Bills dominate listless Seahawks

11/28/2004 - Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE -- First of all, there is no truth to the rumor that commissioner Paul Tagliabue will request a team from the Mid-American Conference to represent the NFC West in the playoff.

While the Rams and Seahawks each embarrassed themselves in back-to-back performances against the Bills -- who are a 2-6 team except for their games against pro football's worst division -- the NFL playoffs still will go on and it's still likely both teams will make it. The NFC needs six playoff teams. Unfortunately, six NFC teams aren't playing close to playoff level.

Label Sunday's embarrassing 38-9 loss to the Bills as "Sleeping in Seattle." The zombies walking around in those constantly updated "Night of the Living Dead" movies looked more alive than the Seahawks. It's as if the Seahawks still had the lingering effects from too much turkey on Thanksgiving.

Wide receiver Darrell Jackson dropped three passes, helping to secure the Seahawks' NFL lead in dropped passes with 43 in 11 games. That's a worse pace than last season when the Seahawks finished second only to the Detroit Lions. Their drop total was a modest five Sunday against the Bills.

"That was embarrassing because we are a lot better than this," tight end Itula Mili said. "That's not even us out there on the field. This week we really have to get this fixed. We don't ever want to have a feeling like this again."

The Seahawks were awful Sunday at home. The Rams were a little better the week before in Buffalo but lost, 34-17. At 5-6, having played these NFC "playoff" teams, Bills players know that they don't have much of a chance to make the playoffs.

Yet, at 6-5, the Seahawks still have a great chance of making the playoffs and possibly winning the NFC West. They have three games at home -- against the Cowboys, Cardinals and Falcons (who probably won't play anyone in the season-finale in Seattle with the NFC South title all but wrapped up). The Rams are 5-5, facing a tough, cold game in Green Bay Monday night, and having to finish out the season with games against Philadelphia and the New York Jets.

"No matter what happens Monday, we'll still be at the worst tied for first place," Seahawks halfback Shaun Alexander said. "Sure, we have things to fix. But when you are in first place, it's hard to make it horrible. We could be in far worse shape."

Yeh, you could be like the Bills, sitting at 5-6, knowing they would be an NFC playoff team but still sitting three full games behind the playoff field in the tough AFC. The Bills are peaking at the right time. They have won five of their past seven, and they have beaten three NFC teams by a combined total of 73 points in three games.

The story, though, is how the Seahawks have fallen from a supposed NFC Super Bowl contender to an NFL Follies joke. The examples were many.

Drew Bledsoe came out in a no-huddle and had no trouble taking the opening drive 60 yards in 10 plays for a game-opening touchdown. Considering what followed, things only got worse for the Seahawks from there.

In the fourth quarter, Bills coach Mike Mularkey, leading 24-3, sent out the field goal team on a fourth-and-1 at the Seahawks 30 and called a timeout just before Rian Lindell booted a 48-yard field. In came the offense, and the Seahawks defense prepared for a quarterback sneak.

Instead, Bledsoe faked a sneak and lateraled to his left to Willis McGahee, who rambled almost untouched for a 30-yard touchdown. For the Seahawks defense, they turned Qwest Field into Rest Field. They were asleep.

"I had never seen a play like that before," Seahawks defensive tackle Cedric Woodard said. "It was a good play. They had a fourth down and only this much (holding his fingers closely together to indicate inches). Everybody was thinking sneak. I give them credit. They kept us off balance all day."

The Bills offense -- supposedly its weakness -- had 434 yards on 76 plays. And that wasn't the biggest mismatch on the field. Buffalo's special teams killed Seattle's special teams all day.

"It's one third of what you do out there, and we spend a lot of time on it," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "You are right. We were awful. Anything that could go wrong went wrong. And they took advantage of it from the opening kickoff when we kicked the ball out of bounds. It's not very good and it had a lot to do with the outcome of the game."

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Rian Lindell tried an onside kick and caught the Seahawks sleeping again. He recovered the kick himself unchallenged. How embarrassing is that? Well, the Seahawks Not So Special Teams found a way to top it. Trailing 17-3 in the third quarter, the Seahawks defense stopped the Bills at the Seattle 35.

Lindell tried a 53-yard field goal and was wide left. But, for whatever reason, the Seahawks had their punt return team on the field against Lindell and the field goal unit. When Seattle saw that the Bills were going to kick a field goal, returner Maurice Morris moved up toward the line to try to block the kick. But Morris didn't know the rule in which if you leap to block a kick, you can't come down and touch one of your own players.

Morris leaped, touched a teammate on the way down and received a 15-yard personal foul penalty for leaping. Three plays later, McGahee scored a 2-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

"You just have to laugh at how we played to keep from crying," Alexander said. "This is the worst thing we've done since my rookie year when we were 6-10. This team is way better than this. We've got to go back to the basics of football. You run the ball. You stop the run. You throw the ball. You catch the ball. I know today, offensively, we didn't help our team."

Holmgren will have to go back to basics for the final five games, including next Monday's game against the Cowboys. There is a growing perception that he may need to win a playoff game to finish out the final two years of his contract. Key starters such as Matt Hasselbeck, Alexander, left tackle Walter Jones, cornerback Ken Lucas and defensive end Chike Okeafor are free agents after this season.

In six years, the Seahawks have been to the playoffs twice under Holmgren without a playoff victory, and right now they aren't playing like a team that could win a playoff game. They barely beat the Dolphins last week. They were blown away by the Bills.

Hasselbeck, playing with a bad thigh injury, looks as though his confidence is wavering. He was 19 of 38 for 185 yards and had a 61.8 quarterback rating. Many of his passes weren't crisp and the ones that were ended up being dropped. The team is losing confidence.

"If it doesn't get stopped fast, then yes, definitely," Hasselbeck said about the team losing confidence. "But we're going to stop it. We're going to improve. We're going to get better. The next time we come out there and play, we're going to be a different team. The team that you saw today, you will not see that team again. That's going to stop. The players on this team are going to make sure it never happens again."

Holmgren won't be real pleasant this week.

"At the end of the season, we'll know how good this team is," Holmgren said. "We have five games left, and we'll probably still be tied for the division lead or maybe even have it by ourselves. But right now, that doesn't mean a lot to me. Right now, we just got it handed to us. You can't beat anybody the way we played out there -- nobody. I expect us to bounce back."

Of course, to win the NFC West, they might not actually have to bounce back.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.