Hawks light up the night
Mediocre and inconsistent are words that could be applied to the first half of the Seahawks' season. But on Monday nights, they are anything...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mediocre and inconsistent are words that could be applied to the first half of the Seahawks' season. But on Monday nights, they are anything but, and last night was proof positive.
Seattle rode the energy and electricity from its final prime-time appearance of the regular season and thumped the San Francisco 49ers 24-0, improving to 5-4 this season and 16-8 all-time on Monday nights. The Seahawks shut out an opponent on "Monday Night Football" for the third time in their past four appearances, all wins.
"I don't know what it is," linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "We need to get that schedule changed next year, all Monday night games."
The Seahawks shined for the nation and, more important, the record crowd of 68,331 at Qwest Field when they had to, maintaining their hold on first place in the NFC West with a one-game lead over the Arizona Cardinals (4-5).
The loss for San Francisco (2-7) effectively knocked the 49ers out of the division race, as they were swept by the Seahawks in the season series and are three games out of first place.
Armed with a directive from coach Mike Holmgren that the team would pass more, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck came up with another solid effort. He completed 27 of 40 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, and this time got some much-needed help from others.
Hasselbeck and the offense didn't start the game well, with a nearly disastrous botched snap from center. But things clicked after that, as Hasselbeck threw 11 passes on the first drive, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Will Heller.
"We had made a commitment ... a little shift of emphasis, if you will, and the guys were excited about it and they executed well," Holmgren said.
Hasselbeck made the throws, including a touch pass to D.J. Hackett that gained 46 yards and set up a touchdown. The Seattle receivers made the tough catches — a one-hander by fullback Leonard Weaver, a diving stab by Nate Burleson, and Ben Obomanu taking a near interception away from the 49ers' Nate Clements.
The Seattle offensive line protected Hasselbeck well. And perhaps the best part for the Seahawks — they found some success with the running game, with Maurice Morris subbing for the injured Shaun Alexander and drawing cheers for his slashing, cutback style.
Morris had them cheering when he squirted free and spun for 10 yards in the first quarter. He had the crowd in his hands when he took a delayed handoff 6 yards into the end zone for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead with 5:17 left in the first half.
Morris gained 87 yards on 28 carries.
The Seahawks' 17-0 halftime lead could have been even bigger. Two field goals by Josh Brown were nullified by Seahawks penalties — a hold on Heller and a false start on center Chris Spencer.
When Brown tried a 54-yard field goal after the Spencer penalty he missed wide left, just his second miss of the season in 19 tries.
The Seahawks' defense was everywhere, getting big plays from the man known as "Big Play," Jordan Babineaux, who sacked 49ers quarterback Alex Smith late in the second quarter and forced a fumble that Darryl Tapp recovered. Babineaux also knocked away a low pass intended for Arnaz Battle on a fourth-and-three in the third quarter.
Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney also got a sack and forced fumble, and the Seattle defense, led by linebacker Kevin Bentley, stuffed running back Frank Gore on fourth-and-one from the Seattle 2-yard line in the third quarter, preserving the shutout.
"Just shot the gap and made a play," Bentley said. "We just happened to guess right. The D-line got good penetration, so we got to hit him deep in the backfield."
When the Seahawks fly around the field and force mistakes, they are at their best. Their third-down defense was also critical, as Seattle forced five three-and-outs along with the two fourth-down stops.
"We came out with a lot of emotion," Kerney said. "You just take a win in this league. It's so hard to get them."
Hasselbeck and Hackett finished off the 49ers for good measure, hooking up on a 10-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. Hackett, as his receiver mates had done, kept his concentration and reached back for the catch.
"Let's just put all our games on Monday night," Bentley said with a hearty laugh.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
17 Seahawks points
0 49ers points
17 Seahawks first downs
1 49ers first down
247 Seahawks total yards
76 49ers total yards
0 Seahawks turnovers
2 49ers turnovers
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