Seahawks News & Notes: 9/22/05

The Seahawks were more aggressive and physical offensively against the Falcons, a trend that must continue for Seattle to prevail against a strong Arizona defense this week. Keeping the Cardinals' passing game off the field should be the top priority. To do that, coach Mike Holmgren will have to stick with the running game for a second consecutive week.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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Offensive-minded coaches sometimes get eager to pick up yards in chunks. When the ground game doesn't work immediately, they take to the air too frequently.

Holmgren admitted falling prey to that a bit during a 26-14 loss to Jacksonville in the opener. Running back Shaun Alexander gained 78 yards against the Jaguars despite getting only 14 carries. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck took a pounding in the process and Seattle had trouble sustaining drives in the second half.

Jacksonville answered by taking a few successful shots downfield against the Seahawks' secondary.

For the Atlanta game, Holmgren wrote a reminder on his play sheet: STAY WITH THE RUN. The tactic worked. Alexander carried 28 times for 144 yards and Seattle prevailed, 21-18, despite some sloppiness in the second half. Holmgren needs to stick with the plan this week. "I was committed to running against that team," Holmgren said of his approach against the Falcons. "I thought it was the best way to keep pressure off Matt. So I wasn't going to come off of it Sunday. In the previous week's game, I may have come off of it a little early."

Improving field position has to be a priority against the Cardinals. Seattle started four second-half drives inside its own 16-yard line against the Falcons. Its average drive start was the 24, and no drives started outside the 32. "I'm not sure we're going to see any better punter against us the rest of the year," Holmgren said. "It's almost impossible. We haven't gotten any turnovers yet, either, and those typically come in bunches, and those are real contagious. We start getting some of those, a few more chances, a little shorter field, that'll all work to your advantage. As far as the field position the first two ballgames, the other team's kind of won that battle."

The Cardinals' aggressive defense forced Seattle into four interceptions during an early game last season. The Seahawks handled press coverage much better in the rematch, and WR Darrell Jackson stepped up big last week against Falcons CB DeAngelo Hall. Jackson had previously struggled a bit against some of the more aggressive corners, but he caught eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown Sunday.

Alexander also ran more aggressively at times. He steamrolled 219-pound Falcons SS Bryan Scott during a third-and-1 pickup in the second half. Alexander gained 16 and 17 yards on his other third-and-1 runs. He also gained 9, 10 and 11 yards on three of his second-and-10s.

That kind of commitment to the ground game is something Seattle should continue as long as it works.

Defensively, the Seahawks should have little trouble with the Cardinals' weak ground game. Arizona has passed the ball more than 70 percent of the time this season. The trend should continue and Seattle must mount a pass rush to stop QB Kurt Warner from playing catch with talented WRs Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

SERIES HISTORY: 13th meeting. Arizona leads, 7-5. Seattle coach Mike Holmgren is 4-2 against the Cardinals. Arizona coach Dennis Green is 2-1 against the Seahawks. The teams split last season, with each team winning at home. Seattle has won four of the last five in the series. The Cardinals won the first five meetings from 1976 to 1995.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes was not back on the practice field Wednesday, as had been expected. The team is still easing Rhodes back into the job after the veteran assistant suffered a mild stroke Sept. 4. Rhodes appeared sharp and good-humored when addressing reporters early in the week. Doctors put him through a battery of agility tests that might have challenged Rhodes on his best day. "I'm not going to make light of this," Rhodes quipped, "but that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other (test) just like you're getting stopped for a little DUI or whatever? I couldn't do that anyway."

Rhodes, who missed a full week of work following the stroke, also made it clear he did not intend to take the season off. He loves his wife, but apparently a little time apart can be a healthy thing. "When you have been working in this business for a long time and then you spend one week at home - I am not going to get myself in trouble at home, but I don't think so," Rhodes said.

Rhodes' status for Week 3 was not immediately known.

--The Seahawks have had more than their share of second-half meltdowns over the years. Even so, coach Mike Holmgren took no glee in seeing the Cowboys blow a 13-0 lead in the final four minutes. He did tune into the game in time to see the Redskins' dramatic victory. "Honestly, I try not to watch the Monday night game because I'm usually tired from Sunday and I don't want to coach the game again," Holmgren said. "And the whole time, in the last four minutes, you are kind of working situations - 'If I'm Joe Gibbs, what do I do? If I'm (Bill) Parcells, what would we do?'

