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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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January 29, 2008 11:00 AM

A moment with Matt

Posted by Jose Romero

I spoke with Matt Hasselbeck about an hour ago. He's in Phoenix for a Campbell's Chunky Soup campaign -- He and his mother Betsy were stars of the soup commercials this past season.

I asked Matt several questions about Seahawks-related matters. Here's a couple of highlights:

On being in Arizona and not playing in the Super Bowl: "It's tough to be here...Had we played better in the regular season, maybe we don’t have to go to Green Bay. You just have to use it as motivation for next year.”

On Mike Holmgren coming back: "“I wasn’t sure if he was going to come back or not. The challenge for us will be to be really come together as a team so next year we get to play in this game.”

On Jim Zorn leaving: "It's almost like he's heartbroken to leave Seattle...He's meant a lot to my career. He has taken me from a guy who's thrown 29 passes and nowhere to the person I am now."


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January 28, 2008 11:56 AM

Coaching changes

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The Seahawks are in the midst of the most significant changes to their coaching staff since 2003, but it's also worth keeping in mind that coaching staffs are a fluid entity, and one of the biggest questions to ask when a staff undergoes some shifts is where those coaches head in terms of a career coaching ladder.

Nolan Cromwell took a job as an offensive coordinator for Mike Sherman at Texas A&M. That's a step up. Jim Zorn is going to Washington as offensive coordinator, also a promotion. The Seahawks made a change on the offensive line, bringing in Mike Solari.

The departure of Ray Rhodes comes after his contract with the Seahawks expired, and he is in a position where he wanted a more defined role on the staff.

Below lists the coaching staff since Mike Holmgren arrived in 1999. The number in paraentheses indicates the number of new members added to the staff so it doesn't reflect when a position coach moves areas of responsibility. I also listed the quality control and strength and conditioning coaches. The history is drawn from the team's media guides.

  1999 2000 (3) 2001 (2) 2002 (2) 2003 (6)
O.Coordinator Mike Sherman Gil Haskell Haskell Haskell Haskell
D.Coordinator Fritz Shurmur* Steve Sidwell Sidwell Sidwell Ray Rhodes
Special teams Pete Rodriguez Rodriguez Rodriguez Rodriguez Rodriguez
Asst. special teams   Johnny Holland Mark Michaels Michaels Michaels
DL Larry Brooks Brooks Brooks Brooks Dwaine Board
Asst. DL       Zerick Rollins Rollins
LBs Jim Lind Ken Flajole Johnny Holland Johnny Holland John Marshall
DBs Ken Flajole Dick Roach Ken Flajole Ken Flajole Teryl Austin
Asst. DBs          
QBs Mike Sheppard Mike Sheppard Jim Zorn Zorn Zorn
RBs Stump Mitchell Mitchell Mitchell Mitchell Mitchell
WRs Nolan Cromwell Cromwell Cromwell Cromwell Cromwell
TEs Mike Sherman Jim Lind Lind Lind Lind
OL Tom Lovat Lovat Lovat Lovat Lovat
Asst. OL       Bill Laveroni Laveroni
Defensive assistant Dick Roach        
Defensive assistant Bob Zeman        
Off. quality control Jerry Colquitt Colquitt Colquitt Colquitt Gary Reynolds
Def. quality control Clayton Lopez Lopez Lopez Lopez Lopez
Strength Kent Johnston Johnston Johnston Johnston Johnston
Asst. strength Rod Springer Springer Springer Springer Darren Krein
Strength asst.       Bill Gillespie Gillespie
*Shurmur died before the season began. LB coach Jim Lind served as Seattle's defensive coordinator during regular season.
  2004 (1) 2005 (1) 2006 (4) 2007 (2) 2008 (3)
O.Coord. Haskell Haskell Haskell Haskell Haskell
D.Coord. Rhodes Rhodes* John Marshall Marshall Marshall
Special teams Mark Michaels Bob Casullo Casullo Bruce DeHaven DeHaven
Asst. special teams   John Jamison Jamison Jamison Jamison
DL Board Board Board Board Board
Asst. DL Rollins Rollins      
LBs Marshall Marshall Zerick Rollins Rollins Rollins
DBs Austin Austin Austin Jim Mora Mora
Asst. DBs     Larry Marmie Marmie Marmie
QBs Zorn Zorn Zorn Zorn VACANT
RBs Mitchell Mitchell Mitchell Mitchell Mitchell
WRs Cromwell Cromwell Cromwell Cromwell Keith Gilbertson
TEs Lind Lind Lind Lind Lind
OL Bill Laveroni Laveroni Laveroni Laveroni Mike Solari
Asst. OL     Keith Gilbertson Gilbertson  
Defensive assistant       Ray Rhodes Ray Rhodes
Defensive assistant          
Off. quality control Reynolds Reynolds Reynolds Reynolds VACANT
Def. quality control     Tom Headlee Headlee Headlee
Strength Mike Clark Clark Clark Clark Clark
Asst. strength Krein Krein Krein Krein Krein
*Rhodes suffered a mild stroke the week before the regular season began. John Marshall was acting defensive coordinator during the season.

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January 27, 2008 1:42 PM

Chargers and Saints, not the Seahawks

Posted by Jose Romero

So say reports out of San Diego. The Union-Tribune newspaper reports that the Chargers will play the New Orleans Saints in London on Oct. 26.

The Seahawks were among the teams being considered for the venture. The NFL put on a regular-season game in London last season between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins.

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January 25, 2008 4:35 PM

Mr. Zorn goes to Washington

Posted by Danny O'Neil

ESPN.com reported the news that Jim Zorn accepted a job with Washington as the team's offensive coordinator. The Washington Post confirmed the news with the update that Al Saunders, the team's associate head coach who's been in charge of the offense the past two seasons won't be back with the team.

Here's the link to the ESPN.com story right here and the Washington Post's Insider coverage right here.

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January 25, 2008 9:35 AM

Zorn and Washington

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The Washington Post has had one heck of a difficult assignment tracking the local NFL franchise's search for a head coach and coaching staff. Here's the update in Friday's editions from Jason La Canfora and Jason Reid as it concerns Jim Zorn, Seattle's quarterbacks coach:

Zorn spent Wednesday at Snyder's home explaining how he would reconfigure the offense and work with young quarterback Jason Campbell, and a multiyear deal was discussed, league sources said. But Zorn flew back to Seattle to meet with team officials without agreeing to a contract, and the Seahawks have a strong interest in retaining his services, league sources said.

Here's the link to the whole story.

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January 25, 2008 9:26 AM

Ray Rhodes headed to Houston

Posted by Danny O'Neil

That's what the Houston Chronicle reported in Friday's editions. The news story is linked here. Here's an excerpt:

The Texans are expected to hire Ray Rhodes as their new assistant defensive backs coach as early as today.

Rhodes became the team's defensive coordinator in 2003. He suffered a mild stroke before the Seahawks began the 2005 season. He continued to work that season, but John Marshall became the acting defensive coordinator because Rhodes had to taper off his schedule. For the past two years, Rhodes has been a special assistant on the Seahawks defense.

Rhodes attended high school and college in Texas.

In the Chronicle's story, Texans coach Gary Kubiak talked about Rhodes' desire to get back to Texas.

"Ray's been with Mike Holmgren for a lot of years," Kubiak said, "but when he retires, he wants to move to Dallas. This would be the first time he's coached in his home state."

Rhodes and Holmgren coached together on the 49ers staff before each became head coaches. Rhodes became the Packers head coach after Holmgren left to take the Seahawks job and in 2003 Holmgren hired Rhodes to come to Seattle after Rhodes coached the previous two years in Denver.

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January 24, 2008 3:57 PM

Seahawks hire offensive line coach

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Mike Solari will coach Seattle's offensive line next season. He served as Kansas City's offensive coordinator for the past two seasons and had been with the Chiefs the past 11 seasons.

