Early on, Seahawks put a new spin on old-time teams
This was the way late fall inside Qwest Field was supposed to feel. It was Sunday in December and the Seahawks were winning.
Seattle Times staff columnist
On the sidelines, a high-revving Bobby Engram was telling teammates, "This feels like old times."
The Seahawks were turning back the clock. It was July again. Everything was possible. They were playing like the defending NFC West champs. This was the team Seattle had grown accustomed to watching.
For more than 50 minutes the Seahawks of 2008 finally looked like the Seahawks of '05, '06, '07.
On their first two possessions, the Hawks marched for touchdowns on drives of 87 and 74 yards. Smartly, efficiently they were eating up yards. They weren't killing themselves with fumbles. They were finishing drives, finding the end zone.
And the defense was flying around the field, knocking around New England quarterback Matt Cassel like he was a sparring mate.
This was the way late fall inside Qwest Field was supposed to feel. It was Sunday in December and the Seahawks were winning. Heading into the fourth quarter, they led 21-13 and the stadium was loud and hopeful.
"The competitiveness, the success in terms of moving the ball, making plays, scoring touchdowns, it was like old times," Engram said, after the Seahawks lost their sixth game in a row, 24-21 to New England. "It's just unfortunate it had to end like that."
These weren't the same players, but this looked like the old Seahawks.
Even with this unlikely cast, they were a hit again. It was like watching James Bond with Seth Rogen making it work as 007. Or Jack Black fronting for Led Zeppelin and sounding just like Robert Plant.
Seneca Wallace was standing in for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and playing mistake free. Sean Locklear was keeping the heat off Wallace the way injured left tackle Walter Jones almost always has with Hasselbeck. And Steve Vallos was playing a serviceable center in place of Chris Spencer.
Old times with new guys.
"Those first two drives were more along the lines of what we expected going into the season," rookie tight end John Carlson said. "In training camp and through the preseason the feeling was that we could move the ball and score on anyone."
Finally healthy, Deion Branch, playing against the team he used to win Super Bowls with, played the kind of game the Seahawks expected when they traded for him in September 2006. He caught a couple of touchdown passes and crisscrossed the field on a dizzying 63-yard catch and run that set up his second score.
For the first 57 minutes the Seahawks never trailed, something rare in this 2-11 season.
"There's been a couple of games where we'd get a good drive going, then we'd get a turnover or something bad happened," Locklear said. "But today, first drive, we moved down the field and scored a touchdown. That's Seahawk football. Not big plays, just a lot of little plays."
But New England, like a fighter pinning an opponent against the ropes, wouldn't let the Seahawks' defense off the field in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots got a field goal, a fourth-down, 1-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion to take a 24-21 lead, setting up the final Seahawks heartbreak.
The line that hadn't surrendered a sack, the offense that hadn't committed a turnover, lost the game on a sack and a turnover.
"I think the suddenness of it, the shock piece of the loss, is tough to swallow," Engram said. "Especially when you're driving and Seneca made a nice play to get us right around midfield and worst case scenario, I'm thinking we're going to get a field goal. It was just unfortunate."
More than two minutes remained after Wallace scrambled for 23 yards to the New England 43. Any other season inside Qwest, the Seahawks would have kicked a field goal, gone into overtime and beaten the Patriots.
But this is 2008. Swiftly, one play before the two-minute warning, the game ended. New England blitzed. Safety Brandon Meriweather almost beat the ball back to Wallace. He forced a fumble that Richard Seymour recovered.
"It's been one of those years," said Wallace, who completed 20 of 28 for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
The Seahawks have been a lot of things this season, but rarely teasers. On this first Sunday in December, however, they carried their fans to the brink. They filled heads with lush visions from the past, but it turned out this was just a late-season tease.
"I wasn't thinking a sack and a turnover," Locklear said. "But that's what happened and that's kind of how our year's gone. Some plays here and there we look good, and then other plays we look like we're out of the planet or something."
The old times don't last. This is 2008. The year when hope always turns into heartbreak.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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UPDATE - 9:02 PM
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