NFC West: Patriots-Seahawks

You called it: Make room on Wall of Fame

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
12:20
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Move over, Elion245 and Leesters. Time to make room on the Wall of Fame for habitat730, who predicted the Cardinals' 34-10 victory over the Rams in the "You called it" for Week 14.

Sixty-one people predicted at least one NFC West outcome correctly. Of those, only habitat730 predicted the score exactly. The updated WOF:

  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12.
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12.
  • habitat730. Forecast the Cardinals' 34-10 victory over the Rams in We 12.

We had a few close calls this week. Digitool predicted a 23-21 victory for the Patriots over the Seahawks (24-21 actual score). Gamos34 predicted a 24-13 victory for the 49ers over the Jets (24-14 actual score).

Twenty-five people predicted all three outcomes involving NFC West teams. Of those, gamos34 came closest on average to hitting all three scores. Gamos34's predictions: Cardinals 31-10, Patriots 27-17, 49ers 24-13. That equated to missing each score by an average of 3.7 points per game. Well done.

Guardian hawk came within five points per game: Cardinals 31-10, Patriots 24-13, 49ers 21-13. TheRooster58 came within 5.7 points per game (Cardinals 34-13, Patriots 23-17, 49ers 27-20) before crowing about it in the comments section: "wow, aside from the seattle game, I'd say i did pretty good."

Six people came within three points of hitting the Rams-Cardinals score. Gamer929 was one of them. "If Josh Brown didn't miss that field goal," Gamer929 wrote, "I would have been right on with the Cards Rams game. I will hate him even more, leave Seattle, now this?"

Thanks for playing. We'll start taking predictions for Week 15 later in the week.

The fine print: Those submitting predictions must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

Carlson less involved on third down

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
10:50
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Seattle's third-down personnel vs. Pats
Dist.Play TypeBall CarrierYards GainedNote
1-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE
1Run43
2Converted
2-RB, 1-WR, 2-TE
1Run
42 5Converted
2-RB, 1-WR, 2-TE 1Pass89 5Converted
1-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE 2Run4315Converted
2-RB, 3-WR
2Pass
84 5
Converted
4-WR 3Pass20 0Incomplete
1-RB, 2-WR, 2-TE 3Pass89 7Converted
2-RB, 3-WR 4Pass18 0Incomplete
4-WR 6Pass84 7Converted
1-RB, 2-WR, 2-TE 7Pass
85 5Short
2-RB, 3-WR 8Pass84 0Incomplete
2-RB, 3-WR10Pass83 0Incomplete

Rookie tight end John Carlson leads the Seahawks in receptions this season.

One more reception will give Carlson the single-season franchise record for receptions by a tight end, set by Itula Mili (46 in 2003).

I was surprised to see Carlson come off the field six times in nine plays of third-and-2 or longer against the Patriots.

The chart shows the Seahawks' third-down plays. The top three were third-and-1 plays. Plays shaded yellow represent plays without a tight end on the field. The Seahawks converted two of these six opportunities. They converted 1 of 2 remaining plays of third-and-2 or longer, including when Seneca Wallace found Carlson for a 7-yard gain on third-and-3.

I had charted 83 Seattle plays of third-and-2 or longer this season. The Seahawks had used a tight end on 64 of those plays. They had used their "E" personnel group -- two running backs and three wide receivers -- five times in those plays. They used it four times on third down against the Patriots, converting one time.

The Seahawks' full personnel-use report, expanded to include more situational breakdowns, is available for download. Seattle ran three times for zero yards from its familiar I-formation looks. The team averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 10 rushes with one running back, three receivers and one tight end. Forcing a defense to account for Carlson would seem to help.

Silver linings: Seahawks vs. Patriots

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
9:54
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The facts: The Seahawks fell to 2-11 following a 24-21 home defeat to the New England Patriots in Week 13.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.

