NFC West: Doug Baldwin

Seahawks vs. Panthers preview

October, 23, 2014
10/23/14
8:00
AM ET

The Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers are reeling as they enter Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game at Bank of America Stadium.

The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks have lost two straight games to fall to 3-3, two games behind Arizona in the NFC West. The defending NFC South champion Panthers have gone 1-2-1 over their past four games and fallen to 3-3-1. They still lead the division because the other three teams have defenses that are just as porous as Carolina's.

Seattle and Carolina are meeting for the third straight year in Charlotte, with the Seahawks winning the previous two by scores of 16-12 and 12-7.

ESPN Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and ESPN Panthers reporter David Newton are here to break this one down for you:

Newton: Terry, the folks in Seattle have to be a bit shocked the Seahawks are .500 and two games out in the division. Is there a sense of concern at this point?

Blount: Nobody is jumping off the Space Needle, but you'd better believe the fans are concerned and a bit bewildered. There is time for the Seahawks to recover, but can they? The team hasn't played well at the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball. They can't get much of a pass rush, and the offensive line has been whistled for 14 penalties in the past three games. Injuries to key starters have hurt them: tight end Zach Miller, center Max Unger, cornerback Byron Maxwell and especially middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was playing the best football of his career until suffering a nasty turf toe injury two weeks ago.

You're probably getting this question a lot, but what in heaven's name is going on with the Carolina defense? The Panthers have gone from No. 2 in the NFL last season in points allowed (15.1) to a team that has given up at least 37 points in four games this season. What has been the biggest factor in the dramatic change?

Newton: Not sure the editors will give me the space to fully explain this one. You can start with the loss of defensive end Greg Hardy, who is on the commissioner's exempt list until his domestic violence case is resolved. It's hard to replace everything he did. But it goes much deeper than that. You can also look to the secondary. There are three new starters: strong safety Roman Harper, free safety Thomas DeCoud and cornerback Antoine Cason. They're making every quarterback look like Peyton Manning the way receivers are running free. The lack of a pass rush has hurt. Teams are hitting Carolina with a lot of quick passes to negate the four-man rush, just as I suspect is happening in Seattle. But, as linebacker Thomas Davis said earlier in the week, the Carolina defense as a whole simply isn't playing smart and swarming to the ball as it did last season.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is playing at high level. Where has he shown the most improvement and how will his threat as a runner affect an undisciplined Carolina defense?

Blount: Dave, it's scary to think where the team would be without Wilson. He single-handedly won the Redskins game on Oct. 6, becoming the first quarterback in "Monday Night Football" history to pass for more than 200 yards and run for more than 100. His brilliant 80-yard drive in overtime defeated Denver last month, a game the defense tried to give away at the end of regulation. He's doing almost everything at a higher level now in his third NFL season, but most importantly, he understands where he needs to go with the football more quickly and when to tuck and run. That has been essential considering Wilson had been under duress more than any other QB. Believe it or not, he rarely looks to run. He has to run to avoid pressure. The key for any defense is trying to cut off the perimeter and keep him in the pocket -- easier said than done.

Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin looks as if he's everything the Panthers hoped he would be as a first-round pick. But do they miss Steve Smith, and do you think Benjamin can be as good as, or better than, Buffalo rookie receiver Sammy Watkins?

Newton: Benjamin hasn't disappointed. He's 13th in the NFL in receiving yards with 477, and his five touchdowns are one more than Smith has in Baltimore. I'm not sure Benjamin would have developed as quickly if Smith were in Carolina. As I've said before, overall the team is better at wide receiver than it was a year ago.

As for where Benjamin stacks up against Watkins, I'd say they're pretty much the same player except Watkins has more explosive speed. But Benjamin runs routes much better than anyone gave him credit for coming out of college. He's a player even Seattle's talented secondary will have to pay extra attention to. And you do that at the expense of leaving open Greg Olsen, who leads all tight ends with 493 receiving yards.

I found the comments by Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin on the Percy Harvin trade interesting. Has that been a distraction, and how will that affect the Seattle offense?

Blount: Baldwin admitted after the St. Louis loss this past weekend that the shock of the Harvin trade, which happened less than 48 hours earlier, had an impact on the way the Seahawks started the game in getting behind 21-3. However, I firmly believe the impact going forward will be a positive one. Harvin's anger issues -- fights with teammates and taking himself out of two games -- were more than anyone could tolerate any longer.

It also was a problem on the field because Seattle revamped its entire offense to revolve around Harvin. The Seahawks got away from what they do best: run the football to set up open receivers downfield. They looked like last year's offense in the second half against the Rams, scoring on three consecutive drives of 80 yards or longer. Wilson set another NFL record, becoming the first player in league history to pass for more than 300 yards and rush for more than 100 in a game. Baldwin had his best game of the season with seven catches for 123 yards and a score. Trading Harvin was addition by subtraction in so many ways.

I'm shocked to see that Cam Newton is Carolina's leading rusher with 190 yards. What has happened to the Panthers' running game?

Newton: You wouldn't be shocked if you looked at all the injuries, a new line and opponents putting eight in the box to stop the run. Panthers all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams has missed the past three games with an ankle injury and has played less than six quarters this season. Jonathan Stewart has missed three starts. Mike Tolbert is on injured reserve. If you've heard the names Darrin Reaves, Fozzy Whittaker and Chris Ogbonnaya, you're either related to them or desperate in a fantasy league.

Then there's the line, which took another blow last week when starting right guard Trai Turner suffered a knee and ankle sprain that will keep him out this week. At one point Sunday, undrafted rookie David Foucault, who should be on the practice squad developing, was playing left tackle. I could go on, but I won't.

ShermanMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRichard Sherman says the Seahawks won't let their Super Bowl win affect their work ethic.
RENTON, Wash. -- Earl Thomas loves it now when people call him champ. He also must feel pretty good about a new contract worth $40 million.

