Seahawks pick up where they left off


SEATTLE—It was a pregame celebration befitting a team over itself. Given one last chance to use Super Bowl XLVII as reason to party, the Seahawks declined. They might have set an NFL record for most nondescript unveiling of a championship banner.

The moment was simple, understated. It went by so fast you would’ve thought it was a Percy Harvin play.

After a highlight video, the Seahawks rushed onto the field as a team, no player introductions. The 2013 Super Bowl banner was presented in the rafters and on the field. A large, soccer-style tifo with an image of the Lombardi Trophy and the word “Champions” was draped over the north end zone seats. And that was it.

No hugs. No tears.

What’s next?

On Thursday night, the Seahawks proved what they have been saying for months. They have more to accomplish. They’re not satisfied with one title. They became the youngest Super Bowl winner in NFL history last February, and they kept the core of the team intact over the offseason. They’re having way too much fun to let up now.

One game into the NFL season, the message has been sent. The Seahawks aren’t going anywhere.

In fact, they’re faster, more athletic and more versatile than they were a year ago.

In a 36-16 victory over Green Bay, the Seahawks opened the year with as thorough an early-season whipping of a good team as you’ll see. The Packers are the NFC North Division favorite and a trendy Super Bowl pick. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still an elite player, running back Eddie Lacy is an emerging star, and the Packers are tougher and more well-rounded than they’ve been in recent years. But they had no chance against the Seahawks on this night.

The game was close in the first half mostly because of a few Seattle mistakes, including a fumbled punt by Earl Thomas, which led to Green Bay’s first touchdown. But even though the score was 17-10 at halftime, the Seahawks had outgained the Packers 221 to 131 yards.

In the second half, the Seahawks exerted their dominance, and once again they turned a marquee prime-time home game on national television into a rout.

“It was a continuation,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve been doing some good things in the preseason and the offseason. It’s a really good start for us.”

A continuation—you’ll hear Carroll describe the Seahawks’ performance in this way quite a bit. He knows the Seahawks have the talent and a winning formula, and now the goal is to repeat the excellence.

He doesn’t want to change. He wants to refine. He doesn’t believe the Seahawks have to play up to their new status, or prove their greatness. He just wants them to do the same thing over and over and compete against their own standard.

It was a familiar Seahawks victory. They dominated on the ground, with Marshawn Lynch rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Percy Harvin added a speed element; 41 of his 161 all-purpose yards came on the ground. Russell Wilson was efficient, completing 19 of 28 passes for 191 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Once again, the Seahawks’ defense controlled an explosive offense, holding the Packers to 255 total yards and 4.5 yards per play. Rodgers threw for just 189 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt. He was under five yards per attempt until garbage time. Lacy rushed for just 34 yards and left the game early to be tested for a concussion.

“To keep Aaron down like that, I’m really excited,” Carroll said. “Our formula on defense held up real nice. That’s good.”

Eventually, the Seahawks’ pass rush affected the game. They sacked Rodgers three times, all in the second half. In the third quarter, Michael Bennett tackled Rodgers, forced a fumble that bounced backward 10 yards and caused a safety. The Seahawks led 22-10, and five minutes later, Lynch opened the fourth quarter with his second touchdown to increase the lead to 29-10 and turn the game into a fun fest.

So much for a Super Bowl hangover.

The best team in the NFL left no doubt that they want to be in the championship hunt again this season. They’re not approaching this season like they’re defending a title. They’re chasing something new. Although the road to back-to-back Super Bowls is historically perilous, you can’t be certain that complacency won’t be a factor in whether the Seahawks succeed.

The 2013 Seahawks championship banner hangs in the CenturyLink Field rafters, the glory never to be forgotten. Sports tradition dictates its placement, but for a franchise with great ambition, you can’t ignore the symbolism.

The banner is easily visible, yet too high to touch. It is there to admire, to draw inspiration, but it’s too distant for much else. The past is out of reach.

But the present, oh, it’s right there for the Seahawks to take. And they’re reaching for it, reaching for more, reaching for better.