SEATTLE – When reflecting on his first official game as the Seahawks’ head coach, Jim Mora used the word “perfect” to describe the day.
Early on Sunday, however, the Seattle Seahawks’ performance was anything but.
When St. Louis safety Oshiomogho Atogwe stepped in front of Seahawks receiver Nate Burleson to intercept a pass late in the first quarter, the 67,610 fans at Qwest Field let out a collective groan.
Coming off a 4-12 season, playing their first game under Mora, the Seahawks had just turned the ball over for the third time in four possessions.
But by the end the day, sloppy start aside, the Seahawks and Mora got off on the right foot in 2009, blanking the hapless Rams 28-0 to give Seattle nine straight wins in the series.
“I was proud of the way we overcame early adversity,” Mora said. “When you turn the ball over three times in the first half, you don’t typically win a game like that. Odds are, you don’t win it.”
Thanks to a defense that posted its first shutout since November of 2007, and a bizarre, momentum-changing play, the Seahawks weathered the early miscues and eventually rolled over the Rams, who are coming off a 2-14 campaign in 2008.
The Rams failed to capitalize on Seattle’s turnovers in large part because of their own first-half stumbles, and the first quarter ended in a scoreless tie.
St. Louis started the game by fumbling the opening kickoff and committed eight penalties for 65 yards in the half. Given a chance to take a 3-0 lead, the Rams came up empty when former Seahawk Josh Brown – who was booed heartily when he came onto the field – missed a 37-yard field goal attempt to the right.
On the ensuing possession, Matt Hasselbeck shook off the rust and completed six of seven passes to lead a touchdown drive, which was capped by a 1-yard pass to tight end John Carlson.
“I felt like they were a little bit tight,” Mora said of his offense. “But they did a nice job of settling down, getting into a rhythm, and our defense gave us a chance offensively to find that rhythm.”
The lead remained seven points until late in the half, when it looked like the Rams tied the game with a potential momentum-changing play on special teams. With 59 seconds remaining, Olindo Mare lined up for a 49-yard field goal. But his kick was blocked by C.J. Ah You and scooped up by Quincy Butler, who went 51 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown. But just before the Rams could attempt the tying extra point, referee Pete Morelli announced that the play was under review.
It turned out that the Rams had 12 players on the field, and the penalty not only nullified the touchdown, but gave the Seahawks a first down. Three plays later, Hasselbeck found Burleson, who had 68 of his 74 yards in the first half, for a 12-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“That was huge,” Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney said. “It was a huge momentum swing. It ended up being a 14-point swing.”
The Seahawks erased any remaining doubt with a 99-yard drive in the third quarter to claim a 21-point lead. Hasselbeck connected with Carlson on back-to-back passes of 38 and 33 yards to complete the drive. Carlson, the team’s leading receiver a year ago as a rookie, finished with a team-high 95 yards on six catches.
Hasselbeck finished the game 25 for 36 for 279 yards and three touchdowns along with the two interceptions.
The Seahawks’ final score came on a 62-yard Julius Jones run. Jones carried 19 times for 117 yards, and the Seahawks finished with 167 rushing yards and a 4.9 yard-per-carry average.
It was a strange way to start the season, but in the end it was a dominant victory, and a 1-0 start to Mora’s tenure with the Seahawks.
“It was especially emotional for me because there is some significance to it,” Mora said. “I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that there was. I have thought about this day for a long, long time. … It was kind of a surreal experience for me. It was great. It was perfect.”
Or close to it anyway.
Seahawks 28, Rams 0
Sea—Carlson 1 pass from Hasselbeck (Mare kick)
Sea—Burleson 12 pass from Hasselbeck (Mare kick)
Sea—Carlson 33 pass from Hasselbeck (Mare kick)
Sea—J.Jones 62 run (Mare kick)
|Total Net Yards||247||446|
|Time of Possession||27:33||32:27|
RUSHING—St. Louis, Jackson 16-67, Avery 1-8, Bulger 1-2. Seattle, J.Jones 19-117, James 11-30, Forsett 3-17, Hasselbeck 1-3.
PASSING—St. Louis, Bulger 17-36-0-191. Seattle, Hasselbeck 25-36-2-279.
RECEIVING—St. Louis, Avery 6-46, Robinson 5-87, McMichael 4-44, Fells 1-9, Burton 1-5. Seattle, Burleson 7-74, Carlson 6-95, Houshmandzadeh 6-48, J.Jones 2-19, S.Wallace 1-24, Obomanu 1-11, Butler 1-7, Griffith 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—St. Louis, Jo.Brown 37 (WR).
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