Seattle Isn’t Close To K.C.’S League

MONDAY, DEC. 25, 1995

As a public-service gesture on this sacred holiday, we bring you the bright side:

At least the Seahawks didn’t watch a valiant performance go to waste in front of the television. At least they weren’t done in by dynamics beyond their control.

No matter what Dennis Erickson’s team stood to accomplish here in frigid Arrowhead Stadium, the prospect of the playoffs still came with a caveat: The Hawks needed either the Chargers or Colts to lose on Saturday, or the Dolphins to lose on Sunday. But the Chargers, Colts and Dolphins won.

So there is this consolation: A brutally long, ugly-as-sin afternoon for the Seattle Seahawks was merely very long and very ugly. But at least it didn’t foster any false hopes about a playoff berth that wasn’t meant to be. The playoff tiebreaker system that would’ve prevented the Seahawks from qualifying at 9-7 didn’t become a heartbreaker, too.

Sometimes, it’s best to confront the stark truth. The truth is, the team that left here with an 8-8 record didn’t deserve to join the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason field.

And while they both compete in a conference that begins with an A and ends with a C and has an F in the middle, the Seahawks are not in the same league with Kansas City. Not even close.

Sixteen games ago, the Chiefs spoiled the christening of Seattle’s Erickson Era with a 34-10 whipping of the Hawks in the Kingdome. The 26-3 debacle Sunday was every bit as comprehensive. In between these unsightly bookends, the team showed some early promise, then hit the skids, then rallied as it chased a wild card. For a brief and shining moment, it even restored Seattle’s reputation as of one pro football’s toddling towns.

But if the Seahawks are trying to get where Kansas City already is, they’d be advised to pack an extra suitcase or two for the trip. It’s a long one.

“They’re the best team in the AFC,” Erickson said, “and we’re not there yet.

“They beat us every which way… That was a rear-end kicking.”

How thoroughly were the Seahawks rears kicked? Let’s put it this way: Return specialist Tamarick Vanover required only 15 seconds to dash 89 yards for the first Kansas City touchdown. The Seattle offense accrued 89 net yards - for the whole game.

The line was overwhelmed. It lost its confidence and, ultimately - with the ejection of two-fisted guard Kevin Mawae, who punctuated a boorish tirade by spitting at the referee - its composure. Quarterback John Friesz, the wheel-dealing miracle worker in Denver who last week carved up the Raiders, did no wheeling, dealing or healing Sunday.

On those rare instances Friesz was able to escape the smothering clutches of Neil Smith, Joe Phillips, Dan Saleaumua and Vaughn Booker, the Seahawks receivers were hard-pressed make the reception. Meanwhile, late in the third quarter, Pro Bowl running back Chris Warren had carried 10 times for zero yards.

And then there was the Seahawks’ defense, which gave up 375 yards and was lucky Kansas City had to settle for field goals after dropping a couple of certain touchdown passes. Otherwise, the Seattle D would’ve been lit up for the big 4-0.

“They beat us,” said linebacker Terry Wooden, “in all phases of the game. Chalk it up to experience for us.”

The question is, was Sunday a learning experience for a groping team? Or was it more a public mugging so haunting it erased all the progress they’ve made since midseason?

What about it, Eugene Robinson? Is a 26-3 finale more significant than a 6-2 finish?

“No,” said Robinson, “not at all. And I mean, a resounding ‘Not at all.’ We were fighting this season for a semblance of respect. They were a better team; they’re playing like a well-oiled machine. But this doesn’t minimize what we’ve done.”

What the 1995 Seahawks did was put the fun back in a game that had gone as sour as last month’s milk.

“The worst thing about this day,” said rookie tight end Christian Fauria, “was walking off the field, realizing we’re not coming back for six or seven months.”

The worst thing about Sunday was walking off the field? Ah, rookies.

“The future looks bright around here, and I hope to be a part of it,” said center Jim Sweeney, a 12-year veteran. “But as far as today goes, we just have to put this one out of our minds.”

Good idea. Still, on that inevitable day Erickson takes his team to the playoffs, the Christmas Eve thumping the Seahawks absorbed here will be used as a geographic reference point.

This is as far south of the Super Bowl a football team can get.

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