Sunday, October 23, 2005
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Play Of The Day: No question here! Facing 3rd and 7 from his own 44, 14 seconds left in regulation and the scoreboard proclaiming a 10-10 tie, Drew Bledsoe went for the home run. He threw to Terry Glenn in Seattle territory, but he threw underneath – right into the waiting arms of Jordan Babineaux. The backup DB took the ball to the Seattle 32-yard line. Josh Brown kicked the game-winning field goal on the next and final play.
Runner-up: With 1:55 left in the first half, Bledsoe threw to Glenn from the Dallas 46. Kelly Herndon was covering Glenn tightly deep in Seattle territory. The ball bounced off Glenn’s hands, off his body, and into Michael Boulware’s hands. Boulware took the ball from the Seattle 9 to the Seattle 40, where he was pushed out of bounds. In the subsequent drive, Brown kicked a 55-yard field goal – his first of two that traveled 50 yards or more.
Handouts To The Standouts: Babineaux and Boulware, for amping up Seattle’s heretofore worrisome interception total…Bryce Fisher, for providing key pressure on Drew Bledsoe, and two sacks…Joe Jurevicius, for providing veteran savvy and his usual hands of glue…Shaun Alexander, for breaking a major team record, despite a day in which he found it hard to find real estate…Jerheme Urban, for some vital catches down the stretch after a rough season…Walter Jones, for showing one DeMarcus Ware what the NFL is really like...Seattle’s defense, for providing support and life when the NFL’s top offense went a bit astray...and Josh Brown, for his two clutch field goals - sure redemption for him after that Redskins fiasco a few weeks back.
Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: A special teams unit that seems to have seen no improvement whatsoever from last season’s dismal results…Matt Hasselbeck’s unfortunate resurfancing habit of throwing the ball away in heavy traffic, and an unusually porous offensive line.
Offense: Seattle began the game hot on offense, as they drove from their own 28 with impressive efficiency. Matt Hasselbeck was 4 for 5 for 45 yards on this drive…until he threw an interception to CB Terence Newman at Dallas’ 7-yard line with 4 ½ minutes elapsed. From that time until the game’s waning moments, Dallas’ defense played at a predominantly Herculean pace, limiting Shaun Alexander, the NFL’s leading rusher (at least he was until last night – he’s now been passed by Indy’s Edgerrin James) to 61 yards on 21 carries. Although Alexander was strong after first contact – continuing a very encouraging trend this season – he was waylaid by Dallas’ impressive D-line, his own hesitation at times, and an offensive line which did not provide a remotely equivalent effort to last week’s 320-yard smackdown of the Houston Texans. Although it’s extremely encouraging to note that this team can now win with either side of the rushing equation, there are some line issues which need addressing.
With a minute left in the first quarter, Dallas’ Jose Cortez shanked a kickoff out of bounds, and Seattle got the ball at its own 40. This was when Matt Hasselbeck’s adverse reaction to some alarmingly weak pass protection at times began to rear its ugly head. Hasselbeck suffered one more interception after the first drive, and he was sacked only once in the game…proving that statistics don’t always tell the whole story. Hasselbeck was pressured often, and he didn’t always show ideal discretion as to where he threw the ball away when eluding a sack. Dallas was winning the battle up front, pushing the Seahawks line around rather impressively and dictating tempo. The NFL’s #1 offense was held to a field goal in the first half, which is all we need to know.
One member of the offense who continued to impress was WR Joe Jurevicius. Not only did he lead all receivers with six catches (gaining 54 yards), he displayed the value of veteran presence in a telling episode near the end of the first half. With the Seahawks driving to their first three points and lining up in a three-wide set with 1:13 remaining in the second quarter, Jurevicius directed WR D.J. Hackett to the slot position. Jurevicius then caught the 7-yard pass, which turned 3rd and 5 into 1st and 10. Jurevicius then schooled Terence Newman for an 11-yard gain on a no-huddle play. Jurevicius once again proved to be someone Hasselbeck can always rely on, and his command of the offense from a playbook perspective is no surprise to anyone who has followed the career of this intelligent, determined player. His value to the team during the absences of Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram is enormous.
The second half proved to be equally frustrating for Seattle’s offense. Holmgren tried the deep ball (involving Hackett more often at this point) to counter Dallas’ short coverage. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the offense broke out of its funk. And even then, the Seahawks seemed unable to get out of their own way at first. The drive which began with 9:42 in the final quarter featured an unbelievable catch by Jurevicius - the ball went out of his hands, then out of the hands of CB Anthony Henry, then back in to Jurevicius’ hands – was negated by a holding penalty on Robbie Tobeck. Less than a minute later, Hasselbeck threw an incomplete pass which was ruled intentional grounding. This drive did also feature two nice catches by Jerheme Urban, and it was a portent of things to come.