He replaces Bill Laveroni. Keith Gilbertson, who worked some with the offensive line, will coach Seattle's wide receivers next season.

The offensive line is seen as an area the Seahawks must improve. The group provided good pass protection last season, but Seattle struggled all season to run the ball consistently. The Seahawks' struggles in short-yardage rushing situations were especially pronounced.

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January 24, 2008 3:15 PM

By the numbers: Wide receivers

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The Seahawks' wide receivers were more productive this season than any time in the past four years.

They should have been, though, considering the money Seattle poured into that position. Deion Branch got $14 million worth of signing bonuses in 2006 and 2007, according to USA Today. Nate Burleson received a signing bonus of $4 million in 2006.

And now the Seahawks will face another budget decision at that position with D.J. Hackett scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Here's a look at the production and paychecks given out to wide receivers over the previous four seasons:

*Base salaries are taken from the NFL Players Association database. **Salary-cap totals and signing-bonus numbers are based on USA Today's database.

2007 Rec. Yards TDs Base salary* Salary-cap total** Signing bonus**
Bobby Engram 94 1,147 6 $820,000 $1,261,440 $880,000
Nate Burleson 50 694 9 $2,750,000 $3,552,280  
Deion Branch 49 661 3 $3,380,000 $5,981,920 $7,000,000
D.J. Hackett 32 384 3 $1,300,000 $1,304,800  
Ben Obomanu 12 180 1 $285,000 $290,280  
Courtney Taylor 5 38 0 $285,000 $307,562 $90,250
Totals 242 3,104 23 $8,820,000 $12,698,282
2006 Rec. Yards TDs Base salary* Salary-cap total** Signing bonus**
Deion Branch 53 725 4 $2,100,000 $3,376,471 $7,000,000
D.J. Hackett 45 610 4 $425,000 $467,424  
Bobby Engram 24 290 1 $1,400,000 $1,727,200  
Nate Burleson 18 192 2 $1,250,000 $2,053,080 $4,000,000
Totals 203 2,773 21 $7,675,000 $11,457,948
2005 Rec. Yards TDs Base salary* Salary-cap total** Signing bonus**
Bobby Engram 67 778 3 $1,200,000 $1,527,640  
Joe Jurevicius 55 694 10 $700,000 $852,640 $150,000
Darrell Jackson 38 482 3 $1,500,000 $2,833,333  
D.J. Hackett 28 400 2 $305,000 $347,863  
Peter Warrick 11 180 0 $900,000 $1,400,000 $500,000
Jerheme Urban 7 151 0 $178,235 $160,294 $500,000
Jerome Pathon Waived in training camp $0 $102,200 $300,000
Totals 206 2,685 18 $4,783,235 $7,223,970
2004 Rec. Yards TDs Base salary* Salary-cap total** Signing bonus**
Darrell Jackson 87 1,199 7 $1,000,000 $2,333,733  
Bobby Engram 36 499 2 $1,000,000 $1,326,200  
Koren Robinson 31 495 2 $420,588 $1,638,854  
Jerry Rice 25 362 3 $873,529 $873,529  
Jerheme Urban 6 117 1 $152,215 $121,765  
Alex Bannister 2 10 0 $628,000 $630,800  
Totals 187 2,682 15 $4,074,332 $6,924,881

 

When Seattle's season began, coach Mike Holmgren said this was the most depth he could remember the team having at that position. The Seahawks needed it. Hackett and Branch were season-opening starters and Holmgren had both players available at the same time for less than three games, all told, as Hackett suffered a high ankle sprain, Branch suffered a foot injury in Pittsburgh, a calf injury at the end of the season and then suffered a torn knee ligament in the team's playoff loss in Green Bay.

Despite all that, Seattle still had a very productive year out of its receivers. That says a lot about the team's depth. Nate Burleson came back from what was an overall disappointing 2006 with a very productive year and Bobby Engram set a career-high in receptions at the age of 34.

Here's a look at how Seattle's production -- and its payscale -- at wide receiver compared to the past couple of years. Now, since a salary component is included, it's important to note the new collective-bargaining agreement went into effect in 2006, resulting in more cap room and bigger spending all across the league. The Seahawks signed Branch and Burleson under the new deal, which explains some of the rise in payscale at the position.

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January 24, 2008 11:35 AM

The Rhodes home?

Posted by Jose Romero

The attempts to woo away a Seahawks assistant coach continue. First Nolan Cromwell, who went to Texas A&M. Then Jim Mora, Jim Zorn and now, Ray Rhodes.

Rhodes, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator who has remained on the coaching staff as a consultant since being replaced during the 2005 season, is close to being hired by the Houstons Texans as assistant defensive backs coach.

If it happens -- Rhodes is being interviewed today, the Houston Chronicle reports -- he'll be returning to his home state.

Rhodes has been keeping a low profile since being hospitalized twice for what were deemed mild strokes in 2005. He had to give up play-calling duties to John Marshall but remained on staff with his old friend, Mike Holmgren. Rhodes has since been allowed back on the practice field to observe the team quietly.

Thanks to my co-worker Bud Withers for passing along the link to the story.

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January 23, 2008 1:37 PM

Is Matt's guru on the way out?

Posted by Jose Romero

That's a strong possibility, according to Jason LaCanfora of the Washington Post. He writes that Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, the man behind the scenes in making Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck a Pro Bowler and one of the NFL's best, is in Washington D.C. interviewing for the Redskins' offensive coordinator position.

Washington lost to the Seahawks in an NFC wild card playoff game earlier this month. Head coach Joe Gibbs retired, and it appears offensive coordinator Al Saunders is in danger of losing his job.

If Zorn leaves, Seattle will be left with three offensive coaching staff vacancies -- offensive line, quarterbacks and offensive quality control.

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January 22, 2008 2:54 PM

Holmgren returns

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Ten. It's the perfect number on some scales.

Coach Mike Holmgren decided that'll be just fine for him in Seattle, saying he intends to coach the final year of his contract. This is the exception in sports where the saying goes that every coach is hired to be fired. Oh sometimes, they get to resign, but usually there's very little that's voluntary about it.

Coaching out a contract is something that very few coaches get to do.

Holmgren downplayed the discussion of a contract extension during his press conference last week. He said the choice was a matter of walking away now and coming back for one more season. It came down to getting his wife, Kathy, to give her approval for taking another go-round.

There will be some changes to the coaching staff. Holmgren said he will be looking for an offensive line coach, presumably meaning Bill Laveroni is out of that spot. Keith Gilbertson will move to coach wide receivers, taking the spot vacated by Nolan Cromwell's departure to Texas A&M to be offensive coordinator. The Seahawks must also hire a quality-control coach for the offense to replace Gary Reynolds, who also went to A&M.

Holmgren said the defensive staff will stay the same.

Asked about a potential successor, Holmgren said he's the wrong person to be asking.

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January 21, 2008 1:16 PM

Alexander on KJR, and some numbers

Posted by Jose Romero

Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander spoke with KJR-AM's Dave "Softy" Mahler just about an hour ago, and the most interesting thing he said was a response to a question about whether Alexander will have his contract restructured.

"You don't really do that with your foundation people. You do that with the people you aren't sure about," Alexander said. "I just don't think that they [the Seahawks] would do that. They're too classy for that."

Alexander may be part of the Seahawks' foundation, but there has to be some uncertainty about what he can still bring to the table even if he said he feels he can get back to 2005 MVP form. Alexander has always been sort of hard to figure out sometimes, so I wonder if that statement is what he actually believes. It seems like the Seahawks will at least explore the idea of changing the numbers on Alexander's contract so as to gain some salary-cap room, in part because Alexander has been injured the past two seasons and is not as effective for one reason or another.

