Well folks, two Sundays ago our Seattle Seahawks broke through the ceiling. And with the ignitable roar blowing through ‘The Nest’ they call Qwest, it’s hardly a surprise that the sky took us in. What other option was there? There ain’t no walls strong enough to contain a force of that magnitude - the most fierce and determined togetherness these eyes have witnessed.
January 22, 2006 was a day for the downtrodden and disparaged to celebrate a dreamer’s notion that - it can happen. You and your Seahawks took a cleaver to the T… and the word now spells CAN.
Speaking for myself - as ornery and demanding, vociferous and belligerent, willful and tenacious as I am – I did not fully recognize the extent that the T had a hold on me. It has ALWAYS been in the way to push against. And it was not until a metallic blue knee tapped the turf to kill the clock that I felt the weight of the world fall off of me. I was suddenly aware of the air again. And the most beautiful part of it was? I wasn’t alone. You were there too.
Yessir, the most organically excessive celebration – gloriously erupted before our starving eyes. The mouths stopped talking and the air could only echo the cheers. A panoramic view of definitive success. Everyone among you as victorious as the men in uniform. There wasn’t any distance between the field and you on that day. Nope.
It’s Football… but it’s not just a game. This is why we love it.
If the Super Bowl is the place where everyone wants to go (and we all know it is), you now have your hand in it. So huddle up everybody… we earned it. Thirty years was more than worth it, eh? And no one can ever tell you again that you are a just a foolish believer…
It’s interesting that what we’ve all been saying here at .NET the last few years… pontificating our thoughts on what’s wrong and where we need to go; what’s the missing ingredient; what has perpetually left us less than far enough – proved entirely true. Once these matters where addressed from the Front Office, to Fan Relations, to Team Chemistry, to Leadership Roles, and even a truer understanding between Coach and Player? Everything else took care of itself.
You’ve heard Editor Doug Farrar scribe about the key to the Patriots, and why the magic in San Francisco fell out of the hat; attention to detail, and the importance of the pages in between. Obviously critical lessons the Seahawks have learned from. Kristopher “Buckethead” Jones continued to hint at the simple logic, often forgotten by high-pressure organizations; sensibilities and human relations. Trav Flatt dished out the sense of humor required to maintain a proper scale on sanity while pining for a team that appears far more interested in a monkey that washes a cat – than corralling the proper football players. Hawkstorian keeps you abreast of the financial reality required to collect the dream team, something Tim Ruskell appears firmly aware of. Waterboy and Lathrop clean up the X’s and O’s for a clearer look at what the hell it is we think we’re doing. Draft guru Ryan Rigmaiden scours the college ranks for that priceless freshman find who can make the puzzle complete, let no one tell you there’s nothing beyond Day 1 (here’s hoping he didn’t drop the ‘Tofu’ label on Lofa like I did). Eklund keeps the college game together by running the draft time. The Forums are filled with passionate fans willing to dedicate hour upon hour of overtime for that tiny tidbit of information that might be the answer to our woes (as well as a wishing well to grieve). And .NET visionary Todd Breda pulls out the poetry to remind us why we bleed for this; what it’s like to be a fanatical fan - and why it’s worth it to be one (thanks Todd). Every part time columnist or otherwise has etched the same fabric that all of us share in the Seahawks – loyalty among brothers; understanding, inspiration, and expectations of greatness.
(Editor’s note: Scott, I was greatly affected by these words – the importance of this thing we do is not overlooked. Please allow me to add a few words about your importance – your passion, intellect, striving voice and extreme knowledge provide a heady brew which goes down smooth every time. It really is an honor.)
The continuing themes have now been addressed and solved. And that’s not to say, “See, we told you so”. But rather to point out how very much a part of this all of us are. Everyone has a voice that’s worth being heard. We’ve got a flag that says so and I would surmise there’s not a fan of Football in the nation (beyond ignorant), who does not currently envy how much the Seattle Seahawks and their fans have going for them. We’re now being noticed.
