Rock's Chalk - 1/19/06

Seahawks.NET writer Mark "Rockhawk" Olsen takes a look at what's hot and what's not in the land of Seahawks football. Then, guest columnist Nick Shelly gives his take on the upcoming NFC Championship contest between Seattle and Carolina.

First and foremost, congratulations to the Seahawks team, players, coaches, and fans. This has been the best season ever, and every person from top to bottom has a hand in the success.

On Fire

5. Darrell Jackson – Showing why he’s still Hasselbeck’s go-to guy, the #1 wide receiver makes clutch catch after catch, hauling in 9 balls for 143 yards and an incredible touchdown catch that put the Seahawks on top for good and kickstarted the offense from its slumber.

4. Coaching - Mike Holmgren and his coaching staff could have folded after all of the adversity that was facing his team (3 turnovers, loss of their MVP running back), but instead, he lead his team to the biggest win in franchise history. The brotherhood of this team willed itself to the win, proving once again that a team bonded in a common goal and believing in the man next to him will overcome.

3. Defense – The Seahawks defense proved to a national audience that they are not the soft and breakable squads of the past. In a game that saw a Redskin game plan basically calling for a punch in the mouth, the Seahawk defense punched back and held the Redskin offense completely in check for most of the game.

2. Matt Hasselbeck – Seattle’s quarterback saw his workhorse running back go down in the first quarter and proceeded to carry his team on his back for a convincing win. When so many things were going wrong in this game, he didn’t allow any of them to faze him, throwing for one touchdown and running for another.

1 Seahawks Playoff Win! – After 21 years of playoff ineptitude, the Seahawks finally expelled yet another demon by beating a solid Redskins team to advance to the NFC Championship game. So this is what success feels like!

* Honorable mentions to the incredible Lofa Tatupu, Mack Strong, and a stadium full of rabid Seahawk fans.

Ice Cold

5. NFL Officiating – Though nothing zebra-related stands out from the Seahawk vs. Redskin game, the calls from the other NFL playoff games were enough to make me puke. I’ve seen some really bad calls as a Seahawk fan over the years, but the overturned interception of Payton Manning by Troy Polamalu in the Colts vs. Steelers game was simply the worst call I’ve ever seen (counting the Vinny phantom ball touchdown). Referee Pete Morelli should be fired immediately.

4. 2nd half defense – How does a defense give up 2 big plays in the 3rd quarter after basically shutting out the Redskin offense for an entire half? The Cooley catch down the middle was bad enough, but letting Santana Moss get behind three defenders on a 4th and 16 is just stupid.

3. 3 and Outs – The vaunted Seahawk offense looked like the 49’er offense for much of the first half before finally driving for a touchdown late in the second quarter. The rust from not competing for almost 3 weeks really showed in the offenses’ inability to move the ball effectively.

2. Shaun Alexander – He can’t be blamed for getting a concussion and leaving the game, but losing a fumble during a sustained drive by his offense was inexcusable. The 6 carries for 9 yards didn’t help either. The NFL’s MVP needs to step up big time for the championship game, because that’s what MVP’s do.

1. Special Teams fumbles – Jimmy Williams made it look as if the ball was a hot potato. 4 fumbled, 2 lost, on punt and kickoff returns is about the worst case scenario I can think of. I want to make a point here to not group the entire special teams into the top “cold” spot because for the most part, kickoff and punt coverage, Josh Brown’s FG’s, and Tom Rouen's punts were great.

Next on the List
Professional sports handicapper Nick Shelly (nick@nsport.net) breaks down the Seahawks’ next game and gives his pick for the winner.

NSport.NET Analysis: NFC Championship Game
Carolina @ Seattle – January 22, 2006

Recap: The return teams were ghastly; the offense was out of sync most of the game, and the league MVP was sidelined early. As we have written in the past, the 2005 Seahawks proved their maturity and found a way to survive against Washington’s defense. Seattle narrowly escaped three turnovers resulting directly in a thirteen-point swing, but the defense was incredible and forced the inept Washington offense to leave opportunities on the field.