Defensive end Michael Bennett has a new deal worth five times what his old contract was worth, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin has 13 million reasons (in dollars) to be content.

Quarterback Russell Wilson soon could become the highest paid player in NFL history.

Even for the lesser known players on the Seattle Seahawks roster, life has changed. The best table at the finest restaurants in town is a guarantee. Hotels offer upgrades to the best suite in the house.

There are new commercial endorsements and requests for public appearances. People who didn’t know their names a year ago now know their life stories and see them as heroes and community leaders.

Then there is the team's supercelebrity, cornerback Richard Sherman. Since winning the Super Bowl, Sherman was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Time magazine, joined Wilson at the White House Correspondent Dinner, was asked to speak at Harvard, will be in a Campbell Soup commercial with his mom and will grace the cover of this season’s "Madden 15" NFL video game.

Oh, and he also has a new contract worth $56 million, after making $600,000 last season.

"It’s been unbelievable and a year to remember," Sherman said this week. "Winning the Super Bowl and all the accolades that came with it are wonderful. You get some perks. You go places where you don’t even expect people to know who you are, but they do.

"It feels good and shows you accomplished something and made an impact. You can never quantify what that means. You take it for what it is and enjoy the moment."

[+] EnlargeDoug Baldwin
AP Photo/Paul JasienskiWide receiver Doug Baldwin is among the Seahawks who received new contracts this offseason.
It has been quite a ride, and it can change a man once he reaches the pinnacle of his profession, receiving attention and riches beyond what he could imagine.

Such an enormous change on the ladder of success leaves one key question: Once you become a star, can you remain true to who you are?

The answer to that will go a long way toward determining whether the Seahawks continue to play the game at a championship level.

Will all the acclaim from winning the Super Bowl make it difficult to stay humble and hungry?

"No, because that never was the end goal," Sherman said. "We have a bunch of guys who want to be in the [Pro Football] Hall of Fame and do more things than just win one Super Bowl.

"I think it’s more about love for the game that allows us not to get complacent. We have Pro Bowl players out here acting like they’re fighting or a job. That’s who we’re always going to be."

The coaches say they haven’t seen a single indication that these players have changed their attitude from a year ago.

"When you see how hard our guys are working, you wouldn't know they just won the Super Bowl," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "The same work ethic is there."

Coach Pete Carroll said Sherman is a prime example because he hasn’t missed a single day of offseason workouts or voluntary practice sessions.

"I’m a ballplayer," Sherman said. "What else am I gonna do? When you’re a ballplayer in your heart, this is what you sleep, breathe and eat. I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else."

It’s about remembering where you came from. Sherman and Baldwin were among the overlooked and under-appreciated guys ... until now, of course. Angry Doug, as he is known to his teammates, said he has the same passion to prove himself. Sherman said he is still the kid who made good coming out of a rough Los Angeles neighborhood in Compton.

"I’m still the raggedy dog," Sherman said. "That never goes away. You can’t change how you were raised. You can teach and old dog new tricks, but you can’t change where he’s from."

Baldwin said it’s all about looking beyond where they are now.

"I think the guys we have on this team, all of them, want to leave a legacy that’s bigger than just winning a Super Bowl," Baldwin said when he signed his new contract. "Obviously everyone around us, the fans, the community, the city of Seattle, has shown that they’re extremely excited about us. But we’re just so anxious to get back to work."

In Monday’s practice, Thomas pulled aside a rookie and chastised him because Thomas felt he wasn’t playing at the proper tempo on every play. Then he patted him on the helmet and said, "Show me what you’ve got."

Thomas said one thing is never mentioned: winning the Super Bowl.

"It doesn’t matter now," he said. "It’s all about what’s next."

Carroll has been down this road before, although somewhat of a lesser scale, when his USC team won a national championship. He believes it’s his job to make sure the team’s attitude is in the right place.

"I take total responsibility for it," Carroll said. "We hope that the lessons we’ve been teaching all along will fit the situation that we’re faced with right now. We’re trying to monitor it really carefully. It’s an incredible challenge, but I love the challenge we have."

Carroll has a list of things he needs to see.

"For us as coaches, it’s about taking in all the information," he said. "How are the guys handling it? What’s their language like? Where’s their focus and are they tuned in? Making sure they’re not somewhere else and thinking about something else.

"If we start doing that, we won’t have a chance to be the type of team we’re capable of being. It takes discipline. I’m watching and listening for that discipline.”

Over the course of two seasons, the Seahawks went from commoners to royalty. Rich and famous has its advantages. It also has its disadvantages if one isn’t careful.

"Like they say, you never stay the same," Sherman said. "Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse."

Baldwin said there is a reason beyond athletic skill why the Seahawks became champions. It’s the same reason why they will not allow their success to go to their heads.

"We want to show that we belong, that it wasn’t a fluke," he said. "We want to show we can go out and do it again. And we will do it again."
Doug Baldwin doesn't really mind his nickname of Angry Doug, but he doesn't consider it accurate.

"I'm not angry," Baldwin said Thursday. "I'm passionate about what I do."

That passion paid off Thursday for the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver when he signed a contract extension that will pay him $13 million over the next three years, including $9 million that's guaranteed.

[+] EnlargeDoug Baldwin
MCT via Getty ImagesDoug Baldwin was willing to take a little less money to stay in Seattle for three more years.
It's a nice sum, but a little less than what was first reported. And maybe not what he could have gotten as a free agent next year had he opted to play out 2014 on his one-year tender offer of $2.2 million and test the NFL market in 2015.

That's not what he wanted, not now anyway. He wanted to stay with what he calls his family, and that starts with cornerback Richard Sherman, his long-time friend from their days together at Stanford. Sherman was sitting on the front row at Baldwin's news conference Thursday.

