The Seahawks’ offense can thank Leon Washington and Earl Thomas for the win Sunday.
Washington’s two mammoth kick returns for touchdowns and Thomas’ two interceptions were the reason the Seahawks won a game in which they were outgained almost 2-1.
And they’re the reason the Hawks are now 2-1 and leading the winless 49ers by two games in the NFC West.
The Seahawks quite obviously are a very rough work in progress on offense, as their horrible performance against San Diego confirmed. Among their gaffes:
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw his third red-zone interception of the season.
Deion Branch fumbled the ball out of the end zone from the half-yard line, turning a touchdown into a touchback.
The Seahawks totally screwed time management and play calling at the end of the first half, costing themselves at least a field goal.
Ben Hamilton and Chris Spencer pulled an ole on the goal line that allowed Hasselbeck to be sacked for a safety.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Cutting T.J. Houshmandzadeh while still paying him $6.15 million this year was a stupid move. Hasselbeck definitely misses the veteran receiver.
Without the veteran Housh, Hasselbeck is throwing to a rusty Mike Williams, an undependable Deion Branch and youngsters Golden Tate and Deon Butler.
Hasselbeck and Williams are just not on the same page at all. That was evident several times more in this game, most notably as Hasselbeck underthrew a 41-yard pass to Williams at the goal line and Quentin Jammer intercepted it.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Branch is highly overpaid and shouldn’t even be on the team. He caught five balls for 60 yards, but 41 of those yards came on one very bad play.
Hasselbeck hit Branch on a left-right crossing pattern and Branch got to the corner and turned up the sideline with two defenders hot on his heels.
So intent on scoring, he used his off arm to try to fend away Paul Oliver, but Oliver managed to swipe the loosely carried football out of Branch’s right hand and through the end zone for a touchback.
Hasselbeck’s pick and Branch’s fumble came on back-to-back series and left the Seahawks up just 3-0 instead of 13-0.
The Seahawks finally managed to convert a short field into a touchdown on their next series, and Kam Chancellor stripped the ball from Darren Sproles on the ensuing kickoff, giving Seattle the ball at San Diego’s 24-yard line with 47 seconds left.
Plenty of time to score a touchdown, or at least a field goal, right?
Not for these guys.
After Hasselbeck hit Justin Forsett for a 13-yard gain down to the 11, the Seahawks took their final timeout of the half. The next play was a pass to Tate, who got upended at the 2 and just stood there holding the ball for a few seconds until his teammates were almost all set.
We’d like to think he was a little shaken up after landing on his head, but it looked more like a simple rookie blunder. Hasselbeck then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 22 seconds left.
The appropriate play call with no timeouts and 22 seconds left would have been a pass, but Jeremy Bates called a quarterback keeper instead.
Hasselbeck was shut down, and the Seahawks looked like the Keystone Kops as they tried to shuttle the field-goal team on to replace the offense. It didn’t work, and the Hawks went to the locker room with no points.
That’s what you call "Amateur Hour". Horrible play calling on the heels of wasted timeouts (the Seahawks inexplicably had used one a play after the two-minute warning).
So, instead of leading at least 23-0 at halftime, the Seahawks were up just 10-0.
Fortunately, Washington made up for the missed scoring opportunity on the second-half kickoff, scoring from 101 yards to put Seattle up 17-0.
But the offensive folly wasn’t over.
After San Diego answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive in four plays and the Seahawks and Chargers jockeyed field position on another series each, Seattle’s three-ring circus of an offense got back into the act again.
On second down at the Seattle 7, San Diego’s Brandon Siler ran right between Ben Hamilton and Chris Spencer to blast Hasselbeck in the end zone for a safety.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Spencer is a pure bust. It’s his job to call out the protection scheme, and he obviously missed that one. On top of that, he was called for two false starts. How does the center get called for false starts? At home, no less?
Thanks to the defense giving up 455 passing yards, the Seahawks were outgained 518-271. The major disparity came in the second half, as they were again on the losing end in yardage, 379-26.
Although the Chargers were without three linebackers and lost Shawne Merriman during the game, the Seahawks were able to run for only 68 yards on 21 carries. In other words, their seeming progress in that category last week was just a fluke.
With a new offensive scheme, some new receivers and a line that has three new starters and is not yet set, the Seahawks’ offense will be a work in progress for the first half of the season.
Eventually Russell Okung and Chester Pitts will step into the left side, Hasselbeck will get on the same page with Williams and Bates will figure out which plays work best for this group.
In the meantime, we can expect some of the follies we’ve seen so far, and everyone has to hope Washington has a few more of those TD returns in his bag of tricks.
For more observations from Sunday's game, go Outside The Press Box.