Would You Like Fries With That?

With a victory over the Washington Redskins in the Divisional Playoffs this Saturday, Seattle would host the NFC Championship game. This would ostensibly force members of the national sports media to "pay attention to the Seahawks". In the interest of professional courtesy, our own Greg Renick has assembled a Quick Seahawks Primer for those too busy with their extended lunches to actually read a media guide.

From: Seattle Seahawks fan base
To: National media and NFL fans across America


To Whom It May Concern,

We are writing to introduce you to that heretofore unknown entity tucked away up in the Northwest corner of the United States, the Seattle Seahawks. Yes, we know you thought the Seahawks were a CFL franchise – but we’ll let that slide.

It seems the only thing you people latch onto is how easy the Seahawks’ schedule was in 2005. You recognize that they finished as the best team in the NFC, with a 13-3 record (a franchise best), but quickly drain the water out of the bathtub by playing the “soft schedule” card. Considering the Seahawks beat only two teams that made the playoffs (the media darling Indianapolis Colts and the N.Y. Giants, even though most of you say the Giants “should have” won that one in Seattle) I will not argue the point.

However, it is important that we explain some things to you about this team that earned home field advantage and a first-round bye in the playoffs:

First and foremost, most of you media talking heads (you know who you are) picked the Seahawks as the third best team in the NFC West. Don’t try to deny it; we have the printed evidence to back it up. You all jumped on Dennis Green’s desert bandwagon, and you were sure the Arizona Cardinals were the hot new team in the league. They finished 5-11.

Head coach Mike Holmgren is the same Mike Holmgren that took his Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl title a decade ago.

For those of you who were not ready to take the Cardinals leap, you confessed your love for the St. Louis Rams. I can understand that, the Rams beat the Seahawks three times in 2004 and still featured a high-powered offense with an emerging running threat in Steven Jackson. But the Rams managed only a 6-10 mark, seven games behind the division-winning Seahawks. Yep, that’s right, SEVEN.

Let me put it another way: the Seahawks nearly had the same number of wins this season than the other three NFC West teams combined (13-15).

This young Seahawks team played without many key players. Their best receiver, WR Darrell Jackson, missed most of the season after undergoing knee surgery in early October. Their #2 receiver, Bobby Engram, also missed three games after cracking his ribs at the beginning of the game at Washington (a game that he stayed in and played, by the way).

Their best special teamer, WR Alex Bannister, played in only two games after suffering a broken clavicle. The young leader of their defense, FS Ken Hamlin, played in only six games after sustaining head trauma in a night club altercation. They lost veteran OLB Jamie Sharper to injured reserve after eight games due to a staph infection. DT Marcus Tubbs, a vital cog in the team’s run defense, missed three games. Veteran CB’s Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon both missed action as well, with Dyson missing six games and Herndon four games.

We bet you didn’t know all that, right? We heard it all about how the Colts and other media darlings had to play through injuries, but nobody ever said a peep about what this team dealt with.

Meanwhile, the players who had to step up and fill-in for the injured starters? Not exactly household names: WR D.J. Hackett; CB Jordan Babineaux; FS Marquand Manuel; OLB Leroy Hill.

But every team has to deal with injuries, right? Then we’ll move into on-field performance.

It all starts with the offensive line, featuring six-time Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones and three-time time Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson. They are big, nasty, and durable. Jones has played in 125 of 128 possible regular season games since 1998, and one of those he was held out because the Seahawks had clinched everything in the conference (last week at Green Bay). In those 125 games, Jones has dominated about 99% of his match-ups. Hutchinson, for his part, has played in all 16 regular season games in four of his five NFL seasons. And he is about the last creature on God’s green earth you want to see picking up a head of steam in your direction on a sweep.

The line is anchored by Pro Bowl alternate C Robbie Tobeck, and then there is venerable RG Chris Gray. 2004 3rd round pick RT Sean Locklear stepped into the starting line-up this season for the first time and played admirably.

So what about the playmakers?

How about the NFL MVP, RB Shaun Alexander? He led the NFL with 1880 yards rushing, and established a new NFL record with 28 total touchdowns. Most of that yardage was against defenses that were stacking eight players in the box specifically to stop him, a luxury teams could get away with as the Seahawks’ best receiver (Jackson) was out of action. By the way, did you know that Alexander individually rushed for more yards than 20 other teams?? Oh…before it slips our collective minds, he was 16-for-16 converting on 3rd and 1. I’m no math guru, but I believe that comes out to 100%.

QB Matt Hasselbeck emerged, and ended the season as the NFC’s top rated passer (98.3). He also compiled a rating of 102 on the road, and did not commit a turnover away from Qwest Field after the opening road loss at Jacksonville. Oh yeah, he passed for more than 3000 yards for the fourth straight season. Should we also mention that he only threw nine interceptions? He did that without his favorite targets (Jackson and Engram) for a large part of the season. He knows the offense inside and out, and his audibles, reads and understanding of defenses are on the level of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He has truly become Holmgren’s sorcerer’s apprentice.

