Archive for February, 2006

Malcontent spare parts/free agents = Wilcox and Watson? Wow.

February 24, 2006

In the aftermath of the NBA deadline, I’m actually impressed and surprised that the Rick Sund was able to take their spare parts, malcontents and pending free agents in exchange for an above-the-rim power guy in Wilcox (he’s only 23??) AND a top-flight defensive point guard who will really push Ridnour!?!? I’m VERRRRY impressed with their core:

Ridnour – Watson
Lewis – Wilkins
Wilcox – Collison
Swift – Petro

Some random thoughts David Locke had yesterday:

Especially likes the idea of someone pushing Ridnour. Told some stories about Luke and about how incredibly stubborn he is, one example he was told he’d be out for 2 weeks with an injury, but that afternoon he was at shootaround, stuff like that. And he THRIVES when told he can’t do something, thrives when pushed, like Daniels pushing him to heights in the playoffs last year, but this year he’s been drifting until late. Watson makes them a lot better, immediately, on a lot of levels.

Loves the 4-man frontline of Wilcox, Collison, Swift and Petro. Young, improving, and all under contract through 2007. The only team in the NBA with two 7-foot centers under 20 years of age.

Wilcox is a huge get, a guy who was only getting about 10 minutes per game, if that, behind Brand, and didn’t fit their style. He’s already showed in limited minutes about what an explosive player he can be in an open offensive style. They will run, and he will thrive. This could be the best trade Sund ever makes, considering how miserable Radman was this year, a guy who wouldn’t even post up Earl Boykins a few weeks ago! True story. He chose to shoot a fadeaway 20-footer instead of backing down a guy 19 inches shorter. Talk about a soft 6-10.

I don’t think this year will bring any kind of Denver-style run like last year, where the Nuggets go so freakin’ hot that they nearly overtook the Sonics to win the division, but I really do believe they have achieved a ton in the last few weeks. You think about who the traded – Radman, who not only turned down $42 million guaranteed, but couldn’t wait to be a free agent; Vitaly, a guy who asked for a trade in early January; Evans, who has gone backwards in terms of offense and defense and was buried on the bench; and Flip, a guy who has plummeted to new lows and was also going to be a free agent, for youth and athleticism that will be part of the core going forward?? All 4 of those guys were pending free agents, and they turned them into Wilcox and Watson? Just a tremendous job.

Now if only the team will stay in town, they will be pretty interesting next year!

Cougs hired a new recruiting coordinator. He’s credited with some big names at K-State, probably a good fit considering Manhattan, KS vs. Pullman. It sounds good right now, but I guess the next few classes will really show what he’s made of.

I’ve also heard that there are some real academic risks with this ’06 class. Namely J.T. the running back, per a quote from Doba, supposedly has “a lot of work to do” before he can set foot on campus. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised. Doba also railed about the new academic levels that will be in place I believe in ’08, where the requirements are going up quite a bit for incoming high school players, and Doba said JC’s are going to be more important and more popular than ever. Things are certainly changing.

Finally, the Hawks tagged Hutch with the transition tag. Makes sense to me, really, now he can go out and shop himself around, get the best deal possible for him, and the Hawks will match. Hugh Millen said yesterday that offensive guard is widely considered the least important offensive line position, and maybe the least important position on offense, period, but when a guy like Hutch is just so much better than any other player at his position, you have to keep him, period. With the transition tag, they don’t play the holdout game, as the odds are quite strong that he’ll actually get a real offer, instead of a franchise label where players never get offers. It’s a good move, and on that will pay off when the Hawks match any offer.

Martin Stadium expansion plans available

February 20, 2006

So I missed the football dinner on Friday. Completely and utterly forgot about it, been so busy with work, etc. Rooster, did you make it?? If so I’d love to hear a personal recap. There are some messages at Cougfan from people that were there, sounds like a decent time.

The stadium plans are really coming together, but the student vote is going to be big. Phase 1 is already in place and will begin after 2006 season, but if the students vote yes? Phase 2 will ALSO begin at the same time. Some seriously nice upgrades coming, to a stadium that totally needs it!

Check it out:

The website is cool, too, they do a good job highlighting just how far behind the Cougs really are in the stadium race.

Letting it go…..but one final look

February 10, 2006

Now that I’m over the penalty issue, and ref issue in general where clearly the Hawks had two TD’s taken off the board, and 99% sure that THREE TD’s were taken away (the Locklear hold and no-offsides called on the play), I’m now ready to accept the other side to this. I painfully sat through the NFL Game of the Week via NFL Films on the NFL Network, and I’ve also watched the first half of the game three times this week. Maybe this is part of the deal, acceptance, but taking the raw emotion out of it? The Seahawks BLEW THIS GAME in the first half! There are several reasons why that still had chances to completely overcome the ref’s, yet they still couldn’t do it.

Bear with me here, but relive the pain and after reading this account of the first half, you know yourself that they lost it here. Sure, the Locklear hold will go down in infamy because they would have taken a 4th-quarter lead, but we don’t know what would have happened from there. Does Ben wake up and drive them right back down the field for a score of their own? Do they still do the trick play if they are backed up to their 20 after a kickoff instead of being near midfield? It’s too hard to say. But because of their own mistakes, the Hawks themselves had a lot to do with this end result of a SB loss. The refs jobbed them, no doubt, but their failure to execute as they had all season in other key areas really did destory their chances. Read on, if you dare:

First drive of the game, the Hawks are cooking. Things are crisp, D-Jax is uncoverable, the tempo is hot and the Steelers are already on their heels. But, on 2nd and 9 from the 47, Hass missed D-Jax WIDE OPEN up the seam. Ball was behind him, he just flat-out misses him on a poor throw. He wasn’t even under pressure, and as the line did all game long, he had time to survey the field and make the read. There was one guy on Jackson around the 30, and with a little move, he might have taken it all the way. It was at worst a 20-yard gain. They end getting a hold on Locklear on the next play, but Hass was sacked, the penatly declined, Hawks punt. The punt is terrible, out of the end zone, and the Steelers get the ball on the 20. Error? Hawks, on the miss to D-Jax and lousy punt by Rouen.

