The Seattle Seahawks have established a dynasty that might have some recalling the New York Yankees of another era. The Hawks have won their division four times in a row after taking out Arizona Sunday, Dec. 9, 42-21 to improve to 9-4, and they lead the Cardinals by three games and a tie-breaker, with three to play.
Unfortunately, the baseball analogy doesn't quite hold up, since Seattle's division foes (12-27) aren't exactly the caliber of the Boston Red Sox or even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The '07 Hawks have only played three clubs that now boast winning records, and haven't beaten a winner (Tampa Bay - the Buccaneers, not the D-Rays) since the first week of the season.
Yet, needing the Sunday victory to relieve December pressure, the Hawks responded admirably. They scored on five of the first six possessions, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's first-half numbers (14 for 17, 202 yards, three touchdown passes) never more impressive. The 27-7 halftime lead held up fine, even if the Hawk offense took a collective third-quarter breather.
The Hawks now are assured of at least hosting a first-round playoff game, as they did last season, beating the Cowboys at Qwest Field. Assuming Seattle finishes third in the National Football Conference, as appears likely, the Hawks would host the No. 6 playoff seed the first weekend in January. It actually could be a team with a losing record, what with only six of 16 NFC teams currently better than .500. A Seattle playoff victory would lead to a second-round game, away, versus a conference titan: Dallas or Green Bay, with Hawk fans hoping the club would fare better than it did at Chicago last January.
As for the always-rabid Seattle home partisans, fan support wasn't evident in the case of running back Shaun Alexander, vociferously booed his first two carries. His initial try kept his team out of the end zone, the Hawks settling for a 3-0 lead. The next of Alexander's efforts was one of those now-familiar excursions with Shaun wandering around his own backfield like a distracted book-store browser before getting taken down for a loss.
The third time? No boos. Seattle mentor Mike Holmgren oddly voted to give the one-time league MVP the ball needing less than a yard just inside the Hawk 40. Alexander the (once) Great got a block on the right side and rumbled an imaginative 24 yards, setting up his team's first TD. Alas, the gain was about two thirds of Shaun's production for the game, the ground "attack" amassing just 80 yards.
But the offense's approach for the remaining three regular-season games (one at home with Baltimore, two on the road with sub-par East Coast competitors Carolina and Atlanta) will be to pass whenever possible. An aggressive defense (five sacks, five pick-offs against the Cards' Kurt Warner; containing running back Edgerrin James) is seeing to it that Hasselbeck and his talented receivers have plenty of opportunities. Free-agent defensive-end pick-up Patrick Kerney had his third three-sack game in recent weeks Sunday to give him 13-1/2 (he shared one with another defender) this season.
A key imperative is to avoid injuries on both sides of the ball. The Hawk brain trust no doubt will note the next few weeks the futility of winning more than one or two of the remaining three, since even a single victory might not alter playoff fortunes. On the other hand, bygone Yankees teams seemed to play with pride even after they clinched their division. Maybe the Seattle Seahawks will, too.