Flags, blocks and Skittles Defined the Hawks in 2011

20 Jan

NOTE: This story was originally published in the Seattle Times.

Was it the Year of the Block? Or the Year of the Skittles?  Or the Year of Two Halves?   Actually, it was all of the above.

When it came to blocked kicks, 2011 was exceptional.  Red Bryant blocked three field goals (to tie Joe Nash’s team record for a season) and an extra point. Plus, the special teams unit blocked two punts that led to touchdowns. There hadn’t been that much rejection in the Seattle sports scene since Shawn Kemp was swatting lay-ups at the KeyArena.

Then there were the Skittles..  After Marshawn Lynch was caught on camera wolfing (or was it beasting?) down the multi-colored candies, he sparked a confection craze at CenturyLink Field.  Suddenly the end zones rained the fruit-flavored sweets from the 12th Man.  Skittles had become the new octopus.

It was also a tale of two halves to 2011.  In the first eight games, the Seahawks looked like a rebuilding team that didn’t have an offseason to get all its new players acquainted with a new offensive coordinator and new schemes.  No points scored in the first half until week three and a 2-6 record. Some members of the 12th Man were already talking about Andrew Luck.

In the season’s second half, the Hawks started to gell and looked rebuilt.  OL coach Tom Cable did a miraculous job with an offensive line that didn’t feature a single starter to play all 16 games.   A 5-3 record kept the team in the playoff hunt until Christmas.  Talk  about Luck stops.  Instead, the 12th Man  from Anchorage to Boise starts pleading with the Snohomish-raised Cable to stick around next year.

There were highlights and history. 

The Seahawks recorded their first win in New Jersey since Reagan’s initial term.  Brandon Browner’s 94-yard interception returned for a TD not only sealed the win but was also the longest pick in team history.

In November, the Seahawks shocked the world when they beat the Ravens. Credit the Hawk offense killing the last 5:52 to prevent a Baltimore comeback. My favorite part of the drive was Lynch faking Ray Lewis out of his shoes and into the injury report.

When the Hawks beat up the “Dream Team” Eagles in early December, it was first time Seattle was victorious on a Thursday night. (Granted, this was only the third time they’ve played on a Thursday night.)  You had to like it when Lynch went into Beast Mode and tore through the Eagles mega millions defense for a buck 48, much to the chagrin of all of the NFL Network’s pre-game talking heads which predicted a Philly victory.

Another Monday Night Football victory.  This time against the Rams. Which team has the best winning percentage on this venerable television series?  That would be your Seattle Seahawks.

In Chicago, the Hawks outscored the Bears 31-0 in the second half, thus setting a record for most unanswered points in a second half in team history.  Plus, Red Bryant’s interception return for a TD  made him only one shy of his father-in-law Jacob Green in that department.

Doug Baldwin. Undrafted. Unknown.   Unsung no more as the team’s leading receiver.  The last unknown, unsung rookie wide receiver lead the Hawks in receptions was a guy named Largent.

Tarvaris Jackson may not be the long-term QB solution  but you have to give the guy props for toughness. Playing through a strained pectoral muscle on his throwing side was nothing short of courageous.

There were lowlights and history.

In Cleveland,  the Hawks and Browns played in the lowest scoring game in Seattle history.  An ugly 6-3 loss that would have been a win if the officials didn’t unjustly take away Leon Washington’s spectacular punt return for a TD when one of the Browns flopped like John Stockton with Gary Payton guarding him.  Sonic fans saw that way too often. So did Payton.  (Sorry. That’s two SuperSonic references in a story about the Seahawks.  I miss my Supes.)

The shame of losing to the Bengals at home was only softened by the fact Cincinnati inexplicably made it into the postseason.

The heartbreaking loss to the Skins was a killer. I blame the Fox announcers who noted the Hawks had not blown a fourth quarter lead in 26 games.

There was one team record the Seahawks should not be proud to have broken: most penalties ever.  A whopping 137.  Only the Raiders (naturally) were more proficient at collecting flags.  The third most common thing heard at CenturyLink Field this season behind only the inaudible screams at opposing offenses and “get out the Skittles” was “Oh, another flag. Shocker.”

It is unfortunate the Seahawks finished the season by losing the last two games. However, it was by combined five points.  A far cry from the 2009 & 2010 seasons when the Hawks lost by an average of 19 points a game. (Yeah, I’m a glass half-full kind of a guy.)

Moving forward

There will be no playoff run this year. No BeastQuake.   However, John Schneider, Pete Carroll and the rest of the staff have something special happening in SoDo.  The team was able to remain competitive despite losing seven starters to injury reserve.  That’s the mark of a good organization. Not coincidentally, it is trademark of Schneider’s former team, the Packers.

 So how does a 12th Man survive the next eight months until training camp opens at the VMAC?  Eat plenty of Skittles.

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