Steelers first drive – 3-and-out in very unimpressive fashion. Seattle is the fastest defense on the field, and looks like they are out to prove that they are physical too! Lofa and Hill made the first two plays with great speed and pure power-puncher physical play. Boy are these two going to be a force for years to come! Madden even compares Tatupu to a young Mike Singletary, if you can believe it. At the half, the commentators would say “the bully factor is gone, Seattle is the more physical team tonight!” And it’s true.

Second Seahawks Drive of the game – From the Steeler 41, Hass hits Engram for an 18-yard gain. Gray called for holding in what initially looked like the most blatant way you can hold another player, but on the replay, both players fell down, but it looked like Gray tackled him. He really didn’t. But, in that situation, the right call. Hawks fail to convert 3rd and long, Rouen punts it into the end zone. Error? Hawks, on the Gray hold and ANOTHER poor punt.

Steelers second drive – again go 3-and-out, this time gaining 6 yards on a Willie Parker run on 2nd down. That’s it. Seattle is controlling on D with their front 7.

Hawks third drive of the game – Hass moves them quickly to the 16 on two passing plays to Joe J and D-Jax. These guys are clicking early, Pittsburgh is reeling and cannot cover the WR’s, they are in a rhythm. Clearly Holmgren has found something on the Steeler defense, because this is looking too easy! And, coming into the game, what did we hear about the Steelers D?? Too big, too fast, too complex to really solve it. Polamalu and Porter are monsters that cannot be handled, etc. Yet the Hawks nearly roll up 400 yards, with penalties and drops?? They would have been over 500 if Stevens catches the ball and the refs eat the flags at the right times. Sigh.

Of course, 1st and 10 from the 16, pass interference is called. Horrible call, they got screwed, etc. There have been some arguments lately that the play was actually called correctly, and it really wasn’t a delay on the call, but the ref couldn’t find his flag at first, and it only looked delayed. BULL$HIT! Not only was the call wrong, because both players had their hands on each other, but before Jackson even got into the endzone, Hope pushed Jackson! THat should have been illegal contact to begin with! Nobody talks about that, but right in front of the official, Jackson is shoved at the goal line and there is no call. That “Ty Law” rule was put in to keep defensive backs from mauling WR’s outside of 5 yards, so why no flag!?!? I don’t get it. But then after the catch, the ref actually looked at Jackson FIRST, making sure he caught the ball, but THEN threw the flag only after seeing the result of the play! It’s almost like he wasn’t going to throw it if Jackson didn’t catch the ball, but seeing that he did, flag flies.

But here’s the thing – as bad as that call was? All hope is not lost here. They are only backed up to the 26, not anything they cannot recover from with this offense and how much in a groove they happen to be in at the time. But Jackson is rattled at this point, Hass actually grabs him and tries to keep his focus, but it makes you wonder. And, here is where I really question what happened. The NEXT TWO plays are pure running plays that produce -3 yards rushing?? Next thing you know, it’s 3rd-and-23 from the 29! It seems as though they lost their rhythm after that penalty, because in hindsight, with the way they were winning so great through the air, they should have been able to throw the ball and keep attacking! But, they STILL had a shot at 6! On 3rd-and-23, Hass throws the ball deep into the right corner, really a GREAT throw, and DJ Hackett is one-on-one with the safety. The safety starts to fall down, and Hackett elevates. He has both hands on the ball but he drops it. He clearly mis-timed his leap on a catch that he would probably make 7 out of 10 times. I can’t believe I forgot about this play, but the replay shows Hackett had his hands on the ball. He will kick himself over this one. So even though they went into a shell after the P-i, they still ALMOST got 7 anyway, against deep cover-2. They do hit the 47-yard field goal, but it’s a very hollow 3-0 lead. Error? Both, the refs blew a TD call and you can’t forgive taking 7 points off the board, but the Hawks didn’t execute after the penatly anyway.

Steelers third drive – A very unimpressive 3-and-out where they don’t gain a single yard. NOTHING. And that ends the first quarter. Seattle is dominating on defense. First play of the 2nd quarter is a long punt return by Warrick for 32 yards, but it’s negated by a double-fisted hold on Etric Pruitt (sadly, he made two gigantic mistakes in the 2nd half that I won’t even bring them up, but the Sporting News has a big article on how much he f’ed up on the two biggest Pittsburgh plays of the game). YET ANOTHER SPECIAL TEAMS PENALTY ON A RETURN! The Hawks need to make a change at special teams coach, because they had more flags on returns this year than I’ll ever care to remember.

