Some would say this week’s matchup of Gang Green versus the Seattle Seahawks is more of a sure thing than not. Hold your horses. Although the Seahawks (3-11) are lack luster in Mike Holmgren’s final season at the helm, the one thing the Jets will have to contend with is the crowd on the last day Holmgren coaches at home at Qwest Field.
The 12th man in Seattle will surely be heard this coming Sunday. QB Brett Favre and the gang will have to quiet him early and often to have a chance at going into the season finale against Miami in a possible winner-take-all scenario for the AFC East crown. Seattle receivers like Deion Branch and Koren Robinson have breakaway speed bursts from time to time.
“He is going to come to play on Sunday no matter what you might read, even if he has little nicks, bruises or injuries,” CB Ty Law said of Branch. “On Sunday, Deion is going to come to play. He is a tough guy and he enjoys the game as well. There are a few guys that I can say enjoy the game week-in and week-out. You can tell on their face even when they are competing. Deion is one of those guys, kind of like Hines Ward, that enjoys being out on the field.”
With the Jets (9-5) ranked 31st in pass defense, look for QB Seneca Wallace to search for his receivers and TE John Carlson in the passing lanes. Wallace said that with this being Holmgren’s last home game, they want to come out hard and fast.
Wallace has one interception over six starts (one game in relief of Hasselbeck) this season and a quarterback rating of 88.9. The Iowa State alum has amassed 67 rushing yards this season with 47 of them coming in Week 14 against New England. If the Jets decide to play the pass well on Sunday, look for Wallace to attempt to beat the Jets sixth ranked rushing defense with his feet.
“We still want to go out every Sunday and win the game,” Wallace said. “Their record is a lot better than ours and they are probably fighting for a lot more than we are. We definitely want to go out, make it a game and make sure we play hard every snap.”
Head Coach Eric Mangini knows what’s at stake. The Jets have practiced all season in noisy conditions. This was evident during training camp when speakers across Hofstra blasted everything from T.I. to Garth Brooks during 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills.
“It’s extremely loud,” he said. “I feel like we’ve worked with noise for so long that that’s just part of the process now – all through training camp, OTA’s and everyday in practice, one side or the other is getting it. For us, it almost feels a little bit different when there is no noise at practice. When the radio is off for some reason, that’s the exception.”
The Jets will need to stick to the methodical running attack that includes recently named Pro-Bowlers in RB’s Leon Washington and Thomas Jones. Look for Seattle and its 21st ranked rushing defense. Running backs this year have averaged 119.5 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry this year. Look for that matchup to take center stage this weekend.
The dedication to the craft of running the ball has paid off for the dynamic duo this season. Jones went from trade dud last year to AFC rushing leader this year. Washington is in the top ten in kick return and punt return yards and has five rushing touchdowns this year.
“His work ethic. His leadership,” Washington said. “The attitude that this guy brings to the locker room and what he brings on the field is something that I haven’t seen by any other guy since I have been here. When he is in that huddle before the game talking to the guys before we go out, he really gets you pumped and ready to go. In the huddle that we have with the running backs he gets so pumped and ready to go.
But don’t forget about that crowd noise. The noise levels in Seattle rival that of an Alice in Chains concert. Gang Green will need to stifle the crowd with long grueling drives so the Seahawks’ offense has no chance to cause a stir in the local Seattleites since Wallace has great mobility and create mismatches if his receivers stay on course while he’s on the run.
“The best way to control crowd noise is to have effective drives,” Mangini said. That tends to slow it down a little bit. If the noise does get some type of negative response from your team, a false start or something like that, it just rockets up.”
The magnitude of this game, being that snow showers are in the forecast for Seattle on Sunday, is huge. Regardless of the records of these two teams, this game will show if the Jets have what it takes to go into next week and cap off a real rocky ride of a 2008 regular season.
“It’s a big deal,” RT Damien Woody said. “Adding to it, this is Coach Mike Holmgren’s last home game with Seattle. I am sure they are going to want to send him out in a good way in front of the home fans. It’s going to be a tough game. Those guys play hard. They have a lot of pride over there.”
A lot of that pride stems from the veteran presence on the Seahawk defensive unit anchored by DT Rocky Bernard, MLB Julian Peterson and CD Marcus Trufant. The Jets offensive line knows that despite the 3-11 record, Seattle would love to spoil the Gang Green’s chance at a first division title since 2002.
The Jets know about spoiling. Back in 2002 when the NFL needed the Hubble telescope to figure out the AFC East, the Jets beat the then Brett Favre-led Packers and even though the Patriots beat Miami in a 27-24 OT game, Gang Green came away with the division crown because they swept New England that season.
“They have a lot of good veteran players, plus they know what is at stake for us,” said Woody. “They are going to want to play spoiler, too. It’s going to be a difficult game to play.”
Will history repeat itself once more and have the division decided during the finale at the Meadowlands next week? Stay tuned.
Coach Mangini said the team will practice outside today because of the possible chance of snow in Seattle this Sunday. They usually practice inside when inclement weather touches down in Florham Park. “It’s supposed to snow up there so I thought we’d enjoy it,” he said. “Plus I think Brett wants to make some snowballs.” The Jets need all the help they can get if that have to deal with the 12th man plus Mother Nature this weekend. “You can’t simulate it,” Mangini said of the snow. “You can talk about it. You can try to educate on it but until you go and do it, it’s different. We’ve practiced a lot in the rain and the cold. There’s real value to it.”
Feely returns to Seattle for a second chance
Everyone remembers K Jay Feely’s meltdown a few years ago with the Giants when he basically ripped the air out of Giants’ fans lungs when he missed field goals and the end of regulation and in overtime which was one of the first signs of Big Blue’s downward spiral toward a losing season. “He’s a really competitive aggressive guy,” Mangini said of Feely. He’s never once struck me as the type of guy that lets a setback set him back the next time. He’s inherently competitive. The way he covers kicks in practice, the way that he’s involved on the show team. He’s got a very competitive personality for a kicker.”
More Noise creates a game of telephone
No one can’t mention the Seattle Seahawks without mentioning the noise level that emanates from Qwest Field. “Noise has been such a consistent part of our practice routine,” Mangini said. “I feel that guys are extremely comfortable in that environment. It’s not the exception here, it’s the norm. When we do go somewhere it usually doesn’t have a significant affect on what were trying to get done.” The Jets practice in loud noise conditions every week. They know it’s going to be loud and they realize the crowd will be rocking due to the situation with Holmgren and what not. “When one corner is fifty yards away from the other corner and the message goes to the safety who is twenty yards away, that’s more like that game of telephone where you’re hoping that the message gets to the other side,” he said.