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Larry Stone: Bye week has Seahawks looking forward to upcoming challenges

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is looking forward to playing against Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who had more than 300 yards in the Falcons’ last contest, in two weeks after the Seahawks’ bye. (Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is looking forward to playing against Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who had more than 300 yards in the Falcons’ last contest, in two weeks after the Seahawks’ bye. (Associated Press)
By Larry Stone Seattle Times

At the quarter mark of the season, with the bye looming, the Seahawks have weathered the storm. The future looks much brighter than it has at any other point this season, certainly than it did in the gloom of the Rams’ loss in Week 2.

The Seahawks know intellectually that their bye next week comes at an opportune time. But their heart might tell them something entirely different.

Just ask Richard Sherman, who shortly after Sunday’s game, a 27-17 Seahawks win over the Jets, had caught word of the epic day Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones had against the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons are Seattle’s next opponent in two weeks, and Sherman is not one to want to delay a challenge, even having just survived a stiff one against Brandon Marshall.

“I’d love to play next week,’’ he said. “I heard Julio went off. That would be fun. Three-hundred (yards)? That’s what he had? Oh, man. That’s going to be a big deal. He’s a good friend, and it’s going to be a fun matchup battling him. But we need some rest.”

Indeed they do, starting with quarterback Russell Wilson, who now has two weeks to get his right ankle and left knee right before the Seahawks host the Falcons on Oct. 16.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gushed about other injured players whom he expects to be back and/or re-invigorated after the break, including Tyler Lockett, Nick Vannett, C.J. Prosise and Germain Ifedi (who debuted Sunday).

“When we come back two weeks from now, we’re going to get healthier,” Carroll said. “The roster that we’ve talked about to you guys and tell you how competitive it is, is going to show up.”

They’ve survived two frightening injuries to Wilson, who played his best game of the season on Sunday and now has two weeks to heal up. The offensive line, which early in the season looked like it was going to drag the team down, has begun to coalesce, and the return of Ifedi should only hasten that revival.

“I think they did a fantastic job against one of the best defensive lines in football today,’’ Sherman said after Sunday’s game. “I think they deserve a ton of credit, and hopefully they get it. The first couple weeks, people could say what they want. Up and down. But against this DL, this stout, all-pro DL, they did a fantastic job.”

Remember all the angst and hand-wringing after the loss to the Rams, when the Seahawks’ offense appeared stagnant and disoriented? They had just one touchdown in the first two games but recovered for a solid win against the 49ers and then dominated the Jets, scoring a combined seven touchdowns in those two games.

A big part of that has been the re-emergence of tight end Jimmy Graham, whose bond with Wilson is growing by the game. Coming off a serious knee injury that wiped out much of last season, Graham has exceeded 100 yards receiving the past two weeks and finally looks to be the weapon the Seahawks envisioned when they traded for him.

“I don’t know how you can get tested any more and demonstrate that you’re back fully than he did in the past two weeks,” Carroll said.

With Thomas Rawls barely a factor this year and out another month or so because of a fibula injury, the running game has been rescued by Christine Michael. But coming off a mere 66 combined yards on the ground against the Jets, that’s an area that must improve for Seattle.

The defense has looked every bit as robust as it was in the Super Bowl years and on Sunday added the element that had been missing – takeaways. They had three interceptions, including two by Sherman.

“We finally got the darned ball today,’’ Carroll said. “We always talk about it coming in bunches and it kind of happened today a little bit. Hopefully this is the start of something we can really build momentum on.”

You can feel Big Mo brewing with the Seahawks. On the one hand, it’s a shame to risk stalling that with a bye. And with 12 rugged games to play, a week might come when they yearn for a break and won’t have it.

But considering the lackluster start to last season, when the Seahawks dropped their first two games and found themselves 2-4 after six, and the struggles they had early in 2014, when issues surrounding Percy Harvin (eventually traded during Week 7) boiled over, they are in a much more fortuitous spot.

They avoided disaster in the season opener against Miami with a late touchdown. And after the clunker in Week 2, they’ve bounced back beautifully. Two teams expected to be their toughest NFC competition, Arizona and Carolina, are 1-3, though new potential rivals are emerging in Philadelphia and Minnesota, not to mention Los Angeles.

“The old adage is you want to be undefeated at the bye,’’ Carroll said. “We didn’t get that done. The next thing is you want to be in first place at the bye. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens (after he spoke, the Rams won to pull into a tie for first with Seattle at 3-1). You always want to win going into the bye. We knocked out a couple of them, and unfortunately we didn’t get that 4-0 thing.”

No, they didn’t. But as they reach their brief hiatus, the Seahawks’ future is promising.

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