Saturday, August 12, 2006
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
They may have been 4-2, but the season seemed to be falling apart. On October 23, 2005, the Seahawks faced the Dallas Cowboys at Qwest Field with several question marks hanging over them. They were without their top two receivers, Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. They were less than a week removed from the horrific news that safety Ken Hamlin had suffered severe injuries in an altercation mere hours after the Sunday Night victory over the Houston Texans. And despite their impressive last-second sneak-out over the Rams two weeks before, they hadn’t beaten a good team yet. Dallas, traveling to the Emerald City with the same 4-2 record, would certainly qualify.
This Seattle team needed to show that it was more than the paper tiger of years past – that adversity wouldn’t crush it and pressure wouldn’t kill it. For fifty-eight minutes and change, the Cowboys seemed to have their way with the Seahawks in the kind of low-scoring affair that Dallas coach Bill Parcells always seems to win. When mastery of tenuous circumstances was required, few were ready to give this one to Holmgren’s Heroes based on past experience. But just before the game’s final two-minute warning, and with hope and time slipping away, Matt Hasselbeck led his injury-diluted crew on a six-play, 81-yard drive through a formerly lockstep Dallas defense, finishing with a one-yard pass to tight end Ryan Hannam to tie the game at 10-10 with 1:26 remaining in regulation.
The Cowboys had one more shot – and it took only four plays for Dallas to show that this time, they’d play the role of the heartbroken. When Drew Bledsoe threw an inconceivable fleeber right into the waiting arms of nickel cornerback Jordan Babineaux at the Seattle 43, and Babineaux returned the pick to the Dallas 32, there was no way kicker Josh Brown wasn’t going to win the game with his subsequent 50-yard field goal. Brown completed this most improbable mission with five seconds remaining, tearing his helmet off his head and running around the field like the proverbial four-year old on Christmas morning.
This meant more than just that one game. This meant that the Seahawks, after so many years of folding and wanting, had found a way to make things happen under adverse circumstances. For once, it wasn’t about individual numbers – Hasselbeck threw two picks of his own and barely cracked the 200-yard mark, while Shaun Alexander was shut down by a Dallas defense stacking the box in answer to Seattle’s depleted receiver corps, but it didn’t matter. The Seahawks had finally fielded a team to whom the final score was the most important number.
And so it would be, through the rest of the regular season and through the playoffs, as the Seahawks would not lose another meaningful game until the controversial end of Super Bowl XL. Through that miracle season, they straightened every question mark brought about by their indifferent past, turning all into exclamation points and moving forward with the true power of combined will.
The off-season has given the Seahawks time to lick their Super Bowl wounds, to “Steel” themselves for revenge, and to call out a little Unfinished Business. And now, the preseason is here.
But in the wake of a rather unspectacular preseason opener, it’s worth going back and remembering when it all started for this new type of Seattle team – that ugly win against Dallas, when the Seahawks learned who they really were, and what they really could do.
Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: The offense in general, the defensive no-scheme, and the fact that people actually have to pay full price to see these games. Why not just call them what they are – glorified scrimmages - and let everyone in for free? Either that, or put a gameplan together that actually means something…but it becomes more and more difficult for teams and the NFL to justify full price for messes like this.
Offense: Judging by what we saw tonight, one suspects that Mike Holmgren will be running some very intense practices when the Seahawks make it back to Cheney. Multiple penalties (including two neutral zone infractions and two wide receiver false starts) sandbagged Seattle’s offensive efforts from the beginning, and porous line play cemented a very pedestrian effort from the first and second teams. Matt Hasselbeck finished his two drives with four completions in six attempts for 43 yards, and left the field in favor of Seneca Wallace. Wallace showed maturity at times, displaying an ability to think quarterback first as opposed to pulling the ball down and running his way out of (and subsequently into more) trouble. Wallace finished 11 of 17 for 117 yards, pretty good numbers considering the fact that he spent a great deal of time running for his life behind that line.
The rushing attack was negligible, save for Mo Morris’ bursts in the fourth quarter. Maurice Mann made a good showing, leading all receivers with 49 yards on 4 catches.
If there is one aspect of this game that might raise some concern beyond the preseason, it was the line. The Seahawks gave up six sacks and blew more assignments than anyone would have liked – this happened with both the first and second lines.
Defense: If Seattle’s offense was sloppy, its defense was fairly nonexistent. Obviously not wanting to give anything away, the schemes were vanilla from the start – no stunts, very few odd formations or blitzes - and as a result, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (love his barbeque sauce!) finished the game with 235 yards on 19 completions (25 attempts) and the game’s only touchdown. The Seahawk starting defense looked very solid against the run, but an overall proclivity to concede the short pass over and over killed this team and allowed Dallas to beat Seattle in the time of possession battle by almost ten minutes.
Seattle needs to rehearse this upcoming week at game speed, because it was obvious that they weren’t at that level. Backup safety Mike Green impressed by being around the ball quite a bit, and rookie cornerback Kelly Jennings seemed to be about halfway there – frequently in position to make plays, his weakness is a tendency to get turned around. He’s a man on an island, and it will be a tough go for him until he gets his game up to the next level. He shows the potential needed – now the team’s patience must continue to be matched by his own development.
Special Teams: Rookie punter Ryan Plackemeier was the star of the day (proof positive that your team didn’t have a good showing, when your punter is the man!). His five punts averaged 46.6 yards per, with three inside the 20-yard line. Given that the special teams were unquestionably Seattle’s weakness last season, it’s enough to take from this game that there’s a plus on that side.
Summary: Before you conclude from this game that the Seahawks will go 0-16 in the regular season and propose that Player X is the second coming of Elmer J. Fudd, remember that this is indeed the preseason, and you’re going to see a lot of things you’re better off forgetting. For the Seahawks themselves, such a game should be enough of a wake-up call for their matchup with the Colts next Sunday. By then, you may very well see more of the Seahawks you might expect.
If not, that’s when the first elements of concern should come wafting through your mind…
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.