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Originally published November 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 10, 2008 at 12:43 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Failures mean Hawks must go back to basics

They're allergic to opportunity. Give them a chance, and they'll break out in hives. Show them victory, and they'll flee like vampires at sunrise. The would-be fumble was only the unluckiest example of how the Seahawks couldn't snatch a victory the Dolphins were kind enough to offer.

Seattle Times staff columnist

MIAMI — Walter Jones knew the ending. Forget the bungling of this season; he still expected some leftover glory. As he watched defensive end Darryl Tapp secure the fumble and remove his helmet in celebration, Jones envisioned a familiar genre of triumph.

"We already knew what we were going to do," the star left tackle said. "Run the football. Kick the field goal. Win the game."

Linebacker Julian Peterson dreamed it, too. He saw Olindo Mare kicking the game-winner, humbling the kicker's old team and resurrecting that old Seahawks late-game mojo.

"Olindo wins the game — that's the perfect story," Peterson said.

Then Peterson took a heavy breath and acknowledged the punishing reality.

There was no fumble. The replay clearly showed quarterback Chad Pennington was down before he lost the ball. Instead of getting the ball at the Miami 25-yard line, the Seahawks took it at their own 23 after the Dolphins punted.

One frustrating two-minute drive later, the game was over.

Dolphins 21, Seahawks 19.

"For us, it was a tragic ending," Peterson said.

It was a Scooby-Doo ending. The Dolphins ripped off the masks of a team impersonating the old Seahawks to reveal another reason this Seattle team doesn't win anymore.

They're allergic to opportunity.

Give them a chance, and they'll break out in hives. Show them victory, and they'll flee like vampires at sunrise. The would-be fumble was only the unluckiest example of how the Seahawks couldn't snatch a victory the Dolphins were kind enough to offer. While they can only lament that Pennington didn't lose the ball a split-second earlier, they'll be disgusted to count the plays they should've made.

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There was Mike Wahle committing a false-start penalty to ruin a two-point conversion try. There was Koren Robinson dropping the go-ahead touchdown pass in third quarter. There was Seneca Wallace missing an open Bobby Engram on the Seahawks' second-to-last play and John Carlson dropping a pass on their final play.

Get just one of those four plays right, and the Seahawks probably win. In defeat, those mistakes seem like the vignettes of losing.

"We've lost close ballgames this year," coach Mike Holmgren said after watching his team fall to 2-7. "In the past, we've won them."

As bad as the Seahawks have played, they would be in a much more hopeful state if they remembered how to win close games. They've had two opportunities to do so this season and came away with despair.

In Week 2, San Francisco beat the Seahawks in overtime, with ancient 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce whipping cornerback Josh Wilson to set up the decisive field goal. Now there's this game, in which the Hawks competed well enough to overcome a 14-0 deficit but exited shaking their heads once more.

If they won those two games, they would be 4-5 and anticipating the jolt of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's return from injury. Instead, they are rummaging for solutions in a fortuneless season that few saw coming.

"That's pretty much been our whole season," Peterson said. "We make mistakes that kill us, and we just can't capitalize on the opportunities we do get. Until we get that part of our game fixed, we're going to continue to have struggles."

The Seahawks have turned into the bad team that swears it could be better. One more play, one fewer mistake, one bit of luck, and they believe they'd be whole again. Problem is, in the savagely competitive NFL, every losing team can butcher that song.

"That's the game," Jones said. "That's how the NFL is. You fight all day, and it comes down to a play. You make it, and you're a great team. You don't, and you're in the locker room wondering what you did wrong."

Perhaps the elixir is an acceptance of the futility. The Seahawks shouldn't look at themselves as what they used to be. They should admit what they've become and use that anger and embarrassment as motivation.

The goal can't be to restore respect. It must be to capture respect, period. No more remembering the past. No pondering the future, either. Just play fierce, physical football and see what happens.

Their identity has been stripped and auctioned off. These aren't the old Seahawks. They aren't merely a team suffering from a shortage of good fortune. The Dolphins, with their fresh "wildcat" formation and quirky game management, made the Seahawks look like dinosaurs at times. Still, the Jurassic Hawks needed only proper fundamentals to win.

Throw. Catch. Don't move until the ball is snapped.

They're not good enough to take basic things for granted. When they realize that, perhaps the visions of their past will be more than daydreams amid a wearisome season.

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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