By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
After a look at the film and nearly 24 hours to digest the 20-6 opening game win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was happy with the result, but resolute about the need for improvement.
Let's not forget this week they travel to Arizona to meet the Cardinals in an NFC West battle.
"It was certainly a good way to start the season," Holmgren said. "The game unfolded kind of the way I expected it to. First games are a little unusual. Sometimes, it takes teams a little while to get going and that certainly was the case with us."
The Seahawks defense was superb, holding the Bucs to just five first downs and 91 total yards in the second half as the Seahawks offense put the game away. But he didn't like the 4-of-12 on third-down conversions, despite the obviously effective games from Matt Hasselbeck (17-of-24, 222 yards and 1 touchdown) and Shaun Alexander, (27 carries, 105 yards and 1 touchdown).
"There were some third-and-1 plays I wasn't pleased with and we're going to fix those," Holmgren said. "And then are third down situations (overall), and I expect that to be better. But all and all for a first game, we played better this year than we did the opening game last year."
The bad news is starting split end D.J. Hackett, who suffered a high ankle sprain in his right foot on his first reception of the year – a 7-yard pass midway through the first quarter – and there is no absolute regarding his availability in the near future. Holmgren responded affirmatively when asked if it would be a good month or so before Hackett could play, but added there is no definitive answer at this point.
"(Hackett is) going to be down for awhile, but I can't tell you how long," Holmgren said. "Those things are very unpredictable. The basketball ankle, everybody by now knows the difference – can be a week or two. This typically with all the ligaments up higher on the shin a little bit, typically is longer … in some instances, can be very, very long. The doctors can't even tell me right now. Fortunately, our depth at wide receiver is pretty good."
The good news is Nate Burleson played well in his absence, was going to play a lot anyway, and Ben Obomanu will be back this week from a hamstring strain that has kept him out the past couple of weeks. It is logical to assume that both Obomanu and rookie Courtney Taylor will be active next week. Only four receivers were active Sunday and once Hackett got hurt, it took the offense out of any four-wide sets they would have used.
Holmgren made it clear Obomanu would have played a lot Sunday had he not been hurt, so there are no qualms of giving him significant playing time. After all, he was the leading receiver during the preseason even though he missed the fourth game.
Although it was difficult for Obomanu to sit out while he felt comfortable enough to play, he concedes the added time off helped.
"I feel right now – comfortable running," he said. "I think the additional time did help me. I'm ready to go."
Holmgren added that just because Burleson now will play significantly more snaps at split end, it won't affect his role as a punt returner. Burleson's 56-yard punt changed the momentum of the game and his explosiveness in general on special teams is imperative, and Burleson has no qualms about doing both.
"Anytime I have an opportunity to make a play is great with me," Burleson said. "This will just give me a chance to make more plays."
Holmgren particularly singled out Alexander for his approach to the game, and the slow start was more a result of the offensive line getting adjusted to the rugged Tampa defense than anything else.
"Shaun was ready … as ready as I've ever seen him," Holmgren said. "He played the game fast and hard. I think he's primed to have a very good season and he's off to a good start."
Generally speaking, especially for the rookies, it took some time to get adjusted to the increased speed and hitting in a regular season game. And the play that put the game away was the 34-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck to running back Mo Morris, who shifted wide left from the slot. Holmgren joked that in Morris' four-plus season that if they have run that set 100 times, the ball has gone his way no more than a handful.
He also initially tried to pin the ill-fated flea-flicker – when Alexander took the handoff from Hasselbeck, then pitched it back to him, leading to a sack – on offensive coordinator Gil Haskell. Then acknowledged he couldn't do that either – just chalking it up to a bad play. But they did expose the offense to many of the new motion and shifts that were implemented in mini-camps and training camp … Holmgren estimated maybe 10 of the 60 snaps in the game were involved.
"There's some advantage to that," Holmgren said. "Any time you can get (defensive) guys to move prior to the snap, you have a little bit of an edge. And the younger the defense is and the younger the players are, the more likely that you have a chance that some time in that process they'll kind of be out of position or a poor angle. That's what you're trying to get out of it."
Holmgren jokingly on the flea-flicker that produced the 11-yard loss, considering blaming the call on offensive coordinator Haskell:
"That was just horrible wasn't it? I'm glad you brought it up. Yes, it does make me more reticent. I'd like to say … it was Gil's play. No, it was my play. I would like to hang it on him, but I can't."
This and that
Holmgren added that the defense was really encouraging with the physical nature and aggressiveness, and it should only increase as times goes on. With the versatility and quickness that is brought by linebacker Julian Peterson, and new additions – defensive end Patrick Kerney and safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell – with youngstersKelly Jennings andDarryl Tapp now in the starting lineup as well, the changes will continue. "It allows the (defensive) staff to get creative," Holmgren said. "As long as you don't go haywire and try to do too much that you're diluting the product a little bit."
He also was disappointed that wide receiver Deion Branch didn't catch any passes – with just a few attempts from Hasselbeck. And Holmgren pointed the finger at himself. "It shouldn't happen," he said. "It's our job to get him the ball. I don't want him to have games where he doesn't have a catch. It's not him. I have to figure out ways to get him the ball." On Hasselbeck, Holmgren added. "He had a very solid, good opening football game. He really did. He was smart with when he came underneath. He didn't force the ball."
And Hasselbeck on Holmgren adding new wrinkles to the offense: "It's way more exciting to listen to somebody install a brand new play that you have never heard about than it is to install a play that you have seen run 100 times and you have run it 100 times. It's more exciting. But at the end of the day, we just want it to work."
Holmgren added that he will call the league regarding the officials replaying the punt Sunday when Tampa punter Josh Bidwell stopped the play when he heard a whistle that happened to come from the stands. The play was eventually blown dead with Seahawks surrounding him on the Tampa 40-yard line. But the officials decided that being in a visiting stadium and a whistle from the crowd proved to be ground to replay the down.
Bidwell then punted the ball into the end zone and the Seahawks got the ball on their own 20 instead, a loss of 40 yards in the replay.
"Everyone kind of knew what happened," Holmgren said. "I thought it was kind of cool the referee did what he did. If you noticed me on the sidelines … (I was) very calm. Normally, something like that would get me going a little bit. I understand that way. Now I am going to phone (the NFL office) to find out if that's the way they're going to do it because there are a few officials in the league that would say, 'Hey, there are whistles going on all the time. Let's play.' Then we would've had the ball. It will be interesting to hear what they say."