Peter Schrager’s three key observations from Seahawks HQ:
1. Duck-hunting season in New York
The Seahawks and Broncos may be squaring off on Sunday, but ducks were a hot topic at Seattle’s media availability session on Thursday.
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Back on Jan. 3, a day before the playoffs kicked off and with his Seahawks enjoying a first-round bye, Richard Sherman served as a guest columnist and wrote a piece on Peter King’s MMQB.com website in which he listed Peyton Manning as the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL. He also wrote the following: “His arm, however, is another story. His passes will be accurate and on time, but he throws ducks.” Four weeks later, with a Super Bowl showdown with Manning only three days away, Sherman was asked about those comments.
“I still feel the same way I felt,” Sherman said Wednesday when a reporter asked him about the D-word. “He’s a great quarterback. He does a great job. But at the same time, when he catches the ball, he doesn’t necessarily catch the laces all the time. But he throws an accurate ball, regardless of how he catches it, how he gets it — he delivers it on time and accurately.”
Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor responded to a question about Sherman’s critique of Manning’s throws with a wry smile. “Yes, “he said with a pause. “Accurate, successful ducks.”
Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said on Thursday: “It can be the ugliest ball, the prettiest ball, as long as it gets there, and 99.99 percent of the time, his passes are on the money and in the best spot they can possibly be. I told the guys when he first got here, the ball from Peyton is like catching tissue paper. No matter where you are on the field, it just falls into your hands. It’s accurate, it’s in the perfect spot, and it’s easy to catch. All you have to do is put your hands out there.”
Manning’s passes may not be the tightest spirals in the world, but they’ve worked fairly well this season. He threw an NFL regular season record 55 touchdown passes in 2013.
2. Even at the Super Bowl, Thursday is ‘Turnover Thursday’
For Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, this week has been all about sticking to a routine and remaining as normal as possible.
Wednesdays throughout the season were dubbed “Competition Wednesdays.” So when Seattle took the practice field on Wednesday the same as always — first-team offense vs. first-team defense. Thursdays all season were “Turnover Thursdays.” On this Thursday morning, the Seahawks players described what that meant.
“Turnover Thursday is a cool concept that I didn’t know much about until I got here,” defensive end Cliff Avril said. “It’s a day that the defense tries to get as many turnovers as possible. I think that we’ve gotten a turnover every Thursday except for one week all season. It shows up on Sunday, too, so it’s pretty cool to see it correlate.”
“It does work,” defensive tackle Red Bryant added. “It’s a reflection of our record. Coach Carroll from day one, his philosophy is all about the ball. He stresses to the offense to protect, and he stresses to the defense to take the ball. On defense in particular, we understand that every time that we take a snap, we’ve got an opportunity to affect the game by taking the ball, and we really believe in that. That’s part of the biggest reason we we’re able to win 15 games this year.”
Said linebacker Bobby Wagner: “We’ve got to create a lot of turnovers, especially against a team like this. They’re very good at what they do. That’s why they’re No. 1. It’s Turnover Thursday. We’re going to get a lot of turnovers, you can tell [Seahawks QB Russell Wilson] that. That’s just what we do. We cause havoc when we’re on the field.”
Wilson, of course, prefers to call it something else. “No Turnover Thursdays,” he said with a laugh in Thursday’s media session.
For the record, the defense finished the session with one turnover — cornerback DeShawn Shead had an interception in 7-on-7 drills for the lone turnover.
If there’s any potential curveball in the team’s routine, it might come after practice Thursday and on Friday morning. That’s when the bulk of the Seahawks’ players’ and coaches’ families arrive at the team hotel in Jersey City.
3. Your obligatory Marshawn Lynch media participation update
If you’re tired of reading and hearing about Marshawn Lynch’s Super Bowl Week media participation — or lack thereof — you’re in luck. The star running back’s league-mandated media requirements ended on Thursday. For the third straight day, Lynch lasted less than 10 minutes and answered just a few questions to another huddle of reporters.
“It’s going to be good to get back to football,” Lynch said of this being his final media obligation of the week. “Very good.”
