Repetition and the mindset is next on the agenda for the Seahawks, as far as coach Mike Holmgren can tell.
The scene at the Seahawks home of VMAC was a happy one as Holmgren gave his weekly press conference on the heels of Sunday's 34-13 win at San Francisco over the 49ers. The Seahawks were the only team in the NFC West to win on Sunday, so with nine games remaining and trailing the Arizona Cardinals by just two games, the concept of setting down on a focus of winning each week is palpable.
Next on the agenda will be the Philadelphia Eagles coming town this week, which is a daunting task in and of itself.
"We just have to continue to believe and try hard," Holmgren said. "We know that Philadelphia's coming in here. They're really an outstanding football team. Hopefully we'll get a little bit lucky with our injury situation. You need a couple things to fall your way. You know, we're not out of the woods yet on offense, that's for sure, because we can't afford to make any mistakes still. That's not going to change too much.
"But I think the defense gave us some more opportunities yesterday, and then our special teams were solid. (It's an) overused cliché: we'll keep taking it one at a time. Keep the guys' spirits going, get better at eliminating mistakes."
Quarterback Seneca Wallace, in his second start with Matt Hasselbeck still sidelined from the effects of the bulging disk in his back, was vastly improved on Sunday. He moved better than perhaps his strained calf would allow, but some of it was the week of preparation, getting into a rhythm and gaining confidence. He was 15-of-25 for 222 yards and made slick reads that allowed fullback Leonard Weaver to explode with touchdown runs of 43 and 62 yards.
With his first touchdown receptions in the NFL, Weaver became the only fullback since 1970 to have touchdown receptions of that length in the same game, and one of only five backs, period. Those are the king of big plays Holmgren has been looking for in the wake of injuries to Hasselbeck and Wallace, with the use of Charlie Frye as a starter a necessity as well. Those circumstances only complicated the matters of 11 different wide receivers used as a result of injuries as well.
"I think Seneca felt better physically," Holmgren said. "The first play of the game, he broke the pocket nicely, threw a nice completion to Bobby (Engram). On both of Leonard's throws, he maneuvered well. He was pressured slightly and got out of the pocket and made the throw. I think he just played with more confidence yesterday. He felt good. And it comes from playing. He hadn't played in a long time. Right now, he's our quarterback. We'll rally behind him."
Hasselbeck was flown to Los Angeles again on Monday to be re-evaluated by the specialist, and made it clear if he's not cleared to practice this week, then Wallace is the quarterback.
Otherwise, he is optimistic that middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, although unlikely to practice until at the very earliest the end of the week, should play despite the strained groin that forced him to leave the game in the first half Sunday. The same scenario holds true for defensive end Patrick Kerney, who injured his surgically repaired shoulder in the fourth quarter.
The bigger mystery is the bruised heel of wide receiver Deion Branch. He's played all of one half this season – rehabilitating his surgically repaired ACL until the fourth game of the season, injuring his heel in the first half of that game – and not playing since.
"He falls in the same category as Matt … I would doubt we'll have Branch this week," Holmgren said. "We probably are looking to maybe get him back for the following game. There's a little uncertainty as to what it is, to be honest. I think he's taken a lot of tests and as a result, they worked him out pretty hard last week and then the following day, he was pretty sore. It's just a tough one. It's hard to figure. When he can work out, and then the following day, be okay, that's when he'll play."
The big difference in the game came from the big plays by the defense, with five sacks, forcing four fumbles (although recovering only one), and the game-changing 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by Josh Wilson with 31 seconds to go in the half. It not only ruined the 49ers attempt to cut into the 13-3 Seahawks lead, but expanded the advantage to 20-3.
And Weaver topped it off with the two longest touchdowns of the season.
"I mean, I just said (to myself), 'Finally. Finally we got a couple,'" Holmgren said. "I've been watching it go the other way a little bit for the last few weeks, and that's what you need. You need to call a play, and all the plays are designed to work if everyone blocks their guy and you throw it and you catch it, but you're not playing against air. You're playing against other people. So you have a football game. But every once in a while you just need one where you go: 'Wow. That's pretty good. I didn't expect that.'"
Across the LakeAs a fellow football coach in the region, Holmgren was asked about the announced departure at the end of the season by University of Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, and showed obvious empathy. It's even more a factor considering Holmgren's son-in-law Matt is on the staff there.
One aspect of Willingham that Holmgren addressed that he suggested more people should have seen, is more personality than the stoic veneer he always showed.
"I feel the same way that I do when other guys get let go," Holmgren said. "We all understand the nature of the business. I suppose that, while you're never really prepared for it, you always understand it could happen. He's a good man. He is really a good man. When I'd see him at different fundraising things - he was involved with the Salvation Army, as I am - I'd see him and we would laugh and joke. I always saw and knew a side of him I thought he didn't let a lot of people see. I always told him, 'Smile more.'"
Either way, it's more than that and Holmgren knows it comes down to wins and losses, and Willingham's 11-32 record in his 3-plus seasons extenuate the circumstances.
"He's got tremendous integrity," Holmgren added. " He's just a good man and I'm sorry they couldn't get it going."
This and thatKoren Robinson and Bobby Engram continued to start at wide receiver for the second week in a row and until Branch returns, that will likely continue to be the case. … D.D. Lewis had his second consecutive 9-tackle game at middle linebacker, with Tatupu going down with a groin injury in the first half, a week after a concussion knocked him out before halftime as well. Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp split time at right defensive end, but both played when Kerney went down in the fourth quarter. … Three of the next four games will be at Qwest Field. Following the Eagles game Sunday, the Seahawks travel to Miami, and then return home with the division-leading Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 16, followed by the Washington Redskins on Nov. 23.