Panic Averted!

Oct 11, 2009, 7:11 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

By Mike Salk

Thoughts while waiting for the Jaguars to show up here in Seattle…oh wait. That already happened!

I guess we can put the “rebuilding talk” on hold for a little while, huh?

This is exactly why I refused to spend last week claiming the sky was falling. It’s why I preached patience and told those of you who wanted to bash the team to wait a week. Falling to 1-3 was no fun, but everything looks worse right after a bad loss (like the one in Indy). With their quarterback returning and other reinforcements returning soon, the Hawks are right back in the thick of things. This was a must win game, but they rose to that challenge.

In fact, everything went right for the Seahawks on Sunday…on both sides of the ball. Whereas over the past few weeks, we watched the offense stall each time it got past midfield, today it was able to finish in style. After a punt and two field goals on the first three trips into Jaguars territory, they scored touchdowns on their following four attempts. Only the end of the 4th quarter was able to stop them from a fifth touchdown!

Defensively, they were essentially perfect, pitching their second shutout of the year. They harassed the Jags at every level. The defensive line was constantly in the backfield; the linebackers hit well in the flats and plugged the gaps; and the secondary was well-positioned throughout.

It was also the defense that set the tone late in the first quarter. Facing a 4th and 1 near the goal, they rose to the occasion and protected their house. Special credit on that play goes to Deon Grant and Ken Lucas who held their coveredge on the play, and to Lofa Tatupu for pressuring David Garrard into throwing it away. The defense was not intimidated and they dictated play from that point on. Could that be a galvanizing moment for this unit? Only time will tell, but it was the type of stand that could lead to great things down the line.

So who are the Seahawks?

After five games, it seems nearly impossible to tell. They have been playoff-caliber in their two wins, pitiful on the road in Indianapolis, and frustrating against San Francisco and Chicago. But with the 49ers losing badly to the Falcons this week and the Cardinals coming to town next weekend, first place in the mediocre NFC West doesn’t seen so out of reach anymore. Amazing that we can say that when a loss to the Jags might have ended this season less than half-way through. But such is the fine line of a week-to-week existence in the NFL. It should be fun to re-ask this question in seven days…now let’s get to the best and worst from a great win!

Offense

Good:

1. Matt Hasselbeck. There is a reason people talk about the importance of the quarterback position and it was on display Sunday at Qwest Field. The difference between the “Seahawks with Matt Hasselbeck” and the “Seahawks with Seneca Wallace” might as well have been night and day. He was smart, accurate, focused, brave, mobile and in charge. The four touchdowns were the obvious reward for a day spent making good decisions and hanging in the pocket despite his sore ribs.

The best moment of the day happened less than six minutes into the game and it wasn’t even a scoring play. It was Matt Hasselbeck scrambling for nine yards, taking a hit out of bounds, and popping right back up to sprint to the huddle. Right then and there, you knew he was healthy, excited, and in charge.

Where are all the Hasselbeck haters today that called the show asking why the team had passed on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez? Where is everyone that claimed he was too injury prone, too old, or too inaccurate? He showed again today that when he is healthy enough to play, the team is still in good hands.

2. TJ Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson. They were both difference-makers and booth played complete games. Housh showed early how he can be a possession receiver, making some great catches in traffic for first downs. But his speed was on display on his first touchdown as he raced down the sideline after a nice fake.

It was a similar story for Burleson, who once again led the team with six receptions. He was open when he sat down in zones, open when he kept running against man-to-man coverage, and he showed his open-field playmaking ability on his first touchdown.

3. Kyle Williams. It’s hard to believe I’m writing about another injury on the Seahawks offensive line, but when third-string left tackle Brandon Frye left the game early in the first quarter with an apparent stinger, there was Williams to fill the hole. The fourth-string former practice squadder held his own though, protecting Matt’s blind side ably. The Jags finished with just one sack and four hits on the quarterback, only one of those hits coming from right defensive end Derrick Harvey. Credit Williams for stepping in.

Bad:

1. Julius Jones. 12 carries for 34 yards and an average of just 2.8 yards per carry isn’t good enough. He had all kinds of trouble trying to get around the edge and wasn’t able to drive the pile on his inside runs. Too many 3rd and 7’s. Also, the running game was more effective with Edgerrin James or Justin Forsett in the game.

2. John Carlson and John Owens. The two catches by Carlson were nice, but the tight ends were a liability in the running game. The sweeps and off-tackle plays were largely ineffective, and that usually comes back to the tight end’s inability to seal the edge.

3. Deon Butler. Still waiting for the little speedster to get it going. I have seen some nice things from him at times, but Deion Branch was the third receiver for most of the game, and Butler hasn’t made much of an impact yet. He has just three receptions for 30 yards so far, while 5th round pick Johnny Knox has already caught 14 balls for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Chicago. Both guys are undersized speedsters, but so far Knox has been much more productive.

Good/Bad:

1. Owen Schmitt. I’m not sure what to think of him smashing his own head with his helmet before the game. Obviously, you have to love the passion and toughness to play through the blood. And if it fired up the team, I guess I can’t complain. But I also have to question the wisdom of hitting yourself in the head with a heavy, hard object, especially when the other fullback on the roster is inactive. You have to be smarter than that! Right?

Defense

Good:

1. Aaron Curry. The rookie was immense in every phase of the game. He rushed the passer well, sacking David Garrard and forcing a fumble. He played well in space, making plays after starting off the line of scrimmage, and he finished as the team’s leading tackler. A few days after admitting that he had toned down some of his aggressiveness to avoid getting fined by the league, he seemed to have found a way to play at the edge without going over it.

Again, where are the “Draft Mark Sanchez” folks today?

2. Darryl Tapp and Lawrence Jackson. No Patrick Kerney? No problem. In fact, these two guys provided more pressure than Kerney has over the past few weeks. Tapp basically set up residence in Garrad’s kitchen. He finished with four tackles (two for losses), a sack and four hits on the quarterback. The sack was a thing of a beauty too. He used a quick swim move on rookie tackle Eugene Monroe and was by him in a flash.

Meanwhile, Jackson played a very strong game. I really like his combination of quickness and strength. It allows him to pressure the passer (two QB hits) and still hold strong against the run.

 

89786 Reed3. Nick Reed and Cory Redding. Reed came on late and played well. Not a bad day when you can pick up a sack and then collect a fumble and rumble 79 yards for a touchdown. Congrats to the seventh round pick from Oregon, now maybe he can get a new picture on NFL.com!

As for Redding, he was active throughout this one. And you have to love the hands on his interception. Maybe he can teach Kelly Jennings how to catch!

Bad:

1. Kelly Jennings. Should have had an easy pick in the second quarter, but he let the ball go right through his hands. Obviously, it didn’t matter too much in this game, but you have to take advantage when the quarterback gives one away.

2. The Houston Texans. The could have helped the Hawks out today but they let Arizona run wild early. Kurt Warner was 20-23 for 262 yards while scoring 21 points in the first half. The Texans came back to tie it, but weren’t able to knock off the defending NFC Champs.

3. That’s all I got. Come on! It was another shutout! Was this really the same team that was torched so badly a week ago?

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Panic Averted!