Sunday, October 31, 2010


The forces of evil prevailed decisively.
Outplayed, outcoached, outwitted, outhustled, and overpowered, the Seahawks made fools of Tony Dungy and anyone else who mistook us for the best team in the NFC.
Our defense played respectably for much of the game. However, our offense’s inability to sustain drives forced the defense to stay on the field far too long, so our D naturally wore down.
We can’t pin this one on Hasselbeck. Despite poor play from the O-Line, getting nailed for nine sacks, and having zero run support, our quarterback performed impressively, putting ball after ball on target, only to get let down repeatedly by his stone-handed receiving corps.
Seattle’s offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates called another bad game, dialing up uninspired and predictable playcalls for much of the game. Bates has had success calling plays for Denver in 2008, but he seems to have lost his touch. Or perhaps our roster turns over so fast that he can’t adapt his playcalls to our personnel.
 Why can’t a giant like Mike Williams dominate corners who try to bump him at the line?
Leon Washington did his part, posting a few big returns. But our inept offense simply squandered the good field position granted by Hawks special teams unit.
When the normally clutch Olindo Mare misses his first two field goals, you know it’s a bad day for Seattle.
Even the ball bounced in the Raiders’ favor, first on the Immaculate Reception by Marcel Reece, and then again on the “interception” by Tijuan Branch. (It always bothers me when a quarterback gets charged with an interception when the ball was on target, but the receiver bobbled it into the defender’s hands. I think wideouts should be charged with the turnover in that case.)
Props to Oakland for converting UW alumnus Marcel Reece to fullback, and installing packages to exploit his ability as a receiver. Earlier today, I argued that the Raiders have never had a truly great fullback, but Reece could develop into one for them.
It’s nice to see Jason Campbell—unfairly maligned as a Redskin—have another good week, justifying the faith that his former coach Jim Zorn had in him. (Why does Tom Cable continue to insist that Bruce Gradkowski is the starter?)
Congratulations to Oakland, and to Raidergrrl. Also, thanks for the material, Raidergrrl.


RAIDERGRRL struck back with some respectable smacktalk. Check it out, with some italicized interlinear replies from your humble correspondent:

Hi, Brian "In for a Letdown" MacKenzie:

I couldn't help but smile at your previous comment about the Seahawks making Orton look like Joe Montana.  I think they'll make McFadden look like Bo Jackson, thus the video.  
>Our runstuffers will mechanically separate McFadden and render him into McNuggets.
By the way, what DID you think of NFL Network's "Top 10 Raiders" show?  
>I didn't watch it, of course. This is what I meant yesterday when I wrote that NFL Top Ten's lists verging on shark-jumping specificity. Who--other than a Raiders fan--would want to watch that? I didn't watch "Top Ten Dallas Cowboys," either.
I'm sure they'll do something like that for the Seahawks...when they eventually have ten historical players worth discussing. I'm not sure the Network is going for the "Wait...What?  WHO?" reaction from NFL fans at this point, but maybe in time.  It's all about aspirations, and I can totally see it happening in the next thirty years or so.
>Nice shot, but wrong. Although the Raiders are 15 years older than Seattle's pro franchise, I'd take Seattle's top ten players over the Black Hole's Legion of Doom anytime. Let's look at it, position by position:
On the O-Line, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell were great players, but Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson were at least as great. (But Jim Otto was clearly better than Robbie Tobeck.)
The Raiders have never had a wideout better than Steve Largent. Even our depth at receiver--Brian Blades, Joey Galloway, and Darrell Jackson--compares favorably with the Black Hole's best, Fred Biletnikoff and Tim Brown.
We lose at tight end, however. John Carlson and Itula Mili don't compare to Dave Caspar and Todd Christensen.
I concede that the Seahawks have never had a tailback as good as Marcus Allen, though if injuries hadn't shortened Curt Warner's career, he might have surpassed Allen. However, Curt Warner, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander all had more distinguished careers with Seattle than flash-in-the pan Bo Jackson did for the Raiders.

The Hater Nation has never had a fullback as good as John L. Williams. Or Mack Strong. Or even Leonard Weaver.
They've never had quarterbacks as consistently good as Dave Krieg and Matt Hasselbeck. That's right. Pick your jaw up off the floor and face the facts: People remember Kenny Stabler and Jim Plunkett's good games, but Stabler had as many miserable and mediocre seasons as he had good ones, and Plunkett played so poorly that the team benched him between his Super Bowl appearances. Sure, Stabler and Plunkett each have Super Bowl rings, but that had more to do with the rest of the roster than it did with the quarterbacks.
On the D-Line, Howie Long, Chester McGlockton, Greg Townsend, and Otis Sistrunk were good, but Seattle more than matches those talents with perennial Pro Bowlers Cortez Kennedy, Jacob Green, Joe Nash, and Jeff Bryant 
Ted Hendricks, Matt Millen, and Rod Martin were excellent, but not better than Lofa Tatupu, Julian Peterson, and Chad Brown.
The Raiders have and have had some great corners, but Dave Brown was nearly as good, and by the end of his career, Marcus Trufant may prove as good or better.
George Atkinson has always had a big mouth, and Jack Tatum was a cheap shot artist who earned his "Assassin" moniker, but Eugene Robinson was as good, and the Raiders have never had a safety better than Kenny Easley. .
Ray Guy was the best punter in NFL history. But Norm Johnson, Josh Brown and Olindo Mare are more clutch than any kicker they Raiders have had. Have the Raiders ever had returners as dangerous as Leon Washington or Joey Galloway? Have they ever had Pro Bowl special teamers as good as Fredd Young, Rufus Porter, or Alex Bannister?
 I'll concede you might be on to something with the Seattle D playing the run well (I happen to be a big Tatupu fan, by the way), but stats aren't everything.  Regarding that, I saw some lowlights of your defense the other night. What did you guys do to Aaron Curry? He had SUCH potential. Now, he's doing his best impression of a saloon door, swinging to the outside.  If only Oakland had someone fast enough to take advantage!  Ahem.

>That hit home. Curry has been a disappointment.
 What really surprises me about your latest taunting missive is how much we agree!

