Change Of Plans
With their top running back hobbled by injuries last season, the Seattle Seahawks turned to their passing game to help them win their fourth straight NFC West title.
After losing their starting running back and their only healthy veteran receiver to injuries in their season opener, the Seahawks might not have the same luxury in 2008.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Seattle -7 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 44% of bets for this game have been placed on Seattle -7 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
The Seahawks look to overcome a rash of injuries to their offense and avoid their first 0-2 start in six years as they host the division rival San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Running back Shaun Alexander, the NFL MVP in 2005 for Seattle, struggled through knee and wrist injuries last year and finished with 716 rushing yards and four touchdowns - his lowest totals since his rookie season in 2000.
Because of their ineffective running game, the Seahawks relied more heavily on the pass, ranking eighth in the league with 247.8 passing yards per game after finishing 20th with 190.9 the previous season.
This year's Seattle team may not be able to count on the same boost from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his depleted corps of receivers, though they might need it with Maurice Morris sidelined.
Morris, who took over at running back when Alexander was cut in the offseason, is expected to miss two games with a sprained right knee he suffered in Seattle's season-opening 34-10 loss to Buffalo last Sunday.
"It's not as bad as it could be," said Morris, who'll be replaced in the starting lineup by offseason acquisition Julius Jones. "A couple weeks."
Wide receiver Nate Burleson wasn't as lucky. An MRI Monday showed Burleson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while trying to cut outside on a pass pattern on the rain-slicked, synthetic field in Buffalo, and he'll miss the rest of the season.
Burleson joins Deion Branch, Bobby Engram and Ben Obomanu with major injuries at a position where Seattle now has just two healthy bodies - 2007 undrafted free agent Logan Payne and second-year man Courtney Taylor, who has seven career catches and dropped two passes last Sunday.
Coach Mike Holmgren says Branch and Engram remain out indefinitely. Obomanu is on injured reserve.
"It's a huge loss," Hasselbeck said. "And we've got to get some answers."
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback was 17-for-41 for 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception while throwing to Burleson and a cast of unknowns last week. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were held to 85 yards on the ground while suffering their second-largest margin of defeat in any of their 33 season openers.
"In any NFL season you are going to face adversity," Hasselbeck said. "It's Week 1, and here it is for us. We're facing a lot of adversity right now."
Seattle hopes to find some answers as it hosts a division rival it's dominated lately. The Seahawks have won eight of their last 10 games against the 49ers, including both meetings in 2007 by a combined 47-3.
That doesn't bode well for a San Francisco team that's already lost a division game. The Niners committed five turnovers in a 23-13 loss to Arizona in their season opener last Sunday - the third time in six games they've had at least five giveaways.
Journeyman quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, in his first career start with his eighth NFL team, completed 14 of his 20 passes for 195 yards, but also threw an interception and lost two fumbles.
"You can't cherry-pick your performance," said O'Sullivan, who won the starting job over former No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith, placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a shoulder injury. "If you want to win in this league, you can't turn the ball over that amount of times."
Despite those miscues, the Niners have reason to be optimistic after totaling 291 yards in their first game under offensive coordinator Mike Martz. They surpassed that mark only twice all of last season.
"We're a better team on offense, defense and special teams," said running back Frank Gore, who had 96 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the opener. "We just can't make the mistakes we did. It'll get better, a whole lot better."
The Niners have lost four of their last five at Qwest Field, where the Seahawks have gone 36-12 in regular-season games, including 7-1 in 2007.
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