"I called [Sherman] to discuss the terms of the deal before agreeing so I could ask his opinion," Baldwin said. "The first thing he said was we'll be able to be together a couple of more years.

"That was the overwhelming factor. I love this organization and my teammates. It's about being able to play side by side with my family. That's huge for me."

That feeling extends to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the men who gave him a chance to prove himself as an undrafted free agent in 2011.

"Those guys have been instrumental in my progress on and off the field," Baldwin said. "They're not only my bosses, but my friends. And I like to call them teammates.

"That John and Pete were willing to reward my hard work is a testament to the philosophy they have. Every word that has come out of their mouths has been honest and trustworthy, and that goes a long way for me."

Schneider pointed out a couple of key stats that show why Baldwin has been successful -- 92 percent of his fourth-quarter catches last year were for first downs, and his average of 10.7 yards per targeted throw was second-best among NFL receivers.

Nice numbers, but that really misses the point of why the Seahawks wanted to keep him.

"We are rewarding Doug for who he is more than what he does," Carroll said. "He's a great team guy. The leadership he brings is exactly the kind of makeup and mentality we seek.

"He's just the epitome of a great competitor. He always battles to the point that they call him Angry Doug. There's just a way about him that stands out."

Schneider said it's Baldwin's ability to get the job done in the clutch that stands out for him, along with his relentless attitude.

"Doug is a guy who represents what our organization is all about and the culture we have here," Schneider said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's reliable, smart and incredibly passionate. He acts like a pro and a champion every day. So we wanted to let everyone know how special this guy is and that he's a core part of what we do here."

Baldwin has played in the slot most of his three years at Seattle, but Carroll said he will move to split end in 2014, taking over the spot vacating by Golden Tate's departure to Detroit.

That likely means Percy Harvin will start in the slot, which won't surprise anyone. Baldwin also threw his name in the hat for the punt returner job in 2014.

"Doug always has shown the ability to do whatever we needed him to do," Carroll said. "He has extraordinary quickness and the ability to separate from anyone.''

But it's Baldwin's determination to prove his doubters wrong and overcome his obstacles that got him where he is now. Just like his buddy Sherman, Baldwin has accomplished more than most experts thought he could.

"Nothing changes for me just because I signed my name on a piece of paper," Baldwin said. "Obviously, I have a little more security, but that's not why I play football. I play football because I love the game and I put everything into it.

"This is about leaving a legacy and sharing it with other players. It's not about individuals here. We're always trying to get better and make each other better."

Which is why Baldwin was willing to take a little less to stay in Seattle for three more years.

"It was the best for both sides," Baldwin said. "When this comes up again, I'll still be young (28). And it leaves us flexibility as a team to be able to do certain things with other guys."

The main guy in that equation is quarterback Russell Wilson, who can renegotiate his contract after the 2014 season.

For Baldwin, Thursday was about sticking with his family and sending a message.

"The message is that hard work does pay off," he said. "I have a 12-year-old brother [Devon]. Since my junior year of college, I decided to live a life in a way he could look up to. So the message also is to him that you can accomplish whatever you want in life, even if you have failures, if you continue strong to get to where you want to go."
Angry Doug is Happy Doug now, and Seattle Seahawks fans should be happy as well.

The man who has consistently gotten the job done in the clutch, the man who played his best when the Seahawks needed him the most, is sticking around for three more years.

The final piece of the offseason puzzle for the Seahawks was secured Thursday morning when receiver Doug Baldwin agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in Seattle through the 2016 season. Baldwin's new deal will pay him a minimum of $16 million over three years and possible $19.5 million overall if achievable bonuses are reached.

And with his signing, the Seahawks' brain trust has done what it wanted to do to secure the future after winning the Super Bowl: keep the nucleus of a championship organization while maintaining enough room in the salary cap for what's ahead.

They had to let some players go in the process, but the Seahawks also structured extensions for free safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, and now Baldwin. They now will look toward the end of the 2014 season when quarterback Russell Wilson is eligible to renegotiate his contract, which likely will make him the highest-paid player on the team.

As was the case with Thomas and Sherman, Baldwin's deal sends a message to all the players that general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll mean what they say. If you give everything you have and get the job down, you will be rewarded.

No one on the offensive side of the ball deserves it more than Baldwin. He caught 50 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season last year, but that hardly describes his contribution.

Success in the NFL is about making the big play at key moments, something that has become Baldwin's forte. He kept several drives alive last season with his toe-tapping sideline catches on third downs. He became Wilson's go-to guy when the game was on the line.

Baldwin, who went undrafted out of Stanford, always has taken pride in proving his critics wrong. He often says he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder, "I have a boulder on my shoulder." His I'll-show-you attitude earned him the nickname Angry Doug.

Last season with receiver Percy Harvin injured most of the year, many experts said the Seahawks couldn't win a championship without him because the receiving corps was average and pedestrian.

Those comments prompted this response from Baldwin. "Yeah, pedestrian. We're going to walk ... all the way to the Super Bowl."

And he proved it. When Harvin was out of the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, Baldwin caught six passes for 106 yards. He also had a 69-yard kickoff return.

Baldwin had 13 receptions in the three playoff games, including five catches for 66 yards and a 10-yard touchdown reception in the 43-8 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos.

When the Seahawks offered Baldwin only a one-year tender at the end of the season, Baldwin didn't complain. He understood it was a process and the Seahawks had a lot of financial moves to make before they could address his situation.

Just last week, he said he would not hold out and he still hoped to reach an agreement. On the first day of organized team activities, Baldwin was the clear standout, making three long touchdown catches in the first practice session. It probably had little to do with the contract negotiations, but it certainly didn't hurt getting the deal finalized.

Baldwin was the last stone to set in place from the building blocks of the Super Bowl team. The Seahawks had to let go some free agents they would have liked to keep, a gold rush that happens with all Super Bowl winners. But team officials have rewarded the players who paid their dues and proved their worth when others doubted them.

