Lost in the confusion of the Minnesota Vikings' comeback bid was Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom lying on the Metrodome Turf while a beleaguered staff could only shake its...

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MINNEAPOLIS — Lost in the confusion of the Minnesota Vikings’ comeback bid was Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom lying on the Metrodome Turf while a beleaguered staff could only shake its head.

Their $33 million offseason investment serves as the $33 million poster child for a defense that can’t stay healthy. That defense played without linebackers Chad Brown and Tracy White, without cornerback Bobby Taylor, without defensive tackles Marcus Tubbs and Rocky Bernard.

And now this: Wistrom clutching his left leg. Wistrom getting carted into a stadium tunnel. Wistrom possibly missing more games than the four he missed earlier this season with an injury to the same knee.

“He’s very much a catalyst for our defense,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “We’re so thin right now.”

Wistrom choked back the emotion in the locker room afterward, water welling in his eyes, two carbon-copy bloody knees in tow. With one difference — the left knee was much more swollen than the other.

“I don’t know yet,” Wistrom said. “It’s pretty sore. We’ll find out what’s going on tomorrow.”

Market cornered

The most obvious of the plays cornerback Marcus Trufant made yesterday came on the game’s final one. While half of the Seahawks celebrated on the sideline, the Tacoma native stayed focused and tipped a pass from Daunte Culpepper to Jermaine Wiggins, altering a spiral into what Wiggins later termed a “knuckleball.”

Trufant also recorded five tackles and broke up three passes, including more than one jump ball intended for Randy Moss. You remember — kind of like the jump balls Moss caught against Trufant last season.

“It may have looked easy,” Trufant said, “but it wasn’t like that. I played OK. I let a couple plays get away from me.”

Alexander the target

The secret’s out, the schemes are in and opposing defenses are gearing up to stop Shaun Alexander before they worry about the rest of the Seahawks’ offense. It wasn’t long ago that Alexander led the league in rushing. Then Buffalo stuffed him to the tune of 39 yards on 13 carries and Dallas held him to 83 yards on 21 carries.

Against the Vikings, Alexander didn’t run for longer than a 22-yard gain. But he did plow forward at a 4.1-yard clip, gaining 112 yards on 27 carries. He also caught a touchdown pass.

“I’ve been beat up these last couple weeks,” Alexander said. “Teams are doing a good job of trying to stop me. It all goes back to this is the ultimate team sport. We’ve got enough people to destroy you.”

Tight-end turnstile

Jerramy Stevens spent more time than usual on the sideline yesterday, which was more of a reward for Ryan Hannam than an indictment of the struggling former first-round pick, according to offensive coordinator Gil Haskell.

Holmgren likes to boast about three “starters” at tight end, and yesterday, Hannam proved his point. He caught two passes for 44 yards, including a wide-open catch in the second quarter that went for 36 yards and set up the Seahawks’ second touchdown.

“He’s really a good player,” Haskell said. “A really good player.”


On the Seahawks’ final drive, TV replays caught Seahawks tight end Itula Mili bumping into Minnesota’s Brian Russell in the back of the end zone. As the two hit, Mili stumbled out of bounds and ran blindly into the goal post, then collapsed.

Later, he sat slumped in the Seahawks locker room complaining of bruised ribs but nothing too serious.

“That’s what they call a post pattern,” he said.

Bad choice?

Culpepper was asked what he thought of Moss’ pass that was intercepted on a fourth-quarter reverse. He said it was a play the team had success with all season and that Moss could have kept running if he wanted. He had that option. Since the Seahawks had been in the same coverage all week, the team thought the play would work. But then Seattle changed its defense for the play.

“I kind of thought he was going to just maybe pump it and throw it out of bounds or run it,” Culpepper said. “But when he threw it, maybe he saw something that I didn’t. I know we sure wish we can have that play back. But we can’t.”

Unspectacular special teams

Special teams remains a special unit and not in the way that would flatter special-teams coach Mark Michaels. That unit nearly lost the game for the Seahawks in the first half. Among the miscues: the opening kickoff by Josh Brown bounced at the 20-yard line, Brown missed a first-quarter field goal wide left and Ken Walter netted only 31 yards per punt.

The worst bungle, though, came in the first quarter, when the Seahawks were whistled for having 12 men on the field. Instead of punting, the Vikings kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.


• The Seahawks’ two-game offensive resurgence coincides with the return of slot receiver Bobby Engram. He caught four passes for 79 yards yesterday, including a 35-yard touchdown pass that cut the Vikings’ lead to 10-7 in the first quarter. The best news for the Seahawks receiving corps, though, was that they didn’t drop a pass for the first time in a long time.

Tracy White was expected to make his return at linebacker this week, but he ended up on the inactive list. White and Chad Brown could return next week when the Seahawks travel to New York to play the Jets, boosting a depleted group.

• The offensive line shuffle continues: With Chris Terry out for the season, FloydPork ChopWomack started at right tackle. And when Steve Hutchinson left the game in the second quarter with the flu, Jerry Wunsch filled in at left guard.

• Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck took full blame for a botched handoff attempt with Alexander.

“Honestly, I was so gassed at that point, I could hardly breathe,” Hasselbeck said. “I called the formation wrong. I called the play wrong. I basically just screwed up the formation. That was on me. I was dying. I need to get in shape.”

• While Michael Boulware made his first start at strong safety, Terreal Bierria dressed but did not play. He was suffering from back spasms last week.

• Seattle native Nate Burleson had four catches for 42 yards for the Vikings.

Times staff reporter Les Carpenter contributed to this report.