Sunday, January 2, 2005
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
In the end, it was all worth it.
In the end, that jerk wideout who kept letting his team down, every boneheaded coaching move, every late-game collapse, every agonizing prevent defense, every blown call by officials who so often resembled employees of the opposing team, every red zone drive that putzed out down the stretch, every heart-attack, edge-of-your-seat ending, every “Fire Holmgren/Rhodes/Whitsitt” argument…it was all worth it.
The Seattle Seahawks are your 2004 NFC West Champions. So there!
And yet, the game that brought Seattle this championship exemplified just about every obstacle this team has had to overcome. Would it have been a SEAHAWK division win without the following?
1. The Rams beating the
Jets 32-29 in overtime (yes, the same Jets who whomped the Seahawks 37-14 just
two weeks ago), thus putting the onus upon the Seahawks to beat the Falcons
if they were to win their division;
2. Erstwhile child Koren Robinson missing a walk-through on New Year’s Day, getting sent home by Mike Holmgren as a result, thereby punking every single one of his teammates and coaches (again!) as he missed the most important game of the year;
3. Head Official Mike Carey “calling” the game. I KNEW the Seahawks were in trouble when I saw that Carey was running the show. More on him later;
4. Shaun Alexander coming up short of the NFL rushing title by one yard and putting a slight blemish on a great day with a few petulant post-game remarks;
5. The obligatory Ray Rhodes-designed late game defensive collapse and matching faceplant, AND...
6. The Falcons missing a game-tying two-point conversion with no time left on the clock, and an official reviewing that play with players and coaches covering the field! THAT was original...
No…it can never be easy for our Seahawks. But with all that said, with “football experts” from Maine to San Diego telling the Seahawks that they didn’t even deserve a playoff berth, this team escaped a very tough foe in the Atlanta Falcons and wrapped up their first NFC West title. Can we just hold that in our hands for a minute and enjoy it before it melts? It isn’t going to get any easier in the postseason, so I say we should endeavor to groooooooove a long way on it.
Zebra Hunt: There are a few things you know will happen whenever Mike Carey is the crew chief of any game you’re unfortunate enough to watch. You know you’re going to hear his pretentious, long-winded rulings, you know he’s going to entertain you with a series of ridiculous gesticulations and contortions, you know he’s going to blow call after call, and due to his ticky-tack, anal-retentive nature, you know it’s going to take FAR TOO LONG for him to do any of it. Why? Well, if you’re a referee these days, it’s far more important to get that precious camera time than it is to actually do your job on a consistent basis!
True to form, Carey and his crew bollixed several calls. The worst example robbed Ken Lucas of an interception, cost the Seahawks valuable momentum, and typified the criminally amateurish officiating that has been the Seahawks’ bete noire all season long:
With 1:24 left in the first half, Falcons backup QB Matt Schaub threw a pass to Peerless Price from the Seattle 44-yard line. Ken Lucas jumped the route and made an incredible diving interception, an interception that was a catch from every single angle you’d care to show it. Problem #1? Lucas jumped up untouched and started towards the end zone when Carey blew the play dead. The interception went to an immediate booth review (and if it was instantly reviewable, why was the play whistled dead before Lucas could get to the goal line? If the call was overturned in the booth, that would indeed be a touchdown, would it not?)
Problem #2? After further review (HA!!!), it was ruled, gesticulated and “balleted” by the lovely Mr. Carey that Lucas did not have control of the ball. Which begs the question: If the officials are going to hack their way through every game no matter what and ignore what is right before their eyes with disgusting regularity, why do we waste our time with replay? Perhaps because in the subtle art of officiating, it is FAR more important to APPEAR competent than it is to actually BE competent? Perhaps.
Why do I mention the NFL’s horrid officiating in every “MMQB” article? Because the NFL won’t mention it at all. Because coaches and players get fined thousands of dollars more for calling officials out when they screw up than the officials themselves ever get fined for screwing up in the first place. Because Clinton Portis got fined five large for wearing the wrong color socks this year, and Tom White got fined $2,600 for giving the Ravens a game last year. Because…well, it makes me feel better. And since no action is ever taken against these cementheads, sometimes you’ve just got to vent.
Handouts To The Standouts: Shaun Alexander, for his best season ever, NFL rushing title or not…Matt Hasselbeck, for an all-day exhibition of grace under pressure…Chad Brown, for making a real statement about what a warrior can do…Darrell Jackson, for finishing out the regular season with skill and style…Bobby Engram, for proving, as always, that he is the ultimate Go-To-Guy…and Mike Holmgren, for putting the game above individual records, and his command of the team over a dangerous trend of leniency towards a young man he genuinely wants to help.
Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Koren Robinson, for losing any fans he had left…the Seahawks’ defense as a unit, for an at-times abysmal display of open-field tackling…and (gulp) Jerry Rice, for dropping two balls, slipping on a slant that led to a DeAngelo Hall interception return for a touchdown, and making me feel like dirt for having to put his name in this section in the first place.
Offense (First Half – B-, Second Half - B): The Seahawks’ offense started slowly but soon got on track, primarily due to the efficient efforts of one Matt Hasselbeck. Shaun Alexander will be everyone’s lead story tomorrow, but let us not forget #8. The quarterback that the Seahawks should have signed to a new contract before the season even started once again proved his worth when it truly mattered, completing 21 of 27 passes for 191 yards, and touchdowns to Darrell Jackson and Jerramy Stevens. As good as Hasselbeck was last year, there is a new resolve here – a new toughness. This is not the same kid who threw that ill-advised interception to Al Harris in Green Bay, something I think we’re about to find out when THIS postseason begins.
And as for our All-Pro running back? 1696 yards and 20 touchdowns to finish the season. And for the second time, the Jets goofed up the Seahawks’ day. When Curtis Martin rushed for 153 yards on 28 carries against St. Louis, Alexander would need 82 rushing yards to surpass the 1697 that Martin finished with.
You can’t come any closer than one yard, Martin’s performance was simply brilliant, and had the Jets beaten the Rams (thus assuring the Seahawks of their division), Alexander probably would not have seen enough time to beat Martin anyway. Given the outrageous value that Shaun has been to this team all year, I’m inclined to put his post-game comments about the team “not taking care of him” down to disappointment at the moment. Most likely, you’ll hear a very different tale from Shaun Alexander the next time he’s asked about it. At least I hope so. And for those who choose to criticize, I’d ask you to remember where this team would be without him.
The Seahawks’ corps of receivers benefited from Hasselbeck’s ability to spread the ball around (eight different Seahawks caught passes in the game), led by Bobby Engram’s catches for 79 yards. Although Darrell Jackson only caught 3 passes for 18 yards, he continued the reliability he’s shown over the last two months. Ironic, isn’t it, that the man Jerry Rice’s acquisition has seemed to help the most has been Jackson when it was ostensibly Koren Robinson who Rice was to mentor?
As to the matter of Koren Robinson his own self? If I never see this young man in Seahawk Blue again, it’ll be too soon for me. And I’m far from alone in that opinion.
Defense (First Half - B-, Second Half - D): Well, it wasn’t exactly a matchup any Seahawk fan was looking forward to - the Falcons and their #1 rushing attack versus a Seattle defense that has given up 1191 yards rushing in their last seven games (170.1 per game). As expected, Warrick Dunn ran wild, and God only knows what would have happened if Chad Brown (who really showed his stuff with six tackles and five assists) hadn’t gotten to Michael Vick early with a sack/fumble/minor injury combo thingy, and Vick hadn’t left the game after the Falcons’ third possession. Dunn finished with 132 yards on 25 carries, and T.J. Duckett added 52 yards on 8 carries. Maybe this was the source of Shaun Alexander’s frustration – knowing that if he had faced Seattle’s defense a couple times this year, the 2,000 yard mark would not have been out of the question. The Seahawks probably won their division because the Falcons had already won the NFC South and felt less imperative to keep their franchise guy out there – it boggles the mind to consider what Vick could have done on the ground with sixty full minutes against this defense.
The main problem this week (it’s always something)? Tackling, or the lack of it. The Seahawk D exhibited terrible technique in yet another fundamental area, and if they think they have a chance in Hades against the Rams unless they tighten it up, they’re kidding themselves, Koren-style.
The one positive that can be taken from what I can only hope is almost the end of Ray Rhodes’ two-year tenure here is the formation and development of what could be an astonishing young secondary, with Ken Lucas, Marcus Trufant (who had a clutch interception that the refs miraculously let stand), Ken Hamlin and Michael Boulware. Given a defensive coordinator who can put them in the right places, keep them away from weekly scheme-related collapses and teach them what they need to know…well, the Seattle secondary (and the defense overall) is likely much closer to championship level than they’ve exhibited. There’s more talent than we’re seeing here, and we’re not going to see it all until we get a defensive coordinator who can bring it all out.
And that, in the words of Forrest Gump, is all I have to say about that.
Summary: Deep breath, people…’cause here comes that roller coaster again. The St. Louis Rams pay the Seahawks a second visit to Qwest Field this Saturday, hoping to recreate the ignominious collapse suffered by Seattle in Week Five, Both teams hang on tenuous threads at best – both teams can be world-beaters one minute and complete dogs the next. In facing their mirror image to begin this playoff run, the Seahawks again face the opportunity to overcome the bad coaching, bad thinking, bad officiating…bad everything…
You know what’s both encouraging and infuriating? They’re good enough to do just that.Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.