Thursday, December 5, 2013 @ 8:58am
By Danny O'Neil
"Person of Interest" is a weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks' upcoming opponent. This week, it's San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick.
• Position: Multi-dimensional quarterback, potential cornerstone
• Height: 6-4
• Weight: 230
• Age: 26
• Experience: Third season
He began the season hailed as a cornerstone, one of four young quarterbacks who could be counted on to lead his team into the next generation.
Kaepernick was a second-round pick in 2011 who stepped in for Alex Smith halfway through last season and never looked back. He started seven games, led the 49ers to a pair of playoff victories and was one completion away from San Francisco winning a Super Bowl.
Things look a lot different one season later. Kaepernick is an undeniably explosive runner with a strong arm, but there are some rough edges in his game. He's got a hiccup in his delivery that results in a longer-than-ideal release and he has had three different games with a passer rating below 50.
Of course, he's also been piloting an offense that is noticeably devoid of receiving threats. Receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis are the only two players who have caught touchdown passes for the 49ers this season, though Michael Crabtree is now back from a torn Achilles tendon.
Whether Kaepernick will be a franchise cornerstone remains a question, but there is no doubt he is the wild card, an X-factor who can change the game.
Like Seattle, San Francisco seeks to establish the run game. Like the Seahawks, the 49ers then seek to run play-action passes off that run game. And like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick is a dual threat to both run and pass.
"He's shown a tremendous range of ability," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He can run it like crazy. He's a big, strong, fast guy who can run and get out and strike you dead. He's got a big arm."
Kaepernick has faced the Seahawks twice, both at CenturyLink Field, and he's 32-for-64 passing for a total of 371 yards, one touchdown and he has been intercepted four times. If the 49ers win Sunday, they're going to need a big performance from Kaepernick.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @ 11:20pm
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more popular person in Seattle these days than Russell Wilson, the Pro Bowl quarterback, MVP candidate and all-around good guy who has led his team to an NFL-best 11-1 record.
That degree of celebrity status understandably comes with its share of perks. Just ask Bennett, who joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" on Wednesday and explained how he recently reaped some of the benefits.
The story goes like this: Bennett tried to make a reservation at a local restaurant but was told there were no tables available. This was on Tuesday, a day after Seattle's nationally-televised dismantling of New Orleans. Bennett had returned a fumble 22 yards for Seattle's first touchdown of that game, but it was Wilson who stole the show with one of his best performances of the season.
So after his failed attempt to make a reservation, Bennett had an idea.
"I called back and said, 'Hey, this is Russell Wilson. I'll be attending your restaurant today about 3:30. Do you have any tables?' " he said in the altered voice he used over the phone.
"And she was like, 'Yes! We can make a table for you! You were 22 for 30 the other night, 130 quarterback rating!' She knew every stat."
Bennett still got the star treatment after the restaurant employee realized he had posed as Wilson.
"And then I got to the restaurant – it was me and my wife and my kids – I said, 'Oh, thank you. I'm Russell Wilson.' And then she took me to the table. They had it roped off, they had sparkling water, everything.
"She was like, 'Good joke.' I said, 'Gotcha.'
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @ 9:20pm
By Danny O'Neil
RENTON – Receiver Percy Harvin took a step toward returning to the field for the Seahawks.
A few of them, in fact, as Harvin was running at practice Wednesday. He was not, however, practicing at practice as he was still being held out after sitting out last week with a sore hip.
Coach Pete Carroll was asked how close he is to getting Harvin back at practice.
"We're almost there," Carroll said Wednesday. "He'll run endline stuff today and see where he is tomorrow."
Wait and see. That's going to be the protocol for Harvin as he returns from hip surgery because while he hasn't aggravated or reinjured the hip injury, he is experiencing soreness every time he elevates his workload, whether it was returning to practice at the end of October or making his Seahawks debut against Minnesota on Nov. 17.
Is this going to be the way it is for the rest of this season?
"I don't know that," Carroll said. "Maybe it will, maybe it won't. We've just got to see how it goes."
One thing is clear, though. Seattle is not holding out Harvin with the intent of waiting until the playoffs. Once Harvin feels ready to play, he will.
"Just trying to get him right," Carroll said. "He wants to play right now, and we want him to play as soon as he's capable."
Browner on the brink of returning
Brandon Browner could be ready to play for the Seahawks soon, returning to practice for the first time Wednesday.
Whether he will come back depends on whether the league imposes a suspension on Seattle's cornerback. And while Carroll indicated he expects a decision in that regard soon, he also made it clear that he's waiting like everyone else and has no insight.
As for Browner's groin injury, he has come back muck quicker than anyone expected after suffering the injury on Nov. 10 at Atlanta.
"We thought he was out a solid six weeks when it happened," Carroll said, "and he has just responded tremendously."
When Browner is able to play – and where he will figure on the depth chart – depends on how he feels after increasing the physical workload.
"We'll do this one day at a time," Carroll said. "We'll see where it fits. I can't go any farther than one day at a time because I don't know any more than you guys know."