But we have another game to play…
I can honestly now say that getting there is enough (and I’m quite surprised to feel that way), but in the end – this is what they will measure us by. We’re now down on the Gold Line… let’s punch it in, eh. Why the hell not?
Keys to the Game:
By all accounts, this has the make-up of a fantastically competitive Super Bowl. The pluses and minus’ are multiple - dynamic and intriguing in their complexities. What we’re getting here is much more than a team on a team. It’s one philosophy vs. another. From Offense to Defense and back again, you’re looking at a game of match-ups that could satisfy a master tinker of chess. Whether it be man on man, or formation vs. scheme. You’re gonna get your fill on Sunday, cuz there’s plenty for us to look at (some of which I’ll detail below). About the only thing mutual to the participants in the Big Gulp of Super Bowls is – they are firmly entrenched in the ‘team first’ concept.
Whether you prefer fireworks or mud on your face - it doesn’t get any better than this. We got 106 venomous and bloodthirsty warriors clamoring through 60 minutes of game clock for the right to hoist the finest trophy in all the land. The one that never goes away…. Lombardi.
One wants one for the thumb. The other wants their first ever symbol of respect.
If I were a cow? I’d proudly be skinned for this one, mates. No doubt.
-Continuing a bit with the theme above, we are LOVING the number they put on us in Vegas. The Steelers have ridden a Cinderella position that I cannot fathom they could ever accomplish. Riding that train through numbers 3, 1, 2 on the road is an accomplishment perhaps on the level of that Seahawk team from South Alaska ever making the Super Bowl. Impossible.
However, The Man has made a grievous error in saluting them to such a degree. Had that number been reversed, with Pittsburgh carrying the underdog momentum a flower thwacking Bill Murray would envy – they’d be granted an excessive amount of coal to cram in the steam train. Instead, they’re ornery position has effectively been mellowed thanks to the perfect switcheroo for us to bank on.
And furthermore, our team has been properly prepped by Mr. Holmgren (that’s my first “Mister”, reader JJ. A fresh salute?). You’re not hearing anything from them regarding disrespect in the least (exceptions to Jeramy Stevens. No surprise there, eh). As a matter of fact, I’m oddly reminded of the last time we had the Super Bowl down here in San Diego. In that game, Denver was an enormous underdog of 13.5 pts. Mike Shanahan had instructed his team to toss all the respect over to the Mike Holmgren’s Packers. This was patently ridiculous, as Denver was riding Terrell Davis and a 2,000yd MVP season (not to mention John Elway in perhaps his final chance for Gold). After the game, Bill Romanowski declared, “If I had to say one more nice thing about the Packers this week I was going to puke!” (and never had I seen the word ‘puke’ spoken with such disdain). I understood precisely what he meant as the bile had built up in my throat to such a degree that the success of the game left my buddy’s coffee table looking like a rabid dog spent the day foaming there.
It occurs to me, Mike Holmgren has not forgotten at all about that ploy. The manner of speech the Seahawks have been using since this past week is nothing if not complimentary and humbled. And yet, they do not appear overwhelmed, intimidated, nor one bit concerned about themselves. This is a brilliant approach. And quite surprisingly appears to have shelved the momentum Pittsburgh has been carrying and dropped the burden of expectation right back square on their shoulders.
In the words of one time ‘selfish’ player Shaun Alexander, regarding the lack of respect: “We don’t care what people say about us. We really don’t care.” And folks, he spoke those words with alarming sincerely.
Mike has the team ready to play. They are, at least emotionally, in the perfect position to bust one up into the chops from an unseen fist. And that’s a fine idea.
-Now let’s talk about Bettis in Detroit. It’s a good story. We all saw it comin’ a mile away. What we did NOT see coming was the excessive attention the TEAM is supplying the homecoming. What is up with arriving in the State of Michigan with a green Notre Dame number 6 on your back? I dunno, mate – I think that’s taking things a bit too far (and perhaps gains us a few fans in the stands?).
