Momentum... The Seahawks started the year looking strong, but had trouble getting going. A great defense who struggled on third down, and a rookie quarterback racing along the NFL learning curve, caused hiccups for this team in the first half of the season. But that's all changed, hasn't it. The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are arguably the hottest teams in the NFL right now.
It's hard to assign blame while lauding success, but Pete Carroll deserves both for how this team started the 2012 season and how it's risen to near the top of the NFC with one game to go. He had to be having a bit of deja vu in the preseason from his days at USC. Remember the Mitch Mustain - Matt Barkley - Aaron Corp quarterback dilemma he faced? He started a true freshman - Matt Barkley - and never looked back. It took guts to start Russell Wilson over the big paycheck free agent Matt Flynn too. Not all that long ago, I recall reading the comment threads here at Field Gulls where fans cried out for Flynn as Russell went through his rookie stumbles. Time and tide changes things, doesn't it?
I'm an Editor and writer for Turf Show Times, the SBNation site for all things St. Louis Rams. I've marveled all year at the transformation of the NFC West into a NFL power. The changes in the Rams over preceding seasons has made watching my favorite team fun. The Seahawks found their divine spark after the Miami game, or at least it seems that way to me. Something about that game caused the Seahawks to suddenly start clicking. Wilson's unheard of rookie poise and football intellect showed his teammates he could do the job, and do it well. It was like a light bulb went off for the entire team?
Yes, the Seahawks great defense, and that Skittles driven beast Marshawn Lynch played key rolls, but the rise of Wilson made both of their jobs easier. Past third down troubles began to disappear and the defense had more rest because Wilson has kept the offense on the field longer. Lynch has benefited from increased respect for Russell's abilities as a passer, with defenses having to game plan the Tarkington-esk mobile quarterback.
While the Rams youth filled roster has had quite a few titches along the way in 2012, this team reminds me of the Seahawks two years ago. Jeff Fisher has transformed a moribund team, with smatterings of talent, into something no one in the NFL can take lightly. Stocked high with four first round draft picks over the next two years, the Rams are on an undeniable upswing. The 2012 draft class has made huge contributions, which is a rare thing indeed for the Rams when you consider past draft choices. Janoris Jenkins is going to be one of those players with gunslinger in their blood. Exciting to watch, he gets beat long one play, then turns on the jets as he cuts off a pass in mid-stride for an interception. Michael Brockers is a flat out road block. In the Tampa Bay game - on a fourth and one deep in Rams territory - Brockers flat out pushed the entire left side of the Bucs interior line backwards. He's going to be an incredible talent in the next few years.
On offense, Sam Bradford has a new and speedy toy in the form of rookie Chris Givens. With five receptions over 50 yards, he's the first Rams receiver in years that can stretch the field. Seventh round draft pick Daryl Richardson may be the biggest prize of the Rams 2012 NFL Draft. This is not only a nice young guy who fans have come to love, but the heart he plays the game of football with is inspiring.
So as I think about what I've written, I can see the overall theme for the Rams is youth, while for the Seahawks it's been growing into who they can be. The win over the 49ers was a seminal game for Seattle. It set the bar far higher than the win and tie the Rams had over San Francisco this year. The Rams were saying "We're coming, while the Seahawks said "We've arrived."
I wonder about this game coming up. Will the Rams see Seattle's starters, or will Carroll rest key players? If Richard Sherman loses his "leaky cup" appeal, how will it affect the Seahawks in the post season? Sidney Rice has had his best season so far with Seattle, but he gets banged up quite a bit. How important is it that Doug Baldwin is back and producing?
Loads more questions will follow in the coming days. I'll be dropping in from time to time to answer and ask questions. I'll be inviting some of the Turf Show Times crew to stop in too. Should any of them forget they're guests here, please don't hesitate to let me know.
Here's the a great game and no injuries. Congratulations for making the post season, and may I say I'm reeeeeealy hoping for a Seattle-San Francisco NFC Championship game. After all, beating the 49ers once is never enough...