STEVE: You predicted last week that the Seahawks would go 5-11 this season. Did anything in Seattle’s 33-17 loss to the 49ers on Opening Day alter your view?
ART: I’m sticking with 5-11, but Seahawks fans should be a little gratified that quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is a) alive; b) throwing at game’s end and c) author of an actual touchdown pass. For awhile in the second half, he looked like he had some command, as well as some teammates.
STEVE: I was impressed with the adjustments coach Pete Carroll made at halftime. After a miserable first half for the Seahawks offensively (when Jackson was sacked three times), Jackson actually directed a decent (not great) offense up until the last few minutes. Still, 4.2 net yards per pass play and five sacks allowed isn’t going to get it done.
ART: The fact that they were in it at all in the second half was a worthy feat. Already missing OG Robert Gallery and WR Sidney Rice, they lost their only FB, Michael Robinson to an ankle injury in the first quarter. They were a mess, personnel-wise, which also impacts special teams and penalties (11, fergawdsakes). So to be down only 19-17 inside four minutes was damn near Herculean.
STEVE: And that’s when you saw something you have never seen the Seahawks do.
ART: Which was . . .
STEVE: They allowed Ted Ginn Jr. to become the first player in 36 years of upturned rakes (to borrow a time-honored Art Thiel line) to collective Seahawk foreheads to return a kickoff AND and a punt for touchdowns.
ART: As Carroll put it after the game, “We were ready to win the game, then bang!” The special teams were the primary victim of the lockout and the Seahawks’ roster turnover. Carroll knows there’s a price to pay for this kind of personnel churn, and he and the Seahawks paid it today.
STEVE: I’ll say. Ginn is just the sixth NFL player since Gale Sayers (mid-60s) was in the league to return a kickoff and punt for touchdowns in the same game. And the last time Seattle allowed two return TDs in the same game was in 1997 (Dec. 7) when Baltimore’s Jermaine Lewis ran back two punts for TDs.
ART: Live by lightning, die by lightning. The Seahawks wouldn’t have made the playoffs last year without two kickoff returns for TDs — an NFL first — from Leon Washington to beat San Diego. TD returns are desserts, but the modern-game entree is a reliable passing game, which was predictably, dreadfully inadequate for most of the game.
STEVE: The numbers from this game are totally weird. For example, the 49ers didn’t even have a 125-yard passer (Alex Smith), a 60-yard rusher (Frank Gore), didn’t convert a third down until the third quarter, finished 1-for-12 on third downs and won by 16 points. Meanwhile, the Seahawks had 64 yards rushing (they averaged 89 last year, the fourth-worst total in franchise history), averaged just 3.4 yards per play, and had a chance to win until Ginn went off.
ART: The 49ers’ offense was startlingly ineffective — that didn’t look like coach Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford offense that put 41 on the Huskies last year — but big props go to the Seahawks D-line: Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch and Chris Clemons. That goal-line stand in the fourth quarter, where the Niners had to settle for a FG after seven tries inside the 10-yard line, was a stellar effort.
STEVE: I was extremely impressed with Seattle’s defensive effort. Alex Smith, a quarterback reviled in San Francisco, is pretty lame between the 20s, but has had amazing success in the red zone. Yet against the Seahawks, he couldn’t do much at all.
ART: The biggest achievement had to be holding SF to a single TD from scrimmage while playing a rookie at middle LB, K.J. Wright, a fourth-rounder from Misssissippi State. No Lofa Tatupu, no David Hawthorne, and the Seahawks defense can fly home knowing they did just about all that could be asked of the personnel on hand.
STEVE: You’ve watched the Seahawks for a gazillion years. What’s the best that Carroll (and Seahawks fans) can take out of this game? The worst?
ART: Gazillion? Really, it’s just a handful of lifetimes. The good news is the defense, barring injuries, appears respectable, although a good opponent QB and a better coach will pick on the newbies in the secondary, Kam Chancellor and Brandon Browner. The bad news for Carroll is that his nemesis, Harbaugh, has beaten him in three of four meetings, and the Seahawks play in Pittsburgh next week after the Steelers were splattered in their opener by Baltimore. No way that Jackson avoids magnum cruelty thrust upon him.
STEVE: What is Jackson’s upside, downside or no side? Are we looking at a stop-gap guy, a QB who could be effective in the right system, a potential franchise ace, or a journeyman in the making?
ART: Jackson’s shortcoming is decision-making in the pocket, which we saw in some of the five sacks, when he didn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough. He wants to make it as a passer, not a runner, but his legs are a sufficient threat to make defenses compensate — unless he doesn’t run. To me, Jackson remains a one-year placeholder until he adds some Michael Vick to his game, minus the puppy chow.
STEVE: Are you saying that he has no long-term future in Seattle, or are you saying that he does — if he can incorporate some Vick into his repertoire?
ART: The Seahawks all along were hoping to get lucky with Jackson by giving him command. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not a big investment. The problem is that the first half of 2011 is going to look a lot like the first half of Sunday’s game.
STEVE: Final thoughts: Were you impressed by the Seahawks, given their re-make into a younger team? Or ired? Is there anyone you want to dope-slap?
ART: I still don’t know who drew the illegal-block penalty that nullified Washington’s punt-return TD. But other than that, it’s hard to dope-slap the young and the new. The offense was no surprise; but defense and special teams were, for opposite reasons. And I will say Fox play-by-play man Dick Stockton missed about half of what was going on. Waiver-wire time? Besides him, who do think gets ears boxed or back patted?
STEVE: I’d pat Doug Baldwin’s back for that 55-yard TD catch from Jackson. After his special teams allowed, for the first time in Seahawks history, a kickoff return TD and a punt return TD in the same game, special teams coordinator Brian Schneider not only gets no more salmon, he gets no more ice cream.