More importantly, the squad is talking far too much about Jerome and far too little about who they’re facing on Sunday. I’m loving that. The media, and The Man included, have managed to make the Bus from Detroit the focus of the game – as opposed to that team that’s never been here before and where in the world do they come from? That really should be the story of the game. But it isn’t. Does that make you edgy? Now do what our team has been instructed to do. Store all that stuff in your chest until Sunday when you’re finally allowed to unleash the hounds of fury.
You’ve heard Holmgren say several times this week, he thinks the theme for them on the year has been an understanding of proper respect amongst the front office, the fans, and the players themselves. Respect has been the key to victory. The Steelers, are talking far too much about themselves and their big boy Bettis, and far too little about the collective respect they’re about to encounter on the other side of the line of scrimmage… or as I like to call it - that battery on my shoulder. I dare you to knock it off. (Bah, Bah, Blacksheep, folks. It’s been 30 yrs, right?).
-There is one guy however, who is completely focused on the game and can’t wait to rip someone’s head off – Troy Polamalu. Watching him on Media Day… there is a quite fury in there that tells you plenty about where this guy’s phenomenal Sunday performances come from. He is angry at ignorance. And someone’s gotta pay. It wouldn’t be right to just punch in the face of a stranger. The Samoan heritage has a certain code of respect, perhaps similar to the American Indian. But if you want to give him an arena where it says right there in the rule book ‘Go obliterate the other guy’? The dude is gonna start scalping.
It’s my belief that the long-haired beast from USC is the absolute key to this Football game. He, along with Ben Roethlisburger, are the Quarterbacks of the Steelers. And nothing goes right unless that is addressed.
So let’s get to the Tic’s and the Toe’s.
Us against Them:
The supremely poised and collected Matt Hasselbeck (who’s been a lot more vanilla this week than his extraordinary quick wit would normally exhibit) dropped a line the other day:“It’s not something we’ve been hung up on this week”.
Well I certainly hope that’s a poker face Matt, cuz the Steelers 3-4 is unlike any other. NOBODY runs it as well as Pittsburgh, cuz the Steelers don’t run it like anybody else. Over the years we’ve been known to struggle with complex blitz schemes and though Hasselbeck has moves like a squirrel – we need to jack that stuff up early if we think we’re gonna move the ball on the Yellowjackets.
The difference with Pittsburgh’s scheme is the extensive confusion they cause with the “firezone” blitz. Who’s coming from where? Who’s dropping? How many are coming? How many are dropping? Who the hell am I supposed to block here? How am I supposed to get my 300+ lbs over to block that cornerback blitz when Joey Porter’s ass is on fire and I’ve got a cross blitz coming up the middle? Did I mention DT Casey Hampton is a serious load?!
That 3-4 is truly going to give us headaches – it’s not an overblown story. And of major importance is the pass blocking concern we have in Shaun Alexander. The Steelers can effectively reMOVE the threat of the run in long distance downs with furious blitzing early on. Shaun can’t block. He’s not in there in many formations/situations ‘cuz FB Mack Strong is our only chance at pass blocking survival. If the Steelers don’t pay early for their chaotic approach? We’re in for a looooooong day. Just ask Peyton Manning.
I’m tellin’ ya, this guy is the key to the game for us on Offense. I am convinced I’ve got a read on the absolute number one most important man on man match-up involved on Sunday. And here is the exploit: Jerramy Stevens can work this dude over.
TE Stevens is carrying a 9-inch height advantage on their maniacal Safety. And his leap and snatch ability is top shelf. Flashback to San Diego in wk5 where Antonio Gates took Pollywog completely out of his game. Pittsburgh won that game in a tight one, but Polamalu wasn’t playing the Chargers, by the end of it he had become entirely consumed with his battle on Gates; he lost his cool. The line of scrimmage was no longer his focus. And THAT, my friends, will be key for Us. If we can get the Samoan disaster away from the line and tied up on Stevens – Hasselbeck will find the open receiver facing (in my mind) a very suspect Secondary. The question is, how focused is Jerramy Stevens in the biggest game of his breakout year? You know he’ll drop one, but will he drop two? And can he take the beating that freak is going to lay on him? (cuz that will occur, I assure you).
