Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
Unbelievably the 2014 NFL season is upon us. I say “unbelievably” because I have spent the seven months since our Seattle Seahawks’ historic thrashing of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII last February reliving those victorious moments again and again. (For serious Hawks fans a good DVR is indispensable) I have also watched the NFC Championship game against the ‘49ers multiple times—a game that for me was the real Super Bowl. That game had everything—from a rare Russell Wilson turnover on the game’s first play, to San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernik running wild in the first half and then self destructing with turnovers in the second, to that incredible Marshawn Lynch touchdown run in the third quarter and that remarkable, lead grabbing Wilson to Jermaine Kearse touchdown pass on a 4th and 7 play early in the fourth quarter. (4th and 7!? I still can’t believe it.) As great as those plays were, however, it will be Richard Sherman’s game saving “immaculate deflection” in the Hawks’ end zone as time was running out that will define this game to future generations, much like Dwight Clark’s leaping grab of a Joe Montana touchdown pass did for the 49ers as they launched their dynasty of the 1980s.
Based on all this, you can see that for me it’s as if that NFC Championship game and subsequent Super Bowl had just happened.
Another season already?
It can’t be!
But it is, if you can believe the NFL 2014 season schedule I have in front of me. It says that the Seahawks will open their 2014 title defending season at the Clink this coming Thursday against the Green Bay Packers. I guess it’s time to come to the present and confront it. And now that I look at it, the Hawks and Packers is about as good as it gets for an NFL season opener! All those national prognosticators think that Seattle has a good shot at repeating, (I do too) but that the Packers will also be right there at the end. A win over the Pack would be an awesome way for the Hawks to open the season and would show that Seattle is primed for another Super Bowl run. After looking over the Green Bay squad, however, I can tell you that beating them will not be easy. Here’s why:
The Pack was already a playoff team last year and on paper they seem to have gotten better. Anchoring their offense is the man some think is the best quarterback in the league, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady notwithstanding, and that is Aaron Rodgers. The veteran Packer QB is smart, accurate, mobile and knows how to win. With one Super Bowl victory already under his belt, Rodgers wants to get back to the Big Game. The Hawks pass rush and the “Legion of Boom” have their work cut out in stopping him. Rodgers has top flight receivers to throw to in Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Nelson in particular is tough to defend. Last season he caught 85 balls for 1300 yards and 8 TDs. He and Rodgers are especially good at the scramble drill, with Nelson having a knack for finding an open spot on the field.
The Packers also have a running game in the form of their second year back Eddie Lacy. Lacy, who is a Marshawn Lynch type power back, ran for nearly 1200 yards last year and at 230 lbs can be a load to stop. Hawks head coach Pete Carroll is concerned about Lacy: “You have to really wrap him up,” Carroll says. “It’s calling for us to tackle really well in this game. He will not go down easily. They also have him in on third down and they don’t mind throwing it to him. He’s an obvious element now. He’s a big deal.” In addition to all this the Packers will be employing a “no-huddle” offense this season in an effort to drive their number of offensive plays to 75 per game or more, a figure that will give Rodgers and all his weapons a larger chance for the big play. (By comparison Seattle averaged 61 plays per game last season.) Defensively the Pack is improved by the return to health of All Pro linebacker Clay Mathews from a broken thumb, and by the signing of veteran, pass rushing defensive end Julius Peppers. With those two the Packers will be hoping to pressure Russell Wilson into some sacks and mistakes. One notable injury for the Packers is the loss for the season of run stuffing, 337 lb defensive lineman B.J. Razi to a torn triceps, which can do nothing but help Seattle’s running game.
As for the Seahawks, if you have followed this team during the Pete Carroll era you should know that these guys intend to win multiple Super Bowls; and Carroll and GM John Schneider have built a team that is completely capable of doing it. In the parity driven NFL repeating as Super Bowl champ is extremely difficult to do because the league, with its drafting and salary cap rules, is diabolically designed to prevent it. That is why no Super Bowl champ has repeated in 10 years.
I think the league may have met its match in the Carroll/Schneider Seahawks, however. During the off season they re-signed to long term contracts half of their Legion of Boom secondary, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, and the season before nailed down Kam Chancellor. On the defensive line they return Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel and have added former Vikings All Pro Kevin Williams. They re-signed their clutch receiver Doug Baldwin and the year before had brought in the explosive Percy Harvin. You saw what he is capable of in the Super Bowl. In the draft they added the speedy receiver Paul Richardson out of Colorado, who may even be faster than Harvin if that is possible. With Jermain Kearse still in the fold, as well as tight ends Zach Miller and Luke Wilson, any drop off from losing Golden Tate to Detroit will be more than made up. Indeed, it looks to me that Russell Wilson’s receiving corps has never been better. And he still has Marshawn Lynch to hand the ball off to.
As for Russell Wilson, now starting his 3rd season as the Hawks QB, what more can be said about this guy? At 25 years old he already has one Super Bowl title under his belt and is gunning for more. He has won more games and thrown more TDs than almost any quarterback in history in their first two seasons, yet respect comes hard to 5’11” quarterbacks in the NFL. I read an article recently that had Wilson ranked as the 17th best quarterback in the league. Their stated reason was that Wilson played on a team with a great defense and running game and did not have to win games with his arm. The guys that write these articles are idiots, and you can quote me on that. I have been watching great quarterbacks my whole life, and Russell Wilson is a great quarterback who is getting better. He will take his already stellar game to a new level this season and we should all be thankful that he is a Seahawk.
So there you have it Hawks fans. A new season is starting and it’s time to buckle up for the ride. I haven’t said anything about who I think will win this upcoming game with the Packers, and I don’t think I will. As per Pete Carroll’s creed, the Seahawks will play their schedule one game at a time, always in the moment, and each game a championship opportunity in its own right. That is the Seahawks way under Carroll. But Pete and his team would be lying if they said they did not have something bigger in mind…because they do, and I would not bet against them.
Copyright © 2014
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved