Kam Chancellor must be an android.
Richard Sherman is a lot of fun to watch NFL football with.
Those are two of the more interesting reads Tuesday morning from the national media and major newspapers as attention heats for the NFC and AFC Championship Games coming Sunday.
Also here are links to all our latest Seattle Times coverage and a roundup of national coverage from Monday. Be sure to join our live chat with former Seahawk Dan Doornink at noon Tuesday, and our live chat Thursday with ex-Seahawk Marcus Trufant.
Here is an updated roundup.
For a league that’s really stringent about everything from drug use to touchdown celebrations, the NFL doesn’t seem to have a problem with letting a created player play for the Seahawks. Kam Chancellor is 6’3 and 230 pounds, runs by threatening the ground to propel him forward and sends receivers into an existential crisis after every hit. But sure, if the NFL has no problem with allowing androids to play strong safety, I guess that’s cool. I mean, all he did was hurdle the Panthers O-line and nearly block a field goal.
His feet don’t touch the any players because halfway through that jump, he ascended into a higher plane of existence. He’s now the divine Kam Chancellor. He ran into that jump the same way a DeLorean by a mad scientist goes back into the past. That’s not the same Kam Chancellor who jumped and disrupted the kicker. He went back in time, found that kicker’s great grandfather in a soccer field somewhere and destroyed him before coming back to put fear into his great grandson. They don’t mention Kam’s name in that kicker’s household the same way Hogwarts schoolchildren don’t say Voldemort.
At this point, I’m sure Kam was only picked in the fifth round because that’s how long it takes to build up courage to acknowledge him. The Seahawks didn’t start him in his rookie season probably because they were just sliding all of his stats to 99 while removing any sign of mercy from his heart. They released him onto the poor fools of opposing teams like a Kraken. I mean, how do you compete with a super soldier who hops over the O-line cleanly to nearly block a kick and when the play gets called back because of a false start, he nearly does it again on the next try?
They keep saying he hit the kicker like the kicker shouldn’t just be happy to be able to walk away from that alive. That’s a near-death experience. The only flag that should be thrown after the play was a white one because clearly the game is cheating now. This is like when one of your friends just creates a super player in Madden and then gives them a “common” name to throw you off. Now you’re wondering why your receivers are walking off injured after every play.
I mean, just look at him. he jumps over the offensive line and immediately explodes forward in an attempt to block the kick in the same motion. I’m sure if the NFL decides to test him, his test will be invalid because he’s powered by lithium-ion and nightmares. No way Kam doesn’t go to sleep listening to the soothing sounds of cracking bones and cries of receivers and running backs. His nickname is literally “Bam Bam Kam.” The only other Bam Bam was the adopted cave-child of Barney and Betty Rubble who carried around an enormous club and was known for his superhuman strength. That’s who he was nicknamed after. A kid who scared dinosaurs with his inhumane power. How is that fair?
The physicality, the speed, the technique, the impact plays…it was all there for Chancellor in a game he dominated because of the ability to produce in a scheme that specifically caters to his unique skill set and size (6’3”, 232 lbs) at the safety position.
Drop to the curl-flat in zone coverage and close on any throw underneath. Come downhill to fit up the run. Identify the screen pass and beat the offensive lineman to make the tackle in space. Play fast and deliver a violent strike on contact to finish ball-carriers. And that was before Chancellor closed out Cam Newton and the Panthers with a 90-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter.
Remember the hit on Mike Tolbert at the end of the first half? Chancellor didn’t give the running back room to create an angle like we see so often with safeties who break down early. They hesitate, play not to get beat and eventually miss the tackle as they lunge at the running back’s legs.
Not with Chancellor. Nah, this guy came downhill like a missile and put a helmet on Tolbert in the open field. It was the kind of hit that shows up on highlight reels. Hey, Tolbert is a big boy (245 lbs), and Chancellor dropped him.