I agree that if your offense show's up, the Raiders could be in for trouble.  But it won't.  Okung isn't playing.  I look for Shaughnessy and Wimbley to be sack makin' machines.  
>Good point. Okung is a badass, and we're much better with him on the field. His injury definitely increases the level of difficulty for Seattle.
This, of course, has implications on the Seattle run game.  Add Okung's injury to your serious question marks at fullback?  Eh.  
>Nice try, but we don't use fullbacks much anymore. We can work around Michael Robinson's absence.
I don't see Lynch putting up significant numbers.  Forsett, you say?  Bah.  They brought Lynch in for a reason: To bring your running game up to average. Perhaps I'm being too generous, though.  At about three yards per carry, "average" is still well out of reach.  
>We'll pass to set up the run.
Your receivers are as laughable as Oakland's, with the glaring exception of BMW this year.  But he's still BMW.  
>Hard to argue with that. We're still waiting for Deon Butler and Golden Tate to show up.
Asomugha vs. Williams?  I'll take that bet, if only I knew a Vegas oddsmaker.

>Today Asomugha gets boxed out by the big man.
I agree that the Raiders haven't had much of a home field advantage, but YOU forget it's Halloween; This is when the freaks come out. (Okay.  Fine. Halloween is when the Raiders fans wear their street clothes to the games, but the point remains.)  The Black Hole will be more rabid than usual.  
>It doesn't matter. Seattle's 12th Man is effective because our fans are smart enough to make noise strategically. Oakland's collective IQ is far too low for their crowd to make any difference, other than by being really ugly to look at.
Aside from that, you have to admit the Seattle win in Chicago left you all stunned.  You and the rest of the country.  
It was an aberration.  
Furthermore, Chicago's record belies how pitiful a team they really are.  
>They're much better than "pitiful." You want pitiful? Look at the Cowboys.
I'll cut you some slack for that comment, though, because you have to cling to SOME sort of hope.  Who am I to completely dash a young man's dreams?

>Young man? Flattery won't spare you from my withering smacktalk.
I agree Oakland may try to test your pathetic secondary ("pathetic" being the key word), but the last I checked, Lester Hayes wasn't handing out stick 'em at the House of Thrills anymore.  Consequently, a pick six is as likely as Matt Hasselbeck being the spokesperson touting the success of Rogaine on a late night infomercial.

>Invalid premise. Our secondary has shone this year.
See?  Who'da thunk we could agree so much only six, short hours from the game?
 "Raptor talons" ripping our eyes out... Really?  Why am I envisioning something more akin to fingernails in a catfight wherein the hands are slapping as daintily as your trash talk?  However, it was a clever comment about Mr. Raider Face.  Seriously.  Still, have you seen most female Raiders fans?  (Hey!  Present company excepting!!)  They wear heavy black and silver makeup for a reason and have clearly taken lessons on etiquette from Anna Nicole Smith.  Female Raider Fans or Fabulous Pirate Nightclub?  You tell me.  I TOLD you the Raiders were getting smarter!  Still, should I be alarmed by the fact that you know more about these Oakland nightclubs than I?  ;)  

>I've never been to the Bay Area, but I have good enough gaydar to recognize Mr. Raider Face for what he is, and my strong grasp of cultural geography tells me that he probably frequents clubs across the bay in San Fran.
And now to the heart of the matter:  Your comments on the Raider Nation.  You've played a plethora of familiar cards in this one, but kudos for the Fab-5-Style redecorating and extra points for working in the word "ichor."   If I wasn't such an emotional masochist when it comes to my team, these comments actually might've stung a little.  Fortunately for us both, I am again impervious, so we can remain friends.

>You are a gracious opponent.
Yours truly,

Raidergrrl Loves Getting the Last Word

>The last word is mine.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taunting the Hater Nation

I miss the days when the Seahawks were in the AFC West. Although I've learned to hate the Lambs, the Cardinals, and the San Francisco Fairy Miners, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to muster the visceral loathing for them that I used to harbor for Denver, Oakland, and the Kansas City Queefs. (I never managed to work up much ire for the San Diego Chargers. I liked Dan Fouts, our games against them were entertaining, and Krieg and the Seahawks always seemed to win those epic shootouts.)

The Raiders have always been easy to hate, because Al Davis is a jerk, because they employ low character guys as a point of pride, and because some regional traitors continued to like the Raiders even after Seattle got its own team. A cautionary example: Jerramy Stevens, who grew up in Washington state as a Raiders fan. This was indicative of the kind of character defects that sabotaged his career, first with the Seahawks here and again with Tampa Bay. (The Bucs recently cut him because he got caught with weed.)

I will say one nice thing about the Raiders: they have a history of recruiting talent from the University of Washington, including Lincoln Kennedy, Napoleon Kaufman, and Marques Tuiasosopo.

But the point of this post is to ridicule the Raiders. I reproduce here some correspondence with a Raiders fan with whom I work.

MacKENZIE's Opening Salvo:

Before the season began, when I saw Oakland on Seattle's schedule, I thought, "Yes! Automatic victory!"

But the Raiders looked downright scary last week blowing out the Broncos, glutting themselves on horseflesh and coming up one calorie shy of a sixtyburger. When the Seahawks went to Denver a few weeks ago, we made Kyle Orton look like Joe Montana. And we lost.

So, props to Oakland.

But you're still going to lose.

Consider yourself taunted.


...We can ask the Raiders after they fill their bellies on Sunday.  While the horseflesh was tasty enough, the Raiders prefer fowl.

While your taunting is not completely lost on me, I am impervious to your optimism.  (Yes, a Raiders fan can spell "impervious."  Shocking.  I know.)  I can even do math.

Seahawks - 12th Man = Raiders Victory

In short, don't count your Seahawks before they're hatched.  

You'll end up with scrambled eggs.

But in the spirit of friendship, camaraderie, and for your viewing pleasure:
[The link goes to footage of the infamous 1987 Bo vs. Boz Monday night debacle.]

MacKENZIE's Devastating Barrage:

You had to go back to 1987 to find a significant Raider win over the mighty Seahawks?

