Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2006

My naivete got the best of me this season. I figured the ultra motivated Seahawks would steamroll the NFC. However, I forgot the golden rule of success. When people win, they want to get paid, and losing teams want to fill their teams with "winners". Thanks to the Seahawks bungling, the Vikings signed a disgruntled Steve Hutchinson. A move the Seahawks are still recovering from. Andre Dyson left, Marquand Manuel got a much deserved pay day, and Shaun Alexander got paid. Robbie Tobeck was a year older and Chris Spencer was about to redefine the term "A man without a position" as he was about to start hopping from center to guard with frequency.

I had high expectations. But in the preseason, Chris Spencer was getting knocked backward, Mack Strong was just a little slower clearing out the holes and Shaun Alexander no longer was running for a contract. Marcus Tubbs was hurt, and Chuck Darby, a great rotation guy, was thrown into a starters role. I was unconcerned.

Until opening day. The Lions, fired up under their new coach, used the standard blitz happy, line crowding game plan that every team used to foil Holmgren. The Seahawks stunk, but won 9-6.

Things got better the next week, but the offense still was struggling. The Seahawks traded a first rounder for Deion Branch, unveiled a wide open offense because old number 37 broke his foot and annihilated, utterly annihilated the Giants the next week.

And then, everything changed. The Chicago Bears murdered the Seahawks. They became the first team to expose the Seahawks safeties, and overwhelmed the Seahawks offensive line. They also exposed a weakness in the middle of the Seahawks run defense that run oriented teams would exploit for the entire season. The image of the Seahawks as Super Bowl contenders came crashing down. They'd never look the same.

The next week, they won a wild game against the Rams, in the first of their annual "Flat start, Unbelievable Finish" games in St. Louis.

Then, the Vikings blew them out and knocked out Hasslebeck.

The Chiefs ran over them in a game not even as remotely close as the score. It was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a cornerback falling down on a deep ball away from losing by 20 points.

They beat the Raiders, in a game with no offense whatsoever.

Unbelievably, with players dropping left and right, they won four of their next five games. Although you got the feeling they were just treading water, playing sound defense, and winning games at the end. Seneca Wallace was servicable, but limited, and Josh Brown won game after game.

Hasslebeck returned, and a tailspin began. They blew a game in Arizona and got shelled for the second time against San Francisco, a physical team tailor made to beat the Seahawks.

On Christmas Eve they lost a heartbreaker to a very very good San Diego team when Michael Boulware was beat on a deep ball. This was my first time watching Shawn Merriman play. It wasn't surprising when it came out later he was on steroids. The man could've been a boxer, his hands were that quick.

Thanks to the fact that the rest of the division sucked, the Seahawks wrapped up the division by beating Tampa Bay. However, two members of the secondary were hurt, Babineux and Jennings(I think). Leading to the Seahawks pulling guys off the street to START against the Cowboys.

Going into the playoffs, I knew the Seahawks weren't very good. But I subscribed to the notion that worse teams had made it deep and into the Super Bowl(85 Patriots anyone?). If they were going to win, it was going to be on coaching and guts.

Sure enough, in an utterly unbelievable game famous for Romo's botched snap. The Seahawks won by a single point.

Next up the Bears. During the Bears game, I destroyed a remote, and threw an empty water bottle so hard that it bounced off the wall, flew across the room and struck my friend in the head. Holmgren put together a game plan so beautiful it should be studied in coaching clinics everywhere. Shaun Alexander played his last great game as a Seahawk(He played two great games this year, his foray through the snow for 200 yards against Green Bay being the other). The defense, after a shaky start, held tough for the remainder of the game. The Seahawks did what few teams could do, and thats run right at the Bears. They harassed Rex Grossman, and held the ball in overtime with a chance to win.

I will forever believe that Hasslebeck choked in this game. He had one terrible interception, and was gunshy toward the end. This wouldn't be a concern if Rocky Bernard had held onto an interception with a clear path to the end zone.

They lost because the safeties finally got burned in overtime when the Seahawks elected to go on a balls out blitz on a third and long(when your front four is getting pressure, don't blitz!!!).

You were crazy if you thought Robbie Gould was going to miss that kick.

The season was a disappointment, but considering all the injuries, it was a testament to this teams toughness. The defense had its struggles, but was tough and tightened up as the season went on. Holmgren further proved he could compete even when he was working with guys off the street. This team gets forgotten because it was sandwiched between the offensive superpowers of 2005 and 2007, and winning ugly isn't sexy. But its still winning.

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