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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.
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October 31, 2007

Halloween with the Hasselbecks

Posted by Jose Romero at 6:26 PM

Aaahh, to be a young dad and have a family. And to be that young father on Halloween, when Daddy dresses up to take the kids out trick-or-treating.

So will go Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck's night, which might even be over by now. Hasselbeck took his children -- daughters Annabelle and Mallory and son Henry -- for the annual tradition.

One of the daughters was a mermaid. The other was a football player and little Henry was Captain Hook.

Hasselbeck was asked what football player his daughter was.

"I think she's wearing No. 8, if she wants any candy," Hasselbeck said. "I've got a costume as well. I'm going as the Burger King king."

Casts and other assorted injury notes

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:45 PM

The Seahawks finished their Wednesday practice. Shaun Alexander is still wearing a cast on his left wrist though it's small enough you might not notice it. Coach Mike Holmgren didn't provide a date when he will no longer wear it.

Defensive end Darryl Tapp is wearing a much bigger cast on his right hand. His fingers aren't even visible. He said he will wear a smaller cast for the game, and the larger cast is just for maximum protection. He said the biggest impact is in the run game when he can't use his hands to knock a blocker off him.

"All I can do is raise my nub," he said.

Matt Hasselbeck took all the snaps in practice except one or two. He said the strained oblique is much improved over last week. Deion Branch just watched practice in a stocking cap, but he was on the field.

Branch, Marcus Pollard and Ray Willis did not practice. Rocky Bernard (groin), Walter Jones (shoulder) and Sean Locklear (ankle) were limited in practice.

In Cleveland, LB Kris Griffin (Achilles), LB D'Qwell Jackson (ankle) and FB Lawrence Vickers (concussion) did not practice. DL Ted Washington (knee) was limited in practice.

Deion Branch, 50-50 chance of playing; Pollard a long shot

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:35 PM

Coach Mike Holmgren just finished his Wednesday press conference. Tackle Ray Willis will be out, still recovering from a knee injury. Wide receiver Deion Branch has a 50-50 chance of playing. He missed the past two games with a bruised foot. Marcus Pollard underwent knee surgery a week ago. He's a long shot to play this week, but there is a chance.

Holmgren also said the team will be looking at some different combinations to try and get the running game going. He would specify what those changes are, but we'll get an idea in the days to come.

October 30, 2007

Grady Jackson appears close to being a Jaguar

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 2:00 PM

The Florida Times-Union reported today that defensive tackle Grady Jackson appears close to becoming a Jag. Here's a link to the story here.

We hope to get him signed today. He'll help us with depth.

-- Jags coach Jack Del Rio to Florida Times-Union

Seattle at Cleveland, by the numbers

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:28 PM

Up until this season, the Browns offense had been most noteable recently for its unexplainable rash of knee injuries. Kellen Winslow hurt his in a motorcycle crash. Braylon Edwards hurt his during a game. LeCharles Bentley, the team's top free agent signee in 2006, hurt his on the first practice of the first day of training camp last year.

Well, the Browns are known for something else this season. They're the biggest surprise in the league in terms of production. Derek Anderson is second in the league in touchdown passes. Edwards is playing like a Pro Bowler. A team that has finished in the bottom half of the league in offensive yardage every year since re-entering the NFL in 1999 is now in the top 5. It's tough to believe.

Bill Parcells, who know works as an ESPN analyst, talked about the Browns' resurgence on a video clip that is linked here.

Here's a story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Anderson and why Charlie Frye was Cleveland's starter when the season opened, not Anderson.

Here are the statistical breakdowns after seven games for both teams.

NFL rank Cleveland Offense Seattle NFL rank
No. 7 356.4 Net yards 324.9 No. 16
No. 14 117.6 Rush yards 92.6 No. 22
No. 9 238.9 Pass yards 232.3 No. 12
No. 6 25.3 Points 19.6 No. 16
No. 14 5 Rush TDs 2 No. 27(t)
No. 2 17 Pass TDs 11 No. 8(t)
No. 16 (t) 13 Sacks allowed 16 No. 19(t)
NFL rank Cleveland Defense Seattle NFL rank
No. 32 410.1 Net yards 320.1 No. 13
No. 29 139.4 Rush yards 107.4 No. 13(t)
No. 31 270.7 Pass yards 212.7 No. 16
No. 30 29 Points 15.4 No. 3
No. 11(t) 4 Rush TDs 5 No. 15(t)
No. 31(t) 18 Pass TDs 5 No. 1(t)
No. 31(t) 7 Sacks 23 No. 4
October 29, 2007

Practice attendance

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:28 PM

The Seahawks concluded an hour-long practice on Monday afternoon.

Seneca Wallace took all the snaps with the first team with Matt Hasselbeck watching in a stocking cap. He suffered a strained oblique. Coach Mike Holmgren said the training staff was being cautious and Hasselbeck is expected to practice Wednesday.

Others missing practice: DT Craig Terrill, DE Darryl Tapp, DT Rocky Bernard, RB Leonard Weaver, WR Deion Branch, RT Sean Locklear, TE Marcus Pollard, T Ray Willis.

Pollard underwent arthroscopic surgery one week ago. Some cartilage damage was repaired and the recovery time is expected to be about two weeks. He may not make it back for this week's game, but perhaps the next one at home vs. San Francisco.

Tapp underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand, but he is expected to be available for this weekend's game.

Terrill and Weaver watched practice in baseball caps.

Holmgren said that almost every player who missed practice is expected back on Wednesday when the team begins preparations for the Cleveland game in earnest.

Cleveland making its point(s)

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:39 AM

The Browns scored as many touchdowns in seven games this season as they did all of last year. Numerically, Cleveland's scoring increase from last season is the second steepest in the league (see chart at right, which was updated).

Team 2006 2007 Increase
New England 24.1 41.4 17.3
Cleveland 14.9 27.7 12.8
Oakland 10.5 19.3 8.8
Dallas 26.6 32.4 5.8
Houston 16.7 22.4 5.7
*Editor's note: Chart corrected, the graph headings of '2006' and '2007' were flip-flopped earlier.

However, the No. 1 team is the Patriots, who've gone from above-average to astronomical. The Patriots ranked seventh in scoring last season.

The Browns were 30th last season in scoring last season. Only the Buccaneers and Raiders scored fewer points than Cleveland in 2006 when the Browns offense scored 22 touchdowns all year.

Well, Cleveland is No. 4 this season in scoring average. Only the Colts, Cowboys and Patriots are putting up points at a higher clip.

That's quite an improvement because Cleveland's has perpetually found itself at the bottom of the league's scoring charts. They scored the fewest points in the league in 2005 and they've been among the bottom seven in scoring four years running now. The Browns have not finished in the top half of the league in scoring since the franchise re-entered the NFL in 1999.

Browns-related links:

  • Game story from Cleveland Plain Dealer.

  • The Browns won consecutive games for the first time since 2003. That is simply amazing. Not that they won back-to-back games. That it has been that long. A column from Terry Pluto in the Plain Dealer said this was a win much-needed for confidence.

  • Wide receiver Braylon Edwards is having a breakout season for Cleveland, but he got a little carried away with one celebration on Sunday. Here's a column from Bud Shaw talking about Edwards' emergence.

  • Good bye to the bye

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 10:01 AM

    Seahawks players return to work on Monday morning, and the team practice this afternoon beginning at 3. Coach Mike Holmgren will answer questions from reporters after practice.

    There are two things I'll make sure to monitor:

  • The availability of receivers D.J. Hackett and Deion Branch will be the first things. Those were the pair expected to be the starters at the beginning of the season. They haven't been on the field together since the first week, and neither was on the field the past two games.

  • Shaun Alexander's cast. Is there any timetable for when he will no longer be wearing the cast? That's something I'll make sure to ask about today.

    As for Matt Hasselbeck's oblique injury, I can tell you what to expect in the way of responses. He'll say it feels fine. In fact, he said it felt fine last week and he would have been able to play if the team had a game. We'll have to wait and see if it looks fine in a game situation, though.

  • October 25, 2007

    No hints of interest in Grady Jackson

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:35 PM

    The Seahawks players have the week off. Not the front office. And Atlanta's decision to let go of defensive tackle has sent ripples felt all the way here to Seattle. Well, that's not a surprise given his size. That man is a mammoth in the middle.

    So are the Seahawks interested?

    Can't say decisively. I've made several calls. Left some messages. Even gotten a few return calls, and I have not been given any indication that they would be. The only feedback I've gotten is probably not.

    But those answers aren't definitive either. President Tim Ruskell hasn't been quoted discussing Jackson. So it's still possible. I know people want definitive answers on whether they would be interested, and this is much less definitive than people would like.

    I'l stay abreast of the situation, and if the Seahawks do get involved, I will post something as soon as I hear about that.

    Couple of links worth reading for those who are interested.

    Grady Jackson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he doesn't know why the Falcons cut him. He also said he hopes to stay in the division. The Tennessean also had a note that Tennessee was among the teams to contact the agent for Jackson. The Titans, however, are not in the same division.

    October 23, 2007

    Nate Burleson expected to receive special-teams award

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:42 AM

    Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson is expected to be named the conference's special teams player of the week after his 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Rams. It would be fitting if Will Herring led the way to the podium considering the way the rookie linebacker functioned like a snow plow in front of Burleson, clearing the way.

    Seattle's Darryl Tapp may not get recognized as the conference's player of the week, but his four-sack effort on Sunday didn't escape notice of Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who singled Tapp's game out in his Monday morning recap of the weekend that was in the league.

    October 22, 2007

    Running into trouble

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:13 PM

    Coach Mike Holmgren has another meeting this afternoon, a flight down to Arizona and a few days of sunshine stretched out in front of him.

    "I'm not going to think a lot about the run for a couple days," Holmgren said. "I'm really not."

    That's different from saying he has no thoughts on the subject. He has plenty, and he shared them on Monday morning.

    "Shaun Alexander seems to be the lightning rod," Holmgren said. "And I am here to tell you that there are times there is nothing there. There is nothing there. We are not blocking very well at this particular point. So that must improve.

    "He has been a little unfairly criticized in my opinion."

    It wasn't just what Holmgren said. It was the way he said it. Listen to the mp3 right here. The coach was going out of his way to make a point about criticism of the running back.

    For the past three weeks Holmgren has drummed the same theme. The running game needs to improve. He said it before the Seahawks played in Pittsburgh, before they played New Orleans and said it last week before playing St. Louis.

    And now? The running game still needs to improve, but on Monday, Holmgren was much more specific about just what needs to improve, just not who.

    "I'm not going to talk about names," Holmgren said. "I'm not going to do that with individuals. But we must improve how we're blocking the run. Assignment-wise. Edges. Technique. Everything to give our guys a chance. When there's something there, we gain yards."

    Alexander is the focus for most of the scrutiny Holmgren hears about both from reporters and even a little bit closer to home.

    "Our families, everybody, and what they say is, 'What's going on with Shaun?' " Holmgren said. "Because Shaun's the MVP. Shaun's a great running back. What's going on with Shaun? Well I'm here to say, with Shaun, there's not a lot there. There is not a lot there. And we have to be better at that. We have to fix that."

    That starts when the players return to work next Monday.

    "Other people are trying to fix this, and I'm trying to delegate a little bit," Holmgren said. "But after yesterday and after viewing the film, it's going to get a little tense around here if I don't see some improvement."

    So just how do you go about fixing that?

    "Well, that will be up to me to decide," Holmgren said. "I can think of stuff to do now."

