By Scott M. Johnson
KIRKLAND – It used to be that worrying about the San Diego Chargers’ defense was enough of a chore for the Seattle Seahawks. Now they’ve got another little problem.
Doug Flutie will face the Seahawks for the third consecutive year Sunday, this time as a member of the Chargers.
Flutie has piled up 739 yards of total offense and five touchdown passes in his previous two visits to Seattle.
Last year’s game was particularly frustrating for the Seahawks, as Flutie led the Buffalo Bills to a 42-23 win behind 366 yards passing and three touchdowns in the final game of the season.
Asked whether he expected to see the same Doug Flutie on Sunday, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren gasped.
“I hope not,” he said. “He was really good in that game last year. He’s had some really great moments in this season as well. He still moves very, very well; throws the ball well. He presents real problems for the defense because of his movement.”
Despite his age – he turned 39 last month – Flutie remains one of the top dual threats in the league. The 5-foot-10 veteran buys time with his legs, and surprises teams with his ability to throw. That was the case in the season finale last year, when the Seahawks thought they could limit Flutie by keeping him in the pocket.
“The guy’s a playmaker,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair said. “You won’t stop him from making plays. You just go into the game trying to stop him from making the big plays: the 25-, 30-yard runs down the field, the bootlegs that he’s known for. Let his arm beat you instead of his legs.
“That’s easy to sit here and say, but it’s hard to do. Even when you’ve got your hands on him, the guy finds a way to get out of a sack and throw the ball down the field or run for 15 yards.”
Flutie has had an up-and-down year for the Chargers, and he played so badly two weeks ago that the home fans were calling for rookie backup Drew Brees. Flutie bounced back to complete 33 of 44 passes for 308 yards in a loss to Arizona last week.
Coach Mike Riley said Flutie’s veteran leadership has been a big key to the team’s turnaround from a 1-15 season last year.
“He’s a very special guy for us to have at this time,” Riley said. “It’s just what the doctor ordered. We’re a lot better football team than we were a year ago. Our record (5-6) is not spectacular, but it certainly is compared to last year. I think Doug has a lot of responsibility for that improvement.”
Incentive to run: Shaun Alexander needs 106 rushing yards Sunday to go over the 1,000-yard barrier for the season. Only Curt Warner (four times), Chris Warren (four) and Ricky Watters (three) have done that in Seahawks history.
But that’s not the only motivation for Alexander. He stands to make a hefty bonus if he breaks the 1,000-yard barrier, and his salary in 2004 – the final year of his current contract – will also accelerate. Alexander also has an incentive in his contract if he scores 76 or more points in a season. He’s two touchdowns away from surpassing that mark.
Asked whether he’s keeping track of the milestones that will put a little more cash in his pocket, Alexander said: “Nah, but my family is.”
As for the size of the bonus, Alexander was mum.
BC brothers? Flutie and Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck both played quarterback at Boston College, but that doesn’t mean they’re close friends. They attended the school about 13 years apart from one another.
“I watched him play, but I never had a 22 jersey (Flutie’s number) or anything like that,” said Hasselbeck, who left Boston College in 1998. “Some of my friends did, but I never did.”
Hasselbeck and Flutie will face each other this weekend, but don’t expect them to exchange in any pre-game talk about their BC days.
“I was never a Boston College fan until I got there,” Hasselbeck said. “I never dreamed of going to BC. I never wanted to. I do remember the hail mary (in 1984). I was a Colorado fan, because my dad went there.”
Riley will stay … for now: Reports have surfaced in San Diego that Riley might be coaching his final game. The Chargers’ head coach is a leading contender for the vacant San Diego State position, which school officials would like to fill within the next week.
But Riley has flatly denied any interest in coaching at San Diego State, adding that his only focus this week is on Sunday’s game with the Seahawks.
Quick slants: Free safety Marcus Robertson is expected to play Sunday, even though he said Friday that he is only about 80 percent healthy. Robertson missed four games with a sore hamstring, but played last week. He practiced all but one day this week. … Holmgren said Friday that he doesn’t expect defensive end Lamar King (strained calf) to play Sunday against the Chargers.