  • Deion Branch finally showed why the Seahawks acquired him from the Patriots. New England's injury-depleted defense couldn't handle him.
  • Rookie tight end John Carlson has already matched Itula Mili's single-season franchise record for catches by a tight end. He caught eight passes for 69 yards and a touchdown even though Seattle took him off the field five times in seven plays of third-and-3 or longer.
  • Defensive linemen Baraka Atkins, Darryl Tapp, Rocky Bernard and Brandon Mebane combined for 10 quarterback hits.
  • Cornerback Marcus Trufant played at a Pro Bowl level in his matchup against Randy Moss. An improved pass rush and Matt Cassel's occasional inability to deliver the ball accurately helped. Trufant also played aggressively and with confidence, a good sign for Seattle.
  • Seneca Wallace showed how much better he performs when healthy. A calf injury limited his game earlier in the season. When Wallace can move, he can make plays.
  • Seattle had early success running the ball from its one-back, three-receiver grouping.
  • The Seahawks played with tenacity. They seemed rejuvenated despite a poor record.
  • The offensive line, though far from perfect, outperformed expectations. New England played most of the game without four starting members of its front seven and the Seahawks took advantage.
Looking ahead: Seattle visits the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 15.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says there's reason to wonder what the Seahawks must do to win another game.

Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks have forgotten how to finish. Deion Branch tried to help them remember.

Farnsworth and Greg Johns of the Post-Intelligencer check in with Branch before noting that Marcus Trufant got the best of Randy Moss in their matchup.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks were more competitive than expected against the Patriots.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Julius Jones as saying this was the first time he played zero snaps in a game when healthy. The Seahawks went with Maurice Morris and T.J. Duckett instead.

Also from Williams: The Seahawks' patched-together offensive line played well under the circumstances. Center Steve Vallos took the blame for calling the wrong protection on Brandon Meriweather's sack and forced fumble.

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune wonders whether Branch's breakout game marked the beginning or the end of his contributions in Seattle.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' safeties didn't do enough on third down against the Patriots.

Also from O'Neil: A look at the Seahawks' surprising performance on offense.

More from O'Neil: Branch and Wes Welker are the players of the game.

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times quotes Mike Holmgren as saying this Seattle performance was better than other losing ones.

Also from Romero: Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace stepped up for Seattle. I thought Wallace's healthy legs made all the difference in his performance.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks felt a sense of renewal for much of their game against the Patriots.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 24, Seahawks 21

December, 7, 2008
12/07/08
7:10
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks can't blame their latest defeat on poor production from Deion Branch.

The oft-injured receiver scored two touchdown passes in his first game against the team that traded him to Seattle for a first-round choice in the 2007 draft. The Seahawks might have won Sunday if the Patriots hadn't used that draft choice for safety Brandon Meriweather.

Meriweather's fumble-forcing sack in the final minutes stopped a promising Seattle drive, allowing the Patriots to run out the clock.

The Seahawks are beyond worrying about outcomes. At 2-11, they are looking for smaller victories. A few stood out Sunday:

  • Rookie tight end John Carlson continued to play at a high level.
  • Quarterback Seneca Wallace played perhaps his best game as a professional.
  • Branch flashed the talent that made Seattle pursue him in the first place.
  • Cornerback Marcus Trufant played at a Pro Bowl level against Patriots receiver Randy Moss.
  • Seattle's patched-together offensive line played better than expected against an injury-depleted Patriots defense.

The biggest victory of all: Only three games remain on the schedule. The offseason can't come quickly enough for Seattle.

Branch could knock Pats from playoffs

December, 7, 2008
12/07/08
6:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- Deion Branch is enjoying his personal vindication party against the Patriots, sandwiching two touchdown catches around a 63-yard reception to help Seattle take a 21-13 lead over his former team.

Branch's former coach, Bill Belichick, challenged the ruling on the 63-yard reception, claiming Branch had stepped out of bounds. Referee Carl Cheffers upheld the call. Branch caught a 4-yard scoring pass two plays later.

