Bringing Their “A” Game: RB Shaun Alexander, who carried the ball a franchise record 40 times, ran for 201 yards, and pretty much carried the offense… WR D.J. Hackett, with 5 receptions, 67 yards, and an beautiful leaping touchdown grab… The entire offensive line, who dominated the Packers and kept Hasselbeck upright… WR/PR/KR Nate Burleson, who had three nice receptions, and looked downright dominating as a return man, even though two of his best runs were negated by penalties…, CBs Marcus Trufant, Kelly Herndon, and Kelly Jennings, each with an interception, and aside from a 48 yard Donald Driver touchdown (Herndon), none got burned too badly... K Josh Brown, nailing four long field goals to keep the team in the game even when Hasselbeck was gift-wrapping passes to the Packers… P Ryan Plackemeier, who had another great game punting but did an even better job holding for Brown… DE Darryl Tapp, who notched another sack and played the run very well… DT Craig Terrill, who made a key tackle early in the game and blocked a field goal…The entire run defense was spectacular, holding a resurgent Ahman Green to 14 rushes for 44 yards (3.1)…
The Bad and the Ugly: The secondary had a lot of trouble wrapping up the ball carrier, especially early on… While the front seven kept the Packers running game in check, they put very little pressure on Brett Favre, notching just one sack… QB Matt Hasselbeck was awful, throwing three interceptions and “throwing a fumble” right into the hands of rookie Abdul Hodge, who returned it for a touchdown (he did rebound very strongly in the second half)… TE Jerramy Stevens had several drops and finally started to hear the boos from the record crowd… As for ugly, the abundance of makeup on the Monday Night Football announcing crew was really, really obvious…
Referee Report Card: This paragraph presents a problem. The officiating by Tony Corrente’s crew was pretty poor, yet most of the calls went in Seattle’s favor. Obviously most Seattle fans didn’t expect to read that last sentence. Many Green Bay fans are howling about poor officiating, and while they imploded well enough on their own, they do have a legit case. It wasn’t a well officiated game, and a couple of bad calls went against Seattle (some fans at Qwest were joking that the refs were keeping the game in the spread), so… C
Offense: Shaun Alexander waited until Monday Night Football for his welcome-back game. After rushing for 37 yards on 17 carries against San Francisco, Alexander ran for 201 yards on 40 touches, adding more support to the belief that Shaun has his best games on national TV. And, unlike most 200+ yard performances, there wasn’t a single huge run by Alexander (21 yard long). Instead, Alexander made every carry count, consistently getting 7-8 yards with good blocking, 4-5 yards with mediocre blocking, and even 2-3 yards when the defense penetrated in the backfield. “Alexander the Great” (quite possibly the worst nickname this side of Bill “Tuna” Parcells) had a field day against a Green Bay defense which had not given up 100 yards to any one rusher.
Of course, Alexander couldn’t have run all over the Packers without the downright dominating performance put in by the offensive line. Alexander had a ton of success running outside on the left side, thanks to the blocking of LT Walter Jones (Nate Burleson also blocked extremely well). The interior line – the Achilles heel of this team, pushed around the Green Bay Packers, and second-year center Chris Spencer played great football, showing great burst in getting to the second level on running plays. RT Tom Ashworth is not particularly big, strong, or fast, but one thing he does very well is seal off blockers. The dominating performance wasn’t just limited to blocking for Shaun Alexander, they also did a great job of keeping QB Matt Hasselbeck upright, and only the “forward fumble” was thrown in pressure.
Yet, despite that great performance by the offensive line, Hasselbeck was doing a very good job of giving the game away. On his first of three interceptions, Hasselbeck was simply tipped at the line of scrimmage. It was actually a great play by the Packers linesmen who got his hand up in the air to tip that. Hard to blame Hasselbeck for that throw. However, the next three turnovers were all the result of dumb plays by Hasselbeck. His second interception was trying to find WR Deion Branch on a curl route, and Branch was deep enough that Packers CB Al Harris was able to pick the ball off. The third interception was the dumbest throw of the game, going right to CB Charles Woodson, without Woodson really having to move much. On the fumble, Hasselbeck has plenty of opportunity to either throw the ball away or take the sack, but instead ends up placing the ball right in the hands of Abdul Hodge, who takes it back for a touchdown.
