Now 2-6, Seattle players admit it can’t get worse
By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
OAKLAND, Calif. — No wind nor Sports Illustrated jinx can slow down these Oakland Raiders, so far be it for the lowly Seattle Seahawks to get in their way.
The Raiders (5-1) are proving their mettle as one of the AFC’s best teams, but this time their opponent barely even fought back. Seattle dropped its fourth consecutive game in another one-sided contest that saw Oakland breeze to a 31-3 victory on a windy Sunday afternoon at Network Associates Coliseum.
Afterward, Seattle cornerback Shawn Springs summed it up best when he walked across the locker room mumbling to himself: "It will get better before it gets worse."
The statistics from this one were familiar from the Seahawks’ angle. For the fifth time this season, an opposing running back ran for more than 100 yards (Tyrone Wheatley, 156). For the third time this season, the Seahawks (2-6) couldn’t get into the end zone. And, in dropping its road record to 1-4, Seattle stumbled to its third blowout loss away from Husky Stadium.
But one statistic dealt an even bigger knockout blow: three players left the game with concussions.
Quarterback Brock Huard was the first to go, leaving midway through the second quarter before having to be helped into the locker room at halftime by two members of the Seahawks’ staff. His replacement, Jon Kitna, suffered a more mild concussion in the first half, but stayed in the game until the final drive. And guard Pete Kendall got knocked out late — well after the outcome had been decided.
"You cannot have your quarterback getting hammered all the time," tight end Itula Mili said. "The receivers have to be working harder to get open and the linemen have to be doing their job — it’s both. We have to go home, watch some film and correct that stuff."
Protecting the quarterback was just one of Seattle’s problems. On a day in which the wind was as unpredictable as a Roger Clemens fastball, the Seahawks also dropped numerous passes, gave up too many rushing yards and couldn’t pressure Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon. After taking a 3-0 lead on its opening drive, Seattle watched helplessly as the Raiders scored 31 unanswered points.
The main source of Oakland’s domination was Wheatley, who became the second consecutive opposing running back to set a career high for rushing yards in a game. Most of Wheatley’s damage came on an 80-yard run midway through the second quarter, and he went for sizable chunks on almost all of his 15 carries.
"In this league, until you fix something, teams are going to keep coming at you with it," Seattle defensive tackle Riddick Parker said. "Whether it’s running or passing the ball, whatever it is, people tend to exploit it. They’re going to continue to do it until we can improve upon it.
"I don’t have any excuses," Parker added. "We’re all getting paid to do a job, and we either do it or we don’t do it well. Unfortunately, right now we aren’t doing as well as we should. That needs to change. It’s as simple as that."
While Wheatley ran at will, Gannon took advantage of his time in the pocket, completing 15 of 22 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
Seattle’s offense, meanwhile, wasted a fine effort from running back Ricky Watters (95 yards on 17 carries) because the passing game never got in a rhythm. Part of the blame for that comes down to the health of Huard and Kitna. The latter was so woozy late in the first half that coach Mike Holmgren opted to attempt a 43-yard field goal on second down.
"Jon was a little out of it, and we didn’t have any timeouts left," Holmgren said. "I was scared if I call a pass play, that he would get sacked."
Kitna battled until the final drive, when third-stringer Matt Lytle took over to see his first action in an NFL game.
Holmgren said afterward that the playing status for his top two quarterbacks was up in the air heading into next week’s home game against Kansas City. Huard, who still appeared woozy as he left the locker room at the end of the game, appears less likely to play than Kitna. Huard had a bad groin entering Sunday’s game, and completed 4 of 12 passes for 64 yards and an interception before leaving in the second quarter.
Holmgren was not sure when Huard suffered the injury, adding that Huard tried to play through it.
"He was doing some strange things out there, so I took him out," Holmgren said.
The loss dropped Seattle further in the AFC West standings, with only winless San Diego keeping the Seahawks from the cellar. Oakland, meanwhile, owns the AFC’s best record and could be on pace to run away with the division. The Raiders’ recent success planted them on the cover of SI this week.
The Seahawks, winners of just three of their last 14 games dating back to last season, are more suited to appear on the cover of a yet-to-be-created magazine called Pro Football Weakly.
"It’s frustrating right now, we can’t make no bones about that," defensive end Michael Sinclair said. "To come out last Sunday at Husky Stadium and be dominated, then to come out here and be dominated, the same thing’s happened. It’s a frustrating time."