|Is this really Holmgren's team? Defense drives Seahawks into 2nd round|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 06 January 2008 11:49|
Wait, this is the Seahawks' defense? What in the name of Mike Holmgren is going on in Seattle?
The offensive maestro's 12th playoff run in 16 seasons as a head coach is being fueled by a swarming, frenetic defense that, when it's been on, has carried the Seahawks through a fourth consecutive NFC West title.
Seattle won that despite a skittish offensive line and 2005 MVP Shaun Alexander running to nowhere. Then Saturday: three sacks and 13 hits of previously perfect Todd Collins, plus two interceptions returned for touchdowns late beat the NFC's hottest team, the Washington Redskins, 35-14 in the wild-card game.
``As I've been telling everybody since I played football in the fourth grade, defense wins championships,'' Alexander said of a unit that has 43 sacks in Seattle's 11 wins - but just five sacks in its six losses.
``When your defense scores 14 points in a playoff game, you're going to have a chance to win.''
Matt Hasselbeck has gotten Seattle's national attention this season for setting team passing records. He'll get more this week before returning to Green Bay in the postseason for the first time since his ill-fated pronouncement of ``We want the ball and we're going to score!'' during the overtime coin toss in 2004.
But the Seahawks (11-6) wouldn't be in the divisional playoffs against the Packers (13-3) without their big-play defense, which is far better than the one they had while going to the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
Then, Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and scored a league-record 28 touchdowns for the most prolific-scoring offense in the NFL. That defense was just trying to hold up its side of the team.
This one is carrying it.
``How we're going to get this thing done will be different than how we did it in 2005,'' Holmgren said as the playoffs began.
These Seahawks are getting it done everywhere. Up front, with pressurizing ends Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp and Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Outside, with speedy Pro Bowler Julian Peterson. And in the back, with transformed cornerback Marcus Trufant and take-charge safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell.
They - not Hasselbeck - seized the game from the Redskins, who had won four straight. Tapp stuffed Clinton Portis on third-and-1. Then Kerney drilled Mike Sellers on a fourth-and-1. Washington was 5-for-21 trying to convert on third and fourth downs and didn't score until the fourth quarter.
After Hasselbeck threw the first of two, forced interceptions of the final period and Seattle botched a short kickoff into another turnover deep in its own end, catalyst Kerney took over.
The runner-up in the NFL with 14 1/2 sacks this season hit Collins on consecutive pass plays with Seattle about to fall behind 21-13. He forced Washington to settle for a 30-yard field goal, which Shaun Suisham missed to irrevocably change the game's momentum.
The Seahawks soared from facing the end of their season to 21 unanswered points over the game's final six minutes.
``That's what the playoffs are all about. When it's time for you to come up big how are you going to show up?'' said Grant, signed as free agent along with Kerney and Russell before the season to make the plays that previous Seattle defenses used to wait for the offense to make.
The muscle-bound, 6-foot-5 and 272-pound Kerney has been showing up even bigger than that en route to his second Pro Bowl. His latest domination came despite the Redskins double- and triple-teaming him.
``I came into this game expecting that, I know that's going to happen,'' Kerney said, flatly. ``And I expect the same thing to happen this week.''
After Hasselbeck rebounded for his only touchdown pass to put Seattle back up 21-14, Trufant followed an out-and-up route that Washington's Santana Moss gave up on. The first-time Pro Bowler intercepted the looping pass, then zigzagged past the stunned Redskins for a 78-yard touchdown. The longest interception return in Seattle's postseason history made it 28-14.
By the time nickel back Jordan Babineaux made yet another big play, a 57-yard TD return of another interception by Collins, Holmgren was already thinking of another trip down his favorite street, Mike Holmgren Way, in Green Bay.
``When it gets bleak, you hang in there, you keep fighting. And this team has done that better than any team I've ever had,'' Holmgren said.
That grit comes from a defense that may be as good as any Holmgren has ever had.