Resilient Seahawks make a city wonder about the possibilities

What if this is as bad as it gets for the Seahawks for, say, the next five years?

What if this remodeled, revamped, still-under-construction team can, as it should, win the ramshackle NFC West?

What if it wins eight or nine games and hosts a playoff game against Philadelphia or Chicago, Green Bay or Atlanta, New Orleans or the New York Giants?

On a scale of 1 to 10, wouldn’t this rank at least a 7 or 8 on Seattle’s sports-resuscitation meter?

At this most dreary time of year, the Hawks are giving the city hope.

Look at last Sunday. They were coming off losses to Oakland and the Giants by a combined score of 74-10. Their offense was a mess. Their defense looked dazed and incoherent. All of the worries from the preseason were presenting themselves.

But one Sunday in the desert, one 36-18 win against one of the stew of bad NFL teams, the Arizona Cardinals, made all of the possibilities for this team this season seem reasonable again.

I’m not saying we’ve returned to “Hawk Heaven.” This team still is more than capable of hurling on itself again, even as early as Sunday in New Orleans.

But one thing the Hawks (5-4) have proved is they are better than the NFL’s worst. That might not sound like much, but remember, for the past two seasons, they were one of the worst.

This team is resilient, something last season’s team wasn’t. It can rebound from adversity, something last season’s team couldn’t. It can forget losses like the 41-7 home humbling by the Giants. It can absorb injuries better than its recent predecessors.

It can convincingly win on the road with a patchwork offensive line and a defensive line that was missing two of its most important run stoppers.

It can win, even though starting guard Max Unger and defensive end Red Bryant are lost for the season, and its first-round draft pick, left tackle Russell Okung, still struggles to get his ankles right.

It can make more than 200 roster moves and still maintain some semblance of cohesion.

The feeling in the locker room is radically different from that feeling of the past two seasons. As former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu might say, there is a belief system.

Coach Pete Carroll’s belief in competition is being absorbed. From the get-go, Carroll made it clear that no roster spot was safe; that every player was competing for his job. Nobody felt secure.

The competition has created a hunger. It has created a shared pride. It has brought the team closer together.

As veteran safety Lawyer Milloy said several weeks ago, “Everybody in this room has earned the right to be here.”

Let’s not get carried away. This team still is a tightrope walker in a hurricane. The sting of that loss to the Giants still should be fresh in every player’s mind.

And, as Sunday’s game proved, the Hawks can’t win without quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He has to play, even with a broken left wrist. He is the ignition switch.

As a matter of fact, the Hawks should do as the Washington Redskins did with quarterback Donovan McNabb and offer Hasselbeck a contract extension. They need him as they continue to rebuild.

This is an odd season in the NFL. There seem to be more bad teams and less parity than ever.

The Hawks still have winnable games left at home against one-win Carolina and on the road against three-win San Francisco. They are home against free-falling Kansas City and they finish the season at home against St. Louis, which still hasn’t won on the road.

Win three of those four and the Hawks should win the West. Steal a home win against Atlanta or on the road (as they did in Chicago) the day after Christmas at Tampa Bay and the postseason would be a guarantee.

The Hawks are better than the bad teams, and that is enough to win the NFC West.

They have battled through a string of stinging injuries, through back-to-back painful lopsided losses. They’ve stayed together, believing in the “Preachings of Pete.”

And with the days getting shorter and the clouds dropping lower, the Seahawks are giving Seattle something to cheer as winter approaches.