A GRIP ON SPORTS
What's the best word or phrase to describe the Seahawks right now? Dominating, sure. Winners, OK. Maddening? I'm pretty sure that works too. Read on.
• When you become a fan of a sports team, you become invested in that team's successes and failures. Around here, it's more often the latter than the former, at least it seems that way. But it should be different this year with the Seahawks. They are good, 6-1 good. They have won both their games against NFC West foes. They have a game (and a half for a couple days) lead on San Francisco, last year's NFC Super Bowl representative. And yet, they have a tendency to mix failure and success into the same game-winning mix. I guess that's a nice way of saying they do some of the dumbest things you'll ever see an NFL team do – and it doesn't seem to matter. Let's take a short section of last night's 34-22 win over Arizona as an example. We'll start midway through the second quarter, when the Hawks had a great chance to put the Cardinals away, already leading 14-0. Arizona punted from deep in its territory and Golden Tate gathered it in at his 46. He wasted no time, took off up the middle, veered right and raced to the end zone, diving in to create a golden photo opportunity, if you pardon the pun. Except linebacker Mike Morgan blocked a Cardinal in the back. A Cardinal that had no chance to make a play on Tate. Instead of leading by three touchdowns, the Hawks had the ball at midfield. That's OK, right? They would still score. Nope. One Marshawn Lynch run gained nine yards and two other gained none – the first was a bad spot and probably should have been challenged, but who cared, right, the Hawks would pick up the first down. Pete Carroll, showing his utter confidence in a broken-down offensive line, went for it from the Arizona 43. One problem. The Hawks called a quarterback sneak that forced the linemen to stretch for their blocks. A tight end couldn’t stretch far enough and Wilson was stuffed. The defense made sure the turnover on downs led to only three Arizona points but it gave the Cardinals life. And when Jermaine Kearse decided to bring a kickoff back from five-yards deep in the end zone only to be blown up at the Hawks' 13, Seattle was in trouble. Big trouble because Wilson was stripped sacked two plays later, Arizona recovered at the 3 and, one play later, was in the end zone. A possible 21-0 blowout was turned into a 14-10 nail-biter in the course of about nine minutes. Or to put it another way, in the course of two bad plays, one poor decision and one stupid one. Maddening. Of course none of that seemed to matter an hour later when the Hawks were pulling away in the second half. But such things do. Because they will come back to bite you, and not in the nails, against good teams. Or on big stages, say the playoffs. This is one of those seasons in which success will be measured by how far the Hawks go in the postseason. Finish 14-2 and lose your first playoff game and fans around here will be ticked. Finish 11-5 and win the Super Bowl and everyone will be happy. So 6-1 is great. But the fact there is nine games left to shake out the stupid, ugly and, yes, maddening, mistakes is even better.
• WSU: There is not a lot of faith in the Cougars around the Pac-12 right now. Not in the football team, which is a 39.5-point underdog to Oregon this week. Or in the basketball team, which was the overwhelming (or should it be underwhelming?) choice to finish last in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. Jacob Thorpe has coverage of both, so we'll start with the basketball. He was at the conference's media day yesterday and filed this notebook, passed along a video and transcript of DaVonte Lacy and coach Ken Bone's appearance, as well as a transcript of commissioner Larry Scott's remarks. He also has a football story and a Friday morning blog post with links. … We supplement the links, as is our wont, including a couple from Oregon, one a notebook from the Ducks and the other a look at the conference basketball race. … There are also these two columns from the Oregonian. John Canzano wants us to cut the Pac-12 football officials a break and Ken Goe thinks the Pac-12 Networks are in trouble and causing schools even more. … Speaking of television and night games, Jon Wilner has a not-to-be missed piece on why the conference is the late-night king. He also passes along some basketball thoughts.
• EWU: There is one guy who seems to be the face of the Eastern Washington football program right now. As Jim Allen sees it in this feature, it's senior Zack Gehring (pictured). Jim also held a live chat yesterday and has a post this morning with links. … The Big Sky basketball preseason polls were also released yesterday with Eastern picked to finish fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media. Jim has a story on that.
• Preps: Football was back last night, what with Shadle Park and Gonzaga Prep each winning handily out at Albi. Greg Lee covered the first game in words and Dan Pelle supplied the photographs. We also can pass along this story on the nightcap. … Chris Derrick was at East Valley's big GNL volleyball win over Colville as was Jesse Tinsley, who has the photos. … We have a roundup of other action from Thursday night. … The San Francisco Chronicle continues its series on youth sports and specialization.
• Seahawks: We've had our say about the Hawks 34-22 win over Arizona last night, so let us let the players and coaches talk (and the media). Of course, Russell Wilson had a lot to say about the game, as did coach Pete Carroll. They always do. But their were others who met with the media, including Sidney Rice, who got free behind the Cardinal secondary early for a TD, and, surprise, Richard Sherman. … Tight end Zach Miller returned and gave the Hawks a boost. … Not everyone is fond of Thursday Night Football. Arizona coach Bruce Arians is one of those who isn't. … Looking back, the outcome was predictable, as probably were some of the injuries after the short rest. … Former Hawk Chris Harper was let go by the 49ers. If form holds, he'll be back in Seattle. … Percy Harvin is expected to begin practicing next week.
• Sounders: Seattle will set another attendance record this season as more than 64,000 tickets have already been sold for the season finale against Los Angeles. … Before then, however, the Sounders want to get their act together against Dallas this weekend.
• That's it for today. Think about what's ahead this weekend. High school football tonight, college football tomorrow and, without the Seahawks, no valid excuses to avoid leaf raking on Sunday. Darn it. Until later …