Monday, January 10, 2005
So, in honor of NFL Films, here is the 2004 Seattle Seahawks yearbook.
The Seattle Seahawks had high expectations for the 2004 season. Picked by many publications to reach the Super Bowl, the fans in the Pacific Northwest wanted to believe in this team. And why wouldn't they? The Seahawks won 10 games in 2003 and earned a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. Was the offseason hype justified for these Seahawks? The fans and the players would find out early, when the Seahawks had to open the 2004 season with back-to-back road games in New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
One of the reasons why the Seahawks were picked by many to reach the Super Bowl was because of their secondary. Second year men Marcus Trufant and Ken Hamlin each had good rookie seasons the year before. They were joined by Ken Lucas, Kris Richard, Terreal Bierria, Michael Boulware, and free agent pickup Bobby Taylor.
The Seahawks opened up the 2004 season in New Orleans, the second straight year that the Seahawks had the Saints in their season opener. Similar to 2003, the Seahawks would handle the Saints easily. Shaun Alexander ran for 135 yards and scored 3 touchdowns as the Seahawks won 21-7 in the Superdome.
However, the next week in Tampa Bay, the Seahawks struggled offensively. So it was up to the defense to make a play in order for the Seahawks to escape with a victory. Enter rookie safety Michael Boulware. After three key penalties on the Buccaneers final drive, the defense was picked up by Boulware's interception that sealed the victory for the Seahawks. The Seahawks beat the Bucs 10-6 and earned their 2nd road win of the season, matching their 2003 road win total. They were headed home undefeated and couldn't wait to play in front of their home crowd in Qwest Field.
In college football, colleges usually schedule their homecoming games against inferior opponents. In the NFL, there's really no such thing as "homecoming". But the Seahawks' 34-0 shutout of the San Francisco 49ers could be considered a homecoming, since it was their first home game of the season. Nevermind the fact that it was on Sept. 26, just a few days away from October.
It was the first time since 1977 that the 49ers had been shutout, a span of 420 games, an NFL record. The Seahawks defense forced 4 turnovers on the day. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns while Shaun Alexander ran for 3 touchdowns on the ground. The Seahawks were 3-0 headed into the all-too-familiar Week 4 bye week and prepared to face their divisional rival St. Louis on Oct. 10.
The Seahawks wanted to prove to the league that they were the best team in the NFC West, not the St. Louis Rams. In 2003, the Rams won the NFC West, not the Seahawks. This was the Seahawks chance to prove that they were the top dogs in the West. If the first 52 minutes of the game meant anything, the Seahawks proved themselves in a big way. Josh Brown converted a 34-yard field goal to increase the Seahawks lead to 27-10 with 8:46 left in the 4th quarter. Dreams of being 4-0 danced in their heads, thinking of the showdown against the defending world champion New England Patriots one week ahead. However, something happened on the way to Foxboro...
For the last few seasons, the St. Louis Rams have been known as "The Greatest Show On Turf". The Qwest Field crowd wanted to see a show. However, this was a show that was not wanted. Rams tight end Brandon Manumaleuna made an excellent catch between multiple Seahawk defenders in the end zone to make it 27-17. After the Manumaleuna touchdown, the Seahawks would proceed to go 3-and-out, giving the ball back to the Rams. "The Greatest Show On Turf" would have two new members joining them on a beautiful day in Seattle. One play, touchdown. Marc Bulger to Kevin Curtis for 41 yards and the touchdown. Seahawks 27-24. Slowly but surely, the momentum was shifting towards the east sideline at Qwest Field. With the Leonard Little sack of Matt Hasselbeck on the 'Hawks next drive, the Rams would get the ball one more time in regulation. Jeff Wilkins sent the game to overtime with a 36-yard field goal to tie up the game at 27-27. Unlike in the playoffs in 2003 when the Seahawks won the toss, the Rams won the toss this time. And six plays later, Bulger would hook up with Shaun McDonald with a 52-yard game-winning touchdown. Rams 33, Seahawks 27. With the loss, the Seahawks would go into a downward spiral, losing at New England and at Arizona the next two weeks.
After starting the 2004 season at 3-0, the Seahawks were 3-3 going into their Halloween matchup with the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers. These Panthers were unlike the previous year's team, due to various injuries to key stars. Shaun Alexander took advantage, running for 195 yards, a season-high, as the Seahawks won their first game in over a month, 23-17. The Seahawks would win the next week in San Francisco, 42-27.
