And the Chargers thought they had problems.
Sample these excerpts from Seattle-area newspapers following the Seahawks’ 31-10 loss to the Rams in Anaheim last Sunday:
“About the only thing the Seahawks did right Sunday was call the coin toss.” (Everett Herald).
“The Seahawks are in shambles.” (Bellevue Journal American).
“There is no question their defense is in trouble.” (Seattle Times).
“The team continues to teeter on the brink of self-extinction.” (Bellevue Journal American).
Yet the Seahawks (4-4), who play the Chargers today at the Kingdome in Seattle, are tied for first with Denver in the AFC West. Which means the Chargers (2-6) are no farther out of their division’s lead than the Super Bowl-contending 49ers (5-3) are in the NFC West.
“The Seahawks,” Charger Coach Al Saunders says, “are the team to beat in the AFC West.”
Maybe there is a reason somebody posted all of the above clippings on the Chargers’ locker room bulletin board this week. Maybe somebody figured the Chargers would feel better if they got a whiff of someone else’s troubles. Misery does love company.
It’s just that the Chargers have been such good company for the Seahawks the past 6 times they have played in the noisy caldron that is the Kingdome.
Not only have the Chargers lost all 6; they have allowed a whopping 37.5 average points per game in those 6 appearences.
All of which kind of makes you wonder what the Seattle-area newspapers will do for an encore if the Chargers pull an upset.
The Chargers, after all, are the team that has wound up on the empty end in 2 of the NFL’s 3 shutouts this year. They have lost 4 in a row and have failed to score a point in the final period of any of those losses. They rank last in AFC total offense and tied for last in NFL in points (102) with Detroit and Kansas City, a punchless team that has lost 2 of its past 3 by the same score, 7-6.
But the Chargers beat the Seahawks, 17-6, 6 weeks ago in San Diego. In that game, Charger defensive end Lee Williams separated Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg’s shoulder. Krieg hasn’t played since. He didn’t start throwing again until the past couple of days and remains on injured reserve.
Strong-armed rookie Kelly Stouffer will start against the Chargers, making him the second rookie quarterback to open against them in 2 weeks. They sent Colt Chris Chandler to the sidelines last Sunday with a concussion. But Chandler’s replacement, veteran Gary Hogeboom, sent the Chargers to the locker room with a 16-0 defeat.
Stouffer has been erratic in his 5 starts. Against the Rams, he completed 16 of 24 but for only 101 yards. He also threw 3 interceptions. The week before that, he threw for 370 yards, an NFL record for rookies, against New Orleans.
The Chargers will answer at quarterback with Mark Malone, who will be making his third start since taking over for the injured Babe Laufenberg (ribs).
Malone tries to downplay the noise factor in the Kingdome. But he admits that “for some reason” it’s harder to hear there than in any other domed stadium.
“It’s especially tough if you have to audible,” he says. “There may be guys who can’t hear you. It’s also tougher to run the shotgun for the same reason. Other than that, I think the noise factor is a little bit overrated.”
The wide receivers, Malone says, shouldn’t have to worry about hearing the signals. They can simply look down to the center of the field and watch for the snap. The offensive linemen, he says, are close enough to hear him.
“The Kingdome does not win or lose football games,” Saunders says. “Certainly there will be noise. But the number of people in the stands and the noise factor shouldn’t be a detriment to performance. What is does end up being a detriment to is hearing.”
Saunders has emphasized all year long how this year’s Chargers are different from last year’s Chargers. He has repeated that multiple personnel and coaching changes render comparisons to last year’s team invalid.
So what will Saunders tell this year’s Chargers about the horrors of the Kingdome?
“The thing that’s important,” he says, “is you can’t let outside factors influence your preparation.”
They already have. Malone says the Charger offense is prepared to junk the shotgun on passing situations if the noise dictates. “Those fans up there are intelligent enough to know when to be noisy,” he says. “They’re the ones that started The Wave and all that crap.”
In 1984, the Seahawks became the first team in professional sports to retire a jersey number in honor of their fans. The No. 12 now stands for the Seahawks’ 12th man on the field.
Actually The Wave is supposed to have been born at the University of Washington. But it grew into adulthood at the Kingdome.
The solution to the noise problem for the Chargers is jumping out to an early lead. Easier said than done. “It’s an eerie place when it’s quiet,” Saunders says. “But we haven’t quieted it since 1979.”
Actually, the Chargers won the first four times they played in the Kingdome, the last a 34-13 victory in 1980.
Krieg isn’t the only significant Seahawk starter missing. Linebacker Brian Bosworth, the team’s leading tackler, underwent shoulder surgery last week and will not play. The Seahawks will replace him with either Darren Comeaux or Darren Miller.
The Seahawks rank 26th in NFL defense, the Chargers 27th in NFL offense. . . . The Seahawks have blocked 4 field goals in the past 5 games. . . . The Chargers haven’t kicked a field goal since Oct. 9. In last week’s loss to the Colts, Charger place-kicker Vince Abbott booted the opening kickoff and didn’t get on the field the rest of the afternoon.