18 Sep 2007
Who is to blame for the Seahawks' botched exchange last Sunday -- a play that almost certainly cost them a win against the Arizona Cardinals?
First, a brief recap. After rallying from a 17-0 deficit, the Seahawks have tied the game at 20-20 with less than two minutes to play, and have driven to the Cardinals' 36-yard line. Seattle placekicker Josh "Clutch" Brown is warming up on the sidelines, preparing to earn his franchise paycheck, but the Hawks obviously would like to get closer to make his life easier. So head coach Mike Holmgren radios in an off-right tackle run to Shaun Alexander, with fullback Mack Strong leading the block. Bread, meet butter.
Then, something goes wrong -- horribly, horribly wrong. As Hasselbeck turns to hand him the ball, Alexander looks confused and stops, almost as if he'd heard a whistle, and fails to take the ball. Hasselbeck, also confused, freezes up. Meanwhile, Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hayes charges through the right side of the line and whacks the football out of Hasselbeck's hands. It bounces for 15 yards before being recovered by Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. The Seahawks then go into collective shock, the Cardinals drive down the field -- while Holmgren inexplicably refuses to call a timeout -- and Neil Rackers kicks the game-winning field goal in the final seconds. And just like that, the Seahawks are in third place in the NFC West.
So someone on the Seahawks quite clearly screwed up. And that someone sure looks a lot like Tiki Barber's other twin brother, Shaun Alexander. Here's Alexander's post-game explanation for the botched play (according to Frank Hughes, the reporter who covers the Seahawks for the Tacoma News-Tribune): "First, he thought it was an audible. Then, everybody knew it was a run play, including him. Then, when he saw Hayes in the backfield he thought it was an audible."
Audible? What audible? Well, it turns out Matt Hasselbeck called a fake audible at the line of scrimmage, one that apparently confused Alexander into thinking Hasselbeck had switched to a pass play. Thus, Hasselbeck is blaming himself for the botched play, because "it's not my job to confuse anybody. Obviously, I did that and that's tough because I take that one and I put that right on me for not executing the play that was called."
But Hasselbeck is not alone in taking credit for dropping the ball. Here's Mike Holmgren, trying to get in on the fun: "I said it a little, but I didn't say it enough going out in the two-minute warning -- at a particular point you're no longer really playing an opponent, you're playing the clock. You're not going to go to a lot of audibles. You're going to keep it straight and simple, and had I given that little speech a little more firmly, then I might not have put the players in a tough spot." (Previous two quotes courtesy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
With all the evidence now in, let's summarize what we know:
1. Holmgren instructed the team during the two-minute warning that "they weren't going to do a lot of audibles."
2. Hasselbeck called a fake audible that, per (1) everyone should have known was fake.
3. Alexander knows (or should know) the difference between a fake and real audible.
Hasselbeck and Holmgren may be trying to share the blame, but there's one person who's responsible, and he has yet to own up to his mistake.
44 comments, Last at 21 Sep 2007, 2:16am by Bam Bam
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?