RENTON, Wash. - Deion Branch might miss at least one game with a bruised heel. Matt Hasselbeck is apparently fine after a scare over his knee.

If only those new injuries had something to do with the Seahawks' sickly defense.

While all of Seattle's attention has been on a battered offense trying to get healthy, a supposedly stingy, star-filled defense has the four-time NFC West champions sinking at 1-3 - and in what linebacker Julian Peterson is calling "almost" panic time before Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers (2-3).

Sure, 12 games still remain in the season after Sunday's 44-6 loss to the New York Giants, a debacle Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu called "embarrassing." But right now that just seems like 12 more chances for the Seahawks to give up 30 or more points.

"We've got no time to mess around," Peterson said Monday. "It's not necessarily a panic situation, but it is almost."

Last month, six receivers and the right side of the offensive line were hurt. The Seahawks reassured themselves that they would be OK because their defense returned all 11 starters, including four Pro Bowl players.

Three startling losses later, having the entire defense back may be Seattle's problem instead of its strength. Now a couple of those starters may be on their way out.

Coach Mike Holmgren said the defensive game plans will get simpler, "so hopefully we can become good in a fewer number of things."

And he said personnel changes are next, though he added, "I'm not ready to tell those right now."

Holmgren only named one defender who is having a good season: Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant.

Including the regular-season finale of 2007, the Seahawks have allowed 44 points by Atlanta (which was ending a 4-12 season), 42 in a blizzard during January's playoff loss to the Packers, 34 by Buffalo in this season's opener, then 33 by San Francisco in another loss last month before a win against woeful St. Louis.

Then came Sunday's misery in the Meadowlands. Dozens of missed tackles and blown plays made the undersized Seahawks look infinitely behind the league's elite.

All those returning starters allowed 523 yards, the most Seattle had given up in six years.


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