If we're going to discuss that era, I'd rather talk about Seattle's 1988 season sweep of Oakland:

"Nov. 28, 1988: Seahawks win 35-27 on Monday night in the Kingdome, with Dave Krieg throwing five touchdown passes and Curt Warner and John L. Williams becoming the first two Seattle RBs to each gain more than 100 rushing yards in the same game." [Source: Seattle Times]

"Dec. 18, 1988: Krieg passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns, and Williams has 180 yards receiving and 59 rushing as the Seahawks beat the Raiders 43-37 to clinch the first AFC West title in franchise history." [Source: Seattle Times]

Or some more recent history:

"Nov. 11, 2001: Shaun Alexander rushes for 266 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown, as the Seahawks win 34-27 at Husky Stadium on a Sunday night. Afterward, Oakland coach Jon Gruden says, 'I don't know if that was Alexander or Jim Brown, man.'" [Source: Seattle Times]

Of course, since we only play one another every four years now, those past contests have zero bearing on tomorrow's game. I'd like to see the NFL adopt an interconference scheduling system where each division played its regional counterpart every year (e.g., AFC West vs. NFC West, AFC North vs. NFC North, etc.). This would help revive some traditional rivalries (e.g., Seahawks vs. the AFC West), create some intriguing new regional rivalries (e.g., Ravens vs. Redskins, Eagles vs. Steelers, Jets vs. Giants, etc.), and reduce the number of games where teams operate at a disadvantage on the road in alien time zones.

The Seahawks have been bad on the road for the last few years, but if we can beat a good team like Chicago on the road, we should be able to compete in Oakland, who haven't had much of a home field advantage in recent years. If our offense shows up, you're toast. Even if they don't, it will be a game. Our defense has been consistent, especially against the run, so it will be interesting to see if the Raiders can continue to post monster rushing numbers. On the other hand, Oakland might be tempted to test our battered secondary. I hope so, because a few pick sixes will help pad our lead.

Mr. Raider Face had better watch out, or raptor talons will tear out his one remaining eye, and then he will have trouble scoping out the other guys at the fabulous pirate nightclubs he evidently frequents. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

But more than anything else, I trust the Chokeland Faders to revert to form and break your heart, as they have done so reliably ever since the Bucs blew them out in Super Bowl XXXVII. ("Heartbreak" doesn't quite fit as a description of the physiological impact of losing on the rest of the Hater Nation, as they don't have hearts so much as dense, soulless clusters of pulsing antimatter that propel demonic ichor through their degenerate arteries. But I think that losing makes them feel somehow sad inside, too. As if they're not getting their money's worth after signing away their souls in infernal pacts signed with their own blood.)

After so many seasons of utter futility, you'd think that the Raiders would have hidden away the "Commitment to Excellence" banners until they can display them with a straight face and in good conscience (that is, if anyone who worked for the team had a conscience).

Consider yourself comprehensively taunted.

Postscript: Faithful readers (dare I use the plural here?) may note some inconsistency between the content of this post and my earlier contention that "Talking smack is for bitches."

Allow me to explain: I don't endorse smacktalk on the field. I discouraged it as a coach, and when I get the opportunity to play in turkey bowls, I let my play do the talking.

However, I think good-natured smacktalk among fans is harmless fun.

Jim Zorn gets some love

A few posts back, I complained about how NFL Top Ten had unjustly slighted Seahawk great Dave Krieg.

Recently, the same show recognized the goodness that was Jim Zorn.

This time, the list was "Top 10 Left-Handed Quarterbacks." Of course, the narrowness of the category helped ensure Zorn's recognition: there have only been about 32 southpaw slingers in the league's history.

Spoiler alert: I'm going to publish the list.

Once again, the show was marred by a joke entry on the list.

The list begins by naming Scott Mitchell the 10th-best lefty quarterback in league history. This is defensible, as anyone who helps get the Detroit Lions to the playoffs deserves recognition.

However, the program then declares a tie for 9th place among "the field," which means every other southpaw quarterback who doesn't finish in places #1-8. The show goes on to mention several lefties, including ex-Seahawk Brock Huard.

Of course, putting "the field" at #9 redefines Mitchell's #10 finish, identifying him as the worst left-handed quarterback in league history. This is not only harsh, but inaccurate. Mitchell started three full seasons for Detroit, posted one truly great season (1995), and twice led the hapless Lions to the playoffs under the dubious coaching of "Cocaine" Wayne Fontes. By contrast, Huard (for example) never started a full season for any team.

Fortunately, the rest of the list mostly makes sense.

Chicago's running quarterback, Bobby Douglass, came in at #8.

Jim Zorn finishes #7, lauded for his elusiveness, charisma, and creativity by luminaries like Fran Tarkenton, Steve Largent, and Warren Moon. The program shows an embarrassing old TV commercial featuring Largent and Zorn singing the virtues of milk. Steve Raible says the most impressive thing about Zorn is that he never cursed.

The rest of the list:

6. Michael Vick
5. Mark Brunell
4. Frankie Albert
3. Boomer Esaison
2. Ken Stabler
1. Steve Young

Sadly, when NFL Top 10 ignored Krieg and recognized Zorn, they confirmed the general trend established since the early '80s. Zorn, despite inferior production, has always been beloved in Seattle, whereas Krieg, though demonstrably a superior player by every measure, has never been truly appreciated.

As NFL Top Ten enters its fourth season, its categories have become increasingly specific to potentially shark-jumping extremes (recent entry: "Top 10 Shortest Players").

Perhaps someday they'll come up with a category that will give some recognition to my man Mudbone.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A diagnostic victory

The Seahawks seized the lead in the NFC West yesterday with their home win over the Cardinals.

The NFL's box score page asserts simply that "The Seahawks dominated the Cards from start to finish." I assume that whoever wrote that did not watch the game. The league's official recap accurately characterizes Seattle's performance as "unimpressive."

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Certainly, the game was closer than the final score indicated. While Seattle dominated defensively for much of the game, there were some disturbing defensive lapses that could prove fatal in future contests. Arizona's offensive line manhandled our defense and racked up more yards on the ground than any opponent has all year (113). In a closer contest, the Cardinals would have stuck with the run and buried us.

Our pass defense was generally impressive, but our defensive MVP was Max Hall's inaccurate arm. During his first drive in relief of the rookie, Derek Anderson showed how a competent quarterback can seize on the opportunities our defense offers. Fortunately, Seattle's defense adjusted and shut down Anderson for the rest of the game, but for the rest of the season, the Seahawks will face quarterbacks better than Hall and the Moose from Scapoose.

On offense, the Seahawks alternately grooved and stalled. At times, the Matt, Mike & Marshawn show worked like a charm, with Hasselbeck completing short passes to Mike Williams and handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch, who went into beast mode and tore off good chunks of yardage.

However, our offense sputtered repeatedly, particularly in the red zone. Although Olindo Mare is clutch, settling for field goals will kill you in a closer game. We scored only one touchdown.

