Holmgren's strategy proves to be pointless

Missed field goal foils Seahawks coach's plan to erase 4-point deficit

NFL Week 7 in review

Pro Football

October 30, 2001|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Neither Mike Holmgren's luck nor his strategy held up in the Seattle Seahawks' 24-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It was another reminder that the man who coached the Green Bay Packers to consecutive Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 has found franchise-building tougher than expected.

Already under scrutiny for his force-feeding of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Holmgren earned more second-guessing when he elected to attempt a field goal on fourth-and-four at the Miami 12 with two minutes left and a four-point deficit.

The strategy backfired when kicker Rian Lindell badly missed a 28-yard kick, leaving Holmgren to explain his rationale in the glare of a home loss.

Citing the pressure Miami's defense put on Hasselbeck on the three preceding plays, Holmgren said he went for the field goal because he had all three timeouts left and therefore figured to get the ball back for one last crack at a game-winning field goal.

But if he didn't have confidence that Hasselbeck could get the 4 yards necessary to work toward the winning touchdown at that point, why did he think Hasselbeck would be able to move the team into field-goal position with less time and possibly more pressure? And why wouldn't he take a shot at winning from the 12 than deferring and hoping for a better situation in the closing seconds?

Even Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt shrugged at the decision. "I don't know what their thinking was," he said. "I was surprised."

What appeared to be a Week 7 opportunity to entrench Hasselbeck as the quarterback seemed instead a vote of no-confidence.

Force over finesse

Mark down Dec. 17 as must-see TV. That's when the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams renew their rivalry in an enticing Monday night matchup.

As much as Rams coach Mike Martz resents references to his fast-break scheme as a finesse offense, he had to be steaming after Saints coach Jim Haslett repeated his halftime comments after New Orleans' 34-31 win.

"I told them, `It's a 60-minute game. They're getting [cheap] plays on us. If that's how they're going to play, then we should keep going on and playing our game, and we'll win this game,' " Haslett said. "And that's what we did."

The Rams got two quick touchdowns on a reverse pass from Az-Zahir Hakim to Isaac Bruce and a counter run play to tight end Ernie Conwell. But four third-quarter turnovers unraveled a 24-6 halftime lead for the Rams, and the Saints ultimately won on a last-second field goal.

Martz tried to dismiss the loss as the rare off-game every team experiences, but the fact is the Saints have beaten the Rams in three of their past four meetings. In those games, at least, force outlasted finesse.

Gannon is the man

After Oakland dominated Philadelphia for a deceptive 20-10 victory, Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice likened quarterback Rich Gannon to San Francisco 49ers great Joe Montana.

"Rich reminds me of Joe. He knows the offense; he makes smart decisions," Rice said. "We know we can depend on him to make plays, even in crunch time, to win the game."

Added Raiders coach Jon Gruden: "What can you say about a quarterback who makes plays, has no conscience over how we move the ball, and had great plays running and throwing?"

Then there was this from Gannon: "The second half wasn't a whole lot of fun. We got real conservative. I wanted to take a couple shots, but Jon felt it was in the best interests of the team to eat up the clock."

Two-minute drill

Including Indianapolis' win at Kansas City on Thursday, six road teams won and five underdogs won in Week 7. ... Telling? The top five quarterbacks in passing yardage - all with more than 300 yards - all lost, while the six most productive running backs all won. ... Wide receiver Rod Smith's 159-yard game against New England was a club-record 25th career 100-yard game for Denver. ... Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott ran 28 times for 129 yards against Minnesota. He had 31 carries for 132 yards in his first five games. ... The Buccaneers ran 46 plays to the Vikings' 13 in the first quarter, and held the once-feared Minnesota offense without a first down until the third quarter. ... Carolina had 162 total yards against the New York Jets' 31st-ranked defense, and crossed midfield only once - after a Lester Towns pass interception. ... Dallas quarterback Clint Stoerner's 6-yard touchdown run was the first scoring run by a Cowboys offensive player. Their only other rushing touchdown was off a fake field goal by Tim Seder.

Good, bad and ugly The good: The Rams squandered an 18-point halftime lead and lost at home to the Saints. The Bears wiped out a 19-point deficit to beat the 49ers in overtime with a fluke play. Clearly, no lead is safe in the NFL this season. The bad: Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren's decision to attempt a field goal at the Miami 12 with two minutes left and a four-point deficit. His thinking, obviously, was to get two field goals instead of going for the game-winning touchdown. But Rian Lindell pushed a 28-yard chip shot wide left, and Holmgren's strategy was foiled. The ugly: Patriots QB Tom Brady went 162 passes without throwing an interception. Then, in the fourth quarter against Denver, he threw four in 10 passes. It cost New England the game.

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