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Win Chill Factor: #3

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    You'll never guess how this play ends.
(Photo: AP/Jack Dempsey)

 
The Seahawks' 23-20 victory over the Denver Broncos was this season's most perfect illustration of how the progress of a game can internally distort the perspective of accomplishment in subsequent assessments. Indeed, this contest contained all the thrilling meta-analysis of a postmodern experiment of opposites. I'm sure we were all observing this game, chuckling to ourselves, saying, "Goodness, this is little more than a Wolfgang K?hler exercise in psycholinguistics, projected onto the communal monolith of national telecommunication! How delightful!"

Or, you know, we might have said something like, "Crap!!!"

But in reality, this game went probably about as well as any rational, favorable prediction could have stated. Throughout the early part of the season, the game in Denver lurked on the schedule as The Scary One. The Bronco defense had established itself as a frighteningly effective unit, and Seattle's up-and-down play over the first 10 weeks of this year didn't inspire sentiments of the warm, cuddly variety. Up until last week, it looked like one we might have to chalk up to the Broncos.

If the Seahawks were 9-2 at the beginning of this game, the way it played out, this would have been considered about as good as it could have gone for us. But we were 7-4, still a pretty good record in light of the Seahawks' many pitfalls. So we watched the game wondering why Hasselbeck looked as shaky as ever, why Jackson was dropping balls again, why Alexander wasn't getting as many touches as we would have liked, why our run defense looked lethargic, why we were clutching our chests and hanging our heads as we did against the Bears and the 49ers.

In the end, though, it was a nice, muted, sweet sigh of relief. And 90 minutes past the game's conclusion, I'm going on the line and saying it was one of our more inspirational wins of the year. It was on pace to becoming one of our more disappointing blown chances of the year -- in fact, it seemed pretty close to being that again a mere three minutes before end of regulation -- but for once, everything turned out all right.

Again: If the Seahawks hadn't been so much of a concern so far, tonight's win would have made us all ecstatic and delirious. (Folks, we scored 16 points in the game's final ten minutes. That's good.) (Folks II: Shaun rushed for 90 yards, most of them seemingly invisible, but still a freaking lot of yards.) Instead, at the end we felt as we have all season long: relieved, refreshed, relaxed, and ready to ask the City Council to rename a street after Josh Brown.

   
Shaun Alexander finds the end zone.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

 
   
Matt Hasselbeck, whether because of injury or the arctic conditions in Colorado, looked extremely shaky. I didn't know if he was rattled or physically constrained, but in the end it seemed like he was trying to adhere to a conservative game plan, and tried to force big plays when the real solution was to pound away on the Denver defense.

During the second half, when the Seahawks played amazing game-control football, that seemed to finally work out. But the first half -- and even a few stretches of the second -- was riddled with mental errors, and the kind of franticism we sometimes see from Matt when he attempts to channel Peyton Manning in the audible department. The Seahawks were aware enough to overcome those mistakes. That was the kind of psychological, game-within-a-game comeback that the Seahawks had all last year.

Jay Cutler, making his first start at QB for Denver tonight, looked almost exactly as you'd expect a rookie quarterback to look. His most fatal mistake -- not taking a sack in the second quarter, and throwing a terrible pass into the arms of Darryl Tapp, who scored -- was a textbook rookie decision. It's what you see from people not used to being in that situation. Seneca Wallace made a couple of those in his first start as well.

And as much as I wanted to scream at our defense in the first half, whenever Tatum Bell had the ball, they settled into their game. The pass defense is on its way back, folks. Coverage was step-for-step and notably tighter, on the whole. There was more zip on the part of Trufant and Babineaux, and even Leroy Hill made some drive-altering impact. Cutler's infuriating 71-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall in the 4th quarter, which tied the game at 20, was more the fault of (say it together) missed tackles than egregiously blown assignments.

If you sit back, relax, enjoy a hot tea or maybe some brandy, and reflect objectively on this game, you can see some very welcome progress on defense as the Seahawks head into the final quarter of the season.

Depending on what you're ingesting, you might also be seeing a halo forming around the crown of Josh Brown's head. Forget the three field goals that Brown made, all in the final five minutes of the game. Forget the 50-yarder that iced it. Forget the fact that when he comes onto the field in the final seconds of the game, it serves as the entire Pacific Northwest's Moment Of Zen for the week.

What we should be thinking about is Brown's extraordinary 4th quarter play, on Denver's return on one of his own kickoffs, that put the heart back into the Seahawks' season. For some reason, Brown rushed over to the right side of the field to intercept the returner (I can't remember who it was). He made contact with the carrier, and somehow -- my memory is fuzzy on this -- the ball popped loose. It may have been another Seahawk defender, but the replays showed Brown getting right into the middle of the play. There had to be some impact; maybe it was the returner's shock that the kickoff specialist was trying to take him down.

Whatever it was, the ball came loose, and Seattle recovered. Another 3 points went on the board. And although the game hadn't yet ended, the turnover kept Denver from changing the tide on that series.

   
    I couldn't find any photos of Wolfgang K?hler. This is a Kohler toilet.

 
I'm afraid to get too cocky about putting the ball in Hasselbeck's hands and Brown's foot towards the end of the game, but damn if that doesn't seem to be a pretty surefire way to win. Nothing short of a restraining order keeping Brown 65 yards away from opposing goalposts can seem to doom his fate here. (Unless, of course, we inexplicably fail to retain his services after this season, but that won't happen, right?)

It was another gloriously imperfect game. We can throttle ourselves over the missed chances, lapses in judgement and mental shortcomings. And I'm sure we will. We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't.

But Cinemascope-wise, we didn't see this victory coming, even when we thought the Seahawks would have it pretty easy this season. We definitely didn't see this victory coming after the loss to San Francisco. Sure, having a rookie out there at the controls of the Broncos might