NFL Nation: Bobby Wagner

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Many of the prime-time players who had a role in Super Bowl XLVIII this past February won't make more than a cameo in Thursday night's preseason opener for the Denver Broncos.

There is a chance, though, that the opening few plays of Thursday's game with the Seattle Seahawks could offer a brief, yet intense batch of plays, all these months after the Seahawks' 35-point win over the Broncos.

"We won't need any more speeches," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "They are the champs, and they get the last word. But ultimately our goal is to get back to the big show and win it this time. I think that playing them in the preseason and the regular season will show if we're ready or not to take that next step. I'm just looking forward to it."

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Evan VucciPeyton Manning and the Broncos have been answering questions about the Seahawks since the embarrassing loss in the Super Bowl. The Broncos and Seahawks meet this week in the preseason opener for both teams.
"Even though it's a preseason game, you know it's going to be physical," Broncos safety T.J. Ward said. "We're looking to be physical. You know they're already physical. It's going to be a head-knocker. The first preseason game, regardless, we're both looking to set the tone for the rest of the season."

Backups will account for most of whatever becomes of Thursday night's affair at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. And given the two teams will face each other, for real, in the third week of the regular season, it's unlikely either of them decides to show much to the other.

But given this is the Broncos' first opponent since the Super Bowl blowout, it does offer something to consider. Especially since some in the league quietly agree with what Bobby Wagner said on ESPN -- that the Broncos were intimidated by the Seahawks' defense in the title game.

Wagner even used the word "timid." The Broncos have been answering questions about how they lost the Super Bowl and about the way in which they lost it every day since it happened. Even as recently as after Saturday's scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, quarterback Peyton Manning was asked about the Seahawks, as well as the Super Bowl loss, and if that loss motivates them in the season to come.

"I think the entire team has been motivated," Manning said at his deflecting best. "We're trying to get better, trying to be a better team than we were last year but that started back in April though when we got back on the offseason program. We have worked hard every day and as a veteran player, I certainly appreciate that.”

Broncos coach John Fox has tried to turn down the hype burner a bit on the whole thing when he offered this weekend: "It's the preseason, not a lot of people remember the preseason."

And it should be noted Manning played all of seven snaps in last year's preseason opener -- in San Francisco -- and he was 2-of-4 passing for 13 yards. This won't be a long night for anybody's regulars, but there should be some quality entertainment on the smattering of snaps the starters do play on both sides.

And given the preseason meeting and the regular-season meeting with the Seahawks are just more than six weeks apart on the football calendar, and the fact all of the rugged NFC West teams are on the Broncos' schedule this season, the Broncos' on-field response to the Super Bowl loss figures to be a topic for much of the season.

"Of course it means something," said wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has been indoctrinated since his arrival in free agency this past March. "That's a defense that beat us in the Super Bowl -- and I'm going to say ‘us' because now I'm a Denver Bronco -- but it's one that beat us in the Super Bowl. So we've got to go out, we've got to make a statement. There are a lot of guys who are hungry and a lot of guys that are excited that we do have the Seattle Seahawks the first preseason game and in the regular season."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The last word rings the loudest, and when it comes to all the Denver Broncos accomplished last season, the Seattle Seahawks got the last word.

It came in the form of a 43-8 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

For many, that nationally televised cave-in wiped away all of the touchdowns, league records and remember-when plays that the Broncos had assembled along the way. Because of that, the Broncos have moved through the offseason with questions about their mettle swirling around them.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware, Von Miller
John Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesAdding DeMarcus Ware, left, and getting Von Miller, right, back from injury has the Broncos excited.
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner went on ESPN and dropped the words "scared" and "timid" when asked about the Broncos and the title game. Others around the league have done the same in private -- asked the same questions, wondered the same things. How can the Broncos navigate a tougher schedule than they had last season and do it as they try to bounce back from the kind of high-profile loss that is often difficult to shake?

That's what everyone wants to know, and it's a burden the Broncos carried as they took the field Thursday for their first training camp practice.

Make no mistake -- the Broncos like the team they have. And why not? Peyton Manning is back, as are the coaching staff and the guts of a roster that has gone 13-3 in back-to-back seasons.

As cornerback Chris Harris Jr. put it, "Guys know what kind of team we have."

John Elway, the Broncos' general manager and executive vice president of football operations, was busy this offseason, signing high-profile free agents DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders.

"Are we a better football team on paper?" Elway asked. "I think we are. I feel good about the fact that we're a better football team with free agents that we signed, as well as the draft, as well as the young guys taking steps from last season."

Ware arrived from Dallas with 117 career sacks. Talib and Ward were named to the Pro Bowl last season.

"DeMarcus came in and walked in like he'd been here for 10 years, because that's the kind of guy that he is," Elway said. "You know the way that Aqib practices and the competitive nature that he has, and the mentality, the toughness that he brings."

The Broncos also have the likes of Harris Jr., Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson and Rahim Moore -- defensive players who finished the season on injured reserve -- back on the practice field. They've seen Manning look as good as ever, with his receivers saying the future Hall of Famer has had a little more on his fastball this spring.

They see a deep team with impact players they believe is tougher, a little more calloused by what has happened. But training camp is the season of sunshine and rainbows in the NFL. Always has been, always will be. Everyone arrives to camp happy and optimistic, touting the offseason changes in players or attitude, the new day or new era.

"I'm never getting too optimistic, because this thing changes so fast, and things can change on a dime," Elway said. "But I am excited about the team that we have on the field, I'm excited about the coaching staff that we have.

"So we're excited about getting started -- plus we can put last year behind us. As tremendous as last year was, obviously there's always a bitter taste in your mouth when it ends the way it ended. When we get out on the field, that officially ends the 2013 season. We can now get going on the 2014 season."

It's a season where the Broncos hope they can be the team that hands out the exclamation point.

Packers could learn from Seahawks

February, 20, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- You'll never see a picture of a shirtless Ted Thompson wearing a championship belt, but the Green Bay Packers' general manager might do well to emulate his counterpart with the Seattle Seahawks, John Schneider.

And we're not talking about questionable fashion decisions.

