Late in the game, when it no longer mattered, and the St. Louis Rams knew the Seahawks had to throw the ball, defensive end James Hall teed off on Tyler Polumbus and blasted the Hawks’ left tackle as if he were a mannequin.
Polumbus staggered backward a couple of steps, while Hall rumbled past him and into quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, forcing the final turnover of another head-scratching Sunday.
It was just one bad play on a day that was lousy with bad plays, but it was symbolic of the state of Seattle’s offensive line one month into this season of change.
The players on the offensive line aren’t talking this season and, judging from their performance in this 20-3 defeat against the Rams, they aren’t blocking either.
Miraculously, for three weeks, the line tenuously stayed together, glued with a combination of duct tape and prayer. The Hawks won games at home against San Francisco and San Diego and offered hope to a town desperate for a return to the glories of the mid-2000s.
But this offense still isn’t working. And this afternoon felt too much like 2009.
The Seahawks have scored only one offensive touchdown in their past two games.
The line keeps changing — of the 10 offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, five, including Polumbus, weren’t part of the Seahawks’ training camp — but the offense isn’t moving.
First-round draft choice Russell Okung played his first game, starting at left tackle, but was hobbling noticeably on his bum ankle and didn’t look ready to play. He left the game in the second quarter.
“I think we’re best when Russell’s in there,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He was fine in practice all week, but just the sustained digging on it (the ankle), it just got more sore.”
Give Carroll and general manager John Schneider credit. They’re trying to win, while they continue to rebuild. Like miners panning for nuggets of gold, they are sifting through the waiver wire, looking at every ambulatory, out-of-work, 300-pound lineman.
They know they can win this tattered NFC West, but in the meantime, Hasselbeck is getting hit like a tackling dummy. The Rams sacked him four times.
The running game is sputtering, gaining only 64 yards against St. Louis, and the offensive line isn’t playing together.
How could it? The line lost its coach, Alex Gibbs, a week before the season began and the personnel keeps changing like the numbers on a racetrack’s tote board.
“We’re going to try to find our way,” Carroll said. “We need to be creative and we need to be working it.”
But all of the changes on the offensive line are beginning to look like change for the sake of change, exchanging one mediocre player for another.
And at some point soon, like now unless Steve Hutchinson miraculously becomes available, I believe it’s time to suck it up and settle on a group and let it practice and play, day after day, and develop some cohesion that might mask its deficiencies.
Carroll, of course, doesn’t agree.
“I don’t ever think that way and John (Schneider) doesn’t think that way either,” Carroll said. “We’re always looking at moving and trying to figure things out. We’ll continue to try to get (guard) Chester (Pitts) back in action, in time and see where he fits into it and just keep working it.”
Soon the theme for this season might be “Waiting for Chester,” who was signed before training camp after undergoing micro-fracture surgery a year ago, then released last week before he had played a down.
But one month into the season, the truth is, there is no easy way to rebuild. The offensive line can’t be reconstructed in a blink. The next Walter Jones or Orlando Pace isn’t out there waiting for the phone to ring.
A team that won only nine games over the past two seasons doesn’t turn into a Super Bowl contender just by turning every roster spot into an open competition every week.
An offensive line that was dreadful last year doesn’t turn dreamlike just because the personnel turns over. Rebuilding takes time and patience.
The players are buying into Carroll’s philosophy, and belief can take a team a long way, especially in the NFC West.
But, as this team hits the bye week, it’s time for some continuity. Time to settle on a roster and, as one former Hawks coach often said, play the hand you’re dealt.