Sunday, December 11, 2005
Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
Play Of The Day: It should have been Joe Jurevicius’ second touchdown catch, but you’ll read about that in “Zebra Hunt”. I’ll give the award to Josh Scobey’s end-around to Maurice Morris on the opening kickoff, because I just wanted to see what it would look like for a Seahawks special teams play to earn POTD Status. Scobey took the ball the first 13 yards from the Seattle 1-yard line, then handed off to Morris, who picked up 21 more yards and left the Seahawks with good position at their own 35. One can always hope for further effective chicanery from the return teams, but one has also been burned a bit too much on that score.
Zebra Hunt: Well, this was a surprise. In the past, I have had nothing but respect for Ed Hochuli, his crews, and his fitness regimen. I had assumed that being in such great shape was the difference-maker in the quality of his work (he’s about the only official who doesn’t consistently hose up calls in the games I happen to be watching). However, Ed must have had some sort of amino acid breakdown or potassium deficiency or something, because this game had several instances of the sort of horrible officiating I'd expect from Mike Carey or Tom White. I understand that if I lodge too fervent a complaint, NFL Head of Officials Mike Pereira won’t read “MMQB” for two weeks.
Not that he does anyway.
As always, we’ll just list the goof-ups, in order of occurrence:
1. With 8:05 left in the second quarter, Matt Hasselbeck took the snap at the San Francosco 28-yard line on 3rd and 13. LB Julian Peterson took off a little early on a blitz from the left edge, and he was obviously offsides – he was practically on the Seahawks’ side of the ball pre-snap. Nonetheless, no call was made as Peterson sacked Hasselbeck at the 34. Josh Brown kicked a 52-yard field goal on the next play.
2. 6:35 left in the second quarter, and 49ers QB Alex Smith took the ball in shotgun formation from the San Francisco 37. Smith threw a comeback to Brandon Lloyd, who was covered tightly by Marcus Trufant. Trufant got a push and engaged Lloyd within the legal five-yard area, but it was Lloyd who very obviously pushed Trufant away as he turned around to get a read on the ball. Lloyd then fell forward on his own steam, and head linesman Mark Hittner called an illegal contact penalty on Trufant from the back side of the play. Keep in mind here that no penalty was called on Lloyd, despite the fact that his contact was outside the five-yard area.
3. 5:08 left in the second quarter. San Francisco faced 2nd and 18 from their own 37. Smith took the snap and got pressure from Bryce Fisher. In a hurry to get rid of the ball, he tried a quick throw, but lost possession of the ball before his hand went forward. Lofa Tatupu picked up the ball, and had nothing but blue sky and an easy six in front of him. The officials blew the ball dead, with no evidence whatsoever that Smith was protected by the Tuck Rule – probably because he wasn’t.
4. This was the real goober. With 14 seconds remaining in the first half, Seattle had the ball at the San Francisco 32-yard line. Matt Hasselbeck threw an Alley-Oop to Joe Jurevicius in the right corner of the end zone. Jurevicius jumped up, made the grab and came down in the back right corner with possession, and both feet clearly in bounds. Side judge Paul Szelc immediately ruled that Jurevicius was out of bounds (which he wasn’t)…and then, Jurevicius was called for pass interference. In reviewing the play, two things are obvious. First, Jurevicius put his hand on the left shoulder pad of cornerback Bruce Thornton for a split second, but in no way impeded his ability to cover. Second, both Jurevicius and Thornton were looking up at the ball when the contact was made.
Here’s the real question on this play: Why didn’t the booth review it? Assuming that the offsetting penalties are the deciding factor there doesn’t do much for me, considering the fact that the penalty on Jurevicius was bunk. Mike Holmgren was doing quite a bit of barking at the officials at the half, and he had every right to do so.
Pretty sloppy coming from you, Ed…
Handouts To The Standouts: Jordan Babineaux, for stepping into Andre Dyson’s shoes and engaging the jets…The Two Marcuses – Tubbs, for his constant disruption at the line and two sacks, and Trufant for his essential coverage help and leadership as this secondary gets a bit younger for now…Shaun Alexander, for breaking the record for consecutive 100-yard games against division opponents with his ninth (formerly held by Walter Payton in 1976), scoring his 23rd touchdown, and busting out a Karate Kid “Crane Technique” end-zone celebration (thank you, Mr. Miyagi!)…Matt Hasselbeck, for efficiently driving the team down the field again and again…Joe Jurevicius, for excelling as Hasselbeck’s pointman, and for not blowing his stack when a touchdown was stolen from him…Bobby Engram, for being so “Bobby-Engramesque” (how’s THAT for a Peter King-ism?)…Mack Strong, because we just don’t recognize this pillar of leadership and Rock of the Block nearly as often as we should…Seattle’s defense, for a spirit of tandem togetherness that defines the truly great stop units…
…and to Ken Hamlin, who gave everyone a thrill with his attendance on the sidelines. Keep it goin’ Hammer…we’re with you all the way.
Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: External factors (the officials and the Fox crew of Ron Pitts and Tim Ryan) couldn’t spoil the enjoyment of such a dominant win, but let’s just say that I’m glad Pitts at least tried to recover his footing after that “Lofa Tatupu wasn’t drafted” gaffe. Other than that, the Seahawks have outscored two opponents 83-3 in less than a week. What the hell do I have to complain about?
Offense: Seattle’s first drive against the Eagles last Monday was a pure killer, a 16-play, 65-yard deliberate and measured attack which consumed over half of the first quarter and broke Philly’s spirit. Against San Francisco, the Seahawks came out quicker than quick, establishing tempo from the start and running play after play before the defense had a chance to breathe. The first drive, which ended with a 28-yard TD pass to Bobby Engram, covered 65 yards and took 4:20 and 8 plays. Drive #2 took 4:39, covered 85 yards in 10 plays, and ended on the first play of the second quarter with Hasselbeck’s 8-yard TD to Jerramy Stevens.