That is the match-up we’ve GOT to exploit. We cannot afford to have that mane of hair running all over the field in haphazard directions – forcing Matt to pull the ball back down. He’s got to see the read and let it go, West Coast style. That will beat the bltiz. And open up Alexander for the second half (which is how I expect Mike to approach it).
-Jones vs Porter
It’s a fallacy to call this an individual match-up – cuz it isn’t. Our Pro Bowl left side will be facing a complex design of numbers coming at them. And really, the side of some concern is the other end of the line where Locklear (who I absolutely love) might have difficulty handling those corners coming from the hashmarks. But you’re going to see and hear plenty about it so here’s my take.
Jones is going to stone Porter to death. You’re talking about 315lbs of dancing bear on a guy hardly 250. He doesn’t have enough ass to fall softly on. Remember when the Steelers last made the Big Game facing that Dallas O-Line in ‘95, and the defensive star of the league at the time (the tenacious OLB Greg Lloyd) disappeared after the 1 st Quarter? Déjà vu, folks. Déjà vu. However…
I’m expecting a difficult game for the MVP. He’s not going to find the seams outside early on. And facing the enormous beef of the Steeler DL, I doubt he’ll find spots between the tackles either. Which is critical. We’re going to have to suck that 3-4 tight to the middle to have any chance (at which point Porter will take his early exit). If Hutch can blast Shaun free a few times up the gut – that can open up things up for his second to none cuts outside. But that’s a tough road to hoe.
The Steelers have the advantage here. Unlike their Rush game on our D, our Rush game on theirs is a deficit. The problem with a 3-4 built like the Steelers, by weight – is that getting past the first line of Defense is the easy part. Only, you don’t have 3 guys you need to make miss on the next level. You’ve got 4 bearing down on you. But if things play out as I expect we’ll approach it? The Second half will be where Shaun gets to taste his glory.
In years past I would say Pittsburgh has an excellent chance to humble Alexander into short yardage lay downs. But this year Shaun has taken that demon head on and in the biggest game of his life – you’d have to think he’s not going to fall over for anything. In may appear dour for moments in the first half (which is not necessarily off kilter for our performances this season), but it’s virtually assured that he WILL do anything and everything to establish himself on the grandest stage of all. The ultimate touchdown zone of all time. Early on he may be a little too eager to do so and find himself with a face full of blustery red cheeks from the sideline guy with the headset. But if patience pays, as it has throughout the year – Shaun has some yards where it counts when it’s all said and done.
I still can’t get over the snatch Seneca made in the Championship game. Backing away, over the shoulder, to basically catch the ball with your collarbone? From a Quarterback? Are you kidding me?! That was just nuts, people. Absolutely nuts (thank god for TiVo).
It also noticeably stunned Carolina. They dropped down a few stairs in recovering from that. ‘Wait, they’re gonna start busting trick plays on us now? They never do that? What the…?’ In the same manner that Pittsburgh knocks a team over with those nasty little ‘gimmicks’ – we can do the same. It would be an enormous mistake not to get Seneca involved in this game (preferably one early 2 nd to get them thinking next time he comes in). Just putting him in the formation will confuse and compromise Pittsburgh. The success built the last time he stepped on the field assures us that their Defense WILL go his way when he steps in the huddle. And I’m not saying we have to throw the ball to him, eh. I might even be saying the contrary… (watch for one deep to D.J. Hackett or the like if Seneca gets on the field).
I don’t really need to discuss Matt Hasselbeck. He knows exactly what he’s doing and I don’t want anyone else on my team other than him. You can have your Mannings and Palmer’s and Roetheltoomayletters and anyone else you like better. I got my guy, so bite me. [please, please let that print precisely, Doug. Pleaaaaaaaase. Do it for Hamlin!] [Editor’s note: What edit?]