Alexander's signing bonus, which was $11.5 million, is guaranteed money. It is spread out over the eight years of his contract which he signed in 2006, so two seasons of it are complete. The base salary for each year is not guaranteed but it also figures into his cap number each year he remains on the team. This year, Alexander made $1.4 million in base salary. In 2008, that annual salary jumps to $4.475 million.

Some of that money would really help the Seahawks in free agency this season if they wanted to make a splash. Just something to think about.


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January 21, 2008 11:28 AM

Overseas-Hawks?

Posted by Jose Romero

ESPN reported Sunday that the Seahawks are one of four teams under consideration by the NFL to play a regular-season game in the United Kingdom.

The teams are Seattle, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and New Orleans.

The NFL went to London this season when the New York Giants and Miam Dolphins played in sold-out Wembley Stadium. The Seahawks were scheduled to play in China in the 2007 exhibition season until the NFL pulled the plug on that venture several months before the date of the game.

The Seahawks have the Buccaneers on their schedule in 2008, a home game for Tampa Bay.

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January 18, 2008 7:24 PM

Thoughts on Mora's statement

Posted by Jose Romero

If you didn't see it on the Seattle Times' Web site, here's what Seattle assisant head coach Jim Mora had to say in a statement released by the Seahawks earlier today, removing himself from consideration for the Washington Redskins head coaching job:

"I want to thank the Redskins organization and owner Daniel Snyder for the opportunity to interview for the head coaching position. The process reconfirmed that the quality of life for my family in Seattle is my first priority. This past year has been a great experience both professionally and personally for myself, my wife Shannon, and our kids. We are very happy members of this community and the Seattle Seahawks organization.”

The obvious here is, does Mora's decision mean he has been told he will become the Seahawks' next head coach if Mike Holmgren decides to retire when he returns from vacation in Arizona next week? It's worth some speculation.

The Seahawks don't typically send out such statements from an assistant coach. It makes one wonder if a move is to be made.

Mora, it would appear, is at some point going to be the Seahawks' head coach, be it next week, next month, after next season, or in a couple of years. Otherwise he probably wouldn't stay in town if an NFL head coaching job was offered to him. Stay tuned...


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January 17, 2008 1:29 PM

Kerney, Jones to undergo shoulder surgeries

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The Seahawks announced Thursday some surgeries scheduled for next week.

LT Walter Jones will undergo surgery on his shoulder next. That was expected after coach Mike Holmgren said Tuesday Jones would undergo a procedure.

DE Patrick Kerney will undergo shoulder surgery next week. C Chris Spencer will have reconstructive surgery on his thumb on Friday as well as a shoulder procedure. Spencer underwent shoulder surgery last offseason and his recovery was slower than anticipated.

WR Deion Branch will undergo knee surgery in the future. The team said it will have later updates on surgeries.

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January 17, 2008 1:25 PM

Alexander among six Seahawks to undergo surgery

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Running back Shaun Alexander underwent surgery to repair the left wrist that was injured the first game of the season. Coach Mike Holmgren said Tuesday Alexander would be undergoing the procedure.

Another five players from the team have already undergone surgery, the team announced Thursday.

DE Baraka Atkins underwent surgery on his wrist, LB Will Herring and OL Ray Willis underwent arthroscopic procedures on their knees. Josh Scobey had surgery to repair his left leg after suffering a fractured fibula. Floyd Womack had surgery on his right biceps.

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January 15, 2008 3:56 PM

Deion Branch, torn ACL

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Coach Mike Holmgren said receiver Deion Branch suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his right leg. The injury was diagnosed by the Seahawks physicians and confirmed by James Andrews, the doctor who will perform the surgery.

Holmgren estimated recovery time for the injury as nine months. Cincinnati Carson Palmer suffered a torn knee ligament in the playoffs two seasons ago and returned in time for the season-opener.

Other Seahawks who will undergo surgery: Shaun Alexander will undergo a procedure because the crack in his left wrist never fully healed. Holmgren also said Walter Jones will probably undergo some type of procedure on his shoulder.

Holmgren conducted a season post-mortem meeting where the dominant topic was his future. The near future is easy. Holmgren will leave for Arizona with his wife, Kathy, on Wednesday evening. He'll report back to the team headquarters on Tuesday for meetings with president Tim Ruskell. As for the long-term future? That's still undecided. Holmgren said he'll discuss that with his wife.

The assumption has been Holmgren will either return for the final season or step down as coach, but he said at the end of his press conference that this is not necessarily an either-or decision. The possibility remains that a contract extension could in the cards if he decides to return.

One more update: Holmgren confirmed that assistant coach Jim Mora will interview for the Washington job. Wait. That requires a clarification given Mora's alma mater. This is Washington's NFL franchise.

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January 15, 2008 12:08 PM

Dollars and sense: Shaun Alexander

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Here at The Seattle Times, we got out our scalpels in Tuesday's paper and dissected the running. I tried to frame the questions the Seahawks must answer in improving the rushing game in a news story right here, columnist Jerry Brewer provided his perspective on what needs to be done in his column here.

Any question of what to do about the rushing offense gets back to Shaun Alexander and the financial specifics. Beware. What follows is a highly nerdy description of the financial specifics of the whole transaction in which terms like pro-ration and post-June 1 cuts will be used. So get out your slide rule as we delve into the salary-cap-onomics of the NFL.

Start with this qualifier. This is a hypothetical exercise. The Seahawks have given no public indication that any decisions have been made on his future. However, the salary-cap math does show the decision Seattle is facing.

Start with Alexander's salary. According to the database of the league's players association, his contract calls for a base salary of $4,475,000 in 2008. Now this is the NFL. Contracts are not guaranteed. Seattle can cut him and owe him none of that money. It can ask him to restructure his contract, changing the salary. Or it could keep him at the current deal.

Salary isn't the only consideration, though. Signing bonuses are the crux of NFL contracts. Since the future years of a contract aren't guaranteed, the players seek as much up-front money as possible. The athlete gets a lump sum, but the NFL salary-cap accounting procedures allow that lump sum to be pro-rated.

Alexander received an $11.5 million signing bonus in 2006. That total is pro-rated over five years against the team's salary cap at an amount of $2.3 million. The upshot is that only $4.6 million of that $11.5 million has been accounted for under the salary cap. That leaves $6.9 million that must be accounted for even if he does not play for the team again.

If the Seahawks kept him on the current deal, he would count at least $6,775,000 against the team's salary cap in 2008.

Now, the rules do provide some flexibility in how that accounting can occur. If he is cut after June 1 -- or designated a post-June 1 cut -- that total of $6.9 million would be spread over two years with $2.3 million counting against the cap in 2008 and $4.6 million in 2009.

Congratulations to anyone who made it through this whole thing without glazed eyes. I'm now going to put my calculator away and head out to the team's headquarters in Kirkland for coach Mike Holmgren's post-mortem briefing on the season.

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January 14, 2008 9:48 AM

Overhaul or adjustment

Posted by Danny O'Neil

The immediate reaction after a 22-point blowout loss that in fact could have been much more lopsided is to say that it clearly staked out the gap between the Seahawks and an elite team.

That may be true.

The result also could have been compounded by the circumstances of Saturday's game. Namely the snow. The Seahawks found themselves in a game in which they needed to run the ball and they absolutely couldn't. Now that's no surprise. This team struggled to run it all season. The surprise was Seattle's run defense. The Seahawks absolutely could not get off the field on third down. Seattle is a team that showed an ability to stiffen inside the red zone, to bend without breaking so to speak, and yet Green Bay scored six touchdowns its first eight possessions and the only two times it didn't score were the opening fumbles.

So what now? Our columnist Steve Kelley segues to that question in his column from Monday's paper. The link is right here. Here's an excerpt:

  • The Hawks find another running back.