"Then you try to go to sleep Monday night and you can't go to sleep. And I didn't lose the game Monday night! I had nothing to do with it. But that's what I did. It's hard to watch stuff like that from a coach's perspective.

"I know both of those men. They are both Hall of Fame guys. A little like last year where I would come in here on a couple of those Mondays and you just, you don't know what to say. You really don't know what to say and you don't feel that great."

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 - turnovers Seattle has forced this season, seven fewer than the two-game total last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'd rather have a guy that scores 20 touchdowns a year, which he does. Our guy does that. He gets down to the red zone and he wants the ball. He knows how to get in there, and he does a good job with it." - Coach Mike Holmgren when asked if he would rather have a running back who produced consistent gains, thereby eliminating the occasional yardage losses incurred by Shaun Alexander.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks' personnel department is much more active with Tim Ruskell as president. The team has made moves each week during the regular season, most recently signing former 49ers CB Jimmy Williams to help on special teams and possibly in the secondary. The team had room to add Williams after WR Alex Bannister went on injured reserve with his third broken clavicle in the last year. Bannister was an elite force on the special-teams coverage units. Williams is an experienced return man looking to bounce back from the torn ACL that derailed his promising career with the 49ers in 2002.

Williams' arrival might not be a good sign for RB Josh Scobey, who lost a fumble on his first kick return of the season. Seattle will first have to find out whether Williams can make a difference. The Saints released him earlier this month.

In another move this week, Ruskell released WR Kendrick Starling from the practice squad. He filled the spot with WR Richard Smith, who spent last season with the Chiefs.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES


--QB Matt Hasselbeck was sharp in practice Wednesday, easing fears that his sore throwing arm might remain a concern. Hasselbeck said he would be better after a couple days of rest.

--TE Itula Mili was back on the practice field Wednesday for the first time since suffering an intestinal blockage before the opener. He was not on the injury report. It seemed unlikely that Mili would be active right away because the team wants him to build his strength.

--WR D.J. Hackett was back on the practice field Wednesday. He was not on the injury report for the first time this season. Hackett is a player Seattle hopes can provide a deep threat.

--LT Wayne Hunter will not return this week after suffering a hamstring injury while rehabbing from a sprained knee. He is listed as out on the injury report.

--RT Floyd Womack is listed as out on the injury report.

--WR Peter Warrick is looking sharper in practice as he becomes more familiar with what Seattle does offensively.

GAME PLAN: Seattle's defense has played effectively through two games despite failing to force a turnover. The Cardinals have a shoddy offensive line, so now is the time to become more aggressive defensively and start taking away the football. CB Marcus Trufant needs to be more aggressive in his coverage. The Cardinals have shown little interest in running the ball. That bodes well for Seattle. Offensively, the Seahawks must improve their shoddy third-down play while continuing to show a balanced attack. Coach Mike Holmgren made a point to run the ball against a good Falcons defense last week. He'll want to do the same against Arizona because the Cardinals are good enough on defense to get after Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Seahawks DT Chuck Darby, a veteran known for his high-revving motor, vs. Cardinals C Alex Stepanovich, who is playing with a heavy wrap on his right hand. Darby has good quickness, but not much size. Stepanovich has had some troubles because his snapping hand is taped so heavily. Darby needs to win this matchup to help pressure Cardinals QB Kurt Warner. Arizona has allowed eight sacks already.

Seahawks RCB Marcus Trufant, the 11th player chosen in the 2003 draft, vs. Cardinals WRs Larry Fitzgerald and/or Anquan Boldin. Trufant has moved to the right side this season to protect his surgically repaired right shoulder. He struggled in the opener and played better against Atlanta in Week 2, but his game is not in peak form. Coach Mike Holmgren challenged Trufant to do better after a disappointing performance against Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith in Week 1. Seattle needs Trufant to become more aggressive.

INJURY IMPACT: TE Itula Mili probably won't play much, if at all, even though he is not on the injury report. Mili is still getting his strength back following an intestinal blockage. He is healthy enough to play, but the team does not need him immediately. WR D.J. Hackett is not on the injury report for the first time this season, but he won't be sharp yet after missing the first two games with a sprained knee. Veteran WR Peter Warrick is more likely to figure into the offense in the short term, starting Sunday.


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