The strong safety also showcased his athleticism when he jumped over the long snapper (twice) on consecutive field-goal attempts like he was doing a box jump in the weight room during an offseason workout.
That was ridiculous. Think about it: A 6’3”, 232-pound safety leaping over guys with the body control and flexibility to make it look easy.
MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. — Richard Sherman is calm, quiet and engaged. Barefoot and dressed in sweats, he’s staring at a 70-inch flat-screen TV mounted on a living room wall. His girlfriend, Ashley, and his father, Kevin, are also here, watching the Cowboys-Packers playoff game in the cocoon of Sherman’s 9,435-square-foot mansion outside Seattle. It’s drizzling on the full-length basketball court and the Koi pond out back. A Domino’s pepperoni and sausage pizza is on the way. Suddenly, Sherman leaps to his feet, knocking the remote off a couch armrest and onto the floor.
“That’s 71 Trap! 71 Trap!”
The play isn’t even over yet. The Packers are doing something wacky with their coverage: Cornerback Sam Shields presses the outside wideout on the three-receiver side for about three steps, then peels off and steps into the flat, walling off an open man. The trap is meant for Tony Romo. The quarterback’s head begins to dart. He panics and scrambles to his right before being sandwiched by Cowboys linemen.
“Got him!” Sherman shouts.
Ashley and dad are still lounging. They’re used to this by now. But I’m at a loss. What happened?
Sherman reaches out with both hands.
“Give me the notebook,” he says. “71 Trap. It looks like a simple man coverage, but this corner has whoever stops in the flat, and the safety takes that receiver going up the sideline, and the linebacker or nickel takes the slot guy if he…”
But you can’t see the safety on TV…
“Right,” he says. “With TV, you kind of have to assume certain things are true.”
This is how the best cornerback in football watches NFL games: He diagnoses, he plots, and he guesses. The guesses will be confirmed over and over again during film-study sessions throughout the week to come, but this is a first look at the upcoming NFC Championship Game through Sherman’s eyes.
He hands the notebook back, and then the doorbell rings. The pizza is here. Time to eat.
The Seahawks remain the best team in football. The Panthers went to Seattle and played a tough, spirited game of football, but there was never really any doubt that the Seahawks were going to win that game.
Seattle’s defense is insanely good. It was the best defense in the NFL last season in both the regular season and the playoffs, and it was the best defense in the regular season, and seems to be just as good in the playoffs again. The Seahawks forced Cam Newton into three turnovers on Saturday, and Seattle is now on a seven-game winning streak in which it has allowed a total of just 56 points. That just doesn’t happen in today’s NFL.
So can the Seahawks keep it up? I think they can. I like Seattle to beat Green Bay on Sunday, and I like Seattle to win the Super Bowl as well. If that happens, we’ll look at the 2013-14 Seahawks Defense as one of the greatest in the history of the sport.
The Packers are 7.5-point underdogs in this game, according to Bovada. It’s the most points that one of Green Bay’s opponents has been favored in a playoff game since Jan. 20, 2002. On that day, the St. Louis Rams won by a lot more than the 11 points expected, beating the Packers 45-17.
“If you’re shocked that we’re an underdog, I don’t know why you’d be that way,” Nelson said. “We’re going on the road to the defending Super Bowl champs. It doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t matter if you’re underdog or favored. You have to go out and play the game.”
Green Bay was the underdog in each of its past two postseason exits, both to San Francisco. But the 49ers were only three-point favorites.
Underdog or favorite, none of that enters the minds of Packers players.
“It’s the top best teams in the conference,” right guard T.J. Lang said. “We expect to win, they expect to win. That’s what it comes down to. You never want to go in thinking, ‘We’re not favored, let’s just go give it our all.’ We go out there expecting to win every game we play.
“Whatever the underdog is, we don’t really play that card. We go out there (and) we have confidence in what we do. We feel like any team we play, as long as we play to our identity, we have a good chance of winning.”
