Beat The Man - Week Thirteen

"In the attic, lies…nothing seems…real as I dream…" The Seahawks are leaving the things that are "real" behind and entering the realms of fantasy with the NFC's best record. Team and fans alike crave respect beyond that which they have enjoyed in years past…and The Man can only stand fast against such resolve for so long. Who is this team that has us rejoicing and reeling all at once? They are us on the field, boys. They are US.

Last Week’s Results: 3-2 (um… yay?)
Season to Date: 29-36
Hawk Picks: 3-3 (had all I could ask for when we went up by 8)

I never thought I’d say this in regards to the Seattle Seahawks but… luck is on our side? (I punctuate a question mark – ‘cuz I still find it hard to believe).

Now, would you rather be lucky than good? I would have to argue… most definitely not. Luck plays a hand in the success of any team, but Football is about - earning it. And I would much rather stick the Running Back on the 1-inch line to retain a victory, than watch the opposition shank a Field Goal. One result screams satisfaction. The other celebrates another’s failure. If the opponent must fail, for me to win – the taste is not so sweet. The result does not say “I conquer”, but rather “I survived”. And football demands more than simple survival.

When the opponent is allowed to get into Field Goal range on three successive drives (following a game-tying score and 2-pt conversion) only to miss expected finality on 2 of those attempts – you got lucky. Plain and simple. You survived. You did not conquer.

On the other hand, with 11:14 to play, Mike Holmgren and the Seahawks demonstrated absolute resolve (and no koo-koo-ka-choo, I might add) in driving the length of the field – controlling results with a fierce running game that bled the clock down to a one possession opportunity for the Giants to tie the game – culminating in an impressively gutsy (and gloriously correct) decision to put the necessary points on the board…

Touchdown, Seahawks.

THAT – is a championship mentality. The Giants have been absolutely killing teams in the 4th Quarter all year long. Their Offense WILL move the ball down the field in the final moments, that’s a given. However, with an 8pt lead to climb, the pressure is on them. Rather than a 4pt lead and pressure on us. (Had the Giants managed 3 in response – we would have an opportunity to match it.) Holmgren accurately discerned that and took control of a game about inches. I salute the man (and those of you who read my column regularly know that’s a rarity).

So where does this leave us?

We raised a fist to pound the finish. And yet – the end result was not duly earned. Or was it?

Walter Jones was chasing a mouse with a name I can’t pronounce. And the Giants generally harassed our O-Line throughout the contest (though Sean Locklear handled all-world DE Michael Strahan quite respectably). Matt Hasselbeck began the game like a twitching Turrets Syndrome victim - and generally ended it that way. Not his best game, and while remaining one of his staunchest supporters I would have to say at this point – he is not having his best season. It might be the absence of Darrell Jackson but ‘Beck’ doesn’t appear as authoritative back there as he has in the past.

Holmgren’s game plan appeared to be line up in a standard RB/FB formation (which has been highly successful for us on the ground) and pass from it throughout the 1st half. Later in the game the Linebackers will be hesitant at the line, questioning pass – and we’ll gouge them in the 4th. Fantastic gameplan. I owe Mike a beer (normally we play the reverse, setting 3-4 WRs early and rushing out of a passing formation on occasion). The idea was solid, but the execution did not qualify. The Giants rose to the occasion and held the pass and run in check. However, MH stuck to the plan and created success in the 3rd when Alexander began to run from the standard formation (the 14-13 go-ahead scoring drive in the 3rd was absolutely a result of the set-up in the 1st).

Shaun Alexander’s stats were limited throughout the game, and yet - he hardly resembles the RB that would rather nap than fight for a single yard. The man ran tough. The spin move made off-tackle on that critical 4th-and-1 near the goal line – where he slipped a possession change and then rallied himself into the end zone in case that wasn’t enough - was a game winning effort. The guy has got XBOX 360 vision and he’s added some scrap to that this season as well. One yard short in 2004? Lesson learned.

You can point to several Championship caliber plays made by us throughout the game. And yet, every ‘Sid Vicious’ Jurevicius snatch – earned a Shockey response (and btw, NFL Films shows he did get the toe down. Check it out on Game of the Week). Tom Rouen punted the ball like a madman… until crunch time. Where SPT set the ball at NYG 39, 50, 49, and 20 (result of punt from the NYG 46). The #1 Offense in the NFL could not move the ball for 3 possessions following the Alexander score – until the NYG Defense just couldn’t take it anymore and we put an end to the madness with 2:49 left in Overtime.

But did our team really earn the win?

I’ll tell you who earned the win. They handed out a Game Ball to #12 this week. And maybe you can pass it around to chew on when SF comes to town - cuz you freaks in the stands were absolute ANIMALS! I don’t need to go over the specifics. You all know who you are and what happened.