Hawks fourth drive of the game, Hass takes them from the 25 to their own 48 on a couple of completions and an Alexander run. But perhaps in a sign of things to come, on 3rd-and-2 from the 48, Hass hits Stevens in-stride at the 27-yard line, just a beautiful throw into tight coverage. Stevens has the ball momentarily, then loses it. It appeared that it COULD have been a fumble, but there is no way to challenge it because the whistles blew and it was called incomplete. Meanwhile, a HUGE mistake by Stevens, as once again they would have had a first down inside the 30, and the rhythm of the offense is destroyed again. Error? Hawks all the way. To make it worse?? Rouen finally hits a beauty of a punt, dropping it inside the 5, but Kaz and Scobey can’t make the play! Steelers get it on the 20, again.

Steelers 4th drive and they finally get their initial first down, getting 8 yards on 3rd-and-8 on a nice play by Randle El, but even that ball could have been knocked out. Then Ward runs a reverse for 18 yards, and maybe, the biggest play of the game happens that nobody talks about – Manuel gets injured on the tackle, hurting his hip and he is lost for the game. But the Hawks get a break on the next play, as Big Ben floats one deep and the ultra-athletic Boulware makes a truly incredible catch at the 17, ending the Steeler drive.

By the way, What an athlete Boulware is. I saw a special on Boulware lately, and did you know that coming out of high school, he was a first-team all-american at WR and at LB!?!? His highlight tape, he was making Randy Moss – Reggie Williams type catches, just dominating. He had two college choices, Clemson or Florida State, both to play for a Bowden. Young Bowden promised him that if he comes to Clemson, he’ll be a WR exclusively. But Bobby says from day one, that he doesn’t have that extra gear that a WR needs to make it in the NFL, while he’s quick and athletic as hell, he just doesn’t have the raw speed, so he will be a LB at FSU. Boulware on signing day had no idea what to do, but then at the last minute, Peter, his brother says “ask yourself this question – do you really want to play for a team that FSU always wants for homecoming?” That clinched it right there, and Michael dons the FSU hat on TV.

Hawks 5th drive – On 3rd and 3, Hass hits Strong and appears to have enough for the first down, but the side judge comes running in with a TERRIBLE spot, at least 2 feet behind where the ball should have been, and measurement is just inches short. Error on the refs on this one, that WAS a first down. Hawks punt.

Steelers 5th drive and they are finally getting the offense going. Ben makes his first play of the game, with the Favre-like “underhand” flip to Ward on 3rd-and-6 for a first down. Ward is pumped, the Steelers are pumped. Ben was going down but a risky, yet nice play moves the chains. Ben has been bad so far, but he’s a very gifted athlete that is capable of making a big play at any moment. Two plays later Pruitt is victimized huge on a 20-yard completion by Ben to Wilson. Trufant was in the area but it was a cover-2 zone, and Trufant released Wilson and he became Pruitt’s man. Then it gets crazy. Offensive PI on a screen to Bettis on a CLEAR pick-play on first down, backing it up to the 32. Then Wistrom sacks Ben on a great quick rush, and it’s 3rd-and-28! But this is maybe the biggest play yet – Wistrom HAD Ben, again, but he got away and was flushed left, where Wistrom is held so bad he is literally tackled by the lineman! Wistrom starts to complain as soon as the ball gets thrown, it was pretty bad, but the ref eats the flag. Ben holds right at the line of scrimmage, waiting to do something, and makes what can only be a called a LOUSY throw, back across the field, high, and wobbly. Basically a thing you never do, unless you are John Elway or Brett Favre, that kind of an arm. Almost like a prayer-hail mary type thing, clearly a young guy trying to do too much. Bad pass, great result as Ward somehow makes the catch. Even worse?? Boulware TOTALLY had that ball in his sights, but at the last second, you see he changes his focus from the ball to the WR and tried to just jar it out of there. Well, that’s Hines Ward, a strong, physical WR and you just aren’t going to knock it loose on something like that. But I tell you, watching the replay from an end zone perspective, Ben never should have thrown it, and AT WORST, that ball should have been knocked down, and probably Boulware should have his second SB INT on the way to early-game MVP favorite.

We know what happens next, on 3rd and 1 Ben dives and gets credit for a TD when it never should have been ruled a TD to begin with. You can debate it all you want, but Cowher later says they were going for the TD on the next play anyway, and with the ball virtually on the goal line and Ben at 6-5, the odds of him just reaching over the line with the ball? Pretty much impossible to stop that. ERROR? I’m calling HAWKS for allowing ANYONE to convert 3rd-and-28! That should never, ever happen, and with the other team’s best WR to get open on a bad ball and still make the play?? Boulware will see that play over and over again this offseason. If Boulware just knocks that ball down, Pittsburgh is punting – AGAIN – on the 40-yard line, and that’s even more momentum that they failed to generate. Instead it’s 7-3 and they have a gift of a lead. I also blame the ref on 3rd-and-28, Wistrom was held in plain sight, yet no call.

Now probably the biggest drive of the half, and 2nd-biggest of the entire game – Hawks get the ball at their own 27 with 1:46 left, and bang, they are marching again. 19 yard catch by Joe J gets them near midfield, 10-yard completion to Engram gets them to the Steeler 40-yard line. Then, the fateful “pylon” play. Hass throws a GORGEOUS ball to D-Jax, in stride, and he’s beaten Ike Taylor – AGAIN – making the catch at the one. One foot is down in-bounds, second foot goes hard to the sideline for some reason and scrapes the pylon, third step kicks the pylon over completely. Call is immediately out of bounds, as everyone in the building forgets that there is an interpretation on a new rule 3 years ago that reads that one foot inbounds, and one foot hitting the pylon, could really be a catch and a TD. The booth decides against even taking a second look at it. Hass gets them to the line to run another play, and Pittsburgh then calls a TO to substitute. And the booth STILL WON’T LOOK AT THE PLAY!?!? Are you kidding me!?!?! They had an extra couple of minutes to review it during the TO, and realize “oh yeah, we changed the rule a few years ago, that second foot could have hit the pylon, let’s just review it as that’s a TD if we are wrong.” But no. No review.

