Holmgren talks Rams and Seahawks

Heading into their bye week, Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks were a bruised and battered bunch. They needed the time off. Well, they got it and while they're slowly getting back to 100-percent, one team in their division has been hitting on all cylinders. The St. Louis Rams host the Seahawks this weekend in a matchup for early supremacy in the NFL West.

With the Rams sporting a 4-1 record and the Seahawks coming to town at 3-1, the winner gets the early upper hand in winning the division. It’s almost a mirror-image of the circumstances Seattle faced when they came to the “Gateway City” after a tough loss on the road to the Washington Redskins last year.

“Yeah, you could draw some similarities there, I suppose,” Holmgren told the assembled media following practice on Wednesday. “But it’s a little bit of a stretch, I think. This is a new season and you’ve got different guys.

“The part that’s the same is you’re going back to play them there. It’s early in the season. It was a huge win for us last year. The game is every bit as important this year. And it’s important to them too. It’s a big game.”

Seattle and St. Louis have forged a good rivalry since the Seahawks joined the NFC West in 2002 and Holmgren was asked if the now five-year competition between the two clubs rivals the Green Bay-Chicago grudge matches Holmgren was a part of until he came to Seattle in 1999.

“The way the Seahawks have been kind of bounced from not only division to division, but conference to conference, I would be reluctant to compare any rivalry with some of those rivalries that have been going on forever,” Holmgren said. “But, it’s very, very important to us. It’s very, very important to them. Both home fields get cranked up. Both teams have been involved in winning the division. All that creates a rivalry. And in our division now, the Seahawks-San Francisco rivalry has been there longer. But the Rams-Seahawks rivalry is a good one. It really is a good one.”

Two players that make the Rams so dangerous are wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce and Holmgren said they are keenly aware of what those two mean to their offense.

“You pick your poison,” Holmgren said. “Those guys are special players. I’ve said that all along. I admire them as football players. I’ve played against them many, many, many times. They’re good, tough guys. We just have to rally.

You have to play good team defense, sound defense, you have to take the right angles. You have to be in the game thinking all the time. Actually, your week of preparation, you have to study those guys all the time. You have to study them or they’ll make you look foolish.”

One area of the Seattle defense that plans to make life rough for the Rams wideouts is the secondary, but they too are ailing. SS Michael Boulware sustained a concussion in the second quarter of the Chicago game two weeks ago and while he’s expected to play, they need as many men as possible to have clear heads.

“I think our secondary, for the most part, has played pretty well and has been victimized by deep throws, big plays,” Holmgren admitted. “Other than that, they’ve played pretty aggressively and done some good things. But the home run, I mean, shoot, you’ve got to take care of that. We talk to them. They know it.

“Guys have other responsibilities, and they’re trying to make plays. I said this last year, and I truly believe this: our best football is absolutely ahead of us, on both sides of the ball. We’ve had some changes, we’ve had a couple new people in. Before it all starts clicking, sometimes these things … hopefully you can still get out with a win after a couple mistakes, which we were able to do in the first couple ball games.”

Aside from the challenge of the secondary this week, Holmgren has also tried to focus on a remedy for the lackluster play of the offensive line.

“They've just been OK, you know? I expect a lot from them, you know, and they kind of set the bar last year, I thought, in playing well,” Holmgren said. “But I know we have too many sacks. The quarterback is getting hit too much. Our rushing yardage isn't what it was. I've said this a million times. Offensively, you start with your offensive line. They must get the job done otherwise it's pretty hard to do anything else, regardless of who's playing.

“So those guys have got to get it done. They know that. They're offensive linemen. They know that. And, yeah, we've had some changes in there so my thinking, I feel, that we're just going to continue to improve over the course of the season, but we started off a little rough. I will say that.”

One of those changes was All Pro guard Steve Hutchinson who bolted for the big money in Minnesota and Holmgren said even though they lost a talented player, they need to make do with what they have.

“Give it a few games,” Holmgren advised. “They've been nicked up just a little bit, (Sean) Locklear and (Chris) Gray didn't practice, so we've gone through (injuries), but every team does that. People do that. Then Shaun (Alexander) gets hurt, and so it changes things just a little bit. But look, having said all that, they've got to get it done. You've got to get it done anyway. There's no other way to look at it. And they know that.

“We've got good guys up there. They're willing to accept responsibility. They're pretty honest when they look at the film about what happened. I don't hear very much. That's the nature of the offensive line, and certainly that's the way our offensive line approaches their job. So my feeling is we will get better because as I've said, we've started off a little rough in my opinion.”

With the running game struggling, Holmgren noted he’s noticed his quarterback Matt Hasselbeck pressing just a bit.

“I have talked to him about it, and yeah, I suppose there is that possibility,” Holmgren said. “But he's played long enough now to know that he can't win the game by himself. He's smart enough and has played long enough to realize that. While he probably thinks he has to do a little bit more, when bad things happen, that's not the reason. Usually it's something else. You try too hard or we did whatever. He knows it immediately.

“It's not like you're dealing with a rookie quarterback or something that things are blurry out there. He knows how to play now, and when he does something he's probably trying to make something happen, and he probably knows immediately that he probably shouldn't have done it.”

As far as injuries are concerned, Holmgren noted that Alexander won’t play this week the could possibly be without WR Bobby Engram as well because of an undisclosed illness, but the team does expect to get one integral part of their passing game back this week as TE Jerramy Stevens has been practicing all week.

“I will have to see how Jerramy practices before I make any definitive statement there because has to show me that he is ready to go,” Holmgren said. “You come off an injury, the second injury actually on the same leg, if there is the slightest bit of hesitation there, then I want to be careful with that.

“To have everybody healthy and be able to play, it helps us, it does. We use two tight ends a fair amount in the red zone, or have over the years, so this allows us to do that and that is taking nothing away from Will Heller, he caught a touchdown pass against the Giants, but it is nice to have Jerramy back.”

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