• WR Golden Tate (hip) and DE Bruce Irvin (thigh) did not practice Wednesday, but both should be ready to play Sunday in San Francisco, according to Carroll.
• 49ers LT Joe Staley (knee) and LG Mike Iupati (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Staley suffered a knee injury in Sunday's game while Iupati has been out since Nov. 17.
• TE Vance McDonald (ankle) and DL Justin Smith (shoulder) also did not practice.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @ 1:51pm
By Brady Henderson
The blitz-heavy gameplan New Orleans employed Monday night didn't come as a surprise to the Seahawks or their quarterback.
"We knew that they were going to bring some pressure," Russell Wilson said after Seattle's 34-7 dismantling of the Saints. "We like the sense of pressure because there is a lot of green grass behind it."
There certainly was on one play, a 52-yard completion to Doug Baldwin that is the subject of this week's edition of "Chalk Talk" with Brock Huard.
The situation: The Saints had just scored what would be their only points of the game when the Seahawks began the ensuing drive on their own 16-yard line with a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter. After a pair of Marshawn Lynch runs and a New Orleans timeout, Seattle faced a third-and-3 from its own 23.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
The statement: "He did a perfect job," coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson. "He saw it coming and he checked off to it. Then he changes the route and the protection and then makes the great throw and we get the great catch, too. All of that had to happen. It was exactly what we hoped would happen when they came after us, and he did it, and they slowed down and they didn't do it anymore.
"That's a real, real illustration of his maturity and where he's come, and he'll just continue to get better. But that was exactly what we would hope would happen. He saw it, executed it absolutely perfectly and we got a big play out of it."
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @ 9:31am
By Brady Henderson
Remember "Rams Rules", that cringe-worthy video the team made as a guideline for cheering protocol during games at the Edward Jones Dome?
One of the Seahawks' other NFC West rivals apparently has its own set of instructions for fans (minus the hilariously absurd visuals, unfortunately).
Our friends from Bay Area radio station 95.7 The GAME obtained a memo from the 49ers that includes three steps fans can take to improve the team's home-field advantage – along with few misspellings and plenty of exclamation points. This comes days before the 49ers will host the Seahawks at Candlestick Park in a game that could have significant playoff implications.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 3:53pm
By Danny O'Neil
Three things we learned and three things we're still trying to figure out after the Seahawks improved to 11-1 win a 34-7 win over New Orleans on Monday.
1. The Seahawks' linebackers aren't liabilities.
The criticism that Seattle's linebackers struggle in coverage has been a common refrain, but one that needs to be rethought after the way Bobby Wagner and especially K.J. Wright played Monday night.
The Saints presented two unique matchup challenges in running back Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham, but Seattle didn't have to deviate from its standard defense to account for the two. Wright found himself repeatedly matched up against Graham, who finished with three receptions for 42 yards. Wright also sniffed out multiple screen plays as Seattle kept the Saints from finding any sort of rhythm in the passing game even when they looked to go underneath.
2. The effectiveness of Seattle's running game isn't necessarily measured by yards.
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks with 47 yards rushing and Marshawn Lynch averaged 2.8 yards on his 16 carries, his lowest in any game since the season opener at Carolina. But to call Seattle's running game ineffective would be to overlook the emphasis and resources the Saints dedicated to stopping Lynch, which created opportunities down the field for Seattle.
It's the reason tight end Zach Miller wound up wide open behind New Orleans' defense on third-and-1 in the first quarter, and it's the reason that Wilson was able to average more than 10 yards per passing attempt.
3. Percy Harvin's production is strictly a bonus this season.
The Seahawks' success does not depend on his participation in the offense, which is important.
Harvin sat out Monday's game because of soreness in his hip, the second time he has been slowed down in his recovery from hip surgery. It's clear Harvin's return isn't going to be a straight-line progression from one week to the next.
That doesn't mean Harvin won't contribute, and it doesn't mean he won't play more consistently, but if his hip was still too sore to play 15 days after he played his first game, well, that should be a sign that you can't pencil him in for 40 plays a week in the playoffs.
And as much as he would help, Harvin doesn't need to play 40 plays a week for this team to succeed. The Seahawks are 11-1 with him having been on the field for 16 offensive snaps and three kickoff returns, and on Monday against New Orleans, Seattle scored on five of its first six possessions.
Seattle's productivity is not contingent on Harvin's participation at this point.
1. Why do opponents think it's a good idea to blitz Russell Wilson?
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints' blitz||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
The result? An adjustment by Wilson at the line of scrimmage and a 52-yard completion to Doug Baldwin.
The biggest progression in Wilson's game this year is his ability not just to recognize the blitz, but to make the opponent pay for it, and that was certainly the case against the Saints.
2. Why did the absences of Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner inspire so much fear heading into the game?
The long-term concern is clear. Seattle has now faced (repeated) discipline from the league with regard to banned substances, specifically on defense. But in terms of on-field implications, the only impact last week was that Thurmond would be out four weeks in the regular season.
