The Sunday, Sept. 7, coming-out party for the 2008 Seattle Seahawks started as more of a three-and-out party. Same with their opponent, a Buffalo Bills franchise that hasn't been to the National Football League postseason for nine years. The Bills are a step closer this season after out-playing their guests in just about every way, winning 34-10.
For much of the first quarter it looked as though the final might be 0-0. It wasn't until the game's sixth possession that a team broke the three-play-and-punt pattern. The Hawks finally got a first down during their third possession; three plays later they punted again.
For at least three reasons, few within the organization are likely to be particularly worried. First, the Hawks typically play Eastern time-zone games as though they're playing in the East River. They lost four of five back East last season. Second, they were short of key personnel. Perhaps more significant is a schedule that allows them to get well at home the next two weeks against supposedly inferior division rivals San Francisco and St. Louis, followed by a week off.
So on paper, it appeared to be the softest September in the 33 seasons of the franchise. But the Bills had their own ideas, outplaying Seattle in every phase of the game. One could but imagine what the final would have been had the Hawks been playing, say, the New York Giants away for the opener. Coach Mike Holmgren, his cap pulled over his ears like a third-string Little League right-fielder, observed the ineptitude with the contempt he affects when his team plays as though it had been practicing for six minutes instead of six weeks. The maudlin media deification of Holmy as he commences his final year as decade-long Hawk mentor had been enough to persuade many that the team might be poised for a return to the Super Bowl. If it happens — and in theory it could — it might amount to the most dubious start in league history by a team destined to play for a championship.
The Hawks didn't score their first — and last — touchdown until 4:45 remained in the second quarter. Nate Burleson had just dropped a catchable ball at the end-zone stripe. In the absence of any other likely targets (Bobby Engram and Deion Branch didn't play), quarterback Matt Hasselbeck came back to Burleson on the next play, connecting for an acrobatic 20-yard grab. It was the club's one game highlight amid many lows. Hasselbeck couldn't throw, and the vaunted crew of featured backs couldn't run. The secondary gave up ridiculously long completions, and special teams allowed the Bills enviable field position, even while Buffalo's special teams were accounting for 27 of the home club's points.
So it looks as if the Jim Mora coaching era can't start soon enough. Would that the mentor in waiting (the former Atlanta Falcons top guy and Husky alum is now Hawks assistant head coach in charge of defensive backs) could be cloned so that he could take over both of the city's big-time football programs. Last February, he was appointed to the Hawks top job starting in 2009.
The arrival of Seahawks season was supposed to, above all else, raise the collective spirit of the sporting public. The latter occupies a region with some of the worst sports teams this side of Moldavia. The idea had been that a superb Hawks season would somehow help ameliorate the loss of the Sonics, the collapse of the Mariners, and the steady declines of the Husky football and men's basketball programs.
Now the possibility exists that the three-and-out Seahawks could extend the trend through September: zero for three, and out of the playoff picture.