Notebook: Sloppy Play, Good Results

The Seahawks remain a work in progress. That was coach Mike Holmgren's take Monday, a day after his team barely overcame a sloppy performance to beat the Broncos in Denver, 23-20. Winning in Denver would generally be gratifying enough to offset any concerns about execution.

That wasn't quite the case Sunday night, however, because Seattle was worse than bad for much of the game. The offense's first-half production featured five dropped passes, five three-and-out possessions and two first downs.

"When we don't move the ball, it bothers me," Holmgren said. "But I trust that our best offensive football is ahead of us. If you can get hot down the stretch, that is a good thing. We have a ways to go."
Holmgren turns conservative in some situations. That was the approach he took in Denver. The Seahawks had been committing too many turnovers on the road. Holmgren knew the Broncos' defense could be very tough at home. He had reservations about throwing too aggressively toward all-world corner Champ Bailey.

And with Jay Cutler making his first NFL start, Holmgren figured the Broncos would play things safe, as well. That is precisely what happened. The result was an ugly game, but a Seattle victory nonetheless.

The Seahawks won in Denver for the first time since John Friesz was quarterback in 1995. For stretches Sunday night, the Seahawks might have been better off with that '95 team on the field. Five Denver turnovers, plus a few big plays by Seattle's offense in the final minutes, allowed Seattle to escape with the victory.

"We just hung in there, hung in there, hung in there, didn't make big mistakes," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "Just watching the games (Sunday) and knowing what the recipe for losing has been for us on the road this year, it's been turnovers and shooting ourselves in the foot."

In retrospect, Holmgren probably would have been a little more aggressive.

"I probably didn't call enough throws down the field," he said. "Our guys did a nice job in pass protection, so I should have gone down the field more. But I did have respect for who they have on defense. I didn't think they were going to score too much on us. I didn't want to do anything to get careless or wild to wreck that."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Which NFL kicker has been best in the clutch this season? Josh Brown, and it's not close. The fourth-year pro has made four game-winning kicks this season, accounting for half of the Seahawks' victories. He hit 42- and 54-yarders as time expired in road games against Detroit and St. Louis, respectively. He made a 38-yarder with 9 seconds left to beat the Rams in Seattle, followed by his 54-yarder with 5 seconds left Sunday night in Denver. "He's cold as ice," LB Julian Peterson said. "He's so clutch."

--As clutch as Brown has been, coach Mike Holmgren couldn't bear to watch the winning kick. "I looked at it and I said, 'Ah, I don't want to watch this,'" Holmgren said. "I looked down. Then he kicked it and I looked up. I was looking at him. I was looking at his reaction. I looked at him, I looked at the ball. Then everyone went running out there. "I thought we were going to get a penalty. Then I ran out there to try to get everyone back."

There would be no penalty; Seattle had already committed 10 by then. Instead, Holmgren and the Seahawks could finally exhale. Whether he watches big kicks in the future is anyone's guess. "That's a feeling at the time," Holmgren said. "Sometimes I look. Sometimes I don't."

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Matt Hasselbeck was not injured Sunday night. TV analyst John Madden speculated that Mike Holmgren's conservative game plan might have indicated something was wrong with Hasselbeck. Holmgren said otherwise Monday. The game plan was conservative, he said, because the Seahawks wanted to avoid turnovers. Turnovers have hurt Seattle on the road in particularly, and with a young quarterback under center for the Broncos, Holmgren didn't think he needed to score very many points.

--K Josh Brown tied an NFL record by making his fourth game-winning field goal in the same season. Brown has missed a few kicks this season, including two earlier in the game Sunday night. But with the game on the line, nobody in the NFL has been better this season.

--RB Josh Scobey suffered a cracked bone in his shoulder area Sunday night, a big blow to Seattle's special-teams coverage units. Scobey will be sidelined indefinitely.

--FB Mack Strong is expected to practice this week and play Sunday in Arizona, a relief to the Seahawks after Strong left the Denver game with an ankle injury. The team initially feared a high ankle sprain. The injury was not as serious.

--RT Sean Locklear played on special teams Sunday night after missing more than a month with an ankle injury. He could return to the starting lineup this week.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS

PASSING OFFENSE: D --
The pass protection was fine. Matt Hasselbeck's passes were generally on-target. The passing game struggled because receivers and tight ends dropped five passes, and because the game plan was conservative. Seattle wanted to avoid turnovers, even if it meant playing not to lose. The result was an ugly game. Seattle's pass offense stirred to life in the closing minutes, moving Seattle in position for 10 late points.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- RB Shaun Alexander found running room in the second half. He gained 75 of his 90 yards after halftime. The ground game had to make some adjustments because FB Mack Strong left the game with an ankle injury. TE Will Heller played fullback in his place and seemed to do OK. Alexander's late 8-yard run was critical in setting up the winning 50-yard field goal.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The Broncos didn't throw much, and the Seattle defense had answers for whatever Denver attempted through the air for three-plus quarters. And yet, with the game on the line, Seattle's pass defense allowed a 71-yard touchdown to tie the score in the final few minutes. CB Kelly Jennings, SS Jordan Babineaux and dime SS Michael Boulware missed tackles. FS Ken Hamlin also had a shot at making the play. This critical lapse nearly cost Seattle the victory.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- It was a tale of two halves for Seattle's run defense. Tatum Bell topped 100 yards rushing in the first half. Seattle shut him down after halftime, but the Seahawks continue to suffer from some discipline-related errors in run defense. DE Grant Wistrom was out of position on one early long run. Seattle also missed some tackles. The Seahawks are not a very good tackling team, and that hurts them in the run game on occasion.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Josh Brown made three fourth-quarter field goals, including the winning 50-yarder, to offset a pair of early misses. CB Kelly Jennings forced a key fumble on a late Broncos kick return, and DE Joe Tafoya recovered. WR Nate Burleson had a few more solid returns. Rookie P Ryan Plackemeier finished with a plus-40 net average. Plackemeier pinned the Broncos inside their three twice.

COACHING: C -- The conservative offensive plan paid off in the end, but barely. And the case could surely be made that Mike Holmgren should have played the game more aggressively throughout. Seattle simply thought the Broncos would not score many points with Jay Cutler at quarterback. Holmgren admitted Monday that he should have taken more shots downfield. "I probably didn't call enough throws down the field," Holmgren said. "Then we had a couple things going and Matt (Hasselbeck) had to get out of it because of protection things and he had to change the plays. That's just unlucky. Because of the defenses they are in at the particular time. Our guys did a nice job in pass protection, so I should have gone down the field more. But I did have respect for who they have on defense. I didn't think they were going to score too much on us. I didn't want to do anything to get careless or wild to wreck that."

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