BUT, this is where it’s confusing. Earlier in the week, there was a column from a few years ago where John Clayton said one foot down, plus the pylon, is a catch and TD. Now, a few refs have come forward to say no, Clayton misread the rule, it’s not a catch. Finally, Mike Sando wrote out exactly what the rule says, and it truly IS open for interpretation. It’s a strangely-worded rule and you could come down on either side.

But here’s where it gets worse for the Hawks. On 2nd and 10 from the 40 with 48 seconds left, they try a running play that gets 4 yards. Not a crazy idea, sometimes a run when the D expects pass can be a nice weapon. But it’s stopped, and it’s now 3rd-and-6. And this is maybe the worst part of the first half – Hass freezes! He is standing at the line of scrimmage, literally trying to figure out what play to call, and he calls a couple of audibles but will not get the snap! The clock is running, Madden and Michaels are saying “what is going on??” Next thing you know, Pittsburgh calls a timeout with 13 seconds left in the half! Are YOU KIDDING ME!?!? DO they not realize the situation? They are hardly in field goal range at this point, I mean 54 yards is a long-ass field goal. Yet he took the clock from 48 to 13, and never snapped the ball?? Pittsburgh is the one to call a TO?

Look, I know Pittsburgh has the craziest zone blitzes, and we don’t know if they were showing something that Hass had no idea what to do, but this is the worst execution of a last-minute offense that I can ever remember from this team. I know it was 3rd-and-6 and it was a very important play, and Hass didn’t want to blow it, and maybe the Steelers were totally disguising something. But it felt like watching Tony Truant line up vs. Arizona when the clock was running out, and he had no idea until it was too late.

Finally, after the TO, Hass again tries Jackson in the corner, looking like the exact same play as on first down, deep against Taylor towards the end zone. D-Jax beats Taylor again, but this time there is safety help and he is doubled. D-Jax catches it, but this time there is no doubt, out of bounds with both feet. But this was another horrible decision! Why? Well, there they are on the 36 with 13 seconds left. FRINGE field goal range at this point. What the hell is wrong with trying to get another 8-10 yards over the middle when Pittsburgh will give that to them, setting up a much more makeable field goal? Instead they try to challenge for a TD again when this time, D-Jax is double-covered? Hard to tell from TV, and maybe the middle was clogged up, but D-Jax had two men running deep with him, you have to believe that there was a soft spot somewhere? Then it’s 4th down with 7 seconds left on the 36, and of course, Brown ends the half by missing a 54-yard FG. Error?? Can’t blame the refs here. Hawks, no question.

One more note on this possession – WHY did D-Jax go out of bounds with the second foot on the pylon play? If you watch the replay, he is running straight down the sideline, not at an angle. The ball hits him right in the chest, just a dream play that would have vaulted them into a 10-7 lead and all the momentum in the world going into the locker room. It’s a great throw, but there appeared from the angle I saw to be very little reason for veering off towards the sideline. He could just have caught it and continued to run straight ahead right nto the endzone. I don’t get it. I know, easier said than done, but this guy is an excellent receiver who always makes that catch, and he’s also experienced enough to get both feet down, so I’m at a loss as to what happened. Every angle I’ve seen does not show a “fade”, it’s a straight go.

Did the whole “moment” get to them? With that mismanagement of the clock to end the half, the penalties and dropped balls, they literally morphed back into the 2004 Seahawks!

Meanwhile, the Steelers laugh and wave to the crowd as they jog off the field with a 7-3 lead, despite getting their ASSES KICKED in the first half, knowing they should probably be down 21-0! The NFL films have Bettis miked up, and as he and Cowher run off the field, Bettis says “Damn.” Cowher says “What?” and Bettis replies “Did you see the stats? Damn.” Cowher says “So what, we’re up aren’t we?” And then Bettis just kind of looks at him, and Cowher adds “God knows HOW we’re up, but we’re up.”

Meanwhile Holmgren complains to sweet little Suzy (who I still would love to kiss:) that the ref in the booth told the head ref that the Ben run was NOT a TD, and yet the ref decided that it was, so the ref made the call stand! Pure frustration, Holmgren can hardly speak. But I think Mike realizes something we now understand, but can’t actually say – his team is BLOWING THE SUPER BOWL.

The 2nd half it sooo painful that I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again, and I won’t go into that much detail. Other than to say what the Sporting News said about Pruitt vs. Manuel. Apparently the Hawks practiced last week against the EXACT same trick play, time and again, and each time, Manuel stayed at home in his deep zone. The entire defense – except Pruitt – knew it was going to come sooner or later. Pruitt? He never even practiced with the first-team defense. IN fact, his role during SB week was to wear a red Polamalu jersey on the scout team defense! That was it. I’m sure Pittsburgh’s eyes lit up when they saw Pruitt back there for the second half, and Whisenhunt is a good enough OC to find that weakness and exploit it. And, the replay on the Parker TD run was painful, Pruitt just took one of the worst angles imaginable. Boulware missed on the tackle, and Lofa was devoured by a guard running free as happens every so often when you MLB is 225, but Pruitt couldn’t make a play.

