (1,672) and first downs (75).

Richard Sherman is tied for second in the league with a career-high seven interceptions, one behind league-leader Tim Jennings of the Bears; while Chris Clemons is tied for seventh in sacks (11.5).

Wilson’s passer rating of 98.0 is seventh in the league, and second among rookie QBs behind the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III. Wilson’s 101.5 passer rating in the fourth quarter is seventh in the league and his 92.4 rating on third downs in eighth. With 25 TD passes, he is ninth in the league, tops among rookie QBs and one shy of Peyton Manning’s league record for a rookie QB.

Leon Washington remains second in the league in kickoff return average (30.1), while Jon Ryan is sixth in the league in net punting average (41.6) and tied for 10th in punts inside the 20 (28).

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the team with 130 tackles, which is six shy of the single-season club record for a rookie set by Terry Beeson on 1977. Special teams co-captains Heath Farwell (15) and Michael Robinson (10) lead the team in coverage tackles.

STAT DU JOUR

Calvin Johnson surpassed Jerry Rice’s single-season NFL record for receiving yards on Saturday night, which only makes the job the Seahawks did against the Lions’ Megatron wide-out in Week 8 that much more impressive. Here’s a look that game, and what Johnson has done since then:

Opponent                Rec.  Yards

Seahawks                  3         46

Jaguars                      7       129

Vikings                     12      207

Packers                      5      143

Texans                       8      140

Colts                         13      171

Packers                    10      118

Cardinals                 10      121

Falcons                    11      225

UP NEXT

Christmas Day, of course. And this year it just happens to fall on the players’ usually day off. They will return on Wednesday to begin practicing for this week’s game against the Rams at CenturyLink Field.

YOU DON’T SAY

“The amazing thing Sunday night was, that was no Jacksonville or Kansas City they beat up 42-13. That was the San Francisco 49ers, who’d entered the game first in the NFL in scoring defense. Russell Wilson had the first four-touchdown-pass day of his exploding career, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 111 yards, and the Seahawks, with a crowd so loud that NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya had to scream into Pete Carroll’s ear to be heard before the game, continued on the NFL’s best three-game offensive run since 1950.” – King in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” at SI.com


Friday in Hawkville: Trufant and Thurmond questionable

A recap of the events at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 21:

Walter Thurmond

FOCUS ON

Cornerbacks. Those who returned to practice, as well as the one who wasn’t at today’s practice.

Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond got some reps with the No. 1 defense. Trufant has missed the past three games, while Thurmond sat out last week’s game – both with hamstring injuries. Is it possible they could be ready for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field?

“They made it through this day,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ll go all the way to game time with those guys. They’ve got to show us they can play.

“We’ve got to make sure we make a good decision on that. They have been out for a couple of weeks. But it’s good to just get them close to getting back.”

Trufant and Thurmond are listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game.

Richard Sherman, who leads the team with six interceptions, will be able to play against the 49ers, Carroll said. Sherman was excused from practice today and Thursday because he is appealing his four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

“I’m anticipating that we’ll have him,” Carroll said. “I have heard nothing else at this point.”

Missing practice time is not ideal, especially heading into such an important matchup, but Carroll said, “He is as smart a football player as we have on our team. He’s totally into everything that we’re doing. We can tell when he’s not out here, because he is so sharp and he communicates to other guys. He knows when he left that he was preparing to miss a couple of days. We sent him with a bunch of stuff, so he should be fine.”

In the meantime, second-year corner Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane got most of the work with the No. 1 defense.

INJURY REPORT

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

Questionable

S Jeron Johnson (groin)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

Probable

DT Alan Branch (ankle)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

CB Richard Sherman (not injury related)

RB Robert Turbin (illness)

RB Leon Washington (illness)

Branch practiced for the second consecutive day. “We’re surprised we got Alan Branch back,” Carroll said. “He’s going to go.”

Rice was limited today after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. “We’re still going to make sure he can run on game day,” Carroll said. “He feels pretty good right now. But we’ve got to get to game day and run him and see how he can tolerate it. He thinks he’s playing. He feels like he’s going to.”

Johnson was rested because of the groin injury he got in practice this week. “We don’t think it’s bad at all,” Carroll said. “There’s a really good chance he’s playing.”

For the 49ers:

Doubtful

LB Clark Haggans (shoulder)

Questionable

DT Justin Smith (elbow)

LB Tavares Gooden (ribs)

WR Mario Manningham (shoulder)

DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)

Probable

K David Akers (pelvis)

OG Alex Boone (knee)

LB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder)

LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder)

CB Tarell Brown (shoulder)

S Dashon Goldson (foot)

RB Frank Gore (wrist)

OG Mike Iupati (shoulder)

RB Bruce Miller (shoulder)

CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)

S C.J. Spillman (illness)

LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

Carroll is planning on having to face Justin Smith. “He’s a tremendous football player,” Carroll said. “I think he’s going to play. If there’s ever a guy that’s going to fight through whatever, he’s going to make it. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. He must really be hurt if he doesn’t play, because he’s going to get out there. He’s a fantastic competitor.”

STAT DU JOUR

Almost lost in everything else going on in Sunday night’s game is the impact that Gore has had on this series since entering the league in 2005. In the games where Gore has rushed for more than 100 yards, the 49ers are 4-0. When the Seahawks hold Gore to fewer than 100 yards, the 49ers are 3-6. Here’s a look at what he’s done against the Seahawks:

Triple-digit games (4-0)

Year      Att.  Yards    Avg.

2006     24     212      8.8

2006     29     144      5.0

2009     16     207    12.9

2012     16     131      8.2

Double-digit games (3-6)

Year (W-L)      Att.   Yards    Avg.

