Have the Seahawks recaptured the spirit of their 2005 run? After their fifth straight win, it's looking that way
NEARLY TWO years have passed since people expected the Seahawks to lose at home in the NFC Championship Game. If you think they've forgotten, you're wrong. This team walks around with a chip on its shoulder that makes Mount Rainier look like a molehill. Maybe it's for good reason.
Seattle won its fifth consecutive game and fourth straight NFC West title with a 42--21 thumping of the visiting Cardinals on Sunday, yet the team still is not prominently mentioned among the NFC's Super Bowl contenders. If people aren't talking about the 12--1 Cowboys and Tony Romo, the focus is on the 11--2 Packers and Brett Favre.
The Seahawks are hard to gauge because their 9--4 mark includes only one victory over a team with a winning record ( Tampa Bay, in the season opener), and their schedule includes only three clubs playing better than .500. Has Seattle merely fattened its record against soft opposition, or is the club just finding its stride after stumbling to a 4--4 start?
Even Shaun Alexander wasn't sure last week. The veteran running back acknowledged the similarities between the 2007 team and the one that went to the Super Bowl—great camaraderie, little in the way of national recognition, tremendous skepticism in the media—but then he stopped short. "There has to be something else that gives it that oomph—some part of the game where you think, Oh, we know we got it. That's what we're trying to find," he said. "Then I'll know for sure that this has the same feel as '05."
The Seahawks appeared to find it against Arizona. The score was 24--0 practically before the Cardinals had a chance to remove their winter gear on the 35� afternoon. The victory may not have been complete—Seattle rushed for only 80 yards and failed to produce a clock-eating first down late in the fourth quarter—but it came close.
Matt Hasselbeck threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers without an interception. The Seahawks picked off five passes, including a franchise-record-tying three by cornerback Marcus Trufant. The front seven had five sacks, with Patrick Kerney, Seattle's big-money free-agent signee of '07, getting his third three-sack game in four weeks. He leads the league with 13 1/2.
There's a sense within the organization that the team has finally found its way. "We're building on something we established halfway through the season, and now we must continue to do that," coach Mike Holmgren said after the game on Sunday. The Seahawks spent the first eight games searching for an identity. They had been a run-first team for much of their nine years under Holmgren, but changes in the offensive line and injuries to Alexander left the ground game wheezing. So Holmgren turned to Hasselbeck.
During the current winning streak, the nine-year pro has 11 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He has always been a leader, but this season he's doing it with words as well as by example. Seahawks wide receivers will tell you that in practices Hasselbeck is demanding perfection from them and from himself. That means extra players-only film sessions for the quarterbacks and receivers on most weekdays—time spent discussing, say, why a wideout ran a route a particular way. If a play isn't run correctly or a route doesn't feel right, Hasselbeck works on it with the receiver.