Hawks season not lost, but fixes needed
The Seahawks won't call this season a big disappointment despite their 4-4 record and assortment of problem areas. And there's no doubt...
Seattle Times staff reporter
San Francisco 49ers @ Seahawks, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The Seahawks won't call this season a big disappointment despite their 4-4 record and assortment of problem areas.
And there's no doubt that with better execution on at least two plays — a handoff in Arizona and a fourth-down try in Cleveland — the Seahawks could be 6-2. That said, here are the Seahawks at the midway point of the season, losers of three of their past four games but with a favorable schedule ahead and the struggling San Francisco 49ers coming to town Monday.
"We are leading our division still, and we have a division opponent coming up, which is a very important game," coach Mike Holmgren said. "It's now an eight-game season ... we're OK, but we've got to fix this if we want to really do something."
At least the team is not falling apart, quarterback and captain Matt Hasselbeck said, and the time to pull together is now.
"We have to come together and get it done, whatever that means," Hasselbeck said. "That's one thing that I think we're seeing right now with our team, is that the guys on our team are willing to do whatever it takes to get this thing done, and if it's just being unselfish and sitting back and saying, 'Hey, my job can be harder because it's better for the team or I'll do more or I'll do less or whatever,' I think that's what it's going to take and I think we have good character that way."
Here's a look at how the Seahawks are faring after eight games:
NFL ranks: 23rd in yards per game (94.1), 24th in total yards (753), tied for 27th in yards per carry (3.5).
Comment: If those numbers don't look good, here's some more — the Seahawks are 26th in the league in rushing first downs with 38 and tied for second to last in rushing touchdowns with two. Remember when Shaun Alexander was breaking records in that department? Alexander has 139 yards in his past four games and is averaging 3.3 yards per carry for the season. Certainly some of that can be attributed to blocking problems, his injuries and defenses keying on him. But this is a recurring problem that the Seahawks have racked their brains to try and fix and nothing seems to be working consistently. The solution this week? Pass more. And perhaps see what Maurice Morris can do if given more opportunities.
Bottom line: There's so much not going right here, but the Seahawks need some sort of running presence to keep teams off balance.
NFL ranks: 13th in yards allowed per game (102), tied for 26th in TDs allowed (9), tied for 8th in lowest average yards per carry (3.8).
Comment: This area is the Seahawks' strong suit on defense. Seattle has held four teams under 100 yards, and the defense has been especially stout the past two. Observers like to point out that the Seahawks are undersized, but there's no denying their defensive speed, and if nothing else opponents aren't breaking long runs.
Bottom line: This is an improved part of the defense over last season, when the Seahawks gave up almost 127 yards per game.
NFL ranks: 10th in yards per game (243), tied for 9th in completions (174), 18th in completion percentage (61.3).
Comment: Perhaps the brightest spot for the Seahawks this season has been Hasselbeck, who at times is single-handedly keeping his team in games. While the run blocking has been suspect, the pass protection from the offensive line has held up fairly well. Who would have thought that wide receiver Bobby Engram would be the team's leading receiver at the halfway point with double the catches of the player in second place in receptions (48 to 24) and 607 yards? This area can only get better as D.J. Hackett works back into shape after a long injury absence and Deion Branch returns from injury this week.
Bottom line: Thank goodness for Hasselbeck, who can expect to put the ball in the air even more if Holmgren does what he said he plans to do and play to the Seahawks' strengths.
NFL ranks: 25th in yards allowed per game (231.6), tied for 12th in interceptions (9), tied for 7th in sacks (23).
Comment: The good news is that the Seahawks have allowed only two completions for 40 or more yards (tied for third best in the league). But they have given up 24 completions of 20 or more yards, tied for 22nd. Opponents have had success against the Seahawks' secondary with quick dropbacks and throws, and Kelly Jennings is giving it all he has but needs help to defend bigger, more physical receivers. Kudos to the other cornerback, Marcus Trufant, who is having his best season. There haven't been as many big plays allowed, but the Seahawks are struggling to get off the field on third down.
Bottom line : Is Browns quarterback Derek Anderson really that good? He certainly looked it against the Seahawks. Pass rush and coverage go hand in hand, but the Seahawks are allowing too many long drives.
NFL rankings: First in NFL in percentage of field goals made (94), second in punt returns of 20-plus yards (6), 25th in punting net avg. (36.1 yards).
Comment: Ryan Plackemeier's net punting average (length of kick minus length of return) is low, but he is tied for third in the league in punts inside the 20-yard line with 17. Those numbers are indicative of how erratic Plackemeier has been. But kicker Josh Brown is making a statement for a big contract when his franchise-tag designation runs out after this season, and who can deny what return man Nate Burleson has meant to the team with both a kickoff return and punt return for a touchdown? The kickoff and punt coverage has been good, and save for a couple of blocking-assignment breakdowns that have led to blocked kicks, and a bad snap on a punt, the Seahawks are managing this area well and seem to have corrected the problems.
Bottom line: This is an area that has been instrumental in the Seahawks' four wins, detrimental in two losses.
Comment: Holmgren is doing what he can with what he has, and what he has at this point is a pretty mediocre team that has yet to play to its potential. Everyone with an opinion questions some of his play calls, but he deserves some credit for showing more faith in the players than he has in the past by going for it more often on fourth down. Seattle has gone for it eight times this season after eight times all of 2006. "When I call a play I expect it to work, that's why I get ticked off if it doesn't," Holmgren said. "So nothing will change that way. Two years ago, we had a string of 13 conversions in a row. Now we just got to stay with it, stay after it, and continue to believe. No one's hanging their head."
Bottom line: At least Holmgren is shaking things up and trying to fix what has gone wrong. Doing nothing might only further fans' frustration. And he is holding his assistants accountable.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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