2005 (L)           2         5         2.5

2007 (L)         16      79        4.9

2007 (L)         13      72        5.5

2008 (W)       19      61        3.2

2008 (L)         18      94        5.2

2009 (L)           9      25        2.8

2010 (L)         17      38        2.2

2011 (W)       22      59        2.7

2011 (W)       23      83        3.6

UP NEXT

The players will have a walkthrough on Saturday, their final on-field preparation for Sunday night’s game. And remember, the game starts at 5:20 p.m. because it was flexed into the primetime spot on NBC.

YOU DON’T SAY, PLAYER EDITION

“Yeah, we definitely talk about it. It’s a championship game. That’s the way we approach it this week – it’s a championship game. We’re going to have to prepare and play like it. We know it will be a great one.” – quarterback Russell Wilson when asked if the players have allowed themselves to talk about clinching a playoff berth with a win over the 49ers

YOU DON’T SAY, COACH EDITION

“I’m really looking forward to it. I know our guys are. It’s been really like a celebration of being a football coach and a player when you get here. It’s just that much fun at CenturyLink. The way that the fans respond so consistently and they love it so much, it is a factor. I mean, I can feel it. It changes the energy level. So hopefully we can perform up to that. We don’t have to do much about it, but show up and play well. And they’ll be doing their thing. It is a boost and we’re excited to be finishing up here at home.” – Carroll when asked about the final two regular-season games being played at CenturyLink Field


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Wednesday in Hawkville: Seahawks preparing for everything the 49ers can throw, and run, at them

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 19:

Michael Crabtree

FOCUS ON

Being prepared for everything the 49ers’ offense can throw, and run, at a defense. Even coach Pete Carroll admitted, “Really, that’s kind of the topic of the day,” as the Seahawks began practicing for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s a very challenging team,” Carroll said today. “And it’s the running elements, but then they’ve got (leading receiver Michael) Crabtree and there’s (tight end) Vernon Davis and there’s the big fella Randy (Moss) out there running.

“This is a very talented football team and all of those guys present problems in concert. So it’s a real challenge.”

A challenge made even more challenging with Colin Kaepernick taking over at quarterback for Alex Smith. The second-year QB runs faster and has a stronger arm than Smith, and has displayed both traits during his five-game stint as the starter.

As for those running elements, there’s Frank Gore, who is having another 1,000-yard rushing season – his sixth in the past seven seasons – and ran for 131 yards in the 49ers’ victory over the Seahawks in Week 7. There’s also LaMichael James, who has taken over for the injured Kendall Hunter. Now there’s Kaepernick, who is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and has a 50-yarder among his five touchdown runs.

Offensive Line

POSITION WATCH

The offensive line. Make that the finally-gaining-some-notoriety-offensive line, as the unit was selected for the “Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award” this week by Hall of Fame coach John Madden.

“Seattle has done a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis,” Madden, who coached the Raiders before becoming an iconic broadcast analyst for NFL games, said in the release announcing the selection.

Left tackle Russell Okung, left guard John Moffitt, center Max Unger, right guard Paul McQuistan and right tackle Breno Giacomini paved the way for the Seahawks to score on their first five possessions – including three rushing touchdowns by quarterback Russell Wilson – in the 50-17 rout of the Bills at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Marshawn Lynch added a fourth rushing touchdown in the third quarter as the Seahawks ran for 270 yards – including 55 in the fourth quarter, when backup linemen Frank Omiyale, J.R. Sweezy and Lemuel Jeanpierre were on the field.

“It’s cool, but I don’t know what that means,” Unger said of the honor. “I thought we played well. We gave up a sack that first play, then we kind of kept Russell (Wilson) pretty clean after that. There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. But it’s pretty cool that Mr. Madden thinks that we played a good game.”

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by team:

Did not participate

DT Alan Branch (ankle)

DT Jason Jones (knee)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

RB/KR Leon Washington (illness)

Limited in practice

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

Carroll said that Branch likely will sit out practice on Thursday as well to rest the ankle he sprained against the Bills, adding that he is hoping the team’s three-technique tackle will be able to practice on Friday. Clinton McDonald filled in for Branch today.

As for Trufant and Thurmond, Carroll said he’ll find out about their possible status as the week progresses. Trufant has missed the past three games and Thurmond did not play against the Bills. In their absence, rookie Jeremy Lane continued to work at right cornerback.

For the 49ers:

Did not participate

LB Clark Haggans (shoulder)

DT Justin Smith (elbow)

Limited in practice

LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder)

CB Tarell Brown (shoulder)

LB Tavares Gooden (ribs)

WR Mario Manningham (shoulder)

RB Bruce Miller (shoulder)

LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)

DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)

Full participation

K David Akers (pelvis)

OG Alex Boone (knee)

LB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder)

RB Frank Gore (wrist)

OG Mike Iupati (shoulder)

CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

GUY, KNOX RETURN

Rookie safety Winston Guy practiced with the team for the first time since serving a four-game suspension. The Seahawks have a roster exemption for Guy. Also, linebacker Kyle Knox was signed to the practice squad. He was with the team in training camp until being released on roster cut to 53 players.

STAT DU JOUR

When Wilson threw his 21st touchdown pass of the season against the Bills last week, he moved into a tie with Cam Newton for third place on the all-time list for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL. Here’s a look at who Wilson is chasing with two games to play:

Player, team (year)                                    No.

Peyton Manning, Colts (1998)                 26

Charlie Conerly, Giants (1948)                 22

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (2012)            21

Cam Newton, Panthers (2011)                21

Andrew Luck, Colts (2012)                       20

Andy Dalton, Bengals (2011)                   20

Dan Marino, Dolphins (1983)                  20

UP NEXT

“Competition Wednesday” gives way to “Turnover Thursday” as the players continue to practice for Sunday night’s game.

