The Seahawks kept their season alive with a thrilling wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, which means a trip to Charlotte this week to face the Carolina Panthers. But before the practice week begins, it's time to answer some questions from Seahawks fans. As always, thanks for all who submitted questions, and apologies if I was unable to answers yours this week.
@legume_duprix asks, "Is Russell Wilson magic something Seattle can rely on?"
A: It's easy to describe the crazy plays Wilson makes, such as his fumbled snap turned escape turned 35-yard pass to Tyler Lockett against the Vikings that set up the game's only touchdown, and call it magic—I've been guilty of it plenty of times. But in reality this isn't magic, but rather Wilson's rare combination of athletic ability, football savvy, calm under pressure and everything else that goes into quarterback play that has allowed him to make so many how'd-he-do-that plays in his career.
So yes, the Seahawks can count on Wilson to make this kind of "magic" happen every now and then, because for four years he has shown it isn't a fluke that he is able to escape pressure, look down field and make a great throw on the run. But the good news for the Seahawks is that they are becoming less and less reliant on those plays. Over the second half of the season, Wilson was one of the best pocket passers in the NFL, allowing him to finish the season with an NFL-best 110.1 passer rating.
In other words, the Seahawks don't need Russell Wilson to make magic with his legs as often, but it's a nice bonus when he does. Hopefully whatever Wilson does going forward this postseason, it doesn't get him accuse of witchcraft. (And yes, that last sentence was just a thinly-veiled excuse to post this video).
@kirDS44 asks, "How similar are the Panthers and the Seahawks?"
A: The Seahawks have played a lot of close games with Carolina dating back to 2012, and one reason for this is that the two teams are indeed similar in a number of ways.
Both teams like to run the ball—the Panthers ranked No. 2 in the NFL with 142.6 rushing yards per game and the Seahawks were third at 141.8). Both teams play good defense—the Seahawks ranked first in points allowed (17.3 ppg) and second in yards allowed (291.8 ypg) and the Panthers were sixth in both categories (322.9 ypg and 19.3 ppg). And both were among the highest scoring teams in the league thanks to their running games and passing attacks led by two of the best in the game, Wilson and Cam Newton.
One big statistical advantage Carolina has this season is in turnover margin, where the Panthers rank first in the league at plus-20, while the Seahawks are tied for fifth at plus-7. If Seattle is going to get a win on the road, ball security will be very important.
@hollywoodheffne asks, "Are you sick of Ace Ventura jokes yet?"
A: Sick of them? No. But the more attention that is focused on Vikings kicker Blair Walsh for his miss—on which the laces were indeed facing in—the harder it is to laugh at the joke. Walsh made three field goals in difficult conditions, and while his miss came at a horrible time for the Vikings, it was just one of many mistakes made by players on both teams throughout a game in which the conditions made it very difficult to execute what are usually routine plays. And if you're not sure what Ace Ventura has to do with a missed kick, well, here you go:
@MoneyLynch24 asks, "Will Marshawn Lynch play, and if he does, will he be 100 percent?"
A: Going out on a limb here, but guessing @MoneyLynch24 is a Marshawn Lynch fan, and he is one of several people who asked about Lynch this week. The truth is, there's no way to know yet if Lynch will play, and there's a good chance the Seahawks still won't know for sure when they leave for Charlotte Friday. Lynch practiced all week, and for a while it looked like he might be able to go, but as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll explained Monday, the running back didn't quite feel like he was ready to go. Lynch is coming of a significant surgery for the first time in his career, and given the physical nature of his position, it is important he feels like he's 100 percent, or as close as he can be to that, in order to perform like the player fans have come to love over the years.
@jesserireland asks, "Who's the best ping pong player in the Hawks locker room?"
A: First a bit of background, Jesse is an old friend, and one who beat me in ping pong many, many times in his parents' garage when we were kids. I vaguely recall a rare win or two, but it's entirely possible he let me win. As for the Seahawks, who have become avid ping pong players this season, most players will claim they are the best at ping pong, just like every player seems to think he is the best basketball player on the team. But when they're being honest, most players give the nod to kicker Steven Hauschka or center Drew Nowak.
@budgieishere asks, "How good is this DL? Are they among the best we've ever had from a talent, depth, production standpoint?"
A: I won't pretend to be able to accurately compare defensive lines throughout Seahawks history, especially when it comes to something like depth, but if we just narrow it down to the Pete Carroll-era Seahawks, this line could certainly make its case as being one of the best. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are playing as well as ever, and are one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL, and Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin have helped anchor a defense that led the NFL in run defense, a first in Seahawks history. Jordan Hill, Frank Clark, Demarcus Dobbs and Cassius Marsh, among others have provided solid depth as well, as has linebacker Bruce Irvin as a pass-rusher in the nickel defense.
