Surely, this afternoon's press conference with Mike Holmgren will result in a number of the "we have to go back and roll up our sleeves," and "this was only one game" assessments that generally follow such a defeat. Fair enough. Reference to the 2005 opener at Jacksonville (26-14 loss) at the start of the 2005 Super Bowl season will be valid, too. When I saw guard Rob Sims rag-dolled by Marcus Stroud on Sunday, it was an immediate flashback to when Stroud and John Henderson did much the same in 2005 against a Hawks interior line that included Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray. After that terrible start, when Matt Hasselbeck was harried into four turnovers, that turned into one of the best lines in the NFL that season.
The 34-10 loss to Buffalo was much worse, though.
So many questions: Why is Jeb Putzier getting the chance to drop three balls rather than having John Carlson – who has hands – on those early routes? Why was there no pressure on the inexperienced Bills quarterback (the only sack coming via a mismatch when Patrick Kerney was blocked by Marshawn Lynch)? How can the defense not see a 6-foot-7 defensive end lined up wide on a field-goal attempt? Who is healthy? Are free-agent punters available? Was Courtney Taylor's poor performance an example of one-time-only stage fright or incompetence?
The problems of Taylor and Putzier set the tone for the Hawk offense early. It wasn't just the drops, though, as they were compounded by a number of plays when it was clear that Matt Hasselbeck had no idea where his receivers were going to be. Several times it looked like receivers failed to finish routes.
Should we have seen this coming? The lack of connection between Hasselbeck and the young receivers could have been expected. The pressure on Hasselbeck (five sacks), however, is alarming. The new coaches on the line were supposed to have put an end to such five-sack afternoons. One sack was illuminating. The slow-developing stunt when a defensive end loops around two interior players to the inside to come up the center gap was one that was handled in the preseason when Steve Vallos was at center. On Sunday, center Chris Spencer failed to feed his man off to the left guard in time and the end came free to get Hasselbeck. Spencer had been hurt and missed time, so that's a possible factor. Or is it just that Vallos was better at adapting and reading the defense?
Problems with the coverage units is not uncommon in season openers as those guys don't usually play together during the preseason. On several returns, Carlson was one of the guys in on tackles (or not making the tackle). Do you want your best tight end in that position? Receiver Logan Payne was the "gunner" on Parrish's touchdown return. He knifed in to try to take out Parrish's legs, but in the effort, lost outside contain which allowed Parrish to get up the sideline. But the fake-field goal? No excuses. Bad focus. Inattention to detail. Heads should roll.
It's doubtful anybody could have envisioned a running game so pathetic that it generated 11 yards in the first half. There was nothing there. No holes. The Bills' scheme obviously was to jam the line and hope that Hasselbeck and the young receivers wouldn't make them pay in the passing game. Perfect strategy. After they got a few completions in the third period, the running lanes opened up for Mo Morris (before he got hurt). Take away six drops in the first half, and it would have greatly improved the rushing stats, too.
So, questions abound. The biggest will be the health of Nate Burleson and Mo Morris, and whether Deion Branch can return soon (although I'm not sure how much he's going to help right off). We'll ask these and more at Holmgren's press conference this afternoon.
The fortunate thing for Seahawks fans to remember is that two very winnable games are coming up at Qwest Field, followed by a bye week, giving them three weeks before heading to New York to take on the World champs.