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Originally published Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Now we learn who Hawks are

Four months later, we're still at the line of scrimmage with these Seahawks, thinking September thoughts, watching, waiting, wondering. They've played 16 games, an...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Four months later, we're still at the line of scrimmage with these Seahawks, thinking September thoughts, watching, waiting, wondering.

They've played 16 games, an entire season, and every conclusion that can be made about them is inconclusive. They're either playing a song we've never heard or just making a terrible racket. Hard to tell.

The Seahawks enter the playoffs a mystery, the ultimate wild card, the one team that could truly do anything.

One and done? Wouldn't be surprising.

Super Bowl? Wouldn't be earth-shattering.

Not many teams wander into the postseason seeking to discover themselves. Then again, these Seahawks aren't much for convention.

Who are they?

They're an offense with a former MVP running back that survives by throwing the football.

They're a defense with four Pro Bowlers that suffers through bouts of inconsistency.

They're a stable group of high-character players that often exhibits disconcerting erratic play.

Yet the Seahawks won 10 times this season and clinched the NFC West division three games early.

Who are they?

The answer is coming.

Although the roster has been tweaked to extend the shelf life of this era, the tenured Seahawks understand how precious opportunities are in the NFL. Some of them are down to their final chances to chase a championship.

The urgency is evident in their voices. It's especially strong in quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who two weeks ago went as far as saying the entire franchise needed to do some soul-searching to find the proper focus for this playoff run.

Throughout his MVP-caliber season, Hasselbeck has shrugged off the praise and looked toward this time of year. He knows his legacy depends on postseason success. Hasselbeck has led his team to five consecutive playoff appearances, but the thing about being in the hunt consistently is that falling short becomes that much more disappointing.

"We're not in it to be in it," Hasselbeck said recently. "We're in it to go all the way."

During the regular season, only four teams looked like Super Bowl contenders. Undefeated New England and defending champion Indianapolis strolled through the AFC. In the NFC, Dallas and Green Bay were steady.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks benefited from a schedule that turned far easier than it looked in September. Seattle wound up playing only two playoff teams, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.

Which means the Seahawks last faced playoff competition Oct. 7, when Pittsburgh trampled them 21-0 in Seattle's worst performance of the year.

Since then, the Hawks have only played three teams (Arizona, Cleveland and Philadelphia) that won at least half their games.

Weird year. Most of the anticipated playoff contenders on the schedule — Cincinnati, Chicago, San Francisco and Baltimore — flopped. It goes to show how worthless it is to skim an NFL schedule during the preseason and predict what will happen.

So the Seahawks have been lucky. They needed only a five-game hot streak to make their season. They struggled before that stretch and then cruised after it.

Who are they?

They're a team with a former MVP running back that can't run the football. But they finished the season with two highly productive rushing performances.

They're a team that has discovered a formula: Let Hasselbeck's knowledge of Mike Holmgren's offense spur them and let the defense take over from there. But they finished the season by allowing 44 points to Atlanta.

They're a team with a Super Bowl pedigree and enough talent to return. But they finished the season with two losses in their final three games.

But those games didn't matter. But who loses to quarterbacks named Matt Moore and Chris Redman?

But they're in the playoffs, so forget it. But they didn't beat anybody to get there, so remember it.

We can argue the Seahawks to attrition.

Still, they're in the playoffs, and they're dangerous, both to themselves and the opponent. Washington, their first-round foe, appears to be the kind of team that could turn the Seahawks' season sour. Great, physical defense. Another unknown quarterback. The Seahawks haven't been able to solve either this season.

Despite their flaws, however, this remains one of the most talented and balanced teams in the NFL, one that causes us to expect more, one that has yet to be pushed.

Who are they?

The answer is coming.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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