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Shooting nothing but blanks with Charlie Whitehurst under center was bad enough. Making matters worse in a 6-3 loss to the Browns on a Sunday that couldn't have been uglier was the season-ending fractured fibula suffered by CB Walter Thurmond late in the second quarter, which makes an already inexperienced Seattle secondary even younger.
Thurmond was starting his first game in place of veteran Marcus Trufant, who was placed on injured reserve last week with a back ailment similar to the one that had sidelined him for six games of the 2009 season. The Seahawks' secondary was also hindered by a knee injury suffered by hard-hitting SS Kam Chancellor. Despite those injuries, Seattle's defense did all it could to keep the game close, allowing only a pair of long field goals despite being on the field for almost 43 minutes.
But the Whitehurst-led offense was out to lunch, managing only 137 total yards, the second-fewest in any Seahawks game since 2000. The closest thing to a score for Seattle was a nifty 81-yard punt return for an apparent TD by Leon Washington, who was pressed into double duty when RB Marshawn Lynch came up lame with a bad back and became a late scratch. Washington's return was nullified by a very dicey block-in-the-back penalty called on reserve CB Kennard Cox.
The PFW spin
Let's start with the Seattle offense, which shouldn't take long. Put simply, it stunk.
Granted, the injury to Lynch, who had been expected to be a major force against Cleveland's marginal run defense, didn't help. Neither did the injuries that sidelined starting C Max Unger (foot) and TE Zach Miller (head/neck). But Whitehurst was absolutely awful, failing miserably to take advantage of a starting opportunity in place of Tarvaris Jackson, who missed the game with a strained pectoral muscle.
Whitehurst completed only 12-of-30 passes for 97 yards, was sacked three times and posted a pathetic 35.0 passer rating on an afternoon in which the Seahawks converted only 2-of-12 third-down opportunities. Probably Whitehurst's worst moment — and there were plenty to choose from — was the interception he air-mailed to Cleveland CB Sheldon Brown on a pass intended for Sidney Rice one play after Washington's TD was nullified.
The early word this week is that Jackson should be good to go this Sunday at home against the upstart Bengals. But whether he can make a difference very much remains to be seen, with the status of Lynch, Unger and Miller up in the air at this writing.
On the other side of the ball, the onus to replace Thurmond likely falls on rookie Richard Sherman, who didn't look half-bad replacing Thurmond in the second half against the Browns. Cox will probably share the nickel corner role with Roy Lewis, who is expected to be activated soon after coming off the physically-unable-to-perform list. Lewis, who will be operating on a surgically repaired knee, should at least provide some badly needed experience in a starting secondary now mostly consisting of first- or second-year players.
Seattle's defense and special teams actually look good enough to keep them in most games moving forward, provided the offense can figure out a way to stay on the field longer than the 17 minutes it spent spinning its wheels at Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday.
But with the red-hot Niners enjoying a three-game lead in the NFC West before the 2011 season has even reached its midpoint, bothering to get fired up about a repeat playoff berth seems as pointless as the Seahawks' Week Seven offense.