Seahawks notebook: Special teams have become a bright spot

RENTON — During a season that has unraveled at an alarming rate, at least one-third of the Seattle Seahawks have started to come around.

The Seahawks’ special teams unit has rebounded well from a season-opening debacle. Bruce DeHaven’s unit has found consistency in almost every phase during an otherwise forgettable campaign.

"We’re getting better," said linebacker D.D. Lewis, one of the team’s special teams captains. "That’s all you try to do: get better."

DeHaven acknowledges that his unit has, for the most part, "gotten better every game." But he was also quick to point out that the team’s 2-8 start makes any improvement seem somewhat trivial.

"Whatever we’re doing," DeHaven said, "it’s not enough. Because we’re not winning ball games."

Special teams were in a near disastrous state early in the season. A Week 1 loss to Buffalo saw Seattle give up a long return touchdown as well as another score when the Bills ran a pass play out of field-goal formation.

Since the end of training camp, Seattle has replaced its long snapper, punter and punt-return man.

An injury to rookie long snapper Tyler Schmitt forced the team to bring 38-year-old Jeff Robinson out of retirement for the second time in as many seasons.

"Knock on wood, I don’t even think about that anymore," DeHaven said of Seattle’s long snapping job. "I didn’t think I’d have to, once we signed Jeff."

Inconsistency from punter Ryan Plackemeier led the team to cut him after Week 1, and replacement Jon Ryan has rebounded from some early struggles to rank sixth in the NFL in yards per punt (45.8).

"I’m more comfortable," said Ryan, who got booed in his Seattle debut earlier this season. "I’m more comfortable with the guys in front of me and with the snapper. … I started off a little slow, but I think that was because I wasn’t comfortable."

Punt returner Justin Forsett, who was drafted by the Seahawks but signed by the Indianapolis Colts before Seattle could put him on its practice squad, has added a spark since re-joining the team on Oct. 14. The rookie running back has teamed with kickoff return man Josh Wilson to give the Seahawks a dangerous combo, as both rank among the NFC’s top five in punt return and kickoff return average.

"Forsett’s a little jitterbug out there, so it was good to get him back," Lewis said. "And Josh Wilson, he runs like a tailback. We have some excellent returners, and we just try to block for them so they can get into the end zone."

The Seahawks might not be having a great season, but their special teams unit has certainly come around.

"After what happened in the Buffalo game, guys felt like we had to pick up our end and hold up our end of the bargain," Lewis said.

Hasselbeck ready to go: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s main goal this week is to finish what he starts.

The Seahawks’ 33-year-old quarterback said that last Sunday’s loss to Arizona was especially hard to take because he didn’t have anything left at the end.

"In terms of the last two drives, I didn’t finish them the way we are capable of," he said. "… I think my body just quit. That is disappointing. As a player, you feel like you let everybody down. I don’t know what it was, but I just didn’t have it."

Hasselbeck was playing his first game since Oct. 5 after missing five weeks with a back injury. He acknowledged that the time away might have affected his performance against the Cardinals, but the beating the Arizona defense put on him might have been just as big a factor.

"If I played for (the missed) five weeks and took that many shots to the head, I think I would have felt (just as) bad," he said. "I don’t know if you get used to it."

Gone streaking: The Seahawks haven’t lost more than three games in a row since 2000, when a five-game losing streak sent them plummeting toward the worst record of Holmgren’s career (6-10).

The 2008 Seattle team is currently riding a three-game slide and could make it four on Sunday.

Quick slants: Rookie defensive tackle Red Bryant missed a second consecutive day of practice, and all indications are that he’ll sit out Sunday’s game. Bryant has missed two games due to a high ankle sprain. … Safety C.J. Wallace (hamstring) and left guard Mike Wahle (shoulder) have not practiced all week. Wallace is doubtful for Sunday’s game, while Wahle is questionable. If Wahle can’t play, Ray Willis would start at right guard and Floyd Womack would move from right to left. … Cornerback Josh Wilson recovered from the ankle injury he suffered at Wednesday’s practice and appears likely to play against Washington on Sunday.

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