Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren probably doesn’t want to hear anybody say his team is cursed when it comes to playing games that start at 10 a.m. PST.
So what if heading into today the Seahawks were just 19-23 in such games since he took over in 1999. So what if the Seahawks had lost 20 of their last 32 games that started at 10 a.m. Us outsiders might see that as an ominous trend. I certainly did when I looked at Sunday’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
But if anyone tries to tell you the start time had anything to do with the Bills’ 34-10 schlacking of the Seahawks today, they’re dead wrong. At least this time, that cannot be an excuse.
I predicted the Seahawks would win today’s game against the Bills 27-10. My reasoning was simple. The Bills boasted one of the worst offenses in the league last year. Their offense was so horrible that even teams like Oakland and Miami were better. I saw the Seahawks’ defense as being ready to get revenge after last year’s NFC Divisional round disappointment at Green Bay.
I wasn’t entirely wrong about the Bills offense. No matter what you may think after seeing that huge 34 they put up today, the offense had very little to do with it.
Sure, Bills quarterback Trent Edwards had a nice game, completing 19 of 30 for 215 yards and a touchdown. Sure, running back Marshawn Lynch had a nice afternoon with 18 carries for 76 yards and another touchdown, including a 21-yard scamper in the first quarter that put the Bills ahead 7-0. Sure, wide receiver Lee Evans had a nice afternoon, collecting four catches for 102 yards.
The Bills offense was decent today. But it wasn’t spectacular. So how did the Bills manage to reel off 34 points despite just a ‘decent’ showing by their offense?
Two words: Special Teams
27 of the Bills' 34 points were directly aided by the special teams. Leading 7-0 in the second quarter, Roscoe Parrish took a punt 63 yards for a touchdown to give the Bills a 14-0 lead. Late in the third quarter, leading just 20-10, the Bills faked a field goal to score another touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, Seahawks return man Josh Wilson fumbled the ball, giving the Bills the ball right back on the Seattle 30. Edwards completed a touchdown pass on the very next play to officially turn the game into a rout. Rian Lindell also kicked two field goals for Buffalo.
Heading into the game, I had no idea that the Bills would score so many points off of special teams. Simply put, it’s because they did that they won.
It also didn’t help the Seahawks any that they had to rely on a bunch of inexperienced wide receivers. I know, I know, I said I didn’t think that would matter. Without Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, many people have speculated the Seahawks’ offense might not be so potent.
I kind of shrugged it off thinking it would all be okay. Oh, how wrong I was. Dropped passes, poor starts off the line, bad routes, the Seahawks receiving corps of Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent, Logan Payne and Jeb Putzier looked like … well … a bunch of rookies. Nate Burleson, the lone veteran still healthy, made some fine catches, including a nifty touchdown grab to cut the Bills’ lead to 14-7.
But almost as if on cue, he was injured in the third quarter. He had to be helped off the field and seemed to not be able to put much—if any—weight on his injured leg. After that, it was pretty much over. Hasselbeck tried threading the needle to some of the young guys, but as they had done all game long, they let him down. Hasselbeck ended up completing just 17 of 41 passes for 190 yards.
Hasselbeck wasn’t completely without blame, missing and overthrowing on several attempts. But the commentators made an interesting point, and that is, when you consistently see your wide receivers letting you down, it hurts your confidence as a quarterback. You wonder, “Well, who can I throw to? Who will catch it?”
Such thinking forces the quarterback to sit in the pocket longer than he would like and gives the defense an easier chance at sacking him. Hasselbeck was sacked a total of five times Sunday. About the only bright spot for the Seahawks receivers was tight end John Carlson, who the Seahawks drafted in the second round of last year’s NFL Draft. Carlson had four catches for 52 yards.
I have to admit the Bills had a pretty good gameplan going into the contest. They knew the Seahawks receivers weren’t going to be much of a threat, so they did their best to stop the rush. For the most part—outside of a couple solid runs by Maurice Morris to begin the third quarter—they succeeded.
So what does it mean? Should the Seahawks worry? Well, it kind of depends on how badly Burleson is hurt. It’s already highly unlikely that Branch and Engram will be able to return any earlier than Week Five.
Fortunately, the Seahawks play in one of the worst divisions—if not the worst division— in the entire NFL. San Francisco lost 23-13 at home to Arizona today and the St. Louis Rams got pummeled 38-3 at Philadelphia. Just how bad were the Rams today? Their lone points came in the fourth quarter, they managed just eight first downs, had just 166 total yards, were penalized nine times and went 0-11 on third down.
The Seahawks next two games are at home against (drumroll) the Niners and Rams. Then, the Seahawks have a bye before heading off to New York to face the Giants in Week Five. So really, the Seahawks couldn’t ask for a better schedule for the next three weeks.
Playing San Francisco and St. Louis also gives Hasselbeck more time to get timing routes down with his new receivers before playing some stiffer competition. It’s probably also important to note Hasselbeck missed the entire preseason after game one against Minnesota because of a sore back.
He’ll tell you that doesn’t matter, but I think he’s lying. As inexperienced as the Seahawks wide receivers are, Hasselbeck could have benefited greatly from an additional three preseason games to work with them.
Basically, I’m not worried too much about Sunday’s game. Yes, it looks ugly, but I’d much rather the Seahawks lose a non-conference game on the road in Week One than a divisional matchup late in the season.
Because if the season turns out the way I still think it will, with Seattle and Dallas battling for the NFC’s top seed, the Seahawks’ record against conference and divisional opponents is going to mean a lot more.
Additional note: Morris was injured in the third quarter as well. The severity of the injury is still unknown. I'm not so worried about this as some may be because I have a lot of confidence in Julius Jones. I think that should Morris be sidelined for an extended period of time, Justin Forsett, who the Seahawks drafted out of California last year, will be able to step in and do a fine job. He had an amazing preseason.
Seahawks in games that start at 10 a.m. PST under Mike Holmgren:
at Chicago: W 14-13
at Pittsburgh: W 29-10
at Kansas City: W 31-19
at NY Jets: L 19-9
at Miami: L 23-0
at Jacksonville: W 28-21
at Atlanta: W 30-10
at Cleveland: W 9-6
at Washington: L 27-14
at Buffalo: W 23-20
at Kansas City: L 19-7
at NY Giants: L 27-24
at NY Giants: L 9-6
at St. Louis: L 37-20
at Dallas: W 17-14
at Atlanta: W 30-24 (OT)
at Green Bay: L 35-13
at Cincinnati: L 27-24
at Washington: L 27-20
at Baltimore: L 44-41 (OT)
at Minnesota: L 34-7
at New Orleans: W 21-7
at Tampa Bay: W 10-6
at New England: L 30-20
at St. Louis: L 23-12
at Minnesota: W 27-23
at NY Jets: L 37-14
at Jacksonville: L 26-14
at Washington: L 20-17 (OT)
at St. Louis: W 37-31
at Tennessee: W 28-24
at Green Bay: L 23-17
at Detroit: W 9-6
at St. Louis: W 30-28
at Kansas City: L 35-28
at Tampa Bay: W 23-7
at Chicago: L 27-24 (OT)
at Pittsburgh: L 21-0
at St. Louis: W 24-19
at Philadelphia: W 28-24
at Carolina: L 13-10
at Atlanta: L 44-41
at Buffalo: L 34-10
at NY Giants: still pending
at Miami: still pending
at St. Louis: still pending