This is shaping up as a memorable storyline for Branch in an otherwise forgettable season for the Seahawks. The Patriots, at 7-5 before this game, need a victory to stoke their playoff chances. If Branch winds up keeping them out, wow.

Inactive list features star power

December, 7, 2008
12/07/08
2:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones join the Patriots' Ty Warren on the list of players named inactive for the Patriots-Seahawks game.

Seattle inactives: Hasselbeck, Jones, kicker Brandon Coutu, safety C.J. Wallace, linebacker Leroy Hill, tackle Na'Shan Goddard, defensive tackle Red Bryant and defensive end Brandon Miller.

New England inactives: Warren, receiver Kelley Washington, linebacker Vince Redd, linebacker Pierre Woods, tackle Wesley Britt, guard Billy Yates, tight end David Thomas. Matt Gutierrez is the third quarterback.

Hasselbeck is suiting up as the third quarterback behind Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye. If Hasselbeck plays, Wallace and Frye cannot return to the game.

With Jones out, Seattle's offensive line looks like this, left to right: Sean Locklear, Floyd Womack, Steve Vallos, Mansfield Wrotto and Ray Willis. The projected starters this season, left to right: Jones, Mike Wahle, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims and Locklear. Mansfield is making his first NFL start. Veteran center Steve McKinney, signed during the week, is active.

Injuries don't have to ruin a season

December, 6, 2008
12/06/08
7:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Trick question: Name the NFL team in Seattle suffering the most significant injuries this season. The Seahawks? Perhaps not.

The Patriots, in town for a Week 14 matchup at Qwest Field, have 12 players on injured reserve, including three with Pro Bowl credentials. Seattle also has a dozen players on IR, including two with Pro Bowl experience (Patrick Kerney and Mike Wahle).

The Patriots lost MVP quarterback Tom Brady less than 8 minutes into the regular-season opener. Safety Rodney Harrison lasted six games. Starting running back Laurence Maroney made three starts before New England lost him for the season. Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas went on IR more recently. Starting guard Stephen Neal missed seven starts. Defensive end Ty Warren hasn't played much recently. Tank Williams, signed in free agency to play a hybrid linebacker-safety role, suffered a season-ending injury in August.

At 7-5, the Patriots are five games worse than their 12-0 record from last season. At 2-10, the Seahawks are six games worse than their 8-4 record from last season.

Which team has done a better job fighting through injuries? I'd say it's the Patriots. They've proven quite adaptable and almost defiant in refusing to let injuries drag them down.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Leesters and Elion245 are getting lonely on our Wall of Fame. This is your chance to join them as the only "You called it" participants to predict NFC West scores and outcomes exactly.

Will the Rams upset the Cardinals? Can the 49ers knock off the Jets? Does Seattle have a chance against the Patriots? It's easy to watch the games and then tell everyone you saw a specific result coming. We know you're better than that. Tell us the facts in advance and we'll put your name in imaginary lights.

Every certified ESPN.com picker is taking the Cardinals, Jets and Patriots. From the Sunday Countdown crew, only Keyshawn Johnson is picking an upset. He likes the 49ers.

Here in the NFC West, the Wall of Fame remained unchanged following Week 13. We take a quick moment to acknowledge our two WOF members:

  • Elion245. Forecast the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Seahawks in Week 12.
  • Leesters. Forecast the Bears' 27-3 victory over the Rams in Week 12.
The fine print: Those submitting predictions must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easy to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14.

Nightmare scenario unfolds for Seahawks

December, 5, 2008
12/05/08
5:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Curious to see what the Seahawks might look like without four starters on the offensive line, one starting receiver and the starting quarterback? Curious to see what the Seahawks might look like without those guys and their Pro Bowl defensive end?

We'll probably find out Sunday. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (back) and left tackle Walter Jones (knee) probably will not play against the Patriots. Right guard Rob Sims, center Chris Spencer and left guard Mike Wahle are on injured reserve, joining receiver Nate Burleson, pass-rusher Patrick Kerney and seven other Seahawks.