For San Francisco, it was all over from there.
Seattle was assisted by a truly horrific number of 49er coverage collapses, but there were other times when Seattle started the fire. Stevens’ TD was a good example - Shaun Alexander was sent in motion as a receiver out of the backfield, which split the coverage enough for Stevens to beat a defender who had no help in the middle of the end zone. Engram’s TD was aided by DB Ben Emanuel, who came up to the line at the last second and ran short zone coverage with no help behind him. Engram just blew right by Emanuel and into the end zone.
Shaun Alexander began to rip off chunks of yardage in Seattle’s second drive, exploiting perfect seams for runs of 10 and 16 yards. The key play in that drive, however, was Hasselbeck’s pass to Jurevicius with 1:03 left in the first quarter. On 3rd and 6 from the San Francisco 36, Hasselbeck got the ball to #87 on a 10-yard slant, after stepping up in a hastily collapsing pocket. Jurevicius fought for another 15 yards on the play, epitomizing his determination.
The 49ers had the ball for exactly one play after the second drive, as an untidy handoff between Alex Smith and Kevan Barlow was recovered by Lofa Tatupu at the San Francisco 21. On the very next play, Hasselbeck hit Jurevicius in the left corner of the end zone on a jump ball over Shawntae Spencer, putting Seattle up 21-3. At that point Hasselbeck was 8 of 9 for 103 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers. No doubt there are those who will discount his efforts on the day, coming as they did against the worst pass defense in the NFL. But Hasselbeck made the plays he needed to make, and he had the game so out of balance from a competitive standpoint that he only played three quarters. In that context, his final stats (21/25, 226 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT) begin to look a bit more impressive.
Seneca Wallace ran the offense efficiently in the fourth quarter, going 3 of 5 for 33 yards after Mike Holmgren replaced half the first team.
Defense: Not unlike their oft-confused secondary, San Francisco’s inefficient, rookie-led offense figured to be an easy mark. Still, with Andre Dyson and Jamie Sharper done for the season and D.D. Lewis replaced in this game by Kevin Bentley, there was some speculation that the 49ers might replicate their gutsy effort on November 20th against Seattle in Frisco’s Monster Park, when they lost a 27-25 heartbreaker and were an incomplete two-point conversion away from taking the game into overtime with momentum.
But Seattle’s defense, still soaking up the excitement from their 42-0 demolition of the Eagles on Monday night, laid down the smack right from the start. San Francisco’s one sign of life, an 11-play, 43-yard drive in the first quarter that ended in a Joe Nedney field goal, was followed by several door slams in the face. Alex Smith completed 9 passes in 22 attempts for 77 yards and an interception. While Smith may be a fine quarterback in time, he was obviously in over his head.
The two players who made the difference in San Francisco’s November 20th near-win, WR Brandon Lloyd and RB Maurice Hicks, were eliminated from any real difference-making on this day. San Francisco managed only 62 yards on the ground all day, and Lloyd was so well-covered by cornerbacks Trufant and Babineaux that he was able to grab only 3 catches for 37 yards. Trufant played what may have been the best game of a sometimes-frustrating season, making great plays and displaying his pinpoint tackling ability on several occasions. Babineaux, starting in Dyson’s place, proved his mettle and allowed his teammates to breathe a bit easier. It appears that Babineaux can handle all that his new status entails, and this replacement value has helped establish Seattle’s newly dominant defense.
Another key aspect of this dominance has been the linebackers – two in particular. There were precious few handsprings and huzzahs last April when the Seahawks drafted USC’s Lofa Tatupu in the second round and Clemson’s Leroy Hill in the third. Nevertheless, these gentlemen are two rather large feathers in the collective cap of Seattle’s scouting department, and they both could lay legitimate claim to Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Tatupu, as he has always been, was all over the place. His interception and fumble recovery (not to mention the second fumble recovery that was stolen from him) tell only half the story. Again, we must remember that this kid is calling the plays for the defense, and is in the right place at the right time so often, it speaks to near-psychic ability. Hill, who led all Seahawks tacklers with six, has outproduced most NFL rookie ‘backers despite an MLB/OLB switch from college to pro, and a criminal lack of recognition at this level. It’s as if the national media, having finally recognized Tatupu’s brilliance, can’t believe that Seattle may just have two rookie future All-Pros starting and starring…but that is precisely what the they have. From the front four to the deepest safety, Seattle’s defense is a no-name unit playing at an All-World level.
To put today’s effort in perspective…the last time the 49ers crossed the 50-yard line was with 12:36 remaining in the second quarter, and San Francisco racked up only 113 total yards, the fewest ever allowed by a Seahawks defense.
You want dominance? THAT’S dominance - I don’t care who you’re playing.
Summary: What could be better than this? Seattle’s ninth straight win, a new franchise record. The most points scored in two consecutive games since 1988. Two games up on the rest of the NFC for home field advantage through the playoffs with three games to go, and the end of doubt as to who the second-best team in the NFL might be (not to mention a big, fat “PHBBBBT!!!!” to anyone around the country who hasn’t bothered to read that memo!)
More importantly, what we see now is the personification of the preseason goals and dreams of a team that had to find belief in each other, given the NFL’s lack of belief in them. When intangibles stack on top of each other so perfectly, and teammates work in concert so flawlessly, the tempered hopes of the frequently dogbit Seahawks fans can slowly turn to the reckless dreams of the championship chase.
This is the gift freely given by the 2005 Seahawks to their fans – and to themselves.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.