Seahawks treasure unimpressive feat

SEATTLE – The strangest part wasn’t the division title that came with a losing record, but the way the Seattle Seahawks celebrated their 7-9 record by acting as if they had actually won something.

They stormed the field even before the final play on the night the NFC West tumbled to them with a 16-6 win over the St. Louis Rams. The officials ran at the joyous Seahawks blowing whistles and waving arms. “Get back! Get back!” the officials shouted. Not that the players paid much heed, bobbing to the music, doffing their helmets and howling into the roar that rattled around the inside of the great stadium by Elliott Bay. This was like the Super Bowl. Or the NFC Championship game.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll celebrates during the second half against the Rams.
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

If it wasn’t 7-9.

But Pete Carroll would not be dissuaded on a night when even a failed season could be folded and twisted like a carnival balloon into a validation of the Pete Carroll Way. So while sheepish delight might have been an appropriate response, he instead seized the absurd, calling Sunday a “championship night” and ran as far as hyperbole would take him.

“I just imagine Seattle’s going to be on fire this week!” he gushed.

“We set our goal in winning the NFC West,” he said as if Sunday was an accomplishment. “That’s what we said on the first day we ever got together.”

“This is just the start of coming to understand what it takes to win year in and year out,” he proclaimed, waving his arm toward the locker room.

There is little debate that this Seattle team is the worst to host a playoff game in the history of the NFL. No one before has won a division with a losing record and even the small group of 8-8 champions brought something to the postseason tournament – like a skilled offense or a defense that occasionally stops people.

The Seahawks are simply a bad team that was one of the worst in the NFL in every significant statistical category. Had Kurt Warner(notes) not retired from Arizona or Mike Singletary not fumed and raged his 49ers into a crater, one of those teams would have been celebrating this week and Seattle would be talking about disappointment, studying the draft and finding a quarterback of the future. But since everybody else fell apart, destiny tumbled to the Seahawks who followed their coach into believing a great victory had been won.

“To come away with our goal to be the division champion and to get it done like we did, I’m so excited,” running back Justin Forsett(notes) said.

“If we win the Super Bowl it will take a little longer to sink in,” running back Leon Washington(notes) said with apparent seriousness. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

A real Super Bowl team will arrive next Saturday at Qwest Field for an NFC wild-card matchup. The New Orleans Saints are one of the nine teams to beat the Seahawks by double figures this year with a 34-19 victory just before Thanksgiving. Their quarterback Drew Brees(notes) will not rattle in the deafening roar the way St. Louis’s Sam Bradford(notes) did on Sunday night. Presumably this will be a vanquishing. And what then comes of that?

It’s hard to know what to make of Seattle’s win on Sunday night. A glance at the statistics from the game show a Rams team that is not ready to seize the glory predicted for it in future seasons. Their best player, running back Steven Jackson, only carried the ball 11 times. Bradford had a 52.4 quarterback rating and the St. Louis receivers sprawled across the Qwest turf trying to catch passes that were never close.

When asked to explain a deep pass that he could have caught and maybe saved the night for the Rams, receiver Danario Alexander(notes) simply said, “the ball was in the air and I just didn’t get my hands on it.”

And somehow Sunday was supposed to justify the dozens of signings and releases Carroll did all offseason and fall, picking through the scraps of everyone else’s trash to build a roster that is barely adequate for NFL play and declaring it a confirmation that the plan is proceeding just as it should?

Pete Carroll, right, with QB Charlie Whitehurst after beating the Rams.
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

This isn’t even to scorn the Seahawks. They are who they were supposed to be: A team trying to find a bridge between the 2000s quarterbacked Matt Hasselbeck(notes) teams and some undefined future. If anything, 7-9 exceeded expectations. Charlie Whitehurst(notes), who is supposed to be the next quarterback here, played for Hasselbeck who nonetheless insisted he could have started despite his aches and pains. And Whitehurst even had some moments, completing an early 61-yard pass to Ruvell Martin(notes) that set up Seattle’s only touchdown. He also rushed for 30 yards.

On Sunday this sufficed for brilliance. After the game, the NBC crew raced to interview Whitehurst mainly because there wasn’t much of anyone else to talk to. What do you ask a backup quarterback who has done just enough to beat another 7-9 team? Apparently not a lot because Whitehurst was soon in a scrum of Seahawks who stood triumphantly on their logo at the center of the field to celebrate as if they hadn’t celebrated enough.

If nothing else, the Seahawks stoked the flames as they pumped fists running off the field into an adoring roar, losers but winners all at once. Confetti flew. Whitehurst beamed. Carroll waved two fingers in something resembling a “V.” And a 7-9 team left the field after the last game of the season acting as if it had conquered the western world on a night it could have been 6-10.

Les Carpenter is a feature writer and columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Les a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Jan 3, 2011