For something different, yesterday I decided to try going into Qwest Field stone cold sober. Actually, it was more about circumstances beyond my control but nonetheless, I walked into the stadium in a completely non-alcohol fueled state. Hell, nothing else had worked so far in turning my team around and at 2-5; the Seahawks needed my help badly so a little sobriety seemed like a small price to pay.
At the end of the first quarter, Seattle was down 17-0 and had me eying up my neighbor’s beers like a dog drooling at a butcher shop’s window. Not only had Detroit put together a fine drive after taking the kickoff only to have the Lions kicker, Jason Hanson, shank the kick into the upright, but Seattle’s first two offensive plays had produced two turnovers! The first six Seattle offensive plays produced two turnovers, three runs for losses and a short gain pass. No first downs anywhere in that mix.
I realize some Seahawks fans may have felt Detroit was an easy win coming in what with the horrid record and the rookie quarterback, but I was not so sure. Maybe it was the lack of alcohol, but looking at the statistics, Detroit is not the worst team in the league. They are not great but they are improving and are better, again statistically, than the St Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders. If Seattle couldn’t come out and play against them, and play well, then all the talk about rebounding in the second half of the season was meaningless. It would be time to start looking at next year. Some voices in my section already were before kickoff.
As I searched for something to give me a buzz and relieve the agony of the scoreboard, the Seahawks woke up as Lions QB Matthew Stafford decided Christmas came early to the Pacific Northwest and he wanted to be Santa by gifting Seattle five interceptions. Seattle had only come up with three picks in the last seven games so five did seem like a Christmas miracle. It definitely was music to my ears, like that Christmas angel was singing for me.
It was the last pick that is my play of the game. Detroit got the ball from a Seahawks punt with 2:03 left in the game and down by five, 25-20. Stafford had thrown four interceptions but was moving the ball against a Seahawks defense that seemed determined to not let anyone get deep and also not cover the tight end at the same time. Stafford reverted back to his 1st quarter form, hitting the open receiver and making the right decision. Seattle’s defensive line wasn’t getting enough pressure and the coaches didn’t want to throw a blitz in there. Finally, with 35 seconds left, Stafford threw a pass to the left that no Lions receiver was near. Seattle CB Josh Wilson, arguably the fastest man on the team, however was there and he caught it for Stafford’s fifth and final interception of the day. For the icing, Wilson returned it 61 yards and a touchdown for the nail in the Lions’ coffin and my play of the game.
1. Defense. From the start, the defense played well. The score could have easily been worse with the Seahawks offense not just shooting themselves in the foot, they were going full blown Kathy Bates' Misery mode on those feet. To give up 17 points in the first quarter and then only 3 the rest of the game, the defense played well.
2. Interceptions. Five interceptions are always going to be a good that much is obvious. The cliché is that these things come in bunches. Maybe wins will too.
3. Matt Hasselbeck. He started badly, throwing an interception with his first attempt, but as the veteran leader he is, Hasselbeck took control of the team, dropped the running game which was not working at all, and took what Detroit’s defense gave him.
4. Louis Rankin. It was the former University of Washington Huskies first game with the Seahawks and all he did was return kicks. The first kick fell between him and Justin Forsett while they looked at each other but when he did get his feet wet, Rankin looked like the return threat Seattle has needed since Bobby Joe Edmonds left town.
5. David Hawthorne. Some people wanted to put him in the good after his strong statistical game against Dallas last week. I resisted because I felt that, yes, he had a lot of tackles but no, he didn’t look to me to be playing a great game. Granted, he’s filling in for Lofa Tatupu but he over pursued badly, especially on the Marion Barber touchdown. Against Detroit, I felt Hawthorne showed that while he might not be as good as Tatupu, he can fill in for him and he’s learning quickly.
1. Running Game. For some reason, Julius Jones could not get going against a Detroit defense that is not noted for stopping the run. On a couple of runs, I felt Jones took the wrong path on his blockers. One run in particular, late in the third quarter or early in the fourth, the whole offensive line was blocking right. Jones came to the line and then cut right, directly into the defensive line. To his left was a hole made by an over pursuing defender where Jones could have made some nice yardage. In Jones’ defense, he did catch 6 passes for 78 yards, leading the team in yards received.
2. Long passes. There was some talk before the game in my section that Hasselbeck has lost his arm strength. I laughed at that time but watching him check down constantly or run a screen pass had me questioning either the play calling or an injury issue. It may have been that Hasselbeck was taking was available but I didn’t see him throw more than a couple of times over 10-12 yards.
3. The first quarter. Seattle suffered the first quarter blues against Arizona and again against Detroit. In the Cardinals game, the Seahawks could not recover. Detroit might have been able to hold on for a win too if Stafford had been able to hit his receivers better. Seattle cannot depend on getting five picks again. They have to start the game better.
1. The number 17. That’s how many points Seattle gave up in the first quarter while making the Lions look like world beaters. It could have been worse too if Jason Hanson could have made that first kick.
2. Play calling. I’m leaning towards the play calling being at fault more than anything else. There were sparks there, such as the play that had Seneca Wallace line up as a wide receiver, take the hand off from Hasselbeck and then hit TJ Houshmandzadeh over the middle for a big gain, but they were too far, too few by a long shot.
3. Julian Peterson. I didn’t really care for the whole pointing at his name thing while he was in Seattle. It seemed petty and got him a taunting call in one game. Coming back to Seattle, it just turned the 12th man against him needlessly. Julian, the fans weren’t the ones that traded you.
Now sitting at 3-5, only a game back from the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks have to ask themselves if they are really in a playoff hunt or just pretending. The results have been decidedly mixed due to injuries and very spotty play. There are still flashes of the great team there but they are getting harder to spot, especially when the Seahawks get down early.
Coming up, the Seahawks play their next three games on the road in Arizona, Minnesota and St Louis. How they return home after the road trip will say a lot about how far this team will go as well as who will be around next year. For the playoffs, Seattle must win at least two of these games.