Team chemistry and attitude was a huge issue that began being questioned after the devastating loss to the Rams in the fourth game, and continued to be a point of contention that lasted well into the off-season. There were also rumblings of players more concerned with their contracts than the number of wins, a problem that continued to percolate behind the scenes throughout the season and had an obvious effect on team performance.
No one will forget the Koren Robinson soap opera saga that seemed to bring a new episode with each week. We wondered what mistake he would make next and what new excuse Coach Holmgren would make up for him. And who can forget the issue of dropped passes, which was probably the biggest criticism of the Seahawks team more than any other by the national so-called experts? A carryover from the 2003 season, dropped passes had become such an issue that the coaching staff even implemented a penalty system in practice to help rid them of the problem. However, the Hawks continued to drop balls in critical situations during games, only serving to reinforce the negative identity.
The 2005-2006 Seahawks. Is it the same team? After five games, the Seahawks’ current win-loss record stands at 3-2, exactly the same as last season. Yet, somehow, the feel for this team is entirely different. What is that difference we ask? Coach Holmgren tells us the team has avoided the off field distractions that plagued them last season. “The feel of the locker room atmosphere is different this year. The players are having more fun.” It is difficult to exactly pinpoint what “it” exactly is, suggesting that probably it is a combination of a number of different factors. One trend this year that clearly stands out, however, is the ability of the team to respond to criticisms by the fans, media, and experts, on an almost week by week basis, a quality that was been lacking in recent seasons.
1.) One of the huge question marks on the Hawks going into the season was could they finally catch the ball? The “dropsies” and the Seahawks had become synonymous thoughts in the minds of many, especially the national media. A glaring problem since the 2003 season, there was no reason to think anything would be different this season. Much to our surprise, however, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and company came out on opening day catching everything in daylight, and the issue has somehow completely and quietly disappeared now.
2.) After a “typical Hawks loss” to Jacksonville, highlighted by multiple turnovers, including a critical interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter, we questioned Matt Hasselbeck’s ability to stay under control and not make stupid turnovers. Which Hasselbeck would we be seeing this season, the Pro Bowler of ’03 or the quarterback who cracked horribly under pressure to New England and Arizona last season? How did he respond? In the very next game against Atlanta, Matt had no turnovers, great poise and leaded the team to a great win. In fact, we haven't seen Hass break under pressure since and the most recent performance against the Rams may have been his best of the year so far, yet another game with NO turnovers.
3.) Though the Seahawks impressively handled Atlanta after the disappointing loss to Jacksonville, they failed to score a single point in the second half. Immediately, we questioned whether the Hawks could score at all in the second half of any game. The issue was addressed repeatedly by both fans and media during the week leading up to the Cardinals game. That game, the Hawks ripped off 27 points in the second half, completely burying the point of contention forever.
4.) He may have been the second leading rusher in the NFL last season, but many Seahawks fans know that Shaun Alexander was anything but when it came to blocking and getting that all important first down on third and short situations. In fact, “soft”, the adjective some national pundits loved to use to describe the Seahawks last season may very well have stemmed from Alexander’s inability to get those “tough” yards. So how did young Shaun respond this season? Against Atlanta, we were shocked to see him busting it up the middle and the outside on third and short, finally getting that critical first down to keep the chains moving. Alexander continues to show us a new side of himself, pounding it up the middle when necessary and negating the exclusive predictable use of Mack Strong on short yardage downs so often used last season. Even Coach Holmgren remarks that this is something he has not seen before.
5.) Against Washington, the defense could not stop Redskins QB Mark Brunell on third down, allowing them to convert over 70% of their opportunities. Uh oh, is this the beginning of the same porous defense that haunted Seattle last season? Can the Hawks stop anyone on third down, we ask during the week leading up to the St. Louis game, especially the potent Rams offense? It is a scary thought, to say the least, considering the Rams’ performances against Rhodes’ soft zones last season. However, once again, the Seahawks surprisingly respond, holding Bulger and company to a mere 25% on third down conversions, stepping it up when it counted the most.
6.) The loss of Engram and Jackson was "devastating" to the Hawks offense- even Hass admitted they are the "heart and soul" of the offense. How could the Hawks go into St. Louis without them and even conceive that they would be anywhere near as effective, we ask? Hass ends up distributing the ball to nine different receivers and Jurevicius ends up with a ridiculous career best 137 yards receiving. Case closed.
7.) Of course, the ULTIMATE question facing the Hawks this season- could they finally beat their archrivals and get that horrible monkey off their backs? Did they have the mental fortitude to finally do it, asks Chris Berman and others? We all know the outcome now and it feels damn good that the Hawks responded with a team-wide performance that will forever be remembered by their fans.
As in all of sports, great teams are defined by their uncanny ability to handle adversity and criticism. When problems or issues arise, championship teams respond quickly, burying them, and not allowing them to linger and eat away at the core of the team. The Seahawks of last season are a prime example of a team that was not able to deal well with criticism, questions, or adversity. We are only one third into this season, but it appears that so far, the Seahawks of ’05 are handling it pretty darn well. Let’s see if they can continue to do so until the end of the season. If they do, we might be seeing a twenty year playoff drought finally coming to an end.
Rick Roe is known by the handle “KMedic” on our Fan Forums. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.