Notebook: Home Dogs Look to Regain Bite

The Seahawks are backing their way into the playoffs, week by excruciating week. They could conceivably lose their final two games and still win the NFC West with an 8-8 record and four-game losing streak. Once seemingly unbeatable at Qwest Field, the Seahawks are home underdogs against AFC-leading San Diego on Sunday.

Their offense ranks 22nd in the league and the defense isn't good enough to pick up the slack. The Chargers are more than capable of exploiting those deficiencies.

"The thing you must do is protect the quarterback," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "Of the many things they do pretty well, the thing that jumps out at you is they really put pressure on the passer and they can do it -- their two outside players are really good."

The Seahawks will let seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones go one-on-one with whoever lines up on that side. Whether it's Shaun Philips or Shawne Merriman, Jones will be asked to win his matchup on nearly every play. That might be a bit unrealistic given that Jones is not enjoying a great season by his elevated standards, but he is the least of the Seahawks' worries.

Right tackle Sean Locklear returned from an ankle injury this month. He'll have a hard time containing the outside pass rush without help.

Problem is, the Chargers have lots of ways to bring pressure up the middle. Nose tackle Jamal Williams is a load inside. Ends Luis Castillo and Igor Olshansky present problems as well. Even inside linebackers Randall Godfrey and Donnie Edwards can get to the quarterback.

"They have a good defense," Holmgren said. "You've gotta earn it playing against them, but the thing that jumps out to me is you have to protect the quarterback."

Much of the pregame focus is on Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who already owns the single-season touchdown record. The Seahawks were unable to slow down Larry Johnson and Frank Gore. How can they hold up against the Chargers? The Seattle offense will have to answer that question.

The Seattle defense held Gore in check for three quarters of the 49ers' 24-14 victory last week. The defense started springing leaks only after Seattle's offense failed to sustain drives. The Chargers are much better equipped offensively than the 49ers. That's why Seattle needs its offense to stop sputtering for the Seahawks to have a chance in this game.

Holmgren and his staff spent some extra time this week figuring out exactly why the offense isn't functioning well.

"Inconsistency," Holmgren said. "Other than stating the obvious, we're playing with some young folks now that every once in a while they zig when they should zag.

"It's nothing attitude-wise. It's not the curse of the Super Bowl loser. It's not any of that stuff. It's what always either wins football games or loses football games for you: fumbles, turnovers, penalties, football stuff.

"I just wanted the make sure our staff and our players understand and they're not theorizing. That was the reason for the exercise as much as anything."

SERIES HISTORY: 48th meeting. Seattle leads the series, 25-22. The Seahawks have won the last five games between the teams. Two of the three most recent games went to overtime. Most recently, Seattle claimed a 31-28 OT victory at San Diego in the final game of the 2002 season. The teams were AFC West rivals from 1977 through the 2001 season.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--The Seahawks finally got power restored to their headquarters following a windstorm last week, but numerous players remained dark on the home front. Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones has been without power at home for a week. QB Matt Hasselbeck had his power restored Tuesday.

"We got the computers working (at headquarters), not the heat, and not all the lights," Holmgren said. "So on Monday we worked until it got dark outside, the coaches. And then Tuesday we got the power. But we got our work done. The generators helped us.
"Heck, we're fine compared to a lot of folks. So our prayers go out to those people that are still without power and have little kids and are dealing with some things that we don't have to deal with."

--Holmgren owns one Super Bowl victory as a head coach, followed by two losses in the big game. His counterpart Sunday, Marty Schottenheimer, has yet to reach the Super Bowl as a head coach. This season might be Schottenheimer's best chance. Either way, his legacy is safe with Holmgren.

"His record speaks for itself," Holmgren said. "He doesn't need anybody to defend what he's done. ...

"Unfortunately at times, all that gets talked about, or thought about, is the Super Bowl. I tend to look at guys for the body of their work. I consider him a friend. He's been very, very good for a long time."

BY THE NUMBERS: 20 -- The number of spots in the NFL rankings that Seattle's offense has fallen since the end of last season, from second to 22nd.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Did I buy her one? No. She's married. Her husband can take care of it." -- Holmgren on whether he purchased a generator for his grown daughter after a windstorm knocked out power in the Seattle area.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks have decided to keep C Robbie Tobeck and WR Darrell Jackson on the active roster even though both could miss the final two games with injuries.

Tobeck is still trying to regain weight and strength after battling an infection that centered around an abscess in his hip. Jackson has a turf-toe injury that will keep him out of the lineup against the Chargers.
Both players could be available for the playoffs. The team appears willing to wait for them as long as they can't find better use for the roster spots. Jackson seems more likely to return and have an impact in the playoffs.

PLAYER NOTES

--SS Michael Boulware will move back into the starting lineup Sunday after playing behind Jordan Babineaux in recent weeks. Boulware had been a liability in pass coverage. He will probably remain a liability that way. The team wants Boulware on the field because he has the size to be more of a factor against the run. Babineaux is a former cornerback who doesn't tackle particularly well.

--SS Jordan Babineaux will return to the bench this week because Michael Boulware is returning to the staring lineup. Boulware had been a liability in pass coverage, but the team wants him on the field because he has the size to be more of a factor against the run. Babineaux is a former cornerback who doesn't tackle particularly well.

--WR Darrell Jackson will miss the game against the Chargers on Sunday. He has a turf-toe injury.

--C Robbie Tobeck will miss the game against the Chargers on Sunday. He has a hip injury.

--DT Rocky Bernard still has a foot injury, but the extra time off over the weekend is letting him practice this week. Bernard will start against the Chargers unless he aggravates the injury.

GAME PLAN: The Seahawks must load up against LaDainian Tomlinson and make Philip Rivers beat them. And then they must get some help from their offense, which has been dormant in recent weeks. They can't give up on the ground game offensively, even though the Chargers are equipped to make life rough on the ground. The Seahawks cannot afford to become one-dimensional on offense against this opponent. If the Chargers are gunning for RB Shaun Alexander, perhaps the Seahawks should let Maurice Morris have a chance. Somehow, some way, the Seahawks need to get some traction on the ground.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks C Chris Spencer vs. Chargers NT Jamal Williams. The Chargers' outside pass rushers get much of the attention, and rightly so. But the Seahawks will have to deal with Williams if they hope to get their ground game going. Spencer is a first-year starter who lacks savvy. Seattle's offensive tempo has suffered with him in the lineup. But he does bring a physical edge that the team can't get when injured veteran Robbie Tobeck is in the lineup. Spencer is a strong and talented player who can move people out of the way.

--Seahawks LDE Bryce Fisher vs. Chargers RT Shane Olivea. Fisher nearly reached double-digit sacks last season, but his impact has been muted in 2006. Olivea is a 312-pounder who should be able to handle Fisher without much trouble, particularly in the run game. This matchup favors the Chargers.

INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks will miss WR Darrell Jackson. He is their leading receiver and his rapport with Matt Hasselbeck comes in handy when Seattle faces a team with a strong pass rush.


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