Seahawks hurting in more ways than one

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SEATTLE -- Disbelief washed over the Seattle Seahawks following their 33-30 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

For the first time in years, the thought of something other than another NFC West title seems possible and perhaps even likely for Mike Holmgren and the four-time defending division champs.

This is what happens when journeyman Billy McMullen becomes your quarterback's first read four days after joining the team.

"It is really amazing what is happening right now," Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.

The Seahawks are staggering along with an 0-2 record and desperate to get receivers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram back from injuries. Both could miss another week, and if current form holds, neither will last long upon his return.

While the Seahawks were losing their first two games for the first time since 2002, the Arizona Cardinals were winning their first two for the first time since 1991. While Cardinals receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were combining for 293 yards and three touchdowns, Seattle's wide receivers were struggling to amass 91 yards among them.

The Seahawks are in trouble if they don't start getting healthy in a hurry.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, uncharacteristically somber this early in a season, bypassed the usual post-defeat talk about the team needing to roll up its sleeves and carry on. He skipped the obligatory lines about needing to analyze the offensive game film. Instead, Holmgren turned his eyes directly to the waiver wire.

"We have got to look to sign a couple guys, first of all," the coach said.

That's how desperate the situation has become after injuries have sidelined Branch, Engram and fellow receivers Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu, Logan Payne and Seneca Wallace.

Payne, on the bubble for a roster spot only a month ago, started against the 49ers. He quickly became the latest casualty, suffering a torn knee ligament during the first quarter. Wallace, the athletically gifted backup quarterback and part-time wideout, had worked at receiver all week, only to suffer a pulled calf muscle during pregame warm-ups. He did not play.

"I don't know what to say," Hasselbeck said. "We're a little surprised. I'm a little surprised, a little stunned, a little upset."

Courtney Taylor, rookie Michael Bumpus and McMullen were the Seahawks' only healthy receivers. Taylor had been expected to contribute as perhaps the fourth or fifth option this season. Bumpus, signed from the practice squad Saturday, was no better than the sixth receiver when training camp broke, a long shot to make the team.

McMullen wasn't even supposed to play against the 49ers. Hasselbeck couldn't recall throwing to him even once during practice. Pressed for details, Hasselbeck estimated he might have thrown two passes to McMullen all week. By game's end, McMullen had caught three passes for 48 yards, making him the team's most productive wide receiver by a wide margin.

Taylor and Bumpus combined to catch four passes for 29 yards. Payne suffered the knee injury after making his only catch.

The 49ers won largely because cornerback Walt Harris tipped away a pass intended for McMullen, setting up linebacker Patrick Willis' 86-yard interception return in the third quarter.

The 49ers' defensive backs tipped away five passes, capitalizing on the Seahawks' inability to run routes precise enough for Hasselbeck to throw the ball in rhythm. Seattle will continue to experience similar frustrations as long as Branch and Engram remain on the sideline. Holmgren said he had no idea if Branch would be ready for a suddenly pivotal Week 3 home game against St. Louis. Branch isn't expected back until after the bye.

"I want to get to the point where I can throw to them without looking at them so much," Hasselbeck said.

The young receivers also haven't learned how to jump from practice speed to game speed.

The offense tends to function in rhythm in practice. Against the 49ers, receivers repeatedly failed to keep playing fast when plays broke down.

Hasselbeck, a 62.6 percent passer last season, completed only 18 of his 36 attempts against the 49ers. And that marked an improvement from a 34-10 defeat at Buffalo in the season opener, when Hasselbeck completed 41.5 percent while taking five sacks. Hasselbeck hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Burleson suffered a season-ending knee injury with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter of the opener, a span of 15 possessions.

Julius Jones rushed for 127 yards and rookie tight end John Carlson caught six passes for 78 yards, but that wasn't near enough to offset the feeling pervading Seattle's locker room after this one. The Seahawks' defense watched J.T. O'Sullivan pass for 321 yards and rush for 32 more, with Isaac Bruce roaming free through the secondary one week after failing to catch a pass during the 49ers' opening defeat against Arizona.

"Unacceptable," Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu said. "I give them all the credit in the world, but we didn't put up much of a fight in giving that one away. It's embarrassing."

The Seattle defense collected eight sacks and scored a touchdown. As much as that side of the ball faltered by allowing big plays, finding an identity on offense remains priority No. 1 for the Seahawks.

Seattle used seven players as runners and receivers during a 15-play, 74-yard drive to the tying touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Only two of the seven players -- receiver Courtney Taylor and fullback Leonard Weaver -- spent any time on the Seahawks' 53-man roster last season. The others were Jones, Carlson, T.J. Duckett, Bumpus and rookie fullback Owen Schmitt.

A week after Seattle lost starting guard Rob Sims to a season-ending injury, trainers tended to Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones and center Chris Spencer during a late timeout. Both appeared to be hurting. They'll have company in the training room this week.

"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," Holmgren said. "We have to fix the things we can fix, hopefully, and get ready for the Rams coming in here next week."