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Originally published Monday, September 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Special teams sink Seahawks 34-10 in opener

The offense sputtered for the better part of four quarters, the defense proved vulnerable to a few big plays, and the special teams had trouble holding onto everything from the football to field position. It all added up to a 24-point loss tied for the second most lopsided season-opening defeat in franchise history.

Seattle Times staff reporter

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Seahawks finished with more punts than points.

They neglected to cover the Bills' tallest player on a fake field goal in the third quarter that resulted in a touchdown, then allowed the opposing kicker to recover Josh Wilson's fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

Seattle's 34-10 loss in Buffalo wasn't just a season opener. It was a debacle.

The offense sputtered for the better part of four quarters, the defense proved vulnerable to a few big plays, and the special teams had trouble holding onto everything from the football to field position. It all added up to a 24-point loss tied for the second most lopsided season-opening defeat in franchise history.

"Well, we got kicked around pretty good," coach Mike Holmgren said afterward.

Kick being the operative word, because the special teams are what decided a game in which Seattle's offense scored just as many first-half touchdowns as Buffalo's offense. The Bills' Marshawn Lynch rushed 21 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Nate Burleson caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck in the second period.

The difference was, the Bills found other ways to score, and the Seahawks' special teams turned out to be a total misnomer.

Ryan Plackemeier had a pair of 22-yard punts in the second quarter, one of which led to a field-goal drive by the Bills. The one punt Plackemeier did connect on in that period — a 46-yarder — was returned 63 yards for a touchdown by Roscoe Parrish.

The Bills' final two scores also came courtesy of Seahawks miscues. Buffalo was lining up for a field goal at the Seattle 19-yard line late in the third quarter, and defensive end Ryan Denney wound up all alone right next to the Bills' sideline.

"He's not a little guy," Holmgren said of the 6-foot-7 Denney. "We should have seen him."

The Seahawks didn't. Punter Brian Moorman — the holder for Buffalo's field-goal unit — threw to Denney for a touchdown.

"It's embarrassing to us when a play like that works, but give them credit," Holmgren said.

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The Seahawks turned the ball over on the ensuing kickoff when Wilson lost the ball and Bills kicker Rian Lindell — a former Seahawk — recovered. Buffalo scored on the next play, a 30-yard pass from Trent Edwards to Robert Royal.

"If their special teams makes plays, and we don't make plays, we can't make no excuse," Seahawks safety Deon Grant said. "It's got to be better. We've got to be better in the next game when it comes to that area. And offense, too. And defense, also. Everything has to be better."

Seattle's secondary allowed three completions of 30 yards or more, two of those against cornerback Kelly Jennings.

The Seahawks did match one franchise record: punts. Plackemeier kicked 11 of them, which tied him for the most in a game.

Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who missed the final three exhibition games because of back spasms, completed only one of his first eight passes. The tailback tandem of Maurice Morris and Julius Jones combined to run for 2 yards in the first half.

Seattle needed three possessions before gaining a first down, and it wasn't until the Seahawks' sixth drive that they crossed midfield.

Burleson caught five passes, but left the game in the third quarter because of a knee injury that will be further evaluated today. Morris gained 30 yards on his first two carries in the second half, but he also hurt his knee and will be evaluated. That left the Seahawks inexperienced and exposed.

"Unfortunately, you go against a good team — and I believe Buffalo has a good team — it's exaggerated a little bit," Holmgren said. "And clearly our inexperience in certain areas showed."

Rookie tight end John Carlson caught four passes, and Courtney Taylor and Logan Payne caught two passes apiece.

The offense ground its gears for the better part of four quarters, but Hasselbeck said it just needs a little elbow grease.

"Our mistakes today, I think are nothing hard work can't fix," Hasselbeck said.

The Seahawks certainly have lots of areas with room for improvement to keep the rest of the season from resembling the struggles of Sunday's debut.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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