NEW ORLEANS - Most of this city is below sea level, and that's about where the Seattle Seahawks' chances for a successful season appear to have sunk after only one game.
A devastating injury that will sideline quarterback Dave Krieg, coupled with a depressing 27-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints yesterday at the Superdome, have left the Seahawks trying to regroup and depending on Jeff Kemp to lead them for the next eight weeks.
How bad was it?
-- Krieg is expected to be out for eight weeks with a broken thumb on his throwing hand. Kemp relieved Krieg in the fourth quarter and nearly led the Seahawks on a scoring drive in the final 71 seconds.
-- The Seahawks lost when rookie John Kasay was wide left on a 37-yard field-goal attempt that would have tied the game.
"I let this team down. I let this organization down . . ." a dejected Kasay said of the miss. "I just pushed it. It felt good. I thought I hit it good. I didn't."
-- The kick would have been a 22-yard attempt if Krieg, who was out of the game, hadn't been flagged for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. He charged down the sideline, far beyond the restraining mark at the 32-yard line, to question the call on an end-zone pass that was ruled out-of-bounds.
Krieg thought he was exempt from the rule because he is a captain.
Officials said the flag was thrown because Krieg was illegally downfield, not because of anything he said.
The focus for next Sunday's home game against the New York Jets now shifts to Kemp, who wasn't even announced as the backup quarterback for yesterday's opener at the Superdome until last Friday.
Seahawk fans needing some encouraging news can dial back to 1988, when Krieg missed seven games with a shoulder injury and Seattle, with a 9-7 record, won the AFC West title for the only time in franchise history.
But Kemp wasn't exactly the hero while Krieg was injured. Kemp started the first of the seven games Krieg missed and had an awful outing in a 38-7 Week 4 loss to San Francisco before Kelly Stouffer came in to relieve him. Kemp completed 1 of 12 pass attempts for only 6 yards.
Stouffer was 3-3 as the starter in the next six games before Krieg returned in Week 11.
"As sad as I am for Dave, the Seahawks and the season must go on, and I'm going to love it," said Kemp, the 11-year pro from Dartmouth.
"Sometimes, you see a team respond to a big loss at a certain position with intensity and a driven attitude. That's what I think we'll do," said Kemp.
Stouffer, injured Aug. 3 against Phoenix, must remain on injured reserve for three more games with a separated shoulder.
Receiver Louis Clark says the Seahawks won't give up because Krieg is out. "I believe in Jeff Kemp and Dan McGwire," he said. "We don't have a quitting person on this team. We fought back. It just didn't work out this game. We've got 15 more games to go."
The Seahawks certainly didn't quit after putting themselves in a 17-0 first-half hole. Seattle rallied to take the lead, 24-20, with 17 third-quarter points.
New Orleans' winning touchdown was a 10-yard, fourth-down pass from Bobby Hebert to wide receiver Floyd Turner with 1:11 to play. The touchdown capped a 68-yard drive that took 6:01.
Hebert saw that Seahawk cornerback James Jefferson was closing fast on the play and threw the ball slightly behind Turner, who flashed open as Jefferson went flying past him.
"I just stopped and let the guy run through," said Turner. "Bobby hit me in the numbers."
The Seahawk outing was full of big plays both good and bad, some of them by the same players.
-- Brian Blades had a career-best game, with 12 catches for 160 yards and touchdowns of 10 and 25 yards.
-- Cornerback Brian Davis scored his first NFL touchdown, returning a third-quarter interception 40 yards that gave the Seahawks their only lead, 24-20, when the extra point was added.
-- Krieg put together one of the best drives of his career, completing all seven passes he threw in leading the Hawks on a 86-yard, second-quarter scoring march capped by a 10-yard toss to Blades.
-- Dwayne Harper's 43-yard, third-quarter interception return set up Kasay's 37-yard field goal that sliced the lead to 20-17.
-- Jacob Green had two sacks and Cortez Kennedy was a defensive bulldozer, often getting past two blockers to wreak havoc.
-- Krieg, who had 26 completions in 35 attempts for 274 yards, was intercepted twice, once for a touchdown. Linebacker Pat Swilling returned a soft Krieg pass 39 yards for a score and a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
-- With Seattle threatening late in the second quarter, Blades fumbled a pass at the 9-yard line when hit by Vencie Glenn. Cornerback Vince Buck recovered.
-- Derrick Fenner, who rushed for only 11 yards on seven carries, fumbled twice. The Saints recovered one. The Seahawks had only one first down rushing and 46 yards on the ground.
-- Three consecutive penalties, a personal foul on Bryan Millard followed by false starts by Andy Heck and Millard, set up the play on which Krieg was injured.
With less than nine minutes left and a third-and-31 on the Seahawk 11, Krieg chose to scramble after the Saints went into a prevent defense. He was hit by two linebackers, Sam Mills low and Rickey Jackson high. He stayed in for one more play, throwing a short completion to John L. Williams before the pain forced him to the sideline. ------------------------------
KEMP FOR STARTERS
-- Jeff Kemp is 12-8-1 as an NFL starting quarterback. A look at performances in those games: -- 1984 RAMS: Started in last 12 games, replacing injured Vince Ferragamo, and took the Rams to the playoffs. Los Angeles was 8-4 with Kemp starting, including loss to Giants in NFC wild-card game. Posted career highs in yards (2,021) and touchdowns (13). -- 1985 RAMS: In only start of the season, against Giants, completed 10 of 25 passes for 130 yards, one interception. -- 1986 49ERS: When Joe Montana was sidelined with a back injury in Weeks 2 through 7, Kemp led 49ers to a 3-2-1 record. Twice passed for more than 300 yards, including 359 yards and three TDs in a loss to Vikings and 332 yards and one TD in win over Saints. Passed for 1,521 yards, 10 TDs, eight interceptions. -- 1987 SEAHAWKS: Only start was in victory at Detroit during strike. Completed 20 of 27 passes for 344 yards (seventh highest in club history), four TDs, one interception. -- 1988 SEAHAWKS: Had his worst game as a pro replacing injured Dave Krieg in loss to 49ers in Week 4. Completed only 1 of 12 passes for 6 yards, with three interceptions.