The Seattle Seahawks played like coach Jim Mora demanded when he took over as the unquestioned leader of this team in January. Play hard. Play fast. Play with relentless effort. After a shaky start, the Seahawks did just that in blitzing the young, wide-eyed St. Louis Rams for a 28-0 victory on Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out Qwest Field crowd of 67,610.
Chants of “defense” rained down from the stands as fans showed their appreciation for Seattle’s tough, intense defensive effort. The Seahawks held the Rams to 247 total yards and earned the team’s first shutout since Nov. 12, 2007, a 24-0 win over San Francisco. The last time the Seahawks opened the season with a shutout was 1998, a 38-0 win at Philadelphia.
A mellow Mora didn’t try to hide the fact that his first official win as Seahawks coach was significant.
“I have thought about this day for a long, long time,” Mora said. “To go out there and listen to our crowd and see the effect that they had on the game, and the penalties, it was kind of a surreal experience for me.”
As good as the Seahawks played in the latter stages of the game, the first quarter was hard to watch for Seahawks fans.
Seattle committed three turnovers in its first four possessions, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck twice throwing interceptions inside St. Louis territory. Nate Burleson contributed to the disjointed effort by fumbling after his first reception of the season.
“Part of it was being a little indecisive on my part,” Hasselbeck said. “And then another part of it is not really committing to the throws, being a little unsure. ... You really can’t play that way. You have to be decisive.”
Hasselbeck eventually did get into a rhythm, finishing with 25 completions in 36 passes for 279 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
With the offense sputtering, the defense did a nice job of bottling up the Rams. The defense put consistent pressure on quarterback Marc Bulger, making him throw under duress. And they kept the Rams’ primary weapon, Steven Jackson, from breaking loose, holding him to 67 yards on 16 carries.
The Seahawks have now held Jackson to 76 yards per game over the last five meetings.Things were a little chirpy throughout, as rookie linebacker Aaron Curry and defensive end Lawrence Jackson got into with Rams like Steven Jackson and offensive guard Richie Incognito.
The Rams had 10 penalties for 85 yards, include four personal fouls. The Seahawks finished with four penalties for 25 yards.
“We’re not going to back down from anybody,” said Curry, who finished with four tackles in his rookie debut. “That’s just a man being a man. We’re going to stand in our place and we’re going to be a defense that from the snap to the whistle is going to play hard and hit you hard.”
Seattle got its offense going in the second quarter. After ex-Seahawk Josh Brown missed a 37-yard field goal wide right, the Seahawks marched 73 yards in 13 plays, with Hasselbeck looking off the defense and finding John Carlson in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard TD 5:45 before halftime.
After St. Louis went three and out, the Rams appeared to tie the score at 7-all when defensive end C.J. Ah You penetrated the middle of Seattle’s field goal unit and blocked a 49-yard Olindo Mare attempt. Safety Quincy Butler raced 51 yards for what would have tied the score.
However, replay officials found that St. Louis had 12 men on the field. The Rams were penalized 5 yards, giving Seattle a first down on the play.
The Seahawks scored three plays later on Hasselbeck’s 12-yard slant pass to Burleson.
The offense rolled in the second half, scoring on consecutive drives in the third quarter.
Back-to-back pass plays to Carlson led to the first score. On first down from Seattle’s 29, Carlson caught a short pass over the middle and gained 38 yards to the Rams’ 33.
Carlson got loose again on the next play, streaking down a seam in the St. Louis defense on a 33-yard touchdown catch.
Carlson started where he left off last season, when he had tight end team-record 55 catches as a rookie. He had six catches for 95 yards and two scores Sunday.
“Honestly, he’s a receiver trapped in a tight end’s body,” Burleson said about Carlson. “If you really watch him and how he runs routes, and compare them to the average receiver in the NFL, he’s right up there with them. … He’s a tremendous talent, and to be honest he has a chance to be one of the best in the league, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my teammate.”
Burleson corralled seven catches for 74 yards and a touchdown in his first game in a year, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh put in a workmanlike effort with six catches for 48 yards.
Seattle’s ground game also got on track. Julius Jones broke loose for a 62-yard touchdown run up the middle on Seattle’s next possession to cap the scoring. Jones finished with 117 yards on 19 carries.
With his first win behind him, Mora has only a short time to savor the victory. He needs to prepare for a game at San Francisco next Sunday against a 49ers team that earned a surprising 20-16 win this week over the Arizona Cardinals, last year’s NFC champions, in Arizona.
“I know we play San Francisco in less than a week,” Mora said. “So we’ll start thinking about them.”