Seahawks have a long way to go before they're good
One game into the Mike Holmgren swan season, the Seahawks already must cue the pep talk on persistence. Solemn, defeated, they exited Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday looking like a team that already needs a bye week.
Seattle Times staff columnist
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It's bad enough the Seahawks shattered all their preseason euphoria in three dysfunctional hours.
It's bad enough their special teams played like grade-schoolers at recess, their offense needed pacifiers for the baby receivers, and their defense collapsed while trying to carry this game.
It's bad enough this team still can't run well, or block consistently, or correct its road-game bugaboos.
But add to those woes injuries that could severely stunt the Seahawks, and you reckon this was the kind of whuppin' that could inspire empathy only from a UFC fighter. One game into the Mike Holmgren swan season, the Seahawks already must cue the pep talk on persistence.
Solemn, defeated, they exited Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday looking like a team that already needs a bye week.
If a 34-10 scoreboard wasn't sufficiently convincing, then the image of both the starting running back and the last standing experienced receiver hobbling onto the bus should provide the last bit of persuasion. It took the Seahawks only four quarters to discover a hitch in this presumed happy-go-playoffs year.
They're behind schedule, even more so than anticipated. They were prepared for a somewhat slow-developing year, with injuries to starting wide receivers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck missing significant time during the exhibition season with a bad back, and with middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu less than 100 percent after suffering a bruised right knee.
But this loss, this comprehensive failure, makes it clear these Seahawks must travel a much longer route to success than their recent teams.
The Buffalo Bills provided the sobering reality. Their defensive line dominated, exposing the Seahawks' run-game shortcomings from last season. While planning for this challenge, the Seahawks figured they needed to pass to set up the run, but they couldn't do that, either. Hasselbeck completed just 17 of 41 passes, an Iversonian combination of volume and inefficiency.
On a soggy afternoon, Hasselbeck missed a couple of throws he normally makes, but inexperienced receivers and poor offensive-line play also contributed to his undoing. The quarterback was sacked five times. Holmgren counted six dropped passes. Arrange the stats however you wish, and they still look nasty.
"That's not exactly how we expected to perform today," Hasselbeck said afterward.
The only offensive upside is that he doesn't need a back replacement. Considering the pregame uproar, you would've figured Hasselbeck was about to create a new term — back-ectomy. ESPN reported he has a bulging disk and recently required an injection. You wondered if Chicken Little was about to be named the team's new mascot.
After the game, Holmgren and Hasselbeck confirmed both the disk issue and the injection, but they minimized the impact. Hasselbeck dismissed the problem, saying it wasn't the cause of his back spasms. Agitated, Holmgren opted for a little humor.
"A bulging disk?" Holmgren asked. "I have a bulging disk. You have a bulging disk. Everybody does."
I have a bulging disk, too? Goodness. Who needs a PPO when Doc Holmgren is providing free diagnoses?
Seriously, though, let's disregard Hasselbeck's aches for now. He's always aching, and he always finds a way to play. Of greater concern are the knee injuries to wide receiver Nate Burleson and running back Maurice Morris.
Both left the game early. Although he said he'd be ready to play next week, Burleson appeared to have the most significant injury. He'll learn the severity of it today. And if he's out for a period, the Seahawks will be floundering at receiver until either Branch or Engram returns.
Burleson was the only wideout to catch a pass in the first half. The three youngsters — Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent — all had their struggles. They wound up combining for four insignificant receptions.
What's worse, the Seahawks were awful on special teams. Ryan Plackemeier punted terribly, especially early in the game. The Seahawks also allowed Roscoe Parrish 120 yards on punt returns, including a dazzling 63-yard touchdown in which he spun out of a John Carlson tackle attempt.
And just when you figured special-teams coach Bruce DeHaven couldn't be more disappointed, he watched Bills defensive end Ryan Denney fool his unit and score a touchdown on a fake field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Seahawks returner Josh Wilson fumbled, which set up another Bills touchdown. Toss in a feeble, 22-yard Plackemeier punt that led to a field goal, and special-teams mishaps led to 24 of Buffalo's points.
It was a thorough meltdown from a team too accomplished, too talented and with too much leadership to let this happen.
"Maybe in the long run, it'll be the best thing that could've happened to us, as strange as that sounds," Holmgren said. "If we thought we were pretty good and could just go out there and play, it takes a lot more than that to win in this league. So we'll see how the players react."
It's not just about reaction time, though. Recovery time may become an issue, too. The Seahawks will be better next week, but it will be a while before they are good.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.