On this cold, gray December afternoon, when the weather conspired with the schedule makers to create the feeling of the postseason, everything...
On this cold, gray December afternoon, when the weather conspired with the schedule makers to create the feeling of the postseason, everything for the Seahawks looked and sounded and felt like 2005 again.
The stadium was loud and in love with this team. The offense was connecting the dots, from Matt Hasselbeck to Bobby Engram, to Deion Branch, to Nate Burleson, to Maurice Morris, to Leonard Weaver and to Marcus Pollard.
Tick, tack, throw.
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And the defense, this retooled, reinvigorated Seahawks’ defense, was in smackdown mode, picking off five passes and sacking Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner five times.
Qwest Field was throbbing again with chants of “Seahawks, Seahawks.” Newcomers like free agent safety Brian Russell and rookie defensive tackle Brandon Mebane were leading the cheers.
The Seahawks won the NFC West for the fourth consecutive season, beating the Cardinals 42-21 Sunday.
And immediately after the game, in the near-freezing air, Russell pulled off his jersey and put on a division-championship T-shirt.
“This is my seventh year and it’s the first time I’ve been able to put one of those on,” Russell said. “It’s really special for me because I know the other side of it. I know what it’s like to not be playing meaningful games in December and not looking forward to the playoffs. Winning this division feels even sweeter than I thought it would. It’s awesome.”
This was the kind of overwhelming victory that should remind everyone that, despite the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, who are ahead of the 9-4 Seahawks in the conference, all things still are possible.
The Seahawks are in the playoffs. They will have at least one home game. And, with five victories in a row and wins in six of their past seven games, they finally are playing to the lush expectations of last summer.
“Pressure and sacks, that’s what we’re getting from the D-line,” safety Deon Grant said. “And my cornerbacks are playing lock-down football. And the coaches trust Brian and myself enough to go out there and make the calls and make things happen.”
One of those cornerbacks, Marcus Trufant, is playing like a Pro Bowler with his three interceptions Sunday.
At midseason, when the Hawks were 4-4, there was panic in the streets of Seattle. The team was underachieving and Arizona was stalking. Even winning a title in the soft, soft West was problematic.
But that was five wondrous weeks and five wins ago.
“When we were 4-4 we just said to ourselves, ‘OK, we’ve lost these four games, now let’s go ahead and make this run,’ ” Grant said. “We never had any doubts.”
The pieces have fit. There is the swagger to this team that says it believes in the great promise of its future.
With the division title in front of them, the Seahawks scored 27 first-half points.
Hasselbeck, who under the giant, national shadows cast by quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, is having his own special season. He was 14 for 18 in the first half, throwing for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
But it is the defense that had made this team especially dangerous. The defense makes these Seahawks much different from the 2005 Super Bowl team.
General manager Tim Ruskell signed free agent Patrick Kerney to create a pass rush and Kerney had three sacks Sunday and has 10 in the past five games.
Ruskell signed Grant to shore up the secondary and Grant started the Seahawks’ turnover fest with a first-quarter interception. Ruskell signed Russell because the Seahawks were getting torched on long passes and the problem was solved.
Rarely do the plans made in March and April work out as perfectly as this. Mistakes are made. Injuries happen. Chemistry is bad.
But the architecture of this defense is as clean as glass. Sacks and picks as perfect as Pei.
“The guys upstairs did a great job,” Russell said. “Deon is exactly what they were looking for. Patrick Kerney is just a monster up front. And I’m just trying to live up to my billing, play good football and keep everything in front of me. I think they brought in the right guys.”
The defense has forced nine interceptions the past two games.
“When I first got here it was all about the offense,” said defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, who is in his seventh Seahawks’ season. “But here lately we’ve been adding people and putting certain pieces in and we’re stepping up big.
“Anytime we’ve got both sides of the ball going like we did today, we’re pretty much unstoppable. It would be fun to go back to the Super Bowl with people talking about our defense.”
They are good enough to win at Lambeau Field. Good enough to win inside Texas Stadium. All of the season’s spoils are there for the Seahawks. They are playing that well.
“This is what we expected when we all got together in training camp,” Russell said.
It’s December in Seattle and because of the chill, the cheers and another NFC West championship, real hope is building again. Another long, late January run is in the air.