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Seahawks offer no apologies for their status

Michael Silver
Yahoo Sports

RENTON, Wash.– Here in the NFL's most remote outpost, a championship will be decided on Sunday night, and if the home team can snap out of a protracted slump and prevail, history will be made as well.

It's not the kind of history the Seattle Seahawks had in mind when Pete Carroll took over as coach last January, but at this point, they're in no position to question it.

If the Seahawks defeat the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field to improve to 7-9, they'll capture the NFC West and become the first team in a non-strike season to make the playoffs with a losing record. A victory over the Rams (7-8) would allow the 'Hawks to put on division-champ caps, have a few celebratory cocktails and look forward to a home playoff game, likely against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (11-4), the following weekend.

And should that happen – no, they won't be apologizing, in case you're wondering.

"Of course we won't," middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu(notes) said Thursday at the Seahawks' training facility. "We'll be proud, just like I'd expect the Rams, if they win, to be proud of it. I mean, it wasn't easy – obviously."

Halfback Marshawn Lynch(notes) did a double take when asked the same question.

"Whaaaat? Man, [expletive], who said it was gonna be pretty? It ain't always gonna be pretty, but none of that matters," he says. "The only thing that's gonna matter after the game is we've got to get ready for another week. We'll start over with a new record: zero and zero, just like everybody else."

Not that Lynch, Tatupu and their teammates aren't bracing themselves for the backlash that their presence in the postseason would provoke. Seattle, after all, has lost three consecutive games, five of its last six and seven of nine – and none of the defeats has been particularly competitive. Whereas some teams with losing records might point to a convergence of bad calls, unlucky bounces or near-misses as culprits, the Seahawks have been outscored by 15 points or more in each of their nine defeats.

Since Oct. 24, when they followed up an impressive road victory over the Chicago Bears with a home triumph over the Arizona Cardinals to push their record to 4-2, the Seahawks have beaten only the 5-10 Cards and 2-13 Carolina Panthers and have looked increasingly feeble on both sides of the ball.

"From this point on, everybody's gonna say we're not legit," veteran safety Lawyer Milloy(notes) says. "It's not our fault the way they set up the tourney. At the beginning of the year, everybody in the league has the same goal – to win your division, which is the cleanest way to the playoffs. We have one game to win, in our home stadium. And once you're in, you have a chance."

Milloy and his teammates are well aware of recent history: In 2008, the Chargers won the AFC West with an 8-8 record, then defeated the 12-4 Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. That same year, the Cardinals won the NFC West with a 9-7 record – suffering a 40-point loss to the Patriots in December along the way. Yet in early February, the Cards were still playing – and almost won a Super Bowl.

"They went in and just worried about themselves, nothing else, and they got a freakin' catch away from being world champs," Milloy says. "That's why you play the game. Trust me, I'd love to go into the playoffs and have everyone overlook us.

"Right now we just have to find a way to win one game, and that's really an attitude you have to carry on for the rest of the playoffs. If we can learn how to block out all that [expletive] and just worry about us, we can do big things."

There are plenty of reasons to question whether the Seahawks will have an opportunity to play beyond Sunday night. They are three-point underdogs to a Rams team that defeated them 20-3 in St. Louis on Oct. 3, and backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst(notes) is expected to make his second career start. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck(notes) suffered a muscle injury to his hip/rear area while jogging into the end zone early in last Sunday's 38-15 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has yet to practice this week.

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Lynch is averaging just 45.3 yards per game with the Seahawks.
(Kim Klement/US Presswire)

While some Seahawks have privately expressed surprise about Hasselbeck's status and wondered about the severity of the injury, quarterback play is hardly the team's only question mark. Despite some early success after trading a fourth-round draft pick and another conditional pick to the Buffalo Bills to acquire Lynch in early October, Seattle's running game has been a disappointment: The Seahawks are a game away from completing a season without a single 100-yard rushing performance by an individual for the first time since the strike-shortened 1982 season. The 'Hawks' 85.5-rushing-yards-per-game average would be the lowest in franchise history.

The issue goes well beyond Lynch and backfield mate Justin Forsett(notes) – rookie left tackle Russell Okung(notes) has struggled with injuries all season, and the Seahawks haven't started the same five offensive linemen for more than three consecutive games.

The defense has also struggled. "It's little things, too," says defensive lineman Raheem Brock(notes), a member of the Colts' 2006 team that won the Super Bowl. "Stuff like leaving our gaps unattended. We can do much better. We've got it in us."

Milloy, a key player for the Patriots when they won their first Super Bowl in 2001, understands that the Seahawks have a chance to close the credibility gap and take advantage of this unlikely scenario.

"Even getting to play in a game like this, on prime time, for our younger players – that's huge," Milloy says. "No matter how you get there, it's an opportunity to be a champion. You get that taste, and let it propel you into the tourney, and you have a chance to be a champion of something bigger. It's a grand opportunity we've been handed, given our situation. Who knows why it happened like this? But there it is."

Milloy says he isn't bothered by the fallout that might occur from the presence of the NFL's first 7-9 playoff team, including a possible push to institute rules changes preventing teams with inferior records from hosting first-round games – or even to remove the guaranteed postseason spots for division winners.

"Doesn't matter to me," he says, laughing. "It's not gonna be this year."

As for the public lampooning that would result from the sight of an under-.500 Seahawks team openly celebrating a division title, complete with NFC West champions T-shirts and headwear?

"Oh yeah, that'll happen, and that's fine," Forsett says. "I'll handle all that – with my hat on."