YOU DON’T SAY

“No, you don’t bring up the playoffs until the playoffs get here. You’re still in the regular season, so that’s what we’re playing. We’re playing trying to win the rest of these ball games and see where the chips fall.” – cornerback Richard Sherman, when asked if the players were mentioning the P-word this week knowing that a win over the 49ers will clinch a spot in the postseason


Carroll: Branch to sit out Wednesday’s practice; Knox added to practice squad

Kyle Knox

Linebacker Kyle Knox in a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans

Head Coach Pete Carroll addressed the media this afternoon as part of his weekly Wednesday press conference ahead of this afternoon’s 2:00 p.m. practice and preparation for their Week 16 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football at CenturyLink Field.

Carroll addressed yesterday’s roster moves, noting that linebacker Kyle Knox has been added to the practice squad to fill the spot left by tight end Sean McGrath, who was promoted to the active roster with the release of tight end Evan Moore. Knox had spent time with the club during training camp earlier this season.

On the promotion of McGrath to the active roster, Carroll said they need to get special teams production out of that roster spot – something Moore did not provide. According to Carroll, McGrath has a “good chance” to see play time this Sunday.

Defensive tackle Alan Branch will sit out today’s practice as he rests a sprained ankle he suffered against the Bills. Carroll said Branch will “probably” sit out Thursday’s practice as well, with the hope they have him on the field by Friday and back in time for Sunday’s game against Niners.

In Branch’s place, rookie defensive end Greg Scruggs and fourth-year defensive tackle Clinton McDonald are expected to see play time.

On the injured cornerbacks – Marcus Trufant (hamstring) and Walter Thurmond (hamstring) – Carroll said they will know more about their status later in the week. In the meantime, rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane will see work as the second starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, with second-year player Byron Maxwell working as the nickel corner.

Our Insiders Clare Farnsworth and Tony Ventrella will be back with more following today’s player availability and practice session. Until then, check out Carroll’s full video press conference below.


Tuesday in Hawkville: Lane handling life in the fast lane

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 18:

Jeremy Lane

FOCUS ON

Jeremy Lane. It didn’t take the Bills long to see what the rookie cornerback had during Sunday’s game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

On their second play, and first pass play, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went to wide receiver T.J. Graham – and at the Seahawks’ sixth-round draft choice. But there was Lane, not only matching Graham stride for stride as they ran up the sideline, but having a better read on the ball than the intended receiver as the pass fell incomplete.

“He did a great job,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They went after him right off the bat and tried to get him and he played a great deep ball.”

Lane, who was making his first NFL start, could be needed again in Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Carroll is keeping his fingers crossed that Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant will be able to return from the hamstring injuries that have sidelined them – Thurmond for the game against the Bills, Trufant for the past three games.

But when the players begin practicing for the 49ers on Wednesday, it’s likely that Lane will be on the right side and Byron Maxwell will be the nickel back. The coaches also got a good look at Ron Parker, who was just re-signed last week, in the fourth quarter of the 50-17 rout of the Bills.

“All three guys did a good job,” Carroll said. “All of those snaps are just hugely valuable to us in bringing those guys along and getting a feel for them.”

Carroll also gave credit where credit is due – to secondary coach Kris Richard and passing game coordinator Rocky Seto, who were down to their third and fourth options with Lane stepping in for Thurmond, who had stepped in for Trufant, who were needed but unavailable because Brandon Browner is serving a four-game suspension.

“Kris Richard and Rocky Seto are doing a really good job coaching those guys,” Carroll said. “They’re playing with really good technique and again this week they stayed on top like they’re supposed to. They’re gaining confidence. We’re seeing reason to trust them more. And it’s really crucial for us that that’s happening right now.”

McGRATH ADDED TO 53-MAN ROSTER

Sean McGrath’s up-and-down season with the Seahawks spiked today when the practice-squad tight end was signed to the 53-man roster. He replaces tight end Evan Moore, who was released.

Moore was signed in September after tight end Kellen Winslow was released. But Moore caught only one pass for six yards.

McGrath, a rookie free agent from Henderson State, was signed in April after the NFL Draft. He was released on the roster cut to 53 players on Aug. 31, signed to the practice squad the next day and then released two days later. He returned to the practice squad on Sept. 8, was released again on Sept. 27 and then signed again on Oct. 2.

STATS ’N STUFF

Marshawn Lynch remains No. 2 in the league in rushing (1,379 yards). He’s the first Seahawks back to surpass 1,300 yards since Shaun Alexander led the league in rushing with 1,880 yards in 2005, and only the fourth back in franchise history it do it – joining Curt Warner, Chris Warren and Alexander. Lynch also is fourth in the league in total yards (1,542) and tied for seventh in first downs (69).

Leon Washington also remains second in the NFL in kickoff return average (30.0), while Jon Ryan is fifth in net punting average (41.6). Rookie QB Russell Wilson is eighth in passer rating (95.5).

With six interceptions, cornerback Richard Sherman is tied for fourth in the league, and defensive end Chris Clemons is tied for fifth with 11.5 sacks.

As a team, the Seahawks rank No. 3 in the league in overall defense, passing defense and rushing offense. They’re also sixth in turnover differential at plus-11.

STAT DU JOUR

The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday, even if they don’t beat the 49ers. According to the scenarios issued by the league, here’s how the Seahawks can get in:

Beat the 49ers.

