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Monday Metatarsal Musings

Posted Dec 20, 2010

Or footnotes: A look at the positive steps taken by the Seahawks in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, and those areas that remain works in progress as they prepare for this week’s game against the Buccaneers.


The Seahawks did something Sunday that they previously had done only twice this season: Score a touchdown on their first possession of the game.

Twelve plays. Eighty yards. Seven-and-half minutes. Six points.

A closer look makes the drive even more impressive. Matt Hasselbeck was 5 of 5, to four different receivers, for 44 yards – including a 17-yarder to running back Marshawn Lynch on third-and-5, the only third-down situation among the dozen plays. Lynch, meanwhile, carried four times for 30 yards, including the final yard for the touchdown. Justin Forsett also had a 9-yard run, fullback Michael Robinson a 2-yarder and Hasselbeck a 5-yard scramble.

TWO TIMES THREE

A closer look at the NFC West as the Seahawks and two of their division rivals head into the final two games of the regular season. Division records are included because that is the likely tiebreaker in case of any ties:

  W-L Division Last Two
Seahawks 6-8 3-2 at Bucs, vs. Rams
Rams 6-8 2-2 vs. 49ers, at Seahawks
49ers 5-9 3-1 at Rams, vs. Cardinals

The Seahawks win the division if: They win their final two games; or the Rams or Cardinals beat the 49ers and the Seahawks beat the Rams.

The Rams win the division if: They win their final two games; or they beat the Seahawks.

The 49ers win the division if: They win their final two games and the Seahawk lose at least one of their final two games.

The longest gain was 17 yards, the shortest the final yard.

It was, quite simply, a thing of beauty.

“It was a good lesson there,” Hasselbeck said after the 34-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest Field. “That’s how we wanted to play the game today. We wanted to keep their offense – they’re really good on offense – we wanted to keep them off the field.

“We wanted to have a lot of completions, run the ball, that kind of thing. And convert manageable third downs. That was really the recipe for success for us today, that’s how we could have won the game.”

Instead, the Seahawks lost for the sixth time in their past eight games because they strayed from that recipe for success. They put together another 11-play, 88-yard TD drive – but it was in the fourth quarter, after the Falcons had put up 34 points and Hasselbeck had been benched in favor of backup Charlie Whitehurst.

In between those long drives, the Seahawks generated 46 yards on eight possessions. You won’t beat any opponent doing that, especially not one as good as the 12-2 Falcons.

It is against this backdrop of schizophrenic production that the Seahawks will prepare for their final two regular-season games. Or, final two games of this season, period.

The Seahawks still can win the NFC West, especially if the offense performs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week and St. Louis Rams next week the way it did on that opening drive against the Falcons. The Seahawks also can be left out, and will be if the offense continues to be so inconsistent.

With that said, here’s a look at three things the Seahawks can build on heading in Sunday’s game in Tampa, as well as three things that still need work:

Three steps forward

One. The return of Mike Williams. The team’s leading receiver had been limited to one series in the previous three games because of ankle and foot injuries. Sunday, he caught eight passes for 66 yards. Four from Hasselbeck. Four from Whitehurst. Three in the two long drives.

It wasn’t Williams’ best or most productive day, but it was an indication that he can be a needed factor in the final two weeks.

Two. Lynch. He did the most with the opportunities he got, averaging 5 yards on 12 carries and providing the run after the catch on his 17-yard reception. When Lynch was picking up positive yards on first and second downs it kept the Seahawks out of third-and-long situations.

Three. Tackling. After some poor efforts in recent weeks, the defense did not allow the Falcons to turn something manageable into some mismanaged by whiffing on tackles or overrunning plays. Nose tackle Colin Cole led the way with a career-high tying eight tackles, but linebackers Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu each had seven and free safety Earl Thomas six.

The Falcons’ Michael Turner, who had three 100-yard performances in the previous five games, was limited to 82 yards on 25 carries – a 3.3-yard average which is almost a yard less than his per-carry average for the season.

Three things that still need work

One. Third-down defense. The Falcons converted nine of 19 third-down situations – six of eight in the second quarter. Of the Falcons’ 266 yards, 77 – and each of their three offensive touchdowns – came on those nine third-down conversions.

In their eight losses, the Seahawks have allowed their opponents to convert 52 percent on third downs (70 of 134). In their six wins, it’s 20 percent (16 of 79).

Two. Penalties. The Seahawks had 10 against the Falcons, matching their season high. There were holding penalties (offensive and defensive), three false starts and an offside penalty, an illegal block and contact and even a phantom facemask call.

’Tis the season, but the Seahawks need to become the Grinch when it comes to wrong-way yards.

Three. Hasselbeck. He likely still gives the Seahawks their best chance to win in these final two games, where they must win at least once to have any chance of advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. But he has turned the ball over eight times in the past two weeks, which led to 37 points in back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Falcons.

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