There’s not a player in the league with a more acute resolution to win than this guy - and he has all the tools to do it with. Many of which are unseen in most any other Quarterback out there. No matter what the score is, we have the guy who can handle it.
Watching Matt Hasselbeck’s response to the Steve Smith punt return – was absolute inspiration. The heat comin’ off the guy on that drive was visceral. I could hear him saying “Punt return? Nuh uh. Get that outta my face right now. Your momentum ain’t allowed to get anywhere NEAR mine. We’re gonna grab that back RIGHT this instant!” I just love the guy.
Crucial scramble for a 1 st. Continued spinning of his hand for the call and a fresh huddle. The guy’s blood was on fire. And I believe it’s THAT which electrified Alexander’s motivation at the 50 on 2 successive double-digit runs down to the 22. I say it again, it’s Matt Hasselbeck the ‘Terrible Towel’ needs to worry about. It will NEVER fall apart as long as he’s in the game…
He’s about to become a superstar this Sunday.
-WR vs CB
Have you heard anyone say anything about our WR’s these last 2 weeks? Apparently, they’re all looking at the stats and remain ignorant to the fact our starters missed half the season (in Jackson’s case – more). All we’re hearing about is the front 7 facing Alexander. Well I got news for ya, this is a West Coast Offense and we are GOING to throw the ball with at least a modicum of success.
Our depth at WR is an asset we are geared to exploit. The Steelers have 2 starters and a healthy dose of ‘we need some other guys’. You line up our base 3 ( Jackson, Engram, Jurevicius) and ONE of them will find an open spot on their side. I have no doubt. We’re running patterns all over the field designed to keep a Secondary guessing – and that secondary is going to have their hands full. The 4 Set cannot be covered, period. Dependant upon… the pash rush (not to be overlooked).
Where we WILL have trouble is that front 15 area and the deep sides. Between that you’ve got Hope protecting and Polly playing tazmanian devil (once again, why Jerramy Stevens is huge in this game). If we can get enough blocked early on and hit a few behind, that aughta spread the cluster a bit deeper - thus opening up our running game and the hot routes we want to hit. Again, the trouble with the Steelers D is, the entire design is there to force those hot routes that often aren’t open because you can’t tell who’s coming or going - due to the uncommon zone drops. It’s a challenge, to be sure. But…
We got Matt Hasselbeck. And not nearly enough is said about his crafty movement behind the line (perhaps a prop to Jim Zorn is due?). Expect us to move Matt to a variety of start positions, and for his feet to make the difference between hitting the plays we need to back them off – or getting clowned in the backfield before his back foot hits the push.
Them against Us:
What Ben Roethlisberger has done this post-season is nothing short of remarkable. Full respect is due. For a 2 nd yr QB to be cocking and firing with the confidence and accuracy he has is truly a marvel (not quite Marino proportions, but marvelous none the less). It’s clearly the difference between them winning and losing.
The story in Denver was the first drive of the game. As expected the Broncos flooded the line, stuffed the run, and brought the heat - twice putting Burgermeister in chaotic 3 rd down conversions. Situation handled. The Steelers, facing a monstrous defensive attack, moved the ball from the Pitt 9 into FG range and came away with 3. You’ve got a ‘run dependant’ team down on their own 9 to start the game to get to the Super Bowl, on the road… and their sophomore QB takes them down the field for 3pts. Guess what, he’s better than we thought he was.
Following halftime, with Pittsburgh controlling the game 24-3, who in their right mind would think the Steelers would continue to pass? But they did! In the first half Burgerking was 13-17, in the second 8 for 12. By the 4Q I had no idea how I personally would attempt to defend them (and that’s saying plenty, as I always have an opinion). Their conversion rate on 3 rd downs was 10-16 (with many of those needing 5yds or more). Denver was clearly befuddled and Ben Roethlisburger earned the right to get his named spelled correctly.
