1. DZ: Describe the difference it makes to the Hawks having Hasselback verses Wallace under center.
Chris: Hasselbeck is unequivocally the better quarterback – he has a good arm that is very accurate, he is cerebral and generally knows when to make a risky decision or and when not to. He manages a game better than most quarterbacks in the league, and is one of the funniest interviews in sports. Admittedly, that’s not really relevant to the question, but its very true, the guy is hilarious.
Wallace is… decent. He’s not great. He has two main tools that Hasselbeck lacks, namely a strong deep ball (though in last week’s start against the Bears it was not an accurate deep ball) and excellent mobility and speed. Last week he used the mobility to evade an almost unrelenting blitzing Bears defense, but refused to run for any first downs despite having wide open field in front of him. Wallace can manage a game, he proved last year that he is a capable player who will, in general, do what a backup is supposed to do: win 50% of the games while the starter heals up. It will be up to Jim Mora and Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp to allow Seneca to go wild if they want to compete in this game — you can’t play to not get hurt.
2. DZ: How are Seattle fans reacting to Jim Mora Jr.’s rant against Mare on Sunday? Do they blame the coach or the kicker for the loss?
Chris: I think it’s been a mixed bag. Mora did pretty quickly relent and say that he was just overly emotional, but did hold fast to the idea that Mare just can’t miss those kicks. Still, Mare has been gold for the Seahawks thus far and his kickoffs are among the best in the league. Considering that our coverage team is among the worst in the league, that is immeasurable.
I think the fans are generally spreading blame around for the Bears loss. There were 100 ways to win that game. Seneca Wallace made some awful decisions, he made a number of errant throws off his back foot, and again, he refused to run likely because Mora and Knapp didn’t want to risk injury. TJ Houshmandzadeh did not get open enough and when he was open the ball was missing him; he also had a huge fumble on the Seattle 42, only his second fumble in 7 seasons. Greg Knapp’s play calling left a lot to be desired, including a 3rd-and-1 reverse to Deion Branch, back for his first week fresh off a leg injury. That’s who I want to rely on in the open field! That was a loss of 8 and killed a solid drive. Jim Mora had an absurd challenge on a clear touchdown early in the second half that wasted a timeout in a game that was clearly going to be close. Et cetera.
3. DZ: What worries you most about a match up with Indianapolis?
Chris: Do you even have to ask? No one in the league runs a game like Peyton Manning. The Colts run arguably the simplest offense in the league, but no one can consistently stop it, because no one can out-game Peyton Manning. His understanding of the game is unparalleled in the NFL currently, and probably historically. The myriad looks a defense can throw at a QB now, the different levels of blitzing and stunts and so forth… none of it phases Manning because he is the ultimate student of the game. Dallas Clark gives cause for concern too, but we have a little trick up our sleeve — not only is Aaron Curry solid in pass coverage, but backup linebacker Will Herring (who is starting in place of injured Leroy Hill) was a safety for 3 years at Auburn before moving to linebacker. He is one of the best cover LBs in the NFC (though his game lacks elsewhere).
4. DZ: How has Edge James been received by the Seattle faithful? He’s still wildly popular in Indy.
Chris: I think the fans have welcomed Edge to the team, and we’re excited to see what he can do, but he is clearly the backup running back. His arrival lacked fanfare, and his performance thus far in the season has not shown us a whole lot (17 carries for 43 yards), He is clearly a quality human being though, and I think everyone likes him just fine, but until he shows something on the field, he’s still the third RB in most fans hearts (behind every Hawk fans favorite RB project from last year, Justin Forsett – 10 carries for 56 yards).
5. DZ: The Seahawks pull off the upset on Sunday if they…
Chris: …can score touchdowns. Well, duh, but last week we had six solid drives that ended in six stalled drives and field goal attempts. Mare missed two field goals, yes, but when you ask a guy to kick six in a game you’re more likely to miss. The Hawks offense is not great, but it is good. Nate Burleson is one of the more dynamic guys on the field every time the ball is in his hand. Houshmandzadeh is a threat to pull in anything near him. TE John Carlson is among the best young tight ends in the league, and lead the team in receptions and yards last year in his rookie effort. Our patchwork offensive line has been very solid despite constantly moving parts (you’ll be seeing our preseason third string LT, third string LG, first string C, second string RG, second string RT).
Seneca needs to make fewer mistakes and get the ball to the open guy down the field. John Carlson and TJ Houshmandzadeh can work the middle like few other tandems in the league (I believe you guys have a similar tandem). Last week, Seneca probably missed two or three touchdowns with those guys. If he can be solid, he can give us a chance to stay in it.
