By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
ATLANTA – To see how significant Ricky Watters’ achievement was Sunday, one need look no further than the ones who have done it before him.
When the Seattle Seahawks running back eclipsed the career 10,000-yard rushing mark in the third quarter, he became just the 13th player in NFL history to hit that mark. Of the other 12 players to do it, only Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas and Ottis Anderson are not in the Hall of Fame – all but Anderson sure to get there eventually.
To see how important the milestone was to Watters, one need ask none other than his teammates. Watters hasn’t spoken to the media since training camp, so the other Seahawks were left to describe its significance.
“I probably would shed a tear or something,” quarterback Jon Kitna said of hitting the milestone. “But he just takes it in stride. He thinks he’s the best, and that’s what he’s always said. That’s the mindset you have to have. The thing that rubs people wrong is, sometimes he says it. But he knows he’s the best and that he can be just as good as any back in this league.”
Watters’ milestone meant rookie running back Shaun Alexander was one of the few young players who didn’t see much playing time Sunday. Holmgren said he plans to play Alexander more in the final three games, but he wanted Watters to break the 10,000-yard barrier during Sunday’s game.
“I’m not going to game-plan to get the (milestone),” Holmgren said, “but at the same time I’m not going to prevent him from getting it either.
Johnson had unspectacular stats (17 of 33 for 233 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions) against a Seattle defense that used a number of untested players throughout the game.
“I thought Doug did some good things,” Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. “Doug made some good throws, he stood in the pocket. I thought he had the timing down. He had a tendency, as most young guys do, to react a little too fast.”
The highlight of Johnson’s performance came on a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Reggie Kelly early in the fourth quarter. Kelly was wide open after finding a seam between Seattle’s Anthony Simmons and Shawn Springs.
Johnson’s lowpoint came when his second pass was intercepted by Seattle middle linebacker George Koonce and returned for a touchdown. Johnson, a University of Florida product, also got sacked four times and fumbled twice.
Johnson was the first rookie quarterback to start against the Seahawks since Peyton Manning in 1998.
The Seahawks defense forced just 15 turnovers through the first 11 games of the season, but has forced nine in the past two games.
After spending most of the season at the bottom of the turnover ratio standings, Seattle is moving toward the middle of the pack at minus-5.
“That’s usually the way it goes,” said defensive end Michael Sinclair, who recovered two fumbles Sunday. “I’m not surprised. Draught, draught, draught, then all the sudden the momentum starts to swing our way. We’ve got to keep getting those turnovers.”
With George Koonce’s interception return for a touchdown Sunday, the Seahawks have now scored defensive touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time since Mike Holmgren became head coach.
Since 1998, Seattle has won 11 of 16 games played indoors.
The warm climate was a welcome change Sunday, as temperatures in Atlanta were 36 degrees outside of the Georgia Dome.
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