By Todd Fredrickson and John Boyle Herald Writers
SEATTLE — The Seahawks won and Matt Hasselbeck is alive, so there were smiles all around on the topic of Seattle’s turbulent offensive-line situation after the Seahawks defeated San Francisco 31-6 in an NFL game Sunday at Qwest Field.
“They did a great job, all things considered,” said Hasselbeck, Seattle’s quarterback. “I think they were awesome, better than probably anybody gave them a chance to do.”
In the past three weeks the Seahawks have installed a new left tackle, a new starter at left guard and even a new offensive-line coach. For a unit where you always hear so much about continuity and cohesiveness, the potential for disaster loomed large.
But Hasselbeck was sacked just once and hit just three other times on 26 dropbacks. The running game was another story, but in the NFL you tolerate anything as long as you win, so there were no complaints.
“I thought the pass protection was really solid,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Matt had time to move, he had some ability to get to his second and third guys, and I think we got beat one time outside. But outside of that, I thought the whole group worked really well.”
No mention of the running game, which gained just 77 yards on 23 carries. Take away a 32-yard run by Justin Forsett in the fourth quarter and Seattle averaged a measly 2.0 yards per rush.
But, hey, the Seahawks won with three guys on the left side who could wear their jerseys at Pike Place Market and not be recognized by most fans.
Left tackle Tyler Polumbus came over from Detroit in a trade on Aug. 31. Left guard Mike Gibson was making his first NFL start after winning the job halfway through the preseason. The guy he beat out, Ben Hamilton, played the second half after Gibson hurt his back. Hamilton signed as a free agent during the offseason.
On top of all that, offensive-line coach Alex Gibbs resigned abruptly on Sept. 4, bumping assistant line coach Art Valero up the chain of command.
So a victory of any stripe was well received even with virtually no running game.
“It’s just a start for us. We’re just getting going,” Carroll said of the line. “We have a long ways to go, and many areas of improvement, but it has been pretty solid throughout with the first group.”
Good ol’ what’s-his-name
The changes in the line were never more noticeable than last Wednesday, when Carroll kept referring to Polumbus as “Troy,” rather than “Tyler,” during his weekly press conference. Four days before the season opener and he didn’t even know his starting left tackle’s name.
But winning makes everything OK.
“He really wants me to call him Troy now,” Carroll said after the game.
For the love of the game
Carroll clearly enjoyed his first game as an NFL head coach in 11 years after stints in the 1990s with the New York Jets and New England. He said several times after the game how much fun it was.
“To have the opportunity emotionally to enjoy it like that in the locker room with these guys that have worked so hard, that have been listening to my stuff all this time, for them to feel the benefits and rewards, it was very pleasing in that regard,” Carroll said.
So were the noise and energy from the sellout crowd, he said.
“It’s such a good stadium to play in,” Carroll said. “You think of the college game, but this was louder. This was crazier than places like that.”
The Seahawks came out of Sunday’s game relatively healthy, with only guard Mike Gibson unable to finish the game. Gibson came out with a lower back strain, but coach Pete Carroll said the injury didn’t appear serious. Carroll also said linebacker Matt McCoy had a thigh injury and that cornerback Roy Lewis had a groin strain, but both appear to be minor injuries. Safety Lawyer Milloy (eye) and defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle) both left the game in the first half but returned to action and finished the contest.
Welcome back, Mike
After two seasons away from the NFL, wide receiver Mike Williams returned to regular-season action for the first time since playing eight games in 2007. The former top-10 pick led the Seahawks with four catches for 64 yards, including a 35-yard catch and run that ended at the 1-yard line, setting up Seattle’s first touchdown.
Williams did have a pair of drops, but overall it was an impressive Seattle debut for the former USC standout who before this season was looking like a major first-round bust.
“Mike’s just getting started,” Carroll said. “… But Mike had a good first game.”
It came as a bit of a surprise that rookie receiver Golden Tate did not suit up for Sunday’s game. Tate has shown a knack for making big plays in practice, but struggled to translate that to preseason games. Even so, with just five receivers on the roster, most observers figured he would play. Instead, the Seahawks went with just four receivers, activating Ben Obomanu, who plays more on special teams, over Tate.
“He’s still growing and learning, and the other four guys that came up, the way it situated for this game, it was the best way to go,” Carroll said.
Victories all around
Seattle’s win capped a weekend in which the three most prominent football programs in the state — the Seahawks, the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars — were all victorious. This is the first time all three teams have won games on the same weekend since Sept. 8-9, 2007.