    Players get the bye week off

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 8:30 AM

    Coach Mike Holmgren said on his radio show on 710 KIRO AM Monday morning his players will get the bye week off. Players will get that news at 9 this morning.

    "We have a number of guys that can use it because of nicks and bruises and so forth," Holmgren said on the radio show.

    Holmgren gave the players the bye each of the previous two seasons as well. Seattle won its first game after the bye both of those seasons.

    "I trust this team to do the right thing on their week off," Holmgren said. "They'll do a little conditioning, but it will be on their own."

    Coaches will also get the week off. Holmgren said he will be traveling to Arizona for a few days.

    When the Seahawks return to work next Monday, the expectation is Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett. Defensive end Darryl Tapp suffered a broken bone in his right hand, according to Holmgren, and he may need surgery, but the procedure wouldn't sideline him long.

    Sunday's win, big deal or not?

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 6:00 AM

    Big deal.

    That was one reaction to Sunday's victory over the Rams. Beating a winless team that hasn't scored a touchdown for two games now isn't the kind of thing that makes a team's season. At least not one that fancies itself a contender.

    Besides, the Seahawks didn't look particularly good on offense. They got five turnovers in the game, but turned those opportunities into a grand total of 13 points. They scored a season-high 33 points, but the offense had fewer than 300 total yards, the quarterback pulled a love handle, a backup tight end led the team in touchdowns and the running back was seen arguing with the coach about coming out of the game.

    Not exactly the kind of performance you build a season upon.

    But that's taking an impossible-to-please approach. What, the Seahawks needed to beat the Rams by 40 points to prove they're really the best in this division?

    The Seahawks scored 33 points on Sunday. The other three teams in the division scored 40 combined. And while this wasn't the sort of victory that shows the world who the Seahawks really are, it does go a long way to showing who they aren't.

    They aren't a team that will lose just because their offense doesn't hum. They aren't a team that will lose consecutive games to crummy opponents. They aren't a team that's totally dependent upon a couple key cogs on offense.

    Those are all significant points. Especially the last one. Shaun Alexander gained 47 yards on 19 carries and Matt Hasselbeck played what was probably his worst game of the season. He was obviously affected by the strained oblique he suffered. He passed for 195 yards and was picked off on one throw that sailed way up and over Bobby Engram's head.

    And Seattle still won. Going away in fact. No, the offense wasn't very good in the red zone. No, the Rams aren't any more dangerous than a pet rock when they have the ball. But Seattle set its pass rush loose and chased the Rams until they said, "Uncle."

    OK. That's an exaggeration, but only slightly.

    The defense held a team out of the end zone for the third game this season. And hey, the Seahawks hung in their game with Pittsburgh for a half, wilting only in the final 30 minutes.

    The Rams offense has been known to give Seattle fits over the top whether it was Torry Holt's late fourth-quarter touchdown behind Michael Boulware in the fourth quarter of last season's game in St. Louis or the game in Seattle two years ago when the Rams erased a 17-point deficit in the final 9 minutes. On Sunday, Seattle didn't allow a completion of more than 31 yards to the Rams. Cornerback Marcus Trufant picked off a pass playing picture perfect coverage down the sidelines and the Seahawks added a couple more interceptions in the second half.

    This wasn't the kind of performance in which Seattle made any sort of statement. The Rams are lousy. But it was a game that spoke to the Seahawks' success in finding different ways to win while the offense continues to search for its identity.

    October 21, 2007

    The sounds of success

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 9:08 PM

    Cornerback Marcus Trufant intercepted two passes the previous two years combined. He's intercepted three passes in seven games this season and his coverage on Isaac Bruce leading to his second-quarter interception couldn't have been any better.

    "Trufant made a real nice play on the first interception," Rams coach Scott Linehan said.

    You could listen to Trufant's explanation of what led to the coverage technique that led to that interception in up until Monday afternoon, but we had to take it out to comply with National Football League restrictions, I mean guidelines.

    The Seahawks intercepted three passes on Sunday, but a primary reason for the secondary's success was the pressure applied by Seattle's defensive front. The seven sacks spoke to how much the Seahawks rattled quarterback Marc Bulger.

    Nate Burleson scored his fourth touchdown of the season on Sunday, this one on a 91-yard kickoff return. He scored on a 90-yard punt return against the Rams in a game last season.

    Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren will hold a press conference at 11 on Monday, which is earlier than the usual Monday schedule. We'll find out about plans for the bye week then.

    Hasselbeck said the strained oblique wouldn't affect his availability even if the team played next week. He said he could have finished the game had the coaches wanted him to.

    Defensive end Darryl Tapp suffered a broken bone in his right hand, coach Mike Holmgren said. That may require surgery, but even if it did, Tapp would not be expected to miss time.

    Leonard Weaver came off limping after one play, but appeared to be fine after the game.

    Bye time

    Posted by Jose Romero at 7:30 PM

    So the Seahawks go into their bye week at 4-3 after today's win, the same place they were after seven games last season. They lead the NFC West by a full game over Arizona. They are doing so without Deion Branch, D.J. Hackett, Chuck Darby, Marcus Tubbs and Mack Strong. Things could be worse.

    A couple of things I didn't write about in tomorrow's Times...

    -Rookie DT Brandon Mebane was thrilled to be able to run out of the tunnel for the first time as a pro. He is the starter in place of Darby, and the defensive starters were introduced before today's game. Mebane celebrated by making the first stop of the game, tackling Rams RB Brian Leonard for no gain on the first play from scrimmage.

    -Coach Mike Holmgren didn't announce his plans for bye week Sunday, but said he has to make a decision on what days the players will have off and will tell the team about it tomorrow morning in a 9:00 meeting at team headquarters. Holmgren has given the Seahawks the entire week off the past two years.

    "That's worked OK, I think," Holmgren said.

    St. Louis at Seattle, Game Thread

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:52 PM

    The Seahawks did something different to start this game. They scored. Seattle scored on its first possession only once all season. That was against Cincinnati after Josh Wilson returned the opening kickoff into the Bengals' half of the field and the Seahawks needed to drive 24 yards for the game-opening score.

    Seattle drove 71 yards for its first touchdown of the game. That's the Seahawks' fourth longest touchdown drive of the season.

    The Seahawks turned the ball over on downs on their second possession, going for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield. Shaun Alexander wasn't even on the field for that play, Maurice Morris running wide to his right and stopped short of the first down. Floyd Womack was in the game, a tackle eligible on that play, and it appeared coach Mike Holmgren was giving Womack an earful on the sidelines. However, Holmgren was probably peeved enough by that play he would have given anyone in shouting distance an earful.

    Halftime update: These two teams have played some thrillers in the past few years. St. Louis' epic fourth-quarter comeback in Seattle in 2004. Seattle bouncing back from Torry Holt's 60-plus yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter last year.

    Sunday's game, however, doesn't rank up there with those thrillers. The Rams have 7 yards net passing at halftime. They've been flagged for four false starts. Their punter had an 80-yard kick in the first half and their offense had 40 net yards. Quarterback Marc Bulger's quarterback rating in the first half? Five.

    And for all that, St. Louis is down only one possession.

    Matt Hasselbeck has grabbed his right side after several plays, and he's tossed a few passes early so he can brace himself for a hit. Shaun Alexander has been more productive than the previous two games, but he was on the bench for the Seahawks' failed fourth-and-1 in the first half that set up St. Louis' only points of the first two periods.

    Darryl Tapp played a great first half. He had two sacks in the second quarter. The first one, he lined up at right end and beat Alex Barron, who held Tapp so badly that he spun him around 360 degrees. Tapp still chased down Bulger for the sack. His next sack, Tapp lined up at left and beat Milford Brown. The Rams were flagged for holding that play, too, after Richie Incognito got beaten on a spin move from Craig Terrill. The Seahawks declined that penalty.

    Third quarter update: Darryl Tapp had 4.5 sacks in his first 22 games as a Seahawk. He has four sacks in the first three quarters. He forced two fumbles, one of which the Seahawks recovered. The four sacks matches a franchise record, reached four times previously. The most recent was Michael McCrary back in 1996.

    He suffered a hand injury and he's playing with a big padded cast on his right hand.

    Fourth quarter update: What in the Heller? That's what the Rams may be asking themselves about now. Heller caught his second touchdown pass of the game. He had four touchdown catches in his previous four NFL seasons combined. He now has as many touchdowns this season as Shaun Alexander. They've got two apiece. Make of that what you will.

    Postgame update: Darryl Tapp suffered a broken bone in his hand, which Holmgren said is a little like the injury David Kirtman suffered in training camp. That required surgery, but didn't keep Kirtman out for too long.

    As for the coach's discussion in the fourth quarter, caught by television cameras?

    "He did not want to come out of the game," Holmgren said. "He wanted to keep playing and at that point I had taken Matt out of the game, and we had taken a couple guys out of the game, and Shaun, of course, would come out of the game. The game was in hand at that particular point, and he did not want to come out of the game. So I tried to explain it to him why, and he is frustrated a little bit.

    "And he just wants to do well. He just wants to score touchdowns. He just wants to do well. So he's probably a little mad at me right now. But in that situation, I get to say. If I had left any of those guys in the game and they had been hurt, it would have been a really dumb thing to do. That was what the discussion was about."

    I'll check in with a post-game recap later tonight.

    D.J. Hackett, Marcus Pollard inactive

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:05 PM

    WR D.J. Hackett is among the eight players on the inactive list. Hackett is coming off a high ankle sprain, and coach Mike Holmgren indicated on Friday the wide receiver might not be available for the game.

    TE Marcus Pollard is also inactive. He has been slowed by an injured knee. He practiced on Friday, but will be replaced in the lineup by Will Heller on Sunday.

    Also inactive for Seattle: Hackett, S C.J. Wallace, G Mansfield Wrotto, T Ray Willis, WR Deion Branch, Pollard, DT Howard Green and QB Charlie Frye is the third quarterback.

    St. Louis inactives: S Bhawoh Jue, RB Steven Jackson, C Nick Leckey, WR Dante Hall, WR Drew Bennett, TE Dominique Byrd, WR Dane Looker, DE Trevor Johnson.

    Brian Leonard will start at running back for Jackson and Joe Klopfenstein will start at fullback, according to the lineup released. Klopfenstein is a tight end.

    October 19, 2007

    Final pregame injury report

    Posted by Jose Romero at 3:03 PM

    WR D.J. Hackett (ankle) is questionable for Sunday for the Seahawks, as is TE Marcus Pollard.

    DT Rocky Bernard (groin) and CB Josh WIlson (ankle) are probable.

    As for the Rams, the big news is that RB Steven Jackson has been ruled out with a groin injury after missing Friday's practice. WR Dante Hall (ankle) is also out.

    WR Drew Bennett (hamstring) and former UW WR Dane Looker (thigh) are questionable. Looks like the Rams are as banged up at receiver as the Seahawks.

    QB Marc Bulger (ribs), WR Isaac Bruce (hamstring), WR Torry Holt (knee), DE Leonard Little (toe), S Corey Chavous (chest) and C Brent Romberg (ankle) are all probable after practicing Friday.

    SI speculation on Holmgren's future

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 2:56 PM

    CNNSI.com's Don Banks began his list of five observations with a bold prediction concerning Mike Holmgren's future in Seattle. Actually, the bold predication was the lack of a Seahawk future beyond this season. Now, he's very clear that this is his supposition. There's no mention of any tangible sign Holmgren is fed up and Banks even mentions that Holmgren and president Tim Ruskell get along well. Here's an excerpt summarizing his feelings.

