Monday, June 8, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2004

This is a tough season to write about. Its a season that shook me to my foundations as a fan and caused me to give up my season tickets for my health. I don't think I plunged back into the emotional investment I had in the Seahawks until midway through the following season. After the 2004 season I didn't watch the draft, and only heard of the Seahawks free agent moves through friends. I was done.

After 2003, expectations were high, we thought the team could only get better, they were a year older, a year more seasoned, the Rams were slowly declining, the 49ers were about to fall off the map. This was the year. I should've taken the hint during week 1.

I expected them to slaughter the Saints, and they beat them, 21-7, but it was a skittish, disjointed effort that would be a sign of things to come. They beat Tampa Bay the next week in a game they had no right to win, the offense was dominated by the Bucs and if it weren't for Chris Simms blowing the game, they would've lost.

All fears disappated when they utterly annihilated the 49ers 34-0 the next week. It was as sound of a beating the Seahawks have ever laid upon someone. A bye week followed, then the hated Rams would roll into town, wounded, ailing, but, as those Rams always were back then, utterly confident.

I remember the game very well, the Seahawks dominated for 52 minutes, completely and utterly dominated. The Seahawks young secondary finally had a leg up on the elite Rams receivers and were jawing with them the whole game. And I remember committing the cardinal sin as a sports fan, from my spot atop the Nest, with the crowd thoroughly enjoying the 27-10 lead, I let my thoughts drift to the game the following week, a epic showdown with the Patriots, who were on an unrivalled undefeated streak. Then, suddenly, the Rams scored. There was a quick three and out, and a terrible punt. On the first play of their next drive, the Rams scored again, victimizing Terrell Bierra(this was to be a reoccuring theme). Another three and out, it was 27-24, but I was still confident, this was just a little burst, the Seahawks would hold them off. They didn't. The Rams got the ball back and kicked a field goal to put the game into overtime. Now, I felt the familiar sinking feeling all Seahawks fans are used to. That feeling of another collapse. Now the cheers were of desperation as the Rams slowly moved down the field.

3rd and 5 from about midfield. The Seahawks have had enough, they are going to blitz, and they show blitz, the linebackers hitting the inside gaps. Marc Bulger(a hideously underrated quarterback), checks down, slot receiver, go route, right up the seam against the safety. The Seahawks blitz, the Rams block down(I think the Hawks blitzed seven here), Bulger gets it off right before he's hit. I see the ball floating in the air, I see Shaun McDonald has a step on Bierra, I start screaming, "Turn around! Turn around! Turn around!" Bierra doesn't, the ball lands right in front of him in McDonalds hands, who prances into the end zone. The image of McDonald catching that ball is burned in my mind. I'll never forget it. I sat there in a daze for a while, I would've sat there forever, but my brother jolted me, he wanted to flee the place. I'm sure that loss ranks somewhere on a Bill Simmons scale, and I bet that ranks highly.

The next week, the Hawks were flat. The Patriots jumped on them and had a huge lead, 20-0 or 23-7. And then, the Hawks woke up and the game became exactly what everyone thought it would. It was 23-17 with a few minutes to go and the Seahawks were driving to win the game. Shazaam, there was a phantom intentional grounding penalty, the Seahawks settled for a field goal. Their defense didn't come through and they lost 30-20.

They lost the next week to the Cardinals, I really don't want to talk about that game.

Then, they won a couple, and things seemed to right themselves for their clash with the Rams in St.Louis. This was the last time the Rams would beat them in St. Louis, and the last time they played against the Seahawks on their old AstroTurf, coincidence? That game was a beating, the Seahawks started slow(this team could never play 60 minutes). They came fighting back, Shaun Alexander broke a big run, Aeneus Williams ran him down at the 10, punched the ball out and recovered it. Game over.

The win over the Dolphins was memorable, because Michael Boulware saved the day with an interception return. I think my delirium as Boulware was running toward me in the end zone could most aptly be describe as relief. The Dolphins were 1-8. I think thats when I realized the Seahawks just weren't very good.

Somewhere in all this the Seahawks signed Jerry Rice, who played well, but was infected with the drops, aiding my theory that the Seahawks propensity to drop passes might have something to do with the way Hasslebeck throws. But thats another column in itself.

Come December, the Seahawks played the awful Cowboys on Monday Night. They went up 14-3, fell down 29-14, went up 39-29, and lost 43-39. I still haven't recovered from this. I slept two hours that night and nearly physically assaulted a guy in class who was ripping on the Seahawks the next day. I think this game is also why Julius Jones still plays in the league.

After that, I took the week off from the Seahawks. And they posted one of their only road wins over a playoff team ever in the Holmgren era(2 in total) against the Vikings. I didn't watch the game, instead I went to see Polar Express.

They stumbled into the playoffs and even won the division by defeating the Falcons backups at the last second.

Then, dear god, the playoff game against the Rams. It was as intense a game as I'd ever seen. Hasslebeck was playing simply out of his mind. Thanks to that shaky secondary the Rams had the lead late. Hasslebeck led them on a furious charge, but I had already given up. The season had whittled me away to nothing, absolutely nothing. On 4th and 5 with under a minute left I stood there, my arms folded across my chest, and watched Hasslebeck escape three Rams, and somehow throw a pass that hit Bobby Engram right in the hands. Who promptly dropped it.

You could write a book on this season. The fast start. The high expectations. The collapse against the Rams. The collapse against the Cowboys. The "me first" defense starring Shawn Springs, Rashad Moore, Anthony Simmons and Chad Brown. All taking their turns to bitch and moan to the coaches, and in Simmons case, get in fist fights with them. You could write about Koren Robinson once showing up for a game 30 minutes before the start, and drunk. The desperate aquisition of Jerry Rice. The fact that anyone could run right up the middle. This season nearly killed me. Nearly got Holmgren fired and got half of the defense canned.

It sucked.

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