When our offense bogged down, unimaginitive playcalling was often the culprit. There is a difference between establishing the run and being so obvious about it that you're letting the defense stop you. In the NFL, if the other team knows you want to run the ball, they can load the box and shut you down, unless your offensive line is studded with Pro Bowlers. (Ours isn't.) When we did move the ball successfully, it was usually because we had called an inspired mix of run and pass plays.

Moreover, Hasselbeck--who eluded many sacks in Chicago by judiciously throwing the ball away at the last split-second--held the ball too long and took too many sacks yesterday. Our offensive line play was inconsistent. Losing rookie left tackle Russell Okung to another ankle injury hurt a great deal. Right tackle Sean Locklear has clearly become a liability: poor run blocking, feeble pass blocking, getting flagged for holding and false starts.

As in our home win over San Diego, the special teams saved our bacon, twice forcing turnovers to regain possession on punt and kickoff coverage. While this is always welcome, we can't depend on it, anymore than we can depend on Leon Washington return touchdowns to win games for us.

Still, a win is a win, and seizing the division lead is big. The Rams and the 49ers helped secure our lead by losing yesterday. Still, if we intend to maintain pole position in the NFC West, the team must build upon the strengths and address the weaknesses on display yesterday.

Life doesn't get any easier next week, as the Seahawks enter the Black Hole. The Raiders have been very bad for a very long time, and I think every fan who saw Oakland on our schedule before the season began mentally recorded this game as an easy victory.

It won't be. The Raiders are finally getting better. Yesterday, they blew out the Broncos in Denver. Oakland's running backs gained more than 300 yards on the ground. The Raiders feasted upon horseflesh until they were glutted, coming up one calorie shy of a sixtyburger.

Maybe it was a fluke. But we can't take Oakland lightly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pluck the Cardinals

The win over Chicago was big.

So big that it has convinced everyone that Seattle is for real. Last week, almost no one picked the Seahawks to win. This week, just about everyone predicts a decisive victory for us.

I agree, and I hope our prediction comes true. Arizona is starting Max Hall, a rookie playing his first NFL road game. Starting Cardinals wideout Steve Breaston is injured. This should be easy, right?

No. Today's early games should remind us that parity is for real in today's NFL. As I write, the Cleveland Browns--a bad team quarterbacked by a rookie--have jumped to a 20-3 lead in New Orleans over a normally solid Saints team. Moreover, the pitiful Bills are leading in Baltimore.

The Seahawks can't let the Cardinals continue to make road upsets the theme of the day.

Please recall that Arizona is 3-2, just like Seattle. We're playing for the division lead.

More important, let's remember that we haven't beaten Arizona since 2007. The Seahawks have dropped four straight games to the Cardinals, losing six of the last seven contests. The redbirds have owned us the way we used to own the lambs. Seattle needs to remember this recent history of humiliation, and make Arizona pay dearly for it.

I hope Seattle's players and coaches aren't believing their media coverage. For example, Danny O'Neil--the excellent Seahawk beat reporter--published a story in the Seattle Times entitled "Pete Carroll's USC offense is working with Seahawks."

Really? After it worked well for one game, we can declare the offense functional?

After Matt Hasselbeck carried us through the San Francisco game in Week One, the offense deteriorated steadily until the bye week. We looked good last week, but we won't know if the system really works until we see it move the ball and score against a few different opponents.

The formula for victory is clear: Play like we did against Chicago, balancing the run and the pass on offense. Blitz and punish Max Hall the way we pulverized Jay Cutler last week. On defense, keep shutting down the run the way we have all year.

By the way, Chris Henry is a Seahawk now. No, the notorious Bengal wideout hasn't risen from the dead, though he would have fit in just fine on our team, since Carroll doesn't seem to screen for character. This Chris Henry is a big veteran running back, evidently intended as a backup bruiser in case Marshawn Lynch goes down.

A friend of mine in Mississippi used to have two cats. One was a sleek athlete and a great hunter, and the other was the fattest feline I have ever seen. The hunter liked to kill, and the fat cat liked to eat. One day, the hunter slew a cardinal. His corpulent counterpart promptly claimed the corpse and swiftly devoured it, bones, feathers and all. After a few minutes, the fat cat retched up the redbird's beak.

This is what the Seahawks need to do to the Cardinals today.

Go, Seahawks! No mercy!

The (tardy) ex-Seahawk report

As usual, I'm spending the morning flipping around from game to game, watching ex-Seahawks play.

It's a slow week, however, since the Detroit Sea Lions have a bye.

Baltimore hosts the hapless Bills, who have shocked the world by jumping to a big lead over the Ravens, who haven't been playing much defense today. This should force Flacco to throw the ball a lot, which could get Housh on the field more often in multiple receiver sets.

Seneca Wallace remains injured, so Colt McCoy's trial by fire continues in Cleveland. So, Chop Womack is the only Seattle exile to watch. At some point, the Browns picked up former Seahawk center Steve Vallos, but he's inactive today. The Holmgren magic doesn't seem to have transformed the Browns, who continue to lose at a steady clip. However, today Cleveland seems to have snuck up on New Orleans; they're leading.

Owen Schmitt continues to play fullback for Philadephia. He is still merely serviceable as a fullback, neither a dominating blocker like Mack Strong nor a good runner like Leonard Weaver.

Deion Branch lit it up last week in his first week back with the Patriots, outplaying the departed Randy Moss, and catching more balls for more yards than he ever did in a game in his four years with the Seahawks, which makes one wonder what accounts for the difference.

Is it effort? Does Deion just try harder for the Patriots?

Is Tom Brady that much better a quarterback than Matt Hasselbeck? Hasselbeck had as many years to develop a rapport with the receiver as Brady did...

Is it coaching, or Branch's ability to learn? The wideout looked more comfortable in the Patriot offensive scheme after a four-year layoff than he did in any of the three different offensive systems used by the Seahawks in his time with us. Is it just a matter of continuity and opportunity to learn, or have New England's coaches just that much better at customizing their offensive schemes to suit their personnel?

The Patriots visit San Diego today. It will be interesting to see whether Deion's performance last week was a fluke or a sign of things to come.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A complete team win

During the Holmgren Era, the Seahawks tended to come out rusty after a bye week. The Carroll regime seems to have made the most of the layoff.

Our offense, which had deteriorated steadily over the first four weeks of the season, appeared rejuvenated. Matt Hasselbeck attacked the Bears defense with surgical precision, completing passes to eight different receivers. He coped successfully with pressure from Chicago's vaunted pass rush, escaping several possible sacks by simply throwing the ball away.