[+] EnlargeTed Thompson
AP Photo/Morry GashAt 61 years old, Ted Thompson said he's not ready to retire as Packers GM anytime soon. "I'm feeling good and ready to go," he said.
For five years in Green Bay, Thompson listened to Schneider's opinions about all things personnel -- free agency, the draft, trades, waiver claims ... you name it. Not that Thompson, conservative by nature, always acted on Schneider's suggestions, but it was the protege's job to offer opinions and suggestions from his office down the hall at Lambeau Field.

Now, they sit more than 1,900 miles apart, competitors, not colleagues. Yet as Thompson faces one of the most important offseasons since he took over the Packers' personnel department in 2005, there are things he could learn from the man who put together a Super Bowl-winning roster.

Not that Thompson doesn't know how to do that; he built much of the roster that won Super Bowl XVL. But since the Packers' last championship, they have won just one playoff game -- against the Minnesota Vikings, who were forced to start backup quarterback Joe Webb at the last minute.

If there's a common denominator in their playoff exits, it's that their defenses failed them.

With salary-cap space to use and holes to be filled, Thompson might want to examine how Schneider built the Seahawks' top-ranked defense.

Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said shortly after the Super Bowl that it would be unrealistic to expect the Packers -- or any other NFL team -- to play at the same level as the Seahawks did last season and in their 43-8 destruction of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, there are some things Thompson might be able to do to help bridge the gap between the Seahawks' dominating defense and the Packers' half-broken unit that slipped to 25th last season.

"If you're able to acquire players that can run fast and are big and are good-looking, then you've got a shot," Schneider said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.

The Schneider formula for acquiring speed and size on defense goes like this:

  • Make your early-round draft picks count -- see outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (2012 first round), inside linebacker Bobby Wagner (2012 second round) and safety Earl Thomas (2010 first round).
  • Find gems in the middle and late rounds -- see cornerback Richard Sherman (2011 fifth round) and safety Kam Chancellor (2010 fifth round).
  • Retain key players before they hit free agency -- see defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, a third-round pick by the previous administration who in 2011 signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension.
  • Dip into the free-agent market but don't break the bank -- see defensive ends Michael Bennett, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract, and Cliff Avril, who signed a two-year, $13 million deal.
  • Work some trades -- see defensive end Chris Clemons, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Thompson has tried to employ some of those strategies. He used his first six draft picks in 2012 on defensive players with only minimal success. He signed safety Morgan Burnett to a four-year, $24.75 million contract last offseason only to see Burnett fail to come up with a single interception last season. But he hasn't touched free agency in any significant way since 2006, when he signed Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett.

With the 21st pick in this year's draft, Thompson could be looking at defensive players again. Given the copycat nature of the NFL, it's worth wondering if another team, say the Packers, could duplicate what Schneider and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have done on that side of the ball.

"It wouldn't be very hard, I don't think," Schneider said. "Just [get] more speed. It's just about having guys that are willing to teach and play young players, and [the Packers] have that. They have a young team. They have good teachers."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said last week defensive coordinator Dom Capers' unit "is going to change some" and that he would "set the vision for the defense and Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out."

To do so, Thompson might have to take more aggressive measures to rebuild a defense that in the Super Bowl season of 2010 ranked fifth in the NFL and ranked second in 2009.
RENTON, Wash. -- A quartet of Seahawks are spending the day at ESPN headquarters Friday, appearing on various shows and several editions of SportsCenter.

Defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, along with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and receiver Jermaine Kearse, are in Bristol, Conn., for the ESPN Car Wash, as we call it, making the rounds all day on the campus.

But having four guys fresh off a Super Bowl victory is being called the Mega Car Wash.

"I don't know how rare this is, or if anything like this has even happened before at ESPN," said ESPN's Shaun Wyman, the lead booker for the NFL players. "This Seahawks team is full of guys on the verge of becoming stars.

"To have this opportunity to welcome four players to Bristol and feature them in-studio on our programs just days after their Super Bowl victory is an opportunity we couldn't pass up. Their agents, publicists and Seahawks PR are all great to work with and we couldn't do this without their support."

The four players flew back to the East Coast on Thursday following Wednesday's Super Bowl victory parade in downtown Seattle with more than 700,000 fans lining the streets.

Kearse, who turned 24 on Thursday, said he can't wait for the day to start. He caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass, in the 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.

"I can't imagine a better birthday week," Kearse said. "I'm pumped for the opportunity and can't wait to spend the day on ESPN's campus with a few of my teammates."

The foursome will appear together on Friday's editions of SportsCenter at 6, 8 and 10 a.m. PT, along with 3 p.m. show.

Here's the list of other radio and TV programs that will feature the Seahawks (all times Pacific):
  • Mike and Mike (3 a.m. on ESPN Radio, simulcast on ESPN2)
  • First Take (7 a.m. on ESPN2)
  • The Herd with Colin Cowherd (7 a.m. on ESPN Radio, simulcast on ESPNU)
  • Numbers Never Lie (9 a.m. on ESPN2)
  • SVP & Russillo (10 a.m. on ESPN Radio, simulcast on ESPNEWS)
  • NFL Live (1 p.m. on ESPN).
  • Highly Questionable (1 p.m. on ESPN2)
Broncos DejectionJeff Gross/Getty ImagesPeyton Manning and the Broncos never found a way to recover from their early mistakes.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No rain. No snow. No wind.

And, to the credit of the Denver Broncos -- after the historic all-phases-of-the-game unraveling in Super Bowl XLVIII -- no excuses.

"Time heals all things," Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But I definitely didn't expect this type of performance from our team. This is so far away from what we showed all year. … Very disappointed."

And very surprised. And very stunned.

The Broncos left MetLife Stadium as all of the above Sunday night after a 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in a championship game that was seemingly never in doubt. And the question about what would matter most, the No. 1 offense or the No. 1 defense, got a resounding answer played out to a worldwide audience.

It was the fourth time in the Super Bowl era the league's No. 1 offense scored 14 or fewer points in the title game and the second time in the past seven seasons a team that set the single-season scoring record flamed out in the Super Bowl because it couldn't find the end zone enough -- the New England Patriots to close out the 2007 season and the Broncos on Sunday night.

When it was all said and done, the scattered pieces of the Broncos' hopes and dreams instead constituted the third-largest deficit in a Super Bowl. The franchise holds two of the top three spots on that list.

"Just didn't play like we're capable of. It's disappointing. We had a great year," said John Elway, Broncos executive vice president of football operations. "And, hopefully, we learn from this. [It] started tough and just couldn't seem to get it going."

