By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
There wasn't a lot of beating around the bush from Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren during his weekly press gathering.
Yes, he was happy with the 24-21 over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. And by Wednesday, it had become ancient history. The Seahawks travel to San Francisco this week to meet the 49ers – the team they are tied with for first place in the NFC West at the moment, not to mention the only team to sweep them in two games since the Rams did it in 2004.
And oh yeah, it also happens to be Holmgren's hometown and the team with which he began his NFL coaching career. So coach, would you characterize this as an important game?
"Big week … it's a big week," Holmgren said. "We won our division (last season), and typically we've been able to have a very good record within the division the last couple years, but (getting swept) hurt. They earned it, they got us twice and it's not lost on the team or me, because of the obvious reasons. You have to try and take care of business in your division, to hope for the playoffs, first of all, and for home field advantage if that's out there for you. They got us twice last year and no one liked the feeling, but you kind of just tip your hat to them, and then roll up your sleeves and get ready for the next time you play."
That would be Sunday, and the No. 1 focal point has to be 49ers running back Frank Gore, who compiled an impressive 365 yards in the two games – 212 in the first game and 144 in the second. It is a sore point with everyone, and certainly nobody requires any reminders of what transpired.
The second game was the same night of the major storm in the Seattle area that knocked out power for days – and in some cases a week. Consequently, the last time they met is crystal clear.
"Well we dissected both games, obviously," Holmgren said. "I believe that was also the night of the storm, and it was kind of crazy night all the way around. Any time you give a runner 365 yards in two games you have given up way too many yards, and that's what he got. Hopefully we will tackle better than we did last year, I think we have a little different defensive football team now, a lot of new names that were on the field last year that are no longer on the field. We know it's a challenge, the guy is really good.
"I think any time you get yards like that missed tackles are the biggest reason. Most teams can block little bit, most teams can play defense a little bit, but if you gain that type of yardage somebody did something wrong; and I didn't like how we played either one of those games."
Meanwhile, with both teams 2-1 entering this week, there have been ups and downs on both sides of the ledger. Gore has been held to 175 yards in three games this season and quarterback Alex Smith has been erratic with a 67.4 quarterback rating with one touchdown pass, while running back Shaun Alexander has 275 yards rushing for the Seahawks despite a cracked bone in his left wrist and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has a 97.1 quarterback rating with five touchdown passes. Hasselbeck has done an exceptional job of sharing the wealth with wide receivers Bobby Engram and Deion Branch each having 13 receptions and Nate Burleson 10 … all three had caught a touchdown pass in the win over Cincinnati.
And Sunday they will see the familiar face of Darrell Jackson, traded by the Seahawks to the Niners at the 2007 draft for a fourth round draft pick. Jackson leads the 49ers with 11 receptions.
"I think it's a little early to tell if there is an effect, we haven't changed a great deal," Holmgren said. "I think Matt's developing that (synergy) with the group we have now. You saw it in Deion's long touchdown pass, Engram he knows very well, Nate we're still learning or Matt is still learning. Darrell was here a long time, and he caught a lot of passes and he was a good player for us."
Seahawks linebacker and special teams hot shot Lance Laury was named NFC special teams player of the week for forcing a fumble on a kickoff with one minute left in the win over the Bengals that virtually guaranteed the game.
A walk-on at South Carolina and a free agent rookie in 2006 who made the practice squad and then was signed to the 53-man roster November 11 – and that's where he remained. At 6-2, 237, in addition to the forced fumble, he also made two tackles on special teams.
It feels great - I don't know whether to jump and down or what," Laury said. "To get this award shows some of the hard work I've put in and it pays off. I love playing special teams. It's full speed, everything you've got for those 10-15 plays you get on the field and I like it.
"A person like me, I'm always trying to improve in some area. On special teams we all try to stick together and work things out. Causing the fumble and winning the game meant more to me."
But getting the award was a close second.
"Getting the award was a close second," Laury said. "It's been a long-time coming and I'm excited to be here. And I hope to be here many more years."
The good news Wednesday was Mo Morris, Ben Obomanu and Kevin Bentley – all unable to play in Sunday's game against the Bengals practiced and felt good on Wednesday.
Obomanu has not played since pulling his left hamstring the just days before the regular season opener. The second-year wide receiver from Auburn was the leading receiver during the preseason and looked prime to make an impact. But he has not played yet and was flustered by the inactivity.
"I felt pretty good today," Obomanu said. "It was nice to get out there and be in game-like situations instead of just watching. The competitiveness in me wanted to play regardless of the injury and wanted to play through it. But at the same time, with hamstring, there's a fine line between being healthy and pulling it again. We had the situation where I could rest and heal it some more. And I think it did me some good because resting a hamstring is not a bad thing … ever."
Morris injured his hip in the first quarter of the opening game win over Tampa, when he made a big touchdown reception late in the game. He sat out the past two weeks and declared himself fit to play Wednesday. He'll be back subbing for Alexander in a variety of situations – and he knows as a receiver he can be a difference-maker coming out of the backfield.
"I just wanted to go out and help the team," Morris said. "Watching, I could just see some things I could do to help. Our trainers made the best decision for me, and now I'm ready."
Bentley hurt his back in the second game and didn't practice last week nor play in the game. "I feel good now," Bentley said. "I'm ready to go."
Matt Hasselbeck on seeing former teammate Darrell Jackson in a 49ers uniform:
"I have seen him. I saw him on television, I don't think his helmet fits right, that's probably the thing I noticed. I've got to talk him about that. The uniform, I'm over that, I'm happy for him he's moved on, but the helmet, I just don't think the helmet fits right. You've got to talk to their equipment guys. It just doesn't look right to me, I could be wrong."
This and that
Mike Holmgren said that wide receiver D.J. Hackett is likely to still be out for several weeks, and is hopeful that he can come back after the bye week – which would have him ready for he Nov. 4 at Cleveland against the Browns. … Tight end Bennie Joppru did not practice against Wednesday after spraining his ankle last week. His status is unknown for the game on Sunday.
Holmgren was emphatic Wednesday about dropped passes and penalties with the team on Wednesday: "I would say I'm upset equally by those two things. I talked to the team, as a matter of fact, at our walk-through this morning about false starts … penalties would be another one, dropped passes – anything that doesn't allow you to sustain your offensive momentum. Those are things that you have control over. So don't beat yourself and that's why I'm bothered by those things."
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, saying he did a lot but it was low key with his family. "It was busy." Hasselbeck is the fourth leading passer in the NFC and Shaun Alexander is the third leading rusher. … The Seahawks are tied for second in the NFC with plus-3 turnover differential, and tied for third in the NFL overall. They are first in fourth down conversion efficiency on both offense and defense. They are also tied for first in field goal percentage, and third in both net yards passing per play and punt return average. But they are 13th in third down percentage on offense and 12th in third down percentage allowed on defense.