Mike Williams had a career day, looking every bit like a first round pick and a legitimate starting NFL wideout.

Marshawn Lynch did not disappoint. He and Justin Forsett each have their own way of maximizing the limited running opportunities our offensive line offers: Forsett does so by being small and shifty, with great vision, while Lynch gets it done with sheer power, making his own daylight when necessary. Forsett, in fact, looks like potentially the biggest beneficiary of the Lynch acquisition. Lynch, the bread and butter, wears down the defense, setting up Forsett as the change-up and home run hitter.

The bye week appears to have helped our offensive line. They protected Hasselbeck well and created some running room for Lynch and Forsett.

Russell Okung played like a worthy heir to Walter Jones today. Julius Peppers lined up against him for most of the game, and the rookie left tackle handily nullified the All-Pro defensive end, who finished with just one tackle.

My favorite play of the game was Justin Forsett's 10-yard touchdown run. On that play, Okung fired out, found All-Pro Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher at the 5-yard line, and drove him back into the end zone, clearing the path to the promised land for Forsett.

The defensive coaches deserve a game ball. They dialed up blitz schemes that confused and defeated the Bears' O-Line. Evidently, Chicago's line coach--former Seahawk tight end Mike Tice--had no answer. Our pass rush Jay Cutler six times, including a strip sack in the end zone for a safety by Big Play Babs.

Even when Kelly Jennings exited the game with an injury, our young reserves in the defensive backfield filled his shoes and contained Chicago's passing attack.

There were a couple of concerns on special teams. Golden Tate had a terrible day as a punt returner, and we let Devin Hester score on a punt return.

But overall, it was our first complete win since the season opener in San Francisco, and all the more impressive because it came on the road in an early game against a tough team with a winning record. I don't remember the last time the Seahawks did that. Congratulations to Coach Carroll and the whole team.

Good-bye Week

Good-bye, Deion Branch.

Good-bye, Julius Jones.

Hello, Marshawn Lynch.

During the bye week, the team discarded two disappointing players and took a chance on an oft-arrested runner from Buffalo. (Does anyone else miss the days when character was a criterion for being a Seahawk?)

Perhaps the positive influence of college teammate Justin Forsett will help Lynch stay on the straight and narrow in Seattle. Certainly, Lynch represents a potential on-the-field upgrade over Julius Jones, the perennial disappointment who never became comfortable with the zone blocking scheme, and whose utility had become so marginal that he was relegated to the inactive list in some games this season.

One is forced to concede the genius of New England head coach Bill Belichick. When recent Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch held out for a fat contract, he extorted a first-round pick from Seattle. In return, the Seahawks earned the privilege of paying Branch far more than he deserved to underproduce and get injured. Now that Branch has regained his health and shows signs of returning to form, the Patriots take him back. We garnered a fourth-round pick in return--rather good value for a marginal veteran receiver--and Belichick got Branch to accept a salary more in line with his performance.

Meanwhile, the move confirms that Mike Williams & Deion Branch were not, in fact, viable replacements for last year's starters, Nate Burleson (who we let escape through free agency), and TJ Houshmandzadeh (who we cut and continue to pay $6 million to play for Baltimore). Perhaps Deon Butler will prove a better complement for Mike Williams.

Of course, it might be hard to tell this week. The Seahawks face another tough test on the road today with an early game in Chicago.

In the best possible world, the bye week would have given Seattle's battered offensive line an opportunity to heal and develop some cohesion. Perhaps Russell Okung--who looked like a rookie in the half he played in St. Louis--will look more like a first-round pick this week, but trying to stop Julius Peppers is a less-than-ideal assignment for anyone making their second NFL start.

If we can play Chicago tough, it will bode well for the rest of the season.

But my gut says we get blown out again today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dave Krieg Gets Dissed Again

Poor Dave Krieg. Although disrespected and unappreciated throughout his career--even by many misguided Seahawks fans--I had hoped he might fare better in retirement.

He hasn't. The most recent outrage came when NFL Films failed to mention him on Top 10 Backup Quarterbacks, which aired last week.

NFL Top 10 is a guilty pleasure. Subjective rankings naturally spark debate, but generally the top 10 lists reflect sound reasoning. But not this time. (Spoiler alert: I'm going to publish the list so I can complain about it. If you haven't seen the program, yet, and you like narrative tension, stop reading now.)

Here is the list:

1. Kurt Warner, for coming off the bench to lead St. Louis to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV (Warner was MVP), and for getting off the pine again to get Arizona to Super Bowl XLIII.

2. Earl Morrall, for effectively relieving Johnny Unitas and then Bob Griese, for taking the Colts to Super Bowl III, for leading Baltimore to victory in Super Bowl V, and for sustaining the Dolphins' perfect season while Griese recovered from injury.

3. Jim Plunkett, who rose from the bench to lead the Raiders to victory in Super Bowls XV & XVIII.

4. Jeff Hostetler, for helping the Giants win Super Bowl XXV.

5. Don Strock, for 14 years of backup work in Miami, for an inspired relief performance in the epic 1982 AFC divisional duel between the Dolphins & the Chargers, for mentoring Dan Marino, and for coming out of retirement to help the Browns make the playoffs in 1988.

6. Frank Reich, for leading the greatest comeback in NFL history over the Oilers in 1993, and for getting the Bills to Super Bowl XXVII.

7. Brett Favre's backup quarterbacks, because they never had to play, and because some of them (Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck) went elsewhere and played well. (Evidently, this was meant as a sort of joke.)

8. Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

9. Tom Brady, from the bench to Super Bowl MVP.

10. Trent Dilfer, for leading the Ravens to victory in the Super Bowl.

It is hard to argue with most of the entries on the list. My problem is with #7. Why waste a spot in the top 10 for a lame joke, when you could recognize someone who is truly deserving? Moreover, if #7 is a joke, does that mean that Williams, Brady and Dilfer rank lower than a joke?

However, even if NFL Films had come to their senses and made a serious selection for #7, it wouldn't have been Dave Krieg.

In addition to the top 10 list, the program mentioned other distinguished backups in their "Best of the Rest" segments. Here they are:

Johnny Unitas & Brett Favre, because they began as backup quarterbacks.

Vince Ferragamo, who came off the bench and led the L.A. Rams to Super Bowl XIV.

Steve Young & Randall Cunningham, who became backups in mid-career, but then came off the bench to play their best football.

Matt Cassel, who filled in nicely for Tom Brady in 2008.

