Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/10/13
Seattle Faces Ideal Opponent The NFC Championship is calling… This past Sunday I had the luxury of watching the Seattle Seahawks game at my brother’s house.  He and his band, Monsters Scare You, tend to have tailgate parties every time the Hawks are on. It was a great atmosphere, with drunken discussions, loud cheering – accompanied with unintentional beer showers – and “Nasty Nate” informing the refs of his opinions in a very passionate manner. Yes, it was almost like being at Century Link. After a sluggish start, Seattle kicked it into gear and completely dominated the Redskins for the final three quarters. You wouldn’t know that, however, if you were relying on ESPN for your information. All you would get from the game is the severity of RGIII’s knee injury. But as Seattle fans, we come to expect this kind of treatment. And it seems to fuel a fire under this team – giving them more chips on their shoulders than a fat guy in a recliner with a bag of Lays. Now the Hawks are traveling to the ATL to take on the #1 seed Atlanta Falcons. Of all the routes to the super bowl, we are fortunately taking the ideal one. Here is what I’m watching for. The Battles Outside Far and away the most intriguing match up is the combination of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner against the combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones. The best shutdown secondary in the league versus the most potent 1-2 combo. Which group will rise to the occasion? If we look at the track records, the Legion of Boom has the upper hand. Sherman and Browner vs. White and Jones. WOW! They have faced a plethora of dangerous receiving corps – Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, Lions, Bears, and Larry Fitzgerald (the rest of the group doesn’t deserve consideration). In those match ups, the opposing quarterbacks had an average rating of 75.05 with 239.5 yards and 8 total touchdowns. Considering the weapons those teams had and the quality of quarterbacks, those numbers are outstanding. On the other side of the ball, the Falcons haven’t faced many great defenses. They only went against 3 teams in the top-10 in pass defense. In those three games, Julio Jones averaged 4 receptions for 56 yards and only one touchdown. Roddy averaged 6 receptions for 87 yards and only 1 touchdown. When these two face top corners, their production suffers greatly. Can’t wait for the next edition of Sherman’s mic’d-up antics. Who Will Be Better Behind Center? Russell Wilson. Next question? In his rookie season, Wilson has played in one playoff game. He has one victory. One more than Matt Ryan and his 5 years of experience. Ryan had an incredible season – throwing for 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns with a rating of 99.1, all career highs. Wilson had a rating of 100.0, but who’s counting? The interesting stat that everyone can’t seem to stop talking about is Ryan’s playoff production. Ryan’s stats in 3 career postseason games – 70 of 110 for an average of 195 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 4 interceptions. That gives him a quarterback rating of 70.9. Wilson’s stats last week – 15 of 26 for 187 yards and 1 touchdown with 0 interceptions. Giving him a rating of 92.9. Once you throw in the fact that Ryan is going against the league’s 6th-best pass defense and Wilson faces the league’s 23rd, all signs point to Wilson having a big day. The Rise of Zach Miller When we signed Zach Miller in 2011, I was ecstatic. John Carlson couldn’t seem to grasp the starting role, and Miller had been one of the more productive receiving tight ends in the league during his tenure in Oakland. He was also praised by Tom Cable as a great run-blocker. As of now, Miller hasn’t really had the opportunity to excel. He has been utilized as a run-blocker for the majority of his snaps, and only had 38 receptions on the season. However, Miller came up big when he needed to last week. Trailing 14-0 early in the second quarter, the Seahawks faced a crucial 3rd and 12. Wilson dropped back and threw a six-yard duck to Miller off of his back foot. Miller snagged the ball from the grown, raced up field and spun off of a Josh Wilson tackle for the first down. This led to a field goal and put the Hawks on the board. Still trailing 13-14 with 8:53 to go in the fourth, the Seahawks approached another crucial 3-10. Miller was lined up in the H-back position, and at the snap he pushed left and threw a block into Trent Williams. This was simply a delayed route, as he then leaked into the flats and gave Wilson an easy target to get the first down and more. Darrell Bevell added yet another dimension to the offense last week with Zach Miller in the H-back position in the shotgun split-back formation the Hawks so often run. It was utilized on key downs, and worked to perfection. On the other side of the ball, Kam Chancellor has his work cut out for him guarding the Falcons’ Hall of Fame tight end – Tony Gonzalez. That match up will be interesting to watch as well. Bruce Irvin, Your Time Has Come The Seahawks’ sack-leader Chris Clemons went down with an ACL injury last week. This was devastating considering Clemons’ importance to the defense and the intensity he brings on the field. With this loss, Bruce Irvin is going to receive his first NFL start. And the game couldn’t be bigger. When Clemons went down, he was immediately replaced with Irvin for the remainder of the game. All season long Irvin has been a situational pass-rusher – usually on third downs. Kam Chancellor has his work cut out for him vs. Gonzalez this week. But with the hole at defensive end, Irvin was needed. And he showed up. With several consecutive snaps, Irvin was a menace in the pass rushing game. He only recorded one tackle, but that tackle was a sack on Robert Griffin III. After Griffin’s departure, Irvin was consistently breathing down Kirk Cousins’ neck, forcing errant throws and even batted one down. Matt Ryan was only sacked 28 times all season. But the Falcons have yet to see a speed rusher like Irvin. MUST FINISH DRIVES As previously stated, the group I watched last week’s game with was a room full of pure entertainment. However, we could not relax until late in the fourth quarter. The game was being dominated by the Hawks yardage-wise, but they simply could not get points on the board. I have never been so stressed watching football in my life. Time and time again, the Seattle defense would get a stop. The offense would then follow that up with a solid drive into the opponent’s territory, only to get sacked out of field goal range. Luckily our defense was punching the ‘Skins in the mouth all day, and gave them no chance to start a rally. However, going against a much more potent offense in the Falcons will not be so easy. The Seahawks are seemingly built to beat the Falcons. The strength of the Hawks is their running game, their pass defense, and their new star in Russell Wilson. The Falcons’ only real strength is their passing attack, while their running game is pitiful and their defense is porous to say the least. All of this falls right into the Hawks’ hands. Yet they still are very dangerous through the air, and have the potential to score at any time. This is why the Seattle offense must finish their drives. They cannot continue to end long drives with punts and rely on their defense for stops. The Falcons are too lethal for that. They must put points on the board in order to keep the defense rested and keep Atlanta honest. If this is done, and the Seahawks execute their game plan, I see a very likely shot at the NFC Championship. Let’s Go Hawks!!! CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE SEAHAWKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE AT NWSB!
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