Seahawks/NFL: Hawks must stick to plan

By CLARE FARNSWORTH
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

KIRKLAND -- The obvious concern when playing the St. Louis Rams is defending their explosive and multi-tentacled offense.

But the real problem concerns an implosion by your own offense. The destructive tendency when going against Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Marc Bulger, Orlando Pace and Mike Martz is to think you have to score every time you touch the ball.

This just-trying-to-stay-in-the-game approach too often takes a team out of its plan.

It has paralyzed better teams than the Seahawks, who play host to Martz, his pack of productive players and all the mayhem they can create tomorrow at Qwest Field.

That's why Matt Hasselbeck's reaction this week to the panic-button question was revealing and reassuring.

The job of the Seahawks' offense, according to their quarterback, is finding advantageous matchups and going at the Rams within the framework of the game plan coaches have had extra time to formulate because of last week's bye.

"As we get older and more mature, you worry about yourself more than you do about the other team," offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said through a smile when told of his quarterback's assessment. "The most important thing is that we understand what we're doing and do it better."

The Rams have been in a nirvanic offensive zone for several seasons. That will happen when you win one Super Bowl and play in another, as the Rams did between 1999-2001.

There is no better indicator of the Rams' confidence -- which some consider arrogance -- than Martz's play calling.

Asked if he was looking forward to matching wits with Martz, Seahawks coach and play-caller Mike Holmgren offered, "Nah. Mike's a lot wittier than I am."

Just another indication that the Seahawks are coming at this important game with the proper perspective. When teams and coaches try to outwit Martz, getting away from their modus operandi, they get their brains beat in.

The Seahawks have been guilty of this in the past. Not this time. Not in a game in which they have a chance to start 4-0 for the first time in franchise history and open a 2 1/2-game lead over the defending NFC West champions five weeks into the season.

Smart? Or smug? Who are these guys to flaunt a take-what-they-give-us attitude with a team that already has been where they're hoping to get?

The Seahawks' 3-0 start has been constructed on a series of big plays by their No. 1-ranked defense. The offense has been more opportunistic than efficient, and ranks only 16th in the league.

All the more reason to jab away rather than come out and try to exchange haymakers with the Rams.

The Rams' revamped defense ranks 27th in the league and 28th against the run, allowing averages of 367.5 and 137.3 yards. It's a unit that has been vulnerable to runs up the gut.

Also, the Rams are playing without injured cornerback Travis Fisher, and middle linebacker Robert Thomas is playing with a sprained ankle.

The Seahawks' offense, meanwhile, enters this statement game after a needed dose of humility from the Buccaneers defense in Week 2, and refreshed from its bye week, which allowed knee injuries to running back Shaun Alexander and fullback Mack Strong to heal.

Look at the Seahawks' offense when it has been most effective this season -- the final 10 minutes of the season-opening win in New Orleans and the first two drives in the second half of the blowout win over the San Francisco ***** two weeks ago.

Against the Saints, they did a serious burn job on the clock by mixing runs from Alexander, Strong and Maurice Morris with one Hasselbeck pass.

Against the *****, they ran the clock -- and ran up the score -- with two drives that consumed almost 12 minutes. Again, it was runs from Alexander (seven carries for 38 yards) and Heath Evans (three for 8 yards), but also Hasselbeck spreading his passes to six different receivers while completing 10 of 11 for 86 yards.

"It's not an offense where you can key on one thing," said Aeneas Williams, the Rams Pro Bowl safety. "You have to play everything honest."

It's Holmgren's offense. It's what Hasselbeck does best. It's the best way to match wits with the Rams.