Notebook: Seahawks Face Internal Challenges

The Seahawks return home for a Monday night game against a bad Oakland team. That and a passing game are all the Seahawks have going for themselves after losing two consecutive games for the first time since 2004. The running game is non-existent and showing few signs of improvement. The defense keeps giving up big plays. It's a combination the Seahawks must head off to contend.

"The strength of our football team right now is our receivers," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I want to strive for balance, but at the same time I've gotta move the football somehow, some way.

"To do that, we have to become more effective in our rushing. We have to almost will it to happen right now."

With Shaun Alexander sidelined another week, Maurice Morris remains the featured back even though it's becoming clear he's a change-of-pace runner. The Seahawks had hoped to plug him into the offense and continue about their business. The holes haven't been there, however, and Morris isn't big enough to make his own. He's a hit-the-hole runner who takes what is there but doesn't get more.

Right now, there isn't much there. The line isn't working as well together this season, in part because left guard Steve Hutchinson is gone, and also because the team is missing some other key personnel from its Super Bowl run. Joe Jurevicius was the team's best blocking receiver. Ryan Hannam was the team's best blocking tight end. Both are gone, as is Alexander.

It's a combination that is leading to predictable results. The only surprise, perhaps, is that Seattle hasn't shown much improvement. The ground game was struggling before Alexander got hurt in the opener. It struggled when he was playing through the injury. It has continued to struggle with Morris replacing him.

Rookie left guard Rob Sims got some playing time against the Chiefs and coaches were impressed. The team should strongly consider making him the starter at that position, but veteran Floyd Womack will get the call for now. Womack is returning from a knee injury. Chris Spencer replaced Womack and seemed better suited to play center, a position that probably won't open until next season.

The offense remains strong enough in the passing game to keep Seattle viable, particularly at home. But that won't be the case if the defense continues to self-destruct. Opponents have amassed 757 yards on 19 plays of at least 25 yards. Undisciplined play, particularly at safety, accounts for some of the problem.

Seattle is fortunate this week in that the Raiders are severely flawed on offense. Oakland gained only 98 yards last week. It was enough to beat the Steelers only because Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tossed four interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns.

The Seahawks are without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, but backup Seneca Wallace will be more careful with the football than Roethlisberger was last week. Wallace tossed three touchdown passes at Arrowhead Stadium last week. He tossed two interceptions, but only one resulted from a poor decision. The other was batted at the line.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Raiders lead the regular-season series, 27-22. The former AFC West rivals are 1-1 in postseason matchups. Seattle and Oakland have not played since the Raiders claimed a 31-17 home victory in the 2002 regular-season opener. Seattle's Shaun Alexander rushed for 266 yards in the last matchup at Seattle, a 34-27 victory for the Seahawks in 2001 (at Husky Stadium).

NOTES, QUOTES

--C Robbie Tobeck dressed as coach Mike Holmgren for the annual Halloween party hosted by DE Grant Wistrom. Tobeck wore tight coaches' shorts and even shaved off his goatee to leave a moustache. Tobeck joked that he was looking for someone dressed as president Tim Ruskell so he could order a raise for a certain 36-year-old center.

Informed of the costume, the 6-foot-5 Holmgren made a crack about his slightly shorter center: "What, was he wearing lifters?"

--QB Seneca Wallace performed ably in his first NFL start, but he was far from perfect. At one point he scrambled left, faked a run and flipped the ball casually toward TE Jerramy Stevens. The play had called for Wallace to throw the ball away if his first option wasn't there right away. "It's a good example of a young guy trying to make something happen," Holmgren said. "I didn't want him to run in the first place. That wasn't how he was coached on the play.

"Secondly, if you're going to run, run. Thirdly, if you're not going to run, don't throw that ball. Fourthly, don't do it again. So there was a logical teaching progression."

--The Seahawks are struggling for answers on defense. Their personnel has returned pretty much intact, adding LB Julian Peterson. Defensive coordinator John Marshall said the defense needs to get back to playing with attitude. MLB Lofa Tatupu, a Pro Bowl choice as a rookie last season, isn't sure what is missing.
"The team wins together, the team loses together," he said. "No, we have not been good. Our offense did a good job last week. Special teams did a phenomenal job (scoring a touchdown). I don't know.

We didn't come to play or we just didn't get it done."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- The number of interceptions for Seattle's defense in October.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not going to lose the game because of Seneca Wallace. In fact, (last week) he gave us a chance to win the game, honestly, I thought." - Coach Mike Holmgren on his backup quarterback.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks have kept RB Marquis Weeks on the 53-man roster ever since they lost Shaun Alexander to injury. Weeks is providing insurance, but not much else. The team continues giving the ball to Maurice Morris because he has much more experience in the offense and much more experience in game action.

Weeks carried three times during the final possession of a blowout loss to Chicago, his first week on the 53-man roster. He was previously on the practice squad dating to last season.
Weeks will be released once Alexander returns from a foot injury, probably Nov. 12 against St. Louis. He would then become a candidate to rejoin the practice squad.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck remains on pace for a Nov. 19 return against San Francisco. There's still a chance Hasselbeck might not return until Nov. 27 against Green Bay, but right now the San Francisco game is the target date. Hasselbeck has not played since suffering a sprained medial-collateral ligament in his right knee during an Oct. 22 loss against the Vikings.

--RB Shaun Alexander is expected to miss the Nov. 6 game against the Raiders on Monday night. The team hopes Alexander can return from his broken foot in time for a Nov. 12 game against St. Louis. There are no guarantees, however, and initial reports said 4-6 weeks was possible. Alexander has not played since a Sept. 17 game against the Giants.

--WR Darrell Jackson missed practice Wednesday and was added to the injury report as probable with a sore left foot. He should be ready to start Monday night.

--DT Marcus Tubbs is doubtful with a lingering knee injury. The knee is enough of a concern to raise questions about Tubbs' ability to be a factor this season. Tubbs already had surgery on the knee during the offseason.

--WR Bobby Engram practiced Wednesday with the scout team despite his thyroid condition. He is questionable on the injury report. The team is getting solid play from WR D.J. Hackett. Engram remains week-to-week based on how much his strength returns.

--RT Sean Locklear missed practice Wednesday and the team is listing him as probable with an ankle injury. Tom Ashworth worked at right tackle. Ashworth played well against Kansas City last week.

GAME PLAN: The Seahawks need to be extremely careful with the football because the Raiders' offense isn't good enough to put points on the board. Oakland's best chance to win is through turnovers or the big special-teams play. Seattle needs QB Seneca Wallace to be patient. The approach won't produce a ton of points, but Seattle should be able to win with only a couple of offensive touchdowns.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant vs. Raiders WR Randy Moss. Seattle's secondary has not been playing with much confidence. Moss is not having a great year but the deep ball has been a problem for Seattle and Moss should be considered dangerous in this game. Trufant is not making plays on the ball so opposing QBs feel OK going at him.

--Seahawks FS Ken Hamlin vs. Raiders QB Andrew Walter. Hamlin is playing well this season despite the team's struggles on defense lately. The team needs Hamlin to take the next step and start forcing turnovers. He had two interceptions in September but did not get one in October.

INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks aren't the same without Hasselbeck and Alexander. They are pretty much a passing team trying to hold things together until two of their leaders get back on the field. The return of LG Floyd Womack probably won't make much different in the ground game. Seattle is healthy on defense but struggling anyway.


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