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Originally published Monday, September 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Dominant defense nowhere to be seen

It was over, or that's what they told themselves. As soon as Julius Jones scored the game's first touchdown, the Seahawks defensive players...

Seattle Times staff columnist

It was over, or that's what they told themselves. As soon as Julius Jones scored the game's first touchdown, the Seahawks defensive players made the proclamation.

"That should be enough," they told each other.

This unit, eager to carry its hexed offense, made the objective unmistakably clear. No letups. No blown assignments. No points.

Who knew if the Seahawks would score again? This was the defense's time.

"As a defense, you always want to have it on you," cornerback Josh Wilson said. "To have the pressure on us, we like that."

They liked the responsibility so much they bobbled it all over Qwest Field on Sunday until, felled by big plays, they lost the game.

So, yeah, that should be enough. Enough talking.

Where's the dominant defense we've been expecting for two seasons?

Of all the disappointment seeping through this 33-30 overtime loss, the worst part was that the D continued to struggle in its new leading role.

The defense figured seven points would be plenty, and then it added a touchdown of its own on Craig Terrill's fumble return. But leading 14-0 at home, the Seahawks allowed San Francisco to come back and dump them into an 0-2 hole to start this season.

It happened in wacky fashion. The Seahawks sacked J.T. O'Sullivan eight times, but he still wound up throwing for 321 yards. Frank Gore rushed for only 61 yards, but the Seahawks still gave up more than 30 points for the second straight game. A secondary once so good at not giving up the big play remains intact this season, but the Seahawks still watched the 49ers stretch the field all game.

The D needed to be a savior. Instead, it was a sore spot.

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"We didn't put up much of a fight in giving that one away, and it's embarrassing," linebacker Lofa Tatupu said.

If 97-year-old Isaac Bruce is beating your defense deep, you know it's been a bad day. Bruce finished with 153 yards on four receptions, including a 63-yard catch.

In overtime, he whipped Wilson, 12 years younger than the 35-year-old Bruce, for a 33-yard reception, the key play in the 49ers' game-winning drive. Wilson accepted responsibility for the mistake. Nevertheless, he's the weak link for a secondary showing more flaws than it did last season.

A year ago, the Seahawks used the additions of safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell to become one of the most solid defensive backfields in the league. They surrendered only 15 touchdown passes, best in the NFL.

Now, they're looking at Bruce gaining at least 25 yards on all four of his catches. In all, the Seahawks gave up five passing plays of at least 25 yards.

Leaders of a stunned Seahawks defense were fuming.

"They executed," Tatupu said. "We didn't. Bottom line. We put our guys in tough one-on-one situations, but that's why they're starters. They're on the field for a reason, and any one of us could have been in that situation, so I don't blame them at all.

"I know it's tough, but you've got to try to make the play, and other plays, I think we put them in tough situations. We've got to take this one collectively on the chin. We lost. Anytime you give up 30, you're not happy about that."

This week, you will hear much about the defense allowing at least 30 points in consecutive games, but those numbers are deceiving. Technically, the defense was responsible for 26 of the points Sunday, but that's still way too many, especially against a San Francisco team with limited weapons.

In Week 1 against Buffalo, poor special teams play contributed to 24 of the 34 points the Seahawks allowed. Still, the defense was subpar in that game and has been mostly lackluster to start this season.

If the 49ers weren't exploiting weaknesses for long gains, they were benefiting from ill-timed Seahawks penalties. This wasn't the kind of disciplined effort we're used to seeing. Despite all the resources put into making this defense a difference-maker, it's still lacking something.

Maybe over the course of this season, that will change. Or maybe the Seahawks will never overcome being an undersized unit. They sacrifice girth for quickness on the defensive line, height for speed at cornerback, and that makes them a fun, aggressive, unpredictable group. But games such as this one show they're too dependent on creating turnovers and pressuring the quarterback.

"We had eight sacks," Tatupu said. "Can we get some balls stripped? We've got to make the most of our opportunities."

The defense must lead this team. It can't be a luxury anymore. It can't be a surprise. It can't be a reason for hope in the future.

This is the defense's time. Is it ready?

"We've got to be able to come through and show guys we can carry this team," Wilson said.

Any game now, fellas.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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