Of course, the 6-play, 81-yard drive which ended in the tying touchdown with 46 seconds left was the real breakthrough. This was not likely a drive that last year’s Seahawks offense would have been able to put together, prone to self-destruction as they once were. It was Shaun Alexander’s 14-yard run with 1:40 left in the game which broke Dallas’ stranglehold on the running game, turned the momentum in Seattle’s favor, and allowed Alexander to become the team’s all-time rushing leader with 6,713 yards. Alexander passed both Chris Warren (6,706) and Curt Warner (6,705).
This offense was bent backwards for 58 minutes, and they refused to break. They were tough, smart and resilient in the face of some ugly plays. They were about winning, not looking pretty; elite in the way they overcame temporary mediocrity.
Defense: After sacking Houston’s David Carr only three times last week, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Seattle’s pass rush wouldn’t show too much aggression against Drew Bledsoe. However, it’s worth noting that the Texans were never in that game, and Seattle began running a base defense more and more as that contest got out of hand. In this squeaker, Seattle’s rush was solid and effective.
That was fortunate, as Seattle’s secondary – still reeling from the loss of Ken Hamlin – looked at loose ends at times. The first quarter featured Dallas’ lone TD drive, which began with a long gainer from Bledsoe to TE Jason Whitten, who burned Kelly Herndon for 34 yards in the drive’s first play. Herndon got beat on the drive’s resolution as well – a 5-yard TD pass from Bledsoe to Keyshawn Johnson (whose feet WERE in bounds this year!).
Dallas’ attack was augmented by rookie running back Marion Barber, who replaced the injured Julius Jones, gashed Seattle’s line on multiple occasions, and wound up with 95 yards on 21 carries.
Seattle’s defense began to harden halfway through the second quarter, and the Cowboys started to impersonate Seattle’s offensive ineffectiveness. Frustration was obvious with 3:32 left in the second quarter, when Bledsoe threw to Keyshawn Johnson on 3rd and 1 from his own 31. Johnson obviously pushed off on Herndon, and offensive pass interference was not called. Fortunately, the pass was incomplete.
With 2:23 left in the first half, another incompletion proved frustrating on Seattle’s side, when a pass thrown to Terry Glenn went through the hands of Marcus Trufant AND Marquand Manuel. This drive ended with Boulware’s interception, a play which seemed to galvanize Seattle’s secondary.
Chuck Darby’s third-quarter sack of Bledsoe with 7:12 remaining in the third quarter was indicative of this, because the sack was predicated on Babineaux’ excellent coverage on Glenn. Of course, we’d see THAT again a bit later.
Regarding Terry Macaulay and his officiating crew, it’s fair to say that there were gaffes on both sides. One of the most notable was a no-call on Manuel when he was covering Whitten and fell down in the end zone, pulling Whitten with him. Contact was ruled incidental, which infuriated Bill Parcells to the point that he “assaulted” his own receivers coach when said coach tried to join in on Parcells’ little tête-à-tête with the officials.
As with the offense, Seattle’s defense really solidified in the fourth quarter, beginning with eleven minutes left in the game when Lofa Tatupu and Grant Wistrom made huge run-stopping tackles on consecutive downs. Seattle’s D also held on two goal line stands – the second ending in a Cortez field goal with 2:08 left in the game. Allowing three points instead of seven at that time set the stage for Seattle’s unbelievable comeback.
Special Teams: Do we have to keep discussing Seattle’s special teams? Here I am, at two minutes to midnight, wondering what humorous adjectives I can use to describe Seattle’s indifferent punt coverage, complete lack of ability to amass return yardage and Jimmy Williams’ boneheaded punt return fumble.
Heck with it. Josh Brown had a great game.
Summary: You can tell when a team acquires that thirst for victory beyond what luck will bring. You can tell when the scars heal, when the bruises and pains are disregarded in the quest for the win above all else. You can tell when a team sets aside its own preconceptions and deals with what is – when a team faces personal tragedy off the field and failure on it and rises above everything that would have destroyed its predecessors. You can tell when a team reaches the elite…and it’s for real…and nobody can argue with it.
After seven games, and with their bye week now at hand, the Seahawks have maintained the best offense in the NFL, having lost their two top receivers, Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram, for weeks. Today, they came away with two crucial interceptions despite the absence of a starting cornerback (Andre Dyson) and safety (Ken Hamlin).
No matter where they go from here, this team has set itself apart. With pride and passion, the 2005 Seattle Seahawks look forward to the season’s second half, secure in the knowledge that a newfound strength could quite possibly guide them to dominions heretofore unknown.
In many ways, the new horizons are already here.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.