Therefore, we’re not going to win this game thinking ‘Force Big Ben to beat us’. Because it now appears – he will! Down in the red zone specifically, the guy has been using his size to stand in there and missile launch balls between the dashes. You couple that with this team’s run concept and dynamic ability from the backfield? You got real problems.
Further complicating that? Our size at LB could prove to be of serious concern in this game.
-Tofu and the crew picket fence the Bus
Now before we all put a noose around my neck… following my heinous declarations regarding the idiocy of a trade up to nab some 3-chip LB in the 2 nd Rd of the draft, Lofa Tatupu has rammed his boot between my legs and demanded I stand and salute the gesture. I’ve done so. And I will do it every day of my life so long as he continues to grace my favorite uniform. He is so outstanding that Editor Doug might have even allowed his year ago chants of “Vilma!” to change its spelling. I initially tagged him “Tofu” as a mocking gesture. As of now – it’s a term of endearment. Okay? (And btw, Mom used to make me eat it all the time and I grew like a weed. So it’s only fitting).
However, Tatupu is going to have to shoot the gaps hard and guess right EVERY time. Or The Bus is going to put tread upon us like freshly laid pavement. More importantly, the guys on the outside (Hill and DD Lewis) are REALLY going to need their Wheaties – ‘cuz we may have the depth of beef to handle things inside at the DT position, but off tackle we could get overwhelmed. If Walter Jones has the feet of a dancing bear? This guy from Notre Dame is a 255lb Barishnikov.
I am VERY much concerned about our ability to stop Jerome Bettis, and if Bill Cowher is as smart as I think he is? You’re going to see Jerome’s role in the offense inflated exponentially as compared to his carries on the season. We are somewhat undersized on the edge. And facing a big man (this one in particular) is not the match-up our athleticism and speed at LB would prefer. While Willie Parker isn’t getting the press this week (and I’m not under-estimating his dynamic) Bettis poses a problem of enormous proportions for our front 7. We’ve have GOT to get him stuck in the mud going sideways… or they just might make our year long stellar rush defense look amateur (and OLG Alan Faneca might give Hutch a run for his money in terms of dominant play).
-50 sacks and no one has heard of you
While the D-Line has been doing things quietly all season, they were hardly invisible vs the Panthers. Our front 4 absolutely tore Carolina apart throughout the game. I mean… menacing is the word. That’s the front 4 I’ve been waiting to watch since the days of Cortez and Sinclair (though Porter had plenty to do with those years as well).
The game was over after Marquand Manuel made the pick of Delhomme ( 1:02 left in the 1 st). On the play, Chuck Darby ripped and gashed his man to force a screwball from Delhomme. The rest of the Carolina line was scattered in disarray and had been for virtually every down previously – passing or otherwise. (Following that play Alexander forced the score at 17-0. And THAT’S why the running game was no longer a factor for Carolina. Not because Nick Goings knocked himself out of the game. But because we knocked the run game out of Carolina piling on 17pts before they even had a chance to breathe… but I digress).
As I said, the rotation we have at DT may be second to none (and if Rocky Bernard wants to get a sack from the edge when we’re only rushing 3? Well that’s fine as well). Darby, Bernard, and Tubbs are able to drain the line enough that when Craig Terrill gets in there with that never-talked-about spin move – they can’t get their hands up. And yet on the outside? We still don’t have a guy you can bank on for a 3 rd down sack. Relentless in pursuit, scrappy and determined, yes (which I will take, far and above the lethargic approach short years ago). Athletically gifted and a double team threat? No.
But the right side of the Pittsburgh line is a weakness. That just happens to be the side where sack-blitzer LB LeRoy Hill lines up (and where 2-all-beef-patties wants to scramble). I’m looking at Brice Fisher to do the dirty work there enough that when unheralded playmaking DE Joe Tafoya gets his snaps – Big Ben splashes down in the river Thames.
