Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME REVIEW!

Last week, I said; "The 'Hawks are NOT a flighty bunch! Last week, without the skills of RB Shaun Alexander, Seattle handily whupped a decent Washington Redskin squad by 10 points. QB Matt Hasselbeck is such an under-rated talent... (he's) the ultimate "Steady-Eddie" Signal Caller. 'beck has great poise and pocket presence, he's agile enough to avoid the rush, and nimble enough to scramble for a first or to simply buy time. Capable of making every throw in the book... With WR Darrell Jackson healthy and complemented by a nifty and dangerous Bobby Engram and a savvy veteran in Joe Jurevicius, the passing game is capable of spreading the Panther Secondary T...H...I...N. Further, big TE Jerramy Stevens can catch the ball... and I have a sneaky suspicion that Holmgren is waiting for just the right time to dust him off and use him.
This past season... which team do you think racked the most Sacks? ...The Seahawks no-name group of 'Backers and linemen recorded a league-leading 50 Sacks. In addition, a D-Unit that's as tight as 1970's Afro recorded the 5th best Run D ceding a scant 94 YPG, and they allowed a measly 271 TOTAL points to be scored against 'em. ...
Look for rookie LB Lofa Tatupu, a guy who notched 85 Solo stops, 4 Sacks, 3 INTs, and 1 defensive TD to play a key role in Seattle's win! CBs Jordan Babineaux (62 Tackles, 3 INTs, 8 PD) and Marcus Trufant (55 Stops, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 14 PD), and Ss Michael Boulware (58 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 4 picks, 9 PD) and Marquand Manuel (59 Tackles) will have to bottle up the irrepressible Panther Wideout, Steve Smith. Smith WILL be the Seahawk defenses' greatest challenge. Lastly, you can't discount the strength and advantage Kicker Josh Brown brings to the table.... Look for RB Shaun Alexander to disregard his concussion and go full-bore from the get-go... the Carolina Panthers have exceeded all expectations and have made it to the NFC Title game. Road-Warriors are they those Carolina cats'; they seek to become the first team in NFL history to reel off 5 straight ROAD Playoff W's.... Are "Jake and his Del-Homeys" THAT good? Actually, they are... The Panthers have been over-looked and under-rated all season long. ...(However,) Delhomme seemingly has 1 pass catcher of consequence; WR Steve Smith. ...The problem that I see, though it hasn't been an issue yet, is that Carolina really lacks a complementary receiver... it'll be up to RB Nick Goings to keep the 'Hawk D honest. ...As I see it, his performance will be pivotal to the outcome of the game. The 'Hawks will pressure Delhomme and give up all the underneath stuff... but Smith will be double and even triple-covered, in an effort to prevent him from getting into open space."


There were several keys to this game. Yet foremost amongst them? the TREMENDOUS effort and stand made by the Seattle defense!.
If this group played on the East Coast... in California... in Texas... anywhere but the nearly forgotten Pacific Northwest, they'd be household names and stars of the utmost proportion. Do YOU know who Rocky Bernard is? How 'bout LB Lofa Tatupu? I told ya' that kid was gonna' come up B-I-G! What about S Marquand Manuel? No. Unless your a Football fanatic, a fantasy baller with IDP plays, or you follow the 'Hawks.... you have NO idea as to just who these guys are. And do you know what? To these guys, that's fine. They aren't interested in your "Band-Wagon fandom" and they aren't interested in your post-Playoff "I knew you had it in you!" statements. No, what the Seahawks are interested in now is WINNING their next game; Mo-Town, SuperBowl XL! Getting there might've seemed easy, but last week's playoff blowout belies the season they endured. Sunday, it was the "birds" who took it to the "cats!" Carolina could do no right because;
A. A defense led by young LB Lofa Tatupu tattooed the run game and closed the shutters on Jake Delhomme's passing lanes.
B. RB Shaun Alexander showed no ill effects from the prior week's concussion, and his effective running allowed the passing game to open UP on 'Lina's beleaguered Secondary.
This is shaping up to be one helluva' SuperBowl. Each team is peaking, each team's athletes are playing for each other, and neither team boasts a glaring weakness.
The 'Hawks had the advantage over the Panthers from the get-go. For one thing they were playing at Home, and they hadn't lost a single game at "Qwest Field" all season. In addition, the 'Hawks boast a multi-faceted Offense while the Panthers boast... WR Steve Smith. For all intents and purposes, the Panthers' chances of winning this game were reduced to zero midway through the 1st Quarter. Already without top RBs Steve Smith and DeShaun Foster (lost to a broken ankle the week prior), 'Hawk rook 'backer Lofa Tatupu hit RB Nick Goings SO hard, one of Goings' cousins suffered a concussion as well! Goings wasn't "going" anywhere after that clock-cleaning, and the Panthers were forced to trot out their #4 back, Jamal Robertson (4/19 and 5 rec. for 37 yards). After losing Goings... the 'Lina O became as predictable as a Hardy Boys novel. QB Jake Delhomme (196 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs)) was subjected to excruciating pressure by the 'Hawk pass rush, and subsequently took a pair of Sacks, was hurried with regularity, and was pressured into tossing a trio of picks. And yet... shutting-out WR Steve Smith was Carolina's most impressive trick. The equivalent of throwing a No-Hitter, Smith caught 5 balls for 33 yards. For him? That's ghastly production! If there are ANY positives the Panthers can take away from this game they're... they're... Nah', there's NOTHING positive to draw from this game! The Cats' were simply out-gunned and under-manned.
Seattle slinger Matt Hasselbeck was magnificent! 20 of 28 for 219 yards with 2 TDs on the day, 'Beck slid away from the pressure (27 rushing yards on 6 totes), found his receivers, refused to force his passes, and was in total command of his squad. The Seattle Signal Caller threw to 8 different pass catchers, including the aforementioned TE Jerramy Stevens. As I wrote in my preview piece, I had a feeling that coach Holmgren was waiting for the just the right time to bust Stevens out of bubblewrap... and bust him out he did, to the spooky tune of 6 receptions for 66 yards and a touch'. In conjunction, top pass catching op' D-Jax' hauled in 6 passes for 75 yards and a 6', #2 receiver Bobby Engram snared 3 for 34, and seldom-used but talented collegiate Quarterback turned Wideout Seneca Wallace made a key 28 yard grab.
However... and this is a HUGE however, without RB Shaun Alexander's spectacular day Hasselbeck wouldn't have been able to dissect the Carolina D-backfield. "Alexander the Great," the league MVP, set foot upon another record and conquered his team's playoff rushing record with 132 ground yards and 2 TDs on 34 carries. The fact of the matter is that with FB Mack Strong paving the way and blowing open holes that a Tractor-Trailer could speed through... the Pillsbury Doughboy could've rumbled for a C-Note. Shaun-A', fresh off of a concussion, showed no ill effects. It seemed as if the Panthers expected Alexander to be a step slow. Instead, it was the Carolina LBs who were slow; LBs Dan Morgan and Will Witherspoon were always half-a-yard behind the Seahawk runner.

Will the 'Hawk D be able to gouge Steeler 'backs Jerome "The Bus" Bettis and "Fast Willie " Parker? Will the Secondary be able to contain a surging Signal Caller Ben Roethlisberger and the Pitt' pass catchers? And will FB Mack "I'm" Strong be able to pound holes through a stout Steeler line for Shaun-A to dash through? And will QB Matt Hasselbeck be able to pick apart a vulnerable Steeler Secondary? ...I think so. The 'Hawks are SO versatile and SO experienced.

Hey, that's why they play the games! We'll find out who the winner of big game XL is on February 5th, at around 9:45 EST.

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