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Originally published October 30, 2013 at 5:30 PM | Page modified October 31, 2013 at 12:19 AM

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Grading the 2013 Seahawks after eight games

A look at the Seahawks at the halfway mark. Seattle has been far from perfect, but a 7-1 record is the best in franchise history at this point of the season.


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Seattle Times staff reporter

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As the Seahawks gathered Wednesday to begin preparations for the first game of the second half of the season, the way the first half ended lingered unpleasantly.

They got a win Monday at St. Louis, 14-9 over the Rams. But even as St. Louis’ last-ditch pass in the end zone fell incomplete, the Seahawks knew they’d also gotten away with one.

“Last week, that wasn’t us,’’ said linebacker Bruce Irvin of a defense that allowed a season-high 200 yards rushing.

“Honestly, we were embarrassed by it,’’ said receiver Doug Baldwin of an offensive performance in which the Seahawks were held to a season-low 135 yards and seven first downs.

When they stepped back and looked at the bigger picture, though, they liked the view a lot better.

Despite obvious areas of needed improvement, the Seahawks are 7-1 for the first time in franchise history. They remain atop the NFC West, and a half-game ahead of New Orleans for the best record in the conference, still in control of their own destiny for acquiring home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

They have the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL, and an offense that despite everything is essentially at the same pace as last year’s team that scored the third-most points in franchise history (25.6 per game this year, 25.8 in 2012).

“We’ve accomplished a lot at the halfway point,’’ said coach Pete Carroll Wednesday. “But we are so far away from playing the way that we are capable of playing that it’s exciting to see where we can take it.’’

Here’s our halftime look at the Seahawks:

Offense

Our lead-in to our review of the offense after the first four games still applies at the halfway point. Any assessment has to take into account the injuries to the offensive line and graded accordingly.

Seattle has played just one game with its starting line. Left tackle Russell Okung suffered a toe injury in the first quarter of the second game against the 49ers and hasn’t played since. Right tackle Breno Giacomini injured his knee the following week and hasn’t played since.

That has forced guard Paul McQuistan to play out of position at left tackle and rookie Michael Bowie to play at right tackle.

The Seahawks have struggled mightily in pass protection. According to Pro Football Focus, Seattle ranks 26th of 32 NFL teams in pass-blocking efficiency.

Help should be on the way soon. Okung might begin practicing Friday as he seeks to return for the Nov. 17 game against Minnesota, the first week he is eligible to play. Giacomini might return to practice next week.

Russell Wilson has been sacked 27 times compared to 33 all of last season. And the Seahawks have had a tougher time running the ball than last season. After the 44-yard effort against the Rams, the Seahawks are averaging 140.6 yards per game, compared to 161.2 last season.

And now comes the added challenge of playing the rest of the season without Sidney Rice while waiting for Percy Harvin to return.

Still, the Seahawks have scored enough to win seven of eight games, and assuming Okung, Giacomini and Harvin return, it should get better down the stretch.

Grade: B-minus.

MVP: Wilson. You could make a case for Marshawn Lynch. But Wilson’s mobility and playmaking ability have been more valuable and needed more than ever due to the offensive-line issues. Wilson has a QB rating of 99.0, just off his team record of 100.0 last season.

Defense

The defense is still beating itself up over Monday’s performance. “We took them for granted, and they made us pay for it,’’ said cornerback Walter Thurmond. But the overall first-half numbers are right on track with where the Seahawks hoped to be.

Seattle is allowing 289.3 yards per game, behind only the 267.7 of Houston and better than the 306.2 of a year ago. And the Seahawks’ defensive passer rating of 62.7 is by far the best in the NFL (Kansas City is next at 70.0) and better than the 71.8 of a year ago.

Seattle has also showed sustained improvement in two areas that were emphasized in the offseason — run defense and pass rush. Seattle has 26 sacks after getting just 36 last season, and is allowing 4.0 yards per rush compared to 4.5 last season.

There were lapses in pass defense against Indianapolis and run defense against the Rams. But overall, the defense is playing to lofty expectations.

Grade: A-minus

MVP: Earl Thomas. He is beginning to be considered an NFL defensive MVP candidate, tied for the league lead in interceptions with four, leading the team in tackles with 57 (52 solos), 24 more than anyone else.

Special teams

A blocked field goal returned for a touchdown turned what could have been an eight-point lead into a sudden two-point deficit at Indianapolis.

Otherwise, though, not a lot to complain about. Kicker Steven Hauschka is 16 of 17 on field goals, punter Jon Ryan has been solid. Seattle has a 231-15 edge on its opponents in punt-return yards, and the Seahawks haven’t been hurt in the kickoff game. Golden Tate is seventh in the NFL in punt returns, and Jermaine Kearse would rank in the top half of kickoff returners if he had the attempts to qualify.

Grade: A-minus.

MVP: We gave this to Hauschka after the first quarter, and he would be a deserving pick. But we’ll give the halfway mark co-MVP to Jeremy Lane and Heath Farwell as a nod to the team’s coverage units. Each player has six special-teams tackles.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com



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