67,000+ said, “We matter”. And therefore did.

The entire NFL has been talking you up since the game. How do you feel about THAT, suppressed Seahawk Fan? Huh? Is it nice to earn some respect? How’s it feel to have a DIRECT effect on the game, huh? You feel pretty good about that, don’t you? Why don’t you head back to the fridge and grab another beer for your efforts, I’ll send you a check. Because you beautiful bastards won that game for us. And I do mean beyond hard to hear. You think that kind of energy wasn’t the difference in us sustaining and breaking equality? It was absoLUTELY the difference (and the Ruskell regime is wise enough to recognize it). You served a Nation of Hawk fans proud representation. And given the specifics of our remaining schedule – likely earned yourselves the right to up the ante as the NFC’s top seeded team in the Playoffs. Better stock up on lozenges… you now have a reputation to uphold.

Earning it...

As far as the players on the field, what we can learn from this game is that an equal performance will not be enough if we want to tick wins through the playoffs. It will NOT be enough. The Giants are not the best team in the NFC. They most certainly stepped up to the challenge, but they are inferior in many ways. We MUST expect more difficult opposition once we’re in the playoffs. As I can assure you – difficult opposition expects to meet us… at Qwest field (thanks again).

What our football team will need to ask themselves, right now, is…

Are we willing to leave it up to luck?
Or do we expect to earn it?

The answer to that will determine our final results.

I got a real nice roster for ya this week. All the biguns:

ATL +3 @ CAR
Remember what I said about Carolina last week? And what did they do but go out and validate… it’s really tough to bet on the Panthers (failed to go end zone in Buffalo until 2:16 remaining to win by 4 in a game giving 4.5). I officially hate them. They began the season with my respect and have done nothing but butcher me mercilessly in honor of it. Carolina is 6-5 ATS with an 8-3 record. And there is nothing consistent about when they choose to cover. Home, Away, vs Good team, vs Bad team – doesn’t matter. They score like crazy, then can’t score anymore. Completely unpredictable. The only thing you can predict is they’ll be unpredictable. I should avoid them completely right?

Nope. I’m too stubborn and stupid for that. (Hey, would I be an out-of-town Seahawk fan otherwise? There’s obviously something wrong with me). But in all sincerity – this is not a grudge play. I like Atlanta. Now, while I say that – they have also been disappointing. The Falcons have not played the successful jail-break Defense I expected them to. While racking up 30 sacks and an outstanding 29% 3rd down conversion rate – they’ve have not managed to put the choke hold on good teams when it’s got to be done, and that has been the only reason for the questions that surround them. It’s not because Michael Vick can’t throw the ball – that’s bull. They’re scoring points and NO ONE wants to face his freakish talent. They just aren’t closing. In the Falcons 4 losses (vs SEA, NE, TB, and GB) they allowed 30+ points in each and scored 25+ (except vs us, where it landed 18-21). That’s 3 losses by 3 pts each - and the toss out game vs GBAY where they lost by 8. Only 1 of those losses was on the road (us again).

It says here they turn the corner this week and close out a headline game. They are just too excellent to allow Carolina 2 games up in the Division and slip out of Playoff contention. I like their chances to rally and maintain. And I don’t like Carolina’s chances to resist them.

DAL +3 @ NYG
Once again – not a grudge match. It appears I may be underestimating New Yawk… but then again – maybe not (they lost, right?). Dallas on the other hand? They’re putting it together nicely. While I expected an excellent game on Turkey Day (ours was as dry as shoe leather, how ‘bout you?), I did not think Dallas would take Denver to the wire like that. Denver is VERY solid. You cannot fail to admire the Cowboys for hanging in there, particularly following that early Defensive TD snatch.

I know, I know – the Giants beat the Broncos. I don’t care. I’m going to ignore that game because I don’t feel they earned it. I just don’t like the overall make-up of this Giants squad. As opposed to the Cowboys, who’s make-up looks mighty fine (or maybe that’s just the cheerleaders. That is, if I’m ever disciplined enough to look above the neck. Hell, I rarely get above those shorts!). I like the balanced approach that Dallas has and I like the momentum they’re building. They shook off that heartbreaker in Seattle and have not looked back at it. They look forward. THIS – is forward. Beat the Giants and take control of the Division having swept the series. Plus, they’re coached by a guy that used to spank Tom Coughlin around the office… maybe that’s why Tom’s so ornery. Expect that trend to continue.

