Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks-Vikings, Part 3

In Part Three of our four-part series previewing the upcoming contest between the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, Publisher Tim Yotter asks Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar five more questions about Maurice Morris, the offensive line, and Seattle's chances of returning to the Super Bowl. Mandatory reading before Sunday's game!

Tim Yotter, Publisher, Before the Vikings went after Chester Taylor in free agency, there were indications they were interested in Maurice Morris if they didn’t get Taylor. Given what you know of Morris, do you think he could handle a full-time feature role?

Doug Farrar, Editor-in-Chief, Seahawks.NET: Hard to say. Morris has all the tools – he’s quick to hit the hole, shifty in short spaces, has a good burst outside and he’s an estimable receiver and pass-blocker. The question with any back his size (5’11”, 202) is whether he could take the pounding of 300+ carries per season. That’s not to imply that he’s injury-prone, or couldn’t handle things other smaller backs could – but it is to say that the Warrick "Waterbug" Dunns of the world, those who last for a decade or so as feature backs despite their relative lack of size, are uncommon.

In Dunn’s case, he’s never had more than 280 carries, and has caught at least 29 passes, per season - and he’s always been part of a two-back package. Were Morris to start full-time for any reason, I would think it wise to implement that sort of structure. If you want to be 5'10" and take over an offense, it helps if you have 20 more pounds on you like LaDanian Tomlinson does.

Tim Yotter: The Vikings have been very solid stopping the run, so if Morris can’t get things going on the ground, can the Seahawks protect Matt Hasselbeck enough if he needs to throw the ball 45 times? How good is that offensive line without Hutchinson, and where is its weakness?

Doug Farrar: Protecting any quarterback when a defense knows the pass is coming is very difficult. The biggest advantage given any line is the unpredictability of the offense’s play-calling. Hutchinson allowed Seattle to mix things up beautifully because he was an incredible run-blocker who could pull out and trap with an agility that most tackles would envy. Hasselbeck was sacked 24 times in 2005, and he’s already been taken down 17 times through five games in 2006. That’s not just because defenders are flying through holes – it represents a necessary change in Seattle’s offensive philosophy that opposing defenses seem to be able to read.

The line hasn’t played anywhere near the level it did last season. It’s not just Hutchinson’s departure, though that’s the most obvious component. Center Robbie Tobeck is a year older, and though he’s still one of the smartest players in the league, your margins of error are thinner from a physical perspective when you’re 36 and playing in the NFL. Veteran right guard Chris Gray seems to be losing more and more ground this season. Chris Spencer, Hutchinson's replacement, is a converted center who is still finding his feet at the position. The tackles are as good as you’ll find in this league, but even future Hall-of-Famer Walter Jones has given up two sacks this year. Right tackle Sean Locklear is one of the better young players at his position, and really the only constant point of stability.

I’d say that the line’s weakness is that the cohesion is gone and must be rebuilt. Cohesion along an offensive line is an enormous (and oft-ignored) factor.

Tim Yotter: The Seahawks struggled against the Detroit Lions and lost badly to the Chicago Bears, both teams that run a similar style Tampa-2 defense that the Vikings have enjoyed this year. Is there an impatience with the Seahawks offense if it doesn’t start to put up points early?

Doug Farrar: I think there’s already been an impatience displayed by Mike Holmgren and his staff. They’ve tried a reliance on different schemes – four-wide sets and shotgun formations – that might normally be anathema to the relatively conservative coach. This is an offense that is still trying to find its way … so, yes, the impatience could increase. It’s already there.

Tim Yotter: In looking over the Seattle statistics, it appears Seattle’s opponent have been very close with or even outdone the Seahawks on the stats charts. That noted, how is this team 4-1, and is it a legitimate Super Bowl contender again?

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks are 4-1 despite being out-“statted” and outscored this season because they’ve generally found ways to win ugly when they had to. The horrific 37-6 loss to the Bears also threw all the numbers out of whack. They have been dominated once, but they haven’t dominated anyone else through a full game. That’s how you get skewed numbers. Of course, the question is, which numbers are skewed – the 4-1 record, or the numbers that don’t support that record?

Right now, I would find it difficult to rate the Seahawks as a legitimate Super Bowl contender – the offense is very inconsistent, and the pass defense has been unbelievably porous for a team that hasn’t played far ahead a lot this year. They’ve given up 92 points in the last nine quarters, including a 27-burger from the Giants in the fourth quarter of their Week Three 42-30 win (the only game in which they were dominant for any extended period of time). Fortunately, they don’t need to be that great team right now, and Holmgren teams are notoriously slow starters. The 2005 NFC Champs started the season very inconsistently and used a close win in St. Louis in their fifth game as a springboard to eleven straight wins and the best season in the franchise’s history. We can only hope that history repeats itself.

Tim Yotter: It’s been 30 years since Vikings fans have experienced the emotional roller-coaster of their team going to the Super Bowl. Can you summarize the emotions Seahawks fans went through last season and through the Super Bowl loss?

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks started the 2005 season 2-2, and many observers thought they were seeing the kind of team they had seen all too often in past seasons – inconsistent, undisciplined squads that would amaze as easily as they would disappoint. Then, something happened that hadn’t happened in a very long time for this franchise – the team came together, played as a completely integrated unit, and just started waxing their opponents one by one. It was the best and most beautiful Seahawks football we had ever seen, culminating in the 34-14 coronation over the Panthers in the NFC Championship game at Qwest Field.

The less said about Super Bowl XL at this point, the better. The only thing I can say is that you have no idea how bizarre it is when the team you cover or follow loses the biggest game in its history surrounded by such controversy. It’s an empty feeling that I don’t think people would have today if Pittsburgh had won the game by 30 points without any ancillary officiating concerns. I grew up in Denver, so I know all about losing Super Bowls. Never have I felt like I did when I watched the events of February 5, 2006.

To summarize, it was an unbelievable season that ended with a rather large “splat”. Top Stories