    They have to hope against hope that Shaun Alexander will agree to a pay cut and accept a diminished role in the offense. They have to give Leonard Weaver (who was grossly underused on Saturday) more touches and find a running back in the draft, which will be deep at that position.

  • The offensive line also needs a tuneup.

    Center Chris Spencer, a first-round draft pick in 2005, has been a large disappointment. Maybe Ray Willis, a fourth-round pick that year, can return from injuries and replace Gray at guard.

    Of course the answer to all of the Seahawks' offensive prayers is Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca, generally considered the best guard in the game. It will, however, be difficult, maybe impossible, to fit Faneca under Seattle's salary cap.

  • The Seahawks absolutely have to address an inability to run the ball that was as persistent as it was pronounced. They stuck with Alexander throughout a season in which he averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per carry. Maurice Morris averaged 4.5 and Leonard Weaver averaged 4.4.

    The offensive line was better at pass protection than it was in the running game, and Seattle's struggle in short-yardage rushing situations falls directly at the feet of those men up front and an inability to get a push when both teams know what's coming and it's just a matter of who executes better.

    That's going to be the question. Over the next few weeks we'll go position by position through the team, looking at the resources that have been dedicated to that position over the past few years, the performance from last season and the personnel that is returning.

    Adjustment or overhaul? The Seahawks may not have the salary-cap resources for an overhaul. They made their big free-agent push last year, signing Patrick Kerney, Deon Grant and Brian Russell in that first week of free agency.

    But then again, this team may not need an overhaul. The Seahawks have a quarterback coming off the most prolific year of his career and a defense that appeared to be greatly improved until Saturday. It's reasonable to expect that guard Rob Sims and center Chris Spencer will only get better given their age and the Seahawks biggest question is at running back, a position where teams have been able to find fast and relatively inexpensive solutions. Just look at Green Bay. That Ryan Grant who gashed the Seahawks so badly Saturday was undrafted in 2006 and acquired for a sixth-round pick last year.

    The season is over, but the discussion about next year is just beginning so stay tuned to the blog.

    In the meantime, here's some national mentions of Seattle's performance. Sports Illustrated's Peter King was at the Seahawks-Packers game on Saturday. Now, he's going to rub some Seahawk fans the wrong way for ranking Seattle No. 9 in the league when the Seahawks were one of the last eight teams playing. In fact, punter Ryan Plackemeier mentioned that to ranking to me last week, but he has a pretty good point on Saturday's result:

    9. Seattle (11-7). The output for the starting defensive line of Patrick Kerney, Brandon Mebane, Rocky Bernard, Darryl Tapp that was supposed to control the game in Green Bay: nine tackles, two assists, no quarterback pressures. And you wonder why the Seahawks allowed six straight touchdown drives.

    Here's a link to the page right here. If you want to read the seven-page column from the beginning, it starts here.

    King unleashed a little chin music at Seattle's tailback, too:

    Shaun Alexander is not a good football player anymore. A running back has to be hungry to be good. Alexander plays like he just finished the hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island.

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    January 13, 2008 9:33 AM

    Season slip, sliding away

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    There's still a level of disbelief. Not that the Seahawks lost, but how they lost.

    The Seahawks were a big underdog, playing on the road in a playoff round in which the home team wins about four out of every five games.

    The disbelief comes over the fact that Seattle held a 14-point lead 4 minutes into the game and still lost by 22 points while the undrafted Ryan Grant ran for 201 yards.

    "That boy ran his behind off today," safety Deon Grant said afterward. "I have to take my hat off to him. We knew he was good, but we didn't picture him doing what he did to us on defense."

    The question is how did that happen?

    Some of that may have been the conditions. Saturday's game could have come with a traction-tire advisory. At least it could have for Seattle. One of the things that was discussed after the game was the difficulty created by those conditions.

    "I think if it had any effect at all -- both teams have to play in it -- I think it negated a little bit of our speed on defense," coach Mike Holmgren said. "That's what I would say. If we have to play the game that way, we're a little bit undersized. Again, give credit to the Packers."

    So was footing a factor?

    "It definitely affected," Grant said. "A few times, I was breaking to the ball and I was sleeping before I even got to the play. At the same time, that's what home-field advantage means."

    But footing was not the difference in this game.

    "Well, you're playing on the same field. It's the same footing, the same traction, the same visibility for both sides," safety Brian Russell said. "I think that's just an excuse. We didn't execute. We stopped the run pretty darn good all year, and we didn't do that today."

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    January 12, 2008 1:47 PM

    Game discussion

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Coin flip: Niko Koutouvides called it for Seattle, which lost, so it was Brett Favre who got to say the Packers wanted the ball. Matt Hasselbeck smiled.

    Deion Branch went down on Seattle's fifth play of the game. He walked off on his own, but was limping noticeably. He missed the past two games with a strained right calf. That was the leg Branch favored. The injury was announced as a right knee injury. His return is doubtful and he was just taken to the locker room on a cart.

    Four minutes, 1 second into the game, the Seahawks have run eight plays, gained 50 yards and scored 14 points. Matt Hasselbeck completed his first four passes of the game and just threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Engram.

    The Packers scored their next two possessions to tie the game at 14-14. Twenty-eight points matches the NFL playoff record for most points in a first quarter.

    Second-quarter update: The Seahawks cut their deficit to four points with a 29-yard field goal by Josh Brown. They took advantage of a Green Bay mistake. This one wasn't a turnover, though, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty that cost Green Bay 15 yards and gave the Seahawks a first down on the Packers' half of the field.

    Green Bay outgained the Seahawks 230-84 in the first half the biggest difference in rushing the ball. The Packers gained 97 yards on the ground, the Seahawks gained 6.

    Fourth-quarter update: Hard to believe, but the Seahawks are being blown out despite getting a 14-point lead. Forty-two points is the most the Seahawks have ever allowed in a playoff game, and Ryan Grant has gained the most rushing yards of any Seattle playoff opponent, surpassing the 154 yards Marcus Allen rushed for in 1984.

    I'll check in with observations later tonight.

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    January 12, 2008 12:24 PM

    D.J. Hackett playing Saturday vs. Packers

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    WR D.J. Hackett is not among Seattle's eight inactive players. He was out jogging on the field about two hours before game time.

    No surprises on Seattle's inactive list, no changes in the starting lineup.

    Inactive players: WR Logan Payne, FB David Kirtman, TE Ben Joppru, DE Jason Babin, G Mansfield Wrotto, OL Ray Willis, WR Courtney Taylor and QB Charlie Frye, who is in uniform as the emergency quarterback.

    Packers' inactive players: WR Shaun Bodiford, CB Will Blackmon, LB Desmond Bishop, T Orrin Thompson, TE Ryan Krause, DT Conrad Bolston, DT Daniel Muir and Craig Nall, who is in uniform as the emergency quarterback.

    Blackmon's absence doesn't change the starting lineup, but it will affect the rotation at defensive back in some packages.

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    January 11, 2008 1:25 PM

    D.J. Hackett questionable

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The Seahawks do not practice on Friday, instead traveling to Green Bay for Saturday's playoff game. The team announced the status for injured players.

    D.J. Hackett (ankle) is the only player listed as questionable, meaning there is a 50-50 chance he will play.

    Nine players are listed as probable, which means there is a virtual certainty that they will play: RB Shaun Alexander (wrist), LB Kevin Bentley (illness), DT Rocky Bernard (groin), WR Deion Branch (calf), S Mike Green (knee), QB Matt Hasselbeck (thigh), LT Walter Jones (shoulder), DE Patrick Kerney (knee) and LB Niko Koutouvides (knee) are all listed as probable for the game.

