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Accepting their challenge
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INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Mora was left to talk about challenges Sunday afternoon.
Not only the just-completed task that was facing Peyton Manning and the NFL’s top-rated passing game in 34-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. But also reaching the quarter-pole of a once-promising season at 1-3, and the fact that the injury-depleted Seahawks will have to sweep the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals at home in the next two games to reach the team’s bye week at 3-3.
“We’re obviously disappointed – about the game and about the 1-3 start,” Mora said. “One thing about this start, it presents a tremendous challenge for our football team – every man in that room, players, coaches, administrators.
“But one of the reasons we’re in this business is that we love challenges. And this is a great challenge.”
Sunday, the Colts presented a challenge where the smallest mistakes became a big play because of Manning’s ability to exploit it. He finished with 353 passing yards – his fourth 300-yard game in the Colts’ 4-0 start – by completing 31 of 41 passes. He threw for two touchdowns, and audibled to a play that produced a third (Joseph Addai’s 12-yard run) because of something he saw from the Seahawks defense.
During the week, Mora conceded that Manning’s play in the Colts’ first three games had been flawless, and that again was the case against the Seahawks. He spread the ball to four receivers who had at least six receptions. He mixed the run with the pass, at just the right time. He did his best passing on third downs (5 of 6 for 79 yards) to sustain the TD drives that covered 80, 90, 78 and 80 yards.
“You make the smallest mistake and he’ll see it,” said middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who returned from missing most of the previous two games to collect a game-high 11 tackles.
Strong safety Deon Grant went that one better, offering, “The smallest mistake became a big play against this guy.”
The Seahawks were outgunned and outmanned on this day. They were playing without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, left tackle Walter Jones, cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Josh Wilson and linebacker Leroy Hill. Then, left guard Rob Sims (sprained ankle) and defensive end Patrick Kerney (pulled groin) went out during the game.
“We realize we have to be darn near perfect,” Mora said.
Instead, they ran into a hot-handed QB who was darn near perfect and an opportunistic Colts defense that generated five sacks – two of those producing fumbles.
But on a day when they had little room for error, and made too many, the Seahawks did not quit. Down 34-3 in the fourth quarter, backup QB Seneca Wallace rallied the Seahawks to one touchdown by driving 70 yards in 10 plays and then took advantage of Olindo Mare’s successful onside kick that was recovered by safety Jordan Babineaux to add another touchdown. Wallace scored the first on a 7-yard scramble up the middle of the Colts defense. The second came on his 1-yard pass to fullback Owen Schmitt.
Too little, too late? Obviously. But definitely better than the alternative.
“We were out there messing up on the things we worked on all week,” said Grant, a defensive co-captain. “And the guys who were doing it, they know it. So we don’t have to do any name-calling or finger pointing.
”That’s not this team. That’s not the way we do things. We’re going to fix this thing this week, and hopefully this is the last time I’m going to have to do this kind of interview.”
Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh finished with eight catches for 103 yards, and the same sentiment as Grant.
“We’re not going to quit,” he said. “We can’t. It doesn’t do you any good to quit.”
There are too many challenges still ahead in this still-young season for this disappointed and injury-riddled team.