This is a nightmare scenario for Mike Holmgren during a nightmare final season with the Seahawks. The offensive line, left to right, could look like this: Sean Locklear, Floyd Womack, Steve Vallos, Mansfield Wrotto and Ray Willis. Good luck handling those New England blitzes with a line that has never played together.

Audibles: NFC West Week 14 preview

December, 5, 2008
12/05/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

St. Louis Rams (2-10) at Arizona Cardinals (7-5), 4:15 p.m. ET
The bar keeps getting lower in Arizona's continuing efforts to claim its first division title since 1975, when the Cardinals called St. Louis home and the Rams played in Los Angeles.

The Cardinals have given up 85 points in defeats to the Giants and Eagles over the last two weeks. The Rams have scored 63 points during their current six-game losing streak. But the defense allowed only 12 points to the Dolphins in Week 13, and having Steven Jackson back in the lineup gives the Rams at least an outside chance.

While Arizona simply needs a 49ers defeat to win the NFC West crown, anything short of a victory over the Rams might send them down the road to 8-8.

We've spent the week dissecting the Cardinals' problems running the ball. Let's not forget about Anquan Boldin. He dropped two passes and lost a fumble against the Eagles in what might have been the worst game of his career. Expect much better from him Sunday.

New York Jets (8-4) at San Francisco 49ers (4-8), 4:05 ET
The Jets haven't exactly played their best on the West Coast this season, but the 49ers' season-long issues at safety could make them vulnerable against Brett Favre.

This would be a good week for the 49ers' safeties to record their first interception of the season. Favre's occasional carelessness gives them a chance, but the overall matchup favors the Jets.

Both teams feature young and talented tight ends. The Jets' Dustin Keller has more receptions as a rookie (40) than the 49ers' Vernon Davis has managed in two of his three seasons. Watch to see how much time Davis spends in pass protection.

N. England Patriots (7-5) at Seattle Seahawks (2-10), 4:05 ET
Deion Branch's first game against his former team lacks sizzle. The injury-plagued Seattle receiver has 13 receptions this season, his third since the Seahawks acquired him from the Patriots for a first-round draft choice.

Branch has been mostly a non-factor for Seattle since the trade two years ago. He's been a non-factor in New England since the Patriots signed Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

Safety Brandon Meriweather, the player New England selected with the choice from Seattle, leads the Patriots with four interceptions.

Update: New information on the Seattle injury front.

On the air: Seahawks in Week 14

December, 2, 2008
12/02/08
3:39
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Dick Enberg and Randy Cross get the call for CBS on Sunday when the Seahawks face the Patriots in a Week 14 game at Qwest Field. Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. ET.

WeekTeamOpp.NetworkCrewCrew Rank
1SEABUFFoxRon Pitts, Tony Boselli, Charissa Thompson
7 of 7
2SEA
SFFox
Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
2 of 7
3SEA
STLFox
Matt Vasgersian, J.C. Pearson, Nischelle Turner 5 of 7
5
SEA
NYGFox
Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa2 of 7
6SEA
GBFox
Chris Rose, J.C. Pearson, Nischelle Turner
6 of 7
7SEA
TBNBC
Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kramer
N/A
8SEA
SFFox
Ron Pitts, Tony Boselli, Charissa Thompson 7 of 7
9
SEA
PHI
Fox
Dick Stockton, Brian Baldinger, Laura Okmin
3 of 7
10SEA
MIA
Fox
Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan, Chris Myers
4 of 7
11SEA
ARI
Fox
Dick Stockton, Brian Baldinger, Laura Okmin 3 of 7
12SEA
WAS
Fox
Matt Vasgersian, J.C. Pearson, Nischelle Turner5 of 7
13SEA
DAL
Fox
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
1 of 7
14SEA
NE
CBS
Dick Enberg, Randy Cross 3 of 7

CBS and Fox each have seven crews. The higher-ranked crews draw more attractive assignments such as Super Bowls, playoff games and marquee matchups.

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