BY Art Thiel 09:42PM 12/05/2010

Defense recovers dignity, Seahawks reach 6-6

Carroll thinks 2nd-half rally ‘almost mystical,’ but hey, it’s only Carolina

Chris Clemons

Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons wanted to put it all on Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Funny how Walter Jones just shows up, and everything goes fine for the Seahawks.

In an unusual, if not unprecedented, in-game ceremony, the club retired the perennial all-pro lineman’s No. 71 jersey during the two-minute warning before halftime.

The length of his appearance, complete with video highlights and rare speech, apparently irked the officials and made testy the Carolina Panthers (you may recall they had their fill of Jones five years ago in the NFC championship game).

But it made the Seahawks very happy. Jones apparently was packing fairy dust. (Note to NFL literary historians: That is the first appearance of fairy dust and Walter Jones in the same sentence.)

On the first play afterward, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck hit tight end Cameron Morrah for 36 yards, the Seahawks’ longest play to that point in an otherwise wretched effort that had them down 14-0.

The drive produced a field goal, the first of four consecutive possessions with scores. Nine minutes into the third quarter, the Seahawks suddenly were up 24-14, on the way to a 31-14 win. The public boos that pickled their performance in the first half vanished.

Hey, Walter. Don’t stray too far.

“Let’s give it to Walter,” said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, grinning while providing an explanation of the game’s abrupt turn in fortunes. “The big man deserves it.”

Carroll also offered that offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, in honor of Jones, pulled out of the playbook a set that was the Seahawks’ money formation in the 2005 season, when Jones was at his peak. The three-wideout, two-back set helped produce a season-high 161 yards rushing.

Carroll then riffed on the attitude adjustment he helped instill at halftime, which he called “almost mystical.” (Note to sports historians: The first use of the term “mystical” by an NFL head coach.)

Maybe all these Harry Potter-ish explanations work to explain the whipsawing of the offense. The defense’s explanation would seem a little more basic – mortification.

The worst offense statistically in the NFL, operated by rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, shoved Seattle’s defense all over the field in the first half. For awhile, it appeared the Panthers were, at 1-10, capable of winning a game in the NFL’s most notorious roadhouse.

That’s the sort of defeat that helped get head coach Jim Mora fired a year ago.

But nobody on the Seahawks side was willing to buy the notion of embarrassment, especially Carroll.

“Had nothing to do with that,” he said. “It was the way we were playing. In the NFL, mortified means the (lack of) regard in which you hold the other team.

“I don’t feel like that. I know what you’re saying, though.”

Carroll insisted that the contrasting halves had nothing to do technical adjustments as much as attitude adjustments. But linebacker Aaron Curry offered otherwise.

“(Defensive coordinator) Gus Bradley made very minor, subtle adjustment at halftime,” he said. “It made all the difference. Our defense really noticed. It turned everything around.”

Asked to elaborate, Curry smiled and politely declined. He didn’t figure the information was worth the death of the reporter to whom he revealed it.

Whatever the secret, the Panthers had only 88 yards of total offense and no points in the second half. That’s how it’s supposed to work against a rookie quarterback.

“We had to stop the run game,” said defensive end Chris Clemons, “and put the game on the shoulders of the rookie quarterback.”

They did it so well that Clausen’s second pass of the third quarter, a flat route to the fullback, went directly into the hands of Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who went directly to the end zone, 26 yards away.

“I just go over clean enough,” he said, “where I said, ‘If the quarterback throws this ball and I turn around, I’m going. And I’m just going to take my shot.’”

The shot was the lead-maker, 17-14, and the game-breaker. Mortification over.

The Seahawks thus did the expected, beating a bad team at home to reach 6-6. Unlike college ball, the NFL doesn’t reward the achievement of .500 with a bowl appearance.

The win did give the Seahawks a chance for a simple formula for making the playoffs. In the final four games, they need beat only division rivals San Francisco and St. Louis to win the NFC West at 8-8, based on tiebreaker advantage.

Any deviation from that, and Walter Jones will need to bring his old teammates fairy dust by the boxcar.


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