Tie the 49ers and have the Giants lose and the Bears lose or tie; or the Giants lose and the Vikings lose or tie; or the Bears lose or tie and the Vikings lose or tie; or the Cowboys lose, Redskins win and Bears lose or tie; or the Cowboys lose, the Redskins lose and the Vikings lose or tie.

The Bears, Vikings and Redskins lose; the Bears and Vikings lose, the Cowboys lose or tie and the Redskins tie.

UP NEXT

The players return from having two “off” days to begin practicing for Sunday’s game on “Competition Wednesday.”

Just a reminder: Kickoff for Sunday’s game is 5:20 p.m., not 1:25 p.m., after it was flexed in the primetime spot.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Oh, I realize that the 49ers-New England matchup was supposed to be the most epic event in the history of the free world. But when you consider all the factors, beating Seattle is more paramount.” – San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy


Tuesday cyber surfing: Focus shifts to 49ers; New “Real Rob Report”

Pete Carroll, Michael Robinson

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 18.

Yesterday afternoon the Seahawks made a practice squad roster move, releasing rookie wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei and adding rookie defensive end Monte Taylor.

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times outlines the Seahawks postseason hopes heading into Sunday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, “While Seattle is one victory away from clinching a playoff berth, Carroll said it’s not something he plans to hold out as a carrot heading into this week’s game against the division-leading San Francisco 49ers. ‘We’ve got another game after that one, too,’ Carroll said. ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done.’ And a wide range of postseason possibilities. Seattle has control of its own playoff fate, and still has a longshot chance of winning the NFC West. Earning a first-round bye isn’t impossible.”

O’Neil also has notes on the Seahawks injury situations a day after the club’s 50-17 win over the Buffalo Bills, “The Seahawks don’t expect to have cornerbacks Walter Thurmond nor Marcus Trufant practicing when the team returns to work on Wednesday. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is still holding out hope that they might return from hamstring injuries and be available for the game Sunday night against San Francisco. … Defensive tackle Alan Branch left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, which the Seahawks are hoping doesn’t turn out to be as severe as initially feared. … Kicker Steven Hauschka appeared to be limping after a kickoff in Sunday’s game, but Carroll said he’s fine.”

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune has an early preview of the Seahawks Sunday night matchup with the Niners, “Sunday’s game actually makes a broader statement than Carroll suggests, because this is a head-to-head duel for dominance in the division. Since the 2011 season, the Niners have played the role of the big brother who beats you in driveway basketball and then rubs it in every night at the family dinner table. They’ve taken four straight from the Seahawks, and last season made it to the NFC Championship game while the Seahawks stayed home and watched.  An added degree of difficultly is that San Francisco isn’t just the divisional bully; the Niners now are at the top of many of the NFL power rankings. So, for the Seahawks to be the best in the division, they have to beat the best in the league. With a 9-5 record, with a three-game winning streak, with a presumptive franchise quarterback in place, an offense clicking at record levels, and a defense remembering how to force turnovers, the Seahawks have worked themselves into the position of being a worthy nemesis to the Niners.”

John Boyle of the Everett Herald breaks down quarterback Russell Wilson’s nine rushes that went for 92 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Bills, “Wilson’s runs, one through nine, ended in these outcomes — ran out of bounds, scored, ran out of bounds, scored, slid, scored, ran out of bounds, ran out of bounds, and slipped before being touched down by a defender. Nine carries, no hits. That, more than Wilson’s athleticism, more than his ability to read a defense, is why what the Seahawks are doing with the zone-read option is sustainable. In Washington, Robert Griffin III is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in the NFL, but the Redskins’ quarterback has had a concussion and a knee injury in his rookie season. Wilson? He’s barely been hit, and he almost never takes contact when rushing the ball. ‘It’s hugely important,’ Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. ‘It’s part of us trusting to continue to work it. He knows the necessity of getting out of those plays without taking the big hit. He shouldn’t pull the ball unless he’s got a lot of space. He didn’t get it right every time, but it’s really important for the longevity of that aspect of the offense. I love when he runs it out of bounds, makes six or seven yard, and then gets out and gets down on the ground when he has to.’ “

Tim Booth of the Associated Press looks ahead to the game against the Niners and showcases the impact of the Seahawks’ zone-read, “The zone-read was added to the run game, allowing Wilson the ability to keep and use his athleticism or handoff to Marshawn Lynch. That little wrinkle has paid off especially the past three weeks. Wilson ran for 71 yards in Seattle’s overtime win at Chicago three weeks ago – then a Seattle team record – then rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s win over Buffalo. At the same time, the holes have become larger for Lynch because the defense must now respect Wilson as a runner. In his past two games, Lynch has just 21 carries, but rushed for 241 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 11.5 yards per carry. Through the first 11 games, Lynch had 19 runs of 10 or more yards. In the past three games, he has 14. Wilson has vaulted up to third in the league in yards rushing among quarterbacks with a franchise single-season record 402 yards. ‘It all fits together. The problems that are presented with the quarterback runs make for some opportunities,’ Carroll said. ‘… What’s really exciting is what we’re doing up front too with the blocking and figuring out the schemes and reading well and taking advantage of the looks.’ “

Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” discuss rookie sack-leader Bruce Irvin’s impact along the defensive line in this short video.

Brock Huard and Mike Salk of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” talk about the Seahawks identity as a club in this short video.

Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his report from Monday, detailing playoff scenarios and injury updates.

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his latest “Stock Watch“, noting the rise of the rookie quarterback Wilson, “Wilson’s stock was already high, but he earned a spot atop the list with a record-setting performance during Seattle’s 50-17 victory over Buffalo. Wilson became the first player in NFL history to provide three rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown in a first half. His Total QBR score for the game was 99.3, the highest qualifying single-game score in the NFL this season.”