Fifth-year running back Shaun Alexander would finally have a season where he could be considered an elite NFL back. He led the NFC in rushing with 1,696 yards and 16 touchdowns. These efforts earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl. Two of his offensive linemen will join him in Honolulu, left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson. Jones missed training camp in Cheney once again, but it didn't matter. Hutchinson is turning into one of the best guards in the NFL in just his fourth year. The Seahawks offensive line was a big reason why the Seahawks offense was one of the better rushing offenses in football, as the running backs averaged 4.5 yards a carry, second in the NFC behind Atlanta. Along with Jones and Hutchinson, the offensive line featured center Robbie Tobeck, right guard Chris Gray, and right tackle Chris Terry. Other key notables on the offensive line include Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack and Jerry Wunsch.
On Nov. 14, the Seahawks had their chance to get revenge on the Rams for their earlier loss in the season. But the Rams struck quickly, calling 13 straight passing plays on their way to a 17-0 lead before the Seahawks knew what hit them. Alexander's 176 yards were wasted on a day where the Seahawks offense couldn't score a single touchdown. With the 23-12 loss in St. Louis, the Seahawks were tied with the Rams in the NFC West at 5-4, but the Rams had the tiebreaker since they swept the Seahawks in the regular season. The Seahawks would head home for their next three games, against Miami, Buffalo, and Dallas, all three teams with sub-.500 records. Easy pickings?
Nothing ever comes easy for this Seattle Seahawks franchise.
Trent Dilfer started in place of Matt Hasselbeck against Miami Nov. 21. Hasselbeck was out with a sore right thigh, so it was up to the veteran Dilfer to lead the Seahawks against a 1-8 Dolphins team. But the Dolphins, under interim head coach Jim Bates, played much better than their record. However, in the end, the Dolphins showed why they were a 1-8 team. Miami quarterback A.J. Feeley, who had played most of the game hurt, threw an interception to Michael Boulware, who took it 63 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Seahawks 24, Dolphins 17. Boulware had 5 interceptions during the 2004 season, a franchise rookie record. The converted linebacker out of Florida State will be a playmaker in the Seahawks defense for years to come. Those plays, however, weren't there for the Seahawks against Buffalo. The Seahawks were destroyed in every way possible by the Bills, 38-9. The Seahawks were 6-5 headed into their "Monday Night Football" matchup with the Dallas Cowboys Dec. 6.
It isn't often that the Seahawks are featured on Monday Night Football, so when they are on, they have to make the most of it. The game against Dallas on Dec. 6 will go down as one of the Top 5 Monday Night games of the 2004 season. On their opening drive, Jerry Rice, acquired by the Seahawks from Oakland in October for a 7th round draft pick, scored on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck, who had a career game with 414 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. 7-0 Seahawks. For the night, Rice caught 8 balls for 145 yards, his season-high. Rice was traded to Seattle so he could help the Seahawks receivers. There isn't a better wide receiver to learn from.
The Seahawks would fail to sustain the momentum, going into halftime down 19-14. In the second half, it wasn't much better. The Cowboys would jump out to a 29-14 lead early in the 3rd quarter. But the Seahawks would come back. Jerheme Urban, replacing the suspended Koren Robinson, would score on a 19-yard touchdown, giving the Seahawks a 30-29 lead. The Seahawks would convert on the 2-point conversion to make it 32-29.
Ken Hamlin would intercept Vinny Testaverde on the Cowboys' next drive, giving the Seahawks very good field position. The Seahawks decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 32-yard line. Shaun Alexander got the ball, and not only did he get the first down, he scored a touchdown. 39-30, Seahawks.
With 2:46 left and a 10-point lead, it was up to the Seahawks defense to stop the Cowboys. Unfortunately, this was nowhere near the #1 defense that they were earlier in the season. Cowboys WR Keyshawn Johnson would score on a 34-yard pass from Testaverde, but it was controversial. Replays showed that Johnson's feet did not land inbounds. But since it was inside 2 minutes, Mike Holmgren could not challenge the call. It was just one of the many calls to go against the Seahawks' way in recent history. As a matter of fact, 6 years ago to the day that Monday night, Vinny Testaverde scored a phantom touchdown against the Seahawks, costing then-coach Dennis Erickson his job a month later.
The score was now 39-36, Seahawks, with the onside kick coming. The Cowboys would recover the onside kick, giving them the ball at their 43-yard line. Julius Jones, who ran for 198 yards against the Seahawks that night, scored on a 17-yard run, untouched. Cowboys 43, Seahawks 39.
