It's true: Seahawks almost ready for prime time
The perception of the Seahawks — an inept team struggling to get off the ground with a former college coach guiding them — doesn't match the reality.
Seattle Times staff columnist
St. Louis @ Seahawks, 5:30 p.m., ESPN, JOEtv
The funny part is, you have no choice.
Seahawks cornerback Roy Lewis lets out a wicked laugh as he reminds America of this fact. The 5-7 Seahawks will play the 2-10 St. Louis Rams on "Monday Night Football," and even though the jokes have already begun, Lewis laughs last.
"We're the only football game on TV, so if you want to watch football on Monday, you've got to watch us," Lewis said.
If the thought makes you queasy, well, even Lewis understands. Prime time usually isn't reserved for losing teams — unless they're the Seahawks and Rams. The teams played before a national audience on Sunday night to end last season, and the Seahawks became an infamous 7-9 playoff qualifier.
Preseason thinking was that this game again might carry major significance in the NFC West. It will, only it's not for the division title. With a loss, the Rams can clinch last place.
But despite the inevitable groaning about this game, the Seahawks are a different kind of bad. They're a rising young team that made a ton of major changes during a lockout-shortened preseason, which contributed to their 2-6 start. Since then, they're 3-1, with a victory over the Baltimore Ravens included. Their lone loss during this span came after they blew a 10-point lead against Washington in the fourth quarter.
So the perception of the Seahawks — an inept team struggling to get off the ground with a former college coach guiding them — doesn't match the reality.
On Monday night, they have another opportunity to change their image. It helped that in their last game, another prime-time matchup of losing teams, they blew out Philadelphia on a Thursday night. The Seahawks proved they could be a physical, imposing, hard-hitting team against the formerly hyped Eagles. Following up with a solid "Monday Night Football" performance would help even more.
"Like it or not, with a national game, all eyes will be on us," Lewis said. "We're motivated by other things, but we do happen to have a stage to show naysayers that we're for real."
They need to show themselves, mostly. The Seahawks are a confident bunch, but they can reinforce their belief that they're building something special by closing the season with a flourish. That is coach Pete Carroll's message of the moment — finish.
"We did not do that last year," Carroll said. "This is a new challenge for us."
Even though the Seahawks made the playoffs by winning the regular-season finale a year ago, they went 1-3 to close the year. Then, they upset New Orleans in the playoffs and erased many of their bad memories.
In the NFL, there's always hope, even for the futile. Fortunes change quickly, and the Seahawks have a legitimate shot at an incredible one-season ascent.
From 2-6 to 7-9? It seems probable.
From 2-6 to 8-8? It seems possible.
From 2-6 to 9-7 (and a surprise playoff rally)? It doesn't seem laughable.
Then again, the Seahawks have had enough setbacks to know they should leave the projecting to outsiders. Because they started so poorly, they've been able to abandon the daydreaming and focus only on improvement.
"I don't care what anyone thinks outside of this locker room," said wide receiver Golden Tate, a 2010 second-round pick who is among the many improving Seahawks. "People criticize whatever you do in life. As long as you believe, that's what matters. Seattle is in the corner of the map, in a supposedly bad division, and there are always national misperceptions about us.
"But we come in every day and see improvement. At some point, we know it's going to click, and we're going to be a really good team."
It might be clicking already. If the Seahawks continue to open holes for running back Marshawn Lynch and if the defense remains a consistent factor, then they've found much of Carroll's winning formula. They still lack a long-term quarterback solution, and there's no easy answer to how management will solve that.
But for a short-timer, Tarvaris Jackson has performed better than expected. And because general manager John Schneider has made so many good decisions in making this roster young and athletic, he deserves some trust and patience as he tries to solve the franchise quarterback issue.
Of course, if the Seahawks lose out and end 5-11, all of the optimism will fade. So, they have to finish. The final four games will define this erratic 2011 season.
"In December, you're either a team on the rise or a team in decline," Lewis said. "We want to be rising."
They're rising. They might not rise above national ridicule on Monday night, but they're rising.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com.
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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