Seahawk offense showing signs of maturity

  • Todd Fredrickson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, October 12, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – The word on the Seattle Seahawks’ offense coming out of Sunday’s 20-19 NFL victory over San Francisco was not brilliant.

Nor was it efficient, consistent, or even composed.

The word heard over and over again in the locker room after the game was mature, as in being able to shake off a spotty performance and get the job done when it really matters.

For the second home game in a row, the Seattle offense took the field late in the fourth quarter trailing against a respected division opponent. And, as happened three weeks ago in a 24-23 victory over St. Louis, the Seahawks got their act together in time to produce the winning points.

Against the Rams it was a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to Koren Robinson with one minute left. On Sunday, it was a 37-yard field goal by rookie place-kicker Josh Brown with 3:04 remaining.

Brown’s kick capped a 10-play, 46-yard drive that answered a San Francisco field goal that put the 49ers ahead for the first time at 19-17.

Prior to that drive, Seattle had just two first downs in the second half while watching the 49ers scramble back from a 17-0 deficit.

“The way I think of it is that’s the sign of a mature team,” Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson said. “That’s twice we’ve done that. I don’t think we’d have done that the last couple years.

“It might not always be pretty, but we’re 4-1 now instead of 3-2.”

Or, as Hasselbeck put it, “We had opportunities to put the game away, I thought, and we didn’t. But I will take it because a win is a win.”

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said the ability to win while not playing particularly well is not only a sign of an improving team, it can contribute to the improvement.

“I think when you come back and win a game at the end, on a long drive or a field goal, or the defense makes a big play, or you get the one big play to win a one-point game, I think that adds to your confidence,” he said. “It hasn’t happened to us a whole bunch, but we have had a couple this year already. Each one helps build this football team, so, yeah, we can use that.”

At the center of it all was Hasselbeck, who was anything but spectacular.

Before the decisive drive, he was 3-for-8 in the second half and threw a dreadful interception to set up San Francisco’s second touchdown.

But he had a 17-yard scramble on third down to jump start the drive and a 9-yard completion to Darrell Jackson to get the ball down to the San Francisco 20. Running back Shaun Alexander contributed 20 yards on four rushing attempts.

Then, after the Seattle defense got the ball back on a fumble recovery, Hasselbeck completed an 18-yard pass to Robinson on third-and-9 with 1:41 left to all but wrap up the game.

For the game he completed 17 of 27 passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and one interception

“Matt had kind of a love/hate game,” Holmgren said. “He made some wonderful plays when pressured, and he dumped the ball off. And he made a real nice run, and some great throws.

“There was a stretch in there where we lost our composure,” Holmgren said. “If you ask him, he’ll say the same thing. He got angry with the way things were going, and as a result it affects your play.”

Seattle’s offense looked early on like it would make the game a blowout, scoring on three of its first four drives to build a 17-0 lead.

One key was the return of right tackle Chris Terry after a four-game suspension.

With Terry back, Seattle had its five best linemen together for the first time in 30 games dating back to October of 2001. An assortment of injuries, contract holdouts and Terry’s suspension have kept the line from developing the continuity that often marks a great line.

With the line intact, Holmgren was able to open up the playbook, and Seattle got its two touchdowns from tight end Itula Mili and fullback Mack Strong. Mili’s 15-yard touchdown reception was the first by a Seahawks tight end this season, and Strong’s 21-yard touchdown run was the first touchdown run by a Seattle fullback in Holmgren’s five-year tenure here.

“We were not too predictable out there and it worked out well,” Mili said. “We got everyone involved, and that’s pretty hard to defend.”

It was at times, anyway.

Especially with the game on the line.

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