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Originally published November 3, 2013 at 7:39 PM | Page modified November 3, 2013 at 9:01 PM

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Seahawks must stop playing down to the competition

Right now, Seattle is merely surviving when they should be thriving. And while it’s foolish and unhealthy to overreact to the struggles of an 8-1 team, let’s be honest and give the proper response to the latest averted disaster at CenturyLink Field on Sunday: Enough.


Times staff columnist

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The 2013 Seahawks, with an 8-1 record for the first time in franchise history, are testing the versatility of victory. They’ve won ugly, won crazy and won wildly. They’ve won in lightning, won coming from behind and won without pass protection. They’ve won playing their A, B, C, D and F games.

Now, after needing their largest rally ever just to beat a winless team, the Seahawks should save the talk about perseverance and resilience for a day when they truly do something special. Right now, they’re merely surviving when they should be thriving. And while it’s foolish and unhealthy to overreact to the struggles of an 8-1 team, let’s be honest and give the proper response to the latest averted disaster at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

Enough.

This has to end.

Now.

The Seahawks’ 27-24 overtime win against Tampa Bay (0-8) wasn’t about their fight or their clutch gene. It was about their annoying habit of toying with inferior competition. It’s as if they’re so bored with success that they want to create new ways to win. After staving off humiliation in a 14-9 victory in St. Louis last Monday, the expectation was that the Seahawks would return home Sunday and play more-inspired football. But they couldn’t have been more uninspired to start this game.

They fell behind 21-0. They allowed Mike Glennon to go all Tom Brady on them in the first half. They gave up at least 200 rushing yards for the second straight game.

And then, as a reminder of how good they are, the Seahawks pulled off the greatest comeback in franchise history.

It would be worthy of a toast, but that champagne is flat by now.

“It’s not the first time we’ve done it,” strong safety Kam Chancellor said, shrugging.

It’s great that the Seahawks have this much fight. It’s a trait they might need to make a championship run. But this wasn’t as impressive as the 17-point comeback against Houston in September, or the 14-point comeback against Washington in the playoffs in January, or even the rally from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit before succumbing to Atlanta in last year’s postseason.

This was a sleepwalking, superior team getting slapped upside the head by an inferior foe, then waking up and winning once their attentiveness matched their talent.

You wonder how many points the Seahawks could’ve spotted the Buccaneers and still caught them? Twenty-eight? Thirty-one?

This wasn’t even about the Seahawks not being able to live up to excessive hype. This was about them wrestling with overconfidence and disinterest.

“I’m kind of pissed,” free safety Earl Thomas said of the performance. “I’m ready to get back on the field.”

I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest that there’s anything disturbingly wrong with the Seahawks. It’s a concern that their run defense is regressing as teams figure out how to use their aggressiveness against them. It’s a concern that the offense remains inadequate. It’s a concern that quarterback Russell Wilson took considerable abuse from the Tampa Bay defense, even though the Bucs didn’t record a sack.

Still, it seems the Seahawks are burdened mostly by two things:

1. Complacency while trying to pace themselves through a long season.

2. The adjustment of learning how to take an opponent’s best punch.

The Seahawks are currently the top dog in the NFC, and teams want to play their best game against them. The good ones are trying to make up ground. The bad ones are trying to resurrect their seasons with a statement victory. After barely escaping against St. Louis and Tampa Bay, the Seahawks are starting to understand this.

“We definitely feel like we’ve got a target on our backs,” middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “People will give us their best shot.”

Fullback Michael Robinson is confident the Seahawks will soon provide the proper competitive response.

“You damn right! What you think?” Robinson said when asked if it’ll be common that the Seahawks take a foe’s best punch. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The entire team doesn’t appear to be on Robinson’s level yet. But they had better get there soon. The Seahawks’ next two opponents, Atlanta and Minnesota, have a combined record of 3-13. For most great teams, you would expect two blowout wins. For the Seahawks, you expect to cringe and then spew your new favorite cliché: “A win is a win.”

“We believe that, no matter what the circumstances are, we’ll come back and win the game,” said Wilson, who completed 15 of 18 passes for 189 yards in the second half and overtime after throwing for just 28 yards in the first half.

But if style points don’t matter much in winning, neither should degree of difficulty.

For an 8-1 football team, the Seahawks are overdue for an easy win.

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



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