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Originally published September 8, 2012 at 6:16 PM | Page modified September 9, 2012 at 3:39 PM

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Seahawks start season where last one finished — at division rival Arizona

There is some symbolic significance to the fact the Seahawks play in Arizona in Week 1. This is where last season ended for the Seahawks...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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PHOENIX — There is some symbolic significance to the fact the Seahawks play in Arizona in Week 1.

This is where last season ended for the Seahawks with an overtime defeat that epitomized all of the team's shortcomings against a division rival in Arizona that finished a game better in the standings.

For a team like Seattle, which is hoping to take the next step toward establishing itself as a contender, what better place to go back to the spot where last season ended and see if there's any substance to Seattle's belief it improved itself over the past nine months?

"You find out what the results of the offseason and the draft and all of that," coach Pete Carroll said. "The growth of the team. It's not the ultimate illustration, but it's one."

The Seahawks have a new quarterback in Russell Wilson, a defense that is hoping to answer the bell as the heavyweight contender it has been billed as, and they get a chance to atone for the inability to finish games a year ago.

That problem was illustrated repeatedly in the last of Seattle's nine defeats, a 23-20 overtime loss to Arizona in which the Seahawks had the ball twice in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and once in overtime and couldn't manage so much as a field goal.

"That was a game that we should've won last year, and had plenty of chances to win," Carroll said. "But they did the right things and got the win."

That loss was your 2011 Seahawks summarized in a single Sunday afternoon from the horrid start to their impressive second-half rally to the ultimate inability to come through in crunch time. That story line became a refrain a year ago. The Seahawks had the ball, trailing by eight points or fewer, in the last half of the fourth quarter of each of its four home losses, and never once did Seattle score in that situation.

Now, Seattle has a new starting quarterback in Wilson, an expensive backup in Matt Flynn and the expectation that this team is ready to contend for a playoff spot.

The expectations are just as high in Arizona. As encouraged as Seattle was by going 5-3 over the final half of last year's schedule, the Cardinals were 6-2 in that time and finished in second place in the division.

The Cardinals had a quarterback competition of their own in August, John Skelton chosen ahead of Kevin Kolb, and they're currently wrestling with a near-crisis on the offensive line after losing left tackle Levi Brown for the season.

But Arizona also has one of the very best receivers in football in Larry Fitzgerald, and a very good defense. The Seahawks know what they're in for.

"We know what to expect from one another," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "We're pretty confident going in. We're going to play disciplined football and do what we've always done."

This one game isn't going to decide the outcome of Seattle's season. It will give the first indication of whether the Seahawks can take the next step up in the league's pecking order, which makes it only fitting that this season starts where the last one ended.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @dannyoneil

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