When the Panthers have the ball: The secret sauce for this offense is obviously not any secret at all. Steve Smith is the straw that stirs the drink. He is the cat in catalyst. Smith is the choo in choo-choo train. Enter a quarterback in Jake Delhomme who has done nothing but help his team win. Finally consider running back Nick Goings, who has quietly become Carolina’s version of Dan Doornink. To get Smith involved, look for Delhomme to command several pre-snap movements to get a read on the defense. Smith in motion will help create space and give Delhomme opportunities to get him the ball. Goings will be the primary ball carrier, and will decoy in play-action as well as be used in the short passing game. However, the Seahawks will have answers for Goings, allowing the Seahawks to bracket coverage and avoid situations where the Panthers have the advantage. Between the 20’s, we expect Smith to do well, but the well documented bend-but-don’t-break defense should force the Panthers to find someone else to beat them.

When the Seahawks have the ball: After losing MVP Shaun Alexander in the first half, Seattle was forced to prove to the football nation that players on this team have the fortitude to step up in a big spot, and they did. This experience will be crucial for this championship game. Everyone should be back this week, so if the Panthers expect to be victorious they will need to work diligently to win at least two key indicators in the game: 1) Turnovers 2) Special Teams. The Panthers solid defense will give Matt Hasselbeck plenty of reasons to make mistakes, and the sure-handed Alexander will be pressured into hanging on to the ball. Expect a lot of pressure on the kicking game, especially after Jimmy Williams and Josh Scobey combined for two lost fumbles.

Vegas Line: Seattle -4, 43.5 (Opened -5.5)
Carolina 3 10 3 7 - 23
Seattle ..7 3 14 3 - 27

Game Log:

The Seahawks have been notoriously fast starters all year. Even in the NFC Divisional game against the Redskins, they marched down the field. This game is no exception, but the Panthers will have answers and adjust their defense accordingly. In the second quarter, Carolina will race out to a 13-7 lead utilizing Steve Smith over the top of nickel coverage. In the second half, Jerramy Stevens is once again awoken and forces Carolina to readjust yet again, but by the end of the third quarter, the Hawks have established the ground game and are now taking time off the clock. In the fourth, the Panthers make a valiant effort, but a late field goal puts them down by four and forces them to go for it

Mark “RockHawk” Olsen’s Final Thought

Usually I try to remain a bit lucid and cerebral in my final thoughts, giving some wanna-be Zen type remark about the game or the team. Not this time. This time, I’m allowing myself to become something that I never would have thought possible.

I’m guaranteeing right now that the Seahawks will be playing in Super Bowl XL.

You see, last week was the time to be nervous and apprehensive; after all it wasn’t like we have a lot of playoff success in our history to hang our hat on. So last weeks game was much like taking a first big step knee deep into a cold and deep ocean to see if you can handle it’s initial shock. I didn’t know if our team was going to step into the ocean waves for yet another year only to be driven back out by the ocean’s extremes and its own fear. But this time, with a renewed confidence of a team that would not allow failure, we saw the cold, dark water and dove in head first.

Confidence has never really been a part of my repertoire, so to speak. But uncommon success has now driven me to a point where I can freely enjoy the euphoric highs that I’ve dreamed of every year that I’ve followed this team religiously. It is with this confidence that I can sit back on Sunday and enjoy watching my team win. The tears will be falling as I watch Mike Holmgren, Tim Ruskell, and Paul Allen raise the NFC Championship trophy above their heads in the ceremony after the game.

Am I afraid of failing? Maybe a little, but expecting to win is so much more fun, and I’m going to ride that feeling for as long as I can.

After 21 years, I deserve it.


- Mark Olsen writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at seahawk94@comcast.net.

- Nick Shelly has been a professional sports analyst and handicapper for over 10 years. You can contact Nick at nick@nsport.net.

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