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    January 10, 2008 3:41 PM

    Last practice of the week

    Posted by Jose Romero

    The big news of the day was that WR D.J. Hackett didn't practice because of a sore ankle. Here's the report on other Seahawks:

    WR Deion Branch (calf), LB Niko Koutouvides (knee), S Mike Green (knee) and LB Kevin Bentley (illness) were limited in practice. Branch was in for most of the workout.

    QB Matt Hasselbeck (thigh), DT Rocky Bernard (groin), LT Walter Jones (shoulder) and DE Patrick Kerney (knee) all fully participated in practice Thursday and will play Saturday. Everyone but Hackett is expected to play Saturday; Hackett is a game-time decision.

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    January 10, 2008 1:29 PM

    D.J. Hackett will be game-time decision

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Wide receiver D.J. Hackett was on the field for stretching at practice on Thursday [Ed note: This was corrected. It earlier stated "Friday" because playing a Saturday game has apparently skewed Mr. O'Neil's perception of what day it is], but was not present for the team portion of the workout. Coach Mike Holmgren said afterward that Hackett's right ankle was a little sore and his availability on Saturday in Green Bay will be a game-time decision.

    Hackett injured the right ankle twice during the season and played in six of the team's 16 regular-season games. He led the team with more than 100 yards receiving on Saturday against Washington. Holmgren said Thursday's rest was more precautionary.

    "Instead of making it a little worse, I think I'd rather have him on Saturday," Holmgren said.

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    January 9, 2008 5:08 PM

    Your chance to show some spirit

    Posted by Jose Romero

    Passing this along for fan information. It's a press release from the Seahawks.

    Seahawks Encourage Fans to Show Playoff Spirit

    The Seattle Seahawks encourage fans to demonstrate their spirit this week in
    support of the team's divisional game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, January 12.
    Thursday, January 10
    Seahawks Rally at the Symetra Financial Center Plaza, noon-1 p.m.
    777 108th Ave NE Bellevue
    Fans can join the Seahawks Blue Thunder and Sea Gals for a lunch-time rally and pick up free buttons
    and team posters. The Symetra Financial Center Plaza is located on the corner of NE 8th Street and 108th Ave NE.
    Friday, January 11
    Governor Gregoire proclaims this Friday to be "Blue Friday" for the State of Washington. Fans can
    show their passion and support for the team by wearing Seahawks attire or blue clothing to work and
    school.

    Joe's Sports & Outdoor to Offer Shopping Sprees to Best-Dressed Seahawks Fans

    Area Joe's Sports & Outdoor stores will photograph and display images of Seahawks fans
    dressed in their best "Seahawks Blue Friday" attire. The winner will receive a $112 Joe's Sports &
    Outdoor gift card. Joe's Sports & Outdoor management will select one winner per store.
    In addition to the contest, Joe's Sports & Outdoor will host a "12" flag signing and fans can pick up
    free "12" buttons and team posters. Seahawks Blue Thunder and Sea Gals will be on site for
    entertainment and autographs at the Bellevue store.
    For more information, visit www.JoesSports.com
    Bellevue Joe's Sports & Outdoor
    699 120th Ave. NE
    Federal Way Joe's Sports & Outdoor
    35020 Enchanted Parkway S.
    Lynnwood Joe's Sports & Outdoor Northgate Joe’s Sports Outdoor
    19310 60th Avenue W
    Northgate Joe's Sports
    328 NE Northgate Way

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    January 9, 2008 4:50 PM

    Practice attendance

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The Seahawks just released their list of practice attendance. Four players sat out practice: DT Rocky Bernard (groin), T Walter Jones (shoulder), DE Patrick Kerney (knee) and LB Niko Koutouvides (knee). Three players were limited in practice: WR Deion Branch (calf), WR D.J. Hackett (ankle) and S Mike Green (knee).

    The Packers had one player miss practice: CB Charles Woodson (toe/knee). our players were limited in practice: CB Will Blackmon (foot), WR Greg Jennings (groin), WR James Jones (hamstring) and WR Koren Robinson (knee).

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    January 9, 2008 4:44 PM

    Deon Grant, fine young cannibal?

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The Seahawks media-relations just distributed quotes from safety Deon Grant. I didn't hear this question and answer Wednesday, but this is made me laugh:

    Q: On the cheeseheads ...

    Grant: There are going to be a lot of them. I might eat some of them.

    Wisconsin, consider yourself warned.

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    January 9, 2008 3:38 PM

    Hot pants Brown

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Battery-powered pants?

    Well, not quite. But Josh Brown plans to slip a couple battery-powered heaters inside the down-lined rain pants he wears on the sidelines to stay warm in the temperatures of Green Bay.

    "I just want to stay warm," Brown said. "That's all it is. I put them in my hunting jackets."

    The heater aren't much bigger than a couple inches, Brown said. And he said he's had the pants for 3 years now.

    "If I was outside running around for 45 minutes of the game, it would be a different story," Brown said. "It would be no problem staying problem. But I'm standing there for 20, 30 minutes at a time."

    Seth Kolloen of Seattlest put together an entertaining comparison with another Brown known for his hot pants. Here's a link to that right here.

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    January 9, 2008 3:33 PM

    Three Hawks are All-Pro

    Posted by Jose Romero

    The Associated Press NFL All-Pro selections were announced today, and three Seahawks are among them.

    LT Walter Jones, DE Patrick Kerney and MLB Lofa Tatupu were named All-Pro. The three are also going to the Pro Bowl.

    Jones previously made first-team AP All-Pro in 2001, '04 and '05. Kerney and Tatupu are first-time selections.

    "It's a tremendous honor, and I'm just glad to be in that company of those guys," Tatupu said. New England's Mike Vrabel, rookie Patrick Willis of San Francisco and DeMarcus Ware of Dallas were the other linebackers to be chosen.

    The Seahawks hadn't had any first-team All-Pros since the 2005 season, when they had four.

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    January 9, 2008 2:22 PM

    "These are not the droids you're looking for"

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The extended forecast is calling for temperatures in the 20s with snow flurries on Saturday in Wiscsonsin.

    Think that might have an effect?

    Coach Mike Holmgren doesn't. At least he said it doesn't, but it sounded very much like the coach was trying to use the Jedi mind trick to erase any doubts that were flaring up.

    Here's the transcript of the exchange:

    Q: The issue of the weather in Green Bay.

    Holmgren: Is there an issue? What issue?

    Q: How the cold temperatures can affect the game.

    Holmgren: It will not affect the game at all. Weather will not be an issue.

    I immediately thought of "Star Wars" when Obi-Wan Kenobi informs the Imperial troopers that these are not the droids they are looking for and then the troopers dutifully repeat that very line.

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    January 9, 2008 1:50 PM

    Branch expected to practice

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    That was the word from coach Mike Holmgren at noon on Wednesday. He said the wide receiver who missed the past two games with a strained calf might be returning to practice on Wednesday afternoon.

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    January 9, 2008 10:44 AM

    The philosopher's lounge

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Every professional locker room has a corner you go to for deeper discussions. A place to chew the fat and try and digest the meaning of life.

    OK. That may be overstating it, but the locker room of every team I've ever covered has had one part of it where the discussions tended to get more lively, more animated and much more entertaining.

    For this Seahawks team, that is the line of lockers for the linebackers. The hot topic on Tuesday was whether Leroy Hill's sack on Saturday against the Washington, the one where he bulldozed Ladell Betts back into quarterback Todd Collins, was Seattle's most impressive sack of the season.

    "Yes," linebacker Kevin Bentley said. "Because he went right over the top of him."

    Betts is a 223-pound running, and Hill bull-rushed right over the top of him, pretty much turning him into sandwich filling between Hill and Washington quarterback Todd Collins who ended up sacked on the play.

    Hill kind of shrugged.

    "I was going full speed and he was standing still," Hill said. "So it looked worse than what it really was."

