BY Doug Farrar 06:15PM 11/07/2010

Seahawks make dubious history

Near-total failure at home against Giants leaves Carroll desperate

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll talks to his team after the final practice of the week (Rod Mar/Seahawks)

Not when the Seattle Seahawks Professional Football Club was an expansion team in 1976. Not when the amazingly awful 1992 team posted a 2-14 record. Not in the recent debacles of the Ruskell/Mora era has the  Northwest’s NFL franchise seen a two-week stretch anything like this.

After losing to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday in a 33-3 Bay Area beatdown, the Seahawks came home and laid a stegosaurus egg against the New York Giants to the tune of a 41-7 shellacking.

There have been recent losses that were equally embarrassing – the Seahawks lost by 38 points to the Green Bay Packers in December of 2009 and by that same margin against the Giants in 2008, but it would be difficult to string together two consecutive losses like this. Even in the history of a franchise that has often operated below expectations.

“For the second week in a row, we had a miserable performance and it put us in a situation at the halfway point of the season where we’ve seen the upside and the downside of our team,” head coach Pete Carroll said.  ”We have to figure out how to get ourselves back on track; we have to play a game of football that gives us a chance in so many different areas … At this time, really, what I am seeing is a coaches’ challenge.”

What must have been most distressing about the loss from a team perspective is that a defeat may have been expected – these Giants may very well be the NFC’s best squad right now – but the extent to which so many players appeared primed for the same results as happened in Oakland. Questionable playcalling, an erratic aerial attack, a running game that was missing, and a defense incapable of providing consistent stops of any kind, combined to write a symphony of bad football that this franchise and its fan base fervently believed was in the past.

According to the numbers, the team that took the field without starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the left side of the starting offensive line, and three of four starting defensive linemen, didn’t look much different than the healthier units preceding them. Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, the supposed savior of the team if you’d been listening to any fan calls on local talk radio over the last few weeks, completed 12 passes in 23 attempts for 113 yards and one relatively meaningless touchdown to receiver Ben Obomanu late in the game. Receiver Deon Butler, the deep threat who was supposed to be able to take advantage of the deep ball Whitehurst does have, caught three passes on six targets — for  five yards. More often than not, Butler was left looking on as Whitehurst’s passes flew over and around him.

Whitehurst may be an NFL quarterback down the line, but in his first regular season start, he looked every bit the inexperienced player that he is. One of his two interceptions came when safety Terrell Thomas caught a pass that bounced off a jumping Mike Williams, but his other interception and at least four overthrows were entirely on him. That’s not necessarily on the young quarterback – though he’s had considerable reps in practice and played in preseason games, there’s nothing that can replace the experience of being in the pocket against defenses throwing their regular-season schemes in your face.

“After the first snap, it’s just football, like you’ve been doing,” the third round pick of the 2006 San Diego Chargers said after the game. “It’s been a while since I made a start that meant something. I can say that it was tough because we couldn’t get anything going.”

The defense suffered as well for the second week in a row, giving up 487 yards to New York after allowing 545 against the Raiders. When asked if this was the pivotal point for this team – having lost two games so badly after starting out 4-2 and gaining the respect of analyst Tony Dungy, cornerback Marcus Trufant — targeted to an extreme degree in the first half — said that it certainly was. “I think all the leaders have to step up,” he said. “It’s about getting things right and playing our type of football. This last two weeks, it hasn’t been us.”

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was given time in the pocket most of the day and has a much better command of his offense, went 21 of 32 for 290 yards and three touchdowns. His primary target, Hakeem Nicks, put up 128 receiving yards and a touchdown on six receptions. The Seahawks front line was unsurprisingly susceptible to New York’s running game; without Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, and Red Bryant to man the front, replacements Craig Terrill, Junior Siavii, and Kentwan Balmer struggled against Brandon Jacobs’ power and Ahmad Bradshaw’s speed.

There are issues you deal with,” Carroll said. “I have to look at the film to find out specifically. I thought Junior did some good things today; I don’t know about Kentwan in for Red. I don’t know how he played. He made some tackles, but we didn’t feel like we were forceful at the line of scrimmage.”

Running back Marshawn Lynch, who provided rare highlights with his ability to maintain an upright stance and push forward for extra yards even when met by multiple defenders, agreed that leadership is the key. “The way I would respond and react to a leader is that he’s had to see the top, and he’s had to see the bottom to know where to come from, especially at a time like this. It’s about getting the guys up and keeping them with straight heads on their shoulders.”

“I’ve heard a lot of people around here talk about the injuries,” said safety Lawyer Milloy, unquestionably one of those leaders. “But that happens; it’s the league, and everyone gets hurt. It’s all about the guys who come in and have the opportunity to do their part, and for the guys who are still healthy to do their jobs. That hasn’t happened in the last two weeks, so whatever. We need all hands on deck – to fight and try to come back.”

“We couldn’t sustain drives, we couldn’t get first downs, we couldn’t run the football,” tight end John Carlson said. “We left the defense out there way too often, and we didn’t score points. It’s embarrassing. It can’t happen. We can’t perform like this.”

If there was one positive, it was the degree to which the Seahawks offensive line was able to keep pressure away from Whitehurst. This was the primary concern going into the contest; the Giants are among the NFL’s sack leaders, they’ve knocked five quarterbacks off the field this season. The fear was that with his preference for seven-step drops and long passes, Whitehurst would be a sitting duck.

Lynch may have concluded with the only thoughts that will help this team, when he was asked how he stays upbeat after games like this.

“The way I see it, I go out every week and I give everything I’ve got – no matter a win or a loss,” he said. “Right now, the ball isn’t bouncing in our court. There’s no reason to go into the tank about it. If I go into the tank, I don’t expect to come out of it. I’ve just got that, ‘there’s always another day ahead’ type of attitude.”

There are eight days ahead with games in them, starting with a trip to the desert Sunday with an angry Arizona Cardinals team that blew a 14-point late lead to the Minnesota Vikings. Those games are still meaningful. But if the Seahawks drop fall to 4-5 with games against New Orleans and Kansas City coming up in the next month, a season that began with some promise will be swept away in a wave of mediocrity.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, that’s part of their history, too.


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