5. Darrell Jackson - The #1 wide receiver returns to the lineup and immediately makes a big impact, catching 6 balls for 72 yards and a crucial 4th quarter touchdown that put the Seahawks on top for good.
4. Team Chemistry - Mike Holmgren said it best when he told his team after the game that Seahawk teams of the past would have lost this game. The brotherhood of this team willed itself to the win, proving once again that a team bonded in a common goal and believing in the man next to him will overcome.
3. Offense - In general, the Seahawk offensive juggernaut continued to roll. 4 touchdowns to 4 different players (WRs Darrell Jackson and Joe Jurevicius, TE Jerramy Stevens, and RB Shaun Alexander) showed the assortment of weapons that a defense has to account for.
2. Shaun Alexander - The Seahawk RB kept his record-setting road show moving as he racked up 172 rushing yards and his 24th touchdown of the year. He eclipsed the 1600-yard mark for the year, becoming only the 5th player in NFL history to do that in successive seasons.
1. Matt Hasselbeck - Carving the opposing defense like the proverbial Christmas ham, QB Hasselbeck threw his way to an unbelievable 147.7 QB rating on 21 of 27 passing for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns to 3 different receivers.
* Honorable mentions to the entire Seahawks offensive line, the crowds of Seahawk fans visible in the stands at the Titans’ home stadium, and Mack Strong, for FINALLY getting that Pro Bowl vote!
1. Colts vs. Seahawks - This game means a lot for the Seahawks to secure home field throughout the playoffs, but the luster and shine of the undefeated Colts has been tarnished by the loss to the Chargers a week before, and several starters will be rested. Obviously, the specter of the tragic loss suffered by the Dungy family will hang over this game.
2. Special Teams - An abysmal performance in Tennessee by an underachieving unit. A blocked field goal attempt and several penalties were bad enough, but to give up a first down (and a bunch of yards) to a fake punt is inexcusable.
3. Zone Defense - After being very aggressive through the first two series and utilizing man to man / press coverage, resulting in stopping the Titans offense, John Marshall went to the overrated "Soft Zone" defense in order to protect the 14 point lead. 24 unanswered points later, he switched back and held the lead for the win. I think there's a lesson to be learned here somewhere.
4. Defensive Secondary - Cornerback Jordan Babineaux looked like a 2nd game starter and the Seahawk safeties and linebackers had absolutely no answer for TE Ben Troupe, just as they had been exploited by TE Jeremy Shockey a couple weeks before.
5. Pass Rush - The Seahawks lead the league in team sacks, but you couldn't tell in Tennessee. The front 4 never got to QB Steve McNair, and the few blitzes that were called resulted in big plays down field instead of pressure. This was a deja-vu of last year all over again.
Next on the List
Professional sports handicapper Nick Shelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) breaks down the Seahawk’s next game and gives his pick for the winner.
NSport.NET Analysis - Indianapolis @ Seattle
Last week: The Seahawks have proven over and over again that bad match-ups will yield points. As predicted, the Titans scored slightly above their home average, but it was the Seahawks who fell asleep in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to the tune of being down by 10 points. They woke up in the final quarter, narrowly escaping, but still having a chance to cover the 7 only to continue to wind the clock to seal the W.
This week: The 13-1 Colts come to town with no postseason standing to play for - especially given the fact that they are playing a very likely Super Bowl foe (that is, if they make it past playoff nemesis New England). Motivation is the Colts’ key this week, and their only on-field motivation is to stay well-tuned so they do not have a playoff collapse in the Divisional or Championship games. The Seahawks will be motivated, as home field throughout is still at stake.
When the Colts have the ball: As Steve McNair did last week, look for Manning to exploit the depleted secondary and chew up big chunks of yardage. The running game will benefit, as Edgerrin James should become productive once the passing game settles in. The Colts’ best weapon should be their ability to execute the silent count and audible (oxymoron?) to counter the raucous crowds at the Q. The Seahawks defense is looking like the league is learning how to score against them - the stats are deceptive - Manning (should he face it) should be effective in 3rd and long and easily avoid our blitz packages. This may be another one of those "let's pray for bad weather and a loud crowd" games.
When the Seahawks have the ball: The Colts love the speed blitz and the traditional Tony Dungy Tampa D. Let's face it, the entire defense is predicated on speed. For this reason, I expect Seattle to run and run big. None of the pansy "string it out and cut it up field" stuff, we're talking off-tackle, traps, and the deep-I "pound the tight end and fullback down your throat" kind of running. It's a contract year, so Shaun Alexander should be ok with this (you know he wants and will get the Benjamins). Third down is a steady dose of Bobby Engram, and any second and long situation will be to Joe Jurevicius or Darrell Jackson since Jerramy Stevens will be blocking all game long. This game is not a good match up for the deep ball - you know the "enforcer" safety will be there waiting to make a play. The long and short of it? The Seahawks will play this game 15 yards in, and will be unwilling to take a lot of risks.
Vegas Line: Seattle (-7, 44)
Indianapolis 14 10 0 3 0 - 27
Seattle ....... .7 7 13 0 3 - 30
Game Log: The Colts start out in Colt-like fashion, gashing the Seahawks secondary for 200 yards in the first half. Sharing the ball is the Colts specialty as Manning dishes to Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and James in the first half. The Seahawks employ the slow and steady method of trying to keep Manning off the field - they manage two long scoring drives but find themselves with a 10 point deficit at the half. Manning and crew come out for the 3rd period but are benched after their first drive. The Seahawks come back slowly and take the lead, only to have the Colts backups tie it up. This one goes to overtime folks - Josh Brown hits a long FG on overtime to seal home field advantage.
Fantasy Alert: It hasn't been formally announced yet, but everyone expects the Colts to rest starters. Alexander is a great play this week (when is he not a great play??) and Josh Brown again will be a nice contributor.
Mark “RockHawk” Olsen’s Final Thought
The 12-2 record of the Seahawks can be attributed to many different factors, but I think the key to this season has been the ability to plug backups into positions when the inevitable injury occurs. It’s unfathomable to me that you could lose both starting wide receivers, your starting strong safety (and defensive leader), ¾’s of your cornerbacks, and most of your linebackers and still roll through a 10 game winning streak. A lot of this can be attributed to the best free agent acquisition of the entire NFL offseason (WR Joe Jurevicius), a great job by a Cincinnati roster castoff (Safety Marquand Manuel) and the play of two unbelievable rookies at the linebacker position (LeRoy Hill and rookie of the year candidate Lofa Tatupu). Without these players stepping into and filling the roles at a very high level, the Seahawks would be nowhere near their current streak.
- Mark Olsen writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at email@example.com.
- Nick Shelly has been a professional sports analyst and handicapper for over 10 years. You can contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.