After all, Browner remains injured and potentially unable to play. And after Monday's game, it's fair to say that Seattle is deep enough that not every absence is the cause for emergency considering how Seattle has played eight games without starting left tackle Russell Okung, seven games without starting right tackle Breno Giacomini and has had Harvin for only one game yet is 11-1.
3. What is the Seahawks' weak spot?
The defense held the Saints without a first down on five of their first six possessions and limited New Orleans to 188 yards of total offense, its lowest total in 10 years. The Seahawks' offense scored on five of its first six possessions and Wilson's two most effective performances – as judged by quarterback rating – have come in his last two games.
The single most jaw-dropping stat for this team, however, it much less obvious: Seattle has allowed a total of 15 yards on punt returns this season. That's the total over 12 games, which is nothing short of shocking.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 3:33pm
"There's a lot of us that can't make that game and we wanted to have our presence felt," says lifelong Hawks fan Cedric Morris.
Morris says he and friend Travis Platt launched an online fundraiser to come up with the $1,300 it would cost to hire a plane to tow their banner for about 30 minutes before the game against Seattle's archrival. The huge banner reads "Go Hawks-12."
Morris hopes the banner gets a big rise out of the San Francisco fans.
"Well, they're not going to like it, that's for sure," he laughs.
The banner is timed to fly over as the teams warm up for the game. Morris thinks it'll help pump up the Hawks, and he'd be glad if it bothered at least a few of the 49ers.
"We're going to get a little mental thing with the Niners. Try to beat them before the game even starts."
The banner likely won't get any live TV coverage since it'll fly before the broadcast begins, but Morris says the Associated Press and some Bay Area TV stations plan to cover it.
The campaign has proven so popular, it's raised 141 percent of its goal. So Morris plans to donate everything extra to The Wounded Warrior Project, which supports returning vets.
"We're the 12th Man. We're the greatest fans on earth," he says of the effort.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 12:41pm
Linebacker K.J. Wright was the first player Pete Carroll mentioned after Seattle's 34-7 rout of New Orleans Monday night, singled out for the role he played in one of team's most complete defensive performances in recent memory.
"A bunch of guys played well," Carroll said, "but he jumped out."
The praise kept coming when the Seahawks' coach joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" a day later and said that just like the rest of Seattle's defense, Wright didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
Linebacker K.J. Wright was a defensive standout in Seattle's 34-7 win over New Orleans. "A bunch of guys played well," coach Pete Carroll said, "but he jumped out." (AP)
Wright made six tackles, including one for loss, and helped contain Jimmy Graham, who was on pace for the most prolific season by a tight end in NFL history. While Graham scored New Orleans' only touchdown, he was targeted nine times and finished with three catches for 42 yards, marking one of his least productive games of the season.
Wright also swatted away what would have been a long touchdown reception, which Carroll said was an example of how his 6-foot-4 frame can be an asset in pass coverage.
"He's not as fast maybe as some of the guys that we have – although he can run really well – but he's so long that it just gives him an advantage," Carroll said. "It's kind of the same advantage that our corners have at times."
Bruce Irvin's move to strong-side linebacker pushed Wright to the weak side. It was a switch Wright embraced in part because he'd be playing off the line of scrimmage, taking on fewer blockers and thereby freed up to make more plays. Through 12 games he's third on the team in tackles with 77, which puts him on pace for the highest total of his three-year career.
Harvin update du jour
Carroll said wide receiver Percy Harvin was "feeling really good" Tuesday morning after missing Monday night's game because of discomfort in his surgically repaired hip.
Harvin missed Seattle's first 10 games before making his Seahawks debut in Week 11 against Minnesota, playing 16 offensive snaps and returning one kickoff in what was his first action in more than a year. Seattle had a bye the following week before hosting New Orleans, and Carroll reiterated that the reason Harvin didn't play was because of how his hip responded after his debut.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints' blitz||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
That's been Carroll's refrain to what have been weekly questions about Harvin's ever-precarious status.
"Percy, there's nobody that wants to get out there more, and he'll do everything he can possibly do. He's done that," Carroll said. "He's done a marvelous job of rehabbing to get to this point. It's been frustrating, but he's going to pop out now. He's going to pop out of this thing. He's going to be ready here pretty quick, and we'll welcome him back when he gets in."
Wilson in the MVP discussion
Russell Wilson played one of his best games of the season Monday night, a three-touchdown, 310-yard and zero-turnover performance that added up to a 139.6 rating and also strengthened his MVP candidacy.
He's now thrown for 22 touchdowns to six interceptions, has a 108.5 rating that ranks third in the NFL and is as big a reason as any that the 11-1 Seahawks own the league's best record. Carroll said that while Wilson deserves to be in the discussion for the league's most prestigious annual award, it's not something he's worried about.
"I think what usually happens is the teams that have the most success really kind of attract that kind of attention. There's no question he's playing that kind of football and if we can continue to go then he'll be in the discussion," Carroll said.
"Really, it's fun and that's cool and all of that, but that don't matter. It really doesn't, and I think Russell would tell you the same thing. If it comes, it comes. But right now he's just trying to have fun playing football and keep leading this team."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.