All that happened in the first half. It was the second half were Hasselbeck really shined, throwing for three touchdowns. Best was that, aside from an ill-advised throw to D.J. Hackett (more a poor throw than a bad read), Hasselbeck didn’t make any dumb decisions. Many Seattle fans had hoped that having Hasselbeck back would lead to better first half performances for a team that doesn’t seem to wake up in time for the game. Instead, Hasselbeck seems to have exacerbated the problem. Despite complaining before the game that his knee brace limited mobility, he looked nimble in the pocket and ran well enough on bootlegs and two scrambles. It is interesting that as soon as the snow really stopped falling, Hasselbeck looked much sharper. Snow isn’t noted for it’s effect on decision-making, but maybe between the snow and the knee brace Hasselbeck was simply distracted? The only ones who know what to expect from Hasselbeck next week pick up their paychecks from Paul Allen.
Bailing Hasselbeck out was WR D.J. Hackett. If the country hadn’t heard of Hackett before, after Monday night they probably would have. The numbers weren’t dominant – 5 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown – but Hackett was always there when Seattle needed to move the chains. His leaping touchdown reception was nearly as beautiful as Hasselbeck’s touchdown pass to Darrell Jackson. Hackett is big (at 6’2 he’s the tallest wideout on the team), strong, fast, and possesses great leaping ability. Best of all, Hackett seems to catch just about every pass to him, catching five out of the eight passes thrown to him.
Perhaps the polar opposite of Hackett is TE Jerramy Stevens. Stevens should have it all. He is huge at 6’7. He possesses great speed for a tight end. He has a pro-bowl Quarterback who loves to spread the ball around. One of the greatest offensive minds in football is the head coach and loves Stevens’ potential. The only thing Stevens lacks is the ability to catch the football. In his defense, he hasn’t been given very many easy receptions – all of his dropped passes on Monday were the result of getting hit – but when Stevens drops more passes than he catches (this season, that is not hyperbole) the problem is not the Quarterback. I typically do not believe that any time a player messes up, he is lacking heart, but you have to wonder how bad Stevens wants it. He just isn’t playing like someone who is focused on the game. Most troubling is that Hasselbeck seems to be losing confidence in Stevens. Example: With 7:07 remaining in the game, (2nd and goal), Hasselbeck bootlegs right. Stevens has clear separation right from the snap and is about as open as he’ll get on that route. On a bootleg, any time the tight end gets that kind of separation – especially near the end zone – he’s the man the ball goes to. Yet, Hasselbeck holds onto the ball for an eternity before finally throwing it incomplete to WR Darrell Jackson. If the quarterback is losing confidence in Stevens, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Stevens to make any kind of impact this season.
Defense: When it snows in Seattle, weird things happen. Cars get abandoned on the freeway, the ride home from the game takes almost as long as the game, and Seattle cornerbacks finally pick off their first, second, and third passes of the season. CB Kelly Herndon started things off, making a great catch in the end zone on a play where Herndon looked like the receiver. CB Marcus Trufant had his first on an overthrown pass that fell right into his hands, and CB Kelly Jennings did the unfathomable – he turned around when the ball was in the air and made a play on it, catching the ball with the intended target draped all over him.
The great play wasn’t just limited to the cornerbacks. The defensive front seven did a downright amazing job against RB Ahman Green, who averaged over four yards a carry coming into Monday’s game. While the secondary was reduced to arm tackling on a few occasions, the linebackers and defensive line did a great job of wrapping up the ball carrier and stuffing him at the line. This isn’t a line like that of the Raiders, the Packers actually know how to block, but the Seahawks simply stepped their play up. Kudos to DT Craig Terrill and DE Darryl Tapp, both of whom played very well against the run and did a good job against the pass.