It started tough, indeed. And beyond the Broncos' four turnovers, beyond the missed tackles and beyond a meltdown to open the second half on special teams, perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the loss was when the first domino of despair fell, they did not respond.

They did not pick themselves up. They did not dust themselves off. They did not show to be the team that had traveled over so much rocky road on its way to the Super Bowl. Especially troubling Sunday was the fact that first domino got tipped over on the first play from scrimmage.

Center Manny Ramirez and quarterback Peyton Manning were not only not on the same page, they weren't even in the same book. On first-and-10 from the Broncos' 14-yard line, with the crowd still in a full froth of anticipation, Manning moved up to the line of scrimmage to change the play as Ramirez snapped the ball past the quarterback's head.

"I was trying to make a change … just overall, it's nobody's fault. It's not Manny's fault," Manning said.

"It's just hard to have something like that happen at the beginning of the game," Ramirez said. "It was real loud and we were planning on going into the game with the cadence. None of us heard the snap count. I thought I did when I snapped it."

Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno chased the ball down to prevent a touchdown but was tackled in the end zone for a safety. The Broncos' defense dug in enough after the Seahawks got the free kick to hold Seattle to a field goal on the next drive, and a 5-0 deficit still looked to be more of an oddity than insurmountable.

But that's when the Broncos didn't answer. All season long their biggest troubles came when they had no Plan B for an offensive night gone bad, and that was only magnified in a game with the two teams left standing.

They punted on their next possession -- a three-and-out. Manning tossed an interception on the Broncos' third possession. Defensive end Cliff Avril hit Manning's right arm on the fourth possession and linebacker Malcolm Smith intercepted the pass and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.

By the time the Broncos had run 22 plays on offense -- usually worth three touchdowns much of the season -- the misery reflected on the scoreboard at Seahawks 22, Broncos 0.

"Just got to figure out a way to get things turned around," Elway said. "But I'll tell you this: It's hard to get momentum turned around against a great defense like this and they are a great defense, and that's why you can't afford to lose momentum, because to try to flip it against a great defense, it's hard."

The Seahawks defense played with discipline, tackled well and consistently won at the line of scrimmage. It will be easy to evaluate how the Broncos lost their containment on special teams at the worst time when Percy Harvin took the second half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.

But the big question to be answered is why the Broncos' offense couldn't answer, didn't answer. Certainly, having a Pro Bowl left tackle on injured reserve most of the season in Ryan Clady is one of the items on the list.

No, in the end, the Broncos' injury-ravaged defense played with grit early when things were still in doubt, the Broncos' preparation went well and they got a spring night in February to play for the trophy.

And even with all of that, they still left empty-handed having scored just one touchdown on a night when their offense got dominated. Even with a future Hall of Famer at quarterback and five players who scored at least 10 touchdowns this season, they did not find a way to push back.

"We sucked the energy out of them," Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. "We loved hearing about the Denver offense because we felt like after the game we were going to hear a lot about our defense."

"To me, the answer is Seattle is that good on defense and really did a good job," Elway said. "They're relentless. They get after it. The bottom line is you have to give them a lot of credit. We made some mistakes, but they played great. It's hard to switch momentum against a great defense like this. … We had some chances to get back into it, we just couldn't get it done."

 
NEW YORK -- Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is the talk of the sports world. Free safety Earl Thomas is a candidate for NFL defensive player of the year.

Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, and his R-rated, Elvis-like celebration dance, is a force up front for the Seattle defense. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is a highlight-reel hitter who makes receivers wish they had taken up another profession.

[+] EnlargeVernon Davis
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezLinebacker Bobby Wagner isn't the loudest or the flashiest player on the Seattle defense, but he can be counted on to play at a high level every game.
They all have become stars on the No. 1 defense in the NFL, but it’s the man in the middle who makes it all work.

On Super Bowl Sunday, some casual fans will learn all about middle linebacker Bobby Wagner for the first time. He is the great unknown of Seattle's defense and the man this unit can’t live without in order to function at maximum capacity.

Wagner is overshadowed by a defense with big talkers, big dancers and big hitters, but he is the glue that holds it all together. And he's OK if some of his teammates get most of the glory.

“I think we’re all very skilled at the positions we’re playing,” Wagner said. “We don’t feel like anyone matches us. So when we play any team, we always feel like we’re going to come out victorious.”

Wagner, an Ontario, Calif., native who played college football at Utah State, is finishing his second NFL season after being picked by the Seahawks in the second round of the 2012 draft.

At the time, there was a lot of “Bobby who?” among some Seahawks fans. But that didn't last long. Wagner started 15 games last season and set the franchise record for tackles by a rookie with 140, along with three interceptions and two sacks.

With all that, he still was overshadowed by another rookie -- Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, a first-round draft pick who had 164 tackles last season.

Nothing new for Wagner, but the Seahawks knew they had a rock in the middle of their defense for years to come.

That rock, however, showed a little crack earlier this year.

Wagner suffered a nasty high-ankle sprain against Indianapolis on Oct. 6. It appeared the injury would keep him out for a month or more, but Wagner returned after missing two games.

It was too soon. He pushed himself to recover but didn’t play well in his first game at St. Louis as the Seahawks gave up 200 yards rushing.

“I was playing in some pain,” Wagner said. “But it wasn’t like I felt I couldn’t do the job. I wanted to be out there, and I felt I could help the team.”

There was some rumbling about what was wrong with Wagner. Nothing as it turned out, once his ankle healed.

“When Bobby came back from the injury, he was still banged up,” Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “There was a game there where he didn’t play as fast as we’d like him to. Then it clicked where he got back into his rhythm. That made all of the difference for us.”

Since the start of November, Wagner has had at least eight tackles in every game, including 10 or more tackles in four outings. Maybe his best game of the season came in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.

Sherman, in the national spotlight that night for his postgame rant, knew how well Wagner had played.

“Bobby had 15 tackles,” Sherman said. “He had a great game, like a lot of our guys. The stories would have been about them. So that’s the only thing I feel kind of regretful about.”

Wagner is as fundamentally sound a tackler as you will find. He isn’t flashy, but he does everything at a high level. He has five sacks, two interceptions and six passes defensed this season. He is also the quarterback of the defense.

