Seahawks Hearing Echoes of 2005?


Posted Dec 13, 2007


Now that the Seattle Seahawks are on a five-game winning streak, the team is frequently subject to comparisons with the 2005 version, which advanced to the Super Bowl.

If the Seahawks are able to win this week in Carolina -- against whom they played in the NFC Championship Game that season -- and then win out against Baltimore and at Atlanta, they would finish with a 12-4 record. That would be one win shy of their 13-3 record of two years ago, though it likely would not be good enough to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

And so the comparisons are inevitable as observers try to get a handle on how exactly this team rates against the fateful team.

"I think it's a difficult thing to compare teams," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's my recollection that we didn't have a lot of injury problems back in 2005. We did last year, and we have this year. I think this year's team has overcome some things that that team didn't have to overcome. So maybe we're a little tougher mentally, maybe a little more resilient. But that was a special team in 2005."

Perhaps the biggest difference is the defense, which seems to be more stout this season. It is going into the game against the Panthers as the fifth-ranked defense in the league, allowing only 17.5 points a game.

Seattle's safeties have not allowed the deep pass, and the pass rush is second in the league in sacks, behind only the New York Giants, while defensive end Patrick Kerney has a league-leading 13.5 sacks.

Overall, the defense is plus-13 in turnovers, a significant number. "It's remarkable how many games you lose just by looking at that number and how it correlates with winning and losing," Holmgren said.
The pass defense is likely to be a key cog in Sunday's game because the Panthers have the third-worst pass offense in the NFL, averaging only 170 yards a game behind 44-year-old QB Vinny Testaverde.

The offense has changed dramatically, with the loss of left guard Steve Hutchinson and the aging of running back Shaun Alexander forcing Holmgren to go more to the pass. That has allowed Matt Hasselbeck to excel at a time in his career when he is probably in his prime, given his relative youth and experience.

Hasselbeck has a 91.9 passer rating, the second-best mark of his career, behind only the 98.2 of 2005. However, he is being required to pass the ball much more, and the offense is more one-dimensional.

Hasselbeck needs only 64 attempts and 496 yards to set single-season franchise records. He also needs only three touchdowns in the final three games to set a career-high.

"In '05, guys were making huge plays for me then, and guys are making plays for me now, too," Hasselbeck said. "Bobby Engram is having a career year, Nate (Burleson) is coming around playing good for us, Deion (Branch) is dependable. Marcus Pollard, we still want to get him going more. I think he can be special for us. Our backs are catching the ball well, the pass (protection) has been good. If those guys are doing that, then I have no choice but to play well. They have to know that I appreciate them very much."

SERIES HISTORY: 3rd meeting. Series is tied, 1-1, with the most significant meeting coming in the NFC Championship Game after the 2005 season, which Seattle won 34-14 to advance to the Super Bowl.

NOTES, QUOTES

--In the 2006 NFC Championship Game, Panthers CB Ken Lucas ended up covering Seahawks backup QB Seneca Wallace on a gadget play that he knew was coming. Still, Wallace made the play. "I was trying to alert my teammates and they just snapped the ball too quickly and I wasn't set," said Lucas, a former Seahawk. "He made a great catch on me. It was a great play on his part."

--Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said he once tried to sign Carolina QB Vinny Testaverde. "I remember trying to sign Vinny one year in Green Bay, and I don't want him to take this the wrong way, but he was getting up there (in age) then," Holmgren said. "And he's still playing."

--QB Matt Hasselbeck is one of nine finalists for a commercial about when players knew they had made it in the NFL. Only, Hasselbeck did a take on when he knew he had not made it. If he wins, the commercial will play during the Super Bowl.

--CB Marcus Trufant was named NFC defensive player of the week after getting three interceptions and a touchdown in last week's game against Carolina. It was the second consecutive week a Seattle player has won the award. Last week, Lofa Tatupu won for his three interceptions against Philadelphia.

--The Seahawks signed 37-year-old long snapper Jeff Robinson, the third long snapper the team has had this year. When asked if he were looking forward to kick coverage, Robinson, who has not played since 2005, said: "Yeah, I'm really looking forward to running down the field trying to tackle a 22-year-old."

--Panthers CB Ken Lucas was asked if he was on the same Cleveland, Miss., team as Seahawks OT Floyd Womack: "No, he was too big to play pee-wee football. He had to go straight to junior high."

--When the teams played in the NFC Championship Game, defensive coordinator John Marshall devised a scheme in which LB Kevin Bentley shadowed Panthers WR Steve Smith and had him knock him every time he took off on a pass pattern. "Well, that was my one contribution to the defensive game plan," Holmgren said. "I went in to John (Marshall) early in the week and I said, 'Listen, I don't want, I'm not going to tell you how to do it -- because you know how to do it -- but I don't want this young man beating us in the game, and I would like him to get banged on every play.' I said, 'If I look out there, John, and I don't see that happening, I'm going to be upset, you know?'"

BY THE NUMBERS: 71 -- Receiving yards that Bobby Engram needs to achieve the first 1,000-yard season of his career.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The trust factor is real high. I worry about him when he runs. You guys ever see gooney birds landing on a lake?" -- Coach Mike Holmgren on QB Matt Hasselbeck.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Seahawks brought in veteran long snapper Jeff Robinson this week to replace Boone Stutz, whose first snap in Seattle went through the legs of P Ryan Plackemeier for a New Orleans touchdown and whose last snap cost the Seahawks an extra point against Arizona.

Stutz had so much velocity and so little accuracy that it had begun to affect Plackemeier and K Josh Brown, who had missed three of his last five snaps. Robinson has not snapped since 2005, but it was worth it for the Seahawks to take the chance because Stutz was not getting better. "It's such an important part of today's game, it just cannot be an adventure every time we line up for a PAT, not at this time of the year," Holmgren said. "So our hope is that it steadies us just a little bit."

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR D.J. Hackett did not practice Wednesday and is out with a high ankle sprain.
--CB Josh Wilson did not practice Wednesday and is out with a quad strain.
--T Tom Ashworth did not practice Wednesday because of an illness but is expected to play Sunday.
--DT Rocky Bernard did not practice Wednesday with a sore groin but will play Sunday.
--S Mike Green has a sore knee and did not practice but is expected to play Sunday.
--OT Walter Jones attended but did not participate in practice. It was the team's decision. He will play.

GAME PLAN: With the Panthers getting to the quarterback only 16 times this season, it would seem to be license for Matt Hasselbeck to sit back in the pocket and rifle balls to his receivers, as he did last week against Arizona. At the same time, the Panthers have the 30th-ranked pass defense in the NFL, which would tempt the Seahawks to stack eight in the box, send blitzes at 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde and prevent DeShaun Foster from beating them on the ground.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Seahawks LDE Patrick Kerney, who leads the league in sacks with 13.5, vs. Panthers RT Jordan Gross, who has started every game this year -- Kerney has three three-sack games this season and went around Levi Brown, the fifth pick in the draft last year, multiple times last week.

Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant, second in the league in interceptions (7), vs. Panthers WR Steve Smith, who leads the team with 65 receptions and 745 yards -- Smith got extra attention the last time the teams played. Trufant has been given the duty of covering the opponent's best receiver several times this season.

INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks are about as healthy as they can be, missing only WR D.J. Hackett, who has been replaced in the starting lineup by Bobby Engram, the team's leading receiver; and CB Josh Wilson, who was serving as the dime back. In that coverage, Kevin Hobbs is replacing Wilson.



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