Jones pitches a perfect 9

As he always did after the Friday practice, and following a victory, Mike Holmgren gathered the players around him for the presentation of the game balls.

The offensive game ball from a Week 9 win over the Oakland Raiders in 2001 was a slam dunk. Shaun Alexander, after all, had rushed for a club-record 266 yards and three touchdowns, including a record-setting 88-yarder, in the 34-27 victory. But when Holmgren reached into the box to pull out the offensive game ball, the Seahawks’ third-year coach presented it to Walter Jones.

Before a look that screamed “huh” spread completely across Alexander’s usually smiling face, Holmgren explained that Alexander was being presented a special game ball for his club-record effort. But that the offensive game ball went to the team’s Pro Bowl left tackle because Jones had been the first lineman in the 22-year NFL career of line coach Tom Lovat to grade out perfect in the game. Perfection. Think about that for a minute: 66 offensive plays, and even more blocks than that for Jones, 42 running plays, 35 by Alexander, 23 pass plays, and only one sack of Matt Hasselbeck, 497 total yards, then the fourth-highest total in team history, no sacks allowed by Jones, or even a single pressure, not one missed block, or even a mental error, technique that was as close to flawless as Lovat had ever seen.

“As a coach, you’re looking for things a player might do wrong,” Lovat said at the time, shaking his head. But no matter how many times he reviewed the video of the game, “It was hard to find something wrong with Walt,” he added.

So there it was, the first perfect score ever handed out by Lovat: 9.0, on a scale where that grade signifies an All-Pro player (which Jones was that season) 8.0 is a Pro Bowl player (which Jones also was) and 7.0 is a good player you can win with (which Jones obviously was, and then some).

That perfect 9 came from a coach who also had worked with Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf and Luis Sharpe with the Cardinals and Chris Hinton with the Colts.

“This kid is in that class, and better,” Lovat said.

And “that class” combined for 15 Pro Bowl berths. Jones had hit nine by the time he retired.

“Walt very rarely has a bad game,” said Lovat, adding that Jones usually graded out near an 8 and might “slump” to 7.6 or 7.5 on a down day. “He’s so smooth he’s never out of position. It just looks too easy.”

Asked about that performance recently, Jones just smiled – in as easy sort of way.

“You don’t think about that when you’re in the game,” he said. “You’re just trying to play your best game. If you mess up, you just try to go to the next play. As the game goes on, you’re thinking only about the next play.”

Jones didn’t even allow himself those “look what I just did” thoughts after the game.

“You don’t think that after any game, because you’re very critical of yourself,” he said. “If somebody comes to you and says, ‘Hey, you played a great game,’ you always remember one or two plays you wish you could have back.

“That’s the approach I always took.”

Well, what about during the video session on Monday?

“Still the same,” Jones said. “I’m always critical of myself. Somebody else might watch a play and say, ‘That was a perfect this or a perfect that.’ But I still can look at it, critique it and say I could have done this better or done that better.”

Jones pitching perfection on that November evening at Husky Stadium wasn’t lost on his teammates, however.

“Walt was always good, but he was unbelievable that day,” Alexander said recently. “I’m running behind him and just watching the bodies fly. A couple of times, I almost stopped just to admire what he was doing. You know, ‘Did you just see what Big Walt just did to that guy?’ ”

But the 2001 season wasn’t all about one player, and one game – even one as great as Jones, who just happened to have a perfect game that season.

It also was a season of transition. From Ricky Watters to Alexander. From Jon Kitna to Hasselbeck. From Cortez Kennedy to John Randle. And from a so-so season in 2000 to a 9-7 record that would serve as the springboard for the most successful five-year run in club history (2003-07) – five consecutive playoff berths, four NFC West titles in a row and the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance.

Let’s start with Alexander. His breakout game against the Raiders was the foundation for what would be the first of five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons – 1,318, to be exact. And with 14 rushing touchdowns and two more as a receiver, Alexander became only the third non-kicker to lead the team in scoring (joining Steve Largent, 1977 and 1981 and David Sims, 1978). All of this because injuries limited Watters to four starts.

Hasselbeck became the quarterback after Holmgren orchestrated a trade with the Green Bay Packers in March to acquire Brett Favre’s backup. Holmgren made the move to get his handpicked passer because he had tired of Kitna, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals during the offseason. Hasselbeck struggled through an injury-interrupted and, finally, injury-shorted first season as an NFL starter.

Randle, the former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman, was signed in March – five days before Kennedy was released. He would lead the team with 11 sacks while playing Kennedy’s old spot at right tackle.

The wider transition was the Seahawks improving by three wins from a 6-10 record in 2000. But even winning their final two games, three of the last four and six of the last nine left them just short of the playoffs. They needed the Minnesota Vikings to defeat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the final “Monday Night Football” game of the season to secure the AFC’s final wild-card playoff spot. The Vikings lost, 19-3.