Someone asked the question in our newsroom Sunday: Are the best four quarterbacks in the NFL still playing? Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers may disagree, but Russell Wilson‘s incredible play of late makes it a legitimate debate. …
1. Aaron Rodgers has helped win two massive games since leaving Week 17 with a calf injury. But winning in Seattle will be a whole other challenge. The Seahawks‘ defensive line is the most underrated group in the league. Seattle can get creative with their linebackers and send waves of pressure at Rodgers if they are confident he’s not mobile. It will be a far cry from Dallas’ pass rush.
2. Which quarterback is playing better in this game? Rodgers was the best at the position all season, but there’s no denying that Wilson had the better playoff performance over the weekend. Wilson’s near-perfect outing against Carolina got lost in a crazy weekend. Buoyed by a historically good ground game, the Seahawks‘ offense makes this team more balanced than you think.
3. Seattle’s defense is playing at a level we have rarely seen. They have roughly seven players that can take over a game, depending on the week: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. Beating that peaking group in Seattle would be the niftiest achievement of Rodgers’ career.
The Green Bay Packers could not have known when they left Seattle in September that they’d get another shot at the Seahawks.
Given the way the Packers played that night in the NFL’s nationally televised regular-season kickoff game — one the Seahawks blew open in the second half to win 36-16 — it was hardly obvious a rematch awaited in the NFC title game.
But it will be a different Green Bay team that returns to CenturyLink Field this weekend. Winners of 12 of their past 14 games, the Packers hope they’re a lot better equipped this time to tackle the defending Super Bowl champs.
“Quite honestly, it’s a wait-and-see kind of approach,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews told USA TODAY Sports in the locker room Monday.
“Obviously, we came up short in Week 1. But you have very few opportunities to redeem yourself in this league, and here we are, in a huge game. So, I guess we’ll find out.”
The beauty of football is its simplicity. You throw, you catch. You run, you hit. Tony Romo threw and Dez Bryant caught. Simple? Nope. For the second week in a row, an NFL playoff game came to a complicated conclusion, thanks to technicalities and rule books and loopholes.
This is not a game for geniuses, no matter what you think of Bill Belichick. But somewhere along the line, someone did too much thinking, and it ruined a great game on Sunday. Green Bay beat Dallas 26-21 to advance to the NFC championship game in Seattle next week. And I think if the refs hadn’t screwed things up, the game probably would have come out the same way.
Just in case you weren’t aware, here’s what happened: With less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys facing a 4th-and-2, Romo uncorked a bomb to Bryant, who leaped for an amazing catch, got control of the ball after defender Sam Shields knocked it loose, pinned it to his shoulder, took two steps, then tried to stretch for a touchdown as he fell to the ground. But the ball came loose when he landed. The officials ruled it a catch, Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged and the call was overturned. Seems Bryant had never completed the catch because, as ref Gene Steratore explained, he “never had another act common to the game.”
Whatever the hell that means.
So Romo was robbed of a defining pass and Bryant was robbed of a defining catch. And we were robbed of a moment in history, because the Cowboys likely would have scored on the next play or two, and then Rodgers would have had about three minutes, on a blown-out left calf, to drive for a game-winning field goal.
Which he would have done. Of course, I’m only guessing. That’s how we were robbed. If not for over-thinking, we could be talking for years about the end of this game. Now, people will talk about that one play, and overlook the fact that Rodgers had an incredibly, unbelievably, historically great game.
“I feel very honored to play with him,” Packers center Corey Linsley told me in the locker room when it was all over.
He is the best quarterback in football, and one of the best ever. But with this win – and his gutty Week 17 performance to take the NFC North – Rodgers has added grit to his greatness. He battled a balky left calf all week, spending hours with a physical therapist and even receiving reams of unsolicited advice from strangers (“I’d like to say thanks to all the fans and medical people out there sending ideas over the hotline,” he joked to reporters. “There were some really interesting ones.”) Then, early in the first quarter, with the Packers driving, Rodgers saw an opening and decided to run. It was going to be an easy touchdown until the pain in his calf stopped him cold. He calmly surveyed the field, saw receiver Andrew Quarless and drilled the ball into his arms for a touchdown.
