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 KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -Mike Holmgren hears Seahawks fans repeatedly booing Shaun Alexander. Even Holmgren's family is asking the coach, ``What's wrong with Shaun?''
His response: Back off.
Holmgren hears the criticism that Alexander has faded in the weeks since his 30th birthday. He hears the opinions that Alexander runs too tentatively, is suddenly too slow to beat defenses on cutback runs that had worked for years - including 2005, a season that ended with Alexander gaining 1,880 yards rushing with an NFL-record 28 touchdowns and was named the Most Valuable Player.
``Shaun Alexander seems to be the lightning rod and I am here to tell that there are times that there is nothing there. ... He has been a little unfairly criticized in my opinion,'' Holmgren said on Monday.
One day earlier, Alexander was booed for a second consecutive home game while gaining 47 yards on 19 carries in a 33-6 victory over winless St. Louis. The Seahawks used a special-teams touchdown and Rams turnovers to score 23 points in the second half.
Alexander, who heard mocking cheers as he left the field after a high pass went through his hands, challenged Holmgren on the sideline to let him back into the lopsided game late in the fourth quarter. The coach didn't waver in his decision to pull quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and most of the offense's key players.
Alexander downplayed any apparent frustration.
``I am like that every week. I was like that in my rookie year (2000), when I was hardly getting any plays because Ricky Watters was getting all of the carries,'' he said. ``I dissect everything, and I probably put entirely too much pressure on myself and my line.
``I'll still be the same way. We've seen some good things happen from that kind of focus and we're not going to change.''
Those good things are overdue.
Alexander has 107 yards rushing over his past three games, two of them losses for the Seahawks (4-3), who are leading the NFC West entering their bye week mainly because the entire division has struggled.
Running behind an offensive line with three new players since 2005 and with a cast over his cracked left wrist, he has only two touchdowns this season, none since Week 2. The five-game scoring drought is the longest since 2000. His 460 yards rushing is his lowest total through seven games since 2002.
``We're frustrated because we're not running the ball well,'' Alexander said.
Sunday, on third-and-1 from the Rams 4 in the first quarter, Holmgren replaced Alexander with Maurice Morris. On the next drive, facing fourth-and-1 at midfield, Holmgren again used Morris. Alexander left the field, initially stood away from Holmgren then walked to the bench. He plopped his helmet on top of it and sat as Morris was stopped for no gain.
Holmgren said both times he had plays called specifically for Morris, a sixth-year veteran who started eight games last year while Alexander was recovering from a broken foot. He said Alexander will continue to get the majority of those short-yardage carries.
``We are not blocking very well at this particular point. That must improve,'' Holmgren said. ``We've been forced to analyze it because of people - you guys, our families, everybody - what they say is 'What's going on with Shaun?' because Shaun is the MVP, Shaun's a great running back.
``I'm here to say for Shaun, there is not a lot (of room) there. And we have to be better at that. We have to fix that.''
Holmgren has been saying this for weeks, while delegating the search for answers to his staff. The delegating may change before Seattle's next game Nov. 4 at Cleveland, after the bye week.
According to Hasselbeck, the running game is stalled even in practice, when no one is tackling.
Holmgren said the blocking in front of Alexander often has been filled with mistakes.
``It's technique. It's assignments. It's preparation,'' Holmgren said. ``It must be a lot of things because I'm reaching the point - other people have been trying to fix this and I'm trying to delegate a little bit, but after yesterday and after reviewing the film - it's going to get a little tense around here if I don't see some improvement.''
What can he do with a line that lacks quality depth as much as it lacks experience?
``That's up to me,'' Holmgren said sternly, with a glare. ``I can think of things to do, yes.''

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