It’s a good thing the Seahawks got a fifth pre-season game, because against a better team, three first-quarter turnovers might have really cost them.
Matt Hasselbeck was obviously over-eager in his first game since being shut down to rest a bad back last November. He threw two interceptions in the first quarter.
After the Seahawks recovered the Rams’ fumble at their own 19 on the opening kickoff, Hasselbeck forced his first two passes to tightly covered receivers. The second one, to a double-covered T.J. Houshmandzadeh, was intercepted in the end zone.
Then, after a great trick play featuring Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace that got Seattle into St. Louis territory, Hasselbeck threw a late pass to Nate Burleson that was picked.
Hasselbeck settled down after that, though. After former-Seahawk-turned-greedy-bastard Josh Brown missed a 37-yard field goal (neener, neener, Josh), Hasselbeck led the Hawks on a 63-yard touchdown drive, finishing it with a 1-yard toss over the defense to tight end John Carlson.
On the next drive, Hasselbeck led the Hawks 69 yards for a touchdown, interrupted by a bogus blocked field goal returned for a touchdown that was overturned because the Rams had 12 men on the field for the play.
With a new set of downs, Hasselbeck made them pay three plays later with a 12-yard TD pass to Burleson.
Hasselbeck finished with 25 completions in 36 attempts for 279 yards and three scores.
The lesson he probably learned is: As much faith as he has in his receivers, he still needs to be smart about where he throws the ball.
We told you it would happen in the first game. On the Hawks’ fourth possession, Wallace lined up as the quarterback in the shotgun and Hasselbeck lined up as a wide receiver. Wallace threw a lateral pass to Hasselbeck, who tossed it back to Wallace, who dashed 24 yards for a first down.
Mike Holmgren always talked about using Wallace that way but rarely tried it, with the notable exception being that great catch against Ken Lucas in the 2005 NFC title game against Carolina.
Mora, who obviously is not nearly as cautious as Holmgren, did it in his first game. And there will be plenty more as the season goes on.
But Hasselbeck has a request for the denizens of Qwest Field, who were so excited they couldn’t contain their enthusiasm:
“The only thing is we might have to tell the crowd not to get so loud when Seneca comes into the game,” Hasselbeck told reporters, tongue only partially in cheek. “That kind of gives it away. [Center Steve] Vallos said he could barely hear the snap count.”
But Hasselbeck apparently likes the idea: “It is exciting. Seneca comes in with his lime green shoes and everybody gets excited. It was definitely a momentum thing, but I learned from it. I was out of breath on the next play [and threw an interception]. I need to stay calm myself."
Running a little behind
The Seahawks struggled to get the running game going, but eventually they popped Julius Jones for a 62-yard touchdown dash in the third quarter.
“With the run scheme, you’ve just got to go in there for the nasty 2 or 3 yards, and eventually you’ll pop a big one,” said fullback Justin Griffith, who made the key block that sprung Jones through the hole on his TD run.
In the first half, the Seahawks managed just 45 yards on 15 carries as their remade line struggled to execute the zone scheme.
Jones had just 37 yards on 12 rushes in the first two quarters. They weren’t much better in the second half except for Jones’ 62-yard run. Take that out, and they finished the game with 105 yards on 33 carries (3.2 average).
“We just kept plugging away,” Griffith said. “For a minute there [or a half], it seemed like the running game wasn’t going, but we saw a look, and we took advantage of it and we got a score.”
And if you think Edgerrin James should displace Jones, think again. James carried 11 times for just 30 yards.
The line will improve as the season advances, and it will need to be better next week in a key early division game in San Francisco.
Backup ’backers get first test
Leroy Hill left in the first quarter and Lofa Tatupu departed in the third. Against the Rams’ subpar offense, neither guy was really missed.
It turned out to be a good test of whether the coaches made the right decision in letting top reserve D.D. Lewis go in the final round of cuts last weekend.
Will Herring played three-plus quarters in place of Hill and looked good doing it. David “Heater” Hawthorne stepped in for Tatupu.
Early word was that Hill (strained groin) and Tatupu (strained hamstring) shouldn’t miss any games.
Defense, don’t read too much into this shutout
Led by rookie linebacker Aaron Curry, the Seattle defense played hard and recorded its first shutout in two years and the first one in xx games in the team’s series with the Rams.
Any shutout in the NFL should be cherished. But this was the Rams, who went 2-14 last season and are very unsettled on the offensive line and very young at receiver.
So, while the shutout certainly was more than could have been expected, the Seahawks did what they should have done in holding the Rams to 247 yards, including only 67 rushing by Steven Jackson. They also held them to 2-of-12 on third downs.
The only negative was the defense didn’t force a turnover. The only one the Seahawks got was on the opening kickoff, when Lance Laury forced Donnie Avery to fumble and Will Herring recovered.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
One year after tearing his ACL, Burleson was back on the field, and he looked great. He caught a team-high seven passes for 74 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown. You had to like the way Greg Knapp used him: putting him in space on receiver screens and short passes to use his playmaking skills.
With Burleson and Houshmandzadeh on the outside, Carlson gets the middle. He finished with six catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. On a 99-yard drive that put Seattle up 21-0 in the third quarter, Carlson caught two passes for 71 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown down the middle of the field. Could Carlson give Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez a run for a spot on the NFC’s Pro Bowl team?
Darryl Tapp was all over the field. He had three tackles, one for loss, two QB pressures and two passes defensed. He has flashed this kind of ability before, but he might be able to sustain it this year as he rotates with Lawrence Jackson and Cory Redding.
Jackson finally made his presence known. On the Rams’ second series, Jackson was the target of Rams hothead Richie Incognito, who drew a 15-yard penalty after giving Jackson a post-play shove. Jackson also sacked QB Marc Bulger late in the third quarter, stopped Steven Jackson for no gain, and had another QB hurry on Bulger. All in all, it sure looked like the best game of Jackson’s 17-game career.
Josh Wilson played a nice game, leading the Hawks with five tackles and three passes defensed against a pretty inexperienced Rams receiving corps.