Now it's Angry Doug, who just got paid. Being angry might be tough, at least for a few days.
RENTON, Wash. -- If Day 1 of Seattle's organized team activities is any indication, the Seahawks may want to hurry up and finalize a contract extension for receiver Doug Baldwin.

Baldwin
Baldwin was the clear standout Tuesday in the first OTA practice sessions, catching three deep throws, including a one-handed grab to beat Richard Sherman for a touchdown.

“Doug has been a tremendous player,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after the practice session. “When you go back and look at the last few years, and you look at the significant plays that have happened, he’s been a part in a lot of big stuff.

“He continues to always be at the front in making things happen, and he did it again [Tuesday]. He had a great day. He’s just such a great worker and such a disciplined competitor. He brings it every chance he gets and it shows.”

Baldwin, starting his fourth season out of Stanford, was a restricted free agent at the end of last season. The Seahawks have offered him a second-round tender, which will pay him $2.187 million in 2014.

Baldwin hasn’t signed the tender offer, but he is negotiating with the team for a contract extension. Baldwin said he submitted a counter offer to the original extension offer from the Seahawks.

Baldwin likely is looking for a multi-year deal that will pay him in the neighborhood of $5 million a season. If he doesn’t reach a contract extension agreement with the team, he will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2014 season.

Baldwin earlier said he would not hold out, not matter what happens with his contract talks. He was on his game Tuesday, beating cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Phillip Adams deep, along with Sherman. Baldwin also blew by cornerback A.J. Jefferson on a slant route.
Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider had some interesting things to say in an informal conversation with team beat writers Wednesday. Here are a few points:

Michael Bowie is the next man up. The 2013 seventh-round draft choice, who started eight regular-season games because of injuries to starters on the line, will get a chance to earn the starting spot at right tackle to replace Breno Giacomini, who signed with the New York Jets as a free agent.

Pryor
• Schneider said Terrelle Pryor is coming to Seattle to compete at quarterback.

"Right now, no other options have been discussed," Schneider said.

The key words there are "right now." The Seahawks sent Oakland a seventh-round pick to acquire Pryor, who is 6-5, 245 pounds and can run a 4.4-second 40.

"We felt he was a better athlete than what we could have gotten with a seventh-round pick," Schneider said, "so we felt it was worth it to bring him in."

• Schneider wouldn't say whether strong safety Kam Chancellor or left tackle Russell Okung had surgery since the Super Bowl. Schneider will leave those questions for coach Pete Carroll to answer.

"I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on those things," Schneider said. "It will be addressed by Pete once the players starting practicing."

Baldwin
Chancellor reportedly had minor hip surgery and Okung may have had surgery on the ligament tear in his big toe that caused him to miss eight games last season.

• Schneider didn't know when or if receiver Doug Baldwin plans to sign his tender offer of $2.187 million as a restricted free agent. Baldwin has until Friday to receive offers from other teams, which is unlikely now.

But Schneider did say Baldwin is part of the Seahawks' long-term plans. Signing the tender does not stop Seattle from trying to work out a contract extension with Baldwin. But Baldwin also has the option of signing the one-year deal and testing the free-agent market after the 2014 season.

• Schneider said he expects Sidney Rice to be 100 percent healthy by the start of the 2014 regular season. Rice, who was released before re-signing with the Seahawks in a one-year deal worth $1.4 million, had ACL surgery last October. Rice says he'll be ready by training camp in late July.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said repeatedly that they want to keep this Super Bowl-winning team together as much as possible.

They took a few steps toward proving it on Friday with their three restricted free agents.

Seattle re-signed back-up safety Jeron Johnson and back-up offensive linemen Lemuel Jeanpierre to one-year deals. The team also tagged receiver Doug Baldwin with a second-round tender, proving they plan to do all they can to keep him.

The Seahawks will get a second-round pick if Baldwin leaves (assuming Seattle doesn't match the offer) or pay him $2.2 million if he doesn't get a higher offer. It's still a bargain considering how much Baldwin contributed in 2013.

He caught 50 passes in the regular season, including five touchdown catches, and had 13 receptions in the three playoff games. But Baldwin also was Russell Wilson's go-to guy in key third-down situations, consistently making the tough catch to keep drives alive.

Some people might incorrectly read into Baldwin's tender tag that the Seahawks don't intend to re-sign free-agent receiver Golden Tate. Seattle released receiver Sidney Rice, freeing up over $7 million in cap space, with the thought of using some of that money to keep Tate.

Seattle also released defensive end Red Bryant to free up cap money to try to re-sign defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who will be one of the most sought-after free agents this year. It won't be easy. Bennett could command as much as $8 million a year over four or five years.

More moves could be on the way with the possible release of defensive end Chris Clemons and tight end Zach Miller, who could be asked to restructure his contract.

But the point is the Seahawks aren't just sitting back and hoping for the best. Tough decisions remain, but as always, Schneider and Carroll are being proactive with moves to try to keep as much of the Super-Bowl squad together as they can.

Rice's release could help keep Tate

February, 21, 2014
2/21/14
1:30
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The inevitable release of wide receiver Sidney Rice, which ESPN Insider Adam Schefter is reporting will happen soon, is the move the Seattle Seahawks had to make to have any chance of keeping free agent receiver Golden Tate.

Tate
Tate
Rice
Rice’s release will save $7.3 million in salary-cap money for Seattle. It’s money the team will need to try to re-sign Tate, who made $880,000 in 2013 and likely will get offers in excess of $5 million per year in free agency.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Thursday that re-signing Tate was a big priority: “Golden knows where we stand, how much we love him and how much we want him on this team.”

Releasing Rice also will help the Seahawks re-sign receiver Doug Baldwin, a restricted free agent who made only $560,000 in 2013.