“He’s someone we certainly count on to do a lot of stuff,” Quinn said, “not just from the attitude that he brings but making the calls.”

Making sure the Seahawks are in the right defense at the right moment, something that will be critical against Denver’s hurry-up offense with Peyton Manning, is Wagner’s responsibility.

“Bobby has really played well since the second half of the season,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He has just jumped on board of all of the commands of the defense and the calls and the adjustments that he has to make. He’s really playing fast. I think it’s just a natural process of how he’s grown and how this defense has grown.”

The Seahawks have a defense full of stars, but Wagner is the guy who puts them in position to shine. And he just might have a couple of shining moments himself on Sunday.
Kevin Williams and Russell WilsonAP Photo, USA Today Sports ImagesKevin Williams' Vikings will face a challenge with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks playing at home.
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SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks have amassed a 9-1 record despite playing with a patchwork offensive line and a receiving corps that lost one starter in Sidney Rice and never had its key offseason acquisition in Percy Harvin.

That's about to change. The offensive line could have all its starters on the field Sunday for the first time since Week 2, and Harvin could finally make his debut as a Seahawks receiver.

If Harvin plays, it would be against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, adding more drama and intrigue to the moment. ESPN.com Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and Vikings reporter Ben Goessling discuss that, as well as the other storylines for Sunday's game.

Terry Blount: Ben, obviously, Seahawks fans are going crazy about the possible debut of Harvin and what he can add to the Seattle offense. But let’s look at this from the Minnesota side. The Vikings must feel like they got a pretty good deal out of this, don’t they?

Ben Goessling: I think they were pleasantly surprised to get as much for Harvin as they did. Everyone knew they were going to trade him, so for general manager Rick Spielman to get three picks, including a first-rounder, was quite the coup. He's done a good job over the years of creating a market for his players or picks, and the Harvin trade was no different. It will be a while, though, before we know if what they did with the picks worked. Xavier Rhodes, whom the Vikings took with Seattle's first-rounder, is being asked to play more zone coverage than he did in college, and he has struggled with that after coming out of Florida State as a press corner. He has the skills to be a good corner, but the learning curve is steep.

While we're on the subject of Harvin, how much of a factor do you think he'll be on Sunday? He probably wants to show up his old team, but will he get the opportunities to do so?

Blount: If he plays, I think it will be limited -- maybe 10 or 12 snaps, tops. We’re talking about a guy who hasn't played in an NFL game in more than a year. Pete Carroll has said over and over they will be very cautious with Harvin. They invested $67 million in the guy. They aren't going to risk everything in his first game back, especially in a game the Seahawks should win whether he plays or not. I know Harvin is fired up about playing against his old teammates, but the coaches want to hold him back a little. They probably want him to get his feet wet and save the real show for the New Orleans Saints on the Monday night after Seattle’s bye week.

Ben, there seem to be a lot of unknowns about the Minnesota quarterback situation, where the team is headed and with whom it’s headed there -- Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel or maybe someone who isn't there yet. What's the likely answer for the future?

Goessling: I think in the long run it's probably someone who isn't here yet. Spielman liked Freeman in the 2009 draft -- the Vikings might have drafted him if he were still on the board when their pick came -- and the Vikings are now getting a chance to work with him on a daily basis, though they don't seem to think they need to put him on the field to evaluate him. Cassel is probably a backup at this point, and though Ponder has been better lately, he just isn't consistent enough to count on long term. The Vikings will have a high pick in what looks to be a pretty good quarterback draft, and it would be a surprise if they didn't use the pick to take another crack at getting a franchise QB.

Terry, it’s been hard to get a read on the Seahawks' run defense this season. One week, they'll completely shut down an opponent's ground game. The next, they're giving up 200 yards to the Rams or the Buccaneers. Why has it been so inconsistent, and can Adrian Peterson exploit it this weekend?

Blount: That’s a great question. I think the Seahawks are better against the run than they were in those two games. But there are times when the front seven get so focused on rushing the passer that they discount the run, get out of position and end up missing tackles. The other problem in those two games was middle linebacker Bobby Wagner coming back too soon from a bad ankle sprain and not being able to play up to his usual standard. But last week against Atlanta he had nine solo tackles. The Seahawks know they are facing the best of the best Sunday, so they’ll be at their best for Peterson.

Ben, the Vikings haven’t won a road game this season. What would it take for them to win this one?

Goessling: Boy, this one seems tough for the Vikings. As we've discussed, they might be able to run the ball effectively against Seattle -- Peterson had one of his biggest games there last year -- but I don't think Ponder will have much success against that defense. I could see Marshawn Lynch giving the Vikings trouble, and if Harvin is in the lineup, there's part of me that thinks he'll have a big game.

Terry, as I said, this matchup looks like a bad one for the Vikings. But time and again we've seen the Seahawks let inferior opponents hang around and nearly beat them. Do the Vikings have any reason for hope this weekend, or do you see this as an easy Seahawks win?

Blount: I think the Vikings are catching the Seahawks at the wrong time. The offensive line probably will have all five starters back for the first time in eight weeks. If Harvin makes his debut, it will add enormous energy and excitement for the team and the fans. And the Seahawks are coming off their best game of the season, a game in which they looked like the Super Bowl contenders everyone expected to see. This is their last game before the bye, so they will go all out to make sure they get there with their 13th consecutive home victory.

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Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 10

November, 11, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 33-10 victory against the Atlanta Falcons:

[+] EnlargePete Carroll
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsHead coach Pete Carroll has guided the Seahawks to a five-game consecutive win streak, following Sunday's 33-10 victory at Atlanta.
Road winners: No matter what happens the rest of the way, the Seahawks are guaranteed a winning road record this year in the regular season. The last time that happened (in 2005, when they went 5-3 on the road), they went to the Super Bowl. The only other time Seattle had a winning record on the road was 1984 (they also went 5-3); during that postseason, they lost at Miami in the second round. Seattle is 5-1 on the road this season, so a win in either San Francisco or New Jersey against the New York Giants would set a team record.

Wagner gets it done: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner took some heat in the media last week as the man most responsible for the defense’s poor performance against the run in the previous two games. There was even some speculation that K.J. Wright might start in the middle for Wagner on Sunday. But Wagner was back to his usual toughness in the middle against Atlanta. He led the team with nine solo tackles, helping the Seahawks hold the Falcons to only 64 yards rushing.