FB Mack Strong earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and it is long overdue. He is the heart and soul of this franchise and is the longest tenured Seahawk, since 1994. Yes, the Seahawks have been around more than a few seasons. Strong is a throwback gamer, and he plays hurt year in and year out. Despite his advancing age, he has played in every game in 8 out of the last 9 seasons. He’s Alexander’s trailblazer.

WR Joe Jurevicius caught everything but a cold. In the absence of Jackson, the journeyman receiver scored 10 touchdowns. But perhaps more impressively, he treats defenders like a pit bull takes on a rag doll. His downfield blocking, attitude and toughness invigorated the entire receiving corps. He uses his 6’5” frame and unbridled will to get to passes many receivers would have no hope for.

Speaking of catching passes, has anybody heard that good ‘ol Seahawks bugaboo – dropped passes – discussed this season? You haven’t? Neither have we. That’s because they don’t drop passes anymore, at least not in droves like 2003 and 2004.

Then we have TE Jerramy Stevens, who has emerged as the threat the team envisioned when the used a first-round draft pick on him. 45 catches, 554 yards, 5 TD’s. His 6’7” frame makes for inviting target in the middle of the field, and his blocking has improved measurably.

So what about the defense, you ask?

Well, we will introduce you to MLB Lofa Tatupu. Yes, that’s the same Tatupu who finished second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Tatupu led the Seahawks with 105 tackles (only the second Seahawk rookie to ever accomplish that), and added 4 sacks and 3 interceptions – one that he returned for a score at Philadelphia.

But stats aside, his awareness is like a laser-guided missile and he quickly assimilated the defense and became the field general. All that before the loud chuckles faded from draft day when GM Tim Ruskell made the move to grab him in the 2nd round.

Tatupu got the most attention, but did you know the Seahawks started another rookie linebacker for most of the season? Leroy Hill finished third among rookies in the league with 7.5 sacks.

This team finished a so-so 17th in yards allowed (316.8 ypg), but a very impressive 7th in points allowed (16.9 ppg). They not only adopted the “bend but don’t break” mantra, they made it look like they were made of rubber. But they kept opponents out of the end zone, by and large. We were not used to that as Seahawks fans.

The run defense was much better than in previous seasons. Only one back eclipsed the 100-yard barrier (The Giants Tiki Barber), and he needed overtime to accomplish it. The defense also only gave up five rushing touchdowns all season – 2nd best in the NFL.

How about the sacks? Did you know the “no name” Seahawks defense led the league in sacks (50)? Of course you didn’t. DT Rocky Bernard finished second in the league for sacks by a defensive tackle, registering 8.5. Second year tackle Marcus Tubbs was not far behind at 5.5. Rams castaway Bryce Fisher replaced Chike Okeafor and had more sacks than the outspoken new Cardinal (9 to 7.5). Enjoy the desert heat, Chike. We’ll send you a playoff video. We’ve already told you about our rookie linebackers, who combined for 11.5 sacks.

Or perhaps we should just enlighten you with the “10 Steps to Success” this team enacted this season, subtitled “How to earn the #1 seed in the NFC”:

1. Feature an offense that sends five players to the Pro Bowl (Hasselbeck, Alexander, Jones, Strong and Hutchinson). CHECK.
2. Go 8-0 at home. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
3. Complete an 11-game winning streak. GOT IT.
4. Win second consecutive NFC West title. DONE.
5. Rush for 320 yards in a single game (Oct. 16th vs. Houston). THAT TRAIN KEPT A ROLLIN’. In fact, the Seahawks in one game rushed for 28% of the Cardinals entire season rushing total.
6. Lead the league in touchdowns scored (57) and points per game (28.2). NEXT.
7. Lead the league (by far) in 80+ yard scoring drives. DID THAT TOO.
8. Get rid of the head cases (Anthony Simmons, Koren Robinson, etc.) and the fragile bodies and replace them with trench warriors like DT Chuck Darby, Manuel, Fisher and Jurevicius. YEP.
9. Lead the league in red zone touchdown percentage (71.67%). DONE DEAL.
10. Restore football excitement in the Emerald City. ALIVE AND WELL.

So, there you have it. This team obliterated the mold by winning games despite their warts and shortcomings, instead of losing because of them. These are not the same old Seahawks. Time and the glowing lights of the Qwest Field scoreboard will prove that. “Lady Luck” may indeed ride in their carriage, but instead of blowing it they take advantage of the opportunities and just keep winning games.

So that’s about it. I know that is a lot to digest, but with our team tucked away “out there near Alaska and Canada” we felt compelled to explain that they are indeed legitimate. And soon, you will all find out.

So…do you want some fries with that?

Greg Renick writes regularly for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact him at grenick@cox.net.

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