-TE Heath Miller
Here’s another big equation. The Rook has been key for Pittsburgh this season, and a favorite target of the towering Roetheldog (39-459, 6TD’s). At 6’5” he’s got a few inches on Tatupu and Manuel. However, we’ve seen the amount of field Tofu can cover in pass coverage (ehem) and I’m of the mind to say – Heath Miller will not be much of a problem between the 20’s. But down in the God Zone, with the threat of Bettis looming and one of the craftiest WR’s slashing inside in WR Hines Ward? This guy can’t be allowed a free release off the line. Watch for Miller when it really counts. That said, I consider this threat a plus for our side in other areas of the field.
-Dyson vs Ward
This could get ugly. I am certain they’re going to create this match-up. Marcus Trufant has had a drop off year and could get his shoes untied, but Dyson (if he can stay in the game), appears to be a little too homer to handle the feet and physicality of the ever resourceful and joyful Hines Ward. If they’re able to get Marquand cheating up on the Bus, and Ward faced up on Dyson – bad things, man. Herndon has a better chance fighting the moves, but he’ll get toasted deep by Ward if that spot gets cooked up. Steve Smith is frightening, but Hines Ward is just as persistent and competitive. And more importantly, Randle El is dynamic enough that you cant stack your Defense exclusive to Ward like we did with Smith (brilliantly, I might add. MAJOR props to the coaching staff on that one. Holmgren included - as I’m told he chewed out the D all week whenever they failed to chip our pseudo Smith in practice. Bad week for that guy, ouch).
-The untold story at Safety
Guess what, folks – we may have the best Safety tandem in the league. And that’s with Hammer Hamlin on the sidelines. Oh yes, there are soooooo many stories you’re not hearing about this week while they talk about the same damn story over and over again in Detroit (and remember, for the time being, that’s the way we like it).
Marquand Manuel has stepped in out of nowhere and catapulted fools all over the field. I just love the way he’s carrying the torch for Hammy (and don’t you think he’s not feeling that way. I’ve seen it in his eyes). The epitome of ‘where did you come from’ has played as solid as you can expect from any Safety in the NFL. He has established himself as both ferocious in support, as well as able and destructive in coverage (btw, another ball went directly into the stands last game, didn’t it. Look at all the love, baby! Ain’t it pretty?)
To compliment MnM, Michael Boulware (another guy who served me some crow that I gobbled up like cinnamon Cream of Wheat with gobs of honey n’ butter. And don’t get me started on Jordan Babineaux, a guy who did so much mid-schedule that he may personally be responsible for the season that evolved) might be the rangiest Safety in the NFL. The success of Manuel (and Hamlin before him) allows Boulware to free lance all over the field and get his greedy fingers on the ball. If you’re a fan of football, you have to love the way this guy stepped into a new position and made things happen immediately. He’s been a liiiiiitle bit quiet lately. And I’m expecting that to blow up in Pittsburgh’s face. Like an oil bursting frying pan.
Our athleticism and toughness at Safety is an absolute plus for us. They will be an asset against the run (and even in play-action). If we can get meister Roethelhoven in a position where we KNOW the pass is coming (and that means 2 nd half)… the untold story may make headlines.
And how do we get them in that position you ask? All these chess pieces are interesting for dweebs enough to give a damn, but some of us just want the gist of it? How is Seattle going to win a game that’s only been played 39 times before? How are we going to move them from South Alaska into the State of Washington proper? You want a bite of that apple? (Yup, I think I’m about ready to wrap it up here. Hey, I’ve been waiting to speak on this platform for 30yrs, can ya blame me for standing in the floodlights? I’ll move out of the way when I’m ready).
We do not want them taking an early lead.
With the exception of Cincinnati (where Kitna simply ran out of gas), the Steelers made it through number 1 and 2 because they took an early lead that enables full use of everything else they want to do. We can’t let them have that. They don’t dictate – we do!
Keep them playing from behind. If we can get several minutes into the 3 rd Quarter with a 13pt lead? We can take full control of the game. The same thing that happened to Denver will strangulate the Steelers.
