MMQB: "The Silver and Blech!"

MMQB: "The Silver and Blech!"

Through the first three games of the 2006 preseason, the Seattle Seahawks looked less like the defending NFC Champions and more like a team in transition, losing its grip. Beyond a brief stop on Respectability Lane against the Colts two weeks ago, the Seahawks had stumbled and fumbled through. But against their old AFC West archrivals, the Oakland Raiders, Seattle finally put it all together.

Seattle Seahawks 30, Oakland Raiders 7
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington

Play of the Day: There were two, actually. With 13:51 remaining in the second quarter and the Seahawks facing 3rd and 18 from their own 49, Seneca Wallace took off for the left sideline as the pocket collapsed and Tom Ashworth got beaten at the line. Wallace outran the entire left flank until he was pushed out of bounds at the Oakland 30. That play, coming shortly after Wallace’s sack and Ashworth’s declined holding penalty, allowed Seattle to take the lead, 10-7, when Josh Brown kicked a 44-yard field goal with 12:26 left.

The second POTD goes to the offensive star of this game, returning #4 receiver D.J. Hackett, with a 12-yard circus TD catch from Wallace in the back of the end zone with 3:18 remaining in the first half. Unbelievably, this was Seattle’s first and only touchdown pass of the preseason.

Handouts To The Standouts: Darryl Tapp, for flashing his awesome potential at the pro level for the first time…D.J. Hackett, for providing an unsolvable problem for the Raiders…Seattle’s defense overall, for shutting the formerly 4-0 Oakland team down with a vengeance…Seneca Wallace and David Greene, for showing more from the backup quarterback options that may have been expected…and Marquis Weeks, who looked good in camp and impressed greatly in this game (especially with his 24-yard run on a 3rd and 22 draw play!), but might be the odd man out in Seattle’s murderously deep corps of running backs.

Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Leonard Weaver’s ankle injury…Ron Winter’s ever-changing definition of pass interference…Tom Ashworth’s bad night, and Peter Warrick’s window with the Seahawks.

Offense: The evening began on a frustrating note for Seattle’s first team, as Matt Hasselbeck was unable to hit Nate Burleson on the first two plays of the game, partially due to some very iffy non-called contact from Oakland’s defense. The Ray-duhs play a lot of man coverage, and bring a physical style like it’s 1973…which it isn’t. Sadly, it took official Ron Winter and his crew a while to catch up, as we all waited for the Geritol to kick in.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace (15) throws a touchdown pass to D.J. Hackett (not shown) in the second quarter as Oakland Raiders' Kevin Huntley (94) and Anttaj Hawthorne defend in the second quarter of an NFL exhibition football game Thursday, Aug. 31, 2006, at Qwest Field in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Drive #2, the last of the evening for many of the starters, looked more true to form as the Seahawks marched 80 yards in ten plays, highlighted by Matt Hasselbeck’s 25-yard run straight through a river-sized seam left behind by Oakland’s undisciplined interior line. Following the first of two pass interference penalties on defensive backs covering Hackett (very good, Mr. Winter, very good …) Shaun Alexander’s pretty 5-yard touchdown run with 9:50 left in the first capped it off. Alexander headed left, found nothing, and unraveled to the right and into the end zone, behind some very impressive blocking from Bobby Engram. Sadly, this was also the drive in which Leonard Weaver suffered an ankle injury – the extent of the injury is not yet known.

When Seneca Wallace took over at the beginning of the second quarter, Hackett really took off. Grabbing 7 passes for 60 yards total, the third-year man showed every bit of the burst and acceleration that impressed so often last season. I’ve been saying for a while that the thing Seattle’s offense has been missing this preseason is the “tiebreaker” - that player who can expose the weaknesses in a defense and open things up for everyone else. Hackett could certainly be that player, and the bounce he brought to this offense upon his return was palpable.