    For the final word, we turn to the man in the middle of the defense. Lofa Tatupu said that Hill's sack while mighty impressive wasn't the best one this season. That goes to Julian Peterson, who pulled down Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberged with a handful of jersey while a Steeler offensive lineman plowed into Peterson from behind.

    "He took him down with two fingers," Tatupu said.

    Linebacker alley. It's where you go for answers in the Seahawks locker room.

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    January 8, 2008 12:37 PM

    Favre didn't fly off into the sunset

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Brett Favre hopped aboard the Seahawks' team plane after Packers beat the Seahawks in the final regular-season game two years ago. It was Jan. 1, 2006, the first day of a new year and the last game in Favre's NFL career. At least he said that much as he jumped aboard the plane and spoke with his old coach Mike Holmgren.

    "We won that game, but it was a very, very disappointing year," Favre said. "I took as much of the blame as I always do in every season. But I felt like we went 4-12, that’s not the type of season that we’re used to, especially as the starting quarterback. I didn’t know if it was worthwhile coming back.

    "A lot of people look at it differently and say, ‘Come back and redeem yourself.’ All that stuff. I didn’t think I needed to redeem myself, but I felt like maybe this is a sign."

    Favre said as much on the Seahawks plane, telling his former coach that was probably it for his NFL career. Favre said Tuesday that was the decision he would have made if the Packers had needed an answer right away. Except the Packers told him they didn't need that answer right away.

    "Mike Sherman gave me the simplest advice he could give me," Favre said. "He said, ‘You know what? Go home. We don’t need an answer right away. Take your time.’ And I’m so thankful that I did that because had I had to make a decision that next day, I probably wouldn’t be here and I would be regretting it.

    "Now what happens from here on out? I have no idea. But up to this point – especially this year – it has been rewarding."

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    January 7, 2008 3:37 PM

    Branch may practice this week

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The prognosis for wide receiver Deion Branch is better this week, coach Mike Holmgren said. He said the training staff is more optimistic about his availability. Branch missed the past two games because of a strained calf.

    "He couldn't play the game the way he has to play the game," Holmgren said. "He's not the biggest guy in the world, Deion. His quickness and speed must be a part of his game, and no one could tell me he could last, for sure."

    Branch is the starting flanker. He and D.J. Hackett have been on the field together for less than three games total this season. If Branch returns, the Seahawks would have the top four receivers they expected when they started the season available for four-receiver sets.

    "When we put that out there, we have the ability to be pretty potent in the passing game," Holmgren said.

    Holmgren said that while some players sustained injuries that will require treatment or rest this week, he didn't say anyone has been ruled out for Saturday's game in Green Bay.

    "We're about as good as we can be that way," Holmgren said.

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    January 7, 2008 10:18 AM

    Ted Thompson's two cents

    Posted by Jose Romero

    Remember him? Thompson was Mike Holmgren's lead personnel executive when Holmgren was the Seahawks' GM, and now Thompson is the Packers' general manager calling his own shots.

    He and Packers coach Mike McCarthy had a little confab about what to look for from certain Seahawks that Thompson is familiar with.

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    January 7, 2008 10:03 AM

    Could Faneca be a Seahawk?

    Posted by Jose Romero

    I know, the playoffs aren't over yet and free agency is about two months away, but in my morning reading today I came across a couple of interesting articles from Pittsburrgh about guard Alan Faneca. The guy seems like he's checked out of the Steel City already.

    I would imagine that the Seahawks must have some interest in signing the Steelers' star guard, a seven-time Pro Bowler and free-agent to be who might have just played his last game as a Steeler on Saturday, given Seattle's issues with a young and still learning Rob Sims at left guard and aging Chris Gray at right guard. And the fact that, let's face it, the running game hasn't been the same since Steve Hutchinson departed.

    Faneca could be just what the Seahawks are looking for, but he would come at a price.

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    January 7, 2008 9:17 AM

    Paint-by-numbers, Packers vs. Seahawks

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The similarities of these two teams are pretty striking. Both defenses allow 18.2 points per game, tied for sixth in the league, and each team's offense throws the ball better than it runs it. In fact, Green Bay and Seattle have the two lowest rushing averages of the eight playoff teams remaining.

    Here's a look at the regular-season statistics from the two teams:

    Reg. season
    rank
    Green Bay Offense Seattle Reg. season
    rank
    No. 2 370.7 Net yards 348.9 No. 9
    No. 21 99.8 Rush yards 101.2 No. 20
    No. 2 270.9 Pass yards 247.8 No. 8
    No. 4 27.2 Points 24.6 No. 9 (tied)
    No. 13 (t) 13 Rush TDs 9 No. 22 (t)
    No. 6 (t) 30 Pass TDs 30 No. 6(t)
    No. 3 (t) 19 Sacks allowed 36 No. 18 (t)
    Reg. season
    rank
    Green Bay Defense Seattle Reg. season
    rank
    No. 11 313.3 Net yards 321.8 No. 15
    No. 14 102.9 Rush yards 102.8 No. 12
    No. 12 210.4 Pass yards 219.1 No. 15
    No. 6 (t) 18.2 Points 18.2 No. 6 (t)
    No. 6 (t) 10 Rush TDs 16 No. 27 (t)
    No. 18 (t) 23 Pass TDs 15 No. 1
    No. 13 (t) 36 Sacks 45 No. 4

    Green Bay's ability to protect quarterback Brett Favre just might be the flashpoint for this game. Only two teams allowed fewer sacks than the Packers in the regular season. Only three team finished with more sacks than Seattle. Just how well the Packers do at keeping their quarterback upright will be something to watch this weekend.

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    January 6, 2008 8:01 PM

    The hit on Hasselbeck

    Posted by Jose Romero

    In my haste to make deadline last night, I forgot to include in today's coverage what Matt Hasselbeck said about the freakish hit he took in the third quarter of the game. I asked him about it.

    On third-and-7 in the third quarter, Hasselbeck ran out of the pocket and upfield. Before he could slide down, though, Washington's Fred Smoot upended him and sent Hasselbeck tumbling head over heels. The crowd, even those of us in the press box, flinched with a collective "Ooohh!!!"

    It turns out Hasselbeck was fortunate.

    "It was a little awkward," Hasselbeck said. "I probably should have thrown it. I thought I was over the line of scrimmage, that's why I didn't throw it. He (Smoot) actually broke my thigh pad. It's a good thing, some guys don't wear thigh pads, so it's a good thing I wear thigh pads."

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    January 5, 2008 11:26 PM

    Collins' first INT a Moss-take?

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Just settled in to start some stats analysis and look through the quotes and I found something quite interesting in Washington's post-game quotes, which were recorded and transcribed by the Seahawks media-relations staff.

    Todd Collins' pass to Santana Moss in the fourth quarter, which went up like a punt, came down in Marcus Trufant's hands and ended up in the end zone for the touchdown that in many ways clinched Seattle's victory.

    Moss did not react to the pass. At all. He didn't see the ball until Trufant was catching it and the pass was so high that he would have fair caught the sucker as if it was a punt.

    Now, some of the explanation was that Rocky Bernard was coming up the middle, knocking Collins down after he released the ball, but most importantly preventing him from stepping into that throw. Did he just wing it? Did Moss run the wrong route. What happened?:

    "I never saw it," Moss said. "I never saw it at all."

    OK. That was evident. Why didn't he see it?

    "I ran a pump route," Moss said. "Before I even pumped the guy and the guy ran off so I came out of my break hoping that the quarterback and I are on the same page."

    I take this to mean Moss tried to sell the pattern as if he were going deep, but even before Moss did that, he saw Trufant retreating. Once Moss saw that, he broke to the inside, anticipating Collins would read the coverage the same way. Moss came out of the break looking for a Collins' throw underneath the coverage.

    "So I am looking now, thinking it might come line drive to me, which most people might do when they are in that situation," Moss said.

