Wow. If you haven't watched Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin's EVISCERATION of the NFL and its absurd policies, this video deserves two and a half minutes of your time. Beyond the unassailable rightness of their remarks, I'm encouraged by what it means for the mindset of the team. Like Bob Belcher said about Gene's performance during the opening round of the Competitive Table Setting Tournament: "He looks good. He looks loose." The Seahawks look confident and defiant, but loose. At the same moment, the jittery, paranoid 49ers are ordering team security to kick the media out of the locker room. The Seahawks have constructed an infernal machine, a ground attack that is one of the most powerful in NFL history, and it's set to grind out a win in Santa Clara Thanksgiving Night. I envision a 19-9 Seattle win, sealed with a Richard Sherman pick-6 late in the 4th. What shape will Michael Crabtree's hissy fit take afterwards? What do y'all think? In any case, here's a new iteration of Seattle's Top 10 wins over Santa Clara. Enjoy!
10. December 21, 1997: Seahawks 38, Niners 9 The Niners came in with the NFC's #1 seed locked up, and treated this like a glorified preseason game. Despite that, this was still a rousing win. Warren Moon wrapped up his spectacular 1997 Pro Bowl season with four TD passes, including two to Joey Galloway. 1997 was my first season as a Seahawks season ticket holder, so that game has an added bit of personal significance...
9. November 20, 2005: Seahawks 27 @ Niners 25 This was one of the shakiest performances of Seattle's 2005 NFC Championship season, but it showed the Hawks' ability to pull out a victory even when they weren't playing their best football. The Seahawks had a 27-12 lead going into the 4th, but they allowed Ken Dorsey (Wait... What?) to rally the 49ers to within a 2-point conversion in the final seconds. But this was 2005, NOT 2003 or 2004- This lead wouldn't get blown. Under pressure Dorsey's pass fell harmlessly to the turf and Seattle's sprint to XL continued unabated.
8. October 12, 2003: @ Seahawks 20, Niners 19 This was a big early-season ESPN Sunday Night test for the 2003 Seahawks. Even though the Hawks came in 3-1 and SF was 2-3, the Niners were defending division champs and just a year earlier T.O. had humiliated Seattle on MNF with his infamous Sharpie stunt. The boys in blue ran out to a 17-0 lead, which evaporated into a 19-17 4th-quarter deficit. The Twelve Army watched anxiously as Josh Brown booted Seattle to a 20-19 lead with five minutes left, which was immediately followed by a Frisco march down the field. Thankfully Chad Brown forced a Garrison Hearst fumble in the final minutes, and the Seahawks' march towards the 2003 playoffs continued.
7. September 30, 2007: Seahawks 23 @ Niners 3 Remember back in the mid '00s, when the national football press seemed to insist every fall that the glorious revival of the 49ers was jusssssst around the corner? Early in the 2007 season, a trip to Candlestick was supposed to be the changing of the guard. Then this happened:
Yup, I have no problem reveling in the memory of Rocky Bernard smashing Alex Smith's shoulder into meat-flavored goop. I'd love to see Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril do likewise to Colin Kapernick.
6. December 6, 2009: Seahawks 20, Niners 17 The Niners arrived at Seahawks Stadium needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive against the pathetic MoraHawks. Though 2009 was an unmitigated clusterfuck, this was a spectacularly satisfying win... As I wrote in this space back then:
Let me say this clearly: Fuck the Niners. Fuck 'em. For all the bluster and chest-beating and media slobbering over them, these Niners haven't accomplished DICK yet. Nothing. Zilch. 2009 will be ANOTHER season that will end with them in their usual place: sitting at home, watching the playoffs. Once again, with feeling: FUCK the Niners.
All week all we heard about was how Coach Bug Eyes and the big, mean 49ers were going to come into Seattle, pistol whip our players, pillage Pioneer Square and generally lay waste to all things Seahawks. Mr. Commercial Star Mike Singletary would motivate his talented minions to subjugate our poor, defenseless Seahawks on their way to reclaiming what the media sees as the SF birthright: the NFC West title.
The Seahawks decided not to play the victim in this perfectly composed narrative. Of course, it helped that Singletary passed up 3 sure points by arrogantly going for it on 4th and goal early in the game. It also helped that the over-rated Frank Gore killed a Niners scoring drive in the 4th by coughing up the ball, and that Michael Crabtree was scared shitless by a charging Lawyer Milloy on what could have been SF's winning TD in the waning minutes.
It was rapturously awesome to see the Seahawks not just beat the 49ers, but physically punish and abuse them. Alex Smith was never going to be the next Montana or Young, but today we saw him just as lost and helpless as he was in 2007. The only difference between today and that game at the Stick three years ago was that Smith's shoulder survived. When was the last time the Hawks delivered such a cathartic win? Such a statement that not only would Seattle win the day, but that the future belonged to us too? Simultaneously, our hated rivals tumbled back into Limbo, into the dreary knowledge that the glorious Niner restoration STILL isn't happening. In the words of R.E.M., The Future Never Happened.
