The hole was as big as the Grand Canyon and nearly as pretty. "I could have walked through it," said Seattle quarterback Jim Zorn. "But everyone else was running, so I ran, too."
In the opening moments of the second quarter, the Seahawk-Redskin game was a scoreless tie. With the ball on the Redskin 21, Zorn called a quarterback draw and flowed through the Washington defense as easily as the Colorado River winds through the canyon. And the Redskins were lost for good.
"It opened up just unbelieveable," Zorn said later a dapper figure in pinstriped suit and rubber thongs. "I was excited. Were you excited?"
His thongs made squishing sounds as he bobbed up and down, unable to contain his excitement. "Last year, I ran one for 60 yards against Kansas City but we lost," he said. "What did this one feel like? It felt like scoring seven points."
Ah, c'mon, Jim.
"Okay, it felt pretty good."
Zorn is a running quarterback on a team not known for its running ability. But yesterday the Seahawks ran all over the Redskins. Before yesterday's game, Seattle was ranked 10th of 14 AFC teams in rushing, averaging 101 yards a game. They rushed for 235 yards against the Redskins with their starting halfback, Sherman Smith, out because of last week's knee surgery. The man who replaced him, Jim Jodat, gained 117 yards on 22 carries. His previous high?About 47, he said -- "I think."
He couldn't be sure. He had never rn this much before.
Jodat's longest cary was 12 yards. The most important one, a four-yard gain at the beginning of the second quarter that kept alive the drive on which Zorn scored. With fourth down and a yard to go on the Seahawk 35, Seattle Coach Jack Patera decided to go for it."I didn't make that call, and I hope I never have to," Zorn said.
Clearly, the Seahawks already realized they could take the gamble and run with it.
"That's right," Zorn said.
"We ran on fourth and one 20 times last year," Patera said. "There are different kinds of fourth and ones. This was fourth and an inch, not fourth and three feet. On fourth and an inch, I like to gamble."
Zorn handed the ball to Jodat, who went off right tackle for four yards and a first down.
Was Jodat surprised at the ease with which he eroded the Redskin defense?
"I really didn't stop to think about it," Jodat said after his first 100-yard game and his start as a running back. "The holes were there from the beginning of the game. I didn't expect it (to be so easy). You don't expect to get five, six, seven yards each time . . ."
Especially not when you are fighting a miserable cold as well as the Redskin linebackers. "I'm not sure whether I should get some medication or just get drunk," he said.
Jodat was Seattle's leading ground gainer, but Zorn had the longest run, his 21-yard touchdown. "I don't want to be the leading ground gainer on this team," Zorn said. "Honest."
The normally loquacious quarterback was strangely reluctant to discuss the play that put Seattle ahead for good. "Let's just say it was the right play at the right time," he said, looking toward the heavens.
"You make it sound almost mystical," he was told.
"It wasn't mystical, it was just a quarterback draw," he said. "But if I told you about it I might be very unhappy, so let's just keep in on the surface."
On the surface, it looked something like this: The Redskins were playing with six defensive backs, and only one linebacker, clearly expecting a pass -- a reasonable strategy considering Seattle's four wide receivers. The tackles, Perry Brooks and Dave Butz, had a stunt on, according to Redskin Coach Jack Pardee, and the defensive backs followed the middle open for Zorn, who waltzed through.
"It was planned to go right up the middle," he said. "I think they were using that stunt to stop it. We had done it before. But they just didn't seem to take account of me . . . I just kept an eye on the goal line and it kept getting closer and closer and when I got there, there wasn't a soul there."
The Redskins never got any closer all afternoon. No matter how dreadfully they played, the score was still 7-0 with two minutes to go.
One play epitomized the melodrama. Midway through the second period, Zorn passed, linebacker Monte Coleman deflected the ball and then the Redskins and the Seahawks batted it back and forth between them eight times, as if it were a beach ball.
"I just cracked up," Zorn said. "The ball just wouldn't come down. A tossup. Kind of like the game."
"A turning point?" Patera said. "When Jimmy fell on the ball with a minute to go."