A GRIP ON SPORTS
Ten in the morning comes darn early, especially on a Sunday. But that's when the Seahawks will kick off their quest for a third meeting with the 49ers this season. Or their NFL playoff game with Atlanta, if you prefer. The kickoff comes so early we don't want to get in the way, so we'll be quick. Read on.
• Early games in the Eastern time zone have never been overly kind to the Hawks over the years. But only a few of them have been playoff games, so past performances in those contests might not be an indicator for today. What is then? You know, I'm not sure. Atlanta is an enigma. The Falcons have had the NFC's best record pretty much all year, flying under the radar mainly because of postseason failures in recent years. No one really believes in them. But it's hard to argue with an eight-game winning streak to open the season and a 13-3 record. But we will. After all, that eight-game winning streak? It included just two tough wins, at Washington and against Denver. Most of the games were close, with the Falcons playing to the level of their competition. And the three losses? They came at New Orleans (OK, not a bad loss), at Carolina (OK, a real bad loss) and the last week at home to Tampa (not the best way to build playoff momentum - if you believe in that sort of thing). So what do the Falcons do well? They keep you out of the endzone. Though they are 24th in the NFL in yards allowed, they are fifth in points. Atlanta forced 31 turnovers during the regular season, tied for fourth in the league with Seattle. So we will boil down today's game to its essence: The Hawks need to take care of the ball and be productive in the red zone. Simple enough for you?
• Washington State: Let's just say it wasn't what you would call the Cougars' best weekend in the Bay Area and leave it at that. Christian Caple has the coverage of WSU's 67-54 loss to a well-below-average California team, what with his gamer, his pregame blog post, his tale of the tape, interviews and, finally, this morning's blog post that also includes some football news.
• Gonzaga: The Zags had the night off, but much of the rest of the WCC was in action. And just because there was no game, that doesn't mean we don't have a Gonzaga story to pass along. Jim Meehan caught up with Robert Sacre (pictured) in Los Angeles and put together this can't-miss feature. ... BYU went into the Bay Area and handed Santa Clara another televised defeat. ... Don't look now, but San Diego is on a roll, winning at Pepperdine. ... Portland exploded in the second half and defeated host Loyola Marymount.
• EWU: We were out in Cheney last night as the Eagles couldn't continue their hot streak, losing a tough one to Sacramento State 60-53. Eastern led 53-52 with a couple minutes remaining and couldn't get anything else to drop. Here's our game story and Tyler Tjornsland's photos. ... Portland State got past Northern Arizona. ... Montana handled Northern Colorado on the road. ... Eastern's women lost their third consecutive game. They lead our roundup.
• Idaho: There was one of those patented Homer Simpson "d'oh" moments at the end of the Vandals loss to New Mexico State. After Kyle Barone tied the game with 3.5 seconds left, Idaho's Marcus Bell fouled in the backcourt and the Aggies took a 71-70 home loss. Josh Wright was in Moscow and has this game story and blog post. ... Denver won its fifth straight, this one over Seattle U.
• Preps: A busier than usual Saturday in the prep ranks around, mainly because the Greater Spokane League held a rare weekend slate of games. Greg Lee was at Central Valley's rout of Mead and has the boys roundup. We also have a GSL girls roundup and roundups from girls and boys basketball in the area. ... There was also some wrestling on Saturday.
• Seahawks: No game day for Seattle would be complete without an obligatory Russell Wilson story, so I guess today will be considered incomplete. I can't find one. Dang it. But I did find the obligatory why-can't-the-Falcons-win-in-the-playoffs story, which puts the blame squarely on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan's shoulders (he's pictured). And I found a lot of other stories, including a couple of columns, that should get you ready for today's game. By the way, two-thirds of those of you who answered our poll believe the Seahawks will win. ... Bad news for friends of Vince Grippi (the one I know of). The Broncos lost. No Super Bowl bet this season. ... If Seattle wins today, they will get to play the 49ers again after San Francisco ran over Green Bay.
• NBA: No path to getting a pro franchise to move is a smooth – or straight – one, so this news shouldn't come as a surprise.
• That's it for me this morning. I got up early so I could get this done and get myself ready for the game. It will be loud here in the Grippi household, though maybe a little quieter than usual thanks to the early start time. Let's hope so. Last week's commotion registered at Cal Tech. Until later ...