Week 1: Not Getting Carried Away Just Yet

sea_ramsAfter pounding the St. Louis Rams into the ground last Sunday to the tune of 28-0, our Seattle Seahawks have infused we, the fan base, with a sense of real excitement. People are buzzing about our defense. Moving pictures showcasing the trick play with Seneca Wallace have spread across the Internet like wildfire. The two people who doubted the true potential of TE John Carlson have been converted.

I want to get excited too. I really do. But I’m getting a weird sense of deja vu here.

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Backtrack with me eleven months, if you will. The Seahawks are two weeks fresh from blowing out the Rams 37-13 in their first 2008 meeting at Qwest. Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett are household names in Seattle. Our defense seems to have recovered its panache. Everyone’s talking about QB Matt Hasselbeck’s stint as a lead blocker, where he upended a pair of Rams defenders to clear Jones’ path to the end zone.

It’s euphoric. Our Seahawks seem unstoppable, fully recovered from their 0-2 start. Beating the Rams is just what they needed, we say, as we watch them walk into the Meadowlands to face the Giants with all the swagger of a returning division champion.

Well, we know how that day went. And the rest of the season, for that matter.

Yes, yes, I know. There are glaring differences between last year’s Rams game, which preceded a 44-6 blowout loss to the Giants, and this one. I hate to be the one guy at the party who looks for reasons to complain about the burgers. And I know the proverbs say that a win is a win, that a team like Seattle takes its W’s where it can, that victory in the NFL (much less pitching a shutout) is difficult, any day, against any team.

But if recent NFL history has proven anything, it’s that the late-decade St. Louis Rams might be an exception to that rule. Playing them versus playing a contending team really can be a night-and-day difference.

I mean, the Rams were truly impotent on Sunday. When they weren’t missing snap counts, ignoring Lofa Tatupu on a blitz, or getting caught with twelve men on the field, they were throwing out personal fouls like the reborn Grinch at Christmas. Maybe it’s hard to blame them for the shutout when you’re that short on receiving talent, but that other stuff?

Besides, the Seahawks committed three first-quarter turnovers – two of them in Seattle territory. That’s usually an automatic loss in the NFL. Even an average team would take that and put the Seahawks in at least a 6-0 hole to start the second quarter without needing so much as a first down. The Giants managed 14-3 last year without Seahawks turnovers. Sure, Seattle shook it off and kept playing, but could they have done that under a score of 14-3? That’s the more important question.

I might actually feel better if the Rams had scored the 20 points I wrongly guessed they would. That would say that the ‘Hawks had to fight, needed talent to win. But the Rams’ constant mistakes and the fact that they couldn’t scrounge up a single point without putting 12 men on the field says more to me about the Rams (and about the crowd noise at Qwest, which won’t be there next week) than the Seahawks.

However…it could swing the other way too.

I mean, if your team truly does have an elite defense, then you would expect it to do precisely what Seattle’s D did to the Rams – shut them out.

You would expect a strong passing game to do exactly what Matt Hasselbeck and his receivers did – slice the Rams’ defense into small pieces.

You would expect even an average running game to do just what Julius Jones did – force some breathing room, then break off a big one.

Everyone knew the Rams were bad (though their defense is not without talent), but a 31-20 score might have meant that the ‘Hawks struggled at times, and that, my friends, would be truly alarming.

So perhaps the best thing to say is that the Rams game says very little about the Seahawks – either good or bad?

There were certainly exciting signs on Sunday. This is not 2008; Hasselbeck now has real weapons in the passing game, and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp seems to have ideas on how to use them. Our defense played with gusto and nastiness, provoking angry words from RB Steven Jackson and QB Marc Bulger (and, of course, Rams guard Richie “Not Really” Incognito). Our offensive linemen kept Hasselbeck clean all day and looked great in the screen game, though it’s easy to run around joyously pancaking defenders when it’s clear they don’t have a chance of stopping you.

Oh, and that 99-yard touchdown drive? I don’t care what team you’re playing, that truly is a feat.

It’s hard not to get excited. The game was like Christmas morning for the fans. No sacks of Hasselbeck? Just what we needed! A long running TD that didn’t get called back? Wow, how long has it been. A booth review that went in our favor? Wow, thanks! A trick play???!!! For this fan, after years of Mike Holmgren’s stubbornly ordinary play-calling, watching the “Senecat” in action was just plain therapeutic.

Wait a second – I recant part of that last sentence. How can I diss Mike Holmgren after Sunday’s game? He’s the man who gave us John Carlson. John Carlson. Need I say more? What a monster of a tight end he’s becoming. And to think I wanted Fred Davis last year! Thank you, Holmgren!!!

So clearly, I can be wrong. That might be a good thing for the Seahawks, because I’m not sure they proved much of anything…yet. Their first great test, I think, will come next week in San Francisco.

Momentum, confidence, and starting out on the right foot are pretty important in this league. Big plays and boldness in play-calling are pretty important. First-round picks having an impact are crucial. Self-awareness by a head coach is essential. The Seahawks exhibited all those and more on Sunday.

True, it was just the Rams. But even within that caveat, I must admit, the Seahawks are headed to San Francisco in the best state you could hope for.

Them burgers smell good.