This was a brutal loss for a Seahawks team that has been wanting respect for a long time now. In order to get respect in the NFL, you have to win, especially the games that are shown on national television.
One week later, the Seahawks traveled to Minnesota to play the Vikings, just six days after the Monday night loss. It was a crucial game for the Seahawks, since they were at .500 (6-6). They had lost two straight games and needed a win badly to stay in the NFC West race. However, on that morning, wide receiver Darrell Jackson learned that his father had passed away from cancer. Jackson had flown to Florida the day before to visit his father one last time. He flew back to Minneapolis to be with the Seahawks and decided to play against the Vikings. Jackson would go on to have his best day of the season, catching 10 balls for 135 yards and a touchdown, leading the Seahawks to a much-needed 27-23 victory over the Vikings. The victory was sealed once again by Michael Boulware, who intercepted a questionable Randy Moss pass in the end zone.
If there's one stadium that the Seahawks simply cannot win at, it's Giants Stadium. And staying true to that theory, the Seahawks lost 37-14 to the Jets on Dec. 19. Once again, the Seahawks were at .500 (7-7).
Fast-forward to January 2, the Seahawks final regular season game, against the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons. With a win, the Seahawks would win the NFC West outright at 9-7. Lose, and the Seahawks would have to go on the road, since the St. Louis Rams finished 8-8, winning in overtime against the New York Jets earlier that day. The Seahawks had clinched a playoff berth the week before against Arizona, so unlike most NFC teams who had to wait until the final week of action to know their playoff fates, the Seahawks were already in.
The Falcons, who didn't use quarterback Michael Vick the entire game, were playing to win the ballgame, unlike most teams in their position. The Seahawks had a game on their hands against the NFC South champs. With 4:32 left in the 4th quarter and leading 21-20, Matt Hasselbeck sneaked it into the end zone for the touchdown. The score was 28-20, Seahawks. But controversy erupted over the quarterback sneak. Shaun Alexander would finish just one yard short of New York Jets' running back Curtis Martin, and he didn't let that go unnoticed in his postgame interview with the Seattle media. Against the Falcons tough defense, Alexander ran for 80 yards and a touchdown.
In order to win the NFC West, the Seahawks had to hold off the Falcons offense, engineered by rookie quarterback Matt Schaub. Remember how things don't come easy for the Seahawks franchise? Brian Finneran scores with no time remaining to make it 28-26, Seahawks. The 2-point conversion was coming. Throughout the 2004 season, the Seahawks hadn't made things easy on themselves, so why would the final regular season game be any different?
Schaub hands it off to Warrick Dunn, but is stopped short of the goal line. However, the replay booth checks it out to see if it can be overturned. It wasn't, and the Seahawks and their fans could rejoice. The Seattle Seahawks, 2004 NFC West Champions. It was the Seahawks first division title since 1999, their third division title in their 29-year history. The Seahawks would face their NFC West archrival St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs at Qwest Field.
The Seattle sports fans had a rough 2004, dealing with a 99-loss Mariners team, a below .500 Supersonics ballcub, and a 1-10 Washington Huskies football program. But a home playoff game for the Seahawks to kick off the year 2005 would be a nice treat for a sports town that doesn't get too many treats. Needless to say, the 12th Man showed up in full force when the Seahawks took on the Rams for a third time during the 2004 season.
However, the sellout crowd over 67,000 wasn't enough to slow down the St. Louis Rams. The Rams would win their third game of the season against the Seahawks, 27-20. The Seahawks playoff drought would continue, as the Seahawks have not won a playoff game since 1984. Same as it ever was, grumble a few Seattle sports fans.
What's next for these Seattle Seahawks? They have 16 free agents, including Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, and Ken Lucas. Could 2004 have been the final season for head coach Mike Holmgren, who's winless in 3 playoff games during his 6-year tenure in Seattle? That remains to be seen. In 2005, the Seahawks hope to have a healthy Grant Wistrom and Bobby Taylor for all 16 games. Wistrom and Taylor were the Seahawks main free agent signings before the 2004 season, but weren't on the field too often during the 2004 season. The Seahawks also missed Chad Brown and Anthony Simmons at various points during the 2004 season, which may cause the team to draft a linebacker or two in the Draft in April. As a matter of fact, Brown, Simmons, and Wistrom were never on the field together at the same time.
Seattle sports fans are starving for a championship team. They've been close with the Mariners and Sonics over the past decade. The Seahawks haven't been close to winning anything in two decades. But when they do win, Seattle sports fans will be ecstatic.
For Bremertonian Films, I'm Jeremy.
Not Steve Sabol.