Hitting the quarter pole of the season at 1-3 was not how the Seahawks or their fans saw this year unfolding. Visions of last year’s 4-12 finish flashed all too familiarly close while watching the first four games. 2005 seemed so long ago.
As fans, we all have our little rituals; things that we sincerely believe play a part in whether our team wins or loses. For me, and my group, we like to leave our houses at the same time, hit the first train leaving Tacoma, leave the train and go directly to a Seattle bar that has a ton of TVs showing all the early games while we partake in the amber nectar. Usually the bar is packed and we have to force our way through crowds of people to get to the bar.
For this game, the place was only a little over half full. We strolled in and were shocked to see open aisles and more importantly, an open space by the bar. More shocking was the lack of a roar in the place. People seemed to be hunkered down in their beer, stockpiling for the complete unknown that we were going to be seeing.
Matt Hasselbeck was going to be starting against the Jacksonville Jaguars instead of Seneca Wallace. Wallace is a better-than-average backup but the distance between him and Hasselbeck is a large one. Despite this, fans were worried that he was coming back from the rib injury too early. What would happen the first time he got hit? Would our season crash with him to the turf?
Early in the game, the team seemed to have the same feeling. Everyone seemed tentative and cautious until the clock went under 10 minutes to play in the first quarter. In what is my play of the game, Hasselbeck went back to pass deep in Seahawks territory after a Jaguars punt. He scanned the field but the coverage was good. For a moment, the stadium seemed to suck in all the oxygen as the crowd held its breath in that awful, oh my god, he’s going to get hit feeling spread like the swine flu. Hasselbeck scrambled for a moment trying to find an open receiver before pulling the ball down and heading into the open field ahead of him. The woman next to me screamed for Hasselbeck to slide even though no one was near him and he ran on, harder and faster, until finally getting out of bounds with a push from a defender. There was an audible exhale as the crowd watched Hasselbeck run back onto the field, pumping his fist in exultation. Cheers erupted and everyone relaxed as we all realized that yes, Matt is back.
From that point on, the Seahawks clicked. Suddenly the routes were crisp and open. The ball was delivered on time and on location. Everything worked as the Seahawks got rolling on offense and defense. The Seahawks went up 3-0. The Jaguars drive down the field, get into a 4th and 1 inside the Seattle 20 but fail to convert. Besides a late drive that ended when David Garrad was stripped of the ball and Seahawks rookie defensive end Nick Reed returned for a touchdown, which was close as the Jaguars got to scoring.
1. Matt Hasselbeck: 18-for-30, 244 yards, four touchdowns, zero picks. He also ran for 23 yards on three carries. As the leader of this team, the season rides on him. It was great seeing number 8 out there again.
2. Nate Burleson: Six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. The best one was three minutes before halftime; a 44-yarder after Burleson broke a tackle and outran everyone for the end zone.
3. TJ Houshmandzadeh: five catches for 77 yards and his first two touchdowns in a Seahawks uniform.
4. Nick Reed. I love seeing a defensive lineman running with the ball. It’s a bonus when it’s a 79-yard touchdown run.
5. Brandon Mebane. The defense is anchored by Mebane; he is the stud that sets the foundation. Is it a coincidence that the only game he missed was the game Frank Gore ran for over 200 yards?
6. Owen Schmitt. He broke his own nose during the pregame announcements by bashing his head with his own helmet. While some might find that silly, I know I was impressed.
7. The defense. Finally, this defense was flying around again, making plays and hitting hard. Getting five sacks and holding Maurice Jones-Drew to 34 yards on 12 carries is a great result.
1. Injuries. It isn’t a Seahawks game if someone isn’t going out. In this game, it was third string left tackle Brandon Frye. Frye has been doing a decent job in place of All-Universe Walter Jones and slightly lesser Sean Locklear. Seeing him laid out early, with Hasselbeck already in a fragile state and three-fifths of the starting offensive line out, it was not an injury the Seahawks wanted to see. Kyle Williams came in to take over. He had been signed off of the practice squad on Saturday and the first play was a run to the left side. Welcome to the game, he and the offensive line acquitted itself nicely only giving up one sack and one run for a loss.
1. False Starts. I’m not going to complain about the referees. On a whole, they called a very even game. Both teams could have been called a few times on pass interference. However, the fans get a free Jones Soda when the opposing team has three or more false starts. The Jacksonville left tackle stepped back with his outside leg almost every play before the snap and I wanted my soda.
Last week I compared the Seahawks offense to the Fuller Brush Salesman knocking on the door and the end zone hiding behind the couch. This week, that Fuller Brush Salesman smashed the door open, drank all the beer in the fridge and shagged the end zone’s wife. I know which salesman I preferred seeing out there.
This week possibly saved the season, a kiss of life for a team on the ground and on life support. Next week we will find out if this team will take that second chance and use it. Arizona is coming to Seattle in possibly the game of the season for Seattle. A win would take the Seahawks to 3-3 going into the bye week. We will be getting Marcus Trufant back, possibly Sean Locklear, Rob Sims, Leroy Hill, and Walter Jones. At full strength, this team could be a force to be reckoned with for the NFC West.
For my part, at the bar before the win against St Louis, we drank two buckets of beer. Before the loss to Chicago, we had one. Yesterday I made to sacrifice to have two despite not really wanting to drink much. It paid off; we won so you know on Sunday you will find me in that bar drinking two more buckets for my Seahawks. I’m doing my part guys. Don’t let me down.