“All night long, you just felt like the Vikings were one play away,” center Robbie Tobeck said after he and some teammates had gathered at an Eastside pub to watch the game – and witness the dashing of their postseason hopes. “But we’ve got to let this be a lesson. Next year, we can’t leave it to someone else. We need to make sure it’s in our hands.”

It wasn’t in their hands in ’01 because they let too many games slip between their fingers during a 3-4 start – including a 27-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first games played after 9/11. Hasselbeck was sacked seven times in that game, and six more times in a 38-14 loss to the Raiders in Oakland the following week. Hasselbeck emerged from the beatings with groin and shoulder injuries that would force him to sit out four starts – all victories with Trent Dilfer filling in.

But there were some milestone moments in this season that came up a yard or two short here and there.

In addition to Jones and Alexander, who also caught 44 passes, the offense featured rookie Steve Hutchinson at left guard, Tobeck at center and Chris Gray at right guard Darrell Jackson catching 70 passes for 1,081-yards and eight TDs and Dilfer winning games in Week 4 and 5 and 16 and 17.

On defense, the linebacker trio of Anthony Simmons (123), Chad Brown (106) and Levon Kirkland (101) finished 1-2-3 in tackles while Willie Williams contributed 68 tackles and a team-high four interceptions in 14 starts after being re-signed to be the third cornerback.

The special teams were a hit-and-miss adventure, as Jeff Feagles averaged 43.9 yards on 85 punts and dropped 26 of them inside the 20, while Alex Bannister blocked a punt and returned it for one touchdown and set up another by recovering a fumbled punt. But Rian Lindell made only 20 of his 32 field-goal attempts and the coverage units allowed a 90-yard kickoff return and an 86-yard punt return for scores.

Despite Jones’ perfect performance, which aided Alexander’s record-breaking performance, the Seahawks just weren’t consistent enough – unless you count being consistently inconsistent.

Or as Holmgren put it, “We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride this year.”

Year in Review
Record
9-7 (second in AFC West)
Owner
Paul Allen
Coach
Mike Holmgren
Captains
QB Matt Hasselbeck, C Robbie Tobeck and RB Ricky Watters (off.), LB Chad Brown, LB Levon Kirkland and FS Marcus Robertson (def.)
Man of the Year
QB Brock Huard
Largent Award
FB Mack Strong
Leading Passer
Hasselbeck (176 of 321 for 2,023 yards, 7 TDs and 8 interceptions)
Leading Rusher
Shaun Alexander (1,318 yards, 14 TDs)
Leading Receiver
Darrell Jackson (70 receptions for 1,081 yards and 8 TDs)
Leading Tackler(s)
LB Anthony Simmons (123)
Special Teams Tackles
LB Isaiah Kacyvenski (21)
Interception Leader(s)
CB Willie Williams (4
Sack Leader
DT John Randle (11)
Leading Scorer(s)
Alexander (96 points)
Pro Bowl Selection(s)
OT Walter Jones, Randle
All-Pro
Jones (first team)

2001

2001: Jones pitches a perfect 9

As he always did after the Friday practice, and following a victory, Mike Holmgren gathered the players around him for the presentation of the game balls.

2001 Games
Key Date
November 18, 2001

Rian Lindell kicks three field goals, Shaun Alexander scores on a 1-yard run and Matt Hasselbeck passes 7 yards to Koren Robinson for another TD as the Seahawks post a 23-20 victory over the Bills in Orchard Park.

Key Date
April 12, 2001

Seahawks sign a three-year extension with Eastern Washington University to continue its training camp in Cheney.

Jim Zorn Named QB Coach
February 16, 2001

Former Seahawks QB Jim Zorn is named quarterbacks coach.

Key Date
November 11, 2001

Shaun Alexander rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns versus Oakland, including a team-record 88-yard touchdown.

Final Game In Husky Stadium
January 06, 2001

The Seahawks played their final game at Husky Stadium before moving into their new downtown stadium. Trent Dilfer finished the season 4-0, extending his consecutive unbeaten record as a starter to 15-

Key Date
March 09, 2001

Seattle signs free agent DT Chad Eaton.

Two Seahawks Selected to Pro Bowl team
January 02, 2001

Seahawks DT John Randle and T Walter Jones selected to represent Seahawks in the Pro Bowl.

Free Agent John Randle Signs
March 03, 2001

Seattle signs free agent DT John Randle.

Trade with Green Bay for QB Matt Hasselbeck
March 02, 2001

Seattle trades a third-round draft choice and switches first-round picks with Green Bay for QB Matt Hasselbeck.

Koren Robinson and Steve Hutchinson Drafted
April 21, 2001

Seattle takes North Carolina State wide receiver Koren Robinson with its first overall selection (No. 9) and Steve Hutchinson (No. 17). Selects 12 college players, the most since drafting 11 in 1992, during the two-day draft.