The other thing to know about Pruitt, and I don’t want to lay all the blame at his feet, but this guy is a street free-agent, a practice squad, special teams filler type guy that you would never, ever want on the field in critical defensive situations. IN fact, he got beat twice for TD’s vs. the Packers in the last regular season game, one time so badly that he was barely in the screen when the GB WR beat him on a post-corner route. And, to take it a step further?? There has been a ton of talk lately that the real reason the defense took off in the 2nd half of the season, including the playoffs? Manuel. Lofa gets the credit as making all the calls for the D and the leadership, etc, but Manuel had really done an amazing job of solidifying the secondary, and he is a tremendous communicator and watches film endlessly. He did a fantastic job taking over for Hamlin, and at this stage, I’d rather have Manuel than Hamlin as the starting safety!

Sigh. So there it is. I kept telling Rooster “You can’t keep giving a good team all these opportunities, because sooner or later, they’ll pay for these mistakes.” As these mistakes kept mounting, you just knew in your gut that they were in trouble. The thing with the refs? That hurt their margin for error even more than normal. But as that first half recap shows, these guys should have been up 17-7, most likely, and they could have run away with this thing.

Maybe there is a silver lining to all this. They did win the NFC, they have the richest owner in the sports world, they have a crazy, sold-out homefield advantage that is the best in the NFL, they have a strong core in it’s prime on offense and has the look of a serious monster defense in the very near future, a great coach, etc, etc, etc! They are 5-1 fav’s for the Super Bowl next year, clearly the NFC fav, and for good reason. This team won’t be a SB loser flop next year, barring anything absolutely insane in regards to injuries. Just think, if they can go 7-1 at home (most likely) and just 4-4 on the road? That’s 11 wins and a first-round bye, more than likely. Sneak out an 8-0 at home and one more road win? That’s 13-3 and the 1-seed, again. You know they are sick about this, but they have great chemistry and time is on their side. They will probably play with a major chip on their shoulder going forward, a swagger now that you get by playing in the Super Bowl. Can’t wait until free agency and the draft!

Yes, it WAS a TD per the rule

February 7, 2006

Here’s a video link to the D-Jack TD catch at the end of the half, a play that the refs chose not to review…..even though the second foot does scrape the pylon. One foot down, second foot scrapes the pylon, per the NFL rule, that is a TOUCHDOWN.

Here’s a pic of the catch from the endzone. This is the moment after foot #2 has hit the pylon and it’s starting to fall down:

How that play, as close as it was, wasn’t chose to be replayed in the booth? Unforgivable. Per the NFL rule changed two years ago, the pylon is in play, period.

Does this make me feel better? Absolutely not. It makes me feel even worse, that we were hosed even worse than we thought. Think about it, you had the D-Jack PI call that took 7 points off the board, we now have this play that clearly is a TD if you believe the rule as one foot plus a hit pylon for a TD, and we had the Locklear hold that EVERYONE says was NOT a hold, period, and the player jumped offsides anyway……that’s 21 POINTS we lost on Sunday.

It’s bad business for the NFL to have such screw-ups in blatant view of America, and everyone outside of Pittsburgh is mad about the calls, etc. But it’s even worse business, like it or not, for the Seahawks to be NFL Champions. In fact, it’s a nightmare.

Here’s a big reason as to why America doesn’t like the Seahawks. It’s kind of simple really, but you know why? Because America is an “action movie” country. We like huge blockbuster films, we like big explosions, we like giant vehicles, we like big, in-your-faceness if there is such a word. Seattle, and the Seahawks in particular? They are about as opposite of in-your-face power as you can find. They don’t have the Cowher power defensive hitters, they play efficient defense with some speed. They don’t have the HR hitters on the outside and a QB that throws it 80 yards on a line, they methodically break you down with quick passes for short gains all the way down the field. America loves the home run, the slam dunk, the 400-yard drive, and everything else that is BIG. And Seattle ain’t big, not big as a city in an isolated area of the world, and certainly not a “big” football team! So it would have been a nightmare for Tags and company if the Hawks won that game. They would have lost millions, pure and simple, on a team that couldn’t be any less appealing in America.

As I told Maty Allen yesterday (who was very humble and totally agrees that the refs had a big influence, and also agreed that the Seahawks are the better team, but the Steelers just made a few more plays),

“Get those brokers back in here. Turn those machines back on. Turn those machines back on!”

And where is Beeks? Where the hell is Beeks??!?”

Upon Further Review…

February 7, 2006

When you really think about it, yesterday’s game (in terms of officiating) was just a teaser compared to our game September 2nd at Auburn: “There is no touchdown, Your guy was holding one of our guys, 20 yards from the spot of the fowl (spelling intended), first down.” Giiit yoused to it!!!!!!!!

But, you’re right Hawk, it is worse today on some levels. But down here in Sacto, they were PELTING the officiating. Watching ESPNU tonight, Sean McDonnough made a crack about the officiating. Personally, it made me feel so much better. Nothing worse than knowing you were screwed, but wondering if, in reality, if you’re really just being a stinking cry baby….

In terms of next year, well, who knows? Clearly the schedule will present more of a challenge–or at least I think it will. But, the issue really comes down to free agency. And, in that regard, I’ll just trust management. We obviously have the owner that has the dough and the interest with a helluva lot of competence to go around. That, and we have Hasselback and all those young dudes. Plus, think about this: we’ve been 8-0 at home 2 out of the last 3 years. So, I say, you go 7-1 and then 5-3 on the road (meaning you beat SF and Ariz/StLouis and go .500 against everyone else) and you’re sitting pretty at 12-4. That’s a recipe for major success…

In other words, I think they’ll be back. I really do. Maybe not to the SB, but they’ll be at the Championship game…and, if its in Seattle, then they’ll be back in the show…

So, onto the Cougs. Nice job to sweep the puppies 3-0 this year. Brilliant!

