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Off-tackle run flubs have thrown Seahawks off their game

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Seattle's playbook is as intricate and proven as it is thick, and the play calls are as long as poems.

Still, coach Mike Holmgren being an offensive guru and the Seahawks having won three consecutive NFC West championships ultimately mean little when their two biggest stars flub the most basic play: an off-tackle run.

"That kind of mistake, I get angry about. No, I don't just throw up my hands," Holmgren said Monday, a day after the Seahawks lost 23-20 at Arizona because Matt Hasselbeck, their Pro Bowl and Super Bowl quarterback from 2005, and running back Shaun Alexander, the league MVP two seasons ago, ran into each other and fumbled while in field-goal range with 1:48 left.

So Seattle (1-1) hosts Cincinnati (1-1) this weekend while trying to catch San Francisco (2-0) for the early lead in the NFC West, instead of trying to stay undefeated and keep pace.

"I've already met with the team," Holmgren said of Sunday's debacle. "This should never happen again."

Botched, basic running plays between Hasselbeck and Alexander have caused the Seahawks' last two losses.

Last January, Hasselbeck bobbled the snap from first-year starting center Chris Spencer on fourth-and-1 late in regulation of an NFC divisional playoff game. That fouled up the timing of an inside run by Alexander. Chicago dropped him for a 2-yard loss, and in overtime the Bears dropped the Seahawks from the postseason.

Then Sunday, Seattle rallied from 17-0 down to take a 20-17 lead before Arizona tied it at 20. With the Seahawks about to kick a field goal and 1:55 remaining until Seattle stole a division win, Hasselbeck stepped back from center and waved his hands -- a call usually associated with an audible.

Holmgren said half the team, including Alexander, thought Hasselbeck audibled to a pass play over the roars of a sellout crowd. Actually, the quarterback was making a "dummy" audible with his hands. He never yelled anything.

Hasselbeck outsmarted himself -- and about half his own team.

"It wasn't anything outside the norm for what we normally do. Now, looking back, given the situation, there's just no need for ANYTHING," Hasselbeck said Monday, ruing Seattle's fourth consecutive division loss.

"I would have been better off, saying, 'Hey, we're going to run right here. And the snap count's on one,' than doing what happened."

Arizona linebacker Gerald Hayes bolted through the right side of the offensive line untouched. Hayes then ran into both Hasselbeck and Alexander as they hesitated, causing the fumble that the Cardinals recovered. Neil Rackers kicked the winning field goal five plays later, with 1 second left.

"It was as if the play had stopped, as if the whistle had blown," Hasselbeck said. "Just a weird, weird play."

More galling for the Seahawks: Holmgren had demanded after a woeful first half to quit thinking so much about Arizona's shifty defense and just aggressively run the play that was called. Seattle rallied by doing just that - until the final offensive play.

Most in Seattle pinned the mistake -- and loss -- on Alexander after seeing his postgame comments.

"I thought Matt was audibling," Alexander said Sunday. "And then I thought, 'Oh, no, this is the fake audible.' And then I took a step to run the play that was called, and I saw a guy running in the backfield and so I thought, 'Maybe it is a pass play.' ... It was crazy.

"I was probably just thinking too much. Bad things happen that way."

Monday, Holmgren and Hasselbeck each tried to take that heat off Alexander.

"It's unfortunate, because my job as quarterback is to make the job easier for everybody else not more complicated," Hasselbeck said. "It's tough, because I take that one and put it right on me for not executing the play that was called.

"So I take this loss very hard."

Holmgren said Alexander was accountable as he needed to be.

"Start with me as being the most accountable," the coach said. "I said it a little but I didn't say it enough going out in the 2-minute warning: At that particular point, you are no longer really playing your opponent. You're playing the clock. ... You're not going to go to a lot of audible. You're just going to keep it straight and simple.

"Had I given that speech a little more firmly then I might not have put the players in a tough spot."

Hasselbeck said "it's OK to be 1-1.

"But what's not OK is to lose a game that was pretty much over. And that's what we did."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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