Weird things happen

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, November 26, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Defense shins, stinks in defeat


Herald Writer

SEATTLE — There was talk of mathematics, but this time it had nothing to do with the playoff picture.

Following the Seattle Seahawks’ 38-31 loss to the Denver Broncos under the rain of Husky on Stadium on Sunday, players and coaches alike were looking for their calculators.

They were trying to figure out how a defense that forced five turnovers, and returned two for touchdowns, could give up a season-high 538 yards; how the Broncos could pile up 301 yards on the grounds, including 78 from a wide receiver; and how this Seahawks defense — ranked 31st in the NFL — could possibly expect to stop the AFC’s best offense.

None of it seemed to add up.

"When the last-place defense plays the second-ranked offense," linebacker Chad Brown said, "weird things happen."

In the end, the two most important numbers were 80 and 1. Eighty, as in Mike Anderson’s 80-yard touchdown run with 3:34 remaining that eventually held up as the game-winning score. And the one represented the number of games Seahawks quarterback Brock Huard has played this season without getting hurt.

On Sunday, Huard’s injury was especially frustrating. He suffered what coach Mike Holmgren speculated was a bruised kidney, although Huard was expected to undergo further tests.

The injury caused Huard to miss the final three quarters, meaning Jon Kitna had to take his place despite not practicing all week while resting an injury of his own. Playing on a tender ankle, Kitna did an admirable job of keeping the Seahawks (4-8) close to the Broncos. But he didn’t have enough on the final drive to get Seattle into the end zone when it counted.

Kitna also threw two devastating interceptions — one in the end zone and another that was returned for a touchdown by Jimmy Spencer to give Denver a 31-24 lead with about six minutes remaining in the game. Denver’s complex blitz package kept both Seattle quarterbacks guessing all day.

The Seahawks proved that it doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback, as long as the defense can come up with a few timely turnovers and a touchdown or two.

Brown and Michael Sinclair each returned fumbles for touchdowns as the Seahawks took a 24-17 lead into the fourth quarter. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

"Any time you get two defensive touchdowns, you should expect to win," guard Pete Kendall said. "We were just not efficient enough to get them a rest and score some points on our own."

The Seahawks’ offense under Huard was ineffective, except for on one 40-yard pass play in which Derrick Mayes made an amazing catch on the sideline despite double coverage. Other than that play, Huard completed two of five passes for eight yards and didn’t lead the offense to a single first down on three drives.

During that span, Huard got drilled on a blindside blitz from Denver linebacker John Mobley, who came in unblocked to record a sack. Huard stayed in the game for the remainder of the drive before he was taken to a local hospital.

"Brock really has to handle that guy," Holmgren said afterward. "If they (blitz) the way they brought it, the quarterback really has to be responsible for the extra pass rush. He made a young mistake, and he paid for it."

"We had a protection on where only our five linemen were in there," Kitna added. "There’s no running back in there to help protect. It was just a guy unaccounted for. But in fairness to Brock, they gave us a defense we hadn’t seen (on film)."

The injury eventually forced Huard to leave a game for the third time in four starts. The only game he played start-to-finish was his first NFL start, a 31-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Kitna wasn’t much of an improvement, but at least he got the Seahawks offense into the red zone three times — resulting in two touchdowns and Eric Brown’s interception in the end zone.

Defensively, the Seahawks stayed in the game despite giving up more yards in a single game than they had in more than 12 years (580 in a 38-7 loss to San Francisco on Sept. 25, 1988).

"It’s frustrating, big-time, especially when you look up and see five takeaways," Sinclair said. "Then you look at it like, we gave up too many big plays. … Too many big plays seems to typify our whole season."

No play was bigger than Mike Anderson’s 80-yard scamper with 3:34 remaining. The Seahawks had an inside blitz called, and Denver countered with the perfect call: off tackle left.

Anderson, who had 195 rushing yards in the game, took a handoff from Gus Frerotte, broke to the sideline, and went untouched until Shawn Springs tried unsuccessfully to make a diving tackle at the Seahawks’ 15-yard line.

"More than anything, they called the right play," Seahawks defensive tackle Riddick Parker said. "Sometimes when you bring a blitz, it’s kind of a calculated risk. You know you aren’t going to be able to defend everything. We thought we’d be able to bring some pressure inside. In that situation, it just kind of backfired."

Seattle got the ball back for two more drives, but could not get closer than Denver’s 39. Rookie Deltha O’Neal broke up a Kitna pass on fourth down with 40 seconds remaining to secure the Broncos’ win.

Actually, the Seahawks aren’t officially eliminated from the playoffs yet. If they win out and 21 other games in the final four weeks go exactly as planned, Seattle will make its second consecutive trip to the postseason.

Talk about your mathematical improbabilities.

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