    Holmgren will come to realize that as this season unwinds, and he'll again start contemplating retirement, as he did two years ago, immediately after Seattle's Super Bowl run. He won't stick around just to go 9-7 or 10-6 for another year or two, surviving maybe into the first or second round of the playoffs. He's been there and done that, many times.

    It's an interesting line of thinking. What we've seen the past two weeks is that the offense that defined Seattle for so much of this current run of success is not performing at the level of two years ago or even three or four seasons ago. Last season, any offensive stumbles were masked by the injuries the Seahawks experienced.

    And if the Seahawks are going to have to retool on offense, will Holmgren have the patience to go through that again? That's a valid question.

    But let's hold on a second before drawing any conclusions. We're six games into a 16-game season. Yes, the Seahawks have stumbled. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the viability of a deep playoff run. There's also plenty of time to correct the current course, but if Seattle's O continues to be a no-go, the discussion of Holmgren's future will only get louder the rest of the season.

    Practice report

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:41 PM

    The Seahawks just finished their final open practice of the week. D.J. Hackett participated, but coach Mike Holmgren said a determination on whether he will play has not been made. Translation: Hackett may be another week away from getting on the field. Actually, that would mean two weeks since the Seahawks have a bye next week.

    Rocky Bernard returned to practice on Friday and so did tight end Marcus Pollard. Both played last week after returning to practice on Friday.

    October 18, 2007

    Practice report

    Posted by Jose Romero at 2:24 PM

    Practice was moved from 1:30 p.m., its normal Thursday time, to 11:45 a.m. because of concerns about a windstorm in the area.

    RB Shaun Alexander said he felt the change was good and heightens the anticipation of playing the rival St. Louis Rams.

    "This week's always special for us, so us practicing early kind of makes it like that, even a little bit more," Alexander said. "This is exciting."

    TE Marcus Pollard and DT Rocky Bernard missed a second straight day of practice, and CB Josh Wilson appeared to injure his right ankle during practice and had to be helped off the field. His status for Sunday's game is not known.

    WR D.J. Hackett did a bit more in practice than he did Wednesday but offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said he originally didn't plan on having Hackett back this week. Haskell likes what he's seen from the receivers this week, with Deion Branch still out with a foot injury and wearing what Haskell jokingly called a "Tom Dempsey boot."

    Dempsey was the record-setting kicker for the New Orleans Saints in the 1970s.

    From the Rams camp, it looks like star return man Dante Hall is out for this game with an ankle injury. So said the daily injury report. DE Leonard Little missed a second day of practice with a toe problem, and RB Steven Jackson was limited with a groin injury though the Seahawks expect him to play. WRs Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Dane Looker had full participation in practice.

    Alexander discusses the running game

    Posted by Jose Romero at 1:59 PM

    Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander was peppered with questions about the running game today after practice and declared that he needs to be a more patient runner. Then he offered his solution.

    "I haven't allowed my team to go do their thing," Alexander said. "I think that part of me is just to kind of go back and be me instead of trying to hit every hole and be perfect instead of just letting everybody play. That's one of the things I've been working on this whole week, is going back to what I used to do and stop trying to make every play perfect."

    So who is Alexander? He said he has hit more holes opened by his blockers than ever in his career this season, but that his signature style of being patient and waiting for a lane to open and cut through might be the best way to improve his numbers and get a struggling Seattle running game going.

    "Letting the line do what they do and just reading off of that," Alexander said. "We're just going to make yards."

    Alexander said he's playing hard but doing the basics, like running through a gap opened by the offensive line when it's there, isn't working so well for him.

    "I'm just going to go back to just making the plays happen," Alexander said. "Let's just all go back to doing what we do best...Let's just go out and play. None of us are in a panic mode, none of us are worried or anything. We're just saying 'OK, football's a fun sport and it should be.'"

    To summarize, Alexander said he's been more focused this year than any other in his career on staying on the play called, but that he feels that has "chained my own self down." So rather than hit all the holes, he'll pick and choose what holes to hit and whether he wants to cut back another direction instead of always following the blocking.

    Draw your own conclusions. It was an interesting take.

    The game according to Peter

    Posted by Jose Romero at 11:55 AM

    This from Sports Illustrated's Peter King -- one of the more visible NFL insiders/experts out there -- on www.fannation.com. Thanks to my co-worker Craig "Sideline Smitty" Smith.

    Game: St. Louis Rams (0-6) at Seattle Seahawks (3-3)
    King's comment: Do I have to pick a winner here? Could I pick both teams to lose?

    Prediction: Seahawks 20, Rams 17

    Well, that might sum up how most of the country feels about this game.

    October 17, 2007

    Practice attendance

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:05 PM

    Seattle

    OUT: T Ray Willis and WR Deion Branch.

    Did not practice: DT Rocky Bernard (groin) and TE Marcus Pollard (knee).

    Limited in practice: WR D.J. Hackett (ankle).

    St. Louis

    Did not practice: WR Drew Bennett (hamstring), WR Dante Hall (ankle), WR Torry Holt (knee), DE Leonard Little (toe), C Brett Romberg (ankle).

    Limited in practice: WR Isaac Bruce (hamstring), RB Steven Jackson (groin), WR Dane Looker (thigh).

    Recap of Mike Holmgren's news conference

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:39 PM

    D.J. Hackett is expected to practice on Wednesday and the plan Sunday will be to use Hackett, Nate Burleson and Courtney Taylor at the split end position with Bobby Engram and Ben Obomanu at the flanker spot. Deion Branch is expected back after the bye.

    Holmgren said the Seahawks will look to see if Howard Green can work himself into the rotation at defensive tackle.

    Holmgren also said he has not decided the team's schedule for the bye week. He gave the team the bye week off the past two seasons.

    NFC West Worst

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:01 PM

    The Rams are 0-6 for the first time in more than 40 years. They've been decimated all over the roster by injuries. Quarterback Marc Bulger counted two strong safeties, a free safety, three wide receivers, a running back and numerous offensive linemen.

    So how hard is it for Bulger and the rest of the Rams to get up and go back to work each day?

    "Fortunately we're in the NFC West," Bulger said. "We're only three games out."

    It's true, amazingly enough. As bad as the Rams have been they're not out of it. Not yet.

  • Steven Jackson practiced without contact on Wednesday, but he is another week or two away from returning from a groin injury.

  • October 16, 2007

    Seahawks sign DT Howard Green

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:19 PM

    Seattle signed defensive tackle Howard Green, who last played with New Orleans in 2004. Green takes the place of Chuck Darby, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday against the Saints and was placed on injured reserve.

    Green was originally a sixth-round pick from LSU in 2002. Here's a link to his Yahoo! profile right here.

    Green most recently was with the Vikings, who released him on Sept. 1.

    St. Louis at Seattle, by the numbers

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:00 AM

    The local mood about the Seahawks is kind of like the weather here six months of the year. Very overcast. A chance of precipitation. Little hope of seeing the sun.

    But it could always be worse. Consider the scenario in St. Louis. Columnist Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if the Rams could go 0-16. Consider this flowery little excerpt:

    Are they merely awful, horrible and woefully inept, or can they take this wretchedness to an inglorious and historic excess?

    And when another local column discusses the "brave front" the coach is maintaining, well that's like a roadside flare signaling a gnarly wreck ahead.

    Sure enough, there are the Rams. Off to the franchise's worst start in 45 years. The quarterback is coming back after missing two games because of broken ribs and while Marc Bulger feels better, he admitted he hasn't been hit yet, either. The rookie cornerback the team chose in the first round got booed for celebrating a broken-up pass.

    Here's the statistical breakdown between the two teams, looking at averages as well as league rank.

    NFL rank St. Louis Offense Seattle NFL rank
    No. 29 283.5 Net yards 330.8 No. 18
    No. 25 87.5 Rush yards 91.3 No. 22
    No. 24 196 Pass yards 239.5 No. 8
    No. 30 12.2 Points 17.3 No. 20
    No. 32 0 Rush TDs 2 No. 24(t)
    No. 22(t) 5 Pass TDs 8 No. 7(t)
    No. 26 17 Sacks allowed 15 No. 24(t)
    NFL rank St. Louis Defense Seattle NFL rank
    No. 2 258.5 Net yards 338 No. 21
    No. 27 134.5 Rush yards 116.5 No. 18
    No. 10 203.5 Pass yards 220.2 No. 19
    No. 3 11.8 Points 13.2 No. 5
    No. 31 9 Rush TDs 5 No. 21(t)
    No. 13(t) 7 Pass TDs 5 No. 6(t)
    No. 20(t) 9 Sacks 16 No. 6(t)
    October 15, 2007

    It's all in the cards

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:01 PM

    I didn't watch the broadcast on Sunday night, but apparently NBC showed a very tightly focused shot of the playsheet coach Mike Holmgren carries with him on the sidelines. You know, that laminated thing he is either looking at or holding over his mouth to keep opponents from reading his lips.

    The playcard was shown for no more than a second, according to an NBC spokesman and it was not intentional.

    Boy, didn't this the sort of the thing that had the Patriots coughing up a draft choice(s) and stick coach Bill Belichick get a big, fat, ugly fine. Oh wait. They were filming the signals of opposing defensive coaches. This was part of the telecast, shown unintentionally and while someone could conceivable capture the screen and freeze it -- say like this on Seth Kolloen's blog -- well, Holmgren said it would be tough for another coach to make much sense of it and it doesn't have much carryover to the next week.

    Holmgren was asked about it on Monday ... by someone wearing the jacket of the local NBC affiliate.

    "Yeah, I don't even know how they do that," Holmgren said. "Was that that camera that almost hit Matt and killed him?"

    Nope. Different camera. That one was suspended above the field and it appeared one of the cables broke.

    As for the up-close shot of the playcard?

    "There are not a lot of secrets, but I think those things probably, they should probably tell you if they're going to try and do that," Holmgren said. "Or ask you, and if you say no, they should honor that request. I would rather they didn't do that."

    Is it the sort of thing that could linger around down the road, giving opponents a key into the Seahawks' offensive philosophy?

    "Oh, I don't know," Holmgren said. "I don't think so. The guys that have worked with me and for me over the years, have a very similar type of set-up. The plays change weekly. That whole sheet is different now."

    The sheet is more like a cue card for Holmgren. It lets him know the plays he thinks will be effective, broken down by the situation such as third-and-short or second-and-long. He also uses it as a reminder to keep from forgetting certain plays that he thinks will be effective in the game.

    "Every coach has a card," Holmgren said. "It's really for the coach. So very quickly, I know where things are on the card. If you were to hand me someone else's card with the same plays on it, they might set them up differently."

    Rams reading

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:57 PM

    The biggest news is quarterback Marc Bulger told reporters in St. Louis he plans to start this week's game in Seattle. Here's the Associated Press story right here. I'll keep updating this thread about that.

    Chuck Darby out for the season

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:51 PM

    Defensive tackle Chuck Darby suffered an injury to his patella tendon, will undergo surgery and is out for the rest of the season.

    Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane will replace Darby in the starting lineup, coach Mike Holmgren said. He also said the team will be looking to add a defensive tackle to improve depth at that position.

    Darby is the second defensive tackle lost to injury. Marcus Tubbs suffered a season-ending knee injury during an exhibition game. The Seahawks currently have four defensive tackles: Ellis Wyms, Craig Terrill, Rocky Bernard and Mebane.

