Playoff Preview: Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks continued the trend of Super Bowl losers struggling mightily the following season. Even though they were hammered by the Bears 37-6 back in Week 4, they still managed to win the lowly NFC West at 9-7 and will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Bear Report takes a look at Mike Holmgren's club as they host Dallas in the wild card round.

Rushing Offense
The Seahawks are 14th in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 120.2 yards per game. Tailback Shaun Alexander was the MVP of the league in 2005, but he only played 10 games in 2006 due to a cracked bone in his foot earlier in the season. He still managed to produce 896 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, but the defection of guard Steve Hutchinson in free agency proved to be a monumental loss. Maurice Morris did an adequate job replacing Alexander and ran for a career-high 604 yards, but he failed to find the end zone even once. Fullback Mack Strong is arguably the best in the business and will be making the trip to Hawaii in February for the Pro Bowl.

Passing Offense
The Seahawks are 20th in the NFL in passing offense, averaging 190.9 yards per game. Like Alexander, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is a perenniel All-Pro but missed significant time in 2006 with injury. His passer rating fell from 98.2 last season all the way down to 76 this season, and he threw six more interceptions this year (15) than he did last year (nine) despite playing four fewer games. Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch are a seriously talented pair of receivers, but Jackson has been hurt lately and is questionable for the wild card matcup with Dallas, and Branch's production has tailed off down the stretch. Tight end Jerramy Stevens talks like an All-Star and has a reputation as a dirty player, but he managed only 231 receiving yards this season and drops way too many passes.

Rushing Defense
The Seahawks are 22nd in the NFL in rushing defense, averaging 126.8 yards allowed per game. Seattle employs one of the smaller defenses in the league, but they are as fast and active as any unit that qualified for the postseason. Second-year stud Lofa Tatupu is the team's leading tackler with 123 from his middle linebacker position and a Pro-Bowler for the second time. Ken Hamlin is a hard-hitting safety and proved his value in run support by making 96 stops of his own. Defensive tackles Chuck Darby and Rocky Bernard do a good job putting pressure on the quarterback and combined for seven sacks, but they are both under 300 pounds and can be moved around in the run game.

Passing Defense
The Seahawks are 15th in the NFL in passing defense, averaging 203.5 yards allowed per game. Linebacker Julian Peterson came over from San Francisco and was an instant success his first season in the Emerald City, making 89 tackles and leading the team with 10 sacks. Former Rams Bryce Fisher and Grant Wistrom did not get to the quarterback enough from their defensive end positions and came up with only four sacks each. Safety Michael Boulware's numbers were down across the board this year, contributing 33 fewer tackles, two fewer INTs, and three fewer passes defensed in 2006 even though he played all 16 games. Both starting cornerbacks, Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon, are suffering from ankle injuries and will not play in the wild card round against Dallas.

Special Teams
Strong-legged kicker Josh Brown had another solid season in Seattle, converting 25 of 31 field goal attempts and all 36 of his extra points. He was especially effective from long distance, making 10-of-14 from 40 yards and beyond. Punter Ryan Plackemeier averaged 45 yards per attempt on the year, although only 25 of his 84 punts ended up inside the opponent's 20-yard line, and his 15 touchbacks were second-most in the NFL. Nate Burleson and current Ram Willie Ponder handled the majority of the kickoff return duties and were both effective if not extraordinary, averaging 24.7 and 23.5 yards per attempt, respectively. Burleson was the primary punt returner and averaged a very pedestrian 9.5 yards per attempt, although he did take one back 90 yards for a touchdown.

JC


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