Next fall should be a lot of fun both on the pro and college side! Hawks 12-4, Cougs 10-3, and Huskies 3-9. Brilliant!

Upon further review….

February 6, 2006

It’s even WORSE.

The national reaction so far as been the WORST SB ever in terms of officiating. Just atrocious. It’s actually nice to see some national types call out the refs. And, look, it’s not as though the refs were 100% of the reason they lost. The Seahawks did something, or better said, didn’t do something very important that they did all year long – they DIDN’T SCORE TD’S!

But what hurts so much? It’s not so much as the Hawks had penalties and drops, but it was in the context of the game and when/where the problems happened that just killed this team! Phantom penalties, phantom TD and Stevens drops, all at the worst possible times, = 10 points and a loss.

What’s more though? After further review today, a play that is not being made a big deal turns out that it SHOULD have been a big deal. Less than 2 minutes to go in the game, Hass hits D-Jack down the sideline. D-Jack gets one foot in, and the second foot hits the pylon. He didn’t get two feet down, so it’s incomplete…..right?? Well, WRONG.

Turns out, two years ago the NFL changed this rule specifically for plays like that. If a WR gets one foot down in-bounds, and the second foot hits the pylon, it’s a TOUCHDOWN! Now, it’s not so much that the Hawks didn’t challenge this play, it’s because they couldn’t because it was less than 2 minutes to go until the half. But the fact that the booth didn’t stop play and take another look at what was a close play anyway, but the fact that Jackson hit the pylon with foot #2, as of two years ago, that’s a TD!

Pulled from a comment in Mike Sando’s Blog:

There was a link to an article by John Clayton detailing the rule changes that were applied at the owners meetings. It SPECIFICALLY deals with the issue of a pass completion with one foot in bounds and one hitting the pilon. Here it is:

A player will be ruled in bounds if he touches the pylon at the goal line before going out of bounds. For example, a pass would be considered complete if one foot touches the pylon and the other foot is in bounds.

Just brutal. How about the 15-yard personal foul on a QB making a perfect tackle on Taylor on the interception! Or the D-jack p-i call, in which there was clearly contact on both sides and in no way did either player gain an advantage, it should have been no call and a 7-0 lead, and hell, I’ll say it, they might have RUN AWAY with this thing. All with Small Ben being a 22.1 QB rating, the worst in SB history.

Second, the injuries to 3 starters on D just killed them. Etric Pruitt, an average special teamer, was victimized twice on two TD’s after Manuel went down. He had a horrible angle on the Parker TD run, and on the WR pass, as soon as Randle – El got the ball, he sprinted towards the line of scrimmage and Ward ran free. Now all week long, we kept hearing that the Steelers would be doing some tricks with a couple of former NCAA QB’S, Ward and Randle-El, always on the field on passing downs. You KNOW that for 10 of the 11 players on the field, they knew a trick play had to be coming. Trufant tried to get over and was disciplined enough to know something was up, but Pruitt had no clue. He’s not a goat or anything, but if Manuel doesn’t get hurt? As steady as he had played this year? I am certain that at least 1 of those 2 plays don’t happen if he is on the field.

Also, Bernard has really been playing well down the stretch and came of age before our eyes. His loss after that 3rd quarter pick was big in how it affected the run defense. Rhodes has substituted liberally with Tubbs, Darby, Bernard and Terrill, but down one of their best, most explosive d-tackles hurt them at the end and their ability to stop the run.

Another non-judgment call? On the Big Ben 3rd-and-28 pass? There were TWO offensive linemen 10 yards down the field! They thought it was a QB sneak so they started to block! Hello, you CANNOT DO THAT. I heard about it on the radio today and then watched it on the tape, and sure enough, you can see two lineman running down the field when he throws the ball.

Another non-call? The WR pass. Did anyone happen to notice that Ben dove at Fisher’s knees after he handed off? Why is it a penalty on Hass when trying to tackle a DB vs. Ben taking out the knees of a d-linemen? You cannot engage a player at the knees 5 yards within the line of scrimmage. Make that a 15-yard penalty to “make up” for the kcuf-up call on Hass, and Pittsburgh is back on their own 30 in 2nd-and-forever, and you knew the Hawks would make the stop and get the ball back still down 14-10.

The other big penalty, and of course the biggest play in the game, was the Locklear phantom hold. I’ve watched that play 10 times, and not only was Haggans offside on the play, but the hold was absolutely, positively NOTHING. Yes, he grabbed him, but this just in – o-lineman grab d-lineman every single frickin’ play, period, end of story. As Hugh Millen railed about today, there was no advantage gained by Locklear, and 99 times out of 100, that is never called. And to think, even after ALL THE HORRIBLE CALLS and ALL THE DROPPED PASSES, if they get just that ONE FUCKING CALL (I swore, oops) IT’S FIRST-AND-GOAL ON THE 1 WITH THE BEST REDZONE OFFENSE IN THE NFL. The Seahawks would have had 4 cracks from the 1, and I’d bet any amount of money in the world that they would have scored a TD and led that game with 9 minutes left! With Ben playing so lousy, and suddenly behind, who the hell knows what would have happened. As the sideline reporter said, their sideline was just dead quiet and borderline-depressed as the Hawks were marching down the field, and god only knows if that play cost the Hawks the Super Bowl. I truly believe it did, because the Hawks would have held the next possession, got the ball back with 6 minutes left, rushed for a few first downs, making them burn TO’s, and then punted the ball back to them with 2 minutes left and a long way to go.