    First time since 2002

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 9:04 AM

    The Seahawks lost a second consecutive game by 10 or more points for the first time since 2002.

    Running back Shaun Alexander finished with 35 yards rushing, giving him 60 over the past two games. It's his smallest two-game total since 2002.

    The last time the Seahawks missed the playoffs? 2002.

    Has Seattle really regressed all the way back to that point? That would be hard for me to believe. The Seahawks have a quarterback who's off to his best start and played relatively well on Sunday night other than the interception that looked like something out of a neighborhood game of three-flies-up.

    The Seahawks offense usually gains in speed and tempo the second month of the season. That has not happened and the past two opponents showed some unexpected strategies that caused Seattle to grind its gears. The Steelers blitzed significantly less than the Seahawks expected, the Saints blitzed significantly more.

    Yes, the Seahawks are missing Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett and that's probably crimped the possibilities on offense, but did you get a look at the Saints leading receiver on Sunday night? David Patten. The Saints expected big things this season from Marques Colston and Devery Henderson and drafted Robert Meachem high yet they found some solid production from someone as unexpected as Patten. Bobby Engram had a 100-yard receiving game on Sunday, and Ben Obomanu caught a touchdown, but there were just as many conspicuously botched routes by Seattle receivers as there were big plays.

    Heading into the season, one of the major storylines of the season was whether the offense that has been the signature of Seattle's recent string of success had changed.

    The tight end Mike Holmgren drafted in the first round was gone. Their most productive wide receiver was gone. The team spent six of its eight first-day draft choices from 2005 to 2007 on defensive players and one of the offensive players the team did choose -- quarterback David Greene -- washed out so severely that Seattle started this season with only two quarterbacks on the roster.

    But pinning the explanation on absences is too easy. Jerramy Stevens has caught two passes in Tampa Bay and Darrell Jackson is playing for an offense so stagnant it's threatening to set a new 16-game mark for fewest yards.

    I'll keep adding to this discussion over the course of the day, poking around for both explanations and examples of an offense that has lost its rhythm and its way the first third of this season. In the meantime, here are links to our coverage in the paper today:

    Playoffs? That classic Jim Mora rant is laughable. So is the throught Seattle is playing like a playoff team, says Steve Kelley in his column.

    Seattle added high-profile free agents like Julian Peterson, Patrick Kerney and Deon Grant the past two offseasons. They drafted players like Lofa Tatupu and Kelly Jennings and Darryl Tapp. Yet that defense went out and let a struggling team find its offensive rhythm on Sunday night, and Jerry Brewer writes just how damaging that was.

    The emotional tone of the game was set in Seattle's favor. Not the outcome, though, as detailed by José Miguel Romero. Oh, and that Alexander guy. You might have heard he didn't play so hot. Here's my description of that effort.

    Holmgren: "Don't lose confidence"

    Posted by Jose Romero at 8:23 AM

    That's what the Seahawks coach told listeners this morning on KIRO radio during his Monday morning show.

    "We haven't hit our stride yet," Holmgren said of his struggling team, which has lost back-to-back games and is 3-3.

    Holmgren also said WR D.J. Hackett could be back from his high ankle sprain this week, and WR Deion Branch will return after the team's bye Oct. 28.

    He thought Shaun Alexander ran hard and that the intent was to really establish the running game, but when the Seahawks got down by so many points, the game plan changed.

    October 14, 2007

    Postgame recap

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 10:54 PM

    There's no shortage of angles to take in dissecting this loss. That's to be expected, though, when a team loses by double digits for the second consecutive week. That hasn't happened to Seattle since 2002, the first year the Seahawks played at Qwest Field and the last time Seattle failed to reach the playoffs.

    Start with the offense since that's where the Seahawks bgan on Sunday, receiving the kickoff. It continues to move in fits and starts to begin the game. The Seahawks fell behind 6-0 to Tampa Bay, 17-0 in Arizona and went scoreless in the first half in Pittsburgh. And once again, the Seahawks didn't get into the end zone until the closing minutes of the second quarter, the same situation as the game against the Bucs and the Cardinals. The difference is Seattle was already facing a three-touchdown deficit by the time it scored in this game.

    The Seahawks have scored one first-quarter touchdown in six games this season. That was against Cincinnati and was set up by Josh Wilson's big return of the opening kickoff.

    A week ago, the Seahawks expected the Steelers to blitz a lot. Instead, Pittsburgh rushed three players, dropped eight in to coverage and left Matt Hasselbeck resorting to check downs instead of chucking downfield. On Sunday, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck mentioned the Saints were a team that hadn't blitzed much to open the season and they seemingly came from every angle at the Seahawks.

    But Seattle's offensive struggles weren't exactly surprising. Coach Mike Holmgren said for two weeks now his team needs to start running the ball better. The emphasis hasn't resulted in improvement. Not only that, but Seattle is without Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett, projected as the two starting wide receivers entering the season.

    It's the defense that is really perplexing though. The Seahawks didn't have a sack against New Orleans, the second time that's happened this season. Seattle is a team that has gotten great pressure some games. It knocked Jeff Garcia for a loop in the opener and took buried the 49ers two weeks ago and they couldn't get close enough to Drew Brees on Sunday to smell his breath.

    Is the fact Seattle's third-down defense has been atrocious a result of that lack of pressure or is it even more stunning because of its lack of pressure? After all, the Seahawks have not blitzed that much, but that hasn't translated to better coverage in the secondary on third-and-long situations. The Saints converted two third downs of 10 or more yards on their long touchdown drive that lasted more than 7 minutes and gave them all the rhythm they needed. New Orleans scored touchdowns the next two times it had the ball with a pair of drives that lasted fewer than 3 minutes apiece.

    Some final thoughts

    Posted by Jose Romero at 10:35 PM

    At least the Seahawks put some points on the board this week. But the defense looked utterly confused and uncertain of what the Saints were going to do on the next play on several occasions. That part has to be corrected ASAP. The Seahawks have to be a lot better at getting off the field on third down.

    Offensively, Seattle couldn't do a whole lot once they became largely one-dimensional. Hasselbeck was running for his life without the running game being a consistent threat, and that's a recipe for disaster in this league no matter who you face, except maybe if it's....drum roll please....next week's opponent, the awful St. Louis Rams.

    I thought Leonard Weaver showed some good things. He can run for a big guy but now he has to get that blocking thing down. Bobby Engram can still get it done -- he backed up that conversation he had with Coach Holmgren last week when he asked for a larger role in the offense.

    Special teams also did the Seahawks in. A botched snap is inexcusable. Too bad J.P. Darche got hurt last season and then left in free agency. The Seahawks could use that stability and reliability at long snapper right now.

    3-3 in this division and still heavily in the running to win it. The Seahawks have to win next week for sure, though.

    Game thread

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 6:04 PM

    The Saints' procession to their second touchdown of the game looked a little familiar for the Seahawks.

    New Orleans drove 86 yards in 14 plays on a drive that took 7:04. Seattle allowed New Orleans to convert two third-down plays, one of 10 yards and the next of 11. The Saints also overcame three penalties on that drive.

    The Seahawks are going to see a whole lot of Reggie Bush. He touched the ball on seven of New Orleans' first nine offensive plays from scrimmage.

    Added after second quarter: The Seahawks offense sputtered most of the first quarter and their defense spent most of the second period being dragged from end to end as the Saints' rediscovered a bit of that fevered pace they played with last season.

    New Orleans' first touchdown drive took 7:04 off the clock. The second scoring drive lasted only 2:48 and their third touchdown drive of the half spanned 80 yards in 1:46.

    But hey, at least Seattle found its way into the end zone. That's something that hadn't occurred this month. Seattle had not scored since the third minute of the third quarter in their game in San Francisco on Sept. 30.

    Second-half update: I'm going to check in again after the game tonight, but with a night game, I'm going to have to focus on meeting deadlines. Check in afterward.

    Two blocked punts don't seem so bad now, huh?

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 5:51 PM

    New Orleans scored its first touchdown before its offense even touched the ball. The first snap by Boone Stutz -- signed on Wednesday -- was low and to the left of Ryan Plackemeier.

    The Seahawks signed Stutz to replace Rackley, whose accuracy had been a cause for concern. Seattle had a punt blocked in Arizona and another deflected in San Francisco two weeks ago.

    Stutz's first snap to Plackemeier was low and to the left though it didn't appear to bounce before getting to Plackemeier, who couldn't field it.

    Inactive list

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:17 PM

    The list of inactive players has been released.

    Seattle's inactive players: WR D.J. Hackett, CB Kevin Hobbs, DE Jason Babin, LB Kevin Bentley, G Mansfield Wrotto, T Ray Willis, WR Deion Branch and QB Charlie Frye, who's in uniform as the emergency quarterback.

    Both Rocky Bernard and Marcus Pollard are active for the game. Pollard missed two practices last week because of a sore knee, and appeared to run gingerly during practice on Friday. That bears keeping in mind. Ben Joppru could see some opportunities at tight end.

    New Orleans inactive players: WR Robert Meachem, WR Terrance Copper, S Jay Bellamy, CB Jason David, G Andy Alleman, T Jermon Bushrod, TE Ronnie Ghent, DE Josh Cooper.

    Lance Moore will start at wide receiver for New Orleans, not Devery Henderson.

    Mack Strong's banner day

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:25 PM

    Fullback Mack Strong, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in last week's game, will be raising the 12th Man flag before Sunday night's game against the Saints.

    Strong was in his 15th season with the Seahawks, the longest tenure in Seattle for any active pro athlete. He's someone whose role will probably be remembered in Seattle much like Nate McMillan's with the Sonics. Two consummate professionals who showed a dedication to those selfless tasks that are so important to a team's success and so easy for people to overlook. Strong came to Seattle an undrafted rookie from Georgia and ended up being a cornerstone of Seattle's locker room.

    October 12, 2007

    Will Mack raise the 12th Man flag?

    Posted by Jose Romero at 9:24 PM

    Seems like many of you believe he should. On Friday, the Seahawks weren't saying whether former fullback Mack Strong would do so before Sunday night's game, but it certainly makes plenty of sense in light of the week's events.

    The team Web site has an ad telling fans to purchase their Mack Strong jersey (#38) before the game to honor Mack, and new starting fullback Leonard Weaver said he'll be listening to Strong's feedback on the sideline. That indicates that Strong could, if nothing else, be on the sideline with the team.

    Final injury report, and a local guy comes home

    Posted by Jose Romero at 4:31 PM

    Here's the official injury report for Sunday's game, as released by the Seahawks:

    Seattle
    Out
    Pos. Player Injury
    OL Ray Willis Knee
    WR Deion Branch Foot

    Doubtful
    Pos. Player Injury
    WR D.J. Hackett Ankle

    Questionable
    Pos. Player Injury
    DT Rocky Bernard Groin
    TE Marcus Pollard Knee

    Probable
    Pos. Player Injury
    RB Shaun Alexander Wrist
    CB Josh Wilson Ankle

    New Orleans

    Friday (10/12/07)
    Out
    Pos. Player Injury
    CB Jason David Forearm

    Probable
    Pos. Player Injury
    K Olindo Mare Groin

    Former Kentwood High School star Mike Karney is now the Saints' starting fullback. Karney has only 14 yards on 5 carries this season but has run for two scores.

    "He's a great guy, a guy we all love and respect on the team," Saints QB Drew Brees said of Karney. "Kind of an unsung hero, really does a lot, obviously, in the run game and then in the passing game as well."