Lynch was, again, surrounded by teammates and placed in a nondescript hallway outside the main banquet room. Asked whether he likes the possibility of Sunday’s game being a 2-3 yards per carry day with less explosive plays, Lynch nodded and answered, “Yeah. Sounds like a fun day. I mean I get to run into a lot of people.”
As they have all week, Lynch’s teammates backed him up on Thursday.
“I don’t think the media understands anybody because if they did, they wouldn’t be mediating,” defensive end Michael Bennett said. “Marshawn (Lynch) is a great guy, though. He goes out there and puts the team on his back. I don’t think the media really understands what it takes to be an NFL running back, I assume. He does a great job for us. I don’t care if he ever really talks to the media. As long as he does his job for us, I will always be there for him.”
So Thursday marked the end of Lynch’s time in the Super Bowl Week media spotlight. But before putting a complete wrap on his time with the press, he offered this response on how he felt about offensive line coach / assistant head coach Tom Cable’s arrival in Seattle. Cable was once the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and during his tenure he reportedly punched an assistant during a meeting.
“Well, being from Oakland, all I knew about him was that he punched people. That’s my type of person.”
Marshawn Lynch, one of a kind.
Mike Garafolo’s three key observations from Broncos HQ:
1. Why Peyton Manning is getting involved in the running game
The Broncos had only nine runs of 20 or more yards in the regular season and have just one in the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean they’re not trying to hit the big play. In fact, one Broncos player told FOX Sports that, while the coaching staff instructs the running backs to go for the efficient run of 4 yards instead of trying to hit a home run, Peyton Manning has been leaning on them to try taking it the distance.
The player said Manning understands that, as the season goes along and the weather gets colder, the running game has to supplement a passing game that can hit long completions much easier when it’s warm out. Manning tells his running backs if he changes a play from a pass to a run, it’s because he sees the potential for a big gain.
The Broncos might find it’ll be tough to hit those big runs on Sunday. Seattle gave up just six runs of 20 or more yards in the regular season and only two in the playoffs — both of them runs by Colin Kaepernick, who is much faster than Peyton Manning.
2. John Fox’s Super Bowl lesson: Don’t go for two too early
Broncos coach John Fox was asked multiple times this week what he learned from losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. Each time, he artfully dodged the question with what amounted to little more than non-answers. But on Thursday, when a reporter posed the same question, Fox finally admitted he learned a lesson that day while coaching the Carolina Panthers.
"I think I learned at that time not to chase two-point (conversions) too early in the fourth quarter," he said. "So like everything, you live and learn, and that’s probably the biggest thing from a strategy standpoint.”
Fox went for two when the Panthers scored a touchdown to pull within five points midway through the fourth quarter in that Super Bowl. That attempt failed, as did the one after Carolina’s next touchdown. In between those scores, the Patriots converted one of their own. That’s three points the Panthers missed out on. The final margin: three. So don’t expect Fox to make the same mistake if presented with the opportunity on Sunday.
3. An emotional day for C.J. Anderson
Some Broncos players used the off day from practice on Tuesday to do a little sightseeing. One of them was rookie running back C.J. Anderson, a native of Vallejo, Calif., who had never been to Manhattan. Anderson toured the Statue of Liberty and also paid a visit to the World Trade Center memorial.
Anderson, who was 10 years old on 9/11, said one of his grandmother’s friends was on one of the flights that day.
"It was emotional. I’m sorry for the people who lost their lives back at that time," Anderson said. "It makes you appreciate life and appreciate things that much more, that things are bigger than football, which is true. The Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the world, but there are things bigger than what we’re doing."
4. Fox moves practice indoors but keeps it cold
After saying he wanted to practice outside as much as possible this week, Broncos coach John Fox moved Thursday’s session indoors at the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, N.J. after the team determined the field was too hard and would risk injury to a player.
Fox wanted to make it as cold as possible inside, though, so he kept the doors open. The Broncos have practiced in cold weather for much of the past few months and Fox believes that has helped make them "calloused."