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Originally published Sunday, December 24, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Struggling Seahawks must shed Super Bowl standard

All season, there has been The Standard. Make it back to the Super Bowl. Win it this time. Those grand thoughts have been attached to every...

Seattle Times staff columnist

All season, there has been The Standard.

Make it back to the Super Bowl. Win it this time.

Those grand thoughts have been attached to every play, every game and every evaluation of the Seahawks this season. Frankly, The Standard has smothered this team.

For a multitude of reasons, the Seahawks cannot live up to it. A teeter-totter 8-6 record proves that. Only one victory over a winning team (Denver) magnifies that. The Seahawks' sighs and furrowed brows depict that.

So now, for sanity's sake, for change's sake, we all must do what should've been done at least four weeks ago, possibly longer.

Abandon The Standard.

Flee far from it. Ditch it like Whitney Houston did Bobby Brown.

Today

San Diego @ Seahawks, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 7

Stop measuring these Seahawks against last season's team. Stop looking at the big picture of how this season will end. Stop waiting and wondering.

In football, there is one certainty: With every snap, reputations are on the line. It's a game of men who have something to prove at all times, who can be humbled at any time. Even the idea of stardom is a fluid concept.

That's why football players love clichés such as "one play at a time" and "you are what your record says you are." It's a simple, tough game. And if you get ahead of yourself, you get humiliated.

Abandon The Standard. Avoid humiliation.

Coach Mike Holmgren seems to be preaching a similar sermon now.

"It's nothing attitude-wise," Holmgren said of the Seahawks' struggles. "It's not the curse of the Super Bowl loser. It's what always either wins football games or loses football games for you — fumbles, turnovers, penalties. Football.

"I want our staff and our players to understand that and make sure they're not theorizing."

There are too many theories about why the Seahawks have been so inconsistent this season. Among them: injuries, complacency, curses, losing Steve Hutchinson and a growing sense that last season was an aberration.

The Seahawks have dreamed the champion's dream, but they haven't lived the champion's life. And so they have floated among levels of good, average, bad and terrible.

Lately, they've been stuck on terrible. They've lost two straight games while attempting the mundane task of clinching the NFC West division title. It's not a good time to be playing the NFL's best team, but that is today's assignment.

While analyzing the San Diego Chargers this past week, Holmgren marveled at their level of confidence. He remembers that sense. His team had it last season.

"When you're playing at that level, you're just focused on the next play or block," Holmgren said. "Forget about the season, all that stuff. On every play, you just think you're going to make it."

So the question is: Do teams excel because they live in the moment? Or does success simply make living in the moment easier?

Different answers apply to different situations. In the case of the 2006 Seahawks, they've allowed a goal to become a burden. It's obvious in many ways.

The players grow tired of what's-wrong chatter after each poor performance, but they've asked the same questions themselves. In football, too much introspection can be a bad thing.

But on the flip side, not enough introspection can be bad, too. The Seahawks have two conflicting locker-room mentalities: too much analyzing, and too much assuming things somehow will get better.

"There was probably a stretch there when they thought we have all the time in the world," Holmgren admitted. "Now we don't."

The way the season has gone, the Seahawks should feel lucky to control their destiny in this playoff hunt. One win, and they're in. One San Francisco loss, and they're in.

It would be near impossible for Seattle to leapfrog Dallas or New Orleans for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the NFC. So an underdog's role awaits the Seahawks should they clinch a playoff berth. By now, they've gone from being a fashionable Super Bowl pick to an afterthought. The only good part is that it makes taking a simpler approach much easier.

Logic says a team that the 49ers sweep and the Arizona Cardinals flummox shouldn't dream too big. It says a team that has been mediocre on both offense and defense shouldn't even remember how to spell Super Bowl.

Instead, the Seahawks should resume living like most football players do. They should be paranoid and forever trying to prove their worth.

"It's a two-game, sudden-death season," Holmgren said, resetting the agenda. "That's how we're looking at it."

Survival is the only standard now.

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

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About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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