    Karney will have about 100 family members and friends cheering him on Sunday, his sister told Times reporter Sandy Ringer.

    Alexander the Great or Shaun of the Dead updated.

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 2:16 PM

    Please scroll down to that entry and let's keep the discussion going. I'll be back with some numerical breakdowns by quarter in the afternoon.

    Rookie initiation

    Posted by Jose Romero at 1:35 PM

    Not quite sure if this falls under that category, but it makes sense. The Seahawks make rookie DT Brandon Mebane bark out the word "Huddle!" after each play during goal-line defense drills.

    It's to let the defense know where to huddle up, DE Patrick Kerney says. The funny part of this is that Mebane sounds a lot like a hound dog, or a barking sea lion. I'll leave it up to the imagination.

    I really wasn't sure who was making the noise, but something led me to ask Mebane as he was walking back to the locker room from Friday's practice. First he said teammate Chuck Darby was responsible, then Mebane admitted he was the woofer.

    Mebane has to repeat the word whenever a veteran teammate asks him to do so. It's not uncommon to hear Mebane bark three or four times before a play.

    Friday practice attendance

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:28 PM

    Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard and tight end Marcus Pollard returned to practice on Friday, but coach Mike Holmgren said he'll have to consult with trainers before seeing if they are available because some guys weren't moving like they were particularly healthy. Pollard missed two practices with a sore knee this week.

    "Like Pollard?" Holmgren was asked.

    "Yeah," Holmgren said.

    Pollard is listed as questionable by the Seahawks. Same for Bernard. D.J. Hackett is listed as doubtful. He hasn't practiced this week and Holmgren said on Monday the hope was Hackett could return against St. Louis.

    Josh Wilson and Shaun Alexander are listed as probablem, which means its virtually certain they will play.

    The only player on the Saints injury report is CB Jason David, who is out.

    The Saints come marching in...

    Posted by Jose Romero at 11:38 AM

    ...without the service of former WSU player Jason David, a cornerback who will miss Sunday's game with a forearm injury. Kicker Olindo Mare, who has a right groin injury and is just 3-for-7 on field goals this season, practiced this week and is probable for Sunday. The Saints tried out several kickers Tuesday at their facility, according to the Times-Picayune, but Mare figures to remain for at least this week.

    Alexander the Great or Shaun of the Dead?

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:01 AM

    My flight back to Seattle from Pittsburgh took me through Philadelphia on Monday, where I ended up sitting next to a couple of fellows who were discussing the Eagles before takeoff. Well, actually, it was the Iggles if you spelled it out phonetically.

    But they were both complaining about Donovan McNabb. He'd lost the mobility that once gave him an edge. He was never all that accurate a passer to begin with. The point is he was past his prime.

    What struck me wasn't just the passion, but the position. Quarterback. That's the guy who usually gets disproportionate shares of credit and criticism. Except in Seattle, it's the guy who runs the ball -- not the one who throws it -- who sparks heated criticism in the wake of a loss.

    People are passionately divided about Shaun Alexander. People don't like how easily he goes down. They don't like his hesitation in looking for the big run. They think he's running differently than he did in 2005. Now he's coming off his worst start in five years, he was predictably a major source of discussion.

    Here's our story from Friday, which starts out with a look at his prime-time performances and segues to a discussion of his declining productivity.

    ESPN.com's Mike Sando listed Alexander No. 1 in his ranking of overrated players, identified as big-money players who may not be as good as advertised. Sando consulted with scouts, coordinators and players, and he's someone very familiar with Alexander, having covered the Seahawks for nearly a decade with the Tacoma News Tribune.

    ESPN's Chris Mortensen said to KJR-AM's Mitch Levy this week that the national impression of Alexander is that he's running like the player the Seahawks were reluctant to give a long-term contract to before 2005, not the back who set the single-season touchdown record during the Super Bowl season.

    Today, I'd like to have a dialogue on the blog about Alexander. I'll be posting some numbers breaking down his performance by quarter, by side of the field he runs through and posting some thoughts of my own.

    Added at 2:08 p.m.

    So here's a look at Alexander's numbers, broken down by general direction and then by specific gap. Now, the gaps are based off the play-by-play description, which certainly isn't as accurate as a coach's assessment. It also doesn't indicate instances in which the Seahawks pulled a lineman so don't necessarily attribute a success in a particular direction to a particular player, but it does further refine some general trends.

     
    Left         
    Middle             
    Right           
      Carries Yards Carries Yards Carries Yards
    Game 1 7 20 7 59 13 26
    Game 2 4 24 10 32 4 14
    Game 3 8 64 5 -5 7 41
    Game 4 13 43 6 30 5 5
    Game 5 4 15 0 0 7 10
    Totals 36 166 28 116 36 96


    Added at 3:35 p.m.: As promised here are Alexander's rushing totals broken down by quarter. Here's the thing I find interesting about them. People who complain Alexander doesn't run hard, how do you explain the fact that he's more successful in the second half than in the first?

     
    1st quarter
      
    2nd quarter
      
    3rd quarter
      
    4th quarter
      Yds. Car. Avg.    Yds. Car. Avg.    Yds. Car. Avg.    Yds. Car. Avg.
    Game 1 5 4 1.3    34 8 4.3    34 6 5.7    32 9 3.6
    Game 2 3 3 1.0    7 5 1.4    40 6 6.7    20 4 4.5
    Game 3 3 -4 -0.8    26 6 4.3    34 6 5.7    44 6 7.3
    Game 4 5 6 0.8    18 5 3.6    46 10 4.6    9 4 2.3
    Game 5 16 6 2.7    -1 2 -0.5    1 1 1    9 2 4.5
    Totals 32 15 2.1    84 26 3.2    155 29 5.3    114 25 4.6



    Wouldn't that be the time he's more likely to cash it in if he was shy from contact? He's tired. He's taken a couple of hits. Isn't that when he'd be more likely to go down quicker?

    Yet, he's gaining more yards in the second half than in the first by quite a wide margin. One explanation for that is Alexander's eyes for the cutback and the bigger hole. He doesn't slam it up into the hole like his coaches would like all the time. Coach Mike Holmgren has told that to Alexander before and he talked about it briefly today in answering questions from reporters.

    "Would I like him to hit the hole, on occasion, a little quicker and get it up in there?" Holmgren asked. "I've said that from Day 1 and he knows it for the last however many years he has been here but at the same time his style has produced some wonderful things. He goes around and scores a touchdown and I'm happy so you have to be careful with that.

    "He has great instincts."

    Holmgren also pointed out that some of those decisions by Alexander have produced big runs. In effect, his hesitancy to slam into the hole is the result of looking for something bigger. Finding that unexpected crack or crease is more likely to happen in the second half -- when the opposing defense is starting to tire -- than in the first half when the defenders are rested and revved up.

    At least that's a possible explanation.

    October 11, 2007

    Practice attendance

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:43 PM

    CB Josh Wilson returned to practice on Thursday, participating in all drills. He missed last week's game because of an ankle injury.

    TE Marcus Pollard remained out with a knee injury. His availability is a question to watch moving forward. DT Rocky Bernard also remained out with what was described as a groin injury.

    WR D.J. Hackett did not practice though he was watching the workout. OT Ray Willis (knee) and WR Deion Branch (foot) are out.

    October 10, 2007

    Practice attendance

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:44 PM

    T Ray Willis and WR Deion Branch are out.

    DT Rocky Bernard (groin), WR D.J. Hackett (ankle) and TE Marcus Pollard (knee) did not practice.

    CB Josh Wilson (ankle) was limited in practice.

    For the Saints: K Olindo Mare (groin) and CB Jason David (forearm) did not practice.

    Bobby Engram to start at flanker

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:35 PM

    Wide receiver Bobby Engram will replace Deion Branch in the starting lineup, working on the outside. Presumably, Engram will move to the slot when the Seahawks go to three-receiver formations.

    Just don't say quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will have to adjust to Engram's expanded role in the Seahawks offense.

    "Half the routes I throw to Bobby I can throw with my eyes closed," Matt Hasselbeck said.

    Jared Retkofsky off the practice squad

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:31 PM

    Long-snapper Jared Retkofsky is off the practice squad, replaced by linebacker Cameron Jensen. The Seahawks brought Retkofsky in last week for competition for the long-snapper job. Boone Stutz was still in Atlanta when Seattle added Retkofsky. Stutz wasn't let go by the Falcons until last Wednesday. Seattle announced it signed Stutz on Wednesday.

    Wednesday roster moves

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:08 AM

    The Seahawks made two additions to the 53-man roster on Wednesday.

    Boone Stutz is the Seahawks' new long-snapper, replacing Derek Rackley who was released. Stutz is the guy who beat out Rackley for the long-snapping job in Atlanta last season. Rackley came to Seattle after J.P. Darche suffered a hip injury in the season-opener in 2006. Here's the NFL.com profile of Stutz.

    He was released by the Falcons on Oct. 3 and replaced by Mike Schneck.

    Fullback Fred McCrary was signed to replace Mack Strong, who was moved to injured reserve. The addition of a running was expected after running back Alvin Pearman suffered a season-ending knee injury in San Francisco and then Strong suffered a season-ending neck injury in Pittsburgh. That left the Seahawks with three running backs this week.

    Here's McCrary's career stats from ESPN.com. He was with Atlanta last year and became a free agent in March.

    October 9, 2007

    Thanks, Mack

    Posted by Jose Romero at 9:56 AM

    First, I'd like to say that Danny's story and Steve Kelley's column in today's Times said it all about Mack Strong. Nice job, guys.

    Mack was one of the handful of guys that have been with the Seahawks since my first season covering the team, 2002. I can't say I know him well, but in my numerous interviews and/or brief small-talk sessions with him, he always has been a stand-up guy who didn't duck any topic. I could just feel the reverence and respect the other guys...and reporters...have for Mack. Humble as he is, he had a lot of sway and pull in the locker room.

    As Mack spoke Monday afternoon, announcing the end of his football career with the tears welling up in his eyes and pausing to gather himself, I realized that I had never seen something like this in person. I've seen a lot of Seahawks come and go and gotten to know some of them, and seen the final NFL games or practices of many players. But this was different. Mack said goodbye after 15 seasons. He lasted that long in a league where the average career is three or four. So watching and listening to him in person was powerful.

    I'm glad Mack got to play in a Super Bowl and was voted to two Pro Bowls. And I respect him for the class and dignity and acceptance of his situation with which he walked away from the game.

    October 8, 2007

    Branch out two games, Strong done for the season

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:33 PM

    Wide receiver Deion Branch won't be back until after Seattle's bye on Oct. 28, coach Mike Holmgren said on Monday. Branch suffered a mid-foot sprain in the first quarter of Sunday's loss in Pittsburgh.

    So where does that leave the receivers? Well, it means that rookie Courtney Taylor and second-year pro Ben Obomanu will be half of Seattle's receiving crew on Sunday against New Orleans. On Sunday, the Seahawks inserted Obomanu into Branch's spot, leaving Bobby Engram in his role as the slot receiver. Do they stick with that plan this week or do they move Engram outside into Branch's starting role? That's a question coach Mike Holmgren said the coaching staff will wrestle with this week.

    The bigger, more significant news is that Strong suffered a herniated disk in his neck, which pinched his spinal cord. He will not need surgery to repair the injury, but his season is over and so is his career. The news story on that can be found right here. That leaves Leonard Weaver, a third-year back, stepping into his role as the starting fullback.