Sando compares Wilson’s and fellow rookie quarterback Andrew Luck’s stats against the same eight opponents here, and compares Wilson’s and Griffin III’s stats against the same four opponents here.

Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth recaps the activities surrounding “Monday in Hawkville” and has a look at what worked and what needs work after Sunday’s game against the Bills in his “Monday Metatarsal Musings.”

Farnsworth and Tony Ventrella review the Seahawks victory over the Bills in this short video.

Ventrella has his “Seahawks Daily“, rehashing coach Carroll’s Monday press conference.

We have coach Carroll’s full video press conference from Monday available for you here and you can relive several big play calls from Sunday’s win over the Bills from radio play-by-play man Steve Raible in this audio clip.

We leave you with fullback Michael Robinson’s latest episode of “The Real Rob Report”:


Monday in Hawkville: Carroll is concerned only about the 49ers

A recap of the events at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 17:

Red Bryant

FOCUS ON

The obvious. It’s just that what’s obvious depends on who you’re talking to.

Obvious No. 1: The Seahawks are hosting the NFC West-leading 49ers on Sunday night at CenturyLink Field. After their impressive and then resilient performance in last night’s win over the Patriots in New England that pushed their record to 10-3-1, the 49ers can clinch the division title by beating the Seahawks; or the 9-5 Seahawks can keep their division-title hopes alive with a win over the 49ers.

Obvious No. 2: The Seahawks hold the No. 5 seed – or first wild-card spot – in the NFC playoff picture. But right behind them at 8-6 are the Bears, Giants, Cowboys and Vikings (The Redskins also are 8-6 but currently lead the NFC East). The Seahawks hold the tiebreaker against the Bears, Cowboys and Vikings because they beat each team this season. But the only way to insure making it to the postseason is to keep winning during the regular season.

Obvious No. 3: The Seahawks are one hot team, having won their past three games – two of them on the road – and in the past two weeks becoming the first team since 1950 to score 50 or more points in back-to-back games.

When each obvious item was broached during his weekly day-after Q&A session this afternoon, coach Pete Carroll smiled, and then offered his own version of the obvious.

“We ain’t done nothing yet,” he said when asked about the playoff patter. “When that happens, it happens. Every one of these games are championship matchups. Every one of them makes the statement that you’re still in it, or you’re finally in it and you get it.

“We’ve just got to go play this football game and play it really, really well. And if that’s the result, then that’s OK.  We’ve got another game after that one, too. There’s still a lot of work to be done here. I don’t think it’s a factor, really. It shouldn’t be. We’ve got to go win a football game, regardless of whether there was something hanging out there or not.”

This attitude that each game is a championship game and the goal each week is to go 1-0 has served the Seahawks beyond well as they’ve won five of their past six games. But after Sunday’s 50-17 victory over the Bills at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, several players said that Carroll’s championship-game approach really applied to this week’s game. The 49ers beat the Seahawks 13-7 in San Francisco in Week 7, so there’s payback as well as postseason positioning on the line for the rematch.

And Carroll knows there will be no extra motivational work to be done this week.

“All we can do is really focus on this game right here. We’ll have no trouble focusing,” he said. “They’re a great team. And coming home and all that, it will be exciting to get ready.”

After this week, the Seahawks will host the St. Louis Rams on the 30th, while the 49ers will close their regular season by hosting the Cardinals.

“Coming home, with the last two games here at the stadium, it’s a great opportunity for our fans and we want to really play well in this setting,” Carroll said. “It’s an exciting way to come down, finishing in the division. And it starts with San Francisco this weekend.”

INJURY UPDATE

The ankle that defensive tackle Alan Branch sprained against the Bills is not as serious as first anticipated.

“He came out way better than we thought,” Carroll said. “We’ll rest him, probably until Friday. We’re thinking he might have a chance to make it back. So that’s very encouraging, because we thought after the game he would not be able to do that. We’ll see how that goes.”

Carroll said he also has his fingers crossed that cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant might be able to return this week. Trufant has missed the past three games and Thurmond sat out against the Bills – both with hamstring injuries.

Defensive lineman Jason Jones (sore knee) and leading receiver Sidney Rice (sore foot) also could be limited in practice this week.

PRACTICE SQUAD ROULETTE

Defensive end Monte Taylor has been signed to the practice squad. To clear a spot, wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei was released.

The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Taylor was signed by the Seahawks after the NFL Draft in April, but released in June and claimed off waivers by the Eagles.

STAT DU JOUR

Bobby Wagner had another game with double-digit tackles (12) against the Bills, his fifth of the season. In the past nine games, the rookie middle linebacker is averaging 10.3 tackles. With his first tackle in Sunday night’s game against the 49ers, Wagner will tie Keith Butler for the second-most tackles in a season by a Seahawks rookie. With 16 in the final two games, he will set a franchise record for most tackles by a rookie in a season. Here’s a look at where Wagner currently ranks:

Player (year)                                   Tackles (solo/assists)

LB Terry Beeson (1977)                   136      (110/26)

LB Keith Butler (1978)                     122      (83/39)

LB Bobby Wagner (2012)                121      (77/44)

SS Kenny Easley (1981)                    107      (79/28)

LB Lofa Tatupu (2005)                      105      (86/19)

UP NEXT

The players were “off” today for a “Victory Monday” and will have their usual “off” day on Tuesday. They will return on Wednesday to begin practicing for Sunday night’s game.

Center Max Under will sign autographs from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday at the CenturyLink Field Pro Shop.