Finally, have you ever seen a team not get a SINGLE judgment call in the NFL? The Steelers had 3 penalties, two of which was false-starts, and one was an offensive P-I that was a clear pick play, and Michaels was yelling about it immediately. I’ve never seen these judgment calls all go against one team.

Who the hell knows. This team, with all the lousy breaks and penalties, still outgained them by 60 yards, they had fewer turnovers, they held Ben to 22.1, they got 95 yards out of Shaun, Porter and Polamalu were non-factors.

As Michael said last night, the world wanted Pittsburgh. The crowd wanted Pittsburgh, the league wanted Pittsburgh, 99% of America wanted the feel-good story. And they got what they wanted. It’s bad business for the NFL to have Seattle win the Super Bowl. Part of me lately has really hated the NBA based on the superstar calls, and that 1992 Western finals when the Suns sh0t 60 free throws in game 7. As much as I loved MJ, he benefitted from the star system like nobody else. The NBA turns me off because of the officiating. I never used to feel that way about the NFL, but after this whole playoffs? I’ve changed. This league is horribly called by guys who sell insurance and work in the hardware store during the week. The NFL needs to bite the bullet and hire full-time refs, period, let them hone their craft full-time, because it is garbage. There is too much on the line. Is there a conspiracy? I doubt it. But these clowns are also human beings, who read the press and hype all week and they know what’s going on. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see these guys subconsciously give the Steelers the edge, all caught up in the atmosphere, emotion, etc. And MAYBE Tags left a little subtle message “hey, if it’s borderline? Call it on Seattle. We gotta give the league what it wants!”

This is going to be a long offseason. I enjoyed the run, at least until the Super Bowl. Vegas today has the Hawks as the odds-on fav for the NFC, but that’s always common for the SB loser. We know in reality it’s going to be a long, hard, brutal climb back to the top.

Wednesday thoughts

February 1, 2006

Signing day is here, and we get to read the hype on kids who will redshirt and/or be special teamers for the next couple of years. That said, I shouldn’t belittle it too much, as guys like Bumpus two years ago turned out to be something special, as well as Greg Trent last year looks like a player. So maybe one or two of this class will turn out to be something we can get really excited about? The problem for me isn’t just the Seahawks stuff for me, but not having the premium pass hasn’t let me learn much about these guys. So many of the names will be new to me, just like you.

This does look like a strong class, maybe slightly stronger than normal, with some serious size at WR. I’m a little down on the idea that there aren’t many o-line guys, but oh well, there are several young ones in the program ready to play that were recruited over the last few years. You know Pflu has it all mapped out in regards to team needs, so I’m not real worried about the makeup of this class.

On to the BIGGGGGG GAME. I guess for the first time in history, Pittsburgh is playing Pittsburgh?? Is it true that Jerome Bettis has been named Jesus for the week?? What next??? I can’t take it anymore.

On a big-picture type thing, I am going on these thoughts:
1) The Hawks are DEVOURING the underdog role. They are slurping it up like hot fudge over vanilla, and asking for seconds. They absolutely, positively love it, and it’s starting to become the perfect setup.
2) Why could a 1-seed be a 4pt dog to a 6-seed? It’s simple. It’s all perception. Nobody knows anything about the Hawks, everyone knows EVERYTHING about the Steelers. The AFC had the hype this year, the NFC was downplayed. The Steelers beat the 1-2-3 seeds, on the road, and that is impressive as hell, something Carolina tried but failed miserably at the end.
3) The other reason why everyone loves the Steelers? Because the times people have watched the Hawks? They haven’t been great, at least until the last game of the playoffs. Think about it, people ONLY paid attention when the Hawks played the following games – @Wash, Dallas, NYGiants, @Philly, and of course, the playoffs. The cynic could poke holes in each of these games, saying the Hawks were lucky rather than good (Dallas, NYG), that they couldn’t win a close game (@Wash), that the MNF win was a fluke over a bad Philly team, and that they benefitted from the homefield in an ugly win over a horrible offensive team (Wash) and blew out a one-man show, Carolina, who was also beat up, tired, sick, and flying 6 hours to get to the game.
Of course, the optimist could point out that 1) the Hawks came back vs. Washington early in the year, and only lost because of a missed FG, 2) Bledsoe screwed up on that pick, but Hass did drive the Hawks 81 yards in 6 plays with his 3rd, 4th and 5th string WR’s on the previous possession, AND Brown still had to nail a 50-yarder on a damp day, 3) Feely missed 3 FG’s, but none of them were gimmies. And, that game never should have been into OT, as the NFL itself admitted that the 4th-down TD by Shockey was a ref screw-up and shouldn’t have been a TD, 4) The Phily win WAS impressive, 42-0 over the defending NFC champs at their house on MNF when the NFL was watching, and Philly went on to really challenge the Redskins and Giants down the stretch, 5) They only won 20-10 vs. Wash, but that was losing the MVP early in the game, they had 3 turnovers, two of which gave Wash a very short field, and Wash coming into the game was playing NASTY defense, carrying that team and really might have been the 2nd best NFC team at the time. Hass putting that game on his shoulders is going to look very impressive as time goes on.
4) Some other stats to consider:
The Hawks coaching staff has 18 SB rings combined. The Steelers have 8.
Holmgren has been to the SB 4 times in the past, going 3-1. His lone loss was when he was a double-digit fav. Holmgren said in an interview last week “Going into the Denver game, I spent every ounce of energy I had trying to convince my team that Denver was going to be a tough game, but they didn’t buy it. And the funny, and worst thing to happen? Scoring so quickly, so easily on that first drive. I got a lot of looks on the sideline from some players, a “what are you talking about?” look, and I knew that we might be in trouble. Sure enough, we were. This year? I have no doubt that we will NOT take this game lightly!”
Cowher has ZERO SB rings. He is 0-1 in his only appearance as a coach or player. Also, get this – Cowher is now just 2-6 all-time in “championship” games. He’s 2-5 in AFC title game, 4 of those losses coming AT HOME in the AFC title game. If Cowher is sooooooo great, shouldn’t he have had his team in the SB at least a few more times, and even won a ring??
No #1 seed has ever lost a SB to a seed lower than a #3 seed. Pittsburgh is a 6-seed.
In SB history, the team with the better record overall is now 24-8. 9 times the teams had the exact same record. That’s exactly 2 of every 3 times, the better team does win.
Everyone thinks the bus and Willie Parker are going to run wild on Seattle. Well, of course, nobody realizes that Seattle only gave up ONE 100-yard rushing day, to Tiki Barber. But did you know that Barber only went over 100 yards when that game went into OT and he broke off a 60-yard run!??! So in reality, in 18 games including playoffs, ZERO backs went over 100 yards in regulation.
Everyone talks about how hot the Steelers are, and it’s true, they are hot right now. But could the Hawks be HOTTER!?! Yes. Take the Green Bay game out of the equation, a game that the starters were out early and was a glamorized exhibition game. In reality, the Seahawks haven’t lost a competitive game that mean something since October 2nd! By the time kickoff comes Sunday? That’s FOUR MONTHS and change that the Hawks haven’t lost a game that mattered! Think about it.