    Strong said he won't need surgery to repair the disk. It's a condition that will get better over time. He said the prognosis for his quality of life is very good.

    The sun rises after Seahawks loss

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 2:00 AM

    At least it's supposed to. The sun hasn't quite come up here in Pittsburgh and it's the middle of the night back in Seattle. I'm headed back to Seattle for coach Mike Holmgren's Monday press conference where the questions will be certain to focus on Seattle's offense -- or lack thereof on Sunday -- and the health of wide receiver Deion Branch. He was walking with a plastic boot on his right foot after the game, and we'll ask about the specifics of his injury and a prognosis for his return.

    Say this for Seattle's outcome on Sunday: It was well-rounded.

    After all there are no corners on a zero.

    Nothing. And that says everything about the current status of Seattle's offense, which Jerry Brewer discussed in this column in Monday's paper.

    Sunday was the most dramatic example of what was already becoming apparent. Seattle's offense, its signature two years ago, is not what it was in 2005, and might never be that again. Not this group. The decline that began with injuries and attrition last season has continued through the first five games of this season.

    To be fair, the Seahawks were exceptional in 2005. They set a franchise record for points. They routinely put together touchdown drives of 80 yards or longer. They played with a pace and a rhythm that was truly exceptional. It isn't realistic to expect that year to become a baseline standard for the franchise in a league with the roster turnover that exists in today's NFL.

    But getting shutout in Pittsburgh on an afternoon when the Steelers were missing two of their best defensive plays should ring alarm bells. And while playing two winless teams over the next two weeks might cover up the ills, Sunday's defeat in Pittsburgh should cause everyone to examine the offense that has been the baseline for Seattle's recent status as a bona fide contender.

    The Seahawks offense at no point started could be classified as humming during the first four games. They had summoned production at the appropriate moments. A big punt return against Tampa Bay. An 80-yard touchdown drive to close out the first half in Arizona. A clutch fourth-quarter touchdown against Cincinnati.

    In Week 4 in San Francisco, Seattle's defense put the 49ers in a headlock, but the offense hardly made the most of those opportunities. Five red-zone possessions produced three field goals and two touchdowns.

    Holmgren's offenses tend to pick up after the first four games of each season, and that's what made Sunday's game so startling. Seattle's only red-zone possession on Sunday resulted in a turnover on the final play of the sescond quarter.

    The Seahawks leading receiver in Pittsburgh was a running back playing with a broken hand and afterward both quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and Holmgren talked about the impact of injuries, a reference to Deion Branch's absence for the final three quarters.

    That's certainly true. The Seahawks played the second half without either Branch or D.J. Hackett, the starting receivers on opening day, but two years ago in Week 5 the Seahawks were without their two starting receivers, too. Darrell Jackson had just scheduled knee surgery and Bobby Engram was recovering from cracked ribs and the Seahawks still went out and put up 37 points in St. Louis as Joe Jurevicius caught nine passes for 137 yards.

    But this isn't the Seahawks offense from 2005. That much is clear. Last year the Seahawks could lean on injuries to explain the decline. Shaun Alexander missed six games, Matt Hasselbeck sat out four while Nate Burleson and Deion Branch were still getting used to the offense.

    A year later, the offense's progress ...quot; or lack thereof ...quot; is a question mark going forward. Yes, the Steelers are a very good defense, but Seattle has played plenty of good defenses in the past seven years. They've even played some great ones, and the Seahawks had managed to score in every game going back to the season-opener in 2000.

    October 7, 2007

    Jose's final thoughts

    Posted by Jose Romero at 4:29 PM

    Great day for football, bad performance by the Seahawks. Losing Deion Branch and Mack Strong didn't help, but getting doubled up on time of possession and failing to get anything going consistently on offense were the big reasons for today's loss.

    "They kind of embarrassed us today," QB Matt Hasselbeck said.

    The Steelers were without four starters, two on defense and both of their starting receivers, and still they were much better than the Seahawks on this day.

    "I have to say I'm surprised," TE Marcus Pollard said of being shut out. "We were feeling pretty good about our game offensively and to get blanked, it's tough, but at the same time hats off to them."

    The Seahawks are through with road games until next month. It's the next two at home followed by the bye week.

    Postgame notes

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:55 PM

    The Seahawks were shutout for the first time since September 2000. Shaun Alexander was a rookie then, Matt Hasselbeck was a Packer and while coach Mike Holmgren was in his second year with Seattle, that was actually the season he decided he needed to rebuild the team.

    Shaun Alexander finished with 25 yards on 11 carries, his lowest output in a regular-season game since November 2002 when he gained 18 yards against Denver.

    Wide receiver Deion Branch was wearing a protective boot on his right foot after the game. Coach Mike Holmgren did not provide a prognosis for his injury or the length of his absence, saying he would know more about the injury on Monday.

    Alexander was the leading receiver for the Seahawks with three catches. Really. A running back who isn't normally a consistent target even before he was playing with a cast on his left hand led Seattle in receptions.

    Willie Parker eclipses 100 yards

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:28 PM

    Willie Parker surpassed 100 yards rushing, the second time the Seahawks allowed an opponent to hit the century mark this season.

    I'll be headed down to the locker room for interviews and will post an update later after the dust settles.

    The most telling stat about this game:

    Time of possession Seattle Pittsburgh
    First quarter 9:27 5:33
    Second quarter 4:41 10:19
    Third quarter 1:31 13:29

    First half ends with a fizzle

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:16 AM

    The Seahawks went into the locker room with three timeouts and no points after their deepest drive into Steelers territory ended with an interception by cornerback Ike Taylor.

    Now, it was the interception that negated any points, not the failure to use timeouts, but it was the failure to use those timeouts that put the Seahawks in a position where they had the ball inside the Steelers 20 with 12 seconds left and only two chances to get in the end zone. They needn't have been pressed for time had they used a timeout after Matt Hasselbeck was sacked.

    They didn't, though, and that left the Seahawks up against the clock after a 22-yard completion to Marcus Pollard combined with a personal-foul penalty against safety Anthony Smith for a low hit on Hasselbeck.

    Seattle had the ball at the Steeler 14 with 12 seconds and threw two passes to Ben Obomanu in the right corner of the end zone. The first fell incomplete. The second was intercepted by Taylor as the Seahawks failed to capitalize on their first penetration inside the red zone.

    Seattle's last six trips inside the opponent's 20 have produced three field goals, two touchdowns and one turnover.

    WR Deion Branch left on a cart

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 10:49 AM

    Deion Branch just left the Seahawks bench on the back of a cart. There hasn't been an announcement on any injury, and I didn't notice him get hurt. I'll post an update as soon as I have it.

    They just announced Branch has a right foot sprain. His return is questionable. He still has not returned from the locker room. Ben Obomanu and Nate Burleson were the two receivers to start Seattle's most recent possession.

    First quarter: Seahawks hold 2:1 edge in time of possession

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 10:38 AM

    The Seahawks held the ball for 9:27 of the first quarter, the Steelers had it for 5:33. Don't mistake that for prolonged possessions, though. Seattle never gained more than one first down during any series, though. Shaun Alexander has ran more effectively, though.

    Seneca Wallace was on the field for a first-down play in the final minute of the first quarter, but a false-start penalty against Deion Branch halted the play.

    Mack Strong, stinger

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 10:35 AM

    Fullback Mack Strong suffered a stinger and his return to the game is questionable.

    WR Santonio Holmes, questionable to return

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 10:14 AM

    The Steelers were already missing one starting receiver with Hines Ward inactive. Now Santonio Holmes suffered a hamstring injury, it was announced. His return is questionable. Holmes apparently suffered the injury during warmups, and Cedrick Wilson started the game in his place on Sunday.

    A beautiful day in the Steel City

    Posted by Jose Romero at 8:58 AM

    Good morning, West Coast brethren...It's warm out there for sure. Maybe 30 degress warmer than in Seattle and hotter on the field.

    Heinz Field is a pretty nice stadium right on the rivers. The seats here are bright yellow so I'm fighting the glare.

    Now for some game details: The inactive list for today is out, and no surprises for the Seahawks. WR D.J. Hackett, TE Ben Joppru, CB Josh Wilson, DE Jason Babin, OG Mansfield Wrotto, OL Ray Willis, WR Courtney Taylor and QB Charlie Frye are inactive for Seattle. Wilson and Joppru were doubtful for today with injuries.

    RB Maurice Morris, LB Will Herring and DT Rocky Bernard are dressed and available.

    The Steelers are hurting. Four starters are inactive and three are Pro Bowlers -- WR Hines Ward, S Troy Polamalu and DT Casey Hamtpon. Nate Washington will start at WR For Ward, Chris Hoke replaces Hampton at DT and Anthony Smith is in for Polamalu. On the surface, those changes are a big dropoff from the ability of Polamalu, Ward and Hampton, so expect the Seahawks to take advantage if they can.

    October 5, 2007

    Hines Ward is out

    Posted by Jose Romero at 11:54 AM

    The official injury report for the Sunday's game is out, and Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward is listed as out with a knee injury.

    Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL against the Seahawks. He has been slowed by a sprained knee and missed last Sunday's game at Arizona.

    The Seahawks spent the week preparing as if Ward was going to play. Also, starting CB Bryant McFadden is out with an ankle injury.

    Also for the Steelers (3-1), DT Casey Hampton is questionable with a thigh injury and did not practice Friday, nor did S Troy Polamalu, who is questionable with a strained abdomen. Hampton and Polamalu are the Steelers' best two players on a very stout defense.

    Friday is getaway day

    Posted by Jose Romero at 11:40 AM

    Practice has ended, and let me start by saying how cold it was outside. Early fall? This feels more like early winter.

    The Seahawks are packing up and getting ready to head to the airport to board their plane for Pittsburgh. They're in a cheery mood after the presentation of game balls for last week's win.

    The honorees were Bobby Engram for offense, Marcus Trufant for defense and Niko Koutouvides for special teams.

    There was also a special presentation for coach Mike Holmgren, whom the staff surprised with a game ball commemorating his 150th career regular-season win.

    "It's special," Holmgren said, displaying the ball. "One, it means I'm old. But it's pretty neat...This is just a lot of great players, a lot of hard work from assistant coaches."

    "More importantly, probably, then 150 is 151 right now," Holmgrenn added.

    As for today's practice, DT Rocky Bernard was held out of practice to rest ankle and groin injuries and is questionable for Sunday. It seems he will play, however.

    Officially, WR D.J. Hackett and OL Ray Willis are out. TE Ben Joppru and CB Josh Wilson are doubtful. RB Maurice Morris, LB Will Herring and RB Shaun Alexander are probable but all three of them practiced Friday and are expected to play.

    October 4, 2007

    My two cents...and Shaun

    Posted by Jose Romero at 6:38 PM

    ...from practice today...

    -CB Jordan Babineaux had a good practice, breaking up a few passes.
    -Safeties Brian Russell and Deon Grant had an interception each. Grant caught his with one hand and brought it down.
    -WR Courtney Taylor made a nice grab along the sideline, but it was hard to tell without replay if he had control of the ball and both feet inbounds when he made the catch. He thought so, out loud.
    -RB Shaun Alexander Is impressed with the Steelers' defense. He talked about that and some other things Thursday.

    -On the state of the Seahawks' running game:
    "I think people get excited sometimes when you're not running for 100 yards every game but we've done it two out of four. I think teams come to play against us trying to stop the run and they should and that's why our passing game is doing so well...I can't say that there's something wrong with the running game."

