The Seahawks could have won in Denver—if Matt Hasselbeck hadn’t psyched himself out of it earlier in the week and the defense had figured out how to pressure Kyle Orton.
But Hasselbeck basically foreshadowed his poor performance and the defense barely touched Orton all day, and the Seahawks were brought down to earth in stunning fashion after their surprising win in the opener.
Asked last week what he saw in Denver’s defense, Hasselbeck almost foreshadowed the two interceptions he threw to Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins: “They're probably the most experienced secondary in the league, and they have great players like Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey. So it'll be a challenge for us.”
Hasselbeck started great, leading the Hawks on a 14-play drive that reached the 1-yard line. But his offensive line got called for a couple of penalties, and Hasselbeck threw a pass straight to Bailey at the Denver 4–yard line—a throw intended for Deion Branch.
It was déjà vu Super Bowl: Sean Locklear gets called for a key hold and then Hasselbeck throws a pick.
In the second quarter, the Seahawks put together another good drive as they trailed 14-0. On first down from the Denver 28-yard line, Hasselbeck under threw a pass to John Carlson at the 10-yard line, and Dawkins picked it off. The quarterback told reporters he lost his grip on the ball and threw it too late.
Hasselbeck threw a third interception in the fourth quarter when Mike Williams seemed to run a different route than the quarterback expected.
Hasselbeck completed 20 of 35 passes for 233 yards, a touchdown and the three picks.
Not a good day.
Of course, that will have about half of Seattle’s fans calling for Charlie Whitehurst to replace Hasselbeck, but that’s not going to happen. Nor should it. Pete Carroll wants to try to win right away, and he correctly thinks Hasselbeck is the best quarterback to do that. Every quarterback has a bad day upon occasion, and Hasselbeck had his in Denver.
Another thing to keep in mind is the Seahawks are running a new offense and their offensive line is a work in slow-motion progress.
The Seahawks actually ran the ball surprisingly well, but the linemen had four penalties and struggled at times to keep the pressure off Hasselbeck.
We have said the Seahawks would be inconsistent with their pass rush this season and that there would be games when teams converted too many third downs. But that was ridiculous.
The Seahawks rarely got to Kyle Orton, who often threw quickly and who completed 25 of 35 passes for 307 yards.
As a result, the Broncos converted 14 of 20 third downs and put together four drives of 80-plus yards, three of them ending in touchdowns. Denver held the ball for 37:27.
The Seahawks probably were guilty of being lulled into a false sense of optimism that they could mount a pass rush with their base defense against a Denver line that was missing two starters.
The Seahawks typically rushed four, rarely blitzing, and Orton made them pay for it by picking apart the secondary.
OTHER COACHING QUESTIONS
In addition to the lack of blitzes, the coaching staff made a few other questionable decisions:
**There was no reason to challenge Lawyer Milloy’s tackle of Eddie Royal inside the 5-yard line on Denver’s second touchdown drive. It was obvious Milloy had tripped Royal, but coach Pete Carroll apparently thought Royal might have fallen on his own and fumbled the ball out of the end zone. It was a bad challenge that Carroll’s coaches upstairs should have nixed.
**On that second touchdown play, Gus Bradley removed his big men and went with a three-man front as the Broncos spread out with a bunch of receivers. Correll Buckhalter ran right up the middle for the 1-yard score on third down. If Bradley had kept Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole and Red Bryant in, the Hawks might have held Denver to a field goal.
**The Seahawks made a bad choice on 4th-and-2 from the Denver 20-yard line in the third quarter. Instead of kicking a field goal, Carroll decided to go for the touchdown, but the screen play to Jones was foiled by the Broncos and Hasselbeck tried a last-ditch toss to Branch, who was well covered by Bailey in the end zone. A field goal would have cut the lead to 24-10. Instead, Denver took over and drove 80 yards to make it 31-7 and effectively end the game.
**Still not sure why Julius Jones is on this team. He ran four times for 12 yards, just taking carries from Justin Forsett, who gained 44 yards on eight rushes. And why would the Seahawks use Jones—their worst backfield receiver—on a 4th-down screen?
**Some might question the decision to turn midfield into two-down territory in the second quarter, when the Seahawks were trailing 14-0 but driving. On 3rd-and-inches, Jeremy Bates called a deep pass, which went incomplete to Butler. But the Hawks knew they were dominating the line of scrimmage in the run and would most likely pick up the short distance, so this was a nice call. The pass didn’t work, but Hasselbeck sneaked for the first down. Unfortunately, this was the drive that ended with Dawkins’ pick.
**Swapping Cameron Morrah for Golden Tate on the inactive list was a good move. Tate had 134 all-purpose yards, with a 63-yard punt return to set up Seattle’s first touchdown, a 52-yard catch and a 19-yard punt return. He was quite a contrast to Walter Thurmond, whose muff in the first quarter led to Denver’s first touchdown. Tate is a play-maker and will surely remain active the rest of the season. One thing he needs to work on is switching the ball to his off arm. He carries it in his left all of the time, something teams will pick up on and exploit by stripping it.
**On the bright side, the run defense was great again, allowing just 65 yards on 38 carries, a paltry average of 1.7 per rush. Through two games, the Seahawks have given up just 114 rushing yards on 57 attempts—2.0 yards per carry.
**The Seahawks surprisingly ran the ball well, gaining 109 yards on 20 carries—a robust 5.4 average. Particularly in the first half, the Seahawks owned the line of scrimmage. A positive sign.
**Deon Butler got off to a hot start, catching three 3rd-down passes and four total on the first drive. But Hasselbeck hit him just one more time in the game. Butler is a weapon the Hawks need to take advantage of.
**Mike Williams was invisible and might have run the wrong route on Hasselbeck’s third pick. The quarterback obviously expected Williams to do something different than he did.
**John Carlson caught five passes for 48 yards and was targeted 10 times total. He and Hasselbeck need to do better than 50 percent.
**It’s usually not a good sign when your safeties lead the team in tackles, because it means too many guys were getting into your secondary. That’s what happened to the Seahawks, as Lawyer Milloy and Earl Thomas combined for 15 tackles.
**Lofa Tatupu was hardly seen, and that usually is a sign the defense has struggled.