Scouting Seattle

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Mike Holmgren started the 2008 season knowing it's his last with defensive coordinator Jim Mora set to take over the reins in 2009 as Holmgren opts for retirement. In this final year, it's clear that Holmgren is looking for his four-time defending NFC West Champion team to battle its way to the Super Bowl for one last great ride.

But his team's performance in a week one blowout by Buffalo didn't live up to Holmgren's lofty standards.

"We got kicked around pretty good today," said Holmgren after the opener. "It's one of those games we're going to learn a painful lesson. But we'll be better next week."

The 49ers also expect to put behind a loss to Arizona that was marked by five turnovers when they take flight to Seattle for their second straight NFC West divisional contest.

"I think it's carelessness when carrying the ball," said head coach Mike Nolan of the turnovers. "I think that's what that is. We have playmaking ability without question. We made a lot of plays, that's there, but we also have to secure the ball better.

"I'm excited about the prospects of this football team. But it is about winning. So it's difficult to get too excited when you're 0-1."

Holmgren's had his own adversity this off-season when it's come to his typically well-oiled offense.

After leading the Seattle receiving efforts in 2007 with 1,147 yards, Bobby Engram openly expressed his displeasure over his contract situation, but showed up for camp ready to show Seattle why he deserves a new contract. But a cracked bone in his right shoulder during a preseason game has Engram sidelined at least thru the month of September.

Deion Branch returned to practice last week after having reconstructive knee surgery in the off-season, but he didn't make it back in time for the season opener. His status is unknown at this point for week two.

The situation didn't improve any Sunday with Nate Burleson leaving the game with a knee injury. The receiver said he planned to play this week, but news came out on Monday that he's instead done for the year.

With DJ Hackett departing in free agency, that leaves Seattle with fairly inexperienced receivers in Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent.

The unit is also without tight end Marcus Pollard, who departed in free agency. Last year's sixth leading target for Seattle with 28 catches was replaced by Jeb Putzier, but the former Texans tight end had a season-high two catches in 2007, clearly not the same kind of passing threat as Pollard.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck started the game despite missing time in camp with a back injury, and without his normal group of receiving targets, the veteran struggled in the passing game. He completed only 17 of 41 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The offensive line added Mike Wahle from Carolina this off-season to play along one of the league's best left tackles in Walter Jones, but the expected 2008 starting bunch was without right tackle Sean Locklear last week, who was out with a left knee sprain. Locklear was replaced in the week one lineup by Ray Willis, but could be back for this Sunday's game. Whether it was his absence or not, Seattle's line struggled, allowing five sacks.
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It appears Seattle's line has taken an additional hit with Rob Sims reportedly suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Sunday's game. Sims moved to right guard this year after starting at left guard last season. His likely replacement would be Floyd Womack.

Even with the replacement of Shaun Alexander in favor of returner Maurice Morris, and newcomers Julius Jones and TJ Duckett, Seattle managed only 85 rushing yards. Morris started, but left the game with a knee injury after six carries for 31 yards, and a long of 17. Morris is expected to be out a few weeks. Duckett didn't even get a carry, while Jones finished with 13 rushes for 45 yards and a long of 24. Toss out the two long run plays, and Seattle averaged only 2.32 yards per carry.

Seattle's front line of defense features a new face in the lineup. First-round pick Lawrence Jackson out of USC enjoyed his first start at end last week, opposite sack master and high-motor player Patrick Kerney.

Otherwise, it's the same starting personnel from last year highlighted by Pro Bowlers Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson at linebacker, and Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant, who received the franchise tag after intercepting seven passes last season.

Seattle's pressure oriented defense notched only one Kerney sack, and a pair of quarterback hurries in their game against Buffalo. They were without starting tackle Rocky Bernard last week, but the formidable player who was responsible for the hard hit that injured Alex Smith's shoulder last year, should be back in the lineup after a one-game suspension by the NFL.

The defense started strong against Buffalo , holding them to three and outs on their first four possessions before allowing an explosive 32-yard pass play that led to a touchdown lead late in the first quarter.

Seattle held Marshawn Lynch to just 76 rushing yards, but Trent Edwards finished the day with 215 passing yards and a 95.8 QB Rating as Buffalo's offense put up 20 points on the scoreboard.

Seattle lost one of their better special teams coverage players this off-season in linebacker Niko Koutouvides and subsequently found themselves on the end of some costly special teams errors in their first regular-season outing without him.

First up, Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Then, similar to the 49ers, they lost a fumble on one of their kickoff returns that was recovered by Bills field goal kicker Rian Lindell and quickly led to a touchdown.

That fumble came just 20 seconds after a fake field goal by the Bills, one that instead earned a touchdown with a 19-yard pass.

The only things that seemed to go right on special teams for Seattle was a 45-yard field goal by Josh Brown's replacement kicker, Olindo Mare, and a blocked field goal by Craig Terrill. (The 49ers will still see Brown this year when they face off against the St. Louis Rams).

The loss of Burleson for the year will also impact Seattle's special teams since he was their primary punt returner, and a good one at that with a 94-yard punt return for a TD and a 91-yard kickoff return for a TD in 2007.

Seattle also showed displeasure with their punter Ryan Plackemeier, releasing him on Tuesday and signing former Packers punter Jon Ryan.

These two NFC West foes badly need to bounce back from week one disappointments when they take the field for Sunday's 1:05pm PST kickoff. Catch the game on Fox to find out which team will come out on top.

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