Playing their seventh opener on the road over the past 10 seasons, the Seahawks fell prey to the 3,000-mile flight and a downpour to start the game on the way to a 34-10 loss at Buffalo to the Bills Sunday afternoon.
It was a game that Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren thought reflected their relative inexperience on offense and ineffective special teams play. The Bills' defense was able to take advantage of both.
The Seahawks had more first downs than the Bills, 16-13, but the big difference in the game was special teams. The Bills scored 20 points out of two Rian Lindell field goals, a 63-yard punt return from Roscoe Parrish and a 27-yard touchdown pass from holder Brian Moorman to defensive end Ryan Denney on a fake field goal.
"To the Bills' credit, I think they did a great job and we have a lot of work to do," Holmgren said. "I thought we were sloppy particularly on offense, the special teams, clearly; field position and how Buffalo handled their special teams against us, was I think, the big story of the game. We'll get better. We didn't play very well today I think, but we'll get better. We've got to get back home, roll up our sleeves and get going."
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was constantly under pressure, getting sacked five times for 23 yards, and finished the game 17-of-41 for 190 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson and an interception. The Seahawks running game finished with 85 yards on 21 carries, and most of that came late. Julius Jones had 45 yards on 13 carries and Mo Morris had 31 yards on 6 carries before leaving the game early in the third quarter with a knee injury. Burleson also left the game in the third quarter when he caught his left cleat running a pass route and injured his left knee. The Seahawks other points came in the third quarter on a 45-yard Olindo Mare field goal.
Late in the game, the Hawks mounted a long drive inside the Bills' 5, but came up empty-handed in a scoreless fourth quarter for both teams.
"I'll have to look at the film first," Holmgren said. "I think there was a combination – we were playing with a lot of young people. It might take us a while to look as smooth as I would like, but we kind of know that. Unfortunately, when you go against a good team, and I believe Buffalo has a good team, it's exaggerated a little bit. Clearly our inexperience in certain areas showed. But we'll get better."
Offensive player of the game: Rookie tight end John Carlson caught four passes for 52 yards and seemed to get a handle on finding openings in the Bills secondary.
Defensive player of the game: The linebackers Bobby Wagner, Leroy Hill and Julian Peterson each had eight tackles to lead the Seahawks defense.
Special teams player of the game: Nate Burleson returned three punts for 54 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury.
The difference in the game: The Bills scored 20 points on special teams, with two Rian Lindell field goals, a 63-yard punt return by Roscoe Parrish, and a 27-yard touchdown pass from holder Brian Moorman to defensive end Ryan Denney.
The final quarter began with the Hawks coming up with a big special teams play when Craig Terrill blocking Rian Lindell's 52-yard field goal attempt.
The Seahawks defense held and kept the Bills in bad field position, but the offense couldn't get any points on the board. Hasselbeck drove the team to the Buffalo 3, but incomplete passes on third and fourth down to Jordan Kent ended the Seahawks final attempt for points.
The Seahawks got back on the board, thanks to a 45-yard Olindo Mare field goal midway through the quarter, but in the process Nate Burleson left the field with a left knee injury and running back Mo Morris was finished for the game with a knee injury as well after a couple of good runs. Nonetheless, Hasselbeck hit young Logan Payne with 23-yard pass and they picked up five more when Payne fumbled it out of bounds. The offense stalled, and Mare booted it through with 6:47 left in the quarter.
Then came the play that proved to be the game breaker. On foruth and seven at the Seahawks' 19, the Bills faked a field goal, with defensive end Ryan Denney flanked all the way down the left sideline away from the line of scrimmage. Holder Brian Moorman stood straight up and found Denney all alone in the end zone. That made it 27-10, and the Hawks never rebounded.
Josh Wilson fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Rian Lindell recovered and the Bills took over on the Seattle 30. Trent Edwards responded by hitting Robert Royal for the 30-yard scoring strike to make it 34-10. It was 14 points in 25 seconds for the Bills, and that's the way the third quarter ended.
Seahawks Insider at the Half
A look at the halftime statsMatt Hasselbeck suffered numerous drops on the way to 6-of-20 in the first half for 84 yards and the 20-yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson. He was also sacked three times. Overall, the Seahawks had 85 yards total offense compared to 177 for the Bills. Rushing the football, the Seahawks managed 11 yards on 10 carries, compared to the Bills gaining 67 yards on 15 carries.
