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Originally published November 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 28, 2008 at 10:15 AM

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Seahawks get stuffed in Dallas

The Seahawks fell behind before they even got the ball in Dallas. It didn't take too long for their quarterback to go down, too. Actually, he went down...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Holmgren's worst season

The Seahawks lost their fifth straight game Thursday and fell to 2-10. It matches the most losses outgoing coach Mike Holmgren has had in his 17 years in the NFL, and there are four games left. A look at Holmgren's losing seasons:

2-10

2008

(four games remaining)

6-10

2000 Seattle

7-9

2002 Seattle

144-80

All other seasons, 1992-2007

IRVING, Texas — The Seahawks fell behind before they even got the ball in Dallas.

It didn't take too long for their quarterback to go down, too. Actually, he went down so often and so hard that the biggest uncertainty in the fourth quarter of Seattle's 34-9 loss Thursday was whether Matt Hasselbeck could keep getting back up. That's because the Cowboys spent the better part of their Thanksgiving afternoon in a most earnest attempt to knock the stuffing out Seattle's quarterback.

"I hold my breath every time he gets hit," coach Mike Holmgren said.

That meant the coach risked asphyxiation, because Hasselbeck got hit — a lot. The Seahawks allowed seven sacks, the most they've given up in any game since Sept. 30, 2001, and they failed to score a touchdown.

The Cowboys celebrated those sacks by imitating turkeys, complete with flapping arms and a wobbling head. Seattle's quarterback, meanwhile, resembled a sitting duck.

"We had a heck of a time pass protecting today," Holmgren said.

Seattle was playing without starting center Chris Spencer, who was inactive because of a back injury. Steve Vallos started at that position, while Ray Willis and Floyd Womack — both backups when this season began — were the two starting guards.

But the pressure didn't come from any one direction. It originated everywhere. Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware ran around left tackle Walter Jones for two sacks in the first half. Hasselbeck also got hit from the right by Ware, and defensive tackle Tank Johnson got a sack up the middle.

And while the Cowboys did their best to turn Hasselbeck into a piñata, the Dallas offense found Seattle to be little more than a speed bump in the first quarter.

The Cowboys scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions. They needed just 22 plays to gain 218 yards on those three drives, averaging nearly a first down every time they snapped the ball.

Dallas didn't punt until there was 3:09 left in the first half. The Cowboys led 24-3 then.

Holmgren had warned the Seahawks how tough the game would be when he spoke at a team meeting on Wednesday night. Dallas has a big offensive line, a pair of playmaking wide receivers in Terrell Owens and Roy Williams, and a running back who plays with the subtlety of a sledgehammer in Marion Barber. Throw in a big, aggressive defense and one of the top tight ends in football, and the Seahawks had a tall task.

"I can't even remember a time we went into a game, 'Wow, they have so much talent, what are you going to do?' " Hasselbeck said.

Three years ago, Seattle had that kind of talent. It had the highest-scoring offense in the league and repeatedly showed the ability to drive from one end of the field to the other, playing at a tempo under which other teams wilted.

On Thursday, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo completed nine consecutive passes in one stretch of the first half, finished with 331 yards passing, and threw touchdowns to Owens as well as tight ends Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett.

As for the Seahawks?

"We have no margin for error," Holmgren said.

No room to fumble away a promising drive on the first possession, like Julius Jones did when he lost the ball on first down at the Dallas 35. No room to settle for three field goals, as the Seahawks did after driving inside the opponent's 20-yard line, the red zone turning into a dead zone for Seattle.

"You've got to score touchdowns," right tackle Sean Locklear said.

Seattle couldn't, which is why it never did take a big bite out of Dallas' lead, which reached double figures a little more than 10 minutes into the game. That deficit put Seattle's quarterback in the crosshairs of the Dallas defense.

"Their offense had jumped on us so fast," said Walter Jones. "Any time you get a team in a situation that you've got to drop back and throw the ball, it puts them at an advantage."

And, in turn, Dallas' defense put Hasselbeck on his back. By the end, Holmgren decided enough was enough and put fullback Owen Schmitt and tailback T.J. Duckett in to serve as bodyguards at one point in the final series.

That kept Hasselbeck from getting hit again. But by that time, the Seahawks were already down for the count.

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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