Browner and McDaniel injured: It wasn’t all good news for Seattle on Sunday. Cornerback Brandon Browner left the game in the first half with a groin injury. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel left the game with a hamstring injury. Seattle coach Pete Carroll said after the game he didn’t know the status of either player at this point. McDaniel's injury put the Seahawks down three defensive linemen Sunday because Red Bryant was out with a concussion and rookie Jordan Hill was out with a biceps injury.

Respectful jersey swap: Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman doesn’t think much of Atlanta receiver Roddy White, but Sherman has the utmost respect for Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who will end his legendary NFL career at the end of the season. Sherman asked for Gonzalez's jersey after the game, so they swapped shirts. “He's a [future] Hall of Famer and he's been a great player in the league for a long time," Sherman said of Gonzalez. "You always respect great players. You respect the game in that sense. It's an honor to play against him." Gonzalez chuckled about the jersey exchange: "That's what happens when you’re an old guy and they know it's your last run. I'm glad I got [Sherman's jersey]. He's on his way. He's such a good player.”
RENTON, Wash. -- The wait will continue on Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin, but middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will play Monday night.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Saturday that Harvin will not be activated for the game at St. Louis, but Wagner will return after missing the past two games with a high ankle sprain.

“He’s going to play in the game,” Carroll said of Wagner. “He practiced well. He may be two or three weeks ahead of what we thought would happen. I don’t know how he did it and the trainers don’t know, either, but they did a great job getting him back.”

Wagner said he isn’t 100 percent, but he’s ready to play.

“It was a little sore, but I feel I’m moving well off it and can plant off it,” Wagner said after practice Saturday. “When I first got hurt, I wanted to come back the next day, but it was a process. I was spending all my time trying to get back as soon as I could.”

But the Harvin debut remains on hold.

“He won’t be playing in this game,” Carroll said after practice. “He won’t be able to do it this quick. We’re managing his rehabilitation and trying to do it right. We worked him hard [earlier this week] then we rested him. We’ll continue to do that until his conditioning is caught up and he’s ready to go.”

Harvin had major hip surgery on Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum. He started participating in practice this week. The Seahawks have a three-week window, which started Monday, to activate Harvin off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

“Next week is a little shorter and that doesn’t help us,” Carroll said. “But we’re just dealing with it day-to-day and we’re really excited about getting this close to his return.”

Carroll said he was pleased with how Harvin looked in practice earlier this week.

“He did fine,” Carroll said. “He looked great when we were working him, and then we needed to rest him to make sure he can handle the workload. He’s a hard-charger and he’s not going to sit back. When he goes, he goes, so we have to be sure and manage that. But we’re totally pleased with how he’s worked to get back. When we can do it, we will.”

Also listed as out for Monday night are offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (knee), along with safety Jeron Johnson and fullback Derrick Coleman, both with hamstring injuries.

Listed as probably are wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder) and running back Christine Michael (illness). But Carroll said Tate, who practiced all week, is fine and Michael practiced Saturday.
RENTON, Wash -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team still has a ways to go before either of its starting offensive tackles can return to the playing field.

Carroll remains hopeful Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, who has a torn ligament in a big toe, can return the first week he's eligible to come off injured reserve -- the Minnesota Vikings game in Seattle on Nov. 17.

Giacomini
Okung
“We're real encouraged he will make it back then,” Carroll said Tuesday. “Russell has a process of four more weeks he has to get through. He has two weeks to go and then he will have a chance to practice with us.

“After that, which is four weeks from now, he'll have a change to return. He's doing really well with all the rehab stuff he needs to do. We'll be happy to get him back wherever we can get him.”

Carroll said he's is uncertain of when right tackle Breno Giacomini, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 30, might return.

“Breno is in the process of recovering, too, but we don't have a real clear timeline on that one,” Carroll said. “We had hoped he would make it back a little sooner than it looks like right now. He's a big man and it's taking him some time to get right.”

“It's going to take him a couple of weeks after we get him back on the practice field to get back [in a game], but he's not ready [to practice] yet.”

Giacomini had fluid drained from his knee last week.

Coleman's injured more serious than first thought: Michael Robinson, who was re-signed on Tuesday after being released at the end of the preseason, will be the only fullback healthy for now.

Derrick Coleman, who was the starter a fullback, suffered a hamstring injury in the Arizona game last week and will be out indefinitely.

“We don't know how long it's going to take,” Carroll said. “It could be anywhere from four to six weeks, although he thinks he's going to get back way sooner than that. He's had some history of really quick healing and we're going to see if he can pull it off again.”

But Carroll is confident Robinson, the team's starting fullback for three seasons, can get the job done.

“It's a chance to have continuity right off the bat,” Carroll said. “Fortunately, we were able to get a guy back that we really think a lot of and a guy who has done a lot of great things for us.”

Tate's shoulder still hurting: Carroll said receiver Golden Tate was unable to get through the full practice Tuesday because of problems with a shoulder injury from the Arizona game.

“It's his neck and shoulder where he got popped pretty good,” Carroll said. “He's a little sore. He started practicing and didn't finish [Tuesday]. We'll have to wait and see what that means.”

Wagner may practice Thursday: Carroll said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who has a high ankle sprain and has missed the past two games, is getting close to returning.

“We're going to wait and see on Thursday what he can do,” Carroll said of Wagner. “He's made great progress and has surprised the trainers. We won't know until we see him on the practice field.”
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller returned to full participation at practice Tuesday, and likely will return to the starting lineup Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Miller missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Miller
Marshawn Lynch did not practice and was listed as having a hip injury, but this is a short week and the Seahawks' coaches probably are being cautious with their starting running back, making sure he’ll be ready to go Thursday.

Lynch also missed practices last week, but he rushed for two touchdowns and had 155 total yards Sunday in Seattle's victory over Tennessee.

Defensive end Chris Clemons did not practice after suffering a hyperextended elbow against the Titans. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also is still out with a high ankle sprain.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Richard ShermanUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBackup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to face a stifling Seattle secondary and the league's best corner in Richard Sherman.
Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks is a matchup between two winning teams coming off losses, and both are missing key players on offense.

Quarterback Jake Locker is out for the Titans. Both starting tackles -- Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini -- are out for Seattle. Tight end Zach Miller could also sit.

