Sunday, August 20, 2006
RCA Dome, Indianapolis, Indiana
Play of the Day: With 8:01 left in the first half, Indianapolis backup quarterback Jim Sorgi took the ball from center in a shotgun formation from his own 17-yard line. Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson, blitzing from the right side, blew by tight end Ben Utecht (who seemed more interested in the route he was running) and got in Sorgi’s face in a big hurry. Instead of taking the sack, Sorgi threw a fleeber in the general direction of backup safety Mike Green, who gratefully accepted the gift and sauntered 18 yards into the end zone. This was the second touchdown the Seahawks scored in less than a minute, after being banned from the end zone in the first 5 ½ quarters of the preseason. Peterson's hit took Sorgi out of the game with a shoulder injury.
Handouts To The Standouts: Mike Green, for his touchdown and the eventual snot-knocking hit on Utecht later in the game (this guy is starting to look like the next Marquand Manuel)…Bobby Engram, for once again being there when his quarterback needed him…Julian Peterson, for bringing the first glimpses of what could be a defensive terror...Leonard Weaver, for potentially making the Seahawks halfback rotation a good deal more interesting and a LOT bigger…and Rob Sims, for leading the race to be this year’s Sean Locklear.
Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Al Michaels talking seemingly endlessly about the Super Bowl officiating – this wouldn’t be so bad, except I know exactly how the national media will spin this – “Michaels may have been talking about it, but the Seahawks were obvsiously whining.” Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s Joey Porter shoots his mouth off again this week about the officiating in the divisional playoff against the Colts, and gets another free pass from Peter King and his ilk. Someone needs to explain this to me.
Here's a clue, guys - we only respond at this point WHEN YOU BRING IT UP. We already know that the talk about seeing holding before you call it in the March Owner's Meetings was directly related to the pseudo-call on Sean Locklear. Mike Holmgren resigned from the Competition Committee. What more do you want from us?
Seattle Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson, left, is tackled by Indianapolis Colts defenders Marlin Jackson, top right, and Antoine Bethea in the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Offense: Seattle’s first two drives consisted of 16 plays, 62 yards, and only three points. The Seahawks were moving the ball well initially, but running back Ran Carthon’s whiff on linebacker Gilbert Gardner, and Gardner’s subsequent sack on Matt Hasselbeck, conspired with a false start call on Walter Jones to stall drive #1. Jones was later beaten by DE Dwight Freeney on a sack caused by Hasselbeck being flushed into the left side and an uncharacteristically bad block by Mack Strong. The O-line play was better in this game, but there are still kinks to be worked out. Rookie guard Rob Sims did look solid throughout.
Hasselbeck ran the offense with his usual efficiency, keeping the tempo quick and completing 8 of 9 passes for 88 total yards. His primary target, the always reliable Bobby Engram, caught 5 passes for 64. Shaun Alexander looked good (if slightly uninterested) in very limited early action, and the ubiquitous Leonard “The Hydrant” Weaver got some serious reps at halfback, scoring two touchdowns (only one was recorded due to an end zone fumble, which guard Chris Spencer recovered) and gaining 51 yards on 14 carries.
NBC’s Andrea Kremer told a nice story about Seahawks quarterback coach Jim Zorn working with Seneca Wallace on his learning skills, including the team sending him to a learning center to get the calls, protections and plays better under his control. The efforts have reportedly taken root, and the anecdote may put to rest the constant stream of “If Seneca were only a receiver/punt returner/safety/left fielder/power forward” talk – Seattle sees this guy as a quarterback, pure and simple. With much better protection than he was afforded against Dallas, Wallace continued the offensive momentum established by Hasselbeck (10 of 15 for 99), though no Seattle quarterback threw a touchdown pass.
NFL Europe standout Gibran Hamdan displayed the same poise and arm strength he’s shown in training camp when he was handed the reins halfway through the fourth quarter. Hamdan looks much more polished and professional than David Greene, and the battle for third-string quarterback will be an interesting one (even though it probably shouldn’t be).
Defense: The Seahawks began this game repeating the defensive woes they suffered against Dallas. Facing a fairly generic Cover 2 (with Julian Peterson coming up as a rush end on a few plays), Peyton Manning took the Colts’ first team downfield with little resistance, going 4 of 5 for 78 yards on the initial scoring drive. The secondary in particular looked below par here, as Reggie Wayne burned Marcus Trufant more than once with the defense shading Marvin Harrison on the right side. Nickel man Jordan Babineaux didn’t have an answer for Indy TE Dallas Clark either, and the secondary wasn’t helped by the gaping mid-zone holes left by MLB Niko Koutouvides, who was subbing for Lofa Tatupu. Tatupu suffered a mild groin injury in training camp this week, and his value became truly evident in his absence.
Indianapolis Colts receiver Ben Utecht, right, fumbles the ball as he is tackled by Seattle Seahawks defender Julian Peterson in the first quarter of an NFL preseason football game in Indianapolis Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Koutouvides is a good run-stopper, but he’s not a force at all in coverage. And given the responsibilities in space that linebackers must assume in a zone defense (especially a vanilla zone like Seattle showed tonight), Koutouvides proved why he is better-suited to situational roles and special teams. Seattle was better against the pass when Julian Peterson dropped back to help.
As the game went on, the Seahawks’ front four went from being pushed back by the Colts’ stellar run-blocking line to showing their own ability to sniff out ballcarriers and swarm to the ball. The Seahawks have been great against the run throughout the preseason, but they did allow some breakaway plays in this game. The Colts only rushed for 93 yards in this game on 26 carries.
The concern, as most knew it would be, is in the secondary. Missed zone handoffs and blown assignments continued to plague Seattle, especially when Manning was in the game. Facing Jim Sorgi and Shaun King reduced the risk, but Seattle does face quite a few elite quarterbacks this season.
Colts running back Tony Hollings’ fourth-quarter touchdown from the Seattle one-yard line was set up by a very questionable pass interference call on Seattle’s Lance Frazier when Frazier was covering Indy receiver Dan Sheldon. Mike Carey’s officiating crew didn’t acquit themselves very well overall (discovering the difference between DL Chris Cooper and LB Isaiah Kacyvenski on a fourth-quarter late hit would have helped), but since Michaels appeared determined to talk about the officiating in a game that happened in February to a nausea-inducing level, I’ll save the “Zebra Hunt” until the regular season. On the Colts’ next drive, safety Etric Pruitt recovered a fumble by WR Montiese Culton, effectively ending the game.
This was the first time Seahawks fans really got to see what Julian Peterson brings to the team. Strong enough to shed blocks from guards and quick enough to cover receivers, he has the potential to be one of the biggest defensive difference-makers in the NFL. Two years after his Achilles’ injury, there doesn’t appear to be any lingering aftereffects. His play on the Sorgi interception turned the game around, and he also forced a first-quarter fumble from Utecht, who will most likely want to forget this game as soon as possible..
Special Teams: Seattle’s special teams were primarily effective in this game. No, that is not a misprint. Josh Scobey’s 55-yard kickoff return and Peter Warrick’s 25-yard punt return, both in the first half, shortened the field for the Seahawks and helped establish momentum. Josh Brown nailed three of three field goals. Rookie punter Ryan Plackemeier continued to excel, booting a 51-yard punt with major hangtime. When Alleged Special Teams Coach Bob Casullo inevitably cuts Plackemeier in favor in Ray Guy or Sean Landeta (forcing the Seahawks to consummate their annual signing of Tom Rouen), I’m sure the young man will be a true wonder for another team. The Seahawks were badly fooled on a fake punt tonight, but hey…baby steps. At this point, we’ll take no disasters from this unit and call it a win.
Summary: The Seahawks proved to be quite a bit closer to that which America expects them to be – though there are still issues to address, this team, so moribund just a week ago against Dallas, proved able to hang with the first wave of another elite squad. In this coming week, they will break training camp on Thursday, haul all the gear from Cheney back to Kirkland HQ, and haul themselves down to San Diego for a meeting with the Chargers.
One step closer to putting the controversial past behind them and moving forward…which appears to be easier for some than for others.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.