Notebook: Seahawks Look to the Future

After losing to Chicago in overtime in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last Sunday, the Seahawks balanced their disappointment with hope for the future. "After looking at the film, we absolutely had our chances and we did not get a couple things done we needed to get done and the Bears beat us," coach Mike Holmgren said.

"It is hard. I need some time here to get charged up again."

Last season, Holmgren needed time to figure out if he wanted to keep coaching. That is not an issue this time. Neither does the team have to worry about re-signing a cornerstone free agent. Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Shaun Alexander are under contract for the long haul. Holmgren mostly wants to fix the things that prevented Seattle from getting back to the Super Bowl.

"I think our core group we will have back," Holmgren said. "Now it is a matter of improving and getting our young guys to have another year of experience. I can safely say this: It is highly unlikely we will have as many injuries next year as we did this year."

No playoff team lost more starter games to injury this season, according to research by the Dallas Morning News. But injuries weren't the only problem. Hasselbeck also faltered in some key moments, particularly against the Bears.

"We're going to discuss that," Holmgren said. "He can be as good as anybody there is in the league. But that type of consistency that you see in great quarterbacks, that has to appear all the time.

"We're going to talk about it, he and I. He's pretty honest about stuff. We're going to talk about reasons. I think by his own admission, I think he knows he had a better year last year. But he went through some things this year he didn't have to go through last year. And we were a couple throws away from playing this next week."

Holmgren is also considering the possibility of a few changes to his coaching staff. He'll discuss that with team president Tim Ruskell this week. Holmgren said there probably won't be anything major, but he could tweak some things.

"I'm not sure about that," Holmgren said. "We're in the process right now. I'm in the process of going through and thinking about some of those things. I wouldn't think major changes, but don't pin me down on that yet. I am still processing some of that stuff."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Center Robbie Tobeck is finished after 13 NFL seasons. "I feel really lucky and really privileged to be able to walk away on my own terms," Tobeck said. "Coming into the league, I was a rookie free agent. I thought, 'Heck, I might have a month, get cut in training camp and that is it.'

"I always thought I would get cut and that would be it at some point. To be able to do it this way, I feel blessed and really lucky. I will always be a Seahawk and I look forward to cheering the team on."

--Shaun Alexander isn't the type of guy to stew over a loss. "This is the time to rest up and get back with the rest of the world, go hang with the family a little bit," Alexander said. "I wish we would have done more, and I wish we would be playing New Orleans this week, but I am really proud of the things we have done."

--Free safety Ken Hamlin is a free agent after the season. "The team we have around here, the guys aren't in such a rush to leave because we have so many friends in the locker room," he said. "I think you feel more accountable, you trust the next person and it helps. You want to play hard for the next person. I think it's unique what we have around here and hopefully we can build on it for next year."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--QB Matt Hasselbeck wasn't able to overcome a long list of distractions this season. Personnel changes at center and receiver affected continuity. Hasselbeck didn't make the plays the team needed him to make Sunday.

--WR Darrell Jackson started and played extensively Sunday despite a turf-toe injury.

--SS Mike Green is expected to return for the 2007 season after undergoing a serious foot operation early in the season. The Seahawks missed Green this season as their play at safety was a consistent problem.

--C Robbie Tobeck is retiring after 13 NFL seasons. Tobeck has been a valued leader but health issues shortened his 2006 season.

--P Ryan Plackemeier's 18-yard punt late in the game set up the Bears for the winning field goal. The Bears pressured Plackemeier into shanking the punt off the side of his foot.

REPORT CARD VS. BEARS:

PASSING OFFENSE: C --
QB Matt Hasselbeck did not elevate his game the way coach Mike Holmgren had hoped. Hasselbeck wasn't awful, but neither was he better than Rex Grossman. That was a problem for Seattle. Holmgren said he plans to meet with Hasselbeck to talk about what went wrong in this game, and this season in general.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- RB Shaun Alexander ran hard and ran well, carrying 26 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns. But Seattle failed six times in eight short-yardage plays, and a lot of that had to do with the ground game. The Seahawks have some talented young players up front, but continuity and execution were lacking amid personnel changes. This was particularly evident when promising young C Chris Spencer was late snapping the ball on a critical short-yardage situation late in the game.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Seattle allowed a 68-yard touchdown pass and a 30-yard pass to set up the winning field goal. Those plays were the difference in the game. DE Bryce Fisher, DE Grant Wistrom and the rest of the defensive linemen played well for the most part. Wistrom played one of his best games. Fisher played his heart out. But depth problems in the secondary allowed the Bears to strike downfield as needed. And CB Jordan Babineaux let an early shot at an interception slip through his hands. That play could have changed the game.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Bears frequently appeared on the verge of breaking long runs, but Seattle kept the overall numbers in check. Chicago had trouble generating yards on the ground from its base offense, but the Bears were able to run right at Julian Peterson and into the end-zone on a fourth-down play.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Seattle contained Bears return ace Devin Hester thanks to solid strategy and excellent execution. This was a fine overall special-teams performance until the Bears pressured P Ryan Plackemeier into an 18-yard punt in overtime. The short punt helped the Bears move into range for the winning field goal.

COACHING: B --
Mike Holmgren was aggressive in some of his play calls, going for it on fourth-and-short because his team was short-handed on the road and he wanted to go for the win. He was at his best calling a third-and-1 running play that turned into a 13-yard touchdown for Shaun Alexander. But he couldn't find the right remedy for the team's short-yardage offense, and that was a glaring problem late in the game. Bob Casullo's special-teams units more than held their own against their highly regarded peers from Chicago. The plan to minimize Devin Hester's impact was outstanding in concept and execution. The defensive staff also stepped up, doing enough to win this game despite severe personnel issues in the secondary. Seattle had some blitzes that made Rex Grossman uncomfortable.


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