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Defense Lacking Even for Winner

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

And now, a word from the defense . . .

(Silence).

(Sound of feet shuffling).

(Sound of throats clearing).

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Somebody, please?

How about you, John Harris?

“I can’t speak for the other guys in this room but, speaking for myself, I am embarrassed. I played a crappy game. Any time someone throws for 400 yards against you, well . . . and we talk about being the best secondary in football . . . “

Harris happens to be a starting safety for he Seattle Seahawks, the NFL team of the ‘80s, the team some think should avoid the rush and book their hotel now in New Orleans for Super Bowl XX.

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But after Seattle’s 49-35 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in Jack Murphy Stadium, Harris isn’t so sure.

Okay, so the Chargers racked up 557 yards in total offense. The Chargers do that all the time and lose.

And how about giving Charger quarterback Dan Fouts a little credit for throwing for 440 yards and four touchdowns?

“If we play like we did today against everyone, everybody’s going to look like Dan Fouts,” Harris said.

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Obviously, the Chargers ruffled the feathers of a Seahawk defense, normally a proud and poised group of heavy-hitters whose idea of fun is beating you until you cough up the ball.

Seattle’s defense was the NFL’s sixth-best last season and number one in forcing interceptions (38) and fumbles (25).

But for a while Sunday, the Seattle defensive 11 played as if they were members of the Dan Fouts Booster Club.

When was the last time you saw Seattle All-World safety Kenny Easley drop a ball thrown right in his hands?

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Fouts passed for 306 yards in the first half and hardly broke a sweat.

“We bent a lot today,” Seattle cornerback Keith Simpson said. “In fact, we broke a lot today.”

The Chargers led, 23-14, at the half and it appeared Fouts might smash every passing record in the book.

But the Seahawks quietly discussed the situation during the break and all agreed that someone should try to distract Fouts every now and then.

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“We were just not used to that sort of thing,” Seattle linebacker Keith Butler said. “We’ve got a lot of pride and we just figured we had better buckle down in the second half.”

And, for the good of the statisticians, the Seahawks did.

The aggressive Seattle defense likes to think that sooner or later it will squeeze a turnover out of its opponent.

But, on Sunday, it was wondering why it took so long.

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Fouts and the Chargers were almost near-perfect deep into the third quarter.

But, then, finally, came the play.

With 1:52 left in the quarter, a Fouts pass was partially deflected by Chargers receiver Pete Holohan into the hands of safety (“Crappy Game”) Harris, who made a great interception while in the prone position at the San Diego 41.

Finally, the break the Seahawks needed.

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A pass here, a run there and a 20-yard pass interference penalty on Lucious Smith put Seattle on the Chargers 1-yard line.

Curt Warner took it in from there and, just like that, Seattle was up, 42-29.

This was more like it.

Early in the fourth quarter, big defensive end Jacob Green knocked the ball loose from Fouts and Greg Gaines recovered at the Chargers 46.

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From there, the Seattle offense, which looked a lot like the Charger offense, needed only six plays to score a touchdown, which put the Seahawks up by 20.

“We kept talking about coming up with the big play, to create some turnovers,” Seattle Coach Chuck Knox said. “We wanted to make something happen and that’s what we did.”

And if anything else, the Seahawks learned a good lesson on Sunday-you don’t stand back and give Dan Fouts time to throw the ball.

The Seahawks, in the second half, put the pressure on Fouts and took some off the Seattle secondary.

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“Hey, this is the NFL,” Butler said. “You can’t just walk out and say you’re going to win a football game. This game can humble you. We needed to be humbled.”

But, hey, the Seahawks won. And with an offense like that, who needs defense?


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