If Tate signs with another team, the Seahawks could use some of the money saved on Rice to try to keep defensive linemen Michael Bennett, a free agent who made $4.8 million in 2013.

Rice was due $17.5 million in base salary over the next two seasons. He missed the final eight regular-season games last season, and the playoffs, after suffering a torn ACL against St. Louis on Oct. 28.

But Rice never has been the player the Seahawks hoped he would be when they signed him to a five-year, $41 million deal in 2011. At 6-foot-4, Rice was the one big target among the Seattle receiving corps, so it’s likely the team will look for a big wide receiver early in the 2014 draft.

Rice’s upcoming release is only the first in what probably will be several difficult roster decisions by the Seahawks to add cap space. Defensive end Chris Clemons, who is scheduled to make $9.6 million in 2014, also could be a luxury the team can’t afford to keep.
NEW YORK -- The talk is over, and the day finally is here: Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are five things the Seattle Seahawks must do well to defeat the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium:

1. Pressure Peyton Manning: It’s a mammoth task against a quarterback who gets rid of the football so quickly, but it isn’t so much about getting sacks as it is putting enough pressure on Manning to take him out of his comfort zone.

Everyone knows Manning is a classic pocket passer. He likes to step up in the pocket to make his throws. That will make it difficult for a talented edge-rusher like Cliff Avril to get to Manning.

Bryant
So the Seahawks have to get pressure up the middle with their defensive tackles -- Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Big Red Bryant will also get a push in the middle sometimes, and they might use some stunts with end Michael Bennett rushing up the middle when he lines up outside. Also, look for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to blitz a couple of times.

"There’s no certain way to get to Manning," Bennett said. "It comes down to doing what we do and beating your man."

2. Let the quiet Beast loudly rumble: It’s been a strange and somewhat stressful week for Marshawn Lynch, having to do media sessions on three consecutive days. Not his cup of tea, and a distraction the Seahawks could have lived without, but that is all behind them now.

Lynch
Lynch was successful on runs up the middle in the first two playoff games this season, but the Seahawks should try more off-tackle runs and toss sweeps against Denver. The Broncos have Terrance Knighton at nose tackle, a mountain of a man at 340 pounds. He’s a run-stuffer.

When asked what his biggest concern was regarding the Denver defense, Lynch didn’t hesitate. "Pot Roast," he said, which is Knighton’s nickname. "He’s a big boy."

The Seahawks might use a third tackle with Alvin Bailey, as they did against the 49ers, to line up with tight end Zach Miller and use a muscle push to run Lynch off the edge of the line and hope he goes Beast Mode.

3. Keep the Broncos guessing with Harvin: The Seahawks need to make the most of their X factor in receiver Percy Harvin. The Denver defense can’t know exactly how to account for a guy who played only six quarters this season, but they know he’s faster than a cheetah with its tail on fire.

Harvin
So make them worry about Harvin on almost every play by putting him in motion and lining him up in different spots. Get the ball to him early so Denver will know he’s part of the plan. Someone for Denver will have to spy him, meaning someone else on the Seattle offense -- receivers Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin -- will get free.

"We’re excited to have Percy back, because he brings more to the table," Tate said. "He's going to open it up for other guys more."

4. Punish the Broncos on crossing routes: The Seattle defense can’t allow Manning and his receivers to nickel-and-dime them to death with short passes over the middle and quick slants.

Chancellor
And if receiver Wes Welker wants to try a pick-play block, have strong safety Kam Chancellor waiting to greet him. Linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright also have to get physical on these plays and let the Broncos know there is a price to pay every time they catch a pass in the middle of the field.

"We are a physical bunch," Chancellor said. "We like to be physical. We like to be hands-on. We like to make you feel our presence. That’s how we operate."

5. Play with poise: This is the most important point. Seattle is the more talented team overall, but the Seahawks must play smart and not get over-amped in the biggest game of their lives. Careless personal fouls and false starts can be the difference in the game, and too much emotion can cause a player to make a mistake he wouldn’t normally make.

Sherman
The Seahawks did a great job of controlling their emotions in the NFC Championship Game against the hated 49ers. Well, until the end when cornerback Richard Sherman went on testosterone overload after the game-saving play. But the game was decided at that point, so have at it.

The same is true in the Super Bowl. Play your game and don’t give the Broncos a freebie. Do what you did to get here.

"Respect the journey," said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. "But at the same time, enjoy the moment. Take it all in. It is real. Just be poised and respect the process. I’m going to play with a smile on my face and just go for it."

Good advice. If the Seahawks follow it, that should be enough.

There was a time, when John Elway wore a helmet at work instead of a tie, when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks were division rivals.

From 1977 to 2001, the two teams did their football business together in the AFC West and now these former division rivals, who have gone their separate ways since -- through good times and bad -- now arrive to Super Bowl XLVIII as the matchup many wanted to see.

The Broncos' league-leading scoring offense -- which produced an NFL record 606 points with Peyton Manning at quarterback -- against Seattle's league-leading defense (14.4 points per game), a physical, brash group that led the league in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and interceptions.

It is the first time the league's No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense have met in the Super Bowl since 1990, when the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants authored a classic, a 20-19 Giants win decided when Scott Norwood's kick drifted wide right.

ESPN.com Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and ESPN.com Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game:

Legwold: Terry, in your mind, what are some of the major decisions John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made to put the Seahawks in this position?

Blount: Jeff, first and foremost, the one decision that almost everyone will point to is selecting Russell Wilson with a third-round draft choice two years ago when so many experts felt Wilson was too short to be an effective starter in today's NFL. That led to another big decision when Carroll named Wilson the starter after the team had signed Matt Flynn to a big-money deal -- a brave move, to say the least. But pointing to one move doesn't begin to tell the story of a team that Schneider and Carroll completely revamped over the past four seasons. Only four players remain from the team they inherited in 2010. Schneider and Carroll's strengths are their trust in each other and their ability to make stars, or at least quality starters, out of players that other teams overlooked such as cornerback Richard Sherman (a fifth-round pick), slot receiver Doug Baldwin (undrafted) and guard J.R. Sweezy (a seventh-round pick). They also made one of the best trades in team history, acquiring Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo in 2010. It's an example of how Schneider and Carroll are willing to take chances on players who might have had off-the-field issues.

