Delay of Game

A steely defense has the Hawks undefeated despite surprisingly inept execution from Hasselbeck & Co.

Time is a matter of perception in the National Football League. An offense can cram three complicated plays into the final 20 seconds of a game, yet the typical commercial time-out seems to last a minor eternity—long enough to get to the liquor store and back.

It shouldn't distress anybody, then, that it took the Seattle Seahawks a week to register their first touchdown of the season. Actually, it took just 64 minutes and 17 seconds of game time for Shaun Alexander to plunge in from the 2 to put the Hawks up 7-0 in their home opener against division foe Arizona on Sunday, Sept. 17. A few plays later, the Hawk defense also did what many of its admirers expect this year, stuffing the Cardinals on three plays. Minutes later, the offense asserted itself again and the defending National Conference champs never really looked back, winning 21-10. The Hawks are the lone undefeated team in the NFC West, a distinction that has been ceded to them early and often in recent years.

Against Arizona, improvement could be seen from the club that won 9-6 in Detroit Sept. 10, where it appeared that coach Mike Holmgren fielded a team of jayvees from Eight Mile High. But the offensive line hasn't quite caught on to what quarterback Matt Hasselbeck or field-goal kicker Josh Brown need in the way of protection. Arizona sacked the former and blocked what should've been a chip shot by the latter. However, it's unfair to peg O-line lapses solely on Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack (knocked out in the third quarter with a knee sprain), who took over for Steve Hutchinson, the star guard who took the money and ran to Minnesota, where he's helped the Vikings start 2-0. At times, the entire Hawk line has looked a few cutlets short of a contiguous rack of ribs. Seasoning ought to fix that.

So far, though, the entire offense has been "a little sloppy," observed Hasselbeck after the game. His mentor, Holmgren, visibly unsatisfied with his offense, noted that the QB got roughed up again in the second game, but "he wasn't as banged up."

"Matt's a tough guy," said Holmgren. "He responds just fine."

Holmgren went on to philosophize that "success breeds success—we'll get our offense going." He said it was too early in the season to "get too disappointed about anything or too sky-high."

If the offense still needs to get going, the Seahawk defense has started right up. Against Arizona, the linebackers and secondary—especially during the first half—were so dominant that it sometimes looked as though there were 20 of them on the field. Opponents have totaled a paltry 16 points combined the first two games, though that could change when the New York Giants come to town for a grudge rematch of last season's classic, wherein Seattle triumphed when the normally adroit New York kicker Jay Feely forgot how to put the ball between the uprights. Certainly, the 1-1 Giants, coming back late to win in overtime after falling behind 24-7 to Philadelphia, should pose a better test than the Hawks have had thus far.

Even with a suspect line, though, the offense should have scored more against Arizona. Seattle had the ball deep in Cardinal territory nearly every possession in the first half, but a blocked field-goal attempt and a Hasselbeck interception let Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner back onto the field to absorb more punishment from the Hawks' D-line. Hasselbeck had nobody to blame but himself for a second pick; later he and Shaun Alexander looked less like all-pros than all thumbs after a muffed handoff. At that point, heroics by onetime league MVP Warner had pulled the Cardinals within 11, but poor time management left Arizona with too little clock to catch Seattle.

New arrivals haven't been so flashy yet, save for linebacker Julian Peterson, who spent some quality time in the Arizona backfield. Seattle native Nate Burleson has been a fleet decoy at receiver for much of the first two games. He's also dropped some balls at critical times, but nonetheless allows old reliables Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram to get open more often. This ought to be even more useful when mini-maniac Deion Branch (a formerly disgruntled New England great acquired by the Hawks after the first week of the season) joins the receiving corps.

A bonus for the 67,470 fans in attendance was the halftime Ring of Honor induction of defensive lineman Cortez Kennedy. After being rung in, Kennedy offered many of the oft-used thank-you lines. Then he said: "To my mom and dad: Thank you for raising a great kid."

It was a beautifully timed remark from a man who toiled in the trenches long enough to learn plenty about timing.

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