When Marshawn Lynch sits in the film room to watch his 110-yard night in Week 1, he’ll probably view the middle of the Green Bay Packers’ defense as one giant tub of Skittles.
There’s Letroy Guion, stood up at nose tackle and driven into Portland. There’s Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk playing a combined 110 snaps. There’s the entire defense missing 17 tackles.
For Green Bay, it was an opener to forget.
“I think we’re a lot different team,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday.
All teams change over a 4 ½-month span, but the changes to the Packers’ personnel on defense have been substantial. Guion hadn’t even practiced all training camp, linebackers Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington started playing inside and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix matured. Green Bay is hoping these changes prevent another 36-point, 25-first down, 398-yard performance in the NFC Championship Game.
Capers has tweaked the scheme, absolutely. But different players in different roles occupy his defense on this trip west.
It was pretty clear to everyone else that Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s decision not to throw at Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in the season opener was a bad idea.
As he begins preparations for the NFC Championship Game at 2:05 p.m. Sunday against the Seahawks, McCarthy wasn’t quite willing to admit his plan was off, but he did indicate Monday that his offense has taken a different turn since the three-receiver, no-huddle form it took in Week 1.
And that would seem to indicate he wasn’t going to line leading receiver Jordy Nelson on the left, away from the all-pro corner, all game long.
“We’re a no-huddle offense and my thought was, and I told Jordy in the game plan, just line up on the left side,” McCarthy said. “We thought Richard would come over there and play him on the left side.
“It didn’t happen, and how the game sorted out, the ball went where it went was just really how the game was played. There was never a ‘don’t throw right’ in the game plan. With that, I think we’ve played a lot differently since then.”
Watching the nationally-televised opener was former Packers and Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren. Grounded in Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense and a master tactician, Holmgren sees Pete Carroll’s team on a regular basis from his home in the Seattle area.
As he saw the game play out, he recognized right away that throwing away from Sherman, arguably the best cornerback in the game, wasn’t a good idea.
“Mike, I respect him a lot, he’s a good coach,” Holmgren said. “But you can’t not throw at Richard Sherman. That was a mistake. You’re taking away half the field. You can’t do that.
“Now, Sherman is good. You don’t want to throw it up to him a lot. But you can’t stay away from him all game.”
A week after smothering Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in a 26-10 breeze past Cincinnati, the Colts made Peyton Manning look every bit his 38 years. How dominant were they? Try 20 incompletions for Manning. Try 12 stops for the Colts on 16 Bronco third-downs. Try just one play that went for as many as 25 yards.
Does defense win in the playoffs? The Colts just proved it. And they did so against an offense that ranked fourth in the NFL this season and put up nearly 30 points a game.
On Sunday, they settled for 13.
“These are the moments you dream about as a kid,” said that middle linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson, the eight-year NFL veteran who had never tasted postseason football until a week ago. “This is what training camp is about. This is what all that hard work in August is about.”
“When we play together, we can be one of the league’s best units,” said that cornerback, Vontae Davis, who was nothing short of superb Sunday with seven tackles and five passes defended. It wasn’t that long ago Davis’ career had soured in Miami. He’s come to Indianapolis and become of the NFL’s premier shutdown corners. And he showed you why on Sunday.
“Seattle gave us the blueprint in the Super Bowl,” Davis said, alluding to the Seahawks’ dominant 43-8 pasting of Manning and Denver in last February’s Super Bowl. “What we did was similar to what Seattle did, as far as taking their receivers away.”
Manning wasn’t Manning. The deep balls soared too far. His timing was off. His precision waned. Certainly, that was a factor. But so was Davis. So was Greg Toler. So was Jackson and Jerrell Freeman and Cory Redding and Jonathan Newsome and Ricky Jean Francois.
