IRVING, Texas — Mike Holmgren said something Thursday night that fans throughout Seattle have been thinking all season.
It’s something that the entire nation saw earlier that afternoon while the Dallas Cowboys were piling up 447 yards on Holmgren’s Seattle Seahawks during a 34-9 blowout on national television.
The Seahawks’ defense, Holmgren said, is in need of a facelift.
“We have to take a hard look at that side of the ball,” the Seahawks’ head coach said Thursday night. “Maybe changes are necessary next year.”
Holmgren won’t be part of that process, as he has al ready announced that this season will be his last in Seattle. Perhaps his going-away speech will be a little like the one he delivered Thursday night: fix the D.
The Seahawks came into the season with high hopes for its defense but have fallen flat through three-quarters of the schedule. Seattle entered Thursday’s game against Dallas ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed, and the holiday performance did nothing to improve its standing.
Dallas continually took advantage of the Seahawks’ small cornerbacks and soft zone coverage to march down the field for touchdowns on each of the Cowboys’ first three possessions. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo wasn’t afraid to throw the deep ball, and he connected more often than not.
By the end of Thursday’s game, Romo had piled up 331 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-34 passing. It was a clinic in every sense of the word, leaving the Seahawks looking somewhat helpless to stop it.
“There was one stretch where we were getting off the field, and that looked like us,” Peterson said, referring to back-to-back series in the third quarter that resulted in a Marcus Trufant interception and a three-and-out. “But we weren’t consistent enough. Fortunately, we’ve still got four weeks to prove what we’ve got to prove.”
It’s probably too late. The Seahawks have been one of the NFL’s worst defenses this season despite a group of talented players that included all 11 starters from the 2007 team.
The most obvious problems have been an inability to get consistent quarterback pressure and a secondary that lacks size.
Both areas were exposed again on Thursday.
With a pair of 6-foot-3 wideouts that both weigh over 200 pounds, the Cowboys turned in 11 pass plays that went for 13 yards or longer. Seattle started the game with Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant following Terrell Owens all over the field, but the Seahawks had to adjust after Romo continually tested smaller cornerbacks Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings on the other side.
“They’ve got T.O., and our guys are short — even though they hold their own,” Seahawks safety Deon Grant said. “And the plays they made were when we were in zone.”
Seattle’s blitz was ineffective again, leading to a few big plays downfield. Wilson had chances to sack Romo three times, but on each occasion the quarterback slipped his grasp and delivered a pass.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Wilson said, “and he just made plays.”
Romo’s ability to escape the pass rush was on display all afternoon. The Seahawks didn’t record a single sack, despite a game plan that often featured blitz packages.
Romo had one of his finest games of the season, proving that his pinky injury is no longer a factor.
“It’s not like his legs were messed up and he couldn’t run around,” said Peterson, referring to the finger injury that kept Romo out of three games. “It’s just a pinky.
“I mean, look at mine,” Peterson added, holding out a pair of hands that included bent pinky fingers. “If it’s just his pinky, I’d say he was pretty healthy. I know he plays quarterback, but come on.”
The bigger question in Seattle is what’s ailing the Seahawks’ defense. The formula that brought together four Pro Bowlers and three other players who were first-round draft picks has not panned out.
“Right now, we haven’t performed up to our expectations,” Peterson said, “so we know there will be some changes.”