Holmgren’s going to play to win this finale, and he should

By Chris Cluff  |   Thursday, December 27, 2007  |  Comments( 0 )

Seattle Seahawks
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Mike Holmgren made the right choice: He is going to play to win in Atlanta on Sunday as he tries to get his 10-5 Seattle Seahawks in gear for the playoffs.

Last Sunday against Baltimore, the Seahawks played as complete a game as they had all season. They looked like the NFC power they are supposed to be, playing smothering defense and running the ball better than they have for most of the season.

But the injury-ravaged Ravens are not the same team that went 13-3 in 2006, and Holmgren knows the Seahawks' dominating 27-6 victory Sunday was a little misleading. The Seahawks ran for 144 yards, but the turf came against a defense missing middle linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, among others.

The point is: The Seahawks need some more warmup shots before they take the field against Washington or Minnesota in the first weekend of January. Holmgren knows he needs to keep his running game going, to give his blockers confidence they can create holes for Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris.

"We want to go into the playoffs as strong as we can be," Holmgren told reporters. "We're going to play the guys hard ... and keep our fingers crossed."

That said, expect to see Seneca Wallace at quarterback by the second half as starter Matt Hasselbeck will be pulled as long as the Seahawks have a lead.

"I believe in momentum going into the playoffs," Holmgren said. "At the same time, everyone hold their breath that no one gets hurt. So how do you balance that?"

If Holmgren is smart, he will not pull his starting offensive line -- with the possible exception of left tackle Walter Jones, who might sit out the whole game to rest his chronically sore shoulder. The rest of the line -- left guard Rob Sims, center Chris Spencer, right guard Chris Gray and right tackle Sean Locklear -- needs to work on its power game. Alexander is one rushing touchdown short of 100 for his career, so he probably would love to play all day. And coming off his best game in weeks, he needs to play to build confidence behind his shaky line.

Holmgren hinted that he will keep most starters in for most of this game because he didn't like that he pulled many starters in the 2005 season finale in Green Bay, which the Seahawks lost.

"We were able to keep guys healthy, but that particular Sunday wasn't much fun," Holmgren said. "I'm going to push them hard, just like I always do. And I'm going to go at the game hard and try to set an example that way."

It's the right choice for a team that can use all the practice it can get as the playoffs approach.
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About Chris Cluff

Chris Cluff spent 10 years as an editor and sportswriter for The Seattle Times. He was a key figure in the newspaper's coverage of the Seahawks, particularly during their Super Bowl run in 2005. He also has written two books on the Seahawks: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Heart-Pounding,...
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