PIT – 3.5 vs CIN
Like I said, we got a hell of a slate this week. I mean, I just tagged 2 games that ought to be headliners for the week, I think this game might beg to differ. (Not to mention Seattle under the Monday lights, folks). Last time around I went with Cincy and claimed they were ready to step up to the table and snatch the Division away from Pittsburgh (who I perpetually undervalue, though they’re helmed by my all-time favorite coach. Maybe I am just stupid – 'cuz that don’t figure under the ‘stubborn’ category, eh?). This time around I won’t make the same mistake. And the reason is simple…

The Bengals cannot stop the run.

A couple weeks ago the Colts showed up in Orangetown with the wise approach they’ve maintained all year – use every game to set up every game thereafter. Peyton Manning has moved beyond play to play – he’s now thinking games ahead (which explains his over-sized skull. It’s not water in there). It was not until the 2nd Half that the Colts began to pound the ground game and suck up the clock – choosing instead to exploit that expectation in the 1st. While I admire that clever foresight, I don’t think it was necessary in this case and the Pittsburgh Steelers know it. They will do exactly as they did to Cincy in Cincy (piling up 221 Rush yds). Only, they’re in Steeltown now. Where the towels don’t clean up a mess – they’re there to spank. And ‘The Chin’ is coming off a loss… spittle will lather the sidelines like a blizzard. The Division is on the line. And the Orangemen, who have lost to anyone of significance this year (save Chicago), are not yet men. Snap! And down you go.

DEN –1 @ KC
Look – more yum yums! The Broncos and the Chiefs! Remember them? Admit it, you used to watch this game with just as much interest as you had in Seattle - back when we were in the AFC WEST. This game almost always delivers. Thus, the heinously inaccurate spread.

Denver – will win this game without question.

I am going to continue to ignore the fact Denver is on a rare consecutive cover streak (now at 6 straight). That is something I just do not do. I have cashed in the other way on those streaks like no other bet can deliver. But – it has been beaten (rarely does a team get to 5, even rarer to 6, and close to NEVER find 7). Many years ago the Chargers covered 12 games in a row. I can’t remember the year because I lost about 5 thousand gazillion dollars while they did so (parlaying every single bet I made to include a Chargers failure to cover) and have attempted desperately to wipe it from my mind... though years later I moved down here thinking ‘Um, I bet I can get lucky down there. Bingo, I got bingo!’. That year the Chargers began the season 0-4 and the Man (along with myself) failed to respect them each game thereafter. He’s doing the same to Denver. During this streak the Broncos have been giving 4 or less every single game except for one (-14 vs NYJ. And DEN was getting 2.5 @ the loss to NYG).

While the Broncos have beaten an alarming amount of successful teams, KC has beaten… hmm, lemme check here – no one worth a damn! (Save DC, who have now fallen below .500). Furthermore, the last time these 2 teams met in Denver the crowd had nothing to do with it – KC got spanked because they appeared clearly perplexed and inferior. Expect… that… trend… uh, to continue! (uh oh, we might have a firm addition to the Schlep-sentence-asaurus).

TEN +15.5 @ IDY
Yup – you heard it here first. This is the week. Why is it the week? Because absolutely no one expects it, that’s why – particularly the Colts.

Last Monday Night the Colts stepped out and out-physicaled the ‘most physical team in the NFL’. They knocked the battery off the shoulder of the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the game, I sat there thinking… the gap between these guys and Seattle is substantial. I was thinking Denver could maybe beat them. Now I’m not so sure. We have a chance against Denver (and that would be fun for old times sake), but they are clearly better than us, based on their schedule and results. This makes the distance between us and the Colts – alarming.

This Colts team is one of the more consistently balanced and intelligent teams I have seen in a long while (all those years the Pats were winning Bowls, don’t forget we were all surprised until last year – when they actually fielded a team ‘talented’ enough to do it). I keep thinking the Defense isn’t much different personnel-wise than they were last year (which was a step back from the year before), and yet – it’s been 11 weeks now. And they have earned every single game they won. The young Secondary deserves respect and those LB’s are filling gaps in a hurry. The way they handled Pitt’s Run game? That was impressive (one LT does not wipe out an entire O-line). Offensively they have set the chessboard up by now in such a way… I don’t know how you defend them. They are unquestionably the best team in the NFL.

But… everyone in the world officially knows that, effective last Monday. There’s nothing else out there but game 1 of the playoffs. (You can be certain I am BEGGING Tony Dungy to maintain the starters through Xmas Eve, as I desperately want to gauge our chances in the playoffs off that game… but he’s clearly leaning to that as unimportant in the scope of ultimate success. And he’s that kind of patient man). Tennessee, as I mentioned very early this season, is an excellent team to catch you with. That coaching staff has prepared teams and competed in the harshest conditions (the New Orleans fiasco? Fisher met close to that in the move from Houston where the Titans where in limbo land for 2 years – and maintained a .500 record). Tennessee, will quietly cover several games to finish their season. They play to win no matter the record. And this is the PERFECT math – to upset the Colts outright.

