RENTON, Wash. – In the first half of the season, the Seahawks learned a lot of painful lessons.
Today, when Seattle hosts Baltimore to kick off the second half of a so-far disappointing 2011, the hope is to turn those lessons into progress; to take the many mistakes from the first eight games – the turnovers and penalties in particular – and clean them up.
“You can take what you learned from it and just try to use it in the second half,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “The mistakes you made – don’t try and make those same mistakes and just build on it. We feel like we’re starting over in the second half of the season. We’re a 2-6 team, but we’re kind of coming in looking at it like we’re 0-0 and just trying to go undefeated.”
The unfortunate reality for the Seahawks is that, even if they somehow did go undefeated, as Jackson is striving for, they’d still have little chance of catching the 7-1 San Francisco 49ers, who have a stranglehold on the NFC West. No, the rest of this season isn’t about a playoff run for Seattle, but even with that goal out of the picture, the Seahawks feel like they have plenty to gain over the next eight weeks, starting today against a very tough opponent in the Ravens.
“The goal is to just keep pushing,” linebacker David Hawthorne said. “We feel like we’re on the brink of something. If we just keep working hard and continue doing the things we do, it will click for us and we’ll come together as a complete team. We knew we were going to have growing pains, and we’ve had them. So the whole vibe around here is just keep pushing, keep our heads down and keep working.”
No player, until it becomes mathematically impossible, will give up on the goal of making the playoffs, but the Seahawks also are confident that, no matter what happens in the next couple of weeks, they’ll stay motivated regardless of the playoff picture.
“It’s still ball,” safety Earl Thomas said. “You still have pride, and you never know what can happen. We’ll just take it one game at a time, and we’ll just see what happens down the line.”
And make no mistake, losing record or not, this is not the same as the Seahawks’ dismal 2008 and 2009 seasons, which yielded a total of nine wins over a 32-game span. Those teams were made up of veteran-laden rosters that were built to win right away, while this group, as Hawthorne notes, was expected to go through growing pains.
Have those growing pains been worse than the Seahawks would have hoped? Of course. But despite its record, this team has been competitive in most of its games this season, something that could not be said in 2009, or even last year in many of Seattle’s losses before things turned around in time to win the division and a playoff game.
Other than the Week 2 loss in Pittsburgh, which was a beat-down from start to finish, the Seahawks have been in every game in the second half. Now this young team hopes it can take the tough lessons it learned over the past eight games and turn them into more victories in the next eight weeks.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games,” Thomas said. “Almost every game we’ve been in, we’ve had a chance to win it. We’ve just got to finish, that’s it… We’re not down around here. We’re ready to finish strong.”
The Seahawks don’t feel like they need to make any drastic changes to turn things around in the second half. They’ve been penalized 70 times through eight games, and have a minus-eight turnover ratio in their six losses. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that those kinds of mistakes will kill a team, particularly a young one with little margin for error.
“There’s no secret to this,” center Max Unger said. “It’s eliminating penalties, positive run yards and explosive plays. It’s so basic. It’s just the same stuff that’s been killing us.”
While Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would have never said before the year that he expected anything less than another division championship, he also knew this could be a challenging year. He and general manager John Schneider have made more than 500 roster moves since taking over in January of 2010, and while they both hoped for better results this season, this team is being built for the long haul, not for the 2011 season.