Doug Flutie & Bubby Brister, because each was a backup quarterbacks on 5 different teams. (Yes, I'm serious. That's what they said.)

Gus Frerotte, for spraining his neck by head-butting a padded wall to celebrate a score, and for playing for more teams than any backup mentioned on the program (7)

Among the "Best of the Rest," only Ferragamo rivals Krieg as a claimant to a spot in the top 10. Even by the frivolous criterion of playing for a lot of teams, Mudbone deserves mention: he played backup for 5 different teams, just like Flutie and Brister.

Consider Krieg's resume as a reliever:

1981: Zorn went 4-9 before getting injured; Krieg finished 2-1.

1982: Zorn struggled in the season finale vs. Denver, Dave came in to win the game.

1983: Krieg came off the bench to lead Seattle to its first playoff appearance, its first playoff win (over Denver), and its first appearance in the AFC Championship Game.

1986: Mudbone rose from the pine to engineer a 5-game winning streak, was named AFC Player of the Month.

1993: Playing for the Chiefs, Krieg ably and repeatedly relieved a fragile Joe Montana.

1994: Now a Lion, Mudbone took a Detroit team that was 4-5 and led them to a 5-2 finish. Statistically, it remains the greatest season performance ever by a Lions quarterback.

1996: Krieg inherited a Bears team that was 1-3 and led them to a 6-6 finish. (Making a miserable team mediocre is as miraculous as making a good team great.)

1998: When an injury momentarily sidelined Tennessee Oiler quarterback Steve McNair, Krieg played so well that when McNair was ready to re-enter the game, Coach Jeff Fisher kept him on the bench because "Dave was in the zone."

This track record compares favorably with the great backup QBs listed on the top 10, and is substantially better than every passer mentioned in "Best of the Rest," except perhaps Ferragamo.

So, while it is entertaining to watch Frerotte sprain his own neck, or to hear them explain why Unitas and Young don't really belong on the list, they should have given some air time to my man Mudbone.

So why was Krieg slighted? Perhaps it's East Coast media bias.

The secret to Dave's success coming off the bench was that he never thought of himself as a backup. Mudbone was a competitor who didn't look impressive in practice, but knew how to turn it on at game time. Fortunately, when people disrespected and underestimated him, Krieg reliably rose to the occasion to prove them wrong.

Postscript: Does Dave Krieg belong in Canton?

Krieg posted Hall of Fame-calibre numbers during his career. Retired since 1998, and having last started a game in 1996, he still ranks 13th in all-time passing yards, ahead of contemporary Canton enshrinees like Troy Aikman, Jim Kelly, and Steve Young.

Mudbone ranks 10th all-time in touchdown passes, outpacing not only Aikman, Kelly, Young, but also Dan Fouts.

Krieg's career passer rating has fallen to 33rd all time (quarterbacks from the current era--like Matt Hasselbeck--dominate the list), but he outranks contemporary Hall of Famers like Fouts, Warren Moon, and John Elway.

Of course, Krieg will never make the Hall of Fame. Most of the quarterbacks in Canton have won championships, or have at least appeared in Super Bowls. Fouts and Moon are obvious exceptions, but Moon made the cut as a racial pathbreaker, and because he won five Grey Cups with the Canadian Football League. (Canton is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the NFL Hall of  Fame). As for Fouts, he spent half of his career in 14-game seasons before the Blount rule, so it's no wonder that Krieg outranked him in passer rating and touchdowns.

Dave Krieg was a very good journeyman quarterback. He may not belong in Canton, but he deserved at least a mention on Top 10 Backup Quarterbacks.

On my all-time Seahawks team, Matt Hasselbeck gets the starting nod, but if his play is anything less than stellar, I'd bench him in a heartbeat for my man Mudbone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Violence on the Lambs

After dominating the Seahawks last week in St. Louis, the Rams went on the road to face the Detroit Lions, a winless team whose roster features five recent exiles from Seattle.

The Lambs laid down for the Lions. Evidently, after the exertion of ending the Seahawks' 10-game win streak against them, the Rams were running on fumes. They let the Sea Lions inflict a fortyburger blowout upon them, while looking a lot like last year's Lambs.

A few ex-Seahawks played a large role in the victory. Perhaps their familiarity with the Rams helped them rise to the occasion.

Nate Burleson had a breakout game. He led the Lions in receiving with 4 catches for 56 yards, including one touchdown. The score came on a pass he snatched at the line of scrimmage, putting the former punt returner in space with the ball, where he is most dangerous. Burleson eluded the Lamb defenders and sprinted 26 yards to the goal line. Always exuberant in celebration, Nate then punted the ball into the stands, releasing the frustration of a theretofore-scoreless season. The refs interpreted this as unsportsmanlike conduct, and penalized the Lions accordingly.

Julian Peterson looked like the dominating player he used to be, making 7 tackles, assisting with 4 more, and sacking Sam Bradford once. It also appears that Peterson--though still an outside linebacker--calls the defensive signals for Detroit, so his contributions extend beyond the stat sheet. The Lions held St. Louis to just 6 points.

Rob Sims continues to represent on Detroit's O-Line. The unit allowed only one sack, and their blocking allowed the offense to score 30 points. They did this very efficiently, with just 322 yards of total offense, thanks to favorable field position. (Detroit started several drives near midfield, as St. Louis opened the game with an unsuccessful onside kick attempt and then, late in the game, in a desperate bid to come back from far behind, the Rams turned the ball over on downs, giving good field position to the  their opponents.)

Several Seattle castoffs contributed to the triumph of the Baltimore Blackhawks over the Broncos.

Despite his game-winning catch the week before, Housh remains merely a third receiver for the Ravens. He contributed little to Baltimore's 31-17 drubbing of Denver. Targeted 4 times, Houshmandzadeh caught 2 balls for 24 yards and had another reception nullified by a flag for offensive pass interference. With under a minute to play, TJ helped the Ravens preserve their margin of victory as a member of their "hands team," recovering an onside kick attempted by the Broncos.

Josh Wilson--owner of the highest kick return average in Seattle's team history--returned every kickoff for the Ravens. His longest return was 26 yards, but his net average for the 3 kickoffs he fielded was only 20 yards, owing to penalties on the other 2 plays (holding, illegal block). Wilson also continues to play more on defense, where he recorded 3 tackles and one penalty for pass interference.

Cory Redding made two tackles and sacked Kyle Orton once.

