Seahawks' patchwork offense almost pulls it off against Patriots
Deion Branch was the unlikely star of a most unexpectedly productive day for Seattle's offense.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seahawks were missing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and left tackle Walter Jones, the only two Pro Bowlers on offense last season.
They were so strapped for bodies along the offensive line that the guy they signed Friday, Steve McKinney, was in uniform and Mansfield Wrotto started at right guard after being inactive for nine of the first 12 games this season.
Given all that, it wasn't just a surprise that Seattle gained its most yards since September, it was as hard to believe as Deion Branch's 63-yard gain in which he weaved his way from one sideline all the way to the other. At least New England coach Bill Belichick decided that play was unbelievable. That's why he threw the red hankie to trigger a replay review, believing Branch stepped out of bounds before catching the pass.
The officials took a second look and decided that there was no reason to overturn the 63-yard reception that started in front of New England's sidelines with linebacker Junior Seau closing in.
"I remember that he just signed back yesterday," Branch said. "So I looked at him and knew I could beat him."
That was Branch's joke about his juke, which started a cross-field venture that left Branch gassed by the time he ran out of bounds at the Patriots 9.
"I was done," he said.
But he wasn't finished. Branch caught a 4-yard touchdown pass two plays later, getting his right hand on the ball and then grabbing it with both hands off the bobble for his second score of the game. Not bad for a guy who hadn't caught a touchdown pass since Dec. 16, 2007.
Branch caught four passes for 88 yards, his most yardage since he finished with 92 yards in St. Louis last November.
Branch was the unlikely star of a most unexpectedly productive day for Seattle's offense. Hasselbeck missed the game because of a sore back, Jones sat out because of an injury for the first time since his rookie season and Seattle still gained 339 yards, their most in any game since Sept. 21 when they had 407 against St. Louis.
Seneca Wallace threw for 212 yards for three touchdowns and was never intercepted.
Seattle's offensive line included only one player expected to be a starter this season — Sean Locklear, who was moved to the left side. Ray Willis started at right tackle. Willis was the only offensive lineman starting in the same spot as opening day — he began the year at right tackle as Locklear recovered from a knee injury.
And even behind that pieced-together line, the Seahawks didn't give up a sack until their final offensive play of the game, when the Patriots brought a blitz formation Seattle had seen twice before. The Seahawks called a timeout each time. This time, Wallace ran the play, relying that an adjustment made on the sideline would give him time to try and exploit a matchup between Branch and a cornerback.
"If they wouldn't have got home and made the tackle on me or hit me, we would have had a big play down the field," Wallace said.
Branch was isolated on one-on-one on the outside against cornerback Deltha O'Neal.
"I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and he [Branch] beat him inside," Wallace said.
But safety Brandon Meriweather came untouched through the line of scrimmage, hitting Wallace to force a fumble that was one of the only blemishes for an offense that played better than anyone could have anticipated.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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