'êDon'êt you love John Carlson,'ê I said to a casually football-savvy friend late last fall.
'êYou'êre kidding, right?'ê she answered. 'êThat @#$%! right-wing jerk?'ê
'êNo, no,'ê I hastened to say, 'ênot the radio John Carlson who ran for governor. I mean the Seahawks'ê rookie tight end. The guy'ês already the best pass-receiver they'êve ever had at the position and, for the record, I don'êt know anything (or care, for that matter) about his politics.'ê
My John Carlson proved to be the team'ês premier receiver last season, a rare bright spot for a club that stumbled to 4-12 to end the protracted Mike Holmgren era. Yet, my Carlson seemed nearly forgotten during the off-season, as the Hawks assembled a quality receiving corps that helped the club drub the hapless St. Louis Rams 28-0 in the season-opener at Qwest Field. Indeed, Number 89 didn'êt figure in the play-calling for much of Seattle'ês sputtering first half — two quarters to be remembered by many less for the 14-0 score as the occasion for three offensive turnovers during the first four possessions. Then the veteran (and mended) quarterback Matt Hasselbeck found the reliable pass-catcher twice for touchdowns. Carlson wound up with six grabs for a team-leading 95 yards and the pair of scores.
It didn'êt hurt that the debut of Hawks head coach Jim Mora was with the Rams, the most inept entity since... well, since the Carlson gubernatorial campaign. The Rams were repeatedly penalized, once for having 12 men on the field, which resulted in an overturned call and a probable 14-point swing in favor of Seattle.
Mora, the one-time University of Washington player, indicated that his guys were too tight during the first half but fans might have concluded that the opposite was true. After all, it was a Seattle team coming off a 4-0 preseason campaign and playing what now is the perennial National Football Conference West Division laughing stock. The usual mob of costumed followers was loud as always, an ongoing source of 'ê12th-man'ê vocal support. There was every reason to be over-confident.
Maybe that attitude will persist going into next Sunday'ês game in San Francisco, but only if Mora and company confine their perusal of game video to the final three quarters. Hasselbeck (never sacked despite the team being without three offensive-line starters) wound up with respectable numbers, finding eight receivers for 25 completions in 36 tries. But the two early pick-offs, one on a tipped ball in the end zone, didn'êt exactly indicate that Hass is in mid-season form. He at least had a dependable running game, with Julius Jones bumping and hustling for an impressive 117 yards on 19 carries.
The weakness of the opponent makes it difficult to assess the quality of the Seattle defense, which held the Rams to 13 first downs, half of them in 'êgarbage-time'ê situations (the Hawks had 25 first downs). Two of Seattle'ês key linebackers left the game early, Leroy Hill later appearing along the sideline wearing street clothes and Lofa Tatupu being pulled late in the fourth quarter. The Hawks also were without former all-pro defensive back Marcus Trufant.
Aaron Curry, the heralded rookie 'êbacker the Hawks picked fourth overall in this year'ês National Football League draft, threw a few conspicuous smacks at the opponents (particularly the Rams room-size running back Steven Jackson) on his way to four solo tackles, second only to cornerback Josh Wilson, who had five.
'êIt was a good game to learn from,'ê Mora said afterward, noting that: 'êYou turn the ball over three times in the first half, you typically don'êt win.'ê
The Hawks may derive motivation to play well next weekend by becoming probable betting underdogs against the 49ers, who beat reigning division-champ Arizona in their opener. On the other hand, gamblers may actually tip favorite status to Seattle if they consider the advantage the Hawks have in fielding a tight end the caliber of John Carlson, to be known in the Northwest henceforth as 'êthat John Carlson.'ê