Hawks see change in forecast
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seahawks' top sack totals in a game, with number, date and opponent:
Dec. 8, 1986 vs. Raiders
Dec. 13, 1992 vs. Eagles
Nov. 6, 2006 vs. Raiders
Nov. 23, 1986 vs. Eagles
Dec. 8, 1996 vs. Bills
Sept. 6, 1998 vs. Eagles
Shutouts by the Seahawks defense during the Mike Holmgren era:
Nov. 6, 2006 vs. Raiders*
Dec. 5, 2005 at Eagles*
Sept. 26, 2004 vs. 49ers
Sept. 14, 2003 at Cardinals
*on "Monday Night Football"
The rest of the nation that tuned in to another episode of "Monday Night Football" might have called it ugly. Another rainy night in rainy Seattle, a game with not much entertainment value.
But the Seahawks and their faithful called it a victory, 16-0 over the Oakland Raiders, and one they had to have.
The Seahawks defense needed a game like this, its effort punctuated by nine sacks, tied for third-most in a game in franchise history. It needed a dominating performance against a team that isn't in its league, a team with a struggling offense. It needed to fly around and create havoc and misery for an opponent in the way it hadn't done the past two games.
Consider Monday night at Qwest Field a success, in that case.
"Nine sacks is nine sacks, and what's crazy is we probably could have had 10 or 11," Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "We needed to play better than we have the last few weeks. We can't continue to give up 30 points a game and think that we're going to be a team that can contend."
The Seahawks had allowed 31 and 35 points in their previous games, both defeats.
Linebacker Julian Peterson set the tone, doing what he has done better than any Seahawk all season — he sacked Andrew Walter on the opening possession of the game to force a punt. The Seahawks took over and drove for a touchdown.
They never looked back. The Raiders couldn't come back.
Football was fast, fun and furious again for Seattle and its drenched fans. Quarterback Seneca Wallace danced his way through and around the Raiders for positive gains and amazing throws. Deion Branch separated himself from the NFL's top-rated pass defense entering the game and led Seattle with 61 receiving yards and a touchdown catch. Maurice Morris had his best game of his career — 30 carries for 138 yards — as the Seahawks found a rushing offense in Shaun Alexander's absence.
"I wrote on my sideline sheet, I said, 'Stay with the run' in big letters," coach Mike Holmgren said. The Seahawks' 207 rushing yards was a season high. "It's not always pretty out there ... but I think it's important we stayed with it."
Most importantly, though, the Seattle defense got its groove back, if only for a night. And what a night it was — five sacks in the first quarter alone for a defense that took heavy criticism in recent weeks.
"As long as we came out here and did our job, we can get people off our back," Peterson said with a laugh and a grin.
Three of Seattle's sacks belonged to oft-overlooked defensive tackle Craig Terrill. The same guy who'd been inactive in two of the past three games because of the Seahawks' depth at the position.
Terrill had only two sacks in his career before Monday.
Peterson picked up his team-leading eighth sack. Rocky Bernard earned two on the night and got a chance to perform his signature Sugar Bear Shake. Defensive end Grant Wistrom also had two sacks.
Wallace moved the offense 68 yards on the Seahawks' opening drive for a score, with help from a 17-yard run from Morris. Following that run, Wallace found Branch, who'd run past Oakland cornerback Fabian Washington and into the end zone, for a 22-yard touchdown strike.
Two Josh Brown field goals gave Seattle a 13-0 lead at halftime, but the Seahawks were in control of the game despite not producing touchdowns more often and giving up field position with a couple of adventurous punts.
Oakland's defense toughened as the game went on, but the Raiders couldn't overcome the ineptitude of their offense, which produced just 185 net yards.
That was the lowest total for a Seahawks opponent this season. And the pass defense, more maligned than any defensive unit, did not allow a pass play of more than 18 yards.
"You just go, 'Why can't you play like that all the time?' " Holmgren wondered. "The secondary and linebackers were around the football, and when we do that, we play pretty good defense."
The victory sent the Seahawks to 5-3 on the season, good for a full-game lead over the St. Louis Rams (4-4) in the NFC West.
A win over the Rams this Sunday moves the Seahawks another step closer to the division title.
Seattle showed it could win another game without its top offensive stars, Matt Hasselbeck and Alexander, and got key contributions from players who'd either been reserves thrust into starting roles in recent weeks or players still used in backup roles.
There was Terrill. Wallace accounted for a combined 225 passing and rushing yards, and ran for the single largest gain on one running play this season for the Seahawks, 37 yards in the third quarter. D.J. Hackett caught four passes for 58 yards. Morris set a career high for carries and earned the second 100-yard game of his five-year pro career.
The Seahawks finished it off with a stop on downs with 7:35 left in the game. Brown's 20-yard field goal with 1:17 to play ended the scoring.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
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