    -On how he evaluates his running this season:
    "I'm actually running pretty well. I think it took me a little while after the first game to kind of get my balance from running with a cast. But overall it's been pretty good."

    -On if he knows how much longer he'll have to wear the cast:
    "No, I really don't. I know I'm healing at an incredible rate."

    -On any anxieties facing the Steelers:
    "No, that was two years ago. They don't even have the same team and we definitely don't have the same team."

    Rocky Bernard back to practice

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:34 PM

    Defensive tackle Rocky Bernard was back on the field for practice on Thursday. He missed practice on Wednesday receiving treatment for an injured ankle (Editor's note: Originally mentioned here as a knee injury. Sorry about that error -- D.O.)

    Maurice Morris did not appear to participate in practice, but we'll get the official attendance later this afternoon.

    Player Injury Date of injury Prognosis
    WR D.J. Hackett Ankle Sept. 9 Out. Did not practice.
    OT Ray Willis Sprained knee Sept. 30 Out. Did not practice.
    CB Josh Wilson Ankle Sept. 30 Did not practice Thursday.
    TE Ben Joppru Ankle Sept. 19 Did not practice Thursday.
    RB Maurice Morris Hip   Did not practice Thursday.
    DT Rocky Bernard Ankle Sept. 30 Limited participation in practice.
    LB Will Herring Knee   Limited participation in practice.

    Here's the Steelers injury report for Thursday. LB Clint Kriewaldt returned to practice after missing Wednesday's workout with an illness. QB Ben Roethlisberger practiced without limitation on Thursday.

    OUT Did not practice Limited in practice Prognosis
      DT Casey Hampton (thigh)  
      S Troy Polamalu (abdomen)  
      WR Hines Ward (knee)  
      CB Bryant McFadden (ankle)  

    Bobby Engram: Mr. Reliable

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:46 AM

    Do you remember where you were when Bobby Engram re-signed with Seattle this offseason?

    Me neither.

    I remember other events. I had just stepped into my house on a Monday evening when Patrick Kerney reached an agreement to join the Seahawks. I was at a poker game on a Thursday night when safety Deon Grant agreed to come to Seattle.

    But I can't for the life of me remember what I was doing when I heard about Engram. I know I heard about it. I wrote this story for the next day's paper. And the news wasn't a shock. A Saints official said earlier that week he expected Engram to re-sign. So when the Seahawks sent out a press release announcing the re-signing, it was apparently a forgettable moment.

    At least it was back in March.

    More than half a year later it's now clear how important that decision was to Seattle. José Miguel Romero details just how important in his story today on the Seahawks' slot receiver extraordinaire.

    Engram caught 17 passes through four games and already has more touchdowns than he did a year ago when a thyroid condition sidelined him for nine games.

    He is Seattle's most consistent pair of hands, Matt Hasselbeck's security blanket and been way more important to Seattle's success than his understated re-signing would have suggested.

    That has more to do with us than anything about Engram or the Seahawks. Attention-deficit is a disorder and it's also a condition in our sports culture. Everything is about what's new, who's next and just what might be coming down the road. Steadiness and consistency -- those things that coaches want more than anything else -- sometimes get overshadowed.

    It's OK. Engram understands.

    "Whatever is new is sexy," he said Wednesday in Seattle's locker room. "Whatever is consistent is not.

    "You can't keep writing the same story about me making the same plays."

    Maybe we should.

    Think about the storylines of the Seahawks training camp. There are marriages that don't get a fraction of the analysis centered upon the rapport between Deion Branch and Matt Hasselbeck and the offseason trade of Darrell Jackson was characterized like a divorce the Seahawks offense would take time to recover from. Nate Burleson's recovery from a hand injury.

    Now think about just how little time was spent looking at Engram and his contributions.

    He's like a Volvo. Everyone knows he's of better quality than your run-of-the-mill sedan. He's safe. He's reliable. He's built to last. It's just no one will ever confuse him with a sports car.

    "He has proven, over the years, to be very, very good for us," coach Mike Holmgren said. "Very clutch."

    When Engram became an unrestricted free agent in March, Holmgren said he flashed back to his days as a car salesman when the first rule was never to let a prospective customer walk out the door.

    "Once he got out the door I got nervous," Holmgren said.

    Engram visited New Orleans as a free agent, and Carolina was interested, too. He canceled that trip once he realized he wanted to come back to Seattle.

    The Seahawks sent out a press release announcing his return. I can't remember where I was when that announcement was sent out, but their coach breathed a sigh of relief.

    "He knows how I feel about him," Holmgren said.

    October 3, 2007

    Casey Hampton: "We've got a ring. They can be mad all they want to, we still got the ring."

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 5:24 PM

    "What's it been two years now?" Matt Hasselbeck asked rhetorically.

    Almost. The Super Bowl was 20 months ago. The Seahawks have played 20 regular-season games, turned over exactly one half of their starting lineup and Hasselbeck said he doesn't think of this Sunday's game in Pittsburgh as a Super Bowl rematch.

    "We've kind of put that behind us," he said.

    Not too long after Hasselbeck said that, the Associated Press released a story from Pittsburgh that quoted several Steelers talking about the complaints over the officiating that originated from the Seahawks after the Super Bowl.

    "It doesn't bother me," nose tackle Casey Hampton said, according to the Associated Press. "We've got a ring. They can be mad all they want to, we still got the ring. At the end of the day when you look at the record books, it's not going to say nothing about them crying. It says `Steelers, Super Bowl champs,' and that's all that matters."

    Wow. That's the kind of shot that's too stiff for any chaser in these parts. It wasn't the only jab landed.

    "A Super Bowl's hard to get to and lose," defensive end Brett Keisel said to the AP. "If we'd lost, I'd probably still be holding onto it, too."

    But here's the thing. None of the Seahawks resurrected any discussion of the officiating this week. Not even when asked directly about it. Coach Mike Holmgren went so far as to explain what he says to fans who bring up the Super Bowl loss.

    "Listen, we did the best we could," Holmgren said. "But we've got to move on. Both of us have to move on."

    No sourness. No petulance. No description of all the questionable calls from the pass interference against Darrell Jackson that negated a touchdown, the hold on Sean Locklear that kept the Seahawks from having the ball at the Pittsburgh 1 or the below-the-waist blocking penalty called against Matt Hasselbeck on a play when he actually tackled the player who intercepted his pass.

    The league's vice president of officiating admitted the penalty on Hasselbeck was a mistake. Hasselbeck was asked about that very play on Wednesday and whether it was ever explained.

    "I don't need an explanation," he said. "The game is in the past, it happened and they won the game. They're world champs.

    "I think our ring looks better than theirs, but other than that, they won the game."

    Hmmm. That sure doesn't sound like someone struggling to come to grips with reality or gnashing his teeth at the injustice of it all.

    I've always thought critiquing officials is like arguing against UFOs in Roswell, N.M. There's really no point to it. People believe what they're going to believe about everything from the veracity of a call to the integrity of the man who made it.

    Nothing can be said to convince Seahawks fans the officiating didn't decide Super Bowl XL, and no amount of arguing will affix an asterisk to the fact the Steelers won that game. Arguing about the officiating of Super Bowl XL is a little like debating religion. It's impossible to find common gorund.

    And that debate won't have any bearing on this Sunday's game. Well, not unless one of those officials from Super Bowl XL will work Sunday's contest. And Holmgren had the list of officials for Sunday's game, but he didn't bother to take notice of who would be working it.

    "I have the print out," Holmgren said. "But right now I could not tell you ... I don't remember who is going to work that game."

    Injury report

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:28 PM

    Player Injury Date of injury Prognosis
    WR D.J. Hackett Ankle Sept. 9 Out. Team hopes to have him back after its Oct. 28 bye
    OT Ray Willis Sprained knee Sept. 30 Out about six weeks
    CB Josh Wilson Ankle Sept. 30 Did not practice Wednesday. Out 1-2 weeks.
    TE Ben Joppru Ankle Sept. 19 Did not practice Wednesday
    DT Rocky Bernard Ankle Sept. 30 Did not practice Wednesday

    Here's the Steelers injury report. What bears watching this week will be DT Casey Hampton (hamstring), S Troy Polamalu (abdomen) and WR Hines Ward (knee). The injuries to both Hampton and Polamalu were characterized as minor by the Steelers, but neither practiced on Wednesday.

    OUT Did not practice Limited in practice Prognosis
      DT Casey Hampton (thigh) QB Ben Roethlisberger (foot)
      S Troy Polamalu (abdomen)  
      WR Hines Ward (knee)  
      LB Clint Kriewaldt (Illness)  
      CB Bryant McFadden (ankle)  

    If you've ever said your job is crappy: Read this

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:03 PM

    Because new practice-squad longsnapper Jared Retkofsky spent the past few weeks dealing with bovine landmines.

    Retkofsky worked on a ranch in Roanoke, Texas, up until the Seahawks called him on Monday, a job that had one particularly bothersome occupational hazard.

    "The day before I got called, I got pooped on by a cow," Retkofsky said.

    A group of reporters laughed when Retkofsky said that, but he wasn't joking. Retkofsky was waived by the Steelers in August, and since then he found employment on a ranch owned by the late golfer Byron Nelson in Texas. Retkofksy's boss was an honest-to-goodness cowboy. The kind who would prefer to ride a horse to work, and he stayed mounted while Retkofsky worked on foot and tried to tiptoe around those bovine landmines.

    "I found out why they wear cowboy boots," he said.

    He had a new job beginning Wednesday as the Seahawks brought him in as a long snapper. Coach Mike Holmgren wasn't all that thrilled with the way Derek Rackley performed on Seattle's long snaps in San Francisco on Sunday so the Seahawks called up Retkofsky on Monday night.

    Retkofsky was at a freshman football game when he got the call at 7:30, telling him to go straight to the airport and have his wife ship his clothes to Seattle. Retkofsky was on a plane by 9.

    On Wednesday, Retkofsky worked out with the field-goal unit, and coach Mike Holmgren indicated the Seahawks' long-snapping duties will be up for competition.

    "We're going to simulate as much as we can a game atmosphere," Holmgren said, "and see how the young guy does."

    Long-snapping competition

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 12:59 PM

    The Seahawks signed Jared Retkofsky to the practice squad on Tuesday, and it was not because the undrafted rookie free agent spent a little time with the Steelers.

    There's going to be competition at that position between Retkofsky and Derek Rackley, who's in his second season as Seattle's long snapper.

    "We're going to look at it," coach Mike Holmgren said. "We're going to simulate as much as we can a game atmosphere and see how the young guy does. "

    Holmgren said Wednesday he was not satisfied with the long snapping on Sunday in San Francisco. Long snapper Derek Rackley is in his second year with the Seahawks.

    "That's an important job, and we'll see," Holmgren said. "But that's one of the things that's going to go on this week."

    With respect to the other roster move this week, Holmgren explained the promotion of Kevin Hobbs from the practice squad to the active roster was to address a potential shortage at cornerback since rookie Josh Wilson will be out for at least the next week with an ankle injury.

    "It's an easy transition there now," Holmgren said of Hobbs' promotion. "Josh is not going to be out a long time, but it was not only the easiest, but the best choice to make."

    Pittsburgh vs. Seattle, by the numbers

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 9:21 AM

    Here's the statistical breakdown between the two teams, looking at averages as well as league rank.