I heard three radio interviews that caught my ear this week, and really cemented my pick this week. First, Rich Eisen got on KJR and said “I like the Steelers, because of all their Super Bowl experience vs. Seattle never being here. They have so much tradition, Seattle has none.” Oh REALLY Rich? So Pittsburgh winning 4 SB’s in the 70’s mean something? Well, did you know that Pittsburgh has ONE player – Willie stinkin’ Williams – who has actually been on a SB roster? He didn’t play in 1996, and he won’t play this week either. Meanwhile Seattle has 5 players that have played in the big game, including 4 that have started and 4 that have SB rings as players (Joe J, Darby, Wistrom and Sharper). Talk about uninformed. The 1970’s were a LONG TIME AGO.

Next, Willie McGinest was talking about how much this year reminds him of the year NE beat the Rams. He said all week long, EVERYONE was hot on the Rams, that they were loaded and were poised to make history, no way could NE beat them, etc. And he said all week, they just simmered, bit their lip, and played up the underdog role, and got PISSED off during the week. He said by Sunday, they were dying to hit those guys, and just beat them! He said sometimes when things are on the line, the team that has the chip on their shoulder, the team that has been dissed, disrespected and overlooked, is the most dangerous team. He said basically, the most dangerous pro team is the one that everyone picks against! Pro’s need motivation, just like in any walk of life, and any time you flat-out tell a pro player to his face he can’t do something?? Sometimes that is the thing that pushes them to heights they didn’t even know they could reach!

Finally, Trent Dilfer. He went on and on about how great Hass is, and how strong he has been in the last half of the year, and that he went back and watched game tapes of those old Niner teams led by Montana, and said there is no doubt, Hass is a Montana clone right now. Complete control, up-tempo, very accurate, doesn’t have the 100 mph fastball like Favre but has tremendous touch, and has a secret weapon that nobody talks about – his feet. Not in the Michael Vick sense that he is always a threat to tuck and run, but he can roll away from pressure with that 6th sense that only the great ones really have, and if he has to, he can tuck it and run for a big play. JUST like Montana. He also went to great lengths to explain how great the Holmgren offense actually is built to attack a 3-4 blitzing team. He talked about angles and things like that, but he said he’s really big on that this is the best matchup for the Hawks, and for Matt, because he has shown this year that he can kill the blitz. Sure, the Steelers will confuse things at times, and Matt might take a sack or throw a bad ball here or there, but in reality, Matt picks up the blitz and the hot route as well as anyone in football, and Pittsburgh blitzes a ton, which of course, will leave some open spaces. He also went on and on about how smart and how great the O-line is, and how it is THE story of the game. They will be able to handle anything the Steelers throw at them.

One last thing to think about. Big Ben. Yeah, he’s special, but he’s also 23. Remember Marino in 1984? He was pretty special too, 48 TD’s and a ton of weapons. But he was 23, in his 2nd year. And you know what? As great as Marino was in the playoffs, when he got to the big game? He played in long stretches like a 23-year old, and they got blown out, 38-16. So as poised and as talented as he appears, let’s just see what happens come Sunday. Because as Dilfer says, the pressure when the game begins is unlike anything you can even fathom unless you go through it yourself. He said he was poised all SB week, but in warmups, the hugeness of the moment hit him, and he was just out of his mind nervous/excited/etc. He said he can’t imagine what a 23-year, 2nd year QB must be thinking when that game gets going.

Not that my pick means ANYTHING, and I mean ANYTHING at all, but this is the prefect setup. I’m calling Seahawks 31, Pittsburgh 20. It will be surprising, but in the end, the 1-seed will do exactly what it should to a 6-seed. And I will be at that parade on Tuesday!