Seahawks take charge of division race

Among the many joyful screams echoing out of the Seattle Seahawks locker room Sunday evening, at least one was coherent: “Let’s get this division.”

Officially, when microphones are in their face, the Seahawks will say there are a lot of games left to be played, and anything can happen in the next seven weeks.

But their 36-18 win over Arizona on Sunday was a very important outcome – with possible long-range significance – and they know it. Coupled with San Francisco’s win over St. Louis, the 5-4 Hawks are the only team in the NFC West with a winning record.

Their fifth win matches last year’s season total, and is their second on the road this season. It meant they swept the defending divisional champ, and did it with the kind of big plays they haven’t been making; and they did it after being positively dreadful in back-to-back losses the last two weeks.

As defensive tackle Brandon Mebane assessed: “It’s big; real big. We’ve never won down here as long as I’ve been (a Seahawk).”

“There is a lot of football left, but you know, to be past the halfway point and leading our division … it is the position we had set our sights on a long time ago,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Now it’s ours to work our way through and control the thing.”

Look, Arizona is not good. The Cards have now lost four straight, one of those to the Seahawks in Seattle. They came into this one with a 3-5 record and ranked near the bottom of the league in many categories on both sides of the ball.

But the Seahawks haven’t won here in four years. Heck, they haven’t won on the road in many places in recent years. Now they’ve got two road wins this season – after having only three total in the past two years.

Carroll made it a coaching point that the team consider this game a new start, that the second half of the season was theirs to dictate.

And so much of what arose in this game seems to have meaning beyond this week.

They showed resilience in bouncing back from an early deficit, but also in reviving from terrible showings the past two weeks.

They have talked for months about the need for players to “step up” when they get the chance. Role guys like Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu had big catches, and linebacker Aaron Curry came up with two sacks after having been mostly ineffective as a pass rusher.

And they won this by being tough. Receiver Mike Williams broke the pinky finger on his right hand in practice Friday. Apparently, the bone was sticking out through the skin. But on Sunday, he used that hand to come down with one of the more amazing one-handed catches by a Seahawks receiver … ever.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, meanwhile, suffered a wrist injury that required a cast be put on his left arm, but he came back in the second half and finished one of his most productive days (333 passing yards).

Somehow, after getting shoved around for two weeks in a row, the Seahawks came back and generated huge confidence, and even a degree of swagger with this win in Arizona.

“It’s been a while since we’ve won down here and it definitely feels like a springboard,” center Chris Spencer said. “You can feel this could be the spring we need to get the rest of the way through the season.”

The Seahawks go to New Orleans next week for a much tougher challenge. They still have injury and manpower issues. But they’ve got some confidence, and the division is theirs to take if they can.

“There was a time when we owned this division,” Hasselbeck said. “And (the Cardinals) took it from us – that’s exactly what they did. We gave them the opportunity down here and they took it and didn’t look back and went to the Super Bowl. For the guys who were here, we know what needed to happen … we had to earn it back.”

They did exactly that Sunday.