Let me ask you a similar question, Jeff. Elway gets huge props for convincing Manning that Denver was the place for him to end his career, but obviously, it took more than one move to get the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Aside from Manning, what has made Elway's tenure so successful?

Legwold: Elway's mission, for owner Pat Bowlen, when he took the job, wasn't just to make the team competitive as quickly as possible after the 4-12 finish in 2010, but to fix the cracks in the foundation. This meant addressing the personnel and salary-cap issues that needed to be dealt with if the team was going to succeed over the long term. Elway always says people talk to him about a "win-now philosophy," but he wants the team to win from now on.

Elway and the Broncos' front office cleaned up the cap a bit, and though Elway is a former quarterback, he thinks big picture. They've drafted plenty of defensive players -- 11 of 23 picks under Elway -- and they've made finding the guy they want more important than simply making big-ticket splashes in free agency, other than Manning of course. Signing players to one-year deals with little or no signing bonuses, such as Shaun Phillips (10 sacks), Paris Lenon and Quentin Jammer (two starters and a situational player in the defense), have made it go. Starting center Manny Ramirez was released by the Lions at one point. John Fox, hand-picked by Elway, and his staff also have gotten more from players who were holdovers such as Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas. Toss in some big-time draft hits -- Von Miller and Julius Thomas -- and you have back-to-back 13-3 finishes.

For their part, the Seahawks have played quality defense all season long. Terry, how do you think they will attack Manning?

Blount: They will line up and say, 'This is who were are and what we do. Beat us if you can.' I honestly don't think they'll change a thing. Whether it's a rookie calling the signals or one of the all-time greats such as Manning, the Seahawks don't believe anyone can outperform their defense. They are as talented a group as I've seen. Two things set them apart: incredible overall speed, especially at the linebacker spots, and a physical approach that borders on all-out violence and intimidation. Calling for crossing patterns over the middle against this bunch is asking for punishment. The one thing defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said they will do is change the wording and signals on their calls. And what they must do in this game is get a push up the middle on the defensive front and force Manning to move in the pocket. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald have to outmuscle Denver interior linemen in this game.

Seattle's Legion of Boom secondary is an extraordinarily talented group that includes three players who were voted into the Pro Bowl. They play a lot of press coverage and almost dare a quarterback to try to beat them.

Jeff, does man-to-man coverage help or hurt Manning and his receivers?

Legwold: Man coverage almost never hurts Manning, unless those defensive backs consistently knock the Broncos' receivers off their routes, or Mother Nature brings a windy night. And not just a breeze, but something on the order of the 40-mph gusts the team faced on a frigid night at New England this season. But even then Manning was sharp and aggressive on a late drive to tie the game at 31-31. Where some defenses have had some success this season -- Indianapolis, New England and to a certain extent Jacksonville -- was when they essentially tossed aside the idea of adding pressure to try to get Manning, because he gets the ball out too quickly, and play as physically as possible against the Broncos' receivers to disrupt their routes and disrupt the offense's timing. That said, Manning still threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts to go with 295 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. And while the Patriots held him to a season-low 150 yards on Nov. 24, Manning still looked sharp late, throwing the ball in a game in which the Broncos rushed for 280 yards because New England often left six-man fronts after dropping so many players into coverage. In the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, who used much the same philosophy as in November, Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns. The mix for some kind of defensive success is usually to get the Broncos receivers out of sorts and find a way to pressure Manning in the middle of the field so he can't step into the throws.

Staying at quarterback, Terry, how do you think Wilson, certainly well-known for his poise and maturity, will handle his first Super Bowl behind center?

Blount: I realize it's a lot to ask of any second-year quarterback to enter this setting and not have it effect his performance, but Wilson is an extraordinary young man. I've said all season that he has the unusual quality of being at his best when things appear to be at their worst. He thrives on the big stage. I've never seen him rattled, and when he does make a mistake (such as fumbling on the first play in the NFC Championship Game), he acts like it never happened. And I've never seen any athlete who prepares with the time and detail that Wilson prepares. You can't fool him. People often compare him to Fran Tarkenton because of his scrambling ability, which is true. But in some ways, I see him more of a Bart Starr-type quarterback, a man who had the ultimate respect of his teammates, understood the skills of the men around him and made them better. Wilson said his goal every game is to be the calm in the storm and stay in the moment. Well, there's no moment like this one. It's cliché to say, but I think he truly believes he was born for this moment.

Jeff, there has been a lot of talk about how extreme weather conditions could benefit the Seahawks and hinder Manning's ability to throw the football the way he normally would. Do you think that's overblown?

Legwold: There may be no more overblown idea circulating around than Manning's ability to play in the cold. The cold-weather stats are always tossed around, but there are at least two of those games in some of the totals people are using when Manning played only one series because the Colts had their playoff position wrapped up. One of those was in Denver to close out the 2004 regular season (32 degrees at kickoff; Manning threw two passes in the game). The wind has been a far-bigger deal for Manning. Post-surgery, he has had to make some adjustments to his game because of some grip issues in his right hand. He wears a glove on his throwing hand in a variety of temperatures now. This season, he wore it in New England (22 degrees, wind chill of 6 degrees), against Tennessee (18 degrees), as well as in Houston (kickoff temperature was 58 degrees) and at Oakland in the regular-season finale, when the kickoff temperature was 70. And with the glove on his throwing hand in 10 games this season, including both of the Broncos' playoff wins, Manning has thrown 33 touchdown passes to go with five interceptions. He's had four 400-yard games and six games when he attempted at least 40 passes. People have scrutinized every wobble of every pass this season, but somehow he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. And wobbles or not, Manning has not been sacked and the Broncos have punted only once in this postseason.