Our Defense will need to be better than they were last week, which is saying a lot because they were actually very good last week (despite the 25 points on the board). It looks like our secondary will be almost all healed for the game, though Pro Bowler Marcus Trufant remains on the PUP list until November 1. Ken Lucas is still a solid press corner, though he has had a groin injury over the last week and a half, so his leg strength might not be what it needs to be by Sunday. Josh Wilson is likely to play in his first week back from a high ankle sprain two weeks ago. He is fast and a ball hawk, leading the team in interceptions last year at the elvenly height of 5’9″. Kelly Jennings is our nickelback, a former first rounder who hasn’t really panned out but has shown marked improvements this offseason.
Ultimately, it’s about getting to Manning. We’ve got the guys who can do it, its just a matter of whether he can outmaneuver us. Gulp.
6. DZ: Other than Peyton Manning, which Colt scares you the most from a matchup standpoint?
Chris: Well, I would have said Dwight Freeney vs. our third-string left tackle Brandon Frye, but Freeney was kind enough to sit this sucker out (hey, it’s only fair, we’re missing 10 starters). Dallas Clark is also concern, but after a couple of big weeks I think he’s going to be pretty well gameplanned for. Our Free Safety is a hybrid CB/FS who can play down in press coverage and has been our nickelback in years past. I think Babineaux can match up with him often, and as mentioned earlier, our linebackers are decent in coverage. Reggie Wayne is probably the bigger threat against our somewhat depleted secondary — though, he’s be a big threat against our full-health secondary too. Wayne is a beast.
7. DZ: A lot of experts picked the Seahawks to win the west. How nervous are Seattle fans after a rough 1-2 start?
Chris: The nerves are not so much about the record — both the Bears game and the 49ers game turned on a small number of errors that are totally coachable. We’re very nervous about this injury bug that won’t get out of town. Last year we had five WRs on our injured reserve and all five starting linemen, in addition to three broken hands on our three defensive pro bowlers from the year prior (Trufant, Kerney, Tatupu). That’s bad luck.
Right now we are missing the following starters: QB Matt Hasselbeck, LT Walter Jones, LG Rob Sims, RT/backup LT Sean Locklear, LB Leroy Hill, LB Lofa Tatupu, CB Marcus Trufant, CB Josh Wilson (50/50 to return this week), CB Ken Lucas (75/25 to return this week, but only played half a game vs Chicago due to a flare up). It’s one thing to have injuries, but every injured player is a projected starter and four of them have a combined 10 Pro Bowls. Yikes.
That’s not an excuse though, we lost both games fair and square and they were both utterly winnable games. In the SF game, poor gap control – once by Aaron Curry and more dramatically by Patrick Kerney — led two 79-yard and 80-yard touchdown runs. Take those idiotic plays out and you’ve got a very close game. Last week it was the litany of errors I mentioned above and some I didn’t. We’re not losing because of injuries, but the fans are getting really, really tired of them.
8. DZ: Seattle had a great run under Holmgren, like Indy under Dungy. Both franchises went with the ‘appointed successor’ route. Indy fans are very comfortable with Caldwell precisely because he represents “more of the same”, and is similar to Dungy in many ways. How has the transition to Mora gone?
Chris: I think most fans were ready for Holmgren to move on, but a lot of people are still warming up to Mora. I would say his approval rating is around 70%, but if this were, say, New York, it’d be probably 25% (in other words, we’re not exactly hard on our coaches / players in Seattle. I personally think that Mora has done a very good job with this team. His approach is good and he appears to be making none of the mistakes he made in Atlanta (though, he’s still making plenty of mistakes). Bringing Greg Knapp over is, so far, the only thing that I’m concerned with. Knapp calls a decent game, but some of the things he relies on just seem stupid. You look at certain play calls and its just infuriating. Clock management needs some help, too, but not nearly as much as Holmgren did.
9. DZ: These teams are anything but bitter rivals. Do you care to try to stir up any bad blood now? Come on, give it your best shot. Bear in mind that if you talk trash about Peyton Manning, you’ll regret it.
Chris: I would never say anything to invoke the rage of Peyton Manning — I’ve seen Deliverance enough times to know to avoid that mistake. Nah, I’m just kidding around, Manning isn’t some ol’ dumb hick from the middle of West Virginia, he just looks and sounds like one. I’m actually glad that Indiana has a team that isn’t utterly embarrassing, hopefully a similar economy and population will follow soon thereafter? Holding out hope.
Big thanks to Chris for his great answers.