Contemplating the 2011-12 season, gridiron-oriented grammarians might’ve punctuated the prospects for the Seattle Seahawks on offense with a question mark.
After the first half of the Sunday (Sept. 11) starter game in San Francisco, the operative punctuation seemed to be the ellipsis, which indicates something missing. Coach Pete Carroll’s problem appeared to have a somewhat broader meaning than the traditional three-dot ellipsis. As the 49ers, themselves not exactly the ’86 Bears, were putting up a 16-0 lead, Carroll’s ellipsis looked more like “. . . . . . . . . . .” because 11 things seemed to be missing.
What a difference half-time consultation can make. For the second half the Hawks obviously made adjustments on both sides of the ball, albeit still succumbing 33-17 after getting tantalizing close to the most high-value National Football League achievement: an out-of-town come-from-behind win against a division opponent.
Doug Baldwin had the Hawks’ play of the game. With four minutes left in the final quarter the wide-out took a Tarvaris Jackson pass at midfield and accelerated like he was running down nearby Filbert Street. The feat left Seattle trailing 19-17 but only for a matter of seconds.
Opening N.F.L. games typically are inelegant, which was especially expected this year after the player lockout caused practice to start later than usual. Sunday’s referees at Candlestick Park may need Tommy John surgery after they seemed to throw almost enough penalty flags to get somebody sent to San Quentin.
Unfortunately, nothing yellow could be found on the turf after San Francisco’s Ted Ginn Jr., following Baldwin’s impressive effort, ran back a kickoff late in the game, widening the lead to nine. Ginn, living it up from a recent contract bump, followed his 102-yard scamper with a 55-yard punt return for the final score.
The loss placed the Hawks at the bottom of the N.F.C. West with St. Louis, as Arizona also won. Given a division in which a title can be claimed with a 7-9 record, perhaps the Hawks dropping the opener doesn’t exactly signal catastrophe, especially noting that key injuries kept Seattle short-staffed.
The main positive to be taken on the way to next week’s date in Pittsburgh is that the coaching staff can make critical adjustments on the fly. The Hawks of the second half bore little resemblance to the static, lackluster units on display the first two quarters. Marshawn Lynch, stuffed on the run before halftime, seemed reborn after the break. Jackson, while scarcely protected appreciably better during the second half, nevertheless seemed a lot more confident on his way to a Matt Hasselbeck-like day: 21 for 37 or 197 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the offense put up nine more total yards than the opponent.
Another advantage going forward: If ever the Pittsburgh Steelers could be had, now would seem to be the time. The Hawk nemesis from the 2006 Super Bowl lost 35-7 to Baltimore Sunday.
After the game Carroll told reporters about his “disappointment” with the game's outcome and some of the performances. As always for the ebullient three-thumbs-up mentor, though, his remarks expressed nothing that would suggest a question mark or ellipsis. Even in defeat Carroll sticks with his signature exclamation mark — 11 at a time if he wants to.