There's already a lot of Seahawks fans trying to downplay this win. Fuck that. I predicted that the Seahawks would win the NFC West, and now I GUARANTEE they will... You, my friends, will have a home playoff game to watch in January. I will be at Qwest screaming until my soul spills out, and Mike Singletary and his Niners will be at home, watching on television. And indeed, my prophecies of 2010 came to pass...
4. December 27, 2003: Seahawks 24 @ Niners 17 The Seahawks went to Candlestick Park for a Saturday afternoon game just after Xmas, needing a win and some help the following day to qualify for the postseason for only the 2nd time since 1988. Seattle entered the game at 9-6, but sported a pathetic 1-6 road record coming into the game. Niners coach Dennis Erickson was hoping for a win to finish the season 8-8 (which was a habit he picked up back in Seattle during the 1990s), and to exact vengeance upon his old employers and the coach who replaced him in Seattle.
The Hawks quickly fell behind 14-0, and lamentations of "same old Seahawks" rang out across the land like church bells. Another winning but playoff-free season loomed.. It was '78, '79, '86, and '90 allll over again... but the Seahawks clawed and gouged back into the game, and then something amazing happened late in the 3rd:
Matt Hasselbeck threw a PERFECT pass to Koren Robinson in the back of the end zone... and K-rob (for once) HELD ONTO IT and got both feet in bounds. 21-17 Seahawks. Josh Brown extended the lead to 7, and Shaun Alexander ate up most of the 4th quarter on the ground. The D stopped a last-gasp Niners drive, and Seattle triumphed in a game very few expected them to win.
Colin Kaepernick, darling of the national press, anointed for greatness by Jaworski, had ANOTHER atrocious evening at Seahawks Stadium, leaving him without excuses to lavish kisses upon his biceps. Frank Gore, who once provided a steady stream of nightmare fuel to faithful Twelves, was rendered irrelevant. Anquan Boldin, who ran through Green Bay defenders last week as if they were dandelions sprouting from the Candlestick Park turf, had one catch for seven yards... in garbage time. Seattle forced five Niner turnovers, and the defending NFC Champs started losing their cool in a manner not seen since the darkest days of Mike Singletary's reign. Against the rest of the NFL, they look like Champions. Against us? They're just a collection of posturing chumps. Marshawn Lynch has become the eater of Forty-Niner souls. He BARELY (by 2 yards) missed out on another 100-yard rushing day against SF, but his three TDs (and spectacular trolling of the Niners after TD #2) earned him offensive MVP honors in my book. Richard Sherman deserves special recognition for erasing Boldin, hauling in an interception, and even lowering the boom on a hapless SF wideout with a perfect, explosive tackle late in the game. Walter Thurmond III, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett also stood out, but it took a total team effort to snuff out one of the NFL's elite offensive attacks.
2. December 23, 2012: Seahawks 42, Niners 13 This game was our announcement to the football world: The Seahawks have arrived, and they are going to lay waste to the NFL. After the Hawks had already run out to a 14-0 lead, Kam Chancellor DESTROYED Vernon Davis with a clean (but unfairly flagged) hit. The Niners were in range for an easy field goal that would cut Seattle's lead to 11, but Red Bryant and Richard Sherman had other plans. Big Red blocked the kick, and Sherm scooped and scored. Seahawks Stadium was delirious and deafening, and the rout was ON.
Russell Wilson threw four TD passes (two to Doug Baldwin), and Marshawn Lynch gashed the Niners vaunted defense for 130 yards and two TDs. Seattle defense ERASED Colin Kaepernick and Frank Gore, and 67,000 (or so) Twelves went home happy and hopeful.
Late November, 1999. The Seattle Seahawks were the surprise leaders of the AFC West at 8-2. They confounded expectations by pulling off big road upsets in Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Kansas City. Their aggressive defense was among the league leaders in takeaways, and young quarterback Jon Kitna unexpectedly shined over the season's first two-and-a-half months. The Hawks seemed to be on a trajectory that would land them in Atlanta for Super Bowl XXXIV. In week 12 they faced the 6-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Seattle was favored by a touchdown to prevail at home.
The Tampa defense terrorized Jon Kitna, sacking him three times and forcing him to commit six turnovers. The Bucs won 16-3, and they began a hot streak that would get them all the way to the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks, now exposed (particularly in Kitna's case), imploded. They limped to a 9-7 finish, backed into the playoffs, and closed the Kingdome with a heartbreaking Wild Card loss to the Dolphins and the decrepit Dan Marino. A severe beating from a Championship defense irrevocably wounded the 1999 Seahawks.
