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Hawks carrying on a long-distance affair
Seattle Times staff reporter
KIRKLAND — The Seahawks' offense has come a long way.
Not in the figurative, look-at-how-much-it-has-improved way, although being the second-ranked unit in the NFL is an accomplishment worth noting — even this early and even for a group that has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three seasons.
This is about the literal distance the Seahawks have had to travel to get points in their first three games.
The offense finally got some help Sunday when the defense forced a turnover at the Arizona Cardinals' 1-yard line, setting up the third of Shaun Alexander's four touchdown runs in Seattle's 37-12 victory.
But that was Seattle's only touchdown drive that hasn't started at its 32-yard line or worse this season. Of the team's nine TD drives, six have covered 80 yards, one has gone 75 and another 68.
"You can't make a living at that in this league," coach Mike Holmgren said. "The statistics have shown that you don't get a lot of 80-yard touchdown drives in this league. We executed pretty well on those drives. I like the 1-yard touchdown drives better. It doesn't tax me too much."
As tough as it has been — with just two drives starting beyond Seattle's 34 and Seattle not scoring in the second half until Sunday — the offense is playing quite well.
Seattle @ Washington, 10 a.m.,
Alexander and Darrell Jackson are off to their best starts since the Seahawks drafted them in 2000. Alexander is running hard and is the NFL's No. 2 rusher, with 357 yards and five touchdowns.
Jackson has 22 catches for 321 yards and a score, and he has been very consistent catching the ball. After dropping 23 passes the past two seasons, he has just one drop this year and has made tough catches amid tight coverage.
"After all that stuff we've gone through here with the drops the last couple of years," Holmgren said, "... he's fought through that, and I'm very happy. We need him to play well, and he's off to a great start."
Receivers Bobby Engram and Joe Jurevicius and tight end Jerramy Stevens also have provided quarterback Matt Hasselbeck with reliable targets.
"One of the differences to our start this year is they are catching the ball real well," Holmgren said of a group that has just four drops through three games. "It makes it fun. I'm sure it makes it fun for Matt because he has confidence he can go anywhere with the ball. And then I have confidence that I can call just about anything I want."
The last two weeks, Holmgren has called Alexander's number a lot in an effort to focus on the running game. But the coaches have done other things for the offense to succeed. Against Arizona, Holmgren moved Hasselbeck out of the pocket so the Cardinals couldn't "tee off on him." And the 15 plays scripted for the start of each half by Holmgren and coordinator Gil Haskell worked well Sunday, too.
"The plays were good plays, and I think we prepared properly," Holmgren said. "But really it's about the players making plays and making the catch and blocking. And when they do that, you look pretty good as a signal-caller."
Hasselbeck said the preparation produces confidence and that the line — Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray and Sean Locklear, playing right tackle for the injured Floyd Womack — is the biggest reason for the success of the offense.
"The coaches put a lot on those offensive linemen," Hasselbeck said. "The stereotype of the dumb offensive linemen is not true on our team. Those guys work really hard; they study really hard ... When we're on the same page, the offense seems to move well. It happened. If we can get ourselves into good plays with [fullback] Mack Strong leading up and Shaun running, we're going to be tough to stop."
• Alexander is the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 3 after his 140-yard, four-touchdown performance in the Seahawks' win over Arizona. Alexander last won the award in Week 16 of the 2004 season after rushing for 154 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns against the Cardinals, also at Qwest Field. Alexander also is one of three finalists for NFL Player of the Week. Fans can vote on the award at NFL.com through 9 a.m. Friday.
• LB Leroy Hill is one of five nominees for NFL Rookie of the Week after he tied for the team lead with five tackles and recorded a sack against Arizona. Fans can vote on that award at NFL.com through tomorrow morning.
Chris Cluff: 206-464-8787 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Times staff reporter Josť Miguel Romero contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company