Seahawks need to get over road woes
If the Seahawks want to make the playoffs they need to find a way to win on the road.
The Seahawks are 1-5 away from home this season, and their road concerns finally slipped into their daily routines. On Wednesday, Mike Holmgren moved up practice times two hours in preparation for Sunday's road trip to St. Louis.
When your season comes down to finding a way to get one win on the road, you try anything.
"We were looking for ways to change the routine for the away games and one of the things we could do was move up practice to be a little bit closer to when we actually play a game," Holmgren said. "Now, it might be a little bit like what color pants we are wearing. I just wanted them to get a feel about getting up and cranking it up a little bit earlier like they have to do on the road."
At 8-5, the Seahawks presumably control their own fate. But their inability to win on the road weighs on them like an anchor. Their final home game is Dec. 21 against Arizona, which should result in a victory and an 8-0 home record. But if the Seahawks lose their last two road games, they would be 9-7, 1-7 on the road. At 9-7, they would lose tie-breakers to the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers and fall a tie-breaker away from the playoffs.
"I remember growing up and Bill Parcells posted all over the locker room motivational signs," said Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, whose father played for Parcells. "The sign said, 'If you want to be a playoff team, you have to learn how to win on the road.' I never really appreciated the true magnitude of that until now."
Through the years, no Holmgren team has been this bad on the road. With the Seahawks before this season, Holmgren had never finished worse than 3-5 on the road.
"It's a lot of different things," Hasselbeck said. "In Green Bay, we caught Brett Favre on a typical Brett Favre day. We caught Randy Moss last week in a game where he does his thing. We shouldn't have lost to Cincinnati on the road. We shouldn't have lost to Washington. The Baltimore game we should have won."
No game captured the frustration of the Seahawks' road woes more than their 44-41 loss to the Ravens. They blew a 17-point lead in the final seven minutes. Still, Holmgren had the ball in the final minute and was trying to kill the clock, but referee Tom White botched the management of the clock by not running off time after an umpire mistakenly threw a flag. White was docked $2,600 for his blunder. But that didn't help the Seahawks.
Of course, the Seahawks play in the NFC West, the league's worst traveling division. Expect for the Rams, who are 4-3 on the road, the rest of the division has a pitiful 1-18 road record.
The telling tale of the Seahawks season will be how they do against the Rams and 49ers, both of whom they beat at home by one point.
"We came out of those winning games at home coming from behind," Hasselbeck said. "On the road, we didn't protect the ball as well whether it was interceptions or fumbles. We jumped offsides six times against the Vikings last Sunday."
Offensively, the Seahawks rank fifth in the NFL, averaging 348 yards and 25.4 points a game. Hasselbeck is having a Pro Bowl season. But the Seahawks' receivers as a unit rank among the league leaders in drops. They've committed 13 turnovers in their past five road losses.
And defensively, the team isn't talented enough to overcome mistakes. Season-ending injuries to Chad Eaton and Norman Hand stripped the defense of experienced run-stopping defensive tackles. Injuries have nagged linebackers Chad Brown, Anthony Simmons and Randall Godfrey all season, and even when they could play, they often couldn't practice.
Consequently, opponents have dominated the Seahawks' defense on the road. In the team's last five trips, the defense is giving up an average of 403.6 yards and 33.4 points a game. Playing the Rams -- the only team with a winning record the Seahawks have beaten -- won't be easy. But Holmgren is hoping it will help with the focus.
"I hope so," Holmgren said. "I've been doing this for a little bit now and I think sometimes problems are created, manufactured, and they're not really there. They're interesting things to talk about and anytime you have a negative streak going things are kind of mentioned more. For the guys to read that or think about that or the color pants we're wearing or whatever then yeah, it might have some effect on them, so I'm trying to alleviate that. But at this stage in the season, that's the position we're in."
It's win on the road or else.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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