I suspect that Holmgren will indeed come out firing. Rather than establish Alexander early, he’ll wisely choose the alternative and awaken Pittsburgh to the fact that Matt Hasselbeck is the key to this team – not Alexander. If that goes well, we’re able to curtail the myriad of blitzes that have been a source of confusion for us in the past, and we put up a 14pt lead? The world is our oyster. We’ll then be able to do whatever it is WE desire. While Pittsburgh is pilfered the option of surprise and a foothold position to dictate from.
Defensively I’m not expecting much blitzing. I’m the guy that continually chants for such on Sundays, but not in this contest. The Big Ticker has proven an innate ability to get his impressive stature just out of reach and get the ball to the spot left vacant. What he may not be able to do so well is pick the spot among a defender dotted Secondary. His 3 rd option when he has all day to throw (WR Cedrick Wilson) takes a loss against our relatively deep Secondary (Herndon or Babineaux the Hero). In fact, I might support some more of that 3-man rush we witnessed to great affect in the Championship game. I like 5 or 6 back on passing downs far more than I do 5 or 6 rushing here. And I don’t EVER want to witness a Safety blitz, not ever (particularly the jailbreak double that Rhodes has killed us with in the past. John Marshall has played things far wiser, even when being aggressive).
Up front, the beasts are going to have to feast like a zombie from 28 Days (as opposed to Shaun of the Dead). Disruption on the line of scrimmage is paramount to getting Bettis going the wrong way before he goes right. Do not be surprised to see him with the ball far more than starting Tailback Willie Parker. Cowher would be foolish to play to our strengths using the back we can catch, as opposed to the back that can crunch us (not to mention the kid is a rookie under enormous pressure… can you say ball on the turf?).
And lastly, the most specific point that not one person has spoken all week:
We have the unquestionable capacity to come back from any large deficit – 14, 17, maybe even 20 or more pts. They don’t.
To credit the Steelers, no one has put them below 10+ pts this year at the conclusion of any quarter (with the exception of Indy, who went up 16pts in the 3 rd, regular season). So it’s difficult to qualify they can’t come back from a large deficit. But we are the number 1 scoring team in the league. We can score from anywhere at any time and I am QUITE sure we have the desire to do so. This team has piled up points like a pinball machine and 3-4 D or otherwise, Holmgren will not rest until his team hits the 30+ mark. The Offense does not ever go conservative until he obtains that mark (often a source of frustration for me). No one has more 80yd drives than we do. We can move the ball on you. And we will. We have done so throughout the season far more effectively than even Indianapolis. With Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, we believe that it’s never over. And it won’t be. Until the clock says zero. I don’t give a damn what the board says – we are a threat to score at all times. And we will NOT stop coming at you.
If anyone watching on Sunday thinks we’re willing to concede anything to anyone? They don’t at all know the heart of the Hawk. It’s been thumping through guys like Zorn and Krieg and Largent and John L Williams and Paul Skansi and Joe Nash and Eugene Robinson and Jacob Green and Dave Brown and the incomparable Kenny Easley and through a non-stop succession of productive running backs to carry the load and all the way up to Mack Strong. And we are ready to bring it, sucker. It’s 8 th grade Sewickley…
This season the Seahawks rose up like a Phoenix to ride on the wings of success. We’ve known the bottom end. And we’ve proven we can claw our way out of it. Ain’t nothing in the world - wearing black, gold, yellow, red, purple, orange, fuscia, or tie dye - going to tell us to put the T back on the end of the word. It’s spelled with 3 letters. We’ll show you how.
And the powers that be will have to apologize for the ignorance dealt our team in their finest season ever. The year we became Champions of the National Football League… and stole America’s hearts.
Get in line, beyotch! We’ve been here all along.
SEA + 4 vs PITT
Book it, Danno.
“The Man is laying bloody and bruised in the corner… have pity and finish him off decisively”
G. Scott Jones is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Seahawks.NET. Reaction of any sort is always encouraged at firstname.lastname@example.org.