RENTON – The stoic veneer that has surrounded the stumbling Seattle Seahawks throughout this difficult season suffered a crack during Sunday night’s 20-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Toward the end of the game, running back Julius Jones, frustrated by an anemic offense that ran only 39 total plays and gained only 176 yards, began ranting on the sideline, calling out coach Mike Holmgren, onlookers say.
The problems began soon after Jones gained 21 yards on the Seahawks’ final scoring drive, which took Seattle to Tampa Bay’s 11.
Jones was in on the next play, a 3-yard completion from Seneca Wallace to tight end John Carlson, but then was pulled on second down.
That’s when Jones’ frustration boiled over and he began yelling on the sideline, including remarks about Holmgren.
Jones went back in on third down and gained 6 yards to the Buccaneers’ 2, but was pulled again on fourth down, when Wallace completed a touchdown pass to Carlson on the right wing.
Those carries were Jones’ only two of the second half. He had a season-low seven for the game, gaining 42 yards. Jones was so upset that rookie defensive tackle Red Bryant went over to the former Dallas Cowboys back and put his arms around him to calm him down.
Jones did not make an appearance in the Seahawks’ locker room on Tuesday and was not available for an interview request. Bryant also was not in the locker room on Tuesday.
Holmgren acknowledged the emotional outbursts during Monday’s news conference with Seattle media, saying, “There was a little frustration on the sideline yesterday. Understandably so, but again I have to talk to the team about how we handle ourselves in that situation. Again, we’re not the first team to go through a time like this. How we handle it is important.”
When Holmgren was asked what specifically the frustrations were, he said he did not know.
“I kind of heard it through a third party, so I’ve got to kind of get to the bottom of it,” Holmgren said. “Probably, you know, it wasn’t going well. Or we missed something. I don’t know. The normal stuff.”
Holmgren did not meet with the media on Tuesday but will hold his weekly news conference this afternoon.
Jones started to leave the field in Tampa before the game was over, but he returned to the sideline and rejoined the huddle when he realized the Seahawks were getting the ball back with six seconds remaining, enough time to run one play.
The Seahawks so far have prided themselves, they say, on staying together through what has been an abysmal season, the team’s worst start since 2002.
But many of the players are beginning to admit that frustration is setting in, given their hard work and lack of payoff.
“I think we all are a little miffed how it has gotten to this point,” wide receiver Bobby Engram said.
Jones signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in the offseason, told by Holmgren that he would have a chance to start if he played well.
He earned the starting job after Maurice Morris injured his knee in the first game and Jones rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the next two games.
That led Holmgren to announce that the team was going to rely more on the running game, in part because at the time it was the league’s fifth-best rushing attack and Jones was third in the league.
But then the Seahawks got trounced by the New York Giants, 44-6, during which Holmgren abandoned the run and called more passing plays. Jones rushed for 61 yards on 17 carries in that game.
The following week, the Seahawks were beaten by Green Bay, 27-17, and Jones’ carries were reduced to 12, his yardage down to 44.
And then against Tampa Bay, the offense never got into a rhythm, running fewer plays than Holmgren said he ever could remember. When the Buccaneers jumped to a 17-0 lead, the Seahawks ditched the run and passed more, limiting Jones’ opportunities.
On top of that, Morris, back from his knee injury, rushed four times in the third quarter, gaining 53 yards, including a 45-yard run.
By the time Holmgren again turned to Jones, the outcome of the game was apparent and Jones no longer could contain his frustration.
“It’s hard right now, and everybody is disappointed,” Holmgren said. “There’s only one thing you can do though. You’re not going to quit. And you’re not going to just cash it in and start thinking about next year. That’s not going to happen. So the only other alternative you have is to keep plugging away. My job is to keep them positive.”
The SEAHAWKS’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
San Francisco 49ers (2-5)
1:15 p.m. Sunday at Monster Park, san francisco; Ch. 13, 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
So far: The 49ers won two of their first three games, but they have since dropped four in a row, including a 29-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.
Against the Seahawks: The Seahawks lead the series, 10-9, though the Niners closed the gap with a 33-30 overtime victory on Sept. 14, a game in which the Seahawks sacked San Francisco QB J.T. O’Sullivan eight times.
Stats and stuff: The 49ers fired coach Mike Nolan on Monday, ending his wholly unsuccessful tenure, the lowlight of which was Nolan drafting QB Alex Smith with the No. 1 overall pick, then tabbing O’Sullivan to start this year. Former Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary replaced Nolan, though speculation is rampant that Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren will somehow join the organization once his responsibilities with Seattle expire. San Francisco is bad on both sides of the ball, giving up 28 points a game, 28th in the league, and scoring 22.6, which is 17th. O’Sullivan has 10 interceptions and eight touchdowns, his best game coming against Seattle.
Quotable: “We have talent. There’s no question we have talent. What we’re lacking is that killer instinct, the ability to finish. That’s what Mike Singletary is going to bring. You feel his presence when he speaks. I think you’re going to see our players perform.” – 49ers owner Jed York at the news conference announcing Mike Singletary as interim coach.
Sept. 7 Arizona L 13-23
Sept. 14 at Seattle W 33-30
Sept. 21 Detroit W 31-13
Sept. 28 at New Orleans L 17-31
Oct. 5 New England L 21-30
Oct. 12Philadelphia L 26-40
Oct. 19at NY Giants L 17-29
Sunday Seattle 4:15 pm
Nov. 2 bye
Nov. 10at Arizona8:30 p.m.
Nov. 16St. Louis4:05 p.m.
Nov. 23at Dallas1 p.m.
Nov. 30at Buffalo1 p.m.
Dec. 7 NY Jets4:05 p.m.
Dec. 14at Miami1 p.m.
Dec. 21 at St. Louis1 p.m.
Dec. 28Washington4:15 p.m.
Frank Hughes, The News Tribune The Jones log
Running back Julius Jones, who joined the Seahawks in the offseason from the Dallas Cowboys, was among the league leaders early in the season. But his handoffs have declined as the Seahawks have struggled, fallen behind and then turned to the passing game. The numbers:
San Francisco26127 1
At New York Giants17610
At Tampa Bay7420
Total: 92 carries … 459 yards … 2 touchdowns