Seahawks Could Be Surprise Super Bowl Contender
King County Journal
The Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl.
With summer heating up, I know it is difficult to think NFL playoffs. But the Seahawks' bandwagon not only needs work, first it needs to be built.
So when Seattle strengthened a weak link on Monday by singing run-stopping linebacker Randall Godfrey, the Hawks announced themselves players in the run for the rings.
Just how will Seattle go from the Pacific Northwest all the way to Houston, site of the 2004 Super Bowl? Quite easily, really. Here are the reasons:
* Schedule: Nine of the Seahawks' 16 games are against teams with losing records, including 2-14 Cincinnati, 3-13 Detroit, 4-12 Chicago, and a pair against NFC West foe Arizona (5-11).
And when the season gets tough, the schedule gets easier for Seattle. Five of its final seven games are against teams with losing records.
In addition, five of the Seahawks' final six games will be played either at home or in a dome. The one not on that list is the season-ender at San Francisco. So poor weather, often a crippler for West Coast teams playing in the East in December, won't be a factor.
* History: Seattle finished 7-9 last season.
In four of the past five years, at least one of the two Super Bowl participants had a losing record the previous year. Among these, the St. Louis Rams were 4-12 in 1998, the year prior to their title; the New England Patriots were 5-11 in 2001, just one year before their championship.
The Rams and Patriots are the best examples of today's NFL: a salary-cap, free-agent, non-guaranteed-contract driven sport where one or two key offseason moves can turn losers into winners.
* Offense: A strong point. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck emerged into one of the league's top quarterbacks last season. He passed for 3,075 yards, completed 63.7 percent of his passes (led NFC), had 15 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and his quarterback rating was 87.8 (second).
Running back Shaun Alexander rushed for 1,175 yards (sixth in NFC) and 16 touchdowns (first).
Koren Robinson (78 receptions) and Darrell Jackson (62) showed why they are one of the finest young wide receiver tandems in the league.
And the Hawks produced these numbers despite working behind an short-handed offensive line. Tackle Walter Jones missed all of training camp and two games because of a contract dispute, and guard Steve Hutchinson missed the final 12 games because of broken leg.
Still, after Seattle's season-closing 31-28 victory over San Diego, coach Mike Holmgren said, ``Over the past five or six games, I think we've had the best offense in football.''
With another year together, they should be even better this season.
* Defense: The Seahawks were last in the NFL in rushing defense (152.6 yards per game) and 28th out of 32 overall (365.8). Not good. However, Seattle addressed its needs in the offseason.
In addition to Godfrey, the Seahawks acquired defensive linemen Chike Okeafor and Norman Hand, safety Damien Robinson, and drafted cornerback Marcus Trufant.
They will also benefit from full seasons from linebackers Anthony Simmons and Chad Brown, who both missed half of last season due to injuries.
Even with new players and better health, this unit will obviously need to play much better for the Hawks to go to the Super Bowl. It can be done. The Carolina Panthers went from last in total defense in 2001 up to No. 2 last season, which helped them improve six games from 1-15 to 7-9.
* Intangibles: Holmgren gave up front office duties to new general manager Bob Ferguson, a move which enables the coach to clear his plate of personnel matters during the season so he can do what he does best: coach.
New coordinator Ray Rhodes alone makes the defense better. He understands defense, and his players. As an assistant coach, Rhodes was a part of all five of the 49ers' Super Bowl victories. The Seahawks have the ability to make a Carolina-type jump in the statistics.
The Hawks play on Oct. 5 at Green Bay, where Holmgren won a championship as coach of the Packers. When Seattle won at Green Bay 27-7 in 1999, the Seahawks went on to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 1988.