Ken Hamlin--now a backup safety for the Ravens--made a play on kickoff coverage, recovering a fumble at the bottom of a pile.

Owen Schmitt continues to do yeoman work for the Eagles, who landed in San Francisco last Sunday. Schmitt's blocking helped keep Kevin Kolb on his feet and let LeSean McCoy run for nearly 100 yards. He caught 2 balls on third down for a total of 19 yards, but got stopped short of the yellow line both times. Best of all, Schmitt helped his team keep 49ers winless, condemning the preseason NFC West favorites to an 0-5 record.

Finally, Seneca Wallace made the best case yet for himself as Cleveland's starting quarterback.

First, he played well, completing 11 passes on 15 attempts for 139 yards and one touchdown, a nice 19-yard rainbow to Peyton Hillis in the end zone.

Then, at the end of the first half, having led the Browns to a slim 7-6 lead over the Falcons, Wallace got hurt and let Jake Delhomme take over. Evidently, the Ragin' Cajun mistook the game for a Mardi Gras parade, and proceeded to throw the ball to Atlanta defenders as if he were hurling beads at drunk, topless women. Final score: Atlanta 20, Cleveland 10.

Pork Chop Womack & the rest of the Browns' O-Line performed poorly. Unable to open holes for the team's runners--Cleveland gained less than 50 yards on 20 carries--the front five also allowed 3 sacks, one of which caused Wallace's high ankle sprain. I imagine that everyone in the Dawg Pound wishes Seneca a swift recovery from this dreaded injury.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Seahawkless Sunday

Bye weeks are hard on Seahawks Diehards. Waiting two weeks between games evokes the same sense of purposeless despair that pervades offseason Sundays.

Still, there are consolations. There are other football games. Had the Huskies come through last night, that would have helped immensely. So, one must look to today's games for solace. Aside from following my fantasy football players, I will, as always, follow the progress of ex-Seahawks. Today, that means flipping back and forth between the Browns and Lions games.

Although Jake Delhomme is active today, his ankle is not 100%, so Seneca Wallace will get the start. This gives Wallace--who led the Browns to their first victory of the season last week--one more chance to make the case for himself to start for the rest of the season. Fellow ex-Seahawk Pork Chop Womack continues to start on the Browns O-Line. Cleveland hosts Atlanta today.

The Detroit Lions recently picked up yet another Seahawks castoff: D-lineman Lawrence Jackson. This brings the number of Seattle exiles on their roster to six. However, Jackson and tailback Mo Morris are inactive today. Rob Sims continues to start on the O-Line, and last week signed a contract extension. Despite his lack of production, Detroit has not yet benched Nate Burleson. Will Heller plays special teams and sees spot time on offense as a blocking tight end. Julian Peterson continues to start on defense.The winless Lions will face the St. Louis Rams, who are riding high after breaking their 5-year losing streak against Seattle.

After he caught the game-winning touchdown for Baltimore last week, it will be interesting to see if Housh can play a larger role in the Ravens offense today in Denver.

Tonight's contest between Philadelphia and San Francisco offers an opportunity to see Owen Schmitt play fullback, and to see whether the hapless 49ers can defend their house and finally win a game for the first time this season.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This one's on Carroll

St. Louis is better this year, but they're not as good as Seattle made them look today. On the other hand, the Seahawks may be fully as bad as we appeared.

Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer wrote last week that the Seahawks are better than they look on paper. No, they're not. They're much worse.

Leon Washington set the tone early on, talking smack before the game to Rams punter Donnie Jones. This was stupid on multiple levels:

1) Kick returners shouldn't talk smack, because they rarely make an impact on the game. Washington is a fool if he believes that he'll be scoring return touchdowns on a regular basis.

2) Kick returners shouldn't talk smack, because they don't hit people, they get hit, by opponents with a long running start. Why give them extra motivation to tee off on you?

3) Kick returners who don't return punts shouldn't talk smack to punters. If Washington wanted to talk smack to the right person, he should have gotten in Josh Brown's face.

4) Talking smack is for bitches. Real men let their play do the talking.

To his credit, Jones--though just a punter--stood up to Washington. Jones, by the way, like Brown, is a former Seahawk. While Brown was perhaps the greatest kicker in Seahawks history, Jones got cut during a disastrous rookie season, but has since developed into one of the better punters in the league.

But today's loss lands squarely in Pete Carroll's lap.

Some criticized his use of the red challenge flag. I did not quibble with his first (successful) instant-replay challenge, though it only netted the team a few yards. However, his second challenge was foolish. Doesn't he have eyes upstairs? Did he know there was no visual evidence to support the challenge?

Why let Jon Ryan try to run for a first down when Olindo Mare can nail a 51-yard field goal?

But that's small potatoes. Carroll's lack of effective leadership hurts the team on a much deeper level.

Failures of defensive coaching were complicit in our defeat today. After our aggressive pass rush got scorched by a 49-yard screen pass to Rams running back Steven Jackson, our defensive adjustment was to blitz Sam Bradford again and get torched by a screen pass on the other side of the field, which St. Louis backup Kenneth Darby took for 21 yards and a touchdown.

I thought Carroll was supposed to be a defensive coach.

However, the offense remains our biggest problem. Our offense has gotten worse every week this season. Hasselbeck continues to function like a turnover machine (one interception, one fumble), but he's not getting a lot of help. He got sacked four times, and had several passes batted down at the line of scrimmage because defensive linemen were in his face.

A lack of playcalling imagination has contributed to our offensive underproduction. Aside from the occasional gimmick play--like the pass by fullback Michael Robinson to Leon Washington--the Seahawks don't have a very deep bag of tricks, and can't seem to establish an effective playcalling rhythm. Part of the problem is that Hasselbeck and the other veterans are playing their third offense in as many years, while trying to gel with a host of newcomers. The new offense's emphasis on improvisation appears to be a weakness, because Hasselbeck and his receivers are often clearly not on the same page.

Much of the trouble starts up front. We started the season with an offensive line that could pass block, but couldn't establish a ground game. Now, we have one that can run block passably, but can't provide adequate pass protection.

Of course, the O-line has been reshuffled constantly all season. Injuries dictated some of the changes, but others have reflected frenetic efforts to upgrade the unit by cutting training camp stalwarts and replacing them with waiver wire fodder. Consider the case of Mansfield Wrotto, a reserve guard who filled in admirably at left tackle during the last two exhibition games. His reward? Getting cut to make room for tackles Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini, who have yet to learn the system or make their mark for us.

