Glendale, Ariz. – Now the Seahawks need to start playing for the future.
The 31-20 loss to Arizona on Sunday leaves the Seattle Seahawks at 3-6 while the NFC West-leading Cardinals moved to 6-3 with a sweep of the Hawks.
What the numbers mean for Seattle is that the remaining seven games are the start of the 2010 preseason.
They will play to win, of course. The fans deserve that.
And the limited roster size precludes too much lineup euthanasia. But where available, the kids need to see more action, and the veterans need to understand they’re auditioning for their jobs next year.
Coach Jim Mora can’t say that. Such things are against coaching bylaws.
“We’re not counting ourselves out of anything,” Mora said after the game. “We’re not readjusting our goals other than we have to continue to try to get better.”
And, frankly, they were better on Sunday. In fact, they were a lot better than a month ago, when they took a 27-3 pasting at the hands of the Cardinals at home in Qwest Field.
Sunday, they were ahead 14-0 early and still led 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
“I see growth on this football team,” Mora said. “I thought coming into this year we would see growth once we had some (lineup) continuity. And we’ve had some and I think it showed up today. Offensively, we were able to move the ball against a very good defense. We were able to run the ball against a defense that was fourth in the NFL against the run. To me, those are all positives.”
There were even more than those. Give them credit, the Seahawks showed up ready to play, with effective schemes and a competitive fire that probably burned at higher BTUs than at any time this season.
A goal-line stand in the first period looked like it might be enough to turn around the Seahawks’ immediate fortunes.
After Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill combined on a tackle to stonewall the Cardinals, the Seahawks’ offense moved 99 yards for a score. On the first play, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh connected on a 53-yard completion.
Aside from the yardage, this was a symbolic gain, as these two had not been in synch this season. For Houshmandzadeh to finish with nine catches for 165 yards was a validation of his hiring as a free agent.
Probably the biggest surprise development of the day plays into the team’s need to look ahead. When starting back Julius Jones left the game early with a broken rib, he was replaced by second-year back Justin Forsett.
The 5-foot-8 Forsett rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries and added five catches for 25 yards. He’s quick in small spaces and slippery to catch.
He needs more exposure, as does back Louis Rankin. The former Washington Husky was elevated from the practice squad and got three carries for 24 yards, and also caught three passes for 24.
Rookie receiver Deon Butler is another who has shown promise. Get him more snaps. Toss in defensive end Nick Read. What other defensive ends have done much lately?
And, you might as well start considering who of the veterans are going to be worth keeping.
Free agents? Center Chris Spencer, defensive end Darryl Tapp, guard Rob Sims, defensive end Cory Redding, cornerback Ken Lucas, receiver Nate Burleson.
Watch closely how those guys finish the season. If they play hard and produce, it tells you something about their value.
Mora pointed out the obvious, that the Seahawks are not yet good enough to compete with the Cardinals, who have become entrenched as the divisional alpha dogs. Arizona has won five of the last six against Seattle.
Mora said his players are resilient and will respond to the loss in appropriate ways.
“We’ve got to continue to go to work with the mind-set we’re going to improve every day, every practice, every quarter of every game,” Mora said.
That’s exactly the approach the Seahawks need to take. And the focus needs to be out past these final seven games, and on the various ways this team can be reshaped to narrow the gap between it and Arizona.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440