|Seahawks weary of sending blitzes at elusive Smith in Ravens' QB's first start|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 15:34|
Two rookies. Seven strings of quarterbacks in two games opposing Seattle.
And the Seahawks are trying to avoid being played like a fiddle again.
Undrafted fourth-stringer Moore made his first start last weekend and led the Panthers to a 13-10 upset of Seattle. The snoozing Seahawks (9-5) were flat in their first game since clinching their fourth consecutive NFC West title; Seattle scored its only touchdown with 1 second left.
Sunday, the Ravens (4-10) bring their franchise-record eight-game losing streak to the Northwest. They will also bring Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State. The fifth-round draft choice will make his first NFL start because Kyle Boller has a concussion and Steve McNair is on injured reserve.
``He's not going to be intimidated by this,'' Baltimore coach Brian Billick said of Smith's first start since he was with the Buckeyes in last January's national championship game won by Florida. ``He's been in a lot of big games, so I don't worry about that part of it.''
Smith impressed his teammates and the Seahawks by calmly rallying the Ravens in the final two minutes to the tying field goal that forced overtime last week in Miami.
``What Troy does is go out there and make plays. ... That's why he was considered the best football player in college football. That's why he won the Heisman - and it's no different here,'' veteran Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said. ``The guy's just a football player. And that's what I love about him.''
Baltimore is trying to manufacture any love out of a season to hate, especially after the Ravens ultimately lost to the previously winless Dolphins.
Seattle has a few more pressing issues. It is trying to get Shaun Alexander, one score away from 100 touchdowns rushing, freed from his season-long malaise inside a stalled running game. The run game is so inept right now, coach Mike Holmgren admits concern heading into the playoffs with a pass-first offense.
The Seahawks are also trying to muster enough emotion to get through these final games against woeful teams with their No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs intact. That is largely why Holmgren is not resting veteran starters against the Ravens and may rest only a few in the regular-season finale at Atlanta (3-11).
``You must have that to win, regardless of your opponent,'' Holmgren said of a fire from a five-game winning streak that was extinguished in the cold winds at Carolina last week. ``If you just go through the motions, you will lose. That's how close this league is.''
Smith, inactive for the first nine games, stood on the sideline watching the next three. He threw five passes against Indianapolis two weeks ago and then was 5-for-11 for 49 yards replacing Boller last week in that how-much-worse-can-it-get day in Miami.
That's more experience than Moore had before he beat the Seahawks last weekend. And Smith said it's already a totally different experience than he had in the Big Ten.
``Stepping into this situation and getting a chance to play at the highest level, you have to have the highest level of professionalism, the highest level of being a man, being an athlete,'' the 23-year-old said.
``Not to take anything away from college football, because college football is incredible and great (but) these guys here in this locker room have families, they have kids, they have wives. That was the most eye-opening thing for me.''
One would think the Seahawks would be sure to open Smith's eyes with exotic looks and more blitzes than usual. They already have two Pro Bowl pass rushers, Julian Peterson and Patrick Kerney, the NFL's sack leader with 13 1/2 - all of which have come against far more veteran quarterbacks.
``No, because you have to get out there and see what they are going to do with him,'' Seattle defensive coordinator John Marshall said of the Ravens' play-callers, namely Billick. ``The guy can run. The guy's a fine athlete. Hell, the guy was the Heisman Trophy winner. And he played very well in the Miami game. He's got poise. They tried pressure him in Miami and they got the ball out of there.
``Yeah, I think on the outset you say, 'Yeah, we're going to heat it up for this young guy. But that's not necessarily true going into (Sunday).''