Seahawks Try to Regain Winning Formula

The Seahawks have a formula for winning. They just haven't been healthy enough on offense to follow it some weeks. The team has been built to score early and turn its speedy defense loose when opponents are forced to play catch-up.

Jumping ahead of the Broncos will be crucial when Seattle visits Denver for a Sunday night "flex" game on NBC.

Seattle can be tough to beat when the quarterback protects the football. This is most obvious when breaking down a run defense that keeps giving up more yards than anyone anticipated. The Seahawks committed a combined 14 turnovers during losses to Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City and San Francisco. Those teams averaged more than 190 yards rushing per game.

Seattle committed only three combined turnovers in two victories over St. Louis and one against Oakland. Those teams averaged fewer than 80 yards rushing per game.

In most cases, the turnovers led to first-half deficits. That allowed the opponent to stay committed to its ground game. The Seahawks have good speed on defense, but they lack the size to hold up against the run for long periods of time. The team misses injured defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs; the 2004 first-round choice is on injured reserve.

The Seahawks went 2-2 with Seneca Wallace at quarterback, and it was easy to see why. He tossed five interceptions in his two defeats, but none in his two victories. Opponents rushed for a combined 172 yards in his victories, compared to 453 yards in his losses.

Both losses were on the road. Both victories were at home.

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck gives Seattle a better chance of winning away from Qwest Field, but the team hasn't won in Denver since 1995. John Friesz was the quarterback then. Hasselbeck is 0-1 as a starter at Invesco Field, dropping a 20-7 decision there in 2001, his first season with the Seahawks.

Hasselbeck was the NFC's top road passer with a 103.0 rating last season. He completed 25 of 30 passes in the opener at Detroit this season, and his rating was 110.9 during a 30-28 victory at St. Louis. Hasselbeck tossed three touchdown passes in that game.

He struggled badly in his only other road performance this season, completing 45.7 percent of his passes with two interceptions during a 37-6 loss at Chicago in Week 5.

The Seahawks need Hasselbeck to effectively manage the game in Denver, where opponents have a hard time winning. This game is more important to Seattle than it might have been because the team dropped a 20-14 decision at San Francisco.

Hasselbeck's absence was felt most dramatically in that game. Wallace tossed three interceptions, including two in the first three drives, as Seattle fell behind 20-0 in the first half. The Seahawks have had some tough games in San Francisco recently, but they were always able to win in part because Hasselbeck made more positive plays than negative ones.

Wallace's mistakes outweighed his contributions, one reason the team is eager to get Hasselbeck up to speed down the stretch.

PLAYER NOTES

--C Robbie Tobeck's latest malady is opening the door for second-year C Chris Spencer to take over the position. Coach Mike Holmgren said he's not sure how long Tobeck will miss with an abscess in his left hip. Spencer should continue to improve as he gets a better feel for the pro game.

--RT Sean Locklear has a chance to return against the Broncos on Sunday night. He has missed the last four games with a high ankle sprain. Tom Ashworth is starting in his place.

--RT Tom Ashworth has gotten more comfortable each week. He struggled in the preseason and early this season, but that was largely because he wasn't playing right tackle, his natural position. Ashworth has struggled at times working against several elite pass rushers, but he has not been a liability consistently. Ashworth's strength is probably in run blocking.

--FB Mack Strong already has as many catches as he did all last season. The Seahawks have relied on him more heavily than usual because production from the tight end position has been lagging.

--LT Walter Jones continues to play with a lingering ankle injury. The injury has made him less dominant this season. He is allowing sacks periodically, something he almost never did in recent seasons. Jones is basically gutting it out. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener. He re-injured the ankle in the second game.


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