The Seahawks have a 10-game home winning streak on the line, hoping to rebound after their first defeat of the season, 34-28 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Titans hope to get a stagnant running game going and find some consistency with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Paul, it looked like Fitzpatrick had a rough first outing for the Titans subbing for an injured Locker. Do you think Fitzpatrick will improve, and how difficult will it be for Tennessee to have success on offense while Locker is out?

Kuharsky: Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of playing better than he did in the loss to Kansas City, when he had three very bad quarters and one good one. I'm not sure what the Titans can do to help him if they are unable to run the ball. If they can bring some balance with Chris Johnson (and maybe Shonn Greene, who's still trying to get back after knee surgery), it could be a lot less difficult. Fitzpatrick hardly has Locker's excellent speed, but he scrambled around pretty well against the Chiefs. With Locker in the first four games, the Titans didn't turn the ball over and overcame their deficiencies running the ball. Without him, they need Fitzpatrick to imitate the mistake-free youngster. But Fitzpatrick is more of a gunslinger than Locker and is streakier, and that's probably too much to ask.

Terry, the Titans pledged to be a great running team. It hasn't really panned out that way. Last time Johnson was in Seattle, he had a 2,000-yard season. What's the run defense going to be like?

Blount: It's been all but impossible to run up the middle on the Seahawks. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is as strong a run stopper as there is the NFL, and it takes two blockers to handle 325-pound Red Bryant. If that fails, it's tough to get past middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. But Wagner probably won't play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain. Nevertheless, it's difficult to establish a running game on the Seahawks. Seattle is an aggressive outside pass-rushing team, so occasionally a back can get yardage outside, but not often.

Paul, Locker told us on the conference call Wednesday what a disappointment it is that he won't get to play this weekend in front of family, friends and University of Washington alumni who love him for all he did to help turn around the Huskies football program. He is a beloved guy here and a huge hero in this community. How is he viewed in Nashville?

Kuharsky: Nothing close to that yet. People who have given him a chance know he's an eminently likable guy, a hard worker and a well-respected leader, but plenty of fans called talk radio over the offseason talking about why Fitzpatrick would be a better choice or how it should at least be a camp competition. Even after Week 2's overtime loss in Houston, when he overthrew a wide-open Kenny Britt on a crucial third-and-1 late in the game, there were calls for change. (It's a throw he's got to make.) The game-winning drive against San Diego showed people what he can do. Locker also had a fantastic two-plus quarters against the Jets, which seems to have done a lot to win more people over. In playing style and development arc, I think he is a lot like Steve McNair so far. If that holds true, impatient fans will wind up happy.

Terry, home field is viewed as such a giant advantage for the Seahawks. Can you give us a tangible feel for just how loud and crazy the atmosphere is there?

Blount: In the San Francisco game, where the outdoor stadium decibel record was set at 131.9, it was so loud that it was difficult at times to even hear people talk in the enclosed press box. I know every team believes its stadium is one of the loudest, and I've been to most of them, but trust me, there is nothing like CenturyLink Field. It's deafening.

Paul, cornerback Alterraun Verner is off to an outstanding start this season with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is viewed by some as the best corner in the NFL, but is Verner the most underrated?

Kuharsky: He could have had another two picks last week on balls he didn't manage to haul in. Verner has been really good. The team wasn't sure what it had in him. The Titans knew they got a good football player out of UCLA three years ago. But as they revamped this offseason, with Gregg Williams joining the coaching staff and the Titans determined to get more aggressive, they figured a big increase in press-man coverage would move them away from Verner's strengths. They wanted Tommie Campbell, a faster and bigger guy to win the job. (Some wrote about how Campbell has some of what makes Sherman so good.) But Campbell didn't catch on and bombed in training camp, and Verner proved to be better. If Coty Sensabaugh hasn't recovered from his concussion for Sunday, Verner will start in base and move into the slot in nickel, with Campbell replacing him outside.

The Titans rush pretty well, and Verner is getting his hands on balls all over the field. Who has had the best success slowing Russell Wilson and how?

Blount: Even though Seattle came back and won the game, the Texans had the most success because of their talented defensive front and all-everything defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Both Houston and Indianapolis took advantage of Seattle missing starters on the offensive line and teed off on Wilson on third down. Nevertheless, Wilson is the best I've ever seen making the most of a bad situation and finding the opening the defense gives him. Anticipating when Wilson will roll out and cutting off his running lanes is the key, but it is far easier said than done.

RENTON, Wash. -- The last time the Seattle Seahawks lost a regular-season game, they proceeded to go on a six-game winning streak. Can they do it again?

The Seahawks lost at Miami on Nov. 25, 2012, dropping their record to 6-5. They didn’t lose again until the playoff game at Atlanta on Jan. 13, on a field goal with eight seconds remaining. This season, Seattle won four in a row to start this season before a 34-28 loss at Indianapolis last week, when the Colts came from behind in the fourth quarter after trailing 28-23.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman both believe the team is much better now than it was 11 months ago after the loss at Miami.

“We’re more mature,’’ Sherman said Wednesday. “We pretty much have the same players, just a year older.”

That’s a little misleading. Fifteen Seahawks players were not with the team at that time last season, but 20 of the current 22 starters were.

“Now we have guys that have been to Pro Bowls and have seen a lot more ball than we did then,” Sherman said. “I think we’re just more capable. We’re more ready. We’re just better than we were them. So hopefully, the result will be the same.”

Wilson said the team has a better sense of its capabilities than it did 11 months ago.

“I think our team is much more competitive,” Wilson said. “I believe we know who our guys are, who our leaders are and what we need to do to be successful.”

Maybe the biggest difference is Wilson. He was a rookie with only 11 NFL starts when Seattle lost at Miami last season. Three other current starters -- offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner -- were in their first season, too.

But even as a rookie, Wilson doesn’t think he was ever flustered.

"I don’t remember the last time I was ever flustered," he said. "I think the biggest thing for me is just I stay composed. I know that I’m still really young. It’s my second year in the league. I’m just starting. I understand that there’s going to be a process to learn the whole thing.

"We understand that playing in the situations, you learn from them. You grow from them, whether it’s good or bad. It’s one of things that you use each situation to try to understand it the best way that you can."

Whether Seattle can put together another six-game winning streak after a regular-season loss remains to be seen. But Wilson and Sherman are convinced this team is better prepared to do it now than it was 11 months ago.