    NFL rank Pittsburgh Offense Seattle NFL rank
    No. 7 354.2 Net yards 354 No. 8(t)
    No. 3 168 Rush yards 104.5 No. 17
    No. 25 186.2 Pass yards 249.5 No. 7
    No. 5 27.8 Points 21.8 No. 12
    No. 18(t) 2 Rush TDs 2 No. 18(t)
    No. 7(t) 8 Pass TDs 7 No. 10(t)
    No. 17(t) 8 Sacks allowed 7 No. 14(t)
    NFL rank Pittsburgh Defense Seattle NFL rank
    No. 2 258.5 Net yards 327.8 No. 17
    No. 8 81.2 Rush yards 103.8 No. 13
    No. 8 177.2 Pass yards 224 No. 16
    No. 3 11.8 Points 13.2 No. 5
    No. 3(t) 1 Rush TDs 2 No. 9(t)
    No. 6(t) 3 Pass TDs 2 No. 2(t)
    No. 4(t) 14 Sacks 13 No. 6(t)

    The most interesting thing is found under the defense. The Steelers have allowed the third fewest points in the league, the Seahawks the fifth fewest. It's the route they've taken to that destination that is intriguing, though.

    The Steelers have allowed the second-fewest yards in the league so it's only logical they would allow fewer points. The less an opponent moves the ball, the less it is going to score.

    Seattle is in the bottom half of the league in terms of yards allowed yet only four teams have allowed fewer points. Is this a defense that has learned to bend without breaking or is it a defense that's dodging bullets for a few games before we see it's riddled with holes?

    Well, the folks at Pro Football Prospectus took a look at that question and found that there were indeed defenses that consistently gave up fewer points that would be expected based on the yards allowed. Philadelphia was one of those teams and they also found that Seattle consistently gave up fewer points than would be expected.

    As for the news roundup on Wednesday morning. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said that wide receiver Hines Ward is day-to-day with a sprained knee. Tomlin said, "Today is a good day." Does that mean he practices? We'll update that later.

    Safety Troy Polamalu and nosetackle Casey Hampton both might be OK, Tomlin indicated. Here's a link to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on their status.

    For a little bit more reading, coach Mike Tomlin said he didn't expect to win every game he coached at Pittsburgh and his rather frank assessments of his team's play in the loss at Arizona.

    Willie Parker was held to 39 yards rushing in that game and the Steelers gave up four sacks, leading to some rather pointed questions about the offensive line's performance in this story from the Pittsburgh Tribune.

    October 2, 2007

    Roster moves

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 6:22 PM

    RB Alvin Pearman was placed on injured reserve, which was expected after he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday in San Francisco. Pearman suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee.

    DB Kevin Hobbs was moved from the practice squad to the active roster to take Pearman's place.

    LB Cameron Jensen was released from the practice squad, leaving two spots on the eight-man unit. T Kyle Williams and LS Jared Retkofsky were signed to the practice squad. Williams was with the Seahawks in training camp, and his addition is to provide some depth at tackle with Ray Willis expected to miss the next six weeks or so with a sprained knee. Now, Williams won't be dressing or anything. Floyd Womack and Tom Ashworth are both ahead of him in terms of depth at tackle, but he presumably would provide some insurance.

    More eyebrow-raising is the addition of Retkofsky. Coach Mike Holmgren mentioned on Monday that the snap may have played a role in the punt the 49ers partially blocked on Sunday. Derek Rackley is the Seahawks' current long-snapper, taking over the job after J.P. Darche was injured last season.

    J.Stevens sentenced to 12 days in jail

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 2:05 PM

    Tight end Jerramy Stevens was sentenced to 12 days in jail by an Arizona judge on Tuesday, according to the Arizona Republic. The link to the paper's story can be found right here.

    The sentence will be stayed pending the outcome of an appeal, the paper reported. Stevens had 18 days of jail suspended because of his involvement with an NFL-required rehabilitation program.

    Pittsburgh primer

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 9:56 AM

    A week ago everyone was talking about how the Steelers were 3-0 for the first time since Bill Cowher's first season as coach. What a way to start for Mike Tomlin.

    The situation is cast a little differently after Sunday's loss in Arizona. The Steelers are 3-1, but all four games so far were played against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season. This story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettte explains how the Steelers are heading into the teeth of their schedule starting with this Sunday's game against Seattle.

    Also, there was no update on two of Pittsburgh's better defensive players, S Troy Polamalu and NT Casey Hampton, neither of whom played much in the second half on Sunday in Arizona. Polamalu suffered an abdomen strain, Hampton a hamstring injury. Here's the list of Steelers injuries from a notebook coming out of Sunday's game.

    October 1, 2007

    Wallace's hat trick

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 3:58 PM

    Seneca Wallace wore a number of hats on Sunday in San Francisco.

    He also had two helmets.

    One is equipped with a radio transmitter given to NFL quarterbacks. That's the one Wallace would wear should he replace Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.

    Wallace's other helmet has no radio, just the run-of-the-mill model that every player other than the quarterbacks wear. That's the one Wallace wore onto the field for his four plays Sunday when he put on his run-catch-pass show in San Francisco.

    The Seahawks even had a person on the sideline responsible for holding onto one of the helmets at all times and making sure Wallace had the right one.

    "Now tell me we're not thorough," Holmgren joked.

    Equipment manager Eric Kennedy found someone just for that task of holding one of Wallace's helmet. One problem. Holmgren didn't recognize him so when the coach saw an unfamiliar fellow holding a Seahawks helmet on the sidelines, he worried a heist was underway.

    "I thought he was stealing one of our helmets," Holmgren said.

    No, the coach was told. That's just Wallace's helmet.

    A knight has a squire to bring him his weapons, Wallace had an assistant to hold onto one of his helmets.

    NFL rules allow the quarterback to have a radio transmitter in his helmet that allows him to hear instructions from the coach until the final 15 seconds of the play clock. The rules also say the offense can only have one radio-equipped helmet on the field at a time. That's why all the radio-equipped helmets have a green sticker on the back. It allows referees to keep track. Holmgren said a team would receive a pretty substantial fine if it violated that rule.

    Holmgren was on the competition committee when the one-helmet restriction was first implemented, and he said it was prompted by examples such as the Steelers' use of Kordell Stewart. Pittsburgh could move Stewart to wide receiver and bring another quarterback into the game, thereby giving the Steelers the possibility of having two players with radio-equipped helmets on the field. That led to the resolution that even if a team had multiple quarterbacks on the field at the same time, only one of them could have a helmet.

    So that explains why Wallace had two helmets to account for all his jobs on Sunday.

    The NFL's salute to Hispanic Heritage Month

    Posted by Jose Romero at 3:42 PM

    Being of Mexican descent, I'm glad to see the league do something to acknowledge its growing Latino fan base and pay tribute to Latino players present and past.

    How many of you knew that Tony Romo's real name is Antonio, and that he's a third-generation Mexican American?

    It was nice to see the Seahawks bring back Efren Herrera in Week Three to honor the occassion and the salsa band was good. And in San Francisco Sunday, the 49ers put on a halftime show that featured low riders, mariachi and Mexican folkloric dancers.

    Some of that could be called stereotypical, but I appreciated the effort.

    A common misconception is that Latinos in the U.S. are into just soccer or boxing or baseball. But speaking as someone who knows, a lot of us sports fans are really into football, too.

    On a side note -- and on the subject of Latinos in sports -- I saw a couple of Mariners rushing to catch planes at SeaTac Airport today after I arrived from San Francisco. I wished Horacio Ramirez the best, despite all the criticism he took this year, and said hello to Adrian Beltre. I guess those guys couldn't get out of town fast enough after the baseball season came to end.

    Alvin Pearman out for the year

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 2:59 PM

    Alvin Pearman suffered a torn knee ligament during Sunday's game that will cost him the rest of the season. Doctors will let the swelling subside before operating to repair the knee and then begin a lengthy rehabilitation.

    The Seahawks acquired Pearman for a conditional draft pick eight days before the regular season began. He was a prominent player in the Seahawks' special teams and combined with Lance Laury on the hit that caused a fumble on Cincinnati's kickoff return in the final minute of Seattle's Week 3 victory over the Bengals.

    The Seahawks don't currently have a running back on the practice squad. Holmgren said Seattle will be looking for someone to fill Pearman's role.

    Tackle Ray Willis suffered a sprained knee during the game, and he will be out about six weeks, coach Mike Holmgren estimated. Cornerback Josh Wilson suffered an ankle injury and will be out a week or two, Holmgren said.

    Stinking by the dock of the Bay

    Posted by Danny O'Neil at 8:31 AM

    It's not so much hand wringing occurring in the Bay Area the morning after Seattle tromped through town so much as a collective dismissal. Take San Francisco columnist Ray Ratto's piece:

    The news from Candlestick Sur-la-Mer seems bleak, even hopeless, but let's be fair here: That's way too optimistic. The 49ers very well might be what we in the philosophy department here at Eton like to call screwed.

    Youch. The lead to the game description was just about as dour.

    In the first month of the season, the 49ers have gone from lucky to plucky to just plain yucky.

    There's little to indicate it will get any better.

    That was from John Crumpacker, who wrote the game account.

    Different paper, different targets, same overwhelming pessimism.

    Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News: "Sunday's glaring lesson: Alex Smith is not the problem with the 49ers' offense." The rest of his column is here.

    Tim Kawakami said Alex Smith's separated shoulder will doom the 49ers because his backup isn't any good. Here's the set up: "Alex Smith is hurt, and the 49ers are doomed." The rest of his column is here.

    Hmmmm. Wasn't this the hot-to-trot preseason pick? The one that went out and had one of the best draft days in the league, choosing linebacker Patrick Willis -- who appears to be a legit star. They went out and signed Nate Clements as part of a defensive restocking. They beat the Seahawks twice last season and sunny days were supposed to be here again in San Francisco.

    But the 49ers lost offensive coordinator Norv Turner and that unit has progressed this season as if it were treading in molasses. Very. Very. Slowly. But here were the Seahawks, the team they ran over last season. Just bulldozed them.

    And the explanation for why yesterday's game was so lopsided was found up front. The 49ers offensive line couldn't handle Seattle's front seven. They gave up six sacks in the first half. They were responsible for seven of San Francisco's nine penalties in the game between false starts, holding and even a tripping penalty. At one point, Craig Terrill was clean through for a sack and the Niners resorted to tackling him from behind.

    We spelled out the size difference in the blog on Friday. The 49ers are the ninth-largest line in the league. Tackle Jonas Jennings is 335 pounds, guard Larry Allen is 325 and the Seahawks are the ninth-lightest based on Week 3 starting lineups. But what happened on Sunday showed not only that size isn't everything but that the layman's explanation that Seattle gets bowled over up front simply doesn't apply. Not in Cincinnati's Week 3 loss in Seattle when the Bengals brought in the heaviest line in the league and their starting tailback proceeded to carry 13 times in the first half for negative 3 yards. And it certainly didn't apply in Week 4 when the Seahawks went out and treated the 49ers offensive line like the Maginot Lines and stormed around them en route to the quarterback.

    Analyzing run defense is tough. You ask the players and they start talking about things like gap discipline and tight fits and manning your responsibilities. Every player in that front seven is responsible for a certain alley or gap on the field. Get pushed out of that spot and you were blocked out of the play. But sometimes it's not the blocking that removes the player from that spot, but his own attempt to make a play elsewhere, anticipating where the ball is going and trying to get there. That can be especially true for a defense like Seattle's, which has more speed than some teams. That speed and reaction can be bent back against the Seahawks and is one of the reasons why they were so vulnerable to cutbacks and changes of direction last season.

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