Notebook: Seahawks in the Dark?
Where are we going?
Where are we going?

Posted Dec 16, 2006


Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren addressed his team in a dark room Friday. They weren't developing film, either. Power outages in the Northwest left team headquarters dark. Coaches used generators to break down game video, but meeting rooms remained dim. The symbolism wasn't lost on Holmgren or the Seahawks, losers of two consecutive games.

The defending NFC champs are struggling, particularly on offense. Their inability to sustain drives is causing the defense to wear down late in games. With two games left, the offense is running out of time to fix things.

"We've been a pretty inconsistent football team," Holmgren said. "When one phase of the football team might play well, the complementary parts of the team didn't."

Seattle needs one victory or a San Francisco loss to finally clinch its third consecutive NFC West title.

"There is still a lot of fight left on the football team," Holmgren said. "We are 8-6. We still can win the division.

"We are all kind of frustrated and angry to a certain extent, players and coaches, on how we've been performing. So we're going to keep working hard to reach our first goal, which is the playoffs.

"To do that, we have to play better than we've been playing lately. Are we capable? I believe we are."

Capable and viable are two different things. And the climb only gets steeper. AFC-leading San Diego visits Qwest Field in Week 16. The Seahawks will have a hard time fixing things given the level of opposition. This is a team, after all, that hasn't been able to beat the Cardinals or 49ers over the last week.

A lack of continuity is one obvious problem on offense. The Seahawks have started seven combinations on the offensive line, six more than they used in the first 15 games last season. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck missed four games with a knee injury, throwing off his timing. The team also has gone through a number of combinations at receiver, particularly now that Darrell Jackson is out.

The team has gotten a number of players back from injury, including Hasselbeck and MVP running back Shaun Alexander, but all the shuffling has had an effect. It's something Seattle expected to handle more effectively, but it just has not happened.

"Our chemistry was great last year," Alexander said. "We knew everything about each other. For some reason, we're not going like that. That just means we have to work harder to find it."

Dropped passes have hurt quite a bit. Deion Branch and Jerramy Stevens dropped third-down passes on the first two drives. When Stevens appeared to make a sensational diving grab for a 25-yard gain, replays showed the ball hit the turf first and the call was overturned on a 49ers challenge. And when Hasselbeck moved the team into scoring position, he tossed a rare red-zone interception.

"There's not a lot of time left here," Holmgren said. "If we were struggling like this early in the season, then maybe you can do a couple things there, change-wise, personnel-wise, that could have an effect. But we're not at that point.

"In fact, we're kind of the opposite. We're getting some guys back, but they haven't been playing. They are playing for the first time in six weeks, eight weeks, four weeks, whatever it is.

"We are getting healthier, but when we get a couple guys, we lose a couple guys and with all that, it's led to an inconsistent play."

Notes, Quotes

--Some of the most entertaining action Thursday night involved someone who didn't even play in the game. Niners backup QB Trent Dilfer, formerly of the Seahawks, got into several verbal exchanges with Seattle DE Bryce Fisher. Dilfer took offense when Fisher taunted the 49ers' sideline early in the game. Dilfer then celebrated when QB Alex Smith leveled Fisher with a block.

"I thought it was inappropriate," Dilfer said of Fisher's taunting. "If he wants to meet me out front, I'll tell him that, too. Get back in your huddle and shut your mouth.

"And he wasn't doing that. So I told him to do it."

--Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren called a staff meeting Friday to break down the reasons why his offense isn't coming close to the standard it set while leading the NFL in scoring last season.

"I compared last year by position with this year by position, and I wanted the coaches to kind of talk about what's going on, what's happening, where the difference is, why," Holmgren said. "We had a fairly extensive session that way."

Suffice to say there's more at work here than simply missing Steve Hutchinson.

Holmgren was short on details, but he did identify at least one problem. "I think our decision-making has not been quite as sharp in the passing game as it was last year," he said. "And the last couple ballgames we've missed third-and-short conversions, and last night a fourth-and-short conversion, and that is something typically we do very well. In what I would call key points in the football game, where last year we hit most of them, this year we're missing some.

"Some of that, we're playing a lot of different combinations up front, we have all season long, and that is part of it. But it's not lack of effort. It's not lack of wanting to get it done. It's just sometimes we're young at certain spots."

Strategy and Personnel

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Darrell Jackson will miss the San Diego game with a turf-toe injury. There's an outside chance he could return for the final game of the regular season.
--C Robbie Tobeck will miss the San Diego game with a hip injury. His season, and possibly his career, could be over. Tobeck turns 37 in the offseason.

--WR Bobby Engram returned from a thyroid condition Thursday night. He got a few snaps in the four-wide offense, but he did not catch a pass.

--SS Michael Boulware is getting a few more game reps at the position. Jordan Babineaux remains the starter, but Seattle wants to get some more reps for Boulware, who lost the job after giving up big pass plays earlier in the season.

--SS Jordan Babineaux remains the starter, but Seattle wants to get some more reps for Michael Boulware, who lost the job after giving up big pass plays earlier in the season.

REPORT CARD VS. 49ERS

PASSING OFFENSE: D -- QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed two interceptions, including one in the red zone, as Seattle's offense failed to capitalize on several opportunities. The defense played great for three quarters, limiting the 49ers to a field goal during that span. The offense simply could not take advantage. WR Deion Branch and TE Jerramy Stevens dropped third-down passes on the first two drives.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Seahawks failed on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 rushes on back-to-back plays. RB Shaun Alexander fumbled and was fortunate a teammate recovered. RG Chris Gray had his hands full with 49ers DT Bryant Young, as expected. TE Jerramy Stevens isn't giving the team much in the way of blocking.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Seattle's defense held the 49ers to 1-of-11 on third-down conversions before San Francisco converted on its final six chances. The defense simply wore down after playing very well for three quarters. Alex Smith tossed two fourth-quarter scoring passes, and Seattle failed to sack him when given clear shots.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The run defense buckled in the fourth quarter after Seattle's offense failed to sustain drives over the first three quarters. Niners RB Frank Gore did just about all of his damage in the fourth quarter, finishing with 144 yards on the ground. MLB Lofa Tatupu was playing one of his better games this season until the late collapse. San Francisco gained a 33-yard chunk of rushing yardage on a fake punt that worked beautifully.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- K Josh Brown did not attempt a field goal for the second consecutive week. P Ryan Plackemeier finished with a 28-yard net average, in part because the 49ers deflected one of his punts, resulting in a 13-yarder. WR Nate Burleson put up mediocre numbers in the return game, making one poor decision and fumbling another time. The 49ers' fake punt also hurt.

COACHING: C -- The defensive plan was outstanding. Seattle used a 4-4-3 defense on first down to put the clamps on Gore. Seattle also drew up a key fourth-quarter blitz that should have produced a sack, only to have CB Kelly Herndon miss the quarterback with a weak arm tackle. The defense wore down more than anything. The scheme was sound. Offensively, Holmgren took a chance by going for it on fourth-and-1 even though Seattle was in field-goal range. The play did not work.



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