Improbable finish gets new Seahawks era off to good start

As the Seattle Seahawks packed boxes and autographed memorabilia for teammates they may never see again, Lawyer Milloy was moved to sing: “The party’s over.”

Whether or not the safety decides to extend his football career beyond this 15th year, his many future employment options will not include professional singing.

But as a metaphor for the strange conclusion to the 2010 season, the ending of a party is not bad. Certainly, there were periods of masquerading this season, and the guest list was ever-changing and unpredictable.

And, as is sometimes the case at the end of a party, those cleaning out their lockers Monday afternoon expressed some bittersweet emotions.

So many opportunities were squandered, but their primary goal was achieved. They reached the destination they sought, but many were lost along the way.

It had been roughly 24 hours since the Chicago Bears put an end to their season with a 35-24 defeat in the divisional round of the playoffs, but many were already able to rationalize the season as a success because of the NFC West title they earned.

It took only a 7-9 record to do it, but the win over St. Louis clinched it, and then a playoff upset over the New Orleans Saints validated it.

“We built a strong chemistry at the end of the season,” defensive tackle Colin Cole said. “Things really started coming together when everybody figured out how to prepare for the games down the stretch. Everybody has to know how to prepare every week and execute the game plans, and I think that was something that was missing before.”

Veteran defensive tackle Craig Terrill said that a win over the defending world champion Saints proved that the Hawks have the talent level to keep growing. And that taste of success breeds a hunger for more.

“It got to the point at the end of the season, no matter what happened, we felt we were in the thing,” Terrill said. “In the Saints game, the world champs were up on us 10 to nothing but we kept fighting back into it. I think that’s probably the biggest thing … learning that you can win the game at the very end.”

Receiver Brandon Stokley, who was added to the roster during the season, said there are still puzzle pieces needed here and there, but they should expect a natural improvement in the second year of the system installed by coach Pete Carroll. The first year of such a transition usually carries some hits and misses, and inconsistencies.

“I think what we were able to accomplish at the end … that was positive enough,” Stokley said. “No matter how everything transpired during the year, to be able to compete and win the division and win a game in the playoffs is a big step. It’s one thing to get in the playoffs, but to win that game is something you can really build on.

“It’s a huge thing in this league to learn what it takes to compete in a big game,” he added. “You have to learn how to win, and then you have to learn how to do it consistently. And that’s when you start expecting to do it week in and week out, and that’s when it gets really good.”

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had a hard time understanding why the Hawks experienced so many occasions during the season when they were guilty of “putzing around” instead of competing and executing.

He knows many in the NFL scoffed at the Seahawks’ discounted division title, and their dubious honor of being the first playoff team with a losing record. But the last two wins before the Chicago loss changed a great deal about how most of the players will look back on this season.

“I just think that feeling of winning again, and the excitement that we felt from our fans, from the crowd, it just makes it so much more fun and it reminded (us) of how it used to be,” Hasselbeck said. “So it’s a good start … a good start.”

Actually, it was the surprise finish that made it a good start.