After two road challenges,
the Seahawks finally return for their home opener. Upon first examination, the
2004 schedule had some ominous things in it, most especially the way the road
games are parceled up into four 2 game jaunts. Perhaps none were as fierce looking
as the initial one we just finished. Two trips of 2 and 3 time zones in consecutive
weeks would have a business executive wondering if he could cope. To travel
nearly 10,000 miles to play in two football games was a daunting task.
Travel in the NFL involves
more than just the physical abuse of spending hours in an airplane. The travel
time is time that could be spent practicing, or studying game film, which is
what the home team gets to do. Add in the advantages of the emotional support
of the home fans and it is no wonder that it is considered so difficult to win
on the road.
But win we did. Both games.
Of the remaining three 2-game
road trips, the next 2 are not as strenuous, since each involves at least one
relatively short trip to division opponents. The final one, which involves trips
to Minnesota and New York, resembles the one we just finished. At least we will
know we have done it successfully in the past.
But, it is important to
maintain focus on this week’s game. The rest of the schedule will get
here soon enough.
This week, we get the advantages
of home cooking and the extra day of practice.
It’s a good thing,
too. After that somewhat disappointing offensive show in Tampa, the offense
needed the extra day of practice they’ll get. The defense, at least, appears
Looking back, it was probably
good that we lost that pre-season game at home in August. After all, a long
time Seahawks fan is generally very suspicious of streaks, and especially of
streaks of success. We should feel better about our potential to win all of
our home games this season. After all, we broke the streak in pre-season, when
it didn’t matter. The streak stands at nine games and counting, and it
looks like it will continue this week against a San Francisco team with injury
and talent questions.
The only questions for this
game are simple ones.
Can they maintain concentration
after posting two wins that would have seemed impossible only last season?
This lies at the crux of
it all. The strain of the consecutive road trips is bound to have certain affects
that might linger for more than a day or two. Hopefully, this is offset by the
advantages of playing at home. Certainly, the home crowd should be rocking today.
The early sellout is a good sign that they are excited to watch their guys get
on the field and play.
Can the offense fix the
problems that plagued them in Tampa?
Yes, they can. It must be
remembered that Tampa was the second game of a very tough road series. Physical
exhaustion can lead to the type of mental mistakes that were made. It is dangerous
to suggest reasons that will sound like excuses, but it does not negate the
truth of it. At home, rested, we can expect better results.
San Francisco, while it
has talent on defense, will not be able to pull off the blitzes that a much
better Tampa Bay defense was able to. Matt Hasselbeck will be given that extra
half second or so that was missing in Tampa. The results should be favorable
for our passing game.
If we can pass, we will
be able to run. Shaun Alexander was obviously not the same back in Tampa that
he was in New Orleans. Having practiced all week, the old Shaun should be back
for the home crowd.
Can the defense maintain
their incredible intensity?
This week, yes.
When you look at last season,
the defense was instrumental in carrying the team through the first few games.
Look for them to pound the San Francisco line, hound the virtual rookie quarterback
they will be playing, and confound their young, inexperienced receiver corps.
Last season, the defense
dropped off after the first few games, as the wear and tear of the season started
to drag them down. Our rookie phenoms of last season, Hamlin and Trufant, played
magnificently early on, but were worn down by nagging injuries and just plain
fatigue, known colloquially as the “rookie wall.” It is a telling
fact that none of the rookies of the class of 2004 have been really needed yet.
Meanwhile, in spot duty, they have already contributed. Everyone expected that
Trufant would get some picks this year. Having the rookie Boulware get two in
two games has been a pleasant surprise.
Certainly, the defense has
good to great talent in the front 11. It appears that we now may have sufficient
depth to survive the entire season with good results. A late season collapse
seems less likely than last year. Another positive indicator: the team has hardly
noticed the absence of Chad Brown.
That should lead to two
One, the defense will presumably
get better when Chad returns, but he doesn’t have to be rushed back into
action. As they are going now, Brown should get adequate time to really heal
Two, Chad will be motivated
even more when he returns. Nothing like seeing that the rest of the team can
do well without you to make a player anxious to get back into the mix and prove
that the team really does need him. That should make a perennial high motor
player that much more intense. That bodes well for our defense, and is bad news
for the offenses we face in the future. Normally, Chad doesn’t need additional
motivation. When he gets it, it should be awesome to see.
The NFL always has the “any
given Sunday” adage, meaning that any team can beat any other team, given
some lucky breaks and good hard work. However, the final series in Tampa tells
us that the Seahawks can overcome a significant amount of bad luck and questionable
referee calls this season much better than they could last year. That should
put the San Francisco Forty-Niners' chances today somewhere in the slim and
I’m thinking not this
Seahawks 35, Niners 13
Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback
to Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.