So was a defense that has done nothing but silence the doubters since the clock turned to 2015.
A handicap? No more. This unit has become a bedrock in the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers fans are slow to change and hesitant to embrace the new. They do not follow fads or fall for hype. The Packers fan’s sense of football history sweeps across decades and generations. Packers fans never fail to love their Packers with all their hearts and souls, but they are cautious, to a fault when crowning legends.
General football fans are only slightly more forgiving. We grow infatuated with our flavors of the month, a month at a time. We dangle the “elite” title in front of great quarterbacks on fishing lines, yanking it away after any loss or mistake. Fame and praise are cheap, but immortality is conferred slowly, often too slowly.
Aaron Rodgers has a Super Bowl ring. He has an MVP award and may soon be given a second. He has been Super Bowl MVP, first-team All Pro, Bert Bell Player of the Year. He generates statistics that boggle the mind in an era of mind-boggling statistics: 139 touchdowns and just 25 interceptions in the past four years, the best quarterback rating in NFL history.
But Aaron Rodgers lives in the twin shadows of four quarterbacks, or at least he lived in them until Sunday afternoon.
In Green Bay, Rodgers has always battled to live up to the standards of Bart Starr and Brett Favre. On the national stage, he has spent his career trying to seize some spotlight from Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
On Sunday, in a gritty, inspiring, inspired 26-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Rodgers finally earned once-and-for-all equal partnerships with the local and national Olympian gods. It’s no longer Starr-Favre-Rodgers in that order or Brady-Manning-Rodgers in that order. They are two pairs of three-of-a-kind.
All Rodgers needed was what every Packers legend needs: a career-defining game against a great Cowboys team.
Even with a completely healthy Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers would have a tough time overcoming the Seahawks in Seattle. But with Rodgers hobbled by a calf injury that cannot feel much better after his team’s defeat of the Dallas Cowboys, it’s going to be an even taller order for the Packers.
Repeat Super Bowl contenders don’t happen very often. It’s a difficult task that requires everything—including a bit of luck and timing—on the defending champions’ side. But the Seahawks have been a strong team all season, one that has only gotten stronger as the season wore on and gave way to the playoffs. While not flawless, their level of execution in all three phases has been impressive. It’s simply something the Packers cannot match. Seattle’s defense gives up the fewest points per game (15.9) in the league while Green Bay’s offense scores the most (30.1). However, Seattle’s offense scores 25 points per game on its own. Granted that Seattle plays to its own averages in the NFC Championship, a second straight Super Bowl appearance for the Seahawks seems to be their destiny.
As the 2012 Russell Wilson pass that would soon be known as the “Fail Mary” floated through the Seattle air, Lance Easley was still an anonymous NFL replacement referee.
In his regular life, he was a vice president with Bank of America, a family man, a devout Christian and someone who for decades in California spent his free time refereeing high school football, small college basketball, whatever he could.
Today, everything is different.
It’s more than two years since Easley made one of the most infamous calls in NFL history. It left him under siege from the media, both traditional and social. Players and coaches blasted him. Late-night comics mocked him. Irate fans and gamblers hammered him with crank calls and death threats. The controversy extended all the way to the presidential campaign trail with both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney addressing it.
Today, Easley says, the man he was is gone. Perhaps only his faith remains the same. Today, everything else is up for grabs. Today, it’s all a struggle.
“Right now I’m just trying to keep my life together,” Easley told Yahoo Sports in a series of interviews just as the focus on the Fail Mary returns with the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks meeting Sunday for the NFC championship. “It’s really difficult.”
Easley, 55, says he is suffering from severe depression. It’s an illness he periodically struggled with during his life but flared up significantly in the past year as he has tried, unsuccessfully, to put that night in Seattle, and the overwhelming pressure that followed, behind him.
Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.