This is the unedited version of my game story that will appear in Monday's News Tribune:
By Frank Hughes
The News Tribune
Nobody seems to be able to precisely explain the inconsistency of the Seattle Seahawks' defense.
There are times, like in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints, when they look like a motley collection of has-beens and wannabes who have forgotten – or never knew -- how to effectively execute even the simplest defensive scheme.
And there are others, like the Seahawks' 33-6 victory over St. Louis Rams Sunday afternoon, when they resemble some of the stoutest defenses in NFL history.
Players fly to the ball. Sacks are abundant. Turnovers are plentiful. Hitting is vicious. Opponents are intimidated. And in the end, everybody -- including the 68,164 in the stands -- leaves the stadium feeling as if any obstacle can be overcome and anything can be accomplished.
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It was that way on Sunday at Qwest Field, when the Seahawks marshaled a plan that generated seven sacks, forced Rams quarterback Marc Bulger into five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles) and carried a still-sputtering offense into the bye week with a feeling of blessed relief because the team's two-game losing streak was snapped.
"I don't know that I have an answer to (the inconsistency)," Brian Russell said. "But now we have the bye week, and hopefully we can watch the film, nurse some injuries and put these types of performances together back-to-back-to-back."
Even as difficult and injury-plagued as the first seven weeks of the season have been, the Seahawks at 4-3 find themselves in first place in the mediocre-at-best NFC West, where both the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers lost and are plummeting.
Despite the Seahawks' one-sided score, this victory did not come easily, in part because quarterback Matt Hasselbeck injured his oblique muscle and in part because the running game still needs a healthy resuscitation.
Hasselbeck led the Seahawks to a touchdown on Seattle's opening drive, connecting with tight end Will Heller for a one-yard scoring pass. The extra point made it 7-0.
But Hasselbeck suffered the injury in the second quarter and never was the same, his passes sailing on him, as one intended for Bobby Engram did for an interception, or uncharacteristically inaccurate.
"My throws were all over the place," Hasselbeck said.
Seneca Wallace finished the game, but Hasselbeck – who was 18-of-35 for 195 yards and two touchdowns -- said he could have if the outcome was not already decided. He said he did not think the injury was serious and that it will be healed by the time the Seahawks travel to Cleveland on Nov. 4.
Whether the running game is healable remains to be seen. Shaun Alexander vowed to return to a style that proved successful in the past, allowing his instincts to determine if course rather than the play-call.
But against the 27th-ranked run defense in the league, Alexander managed only 47 yards on 19 carries, a 2.5-yard average.
He too ended the game on the sideline, but the dyspeptic Alexander did not take it as well as Hasselbeck, getting into an earnest discussion with Holmgren over the decision to remove him.
"Every time we get a lead I always have to get pulled," Alexander said, "and I'm always fighting to stay in."
Regardless of the offense's issues, the Seahawks were not going to lose to the 0-7 Rams on this day because the defense was otherworldly.
Seattle took a 10-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, but any concern about the Rams staging an upset disappeared in 13 seconds, the time it took Nate Burleson to ramble 91 yards on the opening kickoff of the second half.
"At halftime I said I need a good return to start the second half. Now that's good coaching right there," Holmgren joked.
From there, the defense appeared unrestrained. Bulger had missed the past two weeks with broken ribs, but decided to return after watching his replacement, Gus Frerotte, throw eight interceptions and lose a fumble.
Bulger did not fare much better, in part because he was assailed all day by Seattle's pass rush, which was immaterial last week and unavoidable Sunday, the key, as it turns out, to Seattle's success this season.
Darryl Tapp had four of the seven sacks, which gives the Seahawks the second-most productive pass rush in the NFL. Only the New York Giants (27) have more than Seattle's 23.
"If we continue to pass rush and play with that much intensity, it'll be very hard to stop us," Julian Peterson said.
Tapp also forced a fumble, as did Leroy Hil, both of which were recovered by the Seahawks.
And the pressure forced Bulger to throw interceptions to Marcus Trufant, Peterson and Deon Grant, with a fourth nearly going to the omnipresent Tapp.
By the end, Bulger and St. Louis coach Scott Linehan were barking at each other on the sidelines, the Rams were despondent over their plight and the Seahawks were hoping that Holmgren would show them mercy during the bye week for their inspired showing Sunday.
"I'd like to think that we are gelling and getting better and we have a lot more performances like we did today," Russell said. "I think we are good enough to play with everybody. But you have to be able to be at the top of your game every week. We have to be more consistent with that."