They're Ba-ack!

While a main course of home-cooked Ram would be nice, Steve Utz advises us that with new and higher expectations, the Seahawks must bring their best to Qwest Field.

It’s a classic scene from modern horror movies. A small girl sits in front of a television, whose screen shows only static, indicative of a disconnected set not receiving any signal. She turns her head and says, in a most innocent and ominous voice, “They’re ba-a-a-ack.” And everyone in the audience knows who she’s talking about: the ghosts, ghouls, and poltergeists that gave their name to the movie series.

Now, after the annual enforced hiatus of the bye week, they are back. Football is alive and well and living in the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks are back on the field, and it is difficult to not lavish superlatives on an early season game that suddenly has enormous potential to define this young season.

To be sure, we all hope that one thing has not returned, that being the old Seahawks that couldn’t figure out how to win a post-bye week game. After all, with additional days to prepare and rest for their aching muscles and bones, the bye week should be a blessing, right? Somehow, the Seahawks of the past managed to warp that into yet another curse, a tag-line that gets attached to their efforts. “Yeah, they’re a good team, but they can’t win after a bye week.”

But, hope springs within every Seahawks fan’s heart that the team that gets back on the field today is the one that won three consecutive games to get here, and not last year’s team that laid an egg in Lambeau Field after last season’s bye.

One thing that should definitely help is that the fans are back. After 10 consecutive wins at home dating from late 2002 and 7 consecutive sellouts dating from last year, Seattle fans have returned with a vengeance. Woe be to teams coming into Qwest Field expecting an easy win. Those days are gone. The crowd is back, and they are football smart. They know when to make noise—when the opponents offense is on the field—and when to be relatively quiet—when our offense is in their huddle. It all seems so simple, but in many venues around the league the fans don’t seem to grasp it.

The Rams are back. This is becoming a real rivalry. Neither team has won a road game in the head to head series since re-alignment made them division foes. Future bragging rights hinge on this game. The Seahawks need their best “not in our house” mentality today. In the grand scheme of things, it appears that the Seahawks are on the rise and the Rams on the decline, yet the Rams team we face today still has potent weapons that can exploit any momentary lapse of concentration.

Last season, riding an emotional wave of crowd enthusiasm, the Seahawks pulled of a come-from-behind victory over these Rams in the 4th quarter. By all rights, this year’s improved team should dominate this game from beginning to end.

Therein lies the one big trap.

Pretty much everyone associated with pro football sees this as a fairly easy win for the Seahawks. On paper that fits. The Seahawks made major improvements to their team in the offseason, while the Rams seem to have stood pat or even regressed in some ways. Add that to the home field advantage Seattle is cultivating and you get the touchdown point spread that has been posted in most venues.

That spells T-R-A-P in letters writ large.

One thing that has returned to this team after 20 years or so is the expectation of winning. One hesitates to talk too much about swagger and attitude, but this team is showing confidence that hasn’t been seen in a while.

The old Seahawks would look at a game like this and go, “Oh-oh. Another opportunity to screw up.”

The new Seahawks say things like, “We can’t claim to be the best until we play the best.” That is an attitude that speaks volumes. It shows a willingness to embrace challenges and a confidence that they are up to the task. It is a sign that the old Seahawks of the 90’s are definitely not back.

Much has been made of the importance of this game.

For the Rams, it is a chance to get back into the division race in earnest. A win today resuscitates their hopes of retaining the division title. A loss for the Rams leaves them looking up from a deep 2½ game deficit early in a tough season.

Conversely for the Seahawks, today’s game is a chance to make a statement. This is a chance to take charge of the NFC West division race. Two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers wandered into Qwest Field. The Seahawks took an early lead, and proceeded to keep their boot heel firmly embedded on the 49ers necks, resulting in a lop-sided shutout. That’s the kind of tenacity the Seahawks will need over the remaining 13 games of the season, starting today.

The attitude for a single game is the same for the season – take the lead and hang on. Do everything you can to extend and protect that lead until the opponent feels hopeless and helpless to overcome it. Destroy their will to compete. Make it obvious that they can’t compete.

Football is and always has been primarily a test of wills. Championship quality teams find ways to win, and don’t make excuses for “ugly” wins. They all count the same at the end of the season.

In Tampa three weeks ago, one could almost feel the intensity of the Seahawks through the television screen. Even though our offense was being stuffed, there was an almost palpable feeling of, “We will not lose this game” emanating from the Seahawks bench In the end, Tampa made a critical mistake late in the game, and we came away with the ball and the win. It isn’t really obvious why or how we won that game, other than our guys wanted it more than they did, and turned that desire into action, and ultimately into victory.

It isn’t always necessary to know how or why.

Twenty years ago, over a span of several seasons, the Seahawks were a playoff team, and many commentators were picking them as Super Bowl contenders. The ultimate goal was never realized, and they eventually sank back into a morass of mediocrity from which they are only now extricating themselves. For a brief period, though, Seattle football toyed with success and glory.

A win today would go far in saying, “They’re back.”

Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback to Steve at Top Stories