    Nope. Nothing. No ball.

    "I just thought it was a dead play because I look back and I am not hearing anything or seeing anything," Moss said.

    At least he didn't see anything until Trufant settled under the pass.

    "At the last minute I see the guy catch the ball like a punt," Moss said.

    Now we'll stop at this point to point that Trufant has been in the league five years now. He made the Pro Bowl this season. Moss probably shouldn't call him "the guy" as he did three times in that one answer.

    But now let's go to Collins' explanation.

    "I didn't really see it," he said. "I was on my back when the ball was in the air."

    True enough. Bernard kept him from stepping into the pass. But Collins did not say that's why the ball ended up quacking up there.

    "From what I heard, he might have just lost it," Collins said. "He never saw it."

    Yep. That's right, too. Moss didn't see it, but that's because the pass wasn't anywhere near where Moss expected it. Someone made a mistake on that read and after hearing both explanations, it's not entirely clear who goofed.

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    January 5, 2008 9:08 PM

    The department of defense

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    New Year's resolutions come five months early in the NFL.

    Every August, teams spend one month answering questions about the weak points of a year ago that have been shored up in the offseason. This will be the breakthrough season for so and so or this is the year the team found a way to shore that sore spot from a season ago.

    And like so many resolutions, those vows and predictions are forgotten a month or two into the season.

    That's what makes Seattle's defense different because the first game of the New Year is when it became most apparent that all that training-camp talk about an improved defense was much more than talk.

    The Seahawks signed Patrick Kerney at defensive end, added safeties Brian Russell and Deon Grant and drafted Brandon Mebane.

    But all that August discussion of defensive improvement was more than just a discussion. The Seahawks showed that on Saturday.

    The defense saved Seattle. It saved the Seahawks when they made that trio of mistakes early in the fourth quarter, did everything but put a bow on this game for Washington. Everyone talked about the improved defense in August. Everyone should be talking about the pair of defensive stands the Seahawks made on Saturday.

    The defense scored twice in the fourth quarter, but those weren't the biggest plays by this defense. First came the stand in which Washington got the ball on Seattle's 14-yard line after the Seahawks failed to field a kickoff and the Seahawks forced Washington to settle for a field-goal attempt that Shaun Suisham missed. And then the defense made sure that Matt Hasselbeck's second interception of the fourth quarter didn't cost the Seahawks anything more than 6 yards of field position.

    For years, the Seahawks needed a defense capable of keeping pace with the offense. Now, they've got a defense capable of leading the team.

    Now, Washington is a decidedly average offense. The team scored more than 30 points only twice all season. But Washington had all the momentum and the ball on Seattle's 14-yard line and the Seahawks dug in their heels and refused to budge.

    This was the fourth quarter, the time when the defense considered a little small is supposed to wear down. Instead the Seahawks stood tall. Anyone wondering whether this is a defense capable of playing at an elite level need look no further than this fourth quarter when the Seahawks absorbed two big punches from Washington and didn't blink, didn't back down.

    It was imperssive.

    "As I've been telling everybody since I played football in the fourth grade, defense wins championships," running back Shaun Alexander said.

    But how long has it been since Seattle saw something like that. The defense was good in 2005, but it played with a lead most of that season. It was more a complement to the league's highest-scoring offense. Saturday was a game in which the defense steadied the Seahawks when they were at their shakiest.

    The two interceptions returned for touchdowns left an even better aftertaste, the first time a team returned two interceptions for touchdowns since Tampa Bay returned three picks into the end zone in its Super Bowl victory over Oakland.

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    January 5, 2008 1:54 PM

    Game discussion

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Opening quarter: Two Washington possessions and the team still hasn't moved past its own 40. Washington gained one first down and had third-and-1 on its second possession when Darryl Tapp moved off his block and stopped Washington running back Clinton Portis for a 4-yard loss.

    Seattle passed on six of its first seven offensive plays from scrimmage. Its only run in that time gained 6 yards. The Seahawks did run on third-and-1, a pitch to the right to Maurice Morris, which was not particularly well blocked, but Morris got to the corner, ran through first contact and picked up the first down.

    Shaun Alexander gained 13 yards and had the ball stripped after he was tacked from behind by linebacker Marcus Washington. Washington defensive back Fred Smoot recovered the loose ball and returned it. The ruling of a fumble was challenged, and replay review determined Alexander's knees were down when the ball came free. Seattle maintained possession.

    Seattle took a 7-0 lead on Leonard Weaver's 17-yard touchdown run with 3:45 left in the first quarter. Each team has had two possessions now. Seattle has run the ball four times for 42 yards, Washington has run the ball five times for 7 yards.

    The Seahawks gained nearly twice as many yards in the first quarter as Washington, 100 to 51. Seattle has kept Washington on its own half of the field for all of that opening period. Twice, Washington started out pinned inside its own 5 by punts from Ryan Plackemeier.

    Washington hasn't had to play from behind during its four-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 58-6 in the first half.

    Second-quarter synopsis: Seattle's offense slowed in the second quarter. Washington outgained Seattle 65-45 in the period and field position shifted toward the Seahawks' advantage.

    Hasselbeck failed to complete any of his final five pass attempts in the first half.

    Fourth quarter: Wow. Seattle comes undone the first 2 minutes of the period just like in Atlanta. The Seahawks give up the lead, give Washington the ball with a chance to add to it, Hasselbeck throws a pair of interceptions to Laron Landry, and then Seattle comes back to take the lead on a 20-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Hackett. A two-point conversion to Marcus Pollard put Seattle ahead 21-14.

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    January 5, 2008 12:30 PM

    My prediction for the game

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    I have gotten a good amount of feedback on my prediction that Washington will win. I don't begrudge anyone for questioning my intelligence. Hey, this certainly isn't the first time.

    A few have even said they won't read this blog anymore. That part concerns me. I have no rooting interest in the outcome of the game. I don't "hope" Washington wins because it will fulfill my prediction. I don't "hope" Seattle loses.

    My job is to observe the team, ask questions, report the answers to those questions and do my best to provide people with an insight into the team(s) being covered. In this case, part of my job was to offer a prediction. This was a matter of opinion, and the truly great thing about sports is that predictions often are not worth the paper they're printed on. That certainly might end up being the case with my prediction, and if it turns out wrong, check back here and in the paper on Sunday to read all about the reasons why Seattle was successful. A prediction doesn't change my desire to report both on what happened and why it happened.

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    January 5, 2008 12:25 PM

    Deion Branch inactive Saturday vs. Washington

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Bobby Engram will start in place of Deion Branch, who will miss Saturday's wild-card playoff game against Washington with a calf injury.

    Branch missed the regular-season finale because of the injury and did not practice Tuesday through Thursday with Seattle. He suffered a calf injury during practice the week before the regular-season finale in Atlanta.

    Other Seattle inactives: WR Logan Payne, CB Kevin Hobbs, TE Ben Joppru, DE Jason Babin, G Mansfield Wrotto, T Ray Willis, Branch and QB Charlie Frye will be in uniform, but inactive as the emergency quarterback.

    Washington's inactive players: QB Jason Campbell, S Omar Stoutmire, TE Brian Kozlowski, DT Ryan Boschetti, OL Kevin Sampson, WR James Thrash, DE Alex Buzbee and QB Sam Hollenbach, who will be in uniform as the No. 3 emergency quarterback.

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    January 4, 2008 11:09 AM

    Keeping schedule

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    The Seahawks haven't had the toughest schedule in the league. In fact, they've had one of the least difficult of all the teams to make the playoffs. This is hardly newsworthy or groundbreaking. How does it compare to Washington's?