YOU DON’T SAY

“A perfect game for Russell Wilson, just the way Wilson wants to play – running a lot, playing option football, playing from the pocket. ‘Whatever we call, we know something good can happen with Russell right now,’ said coach Pete Carroll after the 50-17 rout of Buffalo in Toronto. Wilson rushed nine times for 92 yards and three touchdowns on runs of 14, 25 and 13 yards. He completed 14 of 23 for 205 yards and a touchdown. Wilson’s been such a revelation that, week by week, it’s hard to fathom how good he’s become versus the image of what 90 percent of the NFL coaching and scouting community had of him before the draft.” – Peter King, in naming the Seahawks rookie QB as one of his offensive players of the week in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” at SI.com


Countdown to kickoff

Roger Centre

TORONTO – Greetings from, well, not Buffalo, but the Rogers Centre in Canada’s largest city. The Seahawks will play the Bills here this afternoon in the fifth – and final – regular-season game of the deal the Bills signed with Rogers Communications Inc. in 2008 to lease one “home” game each year as well as three preseason games to the Toronto-based company for $78 million.

How’s that worked out for the Bills? They’re 1-3 in their previous four regular-season games played here, and have not exactly found a new fan base or even enlarged the existing one.

As defensive end Mario Williams, the Bills’ big free-agent acquisition this year, told reporters this week: “Even if it is supposed to be a home game, I mean, you can’t really say it’s going to be that way. You’re going somewhere where some people they might not even care much about football. It’s not really a big deal. They don’t care who wins.”

Ah, but we digress. And the Seahawks cannot afford to do that today.

This game that means so much to the Seahawks is wedged between the impressive victories they posted the past two weeks – over the Bears in Chicago and against the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field – and the much-anticipated nationally televised rematch against the NFC West-leading 49ers next week in Seattle.

It also is against an opponent that’s 5-8, and that a much-different Seahawks team last played in 2008. And it’s in a city where hockey rules (even with the NHL lockout moving into its third month) and the CFL Argonauts just won the Grey Cup.

At 8-5, the Seahawks currently hold the No. 5 seed – or first wild-card berth – in the NFC playoff picture. With a win today, and a 49ers’ loss to the Patriots in New England tonight, the Seahawks could move atop the division by beating the 49ers next week.

The Seahawks also are down to their fourth and fifth options at cornerback, with second-year corner Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane stepping in on the right side and at the nickel spot because Brandon Browner (suspension), Marcus Trufant (injury) and Walter Thurmond (injury) are not available.

Yes, this one has all the trappings of a trap game. Just don’t mention that to Pete Carroll. The Seahawks’ third-year coach cringed when the subject was broached after Friday’s practice.

“Oh no, not around here. No trap games, I don’t even know what that means,” he said, before adding, “On the other end of the spectrum, I guess I believe in it so much that we start talking about how you respond from games – different types of games – the first day we start talking to these guys about going into game time. Because they can be factors, and if you don’t handle it right, you can get in trouble. But we have a whole mindset and a discipline about it that I hope it keeps us going.

“The idea is that you don’t want to play to the situation. You don’t want to have to try to play up to the situation or whatever. The conversation, the language that we use, the expectations, the way we practice, everything is geared to come back to a consistent, balanced approach so that we don’t become a team that goes up and down.”

The Seahawks’ “ups” have been uplifting – especially the wins over the Packers, Patriots and Vikings at home and the overtime win against the Bears in Chicago; as well as the more decisive victories against the Cardinals, Jets and Cowboys. Just as the “downs” have been forehead-slappers – losses on the road to the Cardinals, Rams, Lions and Dolphins.

“Really this team has been very solidly consistent, all the way from preseason throughout,” Carroll said. “We don’t win all of the games, but we’re playing at a pretty good clip. And I’m proud of that. I think that’s something that these young guys have already captured.”

Point made. The Seahawks’ five losses have all come on the road, and by a combined 24 points. The Seahawks had a chance to win each in the fourth quarter, and actually had fourth-quarter leads against the Lions and Dolphins. They have compensated for those losses by going 6-0 at home, and finding ways to win in Carolina and Chicago.

Now comes today’s game – a home game for the Bills that really isn’t; a road game that means so much to the Seahawks because of what they’ve just done and what lies ahead next week.

“Now we will see how we finish,” Carroll said. “But we have continued to hold on to the right mentality regardless of who we’re playing.”

Today, it’s also a matter of where they’re playing.

Enjoy the game, with kickoff set for 1:05 p.m. PT. You can watch on Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) and listen on 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.


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Friday in Hawkville: Thurmond out, so Maxwell and Lane are in

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 14:

Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell

Cornerbacks Jeremy Lane (pictured left) and Byron Maxwell (pictured right)

FOCUS ON

Next man up. Again. With Walter Thurmond being ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Bills in Toronto, Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane will take over at right cornerback.

Thurmond stepped in two weeks ago to replace Marcus Trufant as the nickel back, and then slid to the right side last week after Brandon Browner was suspended four games for violating the league’s performance enhancement policy – with Lane moving in as the nickel back. But Thurmond injured a hamstring in practice on Wednesday. Trufant will miss his third consecutive game, also because of a hamstring injury.

“He’s not going to make it. Unfortunately he’s not going to be there,” coach Pete Carroll said after today’s practice when asked about Thurmond. “We’ll play those guys in rotation – that would be Jeremy Lane and Bryon.”

Both will play a lot, because the one who is not at right corner will be the third corner in the nickel defense.

Maxwell, a sixth-round draft choice last year, is ready – because he has to be; and prepared – because he got a lot of snaps in the second half of last week’s 58-0 win over the Cardinals.

