Amid a gusty rain squall that blew through just before kickoff, the Seahawks tried to raise a banner to honor their 2010 NFC West Division title.
But it got knotted and tangled and turned around, almost as if it were being rejected by the other banners up there that were – let’s be honest – earned by more legitimate achievements than a 7-9 record.
In the contemporary NFC West, though, 7-9 can look like a powerhouse, and it is in that context that the Seahawks’ 13-10 decision over Arizona on Sunday at CenturyLink Field qualifies as a significant victory.
The team’s defense continued its commendable effort, but the offense finally resembled a National Football League product for full minutes at a time.
Generating a touchdown and two field goals against a Cardinals team that had been ranked 29th in the league in defense rates as something less than a ticker-tape event.
But in the second half, particularly in one scoring drive, the Seahawks showed offensive potential that might help them survive in the short term and perhaps even succeed in the long run.
Even with the season’s first appearance of receiver Sidney Rice, the Hawks scored just two field goals in the first half and trailed the Cardinals 10-6.
On their first drive of the third quarter, though, the Seahawks picked up the tempo, started completing a flurry of short, quick passes, and came up with three drive-sustaining third-down conversions.
The rhythm kept the Cardinals on their heels and out of the face of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and Jackson at last looked comfortable and in control.
Twice in this drive Jackson made exceptional plays: The first was on a third-and-15 when he eluded pressure and delivered a pass in stride to Doug Baldwin for a 20-yard gain, and the second when he scrambled from the Cardinals 11 and powered across the goal line against two Arizona defenders.
“I think that was really the change,” coach Pete Carroll said of the scoring drive. “I think that was the time that it felt different. We made a lot of big plays; we made some key third-down plays.”
Baldwin said he could tell Jackson was under pressure because the timing was off on the third-and-15 play, so he extended his route across the field. “He somehow got out of there and got the ball to me.”
Tight end Zach Miller said the hurry-up tempo on that drive was crucial, and when it came down to it, Jackson just carried the Hawks to the score.
“It was really big,” Miller said of the 11-yard scoring run. “He went through his progression and tried to stay a passer, but when nothing was open, he took off and made some nice moves and got into the end zone. A lot of times a quarterback might slide or make less of an effort, but he totally sold out to get in there, and that means a lot to all of us.”
Rice was a teammate of Jackson’s in Minnesota, and is used to seeing that kind of effort.
“It was great; it showed tremendous toughness,” Rice said. “Everybody probably thought he would have been down a couple yards before that, or 5 or 10 yards before that, but he continued to scramble and he just showed his will. He put his body out there on the line for the rest of the team.”
Actually, Jackson’s body has been on the line much of the season as four more sacks brought his season total up to 14. On a botched shotgun snap Sunday, he got flattened by a defender and came up with a gimpy knee. But he did not miss a play.
While the body was tender, Jackson’s mental well-being was trending upward.
“Whenever you put the ball in the end zone, it helps the psyche,” he said. “It helps the whole offense. It doesn’t matter if you do it the way it’s drawn up or the way we planned it … it’s always great. We can get confidence off that.”
Just about everybody in the locker room was realistic, and even in the excitement of their first win in three games, offered some manner of hey-wait-a-minute disclaimer. They know they’d only scored 30 points in three games, and have only one win.
It’s not exactly the kind of offense that earns championship banners, but it was good enough for a divisional win and validates their claim that they’re still learning the path toward the end zone.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org