That’s right, I am predicting a loss by Indianapolis. And I would serve up the guts to Guarannnnnteeeee it… if not for the fact I so badly want them unbeaten when they come to Seattle. So that we, the Seattle Seahawks – can rightfully crack the marble.

GB +7 @ CHI
What am I nuts? Perhaps. Would that surprise you? Not likely.

Chicago is red hot at the moment. I jumped on them pre-season and now I want to anoint a team I had in the Suck box to cover on the road? Oh, you betcha.

I’ll be brief with this one, cuz it’s basically senseless except for this…

If this is Brett Favre’s swan song year? What does he have left to end positively on? Perhaps the fact that he OWNS Chicago. They’ve been his personal whipping boy since he put on that ugly green n’ yellow. The Bears are the bully. And Brett just loves to smack that sucker down. He won’t be bullied by you, or me, or any other human in existence. HE exists – to reject such an idea. In this disastrous Packer season, you have never seen Brett Favre cry or whine, or complain in any manner whatsoever. He has handled it like the man we all know he is. He goes to practice with all he’s got. Shows up on Sunday. Shoulders whatever they have for him. And if they lose? He stone-face’s you. ‘I will not let it affect me’. But you know it’s affecting him. He can’t stand it. It’s driving him nuts. He’s got all that (and everything else he’s dealt with over the years) bottled up in there. Guess who’s going to pay for his angst? That’s right, I’m taking the points – but I expect an outright win here as well. Brett’s got one more shot at redemption (and the team wants it for him):

“I beat Chicago… again. They don’t beat the Pack while I’m around”.

PHI + 4 vs SEA
No. I’m not jumping off the bandwagon. No. I’m not beginning to think we’re the same heartbreak as we’ve been in years past. No. This doesn’t mean I hope we lose for any reason whatsoever. It just means… Philly is a Monday Night Home Dog to Seattle and I don’t like giving 4 here. I would not bet on this game, if not for my mid-season promise to do so every week cuz my picks stink and you need something worth looking at.

Match-up wise, hey – they make things very difficult on our Rush game. And that Secondary don’t stink. Need I mention the Defensive Line? We had troubles Offensively with the G-Men? Forget it – this is a real animal (and an angry one at that). Furthermore, Philly has played an inordinate amount of road games mid-season. They are now on a nice home stand to finish out the season (4 of their last 6 at home, including bookends on either side of this game). They’ve been written off as suddenly inconsequential – and they’re dangerous. You think they’re going to pack it in? In front of a National audience? Just because B.O. got kicked to the curb and the other end of the argument is officially out for the season?

I got news for you, this a 3yr NFC Championship ballclub that ought to be plenty geeked up for a chance at the NFC leader and the last time the Nation pays any attention to them. They’re going to bring it.

Are they less than what they were with stub-TOe and playmaker Donovan McNabb? No question. Would I think we had a good chance even WITH those 2 on the field? Absolutely. Am I bummed out they’re not on the field so I can watch a thorough match-up? (Have I not made it clear I like to earn it?). Do I think this makes it a cakewalk then? Helllllllllllllllllllllll no. Due to our failure to ‘earn’ the win vs NYG, this now becomes a very substantial game in our season. When you looked at the schedule to start the season you thought the same thing. Backup QB’s win all the time, and Mike McMahon may pose some problems. He played well for Detroit (though not so well facing the Pack last week). Very athletic. Has the desire to lay out for a win. A little like Hasselbeck, though hardly that seasoned.

I expect Philly to represent. We’re going to have problems scoring. And we might have serious problems with that waterbug known as Westbrook. What I want to see is a strong resolve to withstand the pressure, perform in a manner that appears unaffected by the credibility the Eagles' name carries, and exhibit every BIT as much interest in impressing upon the Nation “Get in line, cuz we are for real” - as Philly has in saying “We’re no clowns”.

'Cuz if we lose the game? Credibility is going to be very hard to come by (for ourselves, more importantly). It’s time for us to step up the ladder, and not just the win column.

“Earn it” on three… One, Two, Three…

This week’s picks:
DAL
+3
PIT – 3.5
DEN –1
TEN +15.5
GB +7

…and PHI + 4

“Beat the Man… ‘cuz 67,102 will not be denied!”


G. Scott Jones is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Seahawks.NET. Reaction of any sort is always encouraged at schleprockhawk@sbcglobal.net.


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