“It was great just to get out there and help the team,” said Maxwell, who got time at cornerback in one game last season and his first game this season against the Cardinals. “We were up by so much that they took Sherm (left cornerback Richard Sherman) out and it was just the young guys in there – me and J-Lane – getting some experience under our belts.”

It allowed Maxwell to get into the flow of the game, which was important because in most games his contributions are limited to the one snap dash-and-bash that is playing special teams.

“Which is important,” Maxwell said. “There’s nothing like game-time experience.”

Outside? Inside? Does Maxwell have a preference?

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I just want to be on the field.”

MARTIN TO IR

Wide receiver Charly Martin has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season after pulling a calf in practice on Thursday.

OPPONENT WATCH

Scott Chandler. Stevie Johnson leads the Bills with 61 receptions, but it’s Chandler who has caught a team-high six touchdown passes – on 37 catches. And the production by the sixth-year tight end has not escaped Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

“It’s another real threat, especially in third-down situations,” Bradley said. “He’s one of the top receiving threats on third down. It’s a matchup that we’ve got to take a look at and see the threat he is. You’ll see Chandler with a lot of special routes or a lot of deep-developing routes. So they obviously feel pretty good about him getting away from defensive backs and linebackers.

“The NFL is such a matchup league, and offenses are looking for matchups. So we’ve always got to be aware of that.”

The 6-foot-7, 263-pound Chandler also is averaging 13.2 yards, tops on the team among receivers with more than five receptions.

INJURY REPORT

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

Out

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

Probable

DE Red Bryant (foot)

SS Kam Chancellor (groin)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

Rice, Bryant and Chancellor practiced today for the first time this week and Carroll said he expected all the play against the Bills.

Linebacker Leroy Hill will return to the starting lineup after missing the past two games because of a sprained ankle, but Malcolm Smith also will play, Carroll said. Smith started the past two games on the weakside for Hill.

For the Bills:

Out

RB Fred Jackson (knee)

C Eric Wood (knee)

Questionable

LB Nick Barnett (knee)

S Jairus Byrd (shin)

DE Marcell Dareus (shoulder)

DT Spencer Johnson (knee)

CB Leodis McKelvin (groin)

DE Mark Anderson (knee)

OG Andy Levitre (knee)

CB Justin Rogers (foot)

WR Donald Jones (calf)

Probable

DT Kyle Williams (ankle)

DB Ron Brooks (hip)

TE Scott Chandler (groin)

OG Kraig Urbik (knee)

LB Chris White (thumb)

S Da’Norris Searcy (hand)

RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)

CB Aaron Williams (knee)

DE Mario Williams (wrist)

STAT DU JOUR

Bobby Wagner, as we wrote last Friday, is putting up numbers worthy of NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The Seahawks’ middle linebacker is third among rookies in the league in tackles and tied for third in interceptions – the only player among the Top 3 in both categories:

Tackles

Player, team                                    No.

LB Luke Kuechly, Panthers           130

LB Lavonte David, Buccaneers     117

Bobby Wagner, Seahawks            108

Interceptions

Player, team                                     No.

CB Casey Hayward, Packers             5

S Tavon Wilson, Patriots                   4

LB Bobby Wagner, Seahawks           3

CB Alfonzo Dennard, Patriots          3

CB Janoris Jenkins, Rams                  3

CB Leonard Jackson, Buccaneers    3

S Harrison Smith, Vikings                  3

UP NEXT

The team flew to Toronto after the players had a midday practice. Saturday’s walkthrough will be in Canada’s largest city.

YOU DON’T SAY

“They’re very explosive. There’s a little bit of an emphasis that we’re going to see (C.J.) Spiller more. If you look at his numbers, you can see why they would do that. He’s got great numbers in the running game and the passing game. That doesn’t help us any. So we have to really tune in to him. He’s the factor that can really change them. The perimeter stuff that he does is very dangerous. He has extraordinary speed and it shows up on the field. That’s a big deal for us.” – Carroll on Spiller becoming the feature back for the Bill with Fred Jackson out


Friday cyber surfing: Malcolm Smith earning his way

Malcolm Smith

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 14.

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times writes that the Seahawks plan to continue featuring running back Marshawn Lynch, who will face his former team this Sunday, “Lynch, who signed a four-year, $31 million deal in March, has seven 100-yard rushing games this season, second-best in the NFL. He has reached the milestone in five of the past seven games, including a dominant performance last week versus Arizona with 128 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns on just 11 carries. ‘He’s been very consistent with his output and his effort and his style,’ Carroll said of Lynch. ‘Everything has been there every single game.’ Added quarterback Russell Wilson: “He’s the best running back in the NFL — one of the best, for sure — and he does a great job of just being a workhorse. … I think the biggest thing is you have to keep feeding him.’ “

Mayers also has the Seahawks and Buffalo Bills injury reports from yesterday, noting that wide receiver Sidney Rice (foot) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) did not participate in practice.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune catches up with linebacker Malcolm Smith, who has seen increased playing time lately while veteran linebacker Leroy Hill recovers from a sprained ankle, “During his first season in Seattle, Smith had trouble staying healthy. Smith missed two games because of a hamstring injury, and two games with a concussion. But this season, Smith has been active for all 13 games. And he’s been a key special teams contributor, with five tackles and a blocked punt. ‘The speed on special teams is even more than defense,’ Smith said. ‘So being able to do that has helped a lot for sure. That was the plan when I came here. They said you have to earn your way. And that’s my way of showing up.’ “

Williams also chats with Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News, who regularly covers the Buffalo Bills, and asks him five questions leading up to Sunday’s game, “Q: C.J. Spiller was one of the most explosive players in the 2010 draft. He’s on the verge of rushing for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and has an impressive 6.6 per carry average. However, he’s still had to split carries with Fred Jackson, who was recently placed on the injured reserve list with a knee issue. Do you feel Spiller has been used effectively? A: Gaughan: He has been used effectively but not enough. He needs to get the ball more. There are some understandable reasons why he hasn’t gotten the ball in this situation or that situation. But the bottom line is he’s their best offensive weapon and he hasn’t gotten it enough. The offense was on the field 58 plays vs. St. Louis and he got eight touches. They lost by three.”

