By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After a dynamite performance by rookie running back Shaun Alexander on Monday night, Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren was left trying to figure out how to diffuse any further fireworks.
Alexander did it for him.
For the first 30 minutes of Monday night’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Alexander was a better running back than Ricky Watters. Although he only played one full series, the rookie from Alabama was having such a fine effort that his play begged for more carries.
And when Watters began to get nauseous in the second half, Alexander got it. In the end, any running back controversy got settled before it could get started, thanks to an Alexander fumble.
“He ran very well. Unfortunately, he fumbled the ball,” Holmgren said of a fourth-quarter play in which Alexander gained two yards on third-and-1 before Kansas City’s Greg Wesley jarred the ball loose. “But people got a glimpse of what he is and what he can be in this league.”
Alexander had by far his most impressive performance of the season, mainly on one drive. During the third drive of the game, Alexander gained 55 yards on six carries, including a 7-yard touchdown. He was in the game by design, as Holmgren is trying to give Watters a long rest during games so that the 31-year-old would take less of a pounding during the course of a full season.
Watters seemed to get a spark from Alexander’s performance. On his first carry of the second half, he gained 12 yards to surpass Earl Campbell as the NFL’s 13th all-time leading rusher.
But Watters came out of the game later in the quarter, complaining of nausea, and Alexander was back on the field – without the success. During his second stint, Alexander dropped a third-down pass and later fumbled after getting a short-yardage first down in Seahawks territory.
“I just go out and try to make plays,” Alexander said. “The fumble was something where I was going for extra yardage instead of taking care of the ball.”
Alexander had career highs of 11 carries and 74 yards, scoring a 7-yard run in the second quarter. Watters had 97 yards on 16 carries, including a 32-yard run in the second half.
An attempt to break the NFL attendance record, the brainchild of Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, fell short of the mark when the team couldn’t put 12,000 fans in an adjacent stadium to break the 42-year-old record of 90,833.
Hunt put tickets on sale at Kauffman Stadium, the next-door facility that serves as home to baseball’s Royals, where fans could watch Monday night’s game on big-screen television for $10. Throw in another $15 for parking, and it was understandable why fans didn’t exactly show up in droves.
Only 4,391 fans showed up at Kauffman, giving the two stadiums a grand total of 82,893 fans – well short of the all-time mark.
The Washington State University product got good distance on his kickoffs (his final three went to the Chiefs’ 5 or deeper) and nailed his only field goal attempt.
Unlike predecessor Kris Heppner, whose first NFL field goal came from 52 yards away at Miami, Lindell had a much easier first attempt. He hit a 27-yarder midway through the third quarter without a problem.
With a Friday departure for Charlotte on tap for this weekend’s game against the Carolina Panthers, Holmgren and his staff planned on putting in a full day’s work today.
The team flight left from Kansas City late last night and wasn’t expected to arrive until around 4 a.m. today.
“The coaches have a little bit of a tough go because we’ll basically come from the airport here,” Holmgren said. “You play Monday night games, you have the short week. We’ve been through this before.”
Holmgren added that the team earlier considered flying to Charlotte immediately after Monday’s game, but decided against it so that the players could sleep in their own beds – for three days, anyway.
If that happens, the Dec. 16 home game against the Raiders will be on the road.
The former Chiefs player saved a touchdown with a tackle in the fourth quarter, but also just missed Tony Gonzalez on a 15-yard touchdown in the first half.
“It was a little different for me, something I’ve never done,” Tongue said of his return. “It was exciting, but I had nothing else on my mind except to get a win. Unfortunately, I didn’t play as well as I would have liked.”
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