SMQB: Minnesota Vikings 23, Seattle Seahawks 21

Leonard Weaver gets serious!

The game between the Seahawks and the Vikings was a competition of secondary importance. The internal contests, with roster spots as the prizes, would be the real stories. As the preseason comes to a close, many Seahawks are looking over their shoulders and waiting to hear if they'll survive today's cuts, which will pare the roster down to the final 53.

Minnesota Vikings 23, Seattle Seahawks 21
Friday, September 2, 2005
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington

Play Of The Day: Leonard Weaver’s 3rd quarter, 31-yard TD run. Weaver took the handoff from Seneca Wallace on a draw play, shot through the line and rambled left with extremely impressive speed and agility for a fullback. The undrafted former tight end from Carson-Newman College sealed a roster spot with several stellar runs.

Handouts To The Standouts: Weaver, without question…DE Joe Tafoya, for displaying quality pressure on the line…Kelly Herndon, for grabbing a circus interception…Matt Hasselbeck, for once again looking positively surgical in limited action this preseason…Seneca Wallace, for hanging tough in the face of waaaaaay too much pressure…Marquis Weeks, for making the bottom of the roster pile at halfback a little more interesting…Josh Scobey, for giving Seahawk fans a thrill with a couple of breakaway returns and putting said halfback roster pile contention to rest…Omare Lowe, for showing great aggressiveness (now, about that coverage)… Craig Terrill, for virtually ensuring a roster spot on the interior line, and Ray Rhodes, for showing a measure of creativity with his blitz packages.

Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Michael Boulware’s right shoulder stinger (status unknown at this time)…Andy King’s penalty festival…The backup offensive line, for damn near getting Seneca Wallace killed…Jerheme Urban, for letting the drops most likely drive him out of town…Referee Peter Morelli and his crew, for a number of strange calls on both sides…Jerome (DUCK!!!) Pathon, and Lowe on the downside, for getting zapped on the game’s deciding play.

Offense: As he has through most of the preseason, Matt Hasselbeck ran the offense with skill and ease, going 3 for 3 for 60 yards and a beautiful, perfectly placed 24-yard TD pass to Jerramy Stevens with 6:41 left in the first quarter. (Stevens was flagged later in the first quarter for an extremely questionable offensive pass interference call). The touchdown capped off a 5-play, 83-yard drive.

Backup Seneca Wallace impressed by not falling apart behind an alarmingly porous second-string line. Although his stats weren’t anything to write home about (14 of 19 for 96 yards and an interception), Wallace was determined to go through his reads when he could, and was mostly content to dump off the short slant or screen when the walls came tumblin’ down. One would have to assume that if Mike Holmgren intended to bring in any manner of veteran backup QB, he would have done so already. Wallace had a preseason to be proud of, and his increased maturity and ability was obvious.

Third-round pick David Greene came in for a few snaps in the fourth quarter and almost immediately threw a horrible interception to linebacker Heath Farwell. At this point, the question must be asked: Why did we take this guy in the third round with NFL Europe stud Gibran Hamdan on the roster and Darryl Blackstock still on the board?

Shaun Alexander broke off a nice 17-yard first-quarter run behind the violent blocking of Steve Hutchinson, but tonight was for the kids in the backfield – one who has assured himself of a place on this team, and one who has assured himself of a place in the NFL, whether he gets lost in the roster shuffle or not.

Again, Weaver was absolutely off the charts. Not only did he astonish with his speed on that 31-yard TD scamper, he also got busy on a 13-yard run in which he showed a stiff-arm that defenders had best watch out for. In Seattle’s offense, Weaver’s primary function will be as a backup lead blocker behind the venerable Mack Strong. He’s got the skills, leading the charge on Marquis Weeks’ touchdown run. Don’t be surprised, however, if Mike Holmgren tries Weaver out in different offensive situations when he requires a fullback with perhaps a bit more flexibility. Weeks won’t beat out Josh Scobey for the third spot behind Alexander and Maurice Morris, given Josh Scobey’s return ability, but he’s got great bounce and elusiveness. Weeks led all Seattle backs with 61 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.

The picture at wideout became a bit clearer, as well…Joe Jurevicius’ pretty one-handed catch from Wallace in the second quarter, not to mention his block on Weaver’s touchdown, may have cemented his status. Jerheme Urban’s dropped pass (his preseason malady, continued) and self-recovered fumble may have sealed his fate in the other direction. Jerome Pathon, who had expressed frustration at the team’s seeming unwillingness to allow him to compete for the #2 spot with Bobby Engram, might be on the outs entirely after Peter Warrick’s acquisition and Pathon’s own embarrassment in the third quarter when he picked up a Wallace pass late and ducked to elude the ball hitting him right in the head.

Hutchinson’s blocking on Alexander’s run and reserve tackle Sean Locklear’s impressive first-quarter contention with Minnesota DE Kenechi Udeze were two highlights in a fairly dismal overall outing for Seattle’s offensive line. Wallace was taking heat non-stop, and guard Andy King had a day he’d most likely do anything to forget, racking up three holding penalties and a false start call. Some cuts will be tough. Others? Not so much.

Defense: The starting line of Grant Wistrom, Bryce Fisher, Marcus Tubbs and Chartric Darby is unquestionably set, which gave the team this game to look at who might step up in a backup role. Nobody helped their cause more than DE Joe Tafoya. Tafoya was originally a 7th(c)-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - the last pick of Tim Ruskell's 10-year run as Tampa Bay's Director of College Scouting. After three years with Chicago, Tafoya was acquired by the Falcons when Ruskell was Atlanta’s Assistant General Manager. Now, it looks as if Ruskell and Tafoya will be “teammates” for the third time. Tafoya led all defenders with seven tackles, an assist and a sack, showing excellent pursuit. Defensive tackle Craig Terrill, who has surprised with his own ability to get after the quarterback, most likely made the final squad with another fine outing.

After a game in Kansas City which could best be described as a “learning experience”, Lofa Tatupu recovered to a point. You can begin to see how his ability to anticipate and take the correct angles will help the defense, although the common scouting perception regarding his potential trouble shedding blocks at this level is still very evident.

Although Andre Dyson most likely has the starting spot at left cornerback wrapped up, Kelly Herndon started this game and came away with a beautiful one-handed interception of a Daunte Culpepper pass intended for Nate Burleson at Seattle’s 8-yard line. Herndon’s pick ended a drive in which the Vikings went no-huddle all the way, hoping to break the rhythm of Ray Rhodes’ defensive sets. And now is as good a time as any to send some kudos Rhodes’ way for some very creative blitz packages, including a fourth-quarter double-safety blitz which shot Omare Lowe and John Howell right up the middle, landed Shaun Hill, the Vikings’ third-string QB, on his back…and also resulted in a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty on Howell.

Lowe had an up-and-down evening. He’s got a decent ability to sniff out a developing play (as he did with a reverse to WR Keenan Howry at the end of the third period), but it will be his…erm…”toasty” coverage on the 44-yard, 4th-and-16 pass from Hill to Ryan Hoag which will be remembered.

Special Teams: Speculation has Leo Araguz’ veteran consistency landing him the starting punter position over Chris Kluwe. Recent waiver acquisition Josh Scobey affirmed his ability to take Seattle’s return game to the next level with 5 kickoff returns for 138 yards (a 27.9 yard average), including a 52-yarder. Scobey’s final return of the game, a 24-yarder, was negated to a point by yet another iffy call – holding on Terrence Robinson.

Weird officiating and a fourth-quarter Seahawks meltdown? I swear, the more things change…

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact him at doug@seahawks.net.

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