One of the things that sometimes happens in our business is that there is so much stuff that happens in a game that you can't get everything in a game story. This, I am finding, is especially true with a football game. If you read my game story, you would notice that I couldn't really even get into the second-half events much beyond the final drive and final play, which I felt for obvious reasons held great importance and chose to focus a great deal of the gamer on that aspect. I usually write about 900 words for a game story, which is about 22 column inches, give or take. I was over 1,000 words for this game story (not sure how many actually got in the newspaper) and I still wasn't able to touch on many aspects of the game.
For instance, I thought the adjustments Mike Holmgren made at halftime were pretty nice, going to the draw play a lot more, which resulted in that 46-yard run by Maurice Morris, setting up a few screen passes, and rolling Hasselbeck out of the pocket. Some of that first-half struggles, I think, were Hasselbeck's fault, trying to get too cute in outthinking the Rams' defense. When Holmgren told him to stop audibling and just run the play that is called, their fortunes began to change. The hurry-up offense also was a nice touch, allowed them to get into a rhythm at a time that they desperately needed something. That that particular drive ended in an interception was Nate Burleson's fault, but more important it instilled in them a sense of confidence that they could finally get something going.
How would have game have changed if Rocky Bernard had fallen on that fumble in the first quarter? Instead, the Rams recovered, setting up the safety when Burleson made another mistake by not fair-catching the ball at the 15.
This was underplayed, but Leroy Hill's hit on Marc Bulger that concussed him and knocked him from the game was huge, particularly as it relates to the final play with the botched snap from the center to Gus Frerotte. Does that happen if Bulger is in the game?
How big was the first goal line stand by Seattle? Rocky Bernard stood up Steven Jackson at the goal line on first down, a humongous play. Then Jackson gets thrown for a four-yard loss. Then Frerotte gets a delay of game. Again, does that happen if Bulger is in? And if they score a TD at that point, it is 24-7 instead of 19-7 and maybe the game seems out of reach.
During Dante Hall's 56-yard punt return, Ryan Plackemeier got absolutely ransacked on the play. He was hit and knocked down initially, then when he was getting up he got punked by somebody, a shot that knocked him silly and apparently made him bite his tongue. He was messing with the tongue the entire game. I presume he doesn't wear a mouthpiece. And you have to wonder if that went into Mike Holmgren's decision at the end not to punt. If you think Plack is goofy at that point, maybe you don't want to trust him to try to punt the ball down close. I think there were some considerations for Seneca Wallace holding the snap on the final field goal that Josh Brown missed. As it is, they were lucky Plack pulled down Boone Stutz's high snap.
On Leonard Weaver's touchdown run, Mo Morris was out because of the facemask call, and David Kirtman was in. Apparently, there was some confusion in the huddle about who the fullback was going to be and who the tailback was going to be, and who was going to get the ball. I think there was confusion almost up to the point where Leonard got the ball. I find it very interesting all the stuff that goes into a play in the 25 seconds leading up to the actual snap.
How big was Patrick Kerney's sack of Bulger early in the fourth quarter that took the Rams out of field goal range? They kick that, it is 22-16, and changes the dynamics of the game. Instead, Rams are forced to punt and the Hawks march down and score on that next possession to take a 24-19 lead. Even if the Seahawks scored anyway, it would have been 24-22 and then the last drive is entirely different.
Then, not sure how much of a difference it made, but I suspect that the second timeout that Frerotte called on the goal line at the end played a factor in the bungled snap. It almost gave him too much time to think about what was about to happen. Brian Russell said it certainly helped out Seattle, giving them a look at what it was that St. Louis wanted to do. If the Rams had just run the play, it had a better chance of working.
The postgame had a different feel than any I have seen this year. Holmgren was almost giddy. He wasn't as analytical as he usually is. We all know he is emotional, but I think he was so stunned that they won the game, and so amped about making the goal line stand, that he couldn't really think straight. He is usually calm and cool, but in this postgame he was a little goofy, almost like he took the shot that Plack took.
Then, you know that football is a violent sport, but when you hear Hasselbeck in the bathroom retching, and you see Kerney's arm cramped up to the point that he can't move it enough to hold a phone, and Niko Koutouvides is walking around with ice strapped to his sternum, and Hasselbeck has a rug burn on his leg, you realize the results of just how vicious it is.
We had this discussion at dinner last night, and I'll leave you with that as I jump on my flight home: Would it behoove the Seahawks to hold Hasselbeck out this week? They have a two-game lead in the division, the Cardinals are playing the resurgent Browns, the Hawks have to travel back East to Philly, but they get to host Arizona in two weeks. Seneca Wallace has looked pretty darn good lately. Would it be better for Hasselbeck to let his ribs rest up for two weeks and come back almost 100 percent in the most important game of the season on Dec. 9, the one that could secure a fourth straight division title?