Double Coverage: Seahawks at Texans

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
12:00
PM ET
Matt Schaub and Russell WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Schaub and Russell Wilson have combined to throw 12 touchdowns through Week 3.
When they saw each other at the Pro Bowl earlier this year, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt told Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson that if Watt had just stayed another year at Wisconsin, they might have won a national championship together.

“I wish I knew he was coming,” said Watt on Wednesday, who left Wisconsin after his junior year, just as Wilson arrived.

Sunday at Reliant Stadium, they might see a lot of each other. The matchup between the Texans and Seahawks will pit the league’s two best defenses against each other. But Wilson won’t be easy to contain for a Texans’ defense that gave up only 236 yards in last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are coming off such a dominating win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that Wilson didn’t need to finish the game.

Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take a look at the matchup.

Ganguli: So Terry, what makes Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman special?

Blount: Preparation, enormous athleticism and confidence are what makes him special. I know many people outside of Seattle just see Sherman as a arrogant guy with a big mouth. That's a big mistake. Sherman is an extremely hard worker who spends hours studying film of every receiver he faces. Consequently, he rarely gets fooled on a play, and the few times when he does, he has the athletic ability to react quickly, overcome it and get back to the ball.

Tania, how do you think Andre Johnson will do against the talented Seattle secondary, and especially a head-to-head matchup with Sherman?

Ganguli: The Texans are considering Johnson day-to-day right now. He didn’t look right when he tried to play Sunday after suffering a shin bruise in Baltimore and ultimately recognized that it was better for him to leave and heal than play hindered by the injury. If they don’t have him, the Texans will look to rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a budding star who has shown talent from the moment he arrived in Houston, but also improved steadily as a rookie.

And speaking of young players, how has quarterback Wilson changed in his second year?

Blount: Wilson is willing to take a lot more chances on difficult throws now because he understands what his receivers are going to do and where they will be. In the Jacksonville game, he made what appeared to be a dangerous throw in the middle of the end zone when Sidney Rice had three defenders near him. But Rice had signaled Wilson to toss it up high and Rice would get it, which he did. Wilson knows the offense now and has complete confidence to make plays at clutch moments, and his teammates believe in him.

Wilson is at his best when he scrambles and improvises, often resulting in big plays downfield. Can the Texans defense contain him?

Ganguli: The most mobile quarterback they faced so far this season was Titans quarterback Jake Locker, who threw two touchdown passes but had a QBR of 44.3 against the Texans. They haven’t faced a quarterback who is such an accurate passer while having the ability to use his legs and improvise. Wilson’s numbers have been among the best in the league this season. That will be a challenge for a defense that wants to be the best in the league.

You wrote that the loss of left tackle Russell Okung didn’t hurt much against the Jaguars, but how do you see it impacting the Seahawks going forward?

Blount: Tania, this has to be Seattle's biggest concern entering the Texans game. The Seahawks may be the deepest team in the league, but the offensive line, and particular the tackle spots, is a thin area. They are no match for J.J. Watt. Paul McQuistan moved from guard to left tackle to replace Okung, but the team is weaker without Okung on the field. Right tackle Breno Giacomini probably won't play because of a knee injury. That means rookie Michael Bowie, a seventh-round draft choice, will have to go head-to-head with Watt. Bailey is talented, but he has a lot to learn. Throwing him out there this week against Watt is truly scary for the Seahawks.

I know the Seahawks have major concerns about trying to stop Watt and keeping him off Wilson. Do you see Watt having a big game Sunday?

Ganguli: Watt has a keen ability to exploit weaknesses in inexperienced players. And if he doesn’t know it right from the start, he figures it out eventually. He’s a player with work ethic to match his talent, which isn’t always the case with athletes of his caliber. Watt has been the third most effective player at disrupting opponents’ passes since he entered the NFL. He ranks behind San Francisco’s Aldon Smith and Minnesota’s Jared Allen. Watt has played very well this season and he’s determined to have a better year than he did last year when he led the league with 20.5 sacks and 16 batted passes.

The Seahawks secondary gets the most attention, but how has their defensive front played and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Blount: This was an area of needed improvement at the end of last season, so the staff made a major effort to bring in veterans who could help with the pass rush. It worked. Defensive linemen Michael Bennett, a free agent Seattle signed after he spent four years in Tampa Bay, has been a force up front. Cliff Avril, the biggest offseason acquisition, was hurt all preseason, but is back now and just starting to contribute. Defensive end Chris Clemons, the team's top pass-rusher last season, returned last week after offseason ACL surgery. And O'Brien Schofield, who was released at Arizona, has been strong at linebacker and defensive end. This is a much stronger, deeper and quicker group than it was a year ago, and it still doesn't have Bruce Irvin. He returns next week after a four-game suspension for PEDs.

Tania, these teams have two of the best running backs in the NFL in Arian Foster in Houston and Marshawn Lynch at Seattle. Which running back do you think will have the upper hand on Sunday?

Ganguli: The running back situation has been interesting in Houston this season. The Texans eased Foster into the season after he missed the entire preseason and in the meantime backup Ben Tate has played very well. Tate is in a contract year and if he keeps up the way he’s started, he’ll be making some money after the season. His yards per carry have been strong and even better have been his yards after contact, 4.5 yards, the best in the NFL. If we’re talking fantasy numbers, Lynch will definitely have the upper hand on Sunday. Foster will be sharing his load with Tate.

Last question from me: What is one name Texans fans might not know that they will after Sunday’s game?

Blount: Great question. I'll pick a couple. First might be middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-year player who is growing into one of the best linebackers in the league. Another is slot receiver Doug Baldwin, an exceptional possession-type receiver who has a knack for making the big catch on third down.

And finally, everyone talks about how the Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the NFL, but I’m a Houston native who has seen some pretty rabid fans down there, as well. How much of a factor can the crowd be Sunday at Reliant Stadium?

Ganguli: They are a rabid bunch and have the added benefit of a perpetually closed roof that keeps their rabidity trapped like a greenhouse gas. They’ve been frustrated recently, but if their team plays well on Sunday, it will be loud.

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As early season games go, this is about as big as they come. NFC West rivals, some would say bitter rivals, in a Week 2 showdown to see which team has the upper hand in the division and, if the preseason prognosticators are correct, in the race to the Super Bowl.