TAKE IT TO THE ATM

The Indianapolis Colts will have a stress-free Sunday en route to the AFC South title, dominating the Tennessee Titans at home while the Jacksonville Jaguars lose to the Texans in Houston, putting a big damper on the Fire Gary Kubiak rallyJay Cutler(notes) will start for the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, but he won't finish, as Aaron Rodgers(notes) and the Green Bay Packers come up big in clinching the No. 6 seed in the NFC … The 12th Man will come to play at Qwest Field – and, for a change, so will the other 11 – as the Seahawks sleaze their way into the postseason by defeating the Rams on Sunday night.

PLEASE, BOSS, SEND ME TO …

My big, ol' comfy couch, where I can take in all the Week 17 action on my giant LCD screen with my two favorite football aficionados – my 8- and 11-year-old sons – and rest up for an eventful and nomadic postseason. The last time I spent a regular-season Sunday at home, the Packers won big to qualify for the playoffs, which made my Rodgers-loving boys very happy. We'll see if history repeats.

LIES, LIES, LIES

1. Upon being informed that tackle Andrew Whitworth(notes) had been named the Bengals MVP by the Cincinnati chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America, wideout Terrell Owens(notes) exclaimed, "Who the [expletive] is Andrew Whitworth?!"

2. After successfully forcing five suspended players to promise that they'd return to school for their senior seasons as a prerequisite for playing in the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel added, "In exchange, I committed to taking Oprah's 'No Phone Zone Pledge', and I also agreed to take my sweater vest to the dry cleaners at least twice in 2011."

3. Since an injured Michael Vick(notes) had a subpar performance in the Philadelphia Eagles' nationally televised defeat to the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday night, he lost any legitimate claim to the Heisman – er, MVP award.

LET'S DO SOME DON JULIO SILVER SHOTS FOR …

The lame-duck U.S. Congress, and President Obama, for putting an end to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" – and ending decades of discriminatory policies toward gays in the military that will someday be very difficult to explain to our aghast grandchildren.

THIS WEEK'S PROOF THAT CAL IS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

On the heels of his 600th career coaching victory, a 74-56 triumph over Hartford at Haas Pavilion on Tuesday night, Mike Montgomery has a challenge on his hands: Trying to mold his young Golden Bears into a top-tier team while defending their first conference championship in 50 years. Led by junior guard Jorge Gutierrez, Cal opens its Pac-10 season Sunday evening at Stanford's Maples Pavilion, where Montgomery racked up an ample portion of those aforementioned victories – and will be looking to make Cardinal fans even sicker by earning No. 601.

Earlier Sunday, Joanne Boyle's Cal women (8-3) will host No. 9 Stanford in both teams' Pac-10 opener, a stern test for a Bears team coming off its first road victory of the season, Tuesday's 66-61 triumph over Illinois. Hey, no problem – the Cardinal merely ended Connecticut's NCAA record 90-game winning streak on Thursday night at Maples, so Tara VanDerveer's team probably isn't that good or anything. Actually, Stanford is as ridiculously formidable as always – congratulations to the Cardinal and to UConn for its incredible run. (And yes, for the record, I just sincerely extended my well wishes to a team representing the Evil Red Menace, which I hope at least has somewhat of a letdown against the Bears.) Shouting encouragement from the bench on Sunday will be Cal sophomore Tierra Rogers, a would-be star whose career ended before the start of her freshman season when she was diagnosed with ARVD, a rare genetic heart condition. Earlier this month at Madison Square Garden, Rogers was honored with the Maggie Dixon Courage Award, named in honor of the former Army coach who died from an undiagnosed heart condition.

YAHOO! SEARCH WORDS OF THE WEEK

dimples and dog whistles

LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK

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Singletary's woes included a sometimes turbulent relationship with QB Alex Smith.
(Paul Sakuma/AP Photo)

Shortly after Mike Singletary was hired as the 49ers' coach, we lampooned his trou-dropping antics to the tune of Linkin Park's "Faint." Earlier this season, Singletary's communication issues with then-offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye served as the subject for another Linkin Park rewrite, "1stp Klosr". In honor of his dismissal last Sunday night, Sing sings again to complete the LP trilogy – to the tune of "In the End".

It starts with losing
I don't know why
It doesn't even matter how hard I try keep that in mind
I designed this rhyme
To explain my demise
All I know
Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the year
The Chargers kicked my rear
It's so unreal
How we could sink so low
Watch my chance go right out the window
Juggling the Smiths, I didn't even know
Spraying the ball, couldn't make a throw
I kept none of it inside, was career suicide, it all fell apart
Wasn't meant to be, Coach Singletary was a casualty of a time when

I tried so hard
And got bizarre
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to scream
To lose the team
But in the end
It doesn't even matter

Rocking those shades at night
But it turned out my future wasn't so bright, keep that in mind

One thing, I don't know why
It doesn't even matter how hard you try, keep that in mind
I rewrite this rhyme, to explain my demise
I tried so hard
In spite of the way they were mocking me
Blaming me for Jimmy Raye's atrocity
Wouldn't let that TV guy go on with me
I'm surprised I got so (far)
Things aren't the way they were before
You won't have Coach Sing to kick around anymore
I really thought I could win
But our finest hour expired (in the end)
I kept none of it inside, y'all were terrified, it all fell apart
Wasn't meant to be, Coach Singletary was a casualty of a time when

I tried so hard
And got bizarre
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to scream
To lose the team
But in the end
It doesn't even matter

You put your trust in me
Didn't know what I didn't know
Now you've fired me
So I will drop my pants and go

I tried so hard
And got bizarre
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to scream
To lose the team
But in the end
It doesn't even matter

I tried so hard
And got bizarre
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I was the boss
Who wore the cross
But in the end
It doesn't even matter