Seahawks are better than they look on paper

Through three games, the Seahawks rank near the bottom of the NFL in the two biggest statistical categories. They’re 29th of 32 teams in total offense and 28th in total defense. Their three opponents have outgained them by almost 100 yards per game. They just completed a game in which San Diego outgained them 379-26 in the second half.

And yet, the Seahawks possess a 2-1 record.

Pinocchio numbers.

On the surface, you’re led to believe the Seahawks’ early-season success is an anomaly, and disappointment is on the horizon unless they find some stability soon. They can’t live off the special teams and timely playmaking for an entire season, can they?

Well, of course not, but it also would be wrong to toss those victories, not to mention the guarded excitement they’ve spawned, into Elliott Bay. The Seahawks won those games because of more than just good fortune. While it’s premature to make grand statements about this team, it’s OK to praise the Seahawks for the promise they’ve shown thus far and anticipate that, with some fine-tuning, they can become a truly solid football team as the season progresses.

Their record says what the statistics don’t: This isn’t a football team to disregard.

“It shows you we’re hungry, and a lot of guys make plays,” defensive end Chris Clemons said. “We play the whole game on heart.”

The Seahawks aren’t fooling themselves, however. They know they must get better. Interview every player long enough, and the words “not satisfied” will come out of their mouths. All they’ve earned so far is the opportunity to tick you off if they fall apart. The must capitalize on this momentum.

Coach Pete Carroll calls the day after games “Tell The Truth Monday.” It’s really no different from what most other teams do. The Seahawks watch film and evaluate what they did right and wrong — standard procedure. But for Carroll, this is more than just a routine act, and therefore, the postmortem period takes on added significance.

On this “Tell The Truth Monday,” the coach pointed a finger at himself. He wants to make better decisions. Like everyone else, Carroll was still smarting over the Seahawks’ bumbling play at the end of the first half against San Diego, which ended with the offense running out of time at the 1-yard line.

“We need to take care of business better,” Carroll said. “I need to do a better job.”

Carroll mentioned the team “has a lot of work to do” several times. It carries over to his players. Even in celebration Sunday, they kept perspective. For a franchise that had won only nine games the previous two seasons, it could be easy to get too excited. For a roster that is purposefully getting younger, it could be easy to choke on success, even a bite-sized portion. But that’s not how a Pete Carroll team acts.

Instead, the players watch film looking for violators of the team’s “high and tight” policy. When ball carriers are running with the football, they must keep it high and tight. Offenders get mocked during film sessions. Wide receiver Deion Branch, who was stripped of the football inches shy of the goal line Sunday, started punishing himself for not protecting the ball immediately after the game.

The Seahawks understand they can’t survive a season without more consistency on offense and defense. But they also won’t apologize for winning despite their shortcomings. Because this team is so young, the ability to triumph over mistakes early may propel the Seahawks in December, when the upside of being young and talented figures to bear its sweetest fruit.

“The biggest thing is we know we’ve got players,” Branch said. “And we have an aggressive nature mentally. So when somebody’s got to make a play out there, somebody is going to make a play. Nothing surprises me about what guys are doing. They do it every day in practice. Now, we have to do it more consistently.”

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck relayed a message Carroll gave to his team Monday. The coach told them the identity the Seahawks are showing on special teams — led by coordinator Brian Schneider — is the model for how he wants the entire team to play. The Seahawks have been perhaps the most effective special-teams unit in the league so far. Explosive plays. Relentless attitude. Sharp attention to detail. It’s the biggest reason why they’re 2-1.

Now, they must get better in all phases, especially when it comes to offensive efficiency.

It’s no surprise we’re talking about the Seahawks’ flaws right now. It was apparent this unfinished product would have struggles. But they’re making progress anyway.

“The best is yet to come,” kick returner extraordinaire Leon Washington said.

Unlike those Pinocchio numbers, that’s no lie.