So let’s get right to it:

Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are rising stars in the NFL, dynamic team leaders who are masters in the read-option and dangerous with both their legs and their arm. So who has the upper hand?

Terry Blount: I'll say Wilson in this one, strictly because the home-field advantage is so big in CenturyLink and it's the home opener. These two guys are so similar in how they play the game, but much different in terms of personality. Wilson is more of a buttoned-up-businessman type of guy, while Kaepernick is more colorful and a little more carefree in his approach; at least that is how it looks. But I know Wilson has the utmost respect for Kaepernick and his abilities as a quarterback.

Bill Williamson: Terry, this reminds me of the argument I had to make last year when the question was who was having a better comeback season, Denver's Peyton Manning or Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. There was no wrong answer. I have the same issue here. Kaepernick and Wilson are two of the reasons why the game going to be so great in the next decade. It’s difficult to disparage or poke holes in the game of either one. However, for the sake of this exercise, I will back Kaepernick. I’m sure the Packers would agree. Any time a guy beats a team with 181 yards on the ground and then comes back with 412 yards in the air, that is the work of a special player. I think Kaepernick may be just a tad more dangerous the Wilson. I’d lean on Kaepernick’s side, but again, I’d take Wilson on my side most Sundays. Kaepernick was nearly flawless against Green Bay. It was stunning.

What do you think will be the key defensively as the Seahawks try to contain Kaepernick?

Blount: Last week, Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said they wanted to keep Cam Newton from running because they didn't think he could beat them throwing. He was right, but that plan won't work with Kaepernick. The Seahawks' line will have to get more pressure on Kaepernick than it did on Newton. Defensive end Cliff Avril would help if he could finally get on the field. So would defensive end Chris Clemons, although that seems unlikely. And Seattle needs the return of cornerback Brandon Browner, who missed the opener with a hamstring issue. Walter Thurmond played well in place of Browner, but Browner's size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) is such an asset against a strong receiver like Anquan Boldin.

Williamson: After the Green Bay game, San Francisco safety Donte Whitner said he can’t wait to see the season develop because Kaepernick can beat defenses so many different ways. If the Seattle secondary keeps Kaepernick from going wild, perhaps he will beat them with his feet. That’s the thing about Kaepernick -- he will get you. He will make his impact. Keeping it under control on the ground and in the air is the key for Seattle.

Let's talk about the running backs -- Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch. Might one of these guys determine the outcome of the game?

Williamson: I certainly can see both veterans playing a major role. Gore was pretty quiet against the Packers -- until he needed to be loud. Yes, he had just a paltry 44 yards on 21 carries, but Gore made a difference with some key, clock-eating runs. At 30 years old, that is Gore’s role in this multidimensional offense. He is not going to be the lead dog, but the 49ers rely on him when needed. His days of carrying this offense are over, but he can help. I expect him to come up with a few solid runs Sunday. As for Lynch, he is clearly an emotional spark plug for the Seahawks. He will come at the 49ers. But this is a defense that will be ready. San Francisco allowed 3.7 yards a carry last season, the third-fewest in the NFL. And the 49ers shut down a revamped Green Bay run game Sunday, allowing the Packers 63 yards on 19 carries -- a 3.3-per-carry average. Green Bay’s longest run was 7 yards. In the end, I think both Gore and Lynch may have their moments, but neither will take over the game.

Blount: Lynch had a terrible game in the opener, rushing for only 43 yards on 17 carries. That won't work if Seattle hopes to win Sunday. With all the talk of Wilson and Kaepernick, the Seahawks still are a power-running team. Pete Carroll made the running game a point of emphasis at practice this week. Gore has enjoyed some of his best games against Seattle, rushing for 1,238 in 14 games against the Seahawks. But I think Lynch will go into Beast Mode on Sunday to prove last week was an exception. And it’s worth noting that Lynch has four 100-yard rushing games in his last six meetings with the 49ers.

It will be interesting to see how emotions come into play in this game. The 49ers are coming off an emotionally charged win over the Packers, and we all know about the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry. Do you think it will carry over to the field?

Blount: I really don't think it matters for this one. Both teams have been pointing to this matchup since the end of last season. And let's tell it like it is: Regardless how much they try to downplay it, these teams really don't like each other. The issues between Carroll and Jim Harbaugh go back to their Pac-12 days. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman has made it clear he has no love lost for Harbaugh, his coach at Stanford. So a little bad blood going in makes it even bigger.

Williamson: Teams can play emotionally for only so long before they wear down. Still, no team is going to wear down emotionally in Week 2. The 49ers are coming off an emotionally draining win over the Packers, but there is zero chance for a letdown. Harbaugh will see to that. He will get his team up for this game. There is serious disdain involved here. I expect plenty of pushing, shoving and yapping. In this case, it will only enhance the game, and I don’t think it will be a detriment to either team unless someone loses control.

49ers wide receiver Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis are coming off huge performances last week. Can the Seattle defensive backs -- whom many believe are the best in the league -- slow them down?

Williamson: That will be the goal for sure. The biggest question mark about the 49ers going into the season was at receiver with Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham out. But Boldin and Davis answered that question. In their first game together, Boldin and Kaepernick looked like they had played together for five years. Nearly every yard of Boldin’s 208 yards came in the clutch. Kaepernick and Davis combined for just six catches total in the final six games of the regular season last year. But they connected well in the postseason, and they were terrific together Sunday. Seattle will likely slow down both Boldin and Davis some. Don’t expect for Boldin and Davis to dominate. The 49ers will have to find other options. The key for San Francisco is to get rotational receivers Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton involved, as well as Kendall Hunter out of the backfield. I think San Francisco is varied enough to do it, but Boldin and Davis will have to make some kind of impact as well.

Blount: No secondary, no matter how good it is, can stop Boldin and Davis entirely. Free safety Earl Thomas said what that they want to do, not just in this game but in every game, is lure a quarterback to throw to the middle of the field. Thomas often cheats up near the line, leaving only Kam Chancellor deep, to entice throws into the middle. The Seahawks see it as a trap. They believe they have enough talent to force turnovers and mistakes by any offense if they throw consistently over the middle, so Davis, especially, will get his chances. Seattle’s defensive backs have a knack for forcing turnovers, and I expect they will come up with one or two Sunday.

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