The Seahawks win their season opener in pre-season fashion

The players, the coach, the fans, the scribes – everyone at Qwest Field seemed a little out of sorts.
The players, the coach, the fans, the scribes – everyone at Qwest Field seemed a little out of sorts.

Sunday, Sept. 9, was a day when baseball was football and football was golf. The Seattle Mariners beat Detroit by a touchdown (14-7), and the Seattle Seahawks' 20-6 home-opener win featured, according to a buddy, "more mulligans than I've seen since the last time I played golf with you." A mulligan is a do-over, or several, like trying 20 times to park your self-parking Lexus. The Hawks game actually had just a couple of ref-ordered second-efforts (I'm usually good for at least four in golf), the first being a second-quarter official demand that Shaun Alexander take a follow-up try at a touchdown run. Seems a Shaun shin dragged the turf before the ball broke the goal-line plane. Alexander, ineffective to that point (though he eventually amassed 105 rushing yards), obligingly got into the end zone the next play and the Hawks led 10-6. The second mulligan was something ne'er seen even by those of us who have been watching football since the late 1800s. It happened with 3:46 left in the third quarter when the Buccaneer punter took the long snap and simply, inexplicably, did nothing. The Hawk defender tagged the punter playground-style and signified that it was Hawk ball at that place on the field. Refs said that a shrill whistling from the stands indicated to the punter that the play had been ruled dead. The officials granted Tampa a courtesy punt and the game went on. Strolling the well-traveled walkways adjacent Qwest Field Sunday morning, a few hours prior to kickoff, I considered what it might be like stuck amid the costumed, paint-faced fans at about 2 p.m. I imagined them during the second quarter, say, pissed on beer and about a ref's call against their faultless Hawks. Up in the booth, one of the game announcers would note the commotion, dutifully reporting how raucous Hawks partisans can be. It all came true – the booing, the booth work – except that the crowd commotion was directed not at game officials but against Seattle coach Mike Holmgren. With about 10 minutes left in the second quarter and the Hawks bungling their way to a 6-0 deficit and a third-and-18 play courtesy of a comically rendered attempt at a flea-flicker, Holmgren or his offense coordinator ordered a hand-off to Mack Strong. The aged fullback is still somewhat reliable on third and 18 inches, but not yards or even feet. He was well short of a first down and that's when the booing started, but not when it ended. It finally subsided when Alexander got into the end zone, though the remainder of the game would feature a virtual lowlight reel of fumbles, bumbles, and, appropriately, boos. All concerned - players, coaches, refs, writers, etc. - were somewhat short of midseason form. Scribes and commentators would describe the "effort" as "ragged, rusty, ugly, butt-ugly," etc. (or all of the above in the case of this piece). The Buccaneers are said to be an improved product after several dismal seasons, but at times the favored Hawks didn't look like they could beat a second-tier pro team or even a third-tier college outfit such as Michigan. "We finished the game strong," Holmgren later supposed, seemingly relieved that game one was over. "We have some new people in there," he later added, not mentioning some old ones, such as Mack - third-and-18 - Strong. During my two decades as a Hawk season-ticket holder, I wasn't alone in grousing about the full price the franchise exacts for preseason-game tickets. It was bad enough paying for a pair of glorified practice games but the Hawk-Tampa fiasco looked like just another warm-up rather than the real thing. The game's best stats belonged to Matt Hasselbeck: 17 completions in 24 attempts for 222 yards. Perhaps the QB hopes this assuages wavering Hawks fans who seemed surprised, after a recent local fundraiser, that he's a George Bush supporter (we checked and Hasselbeck isn't the only rich pro athlete who votes Republican). Maybe next week's division meeting with the Cardinals in Arizona will reveal signs of discipline lacking in Hawk lapses on offense, defense, special teams, and golf gimmicks. At the very least, let's hope Holmgren and his coaches, with what could be one of the better editions of the franchise, see to it the team doesn't do over some of what we saw against Tampa Bay.


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