Hawk Hunting

By John Melillo
Jets, Staff Writer
December 17th, 2004

The Jets return home Sunday and will try to rebound from their heartbreaking loss in Pittsburgh. This week's opponent is the Jekyll and Hyde Seattle Seahawks who like Gang Green are also fighting for their playoff lives.

The Jets return home Sunday and will try to rebound from their heartbreaking loss in Pittsburgh. This week's opponent is the Jekyll and Hyde Seattle Seahawks who like Gang Green are also fighting for their playoff lives.

While it may seem mundane to read the usual player rhetoric each week during the season on how “every game is critical,” New York Jets QB Chad Pennington assured the local media that this Sunday’s clash with the Seattle Seahawks is clearly vital to Gang Green’s playoff hopes this year.

“We have to win, period,” Pennington said. “If there is any week that you really have to say ‘one game at a time’ then this is a big week for us. We can’t let these other teams catch us.”

The 9-4 Jets are certainly feeling the heat with a handful of bubble playoff teams breathing down their necks during this final three game stretch. Pennington noted that they are in the driver’s seat for a postseason berth so long as they take care of business at home.

“We have to keep these other teams from trying to catch us,” Pennington said, who is a perfect 5-0 at home this year and 8-1 over the past nine games. “It is important for us to protect our home field and to play well at home. That is what we have been able to do; we are 5-1 at home. We don’t want anybody to come in here and think they can beat us at home.”

The next trespassers to invade the Jets’ backyard this Sunday will be the 7-6 Seahawks, who feature an impressive arsenal of weapons on offense. Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who is the second leading rusher in the NFL with 1,385 yards, is enjoying his best season of his five-year career.

Jets head coach Herm Edwards realizes stopping the gifted Alexander will be of primary importance in notching a victory this Sunday.

“He’s a very good football player,” Edwards said, offering the potential understatement of the year. “He’s fast. He has good feet. Catch the ball out of the backfield, too. He can hit a crease and he can make a big play.”

During the past four seasons, Alexander broke the 1,300-yard plateau three times. The former Alabama product has impressively found the end zone 58 times during that span. In a conference call with the NY media, Alexander was impressed with the play of the Jets’ defense and is looking forward to a tough test at the Meadowlands this week.

“I think the best thing about them is they play together,” Alexander said. “They all attack the football. They’ve got a good unified group out there and it’s going to be tough to play against them.”

Although Alexander is the engine that makes the Seahawks’ offense go, it is QB Matt Hasselbeck who sits behind the steering wheel. Edwards discussed how his team should expect the unexpected from the former Green Bay Packer understudy to QB Brett Favre.

“(Matt) was behind Green Bay QB Brett Favre, so he has a little bit of his trait, he's a little bit of a gun slinger,” explained Edwards. “He can go around and make a play. He's a pretty good athlete, he has a good arm, he can throw it, and he runs around. He's going to take a chance; he's going to throw it in there.”

Hasselbeck has failed to match or better his play since his breakout season in leading Seattle to the playoffs last season. However, Hasselbeck still has dangerous weapons at receiver with veterans Bobby Engram and Darrell Jackson. Edwards expressed his concern in limiting Jackson from making big plays this Sunday.

“(Jackson’s) their go to guy,” Edwards said. “He's got good quickness and speed. He's very nifty. He's a very smart receiver. He can make yards after the catch. They find ways to get this guy the ball.”

Fortunately for the Jets, they will not have to concern themselves with covering WR Koren Robinson, who will sit out this Sunday after receiving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy this year.

Additionally, the Jets should benefit from their familiarity with the Seahawks’ offensive scheme, albeit a slightly different version of the West Coast offense that the Jets currently utilize.

After Friday's practice, Edwards complimented the 'Hawks dangerous offense.

"They have ability to put points on board," said the Coach. "You've got to slow them down a little bit. Keep them off the field and get them out of rhythm. It's a good test for our defense.(The Seahawks) run it a little different, they do different things. They run the shotgun and they probably spread you out a little bit more than we do.”

Seahawks head Coach Mike Holmgren discussed his team’s approach to attack opposing defenses during a conference call earlier this week.

“You may substitute a couple of runs on someone else’s team with a couple of passes, short to intermediate passes that keep the chains going, high completion percentage throws,” explained Holmgren. “Really, it’s to get first downs, move the chains and control the clock and the ball using a few more passes than another team might.”

Whether by air or ground, the Jets’ offensive players would just like to keep the scoreboard from reading a dismal 6 points as it did during last week’s disappointing loss to the Steelers. The offense is optimistic they can right the ship before the season concludes.

“It is frustrating when you are not scoring points like you are supposed to and your defense has been playing so well and you are not holding up your end of the bargain,” WR Justin McCareins said. “But we are still positive, we are still working and we still know we have the ability to really surprise some people. We are far from giving up. We know we have a lot of potential and we are going to keep working.”

McCareins and company will face a tough challenge with an opportunistic Seahawks’ defense that has forced 32 turnovers this year (20 INT, 12 fumbles).

“They have done a great job,” Pennington said. “I think the strength of their team has been their corners. They have great ball skills. Any time the ball is in the air, they don’t just come close, they knock it down, they intercept it, and they do a great job when the ball is in the air. When I am throwing the football, I have to be very accurate and we have got to take care of the football.”

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS: Sunday’s game will be the first time Edwards will face Seattle. Consequently, it will also be his inaugural battle versus coach Mike Holmgren. That doesn’t mean Edwards hasn’t been impressed with Holmgren from afar. “Mike does a great job. He knows how to orchestrate (the West Coast Offense),” Edwards said. Holmgren is one of eight active head coaches with over 100 career victories.

-The Jets are tied for second with the Baltimore Ravens in penalties (78) for the fewest penalty yards (583) in the NFL.

-The Jets are currently ranked No. 2 in the AFC and the NFL with a +14 takeaway/giveaway ratio.

-Two starting members of the Jets O-line, C Kevin Mawae and G Pete Kendall, began their careers with Seattle. Mawae was a second round selection in 1994 while Kendall was chosen in the first round of the 1996 draft. S Reggie Tongue also spent four seasons with the Seahawks (2000-03)

-The Jets have recorded 29 sacks this season with nine different players recording at least one sack this season. One defender in particular, DE Shaun Ellis, is close to making club history, as he is one sack shy of trying former DE Mark Lomas (37) for the tenth-most sacks in team history. Ellis has recorded six sacks this year.

INJURY REPORT: DE John Abraham remains out with a knee injury. Otherwise, the Jets are relatively healthy. LB Victor Hobson (ankle) has been practicing since Wednesday although Mark Brown will likely start and Hobson will be worked into the rotation.

The Coach is very happy that Brown has been able to step in and immediately play well.

"I think he's made a great contribution," said Edwards regarding Brown. "He's spent three years in the program. When Victor got hurt he stepped in and became starter for us. He just goes in and plays and has done really well for us. He was an (undrafted) free agent and when they are starting for you, that says something."

G Pete Kendall’s knee is still sore but he practiced on Friday and Edwards said Kendall should be ready to play on Sunday. The Jets report no other injuries for Week 15. Here is the complete list.

-DE John Abraham (knee): Out
-LB Victor Hobson (ankle): Probable
-G Pete Kendall (knee): Probable

Game time is at 1:00 p.m. Sunday. Local TV is FOX Channel 5 and local Radio is on 1050 ESPN Radio. Check back often to Jets for all the latest Jets/Seahawks news and reports.

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