On Sunday at CenturyLink Field, the 2-6 Seahawks of the season's first half stepped aside, and the franchise embraced the artificial opening of the second half.

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Well, say this about the Seahawks: When they win, they impress.

They don’t pick on the puny when they’re desperate for a victory. They tap a heavyweight on the shoulder, bow up and start throwing uppercuts. And when they connect, you can’t resist imagining the good that might lie on the other side of this rebuilding season.

If you’re not going to win a lot of games, you might as well make your scant victories memorable and foretelling. The Seahawks have two eyebrow-raising, hope-instilling victories this season. They beat the New York Giants on the road in October. Now there’s this, a 22-17 victory over Baltimore, their sturdiest triumph of the season.

On Sunday at CenturyLink Field, the 2-6 Seahawks of the season’s first half stepped aside, and the franchise embraced the artificial opening of the second half. It’s not really a new season, unless you need it to be. The Seahawks certainly desired something fresh, and they took advantage of the mythical clean slate and played their best overall football game in 2011.

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So now they’re 1-0, sort of.

“This is the beginning of the finish,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We always want to finish well. Today was a beautiful day in making that illustrated. But there’s nothing we can do about the first half, and the second half is about what can we do, and we went out and got a terrific start to this thing, so let’s build on it.”

Unlike the Giants game, the Seahawks didn’t excel because they were temporarily employing a gimmicky no-huddle offense. They won the old-fashioned way. They lined up and smashed one of the most physical teams in the NFL.

“I don’t think Baltimore was prepared for that kind of physical fight,” Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson said.

The Ravens, who are prone to poor performances against sub-.500 teams, were coming off a dramatic victory over Pittsburgh last week. At times, they played like a team suffering through a letdown. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron called an awful game, which included calling only 12 run plays in 66 offensive snaps. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw 52 times, but he threw for just 255 yards. Even worse, David Reed fumbled twice on kickoff returns, which set up two Seattle field goals.

The Seahawks defense performed slightly better than the Ravens’ more celebrated D. And with a methodical offense that stuck with the run, with Steven Hauschka making five field goals when the touchdowns weren’t there, the Seahawks pulled off the upset. They ran the ball 42 times for 119 yards, only 2.8 yards per carry, but the commitment was striking. On the final drive, when the Seahawks needed production to stave off a Baltimore comeback attempt, the offensive line opened holes, and Marshawn Lynch delivered.

Lynch ran seven times for 32 yards on that last possession. He also caught a pass for 8 yards and embarrassed Baltimore linebackers Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson with a ridiculous juke. In crunch time, Lynch gained three critical first downs. He finished with 109 rushing yards on 32 carries and five receptions for 58 yards. He also scored the Seahawks’ only touchdown.

The Seahawks still have significant work to do, but they’re starting to resemble the team that Carroll wants. Over the past two weeks, they have averaged 140.5 rushing yards despite playing against two of the NFL’s top five run defenses. Lynch has reached triple digits in rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time in his Seahawks tenure.

You’re seeing traces of a team that can be physical and nasty. Some of the progress is minimized because of penalties (the Seahawks committed 13 penalties totaling 100 yards in this one), but it’s encouraging to see the return of smash-mouth football. And confidence is building, too.

“It’s all about us,” said wide receiver Golden Tate, who had two huge receptions as the Seahawks retained possession on that final drive. “We did nothing out of the ordinary to win this game. We just played our game. If we play the best game we can play, we’ll have a chance against any team we play.”

New (half) season. New perspective. New mantra.

“We really needed this,” Carroll said.

It’s the beginning of the finish. With some luck, maybe it’s the end of the nonsense, too.

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

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