The team's constant roster churn between games raises a real question: Is the payoff in talent upgrades (thus far unclear) worth the cost in terms of team morale? Maybe it motivates marginal players to perform because they know they can get cut in a heartbeat. Or perhaps it paralyzes them with fear and impairs their play because they know the team has no patience and no loyalty to their players.

This represents a jarring contrast with Pete Carroll's rah-rah approach to coaching, which depends in part upon the pretense that the coach actually cares about his players. In college ball, players have the security of knowing they won't lose their scholarships if they don't perform in a given game. Pro players have less security on every team in the league, but Seattle's ruthless personnel decisions this year have made our players among the least secure in the NFL.

Last week, the NFL Network's Sound FX show aired a segment from our home victory over the Chargers. The footage consisted of a miked Carroll shouting a girlishly high-pitched "Woooo!" every time something good happened on the field. It was embarassing, and it reminded me of similar footage of Dick Vermeil. However, the famously teary Vermeil cared about his players on a level that the mercenary Carroll probably does not and can not. Vermeil cried when he cut players. Does Carroll?

The signing of Brandon Stokley represented a tacit admission that the team made a mistake when it cut Housh. In Stokely, they sought to find the clutch possession receiver they lost when they let last year's leading receiver go. Hasselbeck's heavy reliance on Stokley today underscored the point; though new to the team, he is familiar with our scheme, and he was the team's leading receiver in a losing effort.

Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, TJ caught the game-winning touchdown for the Ravens.

In other ex-Seahawk news, Seneca Wallace logged another solid if unspectacular week behind center for Cleveland, leading the team to its first victory of the season over division rival Cincinnati. Chop Womack & the O-line opened holes for 100+ rushing yards and gave up only one sack.

Detroit put up a good fight against Green Bay, but former Seahawks contributed little. Mo Morris had as few touches as Burleson, who sat out with an injury. Rob Sims & the Lions O-line helped the offense exceed 100 yards on the ground and 300 through the air, and Julian Peterson logged a couple of tackles on defense.

In Philadelphia, fullback Owen Schmitt continues to represent, both as a blocker (the Eagles compiled more than 100 yards on the ground), but also as a receiver, grabbing three balls for 43 yards.

Finally, former Seahawks safety Deon Grant--now playing for the New York Giants--just nabbed a red zone interception from Bears backup Todd Collins, helping to preserve a victory for the home team.

The Seahawks--who for the third straight week have made their opposing quarterback look like a Pro Bowler--might have benefited from more depth in the defensive secondary. Trufant played heroically on a bum ankle, but Josh Wilson and Deon Grant would have come in handy today.

A pro-quality head coach would come in even handier.

A bad week for ex-Seahawks

Seattle's early kickoff today has disrupted my normal routine, preventing me from watching ex-Seahawks in the early games.

However, the winless Browns wisely opted to start a healthy Seneca Wallace over a gimpy Jake Delhomme in today's divisional showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Wallace looked sharp last week in Cleveland's loss to the Ravens, completing more than 70% of his passes. However, some of his old bad habits continue to tell: he still checks down too often on third down, accepting less than first-down yardage rather than risk throwing down the field. As he sometimes did with the Seahawks, Wallace--when pressured in the backfield at one point--scrambled to buy time, but instead of throwing the ball away, he ran out of bounds, taking a 6-yard loss and awarding a sack to the defense. Still, Wallace has clearly outplayed Delhomme and deserves to keep the starting job.

Pork Chop Womack played well; he and the rest of the Browns' O-Line helped their runners grind out 173 rushing yards.

TJ Houshmandzadeh played little for the Ravens last week. After getting little production from Housh in the 3-wideout set, Baltimore reverted to a standard 2-wide receiver offense, relegating the ex-Seahawk to the bench. In the fourth quarter, Housh came off the pine to make a clutch first-down catch, keep a drive alive, and help his team drain the clock and keep the lead. Presumably, Baltimore expects more value from Housh; maybe they'll get it today in Pittsburgh.

Josh Wilson played in Baltimore's nickel packages, covering receivers effectively and recording one tackle.

Cory Redding made a couple of tackles, but sustained an injury and is out this week.

Nate Burleson, instead of embodying his Transformers identity ("Recepticon") was once again Receptican't. Remember when Nate came to the Seahawks and needed a year or two to adapt to our offense? It looks like he's having the same growing pains in Detroit, with the same disappointing underproduction. Last week, Burleson didn't catch a ball, but he did get injured, so he's inactive today against the Packers.

Rob Sims and Detroit's O-line failed to move the Williams Wall. The team gained fewer than 70 yards on the ground, but the line surrendered only one sack to the Vikings.
Mo Morris had more opportunities last week. He failed to capitalize on the ground, gaining 6 yards on 5 carries, but he was a factor through the air, catching 5 passes for 36 yards.
Julian Peterson made 5 tackles, but the Lions defense got rolled, surrendering 24 points and letting Adrian Peterson gouge them for 160 yards.
Life won't get any easier for Detroit on the road today in Green Bay.

The Rams are Lambs no more

Playing St. Louis used to be a gimme win. No matter how bad the Seahawks got in the last two seasons, we managed to perpetuate our domination of the hapless Lambs.

However, these are not the Rams of yesteryear. Don't let their 1-2 record fool you. Consider, for starters, that the Seahawks barely escaped winding up with that same record last week.

St. Louis looks good this year. Their many years of futility have begun to pay off: in stark contrast to Matt Millen's Detroit Lions, the Rams have managed to translate favorable draft position into on-field talent. Their rookie quarterback is playing improbably well. Their D-line looks fierce. In past years, the Rams got blown out. This year, they've played their opponents close, including good teams like the Philadelphia Eagles.

So, the Seahawks have their work cut out for them. We play poorly on the road, especially in early games. If we hope to win, we need to field the balanced and consistent offense we haven't seen thus far this year. The O-Line needs to step up, dominate the line of scrimmage, establish the run, and keep our QB upright. Hasselbeck needs to return to form and shed his recent habit of throwing at least one interception per game.

Our solid run defense should be able to shut down a gimpy Stephen Jackson and his backups. However, we also need a consistent pass rush to pressure Sam Bradford. We need to stop making opposing quarterbacks (Kyle Orton, Philip Rivers) look like All-Pros.

Of course, if Leon Washington and our special teams could be special again, that would be great, too.

Go, Hawks!