    Well, let's take a look:

     
    Team
    Opp. combined
    record
    Opp. combined
    record
    Playoff teams
    faced
    Playoff teams
    beaten
    Seattle 103-153 .402 Tampa Bay Tampa Bay
          Pittsburgh  
    Washington 142-114 0.555 N.Y. Giants (2) N.Y. Giants
          Dallas (2) Dallas
          New England  
          Green Bay  
          Tampa Bay  

    Washington played a much more difficult schedule. That's undeniable. It played both the top teams in the NFC and a Patriots team that went undefeated. But Washington also lost five of the seven games it played against teams that eventually made the playoffs.

    Permalink/Comments (23) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 3, 2008 2:37 PM

    See how AccuScore sees it

    Posted by Jose Romero

    Zach Rosenfeld from AccuScore called and emailed me some interesting stuff about how his company projects this game to go.

    He says:

    "After 10,000 simulations, our data lists the Seahawks as a 57.8% favorite to beat the Redskins this weekend.

    AccuScore has run more than 10,000 simulations for every playoff game, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions, opponent's abilities, roster moves, weather and more. Each game is simulated one play at a time and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages, player statistics and a variety of game-changing scenarios. Here's AccuScore.com’s analysis of the Seahawks vs. Redskins:"

    http://accuscore.com/option,com_acc_nfl_game_preview/tab,stats/Itemid,207/game_id,257/

    Interesting stuff. They predict stats and other things. Worth a look.


    Permalink/Comments (15) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 3, 2008 1:53 PM

    Some fuel to the 12th Man fire

    Posted by Jose Romero

    Check out the allegation from Washington fullback Mike Sellers in this article from the Washington Times.

    You have to deal with a funky advertisement thing but trust me, this should get the fans a little worked up.

    "I think the 12th Man should get upset about that," Seahawks CB Jordan Babineaux said.

    "Everyone that knows us...knows that we don't pump in anything artificial. It's all our fans," coach Mike Holmgren said. "They have learned to do that. They realize how much they help us, and so you don't have to encourage them a lot. Now I would suspect, that if they think people are accusing us of doing something like that, they might even come with a little more voice. It's a wonderful atmosphere for a home team to play in and they help us, there's no question about that."

    Holmgren's Thursday comments also included a laugh about how former Seahawk Shawn Springs, now with Washington, called him "Big Show," and how Holmgren called Springs "Little Show."

    "When he's not playing against me, I'm a Shawn Springs fan," Holmgren said.

    Permalink/Comments (17) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 3, 2008 1:44 PM

    Thursday is Friday

    Posted by Jose Romero

    As far as the Seahawks are concerned, anyway. Today's practice was similar to a Friday in preparation for a Sunday game. But the game is Saturday this week, so the schedule was altered.

    The only Seahawk not to practice today was WR Deion Branch, who will be a game-time decision because of his sore right calf. Branch did some running on the side, but never practiced all week.

    "I'm going to go in and keep trying to do enough to show Coach that hopefully I'm getting better and that I can go. But it's his decision."

    Branch will have to show something at the Seahawks' workout tomorrow.

    LB Niko Koutouvides practiced and is expected to play. He had a knee injury.


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    January 3, 2008 1:09 PM

    'There's no way that crowd could be that loud'

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Washington fullback Mike Sellers will be playing in his home state for the second time in his career. He'll probably be hearing from the crowd after saying he thought that the sound of the crowd was enhanced for the playoff game between the two teams in January 2006.

    "It was ridiculous the last time we were in there," Sellers said. "There's no way that crowd could be that loud in that stadium. There's no way."

    Permalink/Comments (0) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 3, 2008 9:51 AM

    Sellers not buying it

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Mike Sellers is from Washington. He attended North Thurston High School, went to Walla Walla Community College for a year and then headed up to the CFL.

    I talked to him for a little bit on Wednesday, and I'll try to catch up with him again Thursday. I didn't hear this exchange, but he's quoted in the Washington Times as saying he thinks Seattle's 12th man is on some banned supplements.

    "That place has to be miked up because the last time we played there, it was ridiculous — we couldn't hear ourselves talk. For a stadium that small, it can't be that loud."
         -- Mike Sellers

    Here's a link to the whole story.

    Permalink/Comments (29) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 2, 2008 5:27 PM

    Wednesdays are crazy!

    Posted by Jose Romero

    ...In the NFL, and the playoffs are no exception. The national types are here, including a couple of former co-workers -- Greg Bishop (now at The New York Times) and Les Carpenter (now with The Washington Post). Mike Holmgren's typical Wednesday news conference was packed, held in small conference room at Seahawks headquarter. Holmgren promised the conference room at the team's new facility being built in Renton would be bigger.

    Only two Seahawks missed practice, LB Niko Koutouvides with a knee injury and WR Deion Branch with a right calf problem. Branch might practice tomorrow and is expected to play Saturday.

    Branch was a starter when the season opened, as was D.J. Hackett. But because of injuries, the pair have only played in three games together in 2007.

    "Deion is a lot more frustrated than I could ever be, probably," coach Mike Holmgren said. "And Hackett, too. Players like to play and they have been bitten by the injury bug a little too much this season. Fortunately we have some depth at the receiver position and we’ve been able to withstand that better than maybe we could have in the past."

    On a side note, fans can purchase an embroidered beanie (winter cap) at the team pro shop at Qwest Field. It's $19.95 and a percentage of every sale goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Washington State.

    A couple of local schools are celebrating Blue Friday the day before the playoff game. At Kirkland's Juanita Elementary School, students will raise a ceremonial 12th Man flag before school starts. And at Mercer Island High School, members of the marching band will form a human No. 12 on the football field.

    Permalink/Comments (2) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 2, 2008 2:04 PM

    Momentum

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    A lot is going to be made of this. Washington has won four in a row, the longest winning streak of any NFC team in the playoffs while the Seahawks are coming off a loss. People are calling Washington the conference's hottest team enterng the playoffs.

    Washington coach Joe Gibbs was asked about the role of momentum and its carryover from the regular season and into the playoffs.

    "Each game for me, I have always tried to guess what teams are going to do and I can't," he said.

    He then mentioned one away game in which he looked at his team in the locker room and worried they weren't prepared only to have the team go play great. Gibbs also mentioned Washington has been playing with no margin for error for four weeks now, having to win their into the playoffs starting with a Thursday night game against the Bears.

    "We have been under the gun since the Chicago game where we had to have it or we are out," Gibbs said. "Our guys have really responded and I am hoping that carries over."

    History shows no remarkable trends. San Diego won 10 consecutive games to end the regular season, but lost its first playoff game. That was to New England.

    Philadelphia won five in a row to end the regular season in '06 andwon its wild-card playoff game against the Giants.

    Permalink/Comments (3) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 1, 2008 4:16 PM

    Home-field disadvantage?

    Posted by Danny O'Neil

    Well, that's overstating things especially given Seattle's remarkable success at Qwest Field. But in the past three seasons, take a look at the results of the playoffs in the wild-card round cast at least a little bit of a question on just how much that home-field advantage might mean in the first playoff game.

    Last season, the home team won every one of the league's four wild-card round games, but the season before that, the home team won only one of the league's four wild-card games. Same for the 2004 season.

    So over the past three seasons, the home team is 6-6 in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.

    Permalink/Comments (12) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    January 1, 2008 3:42 PM

    Tuesday's practice

    Posted by Jose Romero

    The Seahawks held their first practice of the week Tuesday. It lasted a little more than an hour.

    QB Matt Hasselbeck practiced, and DT Rocky Bernard and LT Walter Jones returned to practice after missing all of last week.

    Bobby Engram threw a block on a play in practice, prompting coach Mike Holmgren to praise him for it. Engram ran back to the huddle playfully flexing his muscles.

    There was a new face today. Seattle signed DT Kelly Talavou, a rookie undrafted free agent, to the practice squad when WR Logan Payne was added to the active roster and DE Baraka Atkins was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

    Permalink/Comments (1) | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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