THIS PAST SUNDAY morning, many Seattle TV viewers were watching a military doc shine a light into the throat of a grotty-looking old guy while trying to find out whether it was really Saddam Hussein and not some stand-in. (Come to think, anybody seen Dana Carvey lately?) Then there were those of us who couldn't wait to get to the important news, and that meant Terry Bradshaw, the most esteemed TV bald guy since Mr. Clean.
The Fox Sports commentator and former National Football League quarterback dared to predict before their game that the Seattle Seahawks, every bit as road-weary as Saddam Hussein, would climb from the crypt of away-game ungainliness and defeat a St. Louis Rams division leader that hadn't lost much at home since home was in Anaheim. Well, Bradshaw can't always be right: Rams 27, Seahawks 22.
There's something about a game that starts with Seahawk offensive lineman Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack attempting a kickoff return that just about guarantees it will all but end with a ref tripping Seattle wide receiver Bobby Engram on the critical, penultimate play of the game. In between, the Seahawks drew seven first-half penalty citations, enough to hand the Rams half a football field in unearned yardage. The Seattle defense, admittedly depleted, routinely gave the opponent new life on third down. And even though Seattle actually outgained the Rams, the left side of the Seahawk offensive line allowed the opponents' rush to pressure and sometimes crumple Matt Hasselbeck before the quarterback could get the signal count out of his mouth.
The loss leaves Seattle at 8-6 with two weeks to go and no guarantees about the postseason. The 11-3 Rams clinched the NFC West Division, and the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Green Bay Packers are better bets than the Seahawks to cop the conference's pair of wild-card playoff berths. Seattle could actually win its final two games and still miss the playoffs againthis after a year that started with three wins and appeared to be a breakthrough season for the Mike Holmgren era of coaching.
"I'm not too happy about anything right now," intoned Holmgren after watching his once-certain playoff contenders drop another of what the color guys keep calling "must-win" games. Those who have observed the Holmgren years have come to realize that, despite his occasional nod to the local fan base, the fortunes of the Seahawks are invariably characterized as being more about him than anybody else (his world, we just live here). It wouldn't occur to him that there was a time (it seems like decades ago and, now that I think about it, actually was) when the same fans who have granted this year's Seahawks sellouts and televised local games had never heard of Holmgren, much less cared whether he was "happy." He's not "happy"? How does he think the fans feel?
WE OBSERVED TWO weeks ago that there wasn't much chance of Seattle winning one of the past two road games, much less both. Granted, this wasn't exactly a prediction to make anybody forget Nostradamus. Sure enough, the Vikings and Rams, smirking along their sidelines, had 61 points to the Seahawks' 34. Why not? Scouting the Seahawks has gotten so easy that it wouldn't earn you a tenderfoot merit badge. The "pass rush" is about as mobile as an oak grove. The secondary is composed of posers. (It's instructive that the Seahawks' one interception Sunday was by a linebacker.) If the wideouts genuinely prefer dancing to scoring, then why don't they try out for the Sea Gals? Exhibiting "The Sprinkler" dance routine after scoring shows all the maturity of the typical beer commercial.
Immature? I give you Darrell Jackson as Exhibitor A. Yes, the receiver took a late hit after he caught one in the end zone during the second quarter Sunday. No, I don't agree with the league's Emily Post-inspired rule against "taunting" (this isn't high tea, after all). But yes, it's still a 15-yard flag if you taunt, so how can you be a true pro, D-Jack, and beg the official to throw the flag?
HERE'S HOW IT stands for a Seattle playoff shot: If the Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday (and if this doesn't happen, Pork Chop Womack will eat your hat, coat, and umbrella) and the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 27, then either the Cowboys or Packers or Vikings still will have to lose one or more games for Seattle to make it. Ah, but then: Dallas has the 4-10 New Jersey Giants at home this week, followed by an away game with the 7-7 New Orleans Saints. Green Bay has a road game with the 4-10 Oakland Raiders and a finale at home with the 9-5 Denver Broncos. The Vikings probably will lose Saturday at Kansas City (12-2) and beat Arizona (3-11).
Does this all sound pretty thumbs-up? No? Well, let's say the Seahawks miraculously make the playoffs. That would seem to mean a first-round date with the Carolina Panthers on theyou guessed itroad. And here we thought Saddam had a dubious future, to say nothing of Dana Carvey.