A GRIP ON SPORTS
There really is just one thing to talk about on this New Year's Eve. The Seattle Seahawks' run to the NFL playoffs. And the upcoming week of anticipation and hope. It will be fun. Read on.
• The Hawks didn't play their best football yesterday in the 20-13 win over the visiting St. Louis Rams. And, for a while, it looked as if a prediction I made a few weeks ago just might come true. But, thanks to the best rookie quarterback in the NFL the past few weeks, Seattle rallied down the stretch and held off a Rams team that was 4-1-1 against the NFC West this season. If the Hawks had been that good against its brethren (they were 3-3), it would be Seattle with the week off instead of the 49ers, who earned the bye while winning the West. But hard-to-defend road losses at Arizona or St. Louis (or even Detroit or Miami) cost the Hawks the division title and home-field advantage. So we will find out if Russell Wilson is good enough to lead them on a playoff run that may include trips to Washington, D.C., Atlanta and either San Francisco or Green Bay. We do know, however, they are in the playoffs, and that's good enough for now. And we know they'll be facing a Redskins team next Sunday that is almost a mirror image, what with a rookie quarterback that runs a zone-read offense featuring a bruising, explosive running back. Add in a defense that's played well in a stretch-run to the playoffs and you have two similar teams battling to move on toward the Super Bowl. But only one gets to play at home.
• About that prediction. A few weeks back, when the Hawks were still floundering and the playoffs seemed a bit iffy, I was on the radio show when Keith Osso spelled out the way Seattle could earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC. At that point, before the Chicago game, it seemed a bit far-fetched, involving a series of losses by the teams then above the Seahawks and an undefeated stretch run by Seattle. After a little thought, though, the essence of the scenario seemed possible. But I voiced one concern. I conceded, on the air, that all of the seemingly improbable run of defeats by Seattle's rivals would happen. And I conceded Seattle would win its next four games. But there was the rub. Like most Pacific Northwest sports franchises, I believed the Seahawks would fumble just before the goal line. I predicted they would lose to the Rams with the No. 2 seed on the line. It got a big laugh. Then, over the course of the next four weeks, all the pieces of Keith's scenario began to fall into place. Each Monday it seemed as if the outcome was predetermined. Other than the 49ers somehow holding off New England in Foxboro, all the dominoes fell. Then yesterday there was a point when the 49ers and the Packers were both behind, opening the door to the Hawks and the home-field advantage for a playoff game. But Seattle was trailing the Rams. My somewhat tongue-in-cheek prediction was about to come true. I held my breath, anticipating the "it-is-all-your-fault" phone call I was going to get on Monday. But the 49ers refused to cooperate (it was hard to believe they would, considering they were playing Arizona) and, ultimately, neither did the Seahawks. It makes me wonder, though. What if the Cardinals had somehow been able to hold on. Would the pressure have been too much? We'll never know.
• Washington State: Christian Caple does some reminiscing – hey, I'm the old guy; I think by law I'm the only one allowed to reminisce – in today's morning blog post. He also has links.
• Gonzaga: The Zags face a tough test tonight in Stillwater, facing Oklahoma State and its precocious freshman, Marcus Smart (pictured passing the ball). Jim Meehan outlines the challenge facing GU in his advance in today's paper along with this blog post. ... There is also an advance in the Oklahoman and this WCC preview from the Sporting News, which says the Zags could win the national title. Yes, the national title. ... BYU will have something to say about whether the Zags can even win the WCC title. ... St. Mary's got past Yale as Matthew Dellavedova set a school record.
• Whitworth: The Pirate women went on the road yesterday and came away with another win.
• Chiefs: Everett may have swept Seattle over the weekend, but they couldn't get past host Kelowna.
• Seahawks: Where to start? The win over the Rams at CenturyLink seems almost like an afterthought this morning, what with the playoffs looming and the future, personified in Russell Wilson, looking so bright. (The same can be said for the Redskins, what with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris carrying their hopes.) But there is some coverage of the win over a St. Louis team that came this close to a winning record this season, forcing Wilson to run for his life way too often for the Hawks' taste.
• Sounders: Coach Sigi Schmid raised the 12th-man flag for the Hawks. Maybe that explains Seattle's lack of offense.
• That's it for this New Year's Eve. As we bid adieu to 2012, be safe out there. There are too many good football games to watch over the next few days to do anything stupid. Until later ...