Seahawks Insider Play of the halfBurleson's leaping 20-yard touchdown reception from Hasselbeck.
Turning point of the halfBills punt returner Roscoe Parrish returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown with 6:20 left in the half.
The Seahawks got decent field position in the second quarter, and Matt Hasselbeck moved out of the pocket to hit fullback Leonard Weaver for a 16-yard gain – their biggest offensive play of the game. That put them into Buffalo territory and on the second play a screen pass to Julius Jones was negated on a holding call on Rob Sims when he shed a defensive tackle to go outside.
Nevertheless, the call stunted the drive.
But the defense held and special teams kept the Bills in control of field position. When the Seahawks got the ball back, it was on their 8-yard line and that set up Ryan Plackemeier's seventh punt of the half. Roscoe Parrish, the NFL's leading punt-returner a year ago, took the ball on the Seahawks 37, got a couple of great blocks, followed by a couple of even better moves and returned the punt for a 63-yard touchdown. All of a sudden the Bills led 14-0 with 6:20 left in the half.
Finally, the Seahawks got a special teams play with Josh Wilson's ensuing 39-yard kickoff return to the Seattle 46. They got 14 yards on an interference play, and then Hasselbeck hit rookie tight end John Carlson for a big 20-yard gain to the 20. One play later, Hasselbeck found Burleson all alone in the end zone on a blown coverage, but the veteran was unable to hang on to the ball. Undaunted, he went right back to Burleson down the left sideline, and he responded with a spectacular leaping catch to cut the margin 14-7 with 4:51 left in the half.
That allowed the Bills to drive one more time, and it set up Rian Lindell for a 35-yard field goal with one minute left for a 17-7 advantage. The Seahawks got the ball back with under a minute on the clock, but went three and out. Another tough punt gave the Bills the ball back on the Seahawks' 47 with 34 seconds left and two timeouts. And that was just enough time for Edwards to move the Bills into position for a second Lindell field goal – this one 38 yards – to end the half 20-7.
With the heavy rain and 65-degree weather both teams struggled offensively. But the Bills got the advantage on special teams with better field position. And they finally broke through with 2:49 left in the first quarter. Taking the ball on their own 48, Bills quarterback Trent Edwards found wide receiver Lee Evans down the left sideline for 28 yards to the Seahawks 20.
The defense responded by stopping Marshawn Lynch for a loss of one, and Richard Sherman made a nice play in the end zone to break up an Edward to Evans pass. But on third-and-11, the Bills caught the Seahawks in a blitz and raced 21 yards virtually untouched for the score to give the Bills a 7-0 lead.
By the end of the quarter, the Seahawks were 0-for-5 on third down conversions with two first downs and 24 total yards compared to 64 yards for the Bills. Hasselbeck was 2-for-9 and suffered two sacks in the quarter.
This and that
Mike Holmgren in conclusion:
"What I'd like to do is learn from this game. Write it off a little bit, but learn from it, study it. For our young guys in particular, maybe in the long run, it'll be the best thing that could have happened to us, as strange as that sounds. Maybe we thought we were pretty good and we thought we could just go out there and play, but it takes a lot more than that to win in this league. So we'll see how the players react."
Inactive for the Seahawks Sunday were Brandon Coutu, Justin Forsett, Mansfield Wrotto, Sean Locklear, Deion Branch, Doug Baldwin and Baraka Atkins, with Charlie Frye as the third quarterback. … The Bills had a couple of big honors before the game, playing homage to lifetime fan Tim Russert, the renowned NBC News Washington Bureau chief who suddenly died of a massive heart attack on June 14. He was 58. … When Nate Burleson went out with a knee injury in the third quarter, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne replaced him. Even more odd was Seneca Wallace calling for a fair catch on a punt return in the fourth quarter – his first shot at a punt return in the NFL. Wallace also saw some action at wide receiver but didn't catch a pass. Wallace did get another opportunity to return a punt, but got nowhere. Both Burleson and Maurice Morris will have their knees re-evaluated on Monday. Lofa Tatupu suffered a thumb injury, but returned to the game. … Also, Kevin Everett, the Bills tight end who suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury in last season's opener making a tackle, was presented with the George Halas Award before the game by the Pro Football Writers Association. He was told he would never walk again, but by November he was walking and he has since written a book about the injury and his recovery. The award is presented to the individual overcome the most adversity to succeed during a season.