On Sunday, Seattle was on the other end of a similar equation. The Arizona Cardinals rolled in at 9-1, riding an opportunistic defense and the surprisingly solid performance of a young quarterback to the top slot in the NFC. Despite being a middling team in terms of advanced statistical measures, the Cardinals streaked to the NFL's best record by winning every "coin flip" game they played. The rival Seahawks came in at 6-4, needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. After a dominant 19-3 win, I think it's fair to ask: Did the Seahawks just break the Cardinals?
They certainly delivered their best defensive performance of the season, holding Arizona to three points and a paltry 204 yards of total offense. The narrative all season has been "what's wrong with Seattle's defense?" The statistics no longer support that narrative. At this point, with that unit inching closer to full health, they lead the NFL in total yards allowed and are 7th in scoring defense. They relentlessly pressured Drew Stanton with their front four while the Legion of Boom had a radar lock on his potential targets. First the first time since September, the Seahawks defense looked as overpowering as they did in 2013 (in no small part thanks to the return of Bobby Wagner), and capable of smothering the enemy.
Special teams also approached their stratospheric performance of a year ago (with the exception of on blocked Hauschka field goal attempt), blocking a punt and dominating field position with exceptional punt coverage and workmanlike returns from Bryan Walters. Offensively, the Hawks still lack a real vertical threat (which is my main source of concern about their Super Bowl prospects), but they've built the most potent ground attack in football. With Marshawn Lynch battling a stomach ailment, Russell Wilson led the team in rushing with 73 yards on 10 carries (Wilson is on pace for 937 yards rushing on the season), and had one of his best passing performances of the season (17/22 for 211 yards and a TD for a 121.6 rating). Play-calling and Red Zone efficiency are still grave concerns, but it's hard to consider Seattle's offense punchless when they are 11th the NFL in scoring.
The formula that led Seattle to the Super Bowl last season was a punishing ground game punctuated by the occasional deep shot, plus a suffocating defense that consistently won the turnover battle, and otherworldly special teams. It appears that they've restored the rushing attack and the elite defensive performance. If they can find a way to stretch the field (Please step up, Kearse and Richardson), find consistency on special teams, and force more turnovers, they have an excellent chance of repeating as World Champions.
Seattle has no chance to savor that season-saving win as a trip to Santa Clara looms on Thanksgiving Night, with the winner pointed towards winning the NFC West (I predict Arizona will stagger to an 11-5 finish. It won't be as spectacular a collapse as the 1999 Seahawks, but it will keep them from winning the NFC West) and the loser left to desperately claw uphill towards the playoffs. The Hawks have won 4 out 5, and I think they're set to author the franchise's greatest Thanksgiving moment since their 1986 upset win at Texas Stadium. After that? Look out for a '99-Bucs-esque deep playoff run. The difference will be Seattle won't fall in the NFC Championship, and the Cardinals will have to watch their feathered northern rivals celebrate a Championship on their home field.
The Hawks have played the nomadic Cardinals 30 times over the years, but none of those match-ups were as important as this upcoming Sunday's "Last Stand" at Seahawks Stadium. A win would keep Seattle alive in both the NFC West and Wild Card races, while a loss would erase any hope of a divisional title and push the Hawks to the brink of playoff elimination. Oddly, our rivalry with the Cardinals has never approached the intensity of our battles with the Rams in the mid-00s or our current blood feud with Santa Clara. That's partially due to circumstance: We've rarely been good at the same time. On top of that, the games themselves have tended toward not being particularly memorable. Since Seattle joined the NFC West in 2002, they're 13-11 against Arizona (Before that? 1-5 against STL/Phoenix/Arizona). Here's the ten most noteworthy/memorable Seattle wins over the Cardinals. Enjoy!
The 98-degree heat at Sun Devil Stadium didn't seem to faze the Seahawks, as they ran out to a 24-0 half-time lead and cruised to an easy shut out win. Darrell Jackson only caught 3 passes, but they accounted for 133 yards and 2 TDs. The defense forced six turnovers and scored on a Randall Godfrey fumble return. This would be Seattle's last road win of 2003 until the season finale at Candlestick Park (The Hawks went 8-0 at home and 2-7 on the road in '03, including the playoffs).
This was our first ever win over the Cards, after five losses from 1976-1995. Shawn Springs and Willie Williams both took Jake Plummer INTs all the way back for scores, Ricky Watters gashed the Cards for 116 yards from scrimmage, and Michael Sinclair notched 2.5 of Seattle's 7 sacks.