In the Seahawks' defense, Terry, how big of an impact did signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency have on that group?

Blount: It's this simple: The Seahawks would not be playing in the Super Bowl without them. Seattle's big weakness last year was the lack of a consistent pass rush and a lack of depth on the defensive line. Not anymore. Along with those two, Seattle also signed veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a mountain of a guy who has been a disruptive force inside. Bennett may be the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL. He has been everything the Seahawks hoped for as a hybrid down linemen who can play end or tackle effectively. He is a relentless, high-motor guy who never takes a play off. Avril is a gifted speed-rusher whose claim to fame is his uncanny ability to knock the ball out of a quarterback's hands and force a fumble, something he has done five times this season and 13 times over the past three years.

Jeff, everyone talks about the matchup between the Seahawks' No. 1 defense against the Broncos' No. 1 offense, but how do you think Denver's defense matches up against Seattle's offense and its power-running game with Lynch?

Legwold: Since Champ Bailey's full return from a left foot injury he originally suffered against the Seahawks in the preseason -- Bailey played in just five games in the regular season and was shut down for several weeks after a failed return in early December -- the team has played far better. It's surrendered 17 or fewer points in each of the past four games, including both playoff wins. And while Denver's numbers, as well as its play at times for that matter, haven't always been pretty, the Broncos do play better out of their base defense.

They will be in their base defense against the Seahawks if Seattle chooses to pound Lynch out of a two-tight-end or two-back set. They inserted a veteran, Lenon, into the middle linebacker spot down the stretch in the base to add some bulk. With Lenon, Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan at linebacker, they have speed to the ball if their defensive end can consistently set the edge. Against some of the power teams they have faced this season, including those with some read-option things in the offense such as Washington and Oakland, the Broncos showed a little more of a 3-4 look on early downs. It will be intriguing if the Seahawks -- seeing the Broncos have done far better in the heavier looks -- try to run against the nickel and dime packages and how the Broncos respond.

Terry, if the Seahawks win, what players beyond Wilson will have had the biggest roles to make it happen?

Blount: Probably the defensive linemen we mentioned earlier: Bennent, Avril and the defensive tackles getting pressure on Manning. If they do, the Legion of Boom will shine and come up with an interception or two that could change the outcome. No matter how well this rugged defense performs, it won't matter unless Wilson can throw effectively. Having receiver Percy Harvin on the field could help, but it really comes down to the same story all season. If Lynch has a punishing day running the ball, someone will be open for a big play in the passing game.

Jeff, if you had to pick one thing that Denver must do to win this game what would it be?

Legwold: Overall, they have to manage the moment. Teams don't win the Super Bowl as they go through all the build-up, but plenty have lost it when they got distracted by the bright lights and attention only to forget why they were in the Super Bowl city in the first place. As Phillips put it: "If guys want to party in New York, New York will still be there next week." But on the field, they have to keep Manning clean, give him some space to work in the pocket and with that their receivers have to play with an edge, fight for both their real estate and the ball.

RENTON, Wash. -- With Percy Harvin declaring his ready to go, it appears the Seahawks will be close to full strength for the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.

Receiver Doug Baldwin and running back Marshawn Lynch didn't practice Thursday, but both should be fine for the game on Feb. 2.

Baldwin has a hip pointer, but said Thursday that he's fine. Lynch is listed as having a knee injury, but his non-participation in practice is more about getting rest.

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who has a sore ankle, returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. He also should be full speed for the Super Bowl.

The next big thing: Seahawks

January, 23, 2014
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RENTON, Wash. -- Obviously, the next big thing for the Seahawks is the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. Nothing else matters at the moment.

However, when the big game is over, the Seahawks have difficult contract decisions to make because they know a day of reckoning is coming when they will need to pay some star players big bucks in the near future.

It won't be this year, but soon for cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson. Sherman has one year left on a deal that counts only $690,000 against the salary cap next season. He will soon command a salary of well over $10 million a year.

Wilson will make only $662,000, next season, but after that, some big-time renegotiating is going to happen. And the day will come when the Seahawks will have to pay Wilson at least $20 million more per year than he's making now.

All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas also has only a year left on a deal that pays him $3.7 million in 2014.

So some maneuvering will be in order soon, and some players currently on the roster will have to move on because of salary-cap limits.

The immediate concerns are wide receiver. Golden Tate is a free agent who made only $880,000 this season. Doug Baldwin is a restricted free agent with a salary that counts only $560,000 against the cap. Can Seattle keep both of them and pay Percy Harvin's six-year, $67 million deal?

Maybe, but certainly not if receiver Sidney Rice stays. He has two years left on five-year, $41 million contract. It's unlikely he will return.

No doubt the Seahawks wish they had signed defensive lineman Michael Bennett to more than a one-year deal at $4.8 million. He won't be easy to keep after the sensational year he's had.

Seattle also must make a decision on starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, a free agent who counted $4.7 million against the cap this season.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said receiver Doug Baldwin suffered a hip pointer in the NFC Championship Game, but he believes Baldwin will be OK in time for the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2.

“He’s banged up a little bit,” Carroll said. “He’ll be a little bit slow on Wednesday [at practice] and this week, but he’ll be OK for the game.”

Baldwin had one of his best games of the season Sunday in the 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, catching six passes for 106 yards. He also returned a kickoff 69 yards, which came after he injured his hip in the second half.

Baldwin was asked after the game how the hip injury affected him.

“Significantly,’’ he said. “I’m going to be pretty hurt [Monday], but it’s the game that we play. You deal with those injuries and pains. It’s nothing new.”