Michael Rushton of The Sports Network previews the Week 15 matchup between the Seahawks and Bills, “Working against Seattle is the fact that it has been a much better team at home than on the road. Had it faced off against Buffalo during the early string of this Toronto series, it might have been even ground. However, [Bills coach Chan] Gailey feels his team is starting to get a following a little further up north. ‘Last year it really felt like a home game. The first year it was a little bit more of a neutral site, but last year it felt like a home game. That is what you hope to create and continue to develop where that becomes like a game right here (in Buffalo). If we can get that, that would be great,’ he said. Gailey better hope Toronto’s allegiance isn’t riding on this game as Seattle has too much momentum and talent on the defensive side of things for the Bills’ struggling offense to overcome. Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 17, Bills 14″

John Boyle of the Everett Herald highlights the recent play of the linebacker Smith, “It’s way too early to say if Smith will join the long list of Seahawks defenders who have gone from draft-day afterthoughts to key contributors to a very good defense, but he’s done nothing to hurt the perception that Carroll and general manager John Schneider have a real knack for finding and developing talent on the third day of the draft. ‘It’s really fun to see the maturity of Malcolm,’ linebackers coach Ken Norton said. ‘I couldn’t be more pleased with Malcolm.’ “

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com has a look at where the Seahawks pass rush stands after investing in a first round draft pick and free agent acquisition along the defensive line, “Irvin. The 15th overall pick leads all rookies in sacks with eight. He picked one up late in last week’s blowout win over Arizona to avoid going a third straight game without a sack. The Seahawks raved about Irvin’s explosiveness when they drafted him. [Defensive line coach Todd] Wash said he recently fell back into a habit of not coming off the ball as quickly as he could. ‘Timid’ was the word Wash used. Wash also said Irvin is developing a nice spin move. Jones. The Seahawks hoped Jones would improve their interior pass rush when they gave the versatile lineman a one-year, $4.5 million deal. Jones has 2.5 sacks and has missed two games with an ankle injury.

Bill Swartz of 710Sports.com has his report from Thursday’s practice, “Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said both young defensive backs Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell played well against the Cardinals. They are preparing to play either outside or at nickel. Bradley is concerned the defense is no longer allowed to have padded practices under terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement. Statistics showed the Seahawks gave up one more yard per carry last season after a non-pads practice week.”

Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” discuss cornerback Richard Sherman’s mentality in this short video.

Tim Booth of the Associated Press details the play of the Seahawks rookie class, “The most notable has been giving the Seahawks a key player in Wilson, the starting quarterback coming out of training camp. He’s on pace to challenge the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes and is the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first six home games. At the same time that Wilson was named the starter, the Seahawks also decided Wagner would be capable of taking over as the organizer of the defense at middle linebacker. Wagner currently ranks third among all NFL rookies with 109 tackles. Irvin, the Seahawks’ first-round pick, currently leads all NFL rookies with eight sacks, and Turbin is coming off the first 100-yard rushing game of his career and looks like a suitable backup to spell Marshawn Lynch at running back without the Seahawks losing their punishing style of running. Carroll said he noticed near midseason that Wagner and Irvin both went through the typical rookie swoon of getting used to playing so many games. That wasn’t the case with Wilson. ‘With those other kids there was a time about eight, nine games in, they had already played 12 to 13 games, and it was hard on those guys,’ Carroll said. ‘Russell did not fall into that category; he just continued to progress the whole time. Why he has is because of the way he’s prepared himself. He’s just worked so hard and he will not back off. He continues to push, but not only does he continue to push and try hard, he’s getting better.’ “

Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his report from Thursday’s practice, “Thurmond appeared on the injury report Wednesday with a hamstring injury that forced him to have his workload reduced. A day later, Thurmond wasn’t able to practice. If Thurmond can’t play, the Seahawks would turn to CB Byron Maxwell and CB Jeremy Lane to step up into more prominent roles. Both saw time last week against the Arizona Cardinals but have not seen extensive action as part of the defense.”

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his NFC West offense and defense ranks thru Week 14, and offers a prediction for the Seahawks game against the Bills, “The Bills’ defensive front is playing better recently. Seattle has potential manpower concerns at cornerback and wide receiver, depending on Sidney Rice’s status. Still, if the Seahawks are a legit playoff team, they have to win this game, right? Marshawn Lynch is getting much of the attention heading into this game against his former team, but I’m thinking Russell Wilson will be the story, one way or another. Sando’s best guess: Seahawks 23, Bills 17.”

NFL Films previews our Week 15 game against the Bills in this short video.

Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth highlights Bills return man Leodis McKelvin, who is the only returner in the NFL to rank among the Top 5 in both punt return and kick return categories, and also recaps the events surrounding “Thursday in Hawkville“, with a focus on the play of the Seahawks rookie class.

Tony Ventrella has his “Seahawks Daily” as the Seahawks hope to keep the momentum up after an overtime road win in Chicago against the Bears in Week 13 and a 58-0 victory at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14.

We have quarterback Russell Wilson’s full video press conference from yesterday available for you here, and you can watch defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s full video press conference from yesterday here.

Lastly, our team photographer Rod Mar has an updated look at the week of practice in photos here.