Speaking of those two players, they both deserve to get a lot more playing time. Terrill, a third year player from Purdue, is a classic Ruskell overachiever who has some decent physical attributes (he’s both bigger and quicker than DT Chuck Darby) and a knack for making important tackles. He’s also an asset against the pass, not only due to his above-average burst but also because of his smart play, he seems to tip passes at the best of times. Tapp is even more intriguing. The rookie from Virginia Tech has made good plays when he’s been given opportunities, but until Monday he hadn’t been involved with the defense, largely due to Julian Peterson’s switch from LDE to RDE. Essentially, Tapp had his game time – passing situations – stolen by Peterson. With Peterson going through a cold streak (no sacks in 3 games), Tapp should be given the opportunity to make an impression with the team and earn some more playing time.
It may seem cruel to be criticizing Marcus Trufant after he finally picked off his first pass of the year, but this is intended as an observation about Trufant: He can’t play the ball when his back is turned to it. Much as many people find it difficult, as a baseball outfielder, to properly judge deep fly balls, Trufant struggles with deeply thrown passes. Example, on the Packer’s first drive of the game, Favre completed a 26-yard pass to Ruvell Martin, with Trufant being the man in coverage. Martin didn’t burn Trufant – Trufant matched Martin stride for stride. The real problem occurred when the ball was in the air. Trufant could have turned around and made a play on the under-thrown pass, but instead he did, well, nothing. As a defensive coordinator, either Trufant needs to be coached to turn on the ball, or the Seahawks need to find a way to keep Trufant in front of the ball, where he is an above-average cornerback. But a smart offensive coordinator can throw deep balls on Trufant and the cement-footed Kelly Herndon all day long, much as the Bears did in Week 4.
An honest question: Will SS Michael Boulware ever regain his starting spot. Is there even an opportunity for Boulware to regain the spot? I’ve made it no secret that I think Babineaux is ordinary at best, and I won’t go over that again. Instead, how poorly does Babineaux have to do for Boulware to get back in there? Boulware seems to be working hard on Special Teams (he made two tackles on Monday and looked excited after each of them) and Babineaux certainly isn’t playing at a high level, so just how deep in the doghouse is Boulware? It is mildly humorous that Boulware, who seems like a class act and isn’t making stupid mistakes, is benched while TE Jerramy Stevens is making tons of stupid mistakes and has a reputation for being immature, stays in the starting lineup.
Special Teams: Again, Nate Burleson looks special. While two of his best returns were negated by penalties, it doesn’t change that Burleson has the total package. He is able to make people miss, he has vision (unlike Scobey, who either ran into someone or ran to the sideline), and he has just enough speed to outrun the return team. While Seattle fans may never be comfortable with Burleson’s unwillingness to fair-catch the football, so far there have been no consequences. The blocking units were less than special, due to the penalties, but overall did well enough. Ryan Plackemeier had another outstanding game, and only Josh Brown can claim a better game. In very inclement weather neither looked phased at all, continuing to kick the ball wherever they want to.
Summary: This is really a team that plays one half of dominating football, and stinks the other half. In defense of the rest of the team, only Matt Hasselbeck was really off in the first half, though the four turnovers made the entire team look bad. In the second half, aside from an early touchdown grab where Green Bay WR Donald Driver outran the secondary on a slant pass, the defense played lights out. The offense turned in a similarly good second half performance, marred only by Stevens’ inability to catch the football. I’ve said this about every win since the first St. Louis win, but hopefully this gels the team together, especially since the team will need to play four quarters of top-notch football to beat the Denver Broncos next week.
Kyle Rota is our MMQB (TMQB for Monday Might games!), and is also known as "Rotak" on our message boards. You can e-mail him here.