Odd coda: Arizona would recover to go 9-5 down the stretch, make the playoffs, and beat NFC East (huh?) rivals Dallas in the Wild Card game. The Seahawks? Um, well... there was that Phantom Touchdown later on, but overall they went 6-8 over the remainder of 1998 and got Dennis Erickson canned.
I have to confess that the only reason this one made the list was because I happened to be at the game. Otherwise it was a fairly forgettable affair, beyond the charity of a close friend:
There was a lone hopeful event that boosted my spirits, however- Given that my only Seahawks jersey was a Matt Hasselbeck model, I needed to get a new one on my visit out to Seattle. I decided that I would take advantage of the deal being offered at the Seahawks Stadium Pro Shop: Turn in any old Seahawks jersey and get 25% off a new one. For me, that meant I'd have to part with my #8, and give up the dream that I'd wear it someday to his Ring of Honor ceremony. It was a sad thing to contemplate, but given that I'm not exactly flush with cash right now, it seemed like a necessary sacrifice.
That was until my close friend Katie stepped in and said (as I remember it) "No way. You LOVED Hasselbeck, and I remember you defending him when I was crapping all over him- You explained to me what he meant to this team- There's no way I'm letting you trade that in."
She offered up her own old Julius Jones jersey, and I ended up getting my SWEET new Earl Thomas jersey at a discounted price. She also reminded me that blind optimism is pretty much my best quality as a Seahawks fan- Her gesture re-energized me for Sunday's game.
The 2010 Seahawks only won 7 games on their way to the NFC West title, and two of them were against Arizona. In the October game at Seattle, Marshawn Lynch ground out 89 yards on 24 carries, while Big Mike Williams snared 11 catches for 87 yards and the Hawks' lone touchdown. A few weeks later BMW completed his dominance of the Cards with ANOTHER 11 catches for 145 yards. Matt Hasselbeck had one of his last great games, completing 24 of 33 passes for 333 yards and a touchdown.
In two games against Arizona in 2005, Shaun Alexander rushed for 313 yards a SIX touchdowns! Four of those scores came in the September matchup in Seattle, which was actually fairly competitive until the Hawks pulled away in the 4th. The Seahawks defense contributed 3 sacks, two takeaways, and kept the Cardinals out of the endzone for the full 60.
Rightly so, the rematch in Tempe is remembered for Shaun Alexander's 88-yard TD scamper and 173-yard, 2-TD overall performance. But it's easy to forget that for a moment it looked like the Seahawks would implode. A 27-9 lead got whittled down to 27-19 in the 4th, but thankfully the league MVP salted the victory away with another touchdown. This was the moment where Shaun Alexander became a legitimate MVP candidate in the eyes of the national football press.
Seattle knew that with one win over their final two games in 2004, they'd make the playoffs. Up to that point, 2004 had been an absolute nightmare for Twelves: The blown 17-point 4th quarter lead to the Rams, the MNF collapse v Dallas, and an embarrassing blowout home loss to Buffalo had scarred the Twelve Army badly. Still, they were on the verge of the playoffs, which was a very novel experience for Hawks fans still stung by The Forgotten Years.
For any other fan base, Shaun Alexander's 4th quarter TD to put Seattle up 24-7 would have been cause for celebration, but we all were waiting for the terrible rain of anvils, and it looked like we'd all get splattered into oblivion when the Cardinals pulled within three late. Frankly, Trent Dilfer had an awful day subbing for Matt Hasselbeck: 10-26 for 128 yards and an INT. But on a key 3rd down late in the 4th quarter, he somehow outraced multiple Arizona defenders to the first down marker, allowing Seattle to kneel their way to a wayyy-too-stressful victory and a playoff berth.
The most dominant win in team history. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin both topped 100 yards rushing, and Seattle racked up 284 total yards rushing. The defense not only shut out the Cardinals, they outscored them with Richard Sherman's interception return TD (one of EIGHT Seattle takeaways). As I wrote back then:
Today's 58-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals was less like a football game, and more like that scene in Drive where Ryan Gosling's character doesn't just disarm a mob gun thug or even merely kill him. He stomps on that fucker's head so many times that it ended up resembling a watermelon from Gallagher's act, and he's left splattered in the blood and brains of his murdered foe. THAT is what the Seahawks did to Arizona.
Arizona came into this one needing a win to pull within one game of Seattle for the NFC West lead. The Seahawks would clinch a 4th consecutive NFC West title with a victory. They wouldn't blow the opportunity, jumping out to a 24-0 lead before cruising to an easy victory. Kurt Warner threw for 337 yards and 3 TDs, but was also picked (and sacked) 5 times. Hasselbeck tossed 4 TDs, and Marcus Trufant delivered the death blow with an 84-yard pick six in the final quarter.
As for this Sunday? It'll occupy the top spot on the next version of this list. Seahawks 29, Cardinals 22.