Carroll also was asked how linebacker K.J. Wright was feeling after playing for the first time since undergoing surgery on Dec. 11 to repair a foot fracture.

“He has a sore foot, but it’s not bad,’’ Carroll said. “He feels OK. He was really excited that he didn’t reinjure himself and made it through it.”

Carroll also said that defensive tackle Brandon Mebane will be limited in practice this week with a sore ankle, but should be fine for the Super Bowl.

Carroll said running back Marshawn Lynch will get some get some rest this week after taking some big hits Sunday when he rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries, including a 40-yard touchdown run.

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

January, 19, 2014
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SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at Century Link Field:

What it means: The Seahawks (15-3) reach the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history and the first time since the 2005 season. Seattle will play the Denver Broncos in a matchup that many people expected before the season began.

Stock watch: The championship game was everything it was hyped up to be, big plays on both sides. Huge momentum swings, vicious hitting and close all the way to the end. The Seahawks came back from a 10-0 deficit in the first half.

Sherman/Smith save the day: The 49ers were driving for what could have been the winning touchdown in the final seconds when Richard Sherman batted away a pass in the end zone intended for Michael Crabtree that linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted to seal the victory. Sherman ran to shake Crabtree’s hand after the play and was whistled for taunting, not that it mattered.

Fourth-down glory: The Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-7 at the 49ers' 35 in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson made a perfect deep throw and Jermaine Kearse made a spectacular catch in the end zone to give Seattle a 20-17 lead.

Baldwin comes up big: Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin had one of his best games of the season with six receptions for 106 yards. He also had a 69-yard kickoff return.

Lynch gets beastly: After a slow start, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch got it going in the second half, including a 40-yard TD run in the third quarter. He rushed for 109 yards on 22 carries.

What's next: The Seahawks will practice in Seattle this week before heading to New Jersey/New York next weekend to begin the week of festivities leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium.

RENTON, Wash. -- Never in Seattle Seahawks history has one man done so little and been talked about so much.

Percy Harvin will not play Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. So what?

I’m not blaming Harvin, the multi-talented receiver who hasn’t been able to get healthy or stay healthy all season.

But the Seattle receivers have heard the same questions everyone else hears week after week. Will Harvin play? Can he make a difference? Can they win a tough game without him?

The receiving corps is sick and tired of it. They are up to their chin straps in Harvin questions and how he could make them better. It’s ad nauseam at this point.

Guess what? The Seahawks receivers, sans Harvin, are not The Three Stooges. You would think the team was using three guys at the receiver spots who were playing shuffleboard at a retirement community last week.

“We hear it all the time that we’re not worth squat,” receiver Golden Tate said this week. “But at the end of the day, we make the plays that we need to make to help us win. We’re playing in the NFC championship. You can’t do that without us.”

Don’t get the wrong idea. To a man, the Seattle receivers feel for Harvin. They understand what he’s going through. Doug Baldwin and Harvin have become close friends.

“It’s tough because we’re all close to Percy and we all love him as a teammate,” Baldwin said. “It hurts us to not have him out there on the field. We know how badly he wants to be out there.

“But like we consistently say, we have guys around [quarterback] Russell Wilson, weapons on the outside, that can make plays and that have been making plays all season long. I don’t think it’s going to be much of a hit, production-wise.”

Tate
Tate
Baldwin, Tate and Jermaine Kearse are proud men who have to be a little perturbed about the endless Harvin talk. They won’t admit it publicly, but they take it personally. This team, with these receivers, has won 14 games without Harvin.

That’s right, I said without him. Yes, he played sparingly in two games and showed his amazing skills, but the Seahawks would have won both those games without him. And they can win Sunday's without him. Tate and Baldwin, in particular, are on a mission to prove it.

Moments after announcing that Harvin wouldn’t play Sunday, coach Pete Carroll came to the defense of his receivers.

“It’s a really competitive group,” Carroll said. “They’re very athletic, clutch, tough, and they block well. They get after it. They do everything we need them to do. You never know which one of them is going to have a big game. And they can make the big catches at crucial times."

Baldwin
Look for them to make some more big plays on Sunday. Tate has enjoyed the best season of his career, catching 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season. He also is one of the league’s best punt returners, averaging 11.5 yards per return.

Baldwin caught 50 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns. His ability to make acrobatic sideline catches in key situations was the difference in several games this season, including the playoff game last week against New Orleans. And Kearse has four TDs in only 22 receptions.

“I’m around these guys every single day,” Tate said. “I see the plays that they make every day. I honestly feel like if you put any of our receivers somewhere else, they would catch 90 balls and be well over 1,000 yards. But that’s not how this offense works.”

Kearse
The Seattle offense is centered on its power running game with Marshawn Lynch. They throw the ball far less than most NFL teams.

“The good thing about it is we’re all unselfish players,” Tate said. “We want to win, so we just do our jobs. We take a lot of pride in blocking for Marshawn, and when the big plays come, I feel like more times than not, we’re going to come up with the big ball.”

But you wouldn’t know it from all the talk of the savior, Mr. Harvin. Frankly, it’s become almost comical -- not that his injuries are anything to laugh about.

A week doesn't go by when I'm not asked at least 30 times if Harvin will play. It’s a question on every radio interview. Anyone who has anything to do with this team hears the Harvin questions every day. And it’s gotten tiresome.

Look, Harvin has worked hard to come back from major hip surgery in August. He now has a concussion issue to deal with, and it’s been frustrating for him, to say the least.

Sure, the Seahawks could use him Sunday. He could help them against one of the best defenses in the league. He could return kickoffs. He could be a spark to a passing game that has struggled in the past five games.

All of that is true. But what’s equally true is this team achieved the best record in the league this season and made it to the NFC title game -- without Harvin.

The receivers are a talented, underrated group who can perform at a level that enables Seattle to win this game, and the Super Bowl, whether Harvin takes another snap this season or not.

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