Seahawks Switch Conferences from the AFC West to the NFC West
May 22, 2001

Seahawks switch conferences from the AFC West to the NFC West, joining the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams following realignment. The Seahawks were a member of the NFC West in their inaugural season in 1976 before moving to the AFC West in 1977.

Key Date
February 28, 2001

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Seattle area damaging the Seahawks marketing headquarters at Palmer Court, forcing them to move out of the building. The new stadium was not damaged and workers resumed construction less than one week later.

Key Date
January 02, 2001

Mike Holmgren names Mark Michaels assistant special teams coach.

Key Date
March 08, 2001

DT Cortez Kennedy is released.

Game Postponed Due to 9/11 Attacks
September 16, 2001

Home game versus Kansas City is postponed due to the terrorist attacks on Tuesday, September 11.

Key Date
August 03, 2001

Signed Trent Dilfer to one-year contract to back up Matt Hasselbeck.

Key Date
June 28, 2001

Named Scott Fitterer area scout and named former Kansas City wide receiver Lake Dawson and former Seahawks safety Eric Stokes pro personnel assistants.

Key Date
March 16, 2001

Seattle names Lance Lopes to serve as General Counsel.

Key Date
April 09, 2001

Seattle signs free agent LB Levon Kirkland.

As a coach, you’re looking for things a player might do wrong. It was hard to find something wrong with Walt.
Line Coach Tom Lovat
Walt was always good, but he was unbelievable that day. I’m running behind him and just watching the bodies fly. A couple of times, I almost stopped just to admire what he was doing. You know, ‘Did you just see what Big Walt just did to that guy?’
Shaun Alexander
We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride this year.
Head Coach Mike Holmgren
You don’t think about that when you’re in the game. You’re just trying to play your best game. If you mess up, you just try to go to the next play. As the game goes on, you’re thinking only about the next play.
Watler Jones
2001 Season Schedule
Click on any game
to see full statistics.
DateOpponentScoreW:L
9/9 AT Cleveland 9-6 W
9/23 Philadelphia 3-27 L
9/30 AT Oakland 14-38 L
10/7 Jacksonville 24-15 W
10/14 Denver 34-21 W
10/28 Miami 20-24 L
11/4 AT Washington 14-27 L
11/11 Oakland 34-27 W
11/18 AT Buffalo 23-20 W
11/25 AT Kansas City 7-19 L
12/2 San Diego 13-10 W
12/9 AT Denver 7-20 L
12/16 Dallas 29-3 W
12/23 AT New York Giants 24-27 L
12/30 AT San Diego 25-22 W
1/6 Kansas City 21-18 W
2001 Record
97
2001 Offense
PosPlayerStarts
C J.P. Darche 0
C Robbie Tobeck 16
G Floyd Womack 0
G Chris Gray 16
G Steve Hutchinson 16
T Walter Jones 16
T Dennis Norman 0
T Chris McIntosh 0
T Floyd Wedderburn 0
T Todd Weiner 13
TE Itula Mili 5
TE Christian Fauria 11
TE Russell Stewart 0
WR Darrell Jackson 16
WR Fabien Bownes 0
WR Bobby Engram 4
WR Alex Bannister 0
WR Kerwin Cook 0
WR James Williams 0
WR Koren Robinson (R) 13
QB Trent Dilfer 4
QB Matt Hasselbeck 12
QB Brock Huard 0
FB Mack Strong 13
RB Jay Graham 0
RB Shaun Alexander 12
RB Heath Evans 0
RB Charlie Rogers 0
RB Ricky Watters 4
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2001 Defense
PosPlayerStarts
DE Antonio Cochran 0
DE Lamar King 8
DE Matt LaBounty 0
DE John Hilliard 8
DE Michael Sinclair 16
DE Cedric Woodard 0
DT John Randle 14
DT Chad Eaton 16
DT Joe Brown 0
LB Marcus Bell 0
LB Isaiah Kacyvenski 0
LB Orlando Huff 0
LB Tim Terry 0
MLB Levon Kirkland 16
OLB Anthony Simmons 16
OLB Chad Brown 16
CB Ken Lucas 8
CB Jermaine Smith 0
CB Shawn Springs 7
CB Willie Williams 14
DB Paul Miranda 0
DB Curtis Fuller 0
DB Maurice Kelly 0
DB Kerry Joseph 0
DB Harold Blackmon 0
DB Ike Charlton 0
FS Marcus Robertson 12
SS Reggie Tongue 16
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2001 Special Teams
PosPlayerStarts
K Rian Lindell 16
P Jeff Feagles 16
+ View All-Time Roster
Blue Dawn

VIDEO: Blue Dawn

On this Day in Seahawks History