Seahawks Go Four Wide, Giants Can't Keep Up

Seahawks Go Four Wide, Giants Can't Keep Up

Several notable aspects defined Seattle's 42-30 victory over the New York Giants. Perhaps the most predominant was the debut of Deion Branch, and how the former New England receiver's addition changed the offense. Down to his third tight end, Mike Holmgren went four wide and stretched the Giants' defense to the breaking point.

Personnel changes have forced the Seahawks to dig deeper into their playbook. The result is a passing game that puts four starting-caliber receivers on the field at the same time. "It's a different-look offense," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "There's a lot of speed out there and a lot of plays that we have in our playbook that we don't get to run too often."

Hasselbeck is coming off the second five-touchdown game of his career. He repeatedly burned the Giants for big plays last week. Darrell Jackson caught two scoring passes. Fellow receivers Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram also found the end zone.

The Seahawks under Mike Holmgren have become more of a power-running team in recent seasons. Shaun Alexander became the league MVP running behind a veteran line featuring a mauling left guard (Steve Hutchinson) and a bruising fullback (Mack Strong).

Hutchinson is gone. Alexander is hurting. The team no longer has great blocking receivers like Joe Jurevicius, and injuries have wiped out the depth at tight end.

The Seahawks have responded by becoming a team that prefers lining up with four receivers and getting rid of the ball quickly.

"Every time he dropped back, it was 2.5 seconds and the ball is gone," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. The Giants never sacked Hasselbeck. The hardly even touched him. And yet Seattle threw the ball 33 times.

Opponents can expect more of the same.

"They're a pretty physical team," Holmgren said of the Giants. "If you just sit there and try to slug it out with them, I don't think that's the greatest way to go.

"I have respect for them in that way. We were going to do some things because of Deion Branch, anyway. I like to do that, the players like to do that and as long as we can execute it properly, it is part of what we do offensively."

REPLAY

The Seahawks jumped on the Giants early and coasted to a 42-30 victory at Qwest Field. Noise was a factor, but the Seahawks also played extremely well on both sides of the ball for most of the game. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tossed five touchdown passes, two to Darrell Jackson, as Seattle unveiled a revamped offense. The Seahawks repeatedly employed four-receiver sets featuring Jackson, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram.

MVP running back Shaun Alexander managed only 47 yards on 20 carries. He did score his 102nd career touchdown, moving past Steve Largent for the most in franchise history. But with the Giants keying on him, Holmgren and Hasselbeck turned to the air.

PLAYER NOTES

--RG Chris Gray suffered a sprained knee in the first half and did not return. Rob Sims replaced him. Gray could miss a couple of weeks.

--TE Will Heller caught a TD pass against the Giants, his first of the season. Seattle is depleted at the position.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed his fifth TD pass while there was still more than three minutes left in the third quarter. The Giants did not sack him. This was the second five-TD game of his career.

--FS Ken Hamlin picked off two passes in the first quarter as Seattle jumped to a 21-0 lead.

--WR Deion Branch played extensively Sunday as the Seahawks went to four-receiver sets predominantly.


The best thing the Giants can look ahead to is their bye week, and following their embarrassing 42-30 defeat in Seattle, a game that was once 42-3, that is no small favor. They were embarrassed as badly as they have been in years, and the late flurry of 27 points in the fourth quarter did nothing to eliminate the humiliation they suffered in the first three quarters.

So now they have a week to lick their wounds and perhaps find some answers to the plethora of questions raised by the whipping that dropped them to a 1-2 record, and when they return it will be at home against Washington.

There will be changes; perhaps more importantly, there will be time for some of the injured to recover, such as tight end Jeremy Shockey, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, rookie wide receiver Sinorice Moss.

The Giants are not out of the NFC East race on several counts. First of all, they have played only three games; second, the other teams in the division -- Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington -- won't run away and hide any time soon. The matchup against the Redskins on October 8, the day they return, should go a long way toward patching this temporary problem -- if, indeed, it is temporary.

The major fault appears to be with the secondary, and as head coach Tom Coughlin said: "We have our 53 man roster; there isn't much we can do to make major changes. Our performance was inexcusable." All things considered, this might be the best of times for the Giants to get a week off; it certainly was the worst of times on the field in Seattle.

REPLAY

The game was over almost before it began, and as head coach Tom Coughlin put it, red-faced and clearly agitated: "We lost our composure right from the start. I am very disappointed. The turnovers were terrible; it was 14-0 before we even got lathered up. I thought we'd be able to rely more heavily on the running game, but when it got out of hand so quickly we didn't have much choice."

The Giants lost, 42-30. They were so mismatched during the first three quarters that they were given almost no chance of mounting any kind of a rally as they had the week before, when they erased a 24-7 Eagles' lead in the fourth quarter to win in overtime, 30-24.

But they did manage an unsuccessful attempt, scoring 27 fourth-quarter points to make the final score somewhat more respectable. Free safety Ken Hamlin intercepted Eli Manning twice in the first quarter and each turnover led to a Seattle touchdown. Seahawks Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw five scoring passes in the first half as the Giants fell behind, 35-3, and for all intents and purposes it was over at that point.

Running back Tiki Barber led the Giants with 14 carries and 64 yards, but it was the second straight game in which he failed to reach 100 yards, and that hasn't happened in two-plus seasons. Manning completed 24 of 36 passes for 275 yards for three touchdowns and he was picked off three times.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Plaxico Burress (one catch, 23 yards) was taken out of the game after he fumbled once and allowed a pass to be intercepted another time, but it wasn't punitive. "He worked hard to be able to play," said head coach Tom Coughlin, "but he just couldn't carry it off."

--MLB Antonio Pierce (nine solo tackles) was bitterly candid after the game. "This is supposed to be an outstanding defense," he said. "Well, we better fix it or we'll be a record-breaking defense one way or another."

--CB Sam Madison was victimized several times on TD tosses by Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck, and admitted afterwards that many of the formations weren't in the tapes and scouting reports the Giants used to prepare. "Give them some credit," he said, "they played great offense."

--WR David Tyree emerged as the team's leading receiver with five catches and 72 yards. "I appreciate the chance to play," he said, "but I didn't like the reason. We should never have looked that bad."

--QB Eli Manning was contrite. "We didn't play well, and I'll take most of the blame," he said. "We can't do this up-and-down stuff week after week. We need to be consistent."

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