The season isn’t over, and it’s hardly irredeemable.
Not unless the Seattle Seahawks decide to give up on it and play the way they have during much of the first month of the season, missing tackles, blocks, assignments and coverages.
It’s up to them. If they are as uninspired as they have been against Buffalo, San Francisco and last week in a feeble effort against the New York Giants, they will lose today to the visiting Green Bay Packers and it will provide further evidence that the competitive window is plummeting toward the sill and an overhaul of the roster soon will be required.
The health of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck complicates issues, since his gimpy knee stands as one of the franchise’s most fragile underpinnings. And while it seems a cruel reality that the Hawks might play such an important game with a third-string quarterback, we need to remember that they played their way into this treacherous position.
Lose today, no matter who is playing quarterback, and this season is toast. A chance might still exist to rally in the NFC West, but hopes for the postseason will have slipped from a preseason expectation to faint mathematical possibility.
Even that would seem generous at this point if there is an obvious talent deficit at many positions. The Seahawks, though, still have a core of Pro Bowl players on the field.
The problem is, those guys have to play at that level.
And so, as they take the field today against Green Bay, the only way the Seahawks can salvage, reverse, and redeem this season is to approach this game, and all that follow, as if they are in the playoffs.
Lose and you’re out. Because that’s a reality of it.
Yes, they’re well-compensated professionals and every game should be approached with that level of intensity. But even they will admit that they ratchet it up in the postseason. You’ve seen the difference when it’s all so immediate, so urgent, so final.
They have to convince themselves the stakes are the same today.
They looked highly motivated in practice this week. Coach Mike Holmgren set the tone. He’s not the type to blatantly call out players, but he can send a message in some fairly effective ways.
When asked about middle linebacker and three-time Pro Bowl player Lofa Tatupu, Holmgren responded that Tatupu was playing “OK.”
Do you know what an assessment of “OK” sounds like to a prideful player who has been voted to the Pro Bowl in every one of his three NFL seasons? “OK” sounds like a back-handed slap of derision.
Lofa Tatupu has spent much of his life avoiding being labeled “OK.”
But Holmgren is right; Tatupu will never make it back to the Pro Bowl the way he’s been playing.
Holmgren and the Seahawks need Tatupu to be more than OK, just as they need it from Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson and Leroy Hill, who finished last season playing like one of the best in the NFL.
Peterson has been getting to the play but seems intent on shoulder-butting ballcarriers rather than wrapping them up. Hill’s influence has been insubstantial.
No team with those three at linebacker should be giving up 31 points a game.
Where’s defensive tackle Rocky Bernard? He was one of the best interior pass rushers in the game. He’s gone missing.
Where’s first-round pick Lawrence Jackson? Another invisible man. Maybe a rookie deserves some slack. If that’s the case, where’s Darryl Tapp and why isn’t he pressuring for more playing time and making Jackson better in the process?
The defense has spent much of the season blitzing ineffectively, covering sporadically and tackling indifferently.
Patrick Kerney has made a few plays, but if we had one defender to point out who has become the leader through his unrelenting effort, it would be second-year defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
Some of the Hawks’ Pro Bowl defenders should go to school on the films showing Mebane’s desire.
Hasselbeck has been admirable in his toughness and hasn’t had much help from the rotating roster of largely unproductive receivers, but for a new leader on offense, it seems as if running back Julius Jones has stepped forward.
Jones is all about second-effort and willingness to be a complete back. The Hawks aren’t losing because of Julius Jones.
As for weakness in the scheme, failing to get the ball to rookie tight end John Carlson was inexcusable against the Giants. He’s the team’s most reliable receiver and can no longer be considered a check-down option. He has to be a primary guy, with 10 plays a game designed to go him.
By late this afternoon, we’ll all know whether the Seahawks have figured out any of this.
Because, from a functional standpoint, the season could be over by then.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440