But while it's tough to argue with the production of this group, even players on this year's line might point to the 2013 group when it comes to depth. That year, with Chris Clemons and Red Bryant starting at end, Bennett and Avril weren't even starters, and Clinton McDonald added 5.5 sacks as an interior pass rusher. Of course that group also has a Super Bowl win on its résumé, which doesn't hurt its argument.
@TruthisTold2U asks, "How big of a difference is having Bobby Wagner and Jeremy Lane, guys who didn't face the Panthers last time?"
A: Well, it certainly can't hurt, right? Wagner, who earned Pro Bowl honors for the second straight season, is obviously a big part of Seattle's defense, and that's particularly true against a team that runs the ball as well as the Panthers. Seattle's Week 6 loss to Carolina was the only game he has missed this season. And Lane has played well enough since coming off the physically unable to perform list that he has started the past two games at right cornerback, and with he and DeShawn Shead splitting time there and at the nickel spot, the Seahawks feel better about their cornerback play than they did earlier this season.
@DarleneDobson asks, "Was there consideration to staying on an Eastern Time schedule all week?"
A: That really isn't something Carroll has considered doing for this game or any other early kickoff this season. It's a fair question, but the Seahawks prefer to stay in the schedule that has been working very well of late for them, helping produces six straight road wins, including three that kicked off at 10 a.m. PT. The Seahawks do practice earlier during training camp, but this time of year, they would rather stay in their usual routine. And it's not as if players are sleeping in and rolling into the VMAC midday, then getting up early on the weekend for these games. They have meetings, workouts, treatment, walk-thru practices and other activities that require them to get an early start on the day regardless of when practice begins.
@Apprentice207 asks, "Should Tyler Lockett be rookie of the year?"
A: Should he be rookie of the year? Lockett definitely deserves consideration after setting a franchise rookie record with 1,915 all-purpose yards. Lockett earned first-team All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honors as a returner, was a big part of Seattle's offense, and joined Hall of Famer Gale Sayers as the only rookies in NFL history to have a kick return touchdown, a punt return touchdown and at least five receiving touchdowns. But will Lockett be rookie of the year? I'd love to be wrong, but I don't think he will. Rams Running back Todd Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, which makes him a strong candidate, while Buccaneers QB and No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston put up big numbers of his own, eclipsing 4,000 passing yards with 22 passing touchdowns.
Lockett is a worthy candidate, but it's also quite possible, maybe even likely, that voters won't look as closely at return numbers as they will things like rushing yards and passing yards from players who entered the league as better-known names because they were first-round picks.
@flatland234 asks, "Against Carolina, will the Seahawks try more run plays or pass plays?"
A: The Seahawks always want to be able to run and pass the ball efficiently depending on what the situation calls for, and they have been able to run on some good defense this season. So unless the Seahawks find themselves behind by a big margin, it would be surprising if they suddenly became a pass-happy offense, but they're also not going to stubbornly run it just for the sake of running it if that isn't working against a defense that ranked fourth in the league in rushing yards allowed.
@Apprentice2017 asks, "Is it true Earl Thomas went into the Vikings locker room to congratulate them on their season?"
A: I was in Seattle's locker room, so I did not witness it first hand, but according to reporters covering the Vikings, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas did indeed make an appearance in Minnesota's locker room, a pretty cool show of sportsmanship that, while not unheard of, doesn't happen too often in the NFL.
@itscaaarson asks, "Is it possible that Sherman almost blocking the previous kick might have influenced Walsh's miss? Maybe not just luck?"
A: While Vikings kicker Blair Walsh didn't specifically point to that as a reason for his miss (at least not that I'm aware of), it is possible that Richard Sherman getting very close to an earlier kick could have influenced the final miss. Pete Carroll said in his Monday press conference that Walsh's final attempt was quicker than his earlier ones, and Sherman also wondered after the game if that might have been a factor. You can read more about this very topic in this article from Tony Drovetto.
@therealnjfan asks, "Why didn't the Seahawks try to kick FGs when needed? They were clearly in range at least once?"
A: The situations you're referring to when the Seahawks went for it on fourth down came when the Seahawks were driving toward the open end of TCF Bank Stadium, which would have meant kicking into the wind on that day. Between the wind and the cold, the Seahawks had decided on the range they felt comfortable attempting field goals from, and those drives didn't get that far. All three of the longer kicks made—43 and 47-yarders by Walsh and a 46-yarder by Hauschka—came at the other end of the field.
Team photographer Rod Mar traveled with the Seahawks on their first leg of the playoffs to Minnesota and took these photos for this week's photo essay, featuring the nail-biting win over the Vikings in the Wild Card matchup.