Special teams proving anything but for Seattle Unit shoulders blame for Lewis' two runbacks, four-game losing streak

December 08, 1997|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

The Seahawks' special teams could not help themselves yesterday, as the Ravens' Jermaine Lewis returned two punts for touchdowns that made the difference in Seattle's 31-24 loss.

It was not the first time the Seahawks have seen this act this season, but it was the latest, and so it seemed to hurt the most.

"On those punt returns, we missed tackles or just stopped," said coach Dennis Erickson. "I've really never seen anything like it."

But he has. Only a month ago, the Seahawks were 6-4. Today, they are 6-8 and on a four-game losing streak thanks to special teams that seem to have disintegrated before their eyes.

A month ago, against the New Orleans Saints, the special units allowed 17 points in a 20-17 loss. At Kansas City the next week, they were responsible for 16 points in the Chiefs' 19-14 victory. Last week against the Atlanta Falcons, they allowed 17 points -- including a 93-yard kickoff return.

After all that, 14 points on Lewis' returns of 89 and 66 yards seem light fare. But they were backbreakers.

Erickson had no answers.

Special teams coach Dave Arnold would not emerge from the coaches' room to address it.

Darryl Williams, the team's free safety, who leads the NFL in interceptions and is likely to be voted to the Pro Bowl, was so worried by the special teams' play that he said he will make a plea to join the unit next week.

"We need help," he said. "If you're not part of the solution, you're probably part of the problem. So, I'll try to get on that unit. It's hard to criticize from the sidelines, but when you're on the sidelines watching, you can see what's happening. You have to just do your job. I don't think Lewis did anything special. But when you run out of your lanes, you're going to have big plays made against you like that."

Veteran safety Tim Hauck had a pretty good look at Lewis' two runs. On the first one, he missed the initial tackle and Lewis bolted cross field for the scoring run that would boost the Ravens to a 10-9 lead. On the second one, he was about to make the tackle when the Ravens' Ryan Yarborough made the first big block that resulted in Hauck's being taken down. Again, Lewis was off and running down the sidelines to tie the game at 17-17.

"You just have to make those plays," Hauck said. "But I've never seen anything like this. It's like something goes wrong for a different part of our special teams every week. It's our turn now. I'd correct it if I knew how."

Wide receiver Tyree Davis, who plays on the special units, spoke in a monotone and couldn't bring himself to say that the punt returns cost the Seahawks this game. "We contributed to the loss, and it's a surprise," he said. "We have a lot of guys who want to make plays, and after the last three weeks, we felt guys would step up. We're frustrated. But, the way I look at it, everything can be corrected."

But when? That's the question dogging Seattle, and from Seahawks center Kevin Mawae's point of view, the answer is close at hand.

"You can't let this happen," said Mawae. "It's a football sin to let a guy run back the football for two touchdowns like that. You can't let them score that easy. It takes the momentum out of everything.

"Today, we gave them 14 points, and it made the difference in the ballgame. I think the biggest factor is that everybody has to look inside themselves and decide whether they want to be out there making the plays. And if they don't, get off the field. If you're not willing to make special teams' plays, then you've got no need to be on the football field."

Pub Date: 12/08/97

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