Break the Road Mold
Never in Seattle sports history has a season been so hyped and anticipated.
The agonizing wait of the preseason has felt like being slow-cooked in a crock pot of football teasers and mock fantasy drafts for 7 months. But my friends, the wait is over. The Seahawks travel to Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.
Here is what I’m watching for in the season opener.
It’s 10:00 am Somewhere
While Seattle has been selected as a preseason Super Bowl favorite by several NFL sources, the path leading there is one of the more difficult ones in the league.
The Seahawks play 5 road games at 10:00 am this season – at Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and New York (Giants).
These early road games have been a struggle for Seattle in years past. In fact, Seattle hasn’t won a road season opener since 2006.
Then again, Seattle hasn’t had a Russell Wilson in their locker room until this past year. Sure he was defeated in his first start last year in Arizona, but he didn’t go down quietly and nearly won the game with a valiant 4th quarter drive.
Essentially, I think Russell is going to rally his team bright and early and get them pumped for this game – not that he will need to work too hard, they have been waiting for this since time expired in the Georgia Dome last year.
The Read Option vs Carolina’s Front 7
The Seahawks flat-out steam rolled teams in the second half of the season last year, and the main reason was the read option.
Offensive coordinator Darrel Bevell eased Russell into the offense, and then set him loose on the league with a all-of-the-sudden potent playbook.
However, the read option has been debated by analysts everywhere as “another NFL fad” that won’t last – much like the wildcat a few years back.
I would elect to disagree – considering the amount of athletic ability quarterbacks are bringing to the league as of late allows it to continually grow.
The wildcat didn’t last because the running back is limited with the ball in his hands. Put the ball in a running quarterback’s hands and the options are limitless.
But ANYWHO, the most exciting match up of the game is the front 7 of the Panthers against this read option.
Bevell seems to think that Carolina boasts – possibly – the best set of linebackers they’ll face all season. A bold statement considering the Hawks play San Fran twice this year.
But his point isn’t far-fetched. Luke Kuechly was the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year last season – leading the league in tackles with 164. John Beason is finally healthy, and was once one of the most dominant linebackers in the league (he was a 97 overall in Madden ’12).
Throw in the addition of Utah standout Star Lotulelei at nose tackle and this front 7 is intimidating. It will be interesting to watch them react to the combination of Russell and Marshawn Lynch.
Wide ‘n Out
The most entertaining match up is likely going to be Richard Sherman on Steve Smith. Neither player is very shy, let alone humble – and will likely give the viewers all they can handle in this one.
It’s no secret that Sherm is coming into his very youthful prime as arguably the best lock down corner in the league. Meanwhile 35 year old Smith is coming into his 13th season – yet has notched 1,000+ yards in 6 of his last 8.
Who knows where new offensive coordinator Mike Shula will line Smith up, but we can hope Sherman will be right there with him. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that they’re “wired up” as well.
If History is Any Indication…
Then we have something to build off of.
Last year Seattle traveled to Carolina for a match up against the Panthers in week 5. It was not a pretty game, by any means. The final score was 16-12.
This was in the midst of Russell’s “initiation period,” where Bevell had Russell hike the ball, take two steps back and hand the ball to Beast Mode.
Unfortunately, all of the teams expected this and didn’t respect Russell until he forced them to. There was only one offensive touchdown in this game – that went to Golden Tate on a 13 yard scamper.
A interception from Russell was returned for six and Haushka had a hell of a day.
Amidst the offensive woes – was a defensive showcase.
Seattle held Cam Newton to a career low 141 passing yards and kept their team out of the end zone.
It will be interesting to see if new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn implements any of Gus Bradley’s schemes that were so effective last year.
Uh, Pete, You CAN Win in the 1st
All season long last year Pete Carroll would shout in the locker room, “Can you win in the first quarter?” And the team would respond, “No!”
Pete would continue, “Can you win in the second quarter?” Team, “No!” “Third quarter?” “No!” “Can you win in the 4th quarter?” “Yes!”
Now I get the idea. You can only win if you finish the game strong. And I agree with that. And pretty much everything else Pete Carroll does or says.
If he suggested that I give away all of my assets and move to Ethiopia, I would really have to consider it.
But watching the Seahawks play makes me have an issue with this motto.
Look at the Falcons game last year. A 20 point deficit at half? If that were cut by any margin before the incredible comeback, the Hawks would have been victorious.
So no, you may not be able to win the game in the first. But you can sure as hell set yourself up for victory with a strong start.
And that is just what Seattle needs to do come Sunday.