MMQB: Seahawks 21, Falcons 18

After a dismal 2005 season start against the Jaguars, the Seahawks rebounded to beat Atlanta in a game of two distinctly different halves.

Seattle Seahawks 21, Atlanta Falcons 18,
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington

Play Of The Day: TE Jerramy Stevens’ beautiful, 35-yard diving touchdown catch from Matt Hasselbeck with 30 seconds left in the first half. The play put the Seahawks up 21-0 and allowed Seattle to fend off Altanta’s impressive second-half comeback.

Zebra Hunt: As usual, when referee Mike Carey is in charge of a crew, you’re going to see several flat-out botches of the NFL rulebook. Carey was in fine form today, as displayed by the following four finagles:

1. With 8:32 left in the first quarter, Atlanta faced 2nd and 7 at their own 8-yard line. Atlanta receiver Bryan Finneran caught and then lost control of a ball recovered by Marcus Trufant. Carey ruled that Finneran was down by contact and therefore there was no fumble. Finneran was on top of Seahawks linebacker Jamie Sharper and as such, could not possibly have been down. Atlanta got the ball back on an unchallengeable call.

2. In the first play of the second quarter, Atlanta punter Michael Koenen punted from his own 23 to the Seattle 32. Returner Peter Warrick reversed his field twice during a very impressive 32-yard return. Carey called a holding penalty on Alex Bannister from the Seattle 35 and marked off ten yards from there, thus creating a forty-yard penalty. There was no clear holding on the replay.

3. The offensive interference call on Jackson with 13:35 left in the third quarter when Jackson was tied up with Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall. I saw no contact at all from either player until the ball was already on the ground.

4. The 15-yard face mask penalty called against safety Ken Hamlin and enforced from the Seattle 33-yard line with 8:44 left in the third quarter - this was actually a dual goof job on Carey’s part. First of all, Atlanta tight end Alge Crumpler had his hand on Hamlin's face mask as well. Somehow, that wasn't called. Second, for there to be a 15-yard face mask penalty, it has to be judged more serious than the standard 5-yarder. Hamlin's contact with Crumpler's face mask did NOT turn Crumpler's head, which is the usual way such things are judged.

With the Seahawks pulling this game out in the end, it makes the usual officiating errors little more than annoyances. As we know, that’s not always the case. And as we also know, Carey will not be penalized in any way, shape or form for his poor performance. Nonetheless, best to get the truth about this game’s officiating out in the open…

Handouts To The Standouts: Walter Jones, for making Patrick Kerney look like a fifth-grader (and if you’re familiar with Mr. Kerney’s work, you know how impressive that is)… Shaun Alexander, for bouncing back from “lack of use” in the season opener with a stellar effort today…Ken Hamlin, for showing what one will can do…Lofa Tatupu, for taking the first few very important steps toward Total Hype Validation…Matt Hasselbeck, for a near-perfect first half…Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram, for showing what the Post-Koren “Two Amigos” have the potential to do…and Ray Rhodes, for recovering enough from a mild stroke on September 4 to help implement the defense. Ray, I don’t always like the defense you put out there, but that’s immaterial right now. You’re a football lifer, and you have my respect for that. Now, take care of yourself!

Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Seattle’s big fat goose egg in the second half of games in 2005, and all the reasons for it...and the startling and revealingly ineffective change in the overall defensive mindset in the second half.

Offense: In the second quarter of the first two games of the 2005 season, the Seahawks have scored 35 points. In the first, third and fourth quarters? Zero/Zilch/Nada. It would seem that this offense requires a few minutes to get ramped up, and twice the time to come down from such frenetic scoring activity. Needless to say, successful, playoff-type teams tend to spread the scoring out over time. And although the inequity in scoring performance could be attributed to the abandonment of the running game in the second half of last week’s loss to Jacksonville, Matt Hasselbeck’s Jekyll/Hyde day will be seen as the primary reason the Seahawks couldn’t post any crooked numbers in the final 30 minutes on this day.

What was so ironic about that was Hasselbeck’s near-perfect first half, in which he completed 13 of 16 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half? 7 of 15 for 89 yards. Hasselbeck is most effective when the running game is working and he’s given enough time to make things happen, but there were times during this game in which he simply appeared unable to get things going…and more importantly, to keep things going. When Shaun Alexander was implemented more in the fourth quarter than the third, the Seahawks ate up half of the final fifteen minutes of the final period. However, it can’t always be on Alexander – Hasselbeck is paid as a franchise quarterback, and the team has a right to expect definitive performances for the most part. Hopefully, the first half today is what Hasselbeck will build on.

Shaun Alexander was quite simply the Shaun Alexander we expect – and then some. With as many carries (14) in the first half as he had during the entire Jacksonville contest, Alexander broke several impressive runs on his way to 144 rushing yards on 28 carries. Additionally impressive was Mike Holmgren’s continued faith in the running game as Atlanta was mounting their second-half comeback – quite often, Seattle’s epidemic fourth-quarter implosions have been as much about drive-killing imbalance as about defensive softness. Not so today, and Shaun’s efforts made the difference.

Although Joe Jurevicius caught his second touchdown in as many regular-season weeks, it was Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram who set the tone for the receivers. Jackson led all comers on both teams with 8 catches for 131 yards, and Engram once again kept the game going with clutch catches over the middle. The game may have been defined more by Stevens’ amazing TD catch, but for the second week in a row, it was the overall reliability of the Seahawks’ receivers that was most notable.

Defense: Seattle’s defense had its own issues in performance between the first and second half – especially when it came to stopping Atlanta’s rushing attack, the NFL’s best in 2004. At the end of the first half, the Falcons’ renowned “DVD” combo of (Warrick) Dunn, (Michael) Vick and (T.J.) Duckett has amassed a total of 50 yards rushing, as opposed to Seattle’s 105. The second half told a different story to a point, although Atlanta was limited to 115 total yards rushing. As the Seahawks’ D started to back off in the third quarter, it became easier for the Falcons to move the ball and get back in the game.

The defensive line performed impressively throughout the game, but Rocky Bernard should be singled out for special mention, as he displayed great ability to disturb Vick with backside pressure. MLB Lofa Tatupu made great strides in this game as well, stopping Dunn regularly and sacking Vick in the first half. Tatupu’s maturity is something that can be seen on a week-to-week basis, and it will be very interesting to look back at the end of his rookie season and reflect on how far he has come. Tatupu’s teammates seem impressed and more than comfortable with his abilities. After a long talent drought at the middle linebacker position, Tatupu’s pick begins to pay dividends.

Seattle’s secondary rebounded from a worrisome effort at Jacksonville as well; Vick was limited to 123 passing yards on 11 completions. Ken Hamlin in particular, seemed determined to upset every play sent his way, and his ability to tackle Vick in the open field was extremely impressive. Less impressive is the fact that after two games, Seattle’s defense has not caused a single turnover…if you don’t count the Finneran fumble that was/wasn’t.

Special Teams: Nothing notable here, but nothing catastrophic, either, When discussing Seattle’s special teams, limited expectations are still the order of the day. Leo Araguz averaged 41.5 yards per on six punts, but his shorter work in the second half (punts of 34, 34 and 36 yards) gave Atlanta the field position that helped their comeback.

Summary: Two games into the 2005 season, the Seahawks have provided as many questions as answers. Can they find the balance necessary to make their offense go? Can the defense keep bailing out the offense (and how odd is that to ask of a Mike Holmgren team)? Will Matt Hasselbeck put one full high-quality game together? What we do know is that after putting together a slightly sneaky win over a team widely regarded as the NFC’s best, this is a squad that will make the curiosities worthwhile.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact him at Top Stories