The Seahawks are 6-1 for the first time in the 38-year history of the franchise, and they have done it despite not playing a complete game.
"You know, we don’t feel we’re playing as clean as we want, and we just have not had the kind of across-the-board clean game that we’re looking for, so it feels like we’re still growing," coach Pete Carroll told reporters after a 34-22 win over Arizona on Thursday.
The Hawks dominated most of the game, especially on defense, but they also two lost fumbles, committed 10 penalties and had another end-of-half meltdown -- the same issues that have plagued them for most of the season.
The Hawks do seem to have fixed a couple of things. The Seahawks jumped to a fast start for the second straight road game, leading 14-0 on great touchdown passes from Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. And they converted 7 of 12 third downs -- matching their total conversions from the past two games.
"The last two times on the road we’ve really started well. I’m really proud of that," Carroll said. "It’s something we like to do and something we want to do, and we want to get off to a good start and then hold it. I’d like to be able to finish well, but I’m liking that we’ve been able to start well.”
The Seahawks have had problems finishing the first half right the last three games. While this one was not nearly as bad as the blocked field goal for a touchdown by Tennessee on Sunday, the Hawks still messed up their final drive of the half.
They moved all the way from their 20 to the Cardinals' 18, and the trouble started. The line gave up pressure on first and second downs, and Wilson took the final timeout with 19 seconds left on third-and-10.
Rookie right tackle Michael Bowie then committed a false start and Max Unger was called for holding on Wilson's 16-yard scramble, leaving the Hawks with a 51-yard field goal attempt, which Steven Hauschka fortunately hit to end the half.
It was a better result than the Hawks had against Tennessee and at Indianapolis, where Wilson fumbled while being sacked on the final play of the first half. But the Seahawks have got to work on finishing the half well.
They also need to work on not fumbling. Lynch dropped it for the third time in four games (he recovered it). Wilson lost two of his three fumbles; he has now has lost five of eight fumbles this season and has turned it over in all but one game (Tennessee).
Wilson needs to realize he just doesn't have the time to scan the field that he might have when tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini return.
On the second-quarter fumble he lost at the 3-yard line, Wilson held the ball way too long and Bowie lost track of Matt Shaughnessy. The Cardinals quickly scored a touchdown off that one.
Wilson also fumbled on a third-quarter sack, but that was not his fault; Bowie let John Abraham get around him far too quickly. At least Bowie recovered that ball.
Wilson held the ball too long again on a sack at the end of the third quarter. He lost the ball at the Seattle 15, and the Cardinals ended up with a field goal.
While he helped give up 10 points, Wilson made up for it with his typical flair the rest of the game. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 235 yards, three TDs and no interceptions and ran eight times for 29 yards. As usual, he bailed out the inconsistent line with some special plays, including the scrambling, off-balance TD pass to Rice and a third-down pass to Miller while being tackled.
"I thought Russell played great," Carroll said. "Of course he got pounded a little bit, and we gave up the sacks that caused the fumbles, but that happens sometimes. But, our ability to hang in there and overcome that stuff gave us a chance. Normally, you can’t win like that when you’re not in the plus category of the turnover ratio, but we got it done.”
The Hawks also have been getting it done despite playing a lot of flag football.
The Seahawks matched their season high with 10 penalties vs. Arizona -- only one of which appeared to be a bad call (a pass interference flag on Richard Sherman).
The offense was responsible for half of the flags: three false starts by linemen, one holding infraction and a delay of game on Wilson. The defense had two interference calls, an offsides and a holding. The biggest flag, of course, came when Mike Morgan was caught for blocking in the back on Golden Tate's nullified punt return for a touchdown.
The Hawks are averaging eight penalties for 70 yards per game, and they need to fix that issue as much as they need to stop turning the ball over.
If they do, they probably will start finishing the first half better.
Miller had a monster game in his home state after missing two games with a hamstring injury. He caught a team-high five passes for 40 yards and a touchdown -- a diving 15-yard catch on a beautiful throw by Wilson in the second quarter. He also was on the receiving end of a big third-down throw by a falling Wilson on a third-quarter touchdown drive.
“He made a great catch and some great plays," Carroll said. "You can just see he’s a clutch guy and we count on him, and there was a lot of stuff he did in the running game as well that helps us. Without him, we were so new with Luke (Willson) doing all the little intricacies and stuff, so it was great to have him back. It really helps us out.”
Miller shared the team lead in targets (seven) with Tate, a distinction Miller rarely gets in this offense despite his team-high $11 million salary cap number.
Lynch was in high Beast Mode, plowing through defenders for much of the night. On one play in the fourth quarter, he wove his way through six or seven defenders in very tight quarters before finally being brought down. He turned what should have been a lost play into a short gain.
Running yards were generally tough to find, but he put his Beast feet forward and finished with 91 yards on 21 carries -- 80 of those yards coming after contact. He also scored on a 2-yard run late in the third quarter.
“There must have been five or six runs where he just kept going and churning and finishing," Carroll said, "and he just fires everybody up. He’s a tremendously inspirational football player, and I don’t know that people on the outside understand what he means to us, just because of what he brings on game day. His style is something that we love, and he continues to prove it to us why he’s a stud out there. It was a cool night for him.”
The Seahawks are looking at some more roster roulette in the next week or two, with Percy Harvin and Breno Giacomini getting closer to returning and with Michael Robinson potentially rejoining the team in the wake of Derrick Coleman's hamstring injury.
If Robinson is signed, the Hawks seem likely to place either Coleman or Spencer Ware on injured reserve. Ware has been out for five weeks with a high ankle sprain, and the Hawks don't need six active running backs.
They also could cut offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann, who was signed Sept. 23 when Russell Okung was placed on IR, although they seemingly need Hauptmann for depth until Giacomini returns (he is on the 53-man roster and does not require a move). Wide receiver Bryan Walters, another recent addition, also is an option.
Harvin, who is now practicing, must be activated or placed on IR in three weeks. If activated, it will require a roster move, and if the Hawks don't cut Hauptmann to sign Robinson, the lineman probably will go to make room for the wide receiver. If Walters stays on the roster, the other top move option would be rookie defensive end Benson Mayowa, who has been inactive the last five games.