Receiver Maurice Mann, who has been productive and impressive throughout, continued his fine preseason with 4 catches for 25 yards. Peter Warrick, who re-signed with the Seahawks in the off-season, may be the one left standing when the final cuts are announced this Saturday. Warrick returned no punts, and that was thought to be his biggest hope for remaining on the team. Warrick wasn’t going to supplant Hackett as the #4 anyway, and Mann’s performance might have been the final nail for Warrick. Mann’s awareness on a comeback catch from Wallace at the end of the first quarter, saving Wallace from an OB or throwaway, was the kind of play Seattle’s coaches just haven't seen enough of.

Finally, kudos to David Greene. The second-year quarterback has taken his share of shots in the press and from the fans, especially after Gibran Hamdan’s release earlier this week. Greene was able to lead the team on an eight-minute, 90-yard scoring drive in the third quarter which put the game away.

Defense: The first thing I noticed in Seattle’s 2006 training camp was that any team trying to take a running play outside against this defense was going to regret it with a quickness. So it was again, as the ravenous front seven absolutely destroyed the once-effective Oakland offense – an offense which allowed them to come into this game at a 4-0 clip. The Raiders’ only score was on DB Chris Carr’s 73-yard punt return in the first quarter – other than that, Oakland didn’t get a whiff of the end zone. The Seahawks allowed only 104 net yards (39 rushing) and five first downs on 43 plays, and won the time of possession battle by almost nine minutes. It was, quite simply, a dominant effort.

Seattle Seahawk Jordan Babineaux celebrates his interception against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter of an NFL exhibition football game in Seattle, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2006. The Seahawks won, 30-7. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Second-round pick Darryl Tapp, the pass-rushing specialist DE from Virginia Tech, gave his new fans in the Pacific Northwest the first taste of what he could really do. Adding his skills to the defense that led the NFL in sacks last year could be almost unfair, if this is the Tapp we get all year. The rookie was all over the field, using controlled abandon to rack up two sacks, a forced fumble and led all defenders on both teams with six tackles. His ability to get past the initial block, disrupt, and get from tackle to tackle in a big hurry was very encouraging.

Seattle’s D was a bit more creative than it had been so far this year, displaying the stunts and blitzes that allowed the Seahawks front four to amass 32.5 quarterback takedowns in 2005. Lofa Tatupu once again displayed his ungodly ability to cover in space, running what must have been forty yards step-for-step with Randy Moss in a 2-deep zone.

Seattle’s secondary was led by the versatility of Jordan Babineaux, who got more reps at safety this week after Mike Green’s season-ending injury. His interception of a Marques Tuiasosopo pass with time running down at the end was the punctuation mark. Safety Oliver Celestin, a solid performer throughout camp and the preseason, may stick with the team and push Babineaux back to corner/safety swingman, but this is a good time to stop and take stock of the value Babineaux brings to the team. Super Bowls aren’t always won by super stars – they’re so often decided by the role-players who know when to shine. Babineaux is precisely that sort of player.

Special Teams: Ugly coverage on the Carr TD return, but Seattle’s special teams were alright besides that. Kicker Josh Brown hit 3 of 3 field goals, including a 51-yarder. Ryan Plackemeier boomed five punts for a 40.0-yard average and cemented his status at the team’s punter – no Tom Rouen to sign this year! Former return goat Jimmy Williams impressed and amazed by taking 3 returns for a 15/3-yard average and actually holding on to all of them!

Summary: The preseason is history, and the Seahawks' mantra of “Unfinished Business” finally becomes more than just a healing phrase for fans sickened by the events of Super Bowl XL. Now, it will be real. Now, the fat is trimmed and the message goes forward. There are still questions – offensive line kinks, secondary worries and the ever-present special teams malaise – but there’s no more time to “develop”. That’s over. When this team kicks off next Sunday against the Lions, returning to the scene of the crime at Ford Field (a schedule placement dripping in more than just irony), it’s all about the future.

All doors to the past must finally close.

Now, it becomes real.

Seattle, welcome to your 2006 season.


Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.

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