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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

September 20, 2010 at 6:42 AM

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What we learned Sunday in Denver

Posted by Danny O'Neil

"It was a tough lesson. It was a hard one."
    -- Pete Carroll, Sept. 20

Well if Sunday's 17-point loss was a lesson, time to count up what we learned about these Seahawks.

I. Three things we learned

       1) Matt Hasselbeck's interceptions can't be attributed solely to pass pressure. Seattle's quarterback has been picked off 14 times in his past six starts going back to last season. He was intercepted 17 times in his previous 17 games before that. Hasselbeck had plenty of time the first time he was picked off Sunday, he chose to try and lob a ball over the head of cornerback Champ Bailey. While Hasselbeck was facing pressure from his left on the second pick, the real reason that was picked off was because he either underestimated the velocity he needed on the pass or overestimated his arm strength. He definitely misjudged safety Brian Dawkins ability to get to the ball.

       2) It is possible for the quarterback to take the snap, back up, hand the ball off to a faster, stronger teammate and watch him run beyond the line of scrimmage. Yes, yes, a rushing offense isn't quite revolutionary football strategy, but it has been pretty nonexistent for Seattle so far this year. The Seahawks gained 109 yards on the ground in their most positive rushing performance under Carroll, including the exhibition games.

      3) That rush defense that looked so good in Week 1 was even better in Denver, and that might be more impressive considering the Broncos held a 17-point halftime lead and certainly wanted to work the clock. Well, Denver averaged 1.7 yards on its 38 carries, and Seattle's rush defense is the team's biggest strongpoint after two weeks.

II. Three things we don't know

      1) How long will it be before Charlie Whitehurst makes his Seahawks' debut? Hasselbeck doesn't necessarily have a short leash, but it's not limitless, either, and if he starts turning Seattle's scoring chances over to opponents like he did last December, Whitehurst will end up on the field sooner as opposed to later.

      2) Does Seattle have a long-distance plan for its pass rush? So far the Seahawks provided only local service. The Broncos were starting two rookies on the offensive line, and the Seahawks' pass rush was fairly non-existent. The only sack was credited to defensive lineman Raheem Brock, but occurred only when Denver quarterback Kyle Orton fell behind the line of scrimmage.

      How much will Seattle end up regretting this loss? The expectations haven't been very high for the Seahawks this season, and while Denver is a tough place to play, the Broncos also had lost nine of their last 11 regular-season entering Sunday's contest. Seattle shot itself in the foot with such regularity that it was lucky to even limp out of Sunday's of game with a 17-point loss in a game the Seahawks really could have won.

III. Three things we're still trying to figure out

      Why did Seattle wait six quarters to let Golden Tate touch the football for the first time. The point has been made he needs to improve his discipline on passing routes, and making him inactive Week 1 might have been an attempt to emphasize that message. But when a guy returns the first punt he touches 63 yards and then catches a pass for a 52-yard gain down the sidelines, he doesn't just need to be on the field, he needs to be getting opportunities.

       How much Mike Williams' leg injury affected his performance. After leading Seattle in receptions in Week 1, he caught one pass for 7 yards. Williams suffered what was described as a thigh bruise against San Francisco, and he certainly was not the same, dynamic threat at split end in Denver as he was against the 49ers.

      3) Why was Walter Thurmond back to return the first punt of the game? He was an explosive returner in college, and he very well could be again in the NFL, but right now he is less than one year removed from a serious knee injury in which he suffered multiple torn knee ligaments, and while he played well in training camp he has not been on the field as a defensive back in dime packages. Seattle had a number of options at punt returner, including Tate and Justin Forsett, so why did the Seahawks tab Thurmond, who muffed the punt and set up Denver's first possession.

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