Hawks in a runaway

  • Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, November 16, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Teams around the NFL have discovered two sure-fire ways to get out of a funk. Seeing as how Dick Vermeil wasn’t available, the Seattle Seahawks turned to the other remedy Sunday afternoon.

They played host to the Detroit Lions.

The Lions, who entered the contest with a 20-game road losing streak, had a medicinal effect on the ailing Seahawks. Seattle’s offense finally broke out, piling up 366 yards – most of which came before halftime – in a 35-14 victory at Seahawks Stadium.

It seemed that everything the Seahawks tried worked out for the better as they bounced back from a frustrating loss to the Washington Redskins the previous week.

Just how much karma was going the Seahawks’ way Sunday?

  • Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck got stripped by defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, had the ball bounce off Wilkinson’s arm and back into the quarterback’s hands, and completed a 26-yard pass.

  • Hasselbeck fumbled at the Detroit 3-yard line, only to have teammate Koren Robinson fall on the loose ball in the end zone for Seattle’s third touchdown.

  • The Seahawks muffed two punts in the first half but recovered the ball on both occasions.

  • Punter Tom Rouen got every bit of a 61-yard punt, only to have it bounce at the Lions’ 2-yard line and settle down like a duck during hunting season.

  • And, perhaps most improbable of all, receiver Darrell Jackson caught every pass thrown his way.

    Not that some sort of invisible force was the only thing that carried the Seahawks (7-3) to victory. Seattle’s offense had its most complete effort of the season en route to a 21-point halftime lead that held up through a scoreless second half.

    In the first 30 minutes of action, the Seahawks piled up 317 yards of offense, including 138 on the ground, and didn’t get a single penalty called against them.

    “We felt like if we got something going early, it might just be too much for them,” running back Shaun Alexander said.

    Alexander delivered the first big blow, tearing off a 55-yard run on Seattle’s first possession. That set up a 4-yard touchdown scramble by Hasselbeck for a 7-0 lead.

    The Seahawks continued to have their way with Detroit’s defense on the next possession, marching 87 yards in 13 plays and taking a 14-0 lead on an Alexander 1-yard run.

    As has been the case for much of this season, Seattle’s opponent struck back. The Lions got within seven points on Joey Harrington’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Anderson on the next offensive play, keeping them temporarily in the game.

    But Seattle showed a rare display of killer instinct by going on another long drive to pull ahead 21-7. Hasselbeck looked like he was on his way to another touchdown scramble when he took off from the Detroit 11-yard line, but defensive end Jared DeVries stripped the ball at the 3. The ball bounced into the end zone, where Seattle’s Robinson fell on it for a touchdown.

    “We’ve had a couple games this year where the bounces went against us,” offensive lineman Robbie Tobeck said, “and today they went for us. We’ll take it.”

    Through three drives, the Seahawks had piled up 248 yards of offense, converted all six third-down opportunities and pulled out to a comfortable 14-point lead. Hasselbeck had completed 12 of 14 passes, including 11 in a row at one point.

    Even after the Lions (3-7) stopped Seattle’s offense on a three-and-out, the Seahawks came right back and started scoring on quick strikes. Bobby Engram caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck on the first play of Seattle’s fifth possession, then Engram went 83 yards on a punt return for his second TD in less than three minutes.

    The Lions responded with a touchdown in the final minute of the first half, but Seattle’s offensive explosion had already proven too difficult to overcome.

    “We needed that,” Robinson said of the 35-14 halftime lead. “We just felt like we could have been doing that the whole year. (Coach Mike Holmgren) said he was going to open it up, and he opened it up. We put up 28 points (offensively) in the first half, and I felt like if we had kept it up in the second half, we could have scored 50 or 60 points.”

    As it turned out, no one scored any points in the second half.

    The Seahawks took the metal off the pedal, compiling just 66 yards and four first downs. Detroit threatened on two occasions, but got stopped on fourth downs within 10 yards of the end zone.

    “I was proud of the way the team played today,” Holmgren said after the game. “I think we were ready to play early in the football game. We came out and took the starch out of the Lions.”

    The early strikes were especially devastating because the Lions were already trying to overcome adversity. As if the weight of a 20-game road losing streak wasn’t enough, mechanical problems caused their Friday-night flight to be delayed four hours.

    “There were a lot of bad things,” Alexander said. “Their plane breaks down, a dog comes up and bites the coach, a little girl punches (Lions quarterback) Joey (Harrington) in the stomach. Things were going well for us before the game even started.”

    The victory was sweet not only because it helped Seattle keep pace with St. Louis atop the NFC West, but also because the Seahawks proved they could put an opponent away. The Seahawks’ offense has proven inconsistent most of the season, so the first-half explosion showed that this team might be ready to break out.

    “It’s always good to establish some comeback games,” Alexander said, “but I think a win like this is really nice.”

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