Wednesday in Hawkville: Another first within reach for Russell Wilson

Posted Jan 8, 2014

Of all the things Russell Wilson has done in his first two seasons as the Seahawks quarterback, he can add another on Saturday by winning his first home playoff game.

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 8, when the Seahawks continued to prepare for Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field:


Russell Wilson has accomplished so many “firsts” in two seasons as the Seahawks quarterback that it’s difficult to imagine that there are many opportunities remaining.

Difficult, but not impossible, because Wilson has a chance to win his first home playoff game on Saturday when the Seahawks host the Saints in a divisional game at CenturyLink Field. Wilson got his first playoff victory last season in a wild-card game against the Washington Redskins, the Seahawks’ first road playoff victory since 1983.

But the Seahawks have had only one home playoff game in the past five seasons, and it came against the Saints in a 2010 wild-card game in Seattle. The Seahawks upset the defending Super Bowl champions 41-36, but Wilson was still the quarterback at North Carolina State.

How does the team’s blinders-on, take-it-one-game-at-a-time QB not allow the largeness of this game – this championship opportunity – to overshadow the preparation that has served him and the rest of the team so well all season?

“I think the way we don’t let this game get too big for us is by the way we prepared all year,” Wilson said before Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve had that championship mentality all year, trying to have a 1-0 mentality going into every game and treating every game as a championship game. So our preparation is the exact same.”

Well, almost the same. As Wilson stepped to the podium in the auditorium at VMAC, he was surprised by the increased number of reporters and TV cameras there to greet him – including TV crews from New Orleans, Canada and FOX1; and reporters from the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the New York Times and the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

“So is this what the playoffs does, bring more of you guys here?” Wilson said through a smile. “A lot more people here today. I like it.”


The first official report of the week, as issued by the team:


The Seahawks, Panthers, 49ers and Saints didn’t just win the most games in the NFC this season; they’re the four NFC teams still standing as the playoffs move into this weekend’s divisional round. Why? It might have more than just a little to do with those four teams allowing the fewest points in the NFL:

Team (W-L) Points allowed
Seahawks (13-3) 231
Panthers (12-4) 241
49ers (12-4)  272
Saints (11-5) 304
Bengals (11-5)  305
Chiefs (11-5)  305

“I don’t think that’s any coincidence, because you have to play defense in this league,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. “There’s a lot of scoring that’s going to happen and a lot of great quarterbacks. But if you have a defense that can stand up when you need to get a stop and get the offense the ball back in a crucial situation, that’s how you win ball games.”

Did not practice
SS Kam Chancellor (hip)
LB K.J. Wright (foot)

Full participation
WR Percy Harvin (hip)
TE Luke Willson (ankle)

Coach Pete Carroll was hoping his team would get healthier during its playoff bye week, and it did. Chancellor sat out Wednesday to rest a sore hip, but he participated in Tuesday’s practice. Willson has practiced both days after being sidelined by the ankle he sprained in the regular-season finale against the Rams on Dec. 29. And Harvin has had his most extensive practice stretch since having hip surgery on Aug. 1. He participated in both bye-week practices and has been on the field for the first two practices this week.

For the Saints:

Did not practice
RB Pierre Thomas (chest)

Limited participation
OG Jahri Evans (ankle)
DE Akiem Hicks (ankle)

Full participation
OT Terron Armstead (knee)
CB Keenan Lewis (head/neck)

Thomas, the Saints’ leading rusher and Lewis, their second-leading tackler, did not play in the Saints’ wild-card victory over the Eagles on Saturday, while Lewis was injured in the game and did not return.


The Saints’ Jimmy Graham caught more passes (86) than any tight end in the league this season, and more touchdown passes (16) than any player in the league. But in the Week 13 matchup against the Seahawks, he had three catches for 42 yards and the Saints’ only TD because strong-side linebacker K.J. Wright used his length and coverage ability to stymie Graham.


“Fast as [BEEP].”

Leading receiver Golden Tate when asked for a scouting report on Percy Harvin

But Wright won’t play this week because of the foot injury that required surgery and has forced him to miss the past three games.

“We’re probably at our best when we have a variety of people that will matchup and play on him, sometimes man-to-man and sometimes zone,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said when asked how the Seahawks plan to deal with Graham on Saturday. “So for us, it’s not just going to be just one player that would take that job on. It will be a variety of guys.”

Malcolm Smith has stepped in for Wright and played well, against the run as well as the pass. And he’s ready for when those defensive calls call for him to take Graham, who at 6 feet 7 has seven inches on Smith.

“We’re going to pay a lot of attention to him because we know he’s effective in their offense,” Smith said. “We’ll do a good job of having guys on him whoever it may be, whatever the situation is.”

The Seahawks already have faced some of the most productive and talented tight ends in the league – the 49ers’ Vernon Davis, Falcons’ Tony Gonzalez, Panthers’ Greg Olsen and Rams’ Jared Cook. Each had 50-plus receptions this season. But Graham presents a different challenge because of his size and basketball background.

“He’s a bigger body and he’s kind of got that basketball history, so those jump balls are something he really excels at,” Smith said. “He’s got good body control in the air. He’s got good speed. So he’s a great athlete, he’s big. We’ve just got to deal with him.”


The players will hold their final full practice Thursday, which this week is “No Repeat Friday” because the game is being played on Saturday.

But there are “Blue Friday” activities on tap for the real Friday: Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy will raise a “12” flag atop the Space Needle; a “12” banner will be pulled behind a plane along the I-405 corridor between Renton and Kirkland; and a Fan Rally will be held at Renton City Hall starting at 11:30 a.m.