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Originally published Monday, November 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Danny O'Neil

Receivers lose grip on victory for Seahawks

The Dolphins managed to do one thing the Seahawks receivers couldn't Sunday. Miami found a way to hold on, a problem that kept popping up...

Seattle Times NFL reporter

MIAMI — The Dolphins managed to do one thing the Seahawks receivers couldn't Sunday.

Miami found a way to hold on, a problem that kept popping up among the very players Seattle trusted to catch the ball.

A 14-yard touchdown pass to Koren Robinson in the third quarter? Doink. Off his hands.

A first-down throw to Keary Colbert on the first play of the fourth quarter? Clang. On the ground.

Seattle's chance at a victory hit the deck when tight end John Carlson couldn't quite come down with a ball on fourth-and-10 on Seattle's final play of a game that won't be remembered as much for the 22 passes Seattle caught as those three that it didn't.

Dropped passes, they are the third rail of Holmgren's 10 years in charge of the offense. They've electrocuted what could have been some of the Seahawks' brightest moments.

The 2004 season, which started 3-0 and ended with a first-round playoff loss to St. Louis? The Seahawks led the league in dropped passes that season, and Bobby Engram had a ball go off his hands on the final play of that playoff loss to the Rams. The Super Bowl the next season will be remembered for those opportunities that slipped through tight end Jerramy Stevens' fingers.

The subject of dropped passes became a big reason wide receiver Darrell Jackson declined interviews at times over his last two seasons in Seattle and it certainly had something to do with the boos Stevens heard at home during his final year with the Seahawks.

Catching the ball is a skill that's so simple it defies analysis. See the ball, catch the ball. Any deviation is going to be readily apparent, and it's hard to get too complicated in any analysis of what went wrong.

"You can ask receivers and tight ends and backs, 'Why did you drop this ball or why did you drop that ball?' " Carlson said. "And most of the time we don't have a good reason."

Maybe the player didn't watch the ball into his hands, perhaps he started to run downfield before he had a firm hold of the ball, or it could be the pass arrived faster than expected. All those explanations don't mean a thing except that a player failed to execute one of the most fundamental skills in the sport.

"If the ball hits my hands, I should catch it," Carlson said. "If I'm able to touch the ball, I should be able to catch it."

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Fans won't necessarily see when the guard doesn't pull fast enough to get outside and lead a sweep, and they don't necessarily know who was responsible for a coverage breakdown that led to a wide-open touchdown. But everyone can see when a player fails to catch a ball that's on his fingertips.

"It's glaring whenever you drop a ball," Engram said.

Everything seems to stop. Even the clock stands still. The shame is almost palpable.

"Nobody feels worse than you do as a receiver after you drop one," Engram said.

Engram has two of the Seahawks' surest hands, and too often he's been forced into a role of speaking on a subject he has not struggled with. That pass that got away in the playoff game against the Rams? It was the only ball he failed to catch that season, coach Mike Holmgren said later.

And Seattle's receivers weren't the only ones who dropped the ball in Miami. The offense committed five procedural penalties, including one against Mike Wahle that added 5 yards to a critical two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game in the fourth quarter.

It was the all those mistakes that added up to an explanation of why Seattle's comeback fell short.

"With our margin for error, we can't have mistakes," quarterback Seneca Wallace said. "We have a lot of people banged up, but we're all fighting. We just have to take advantage of our opportunities and no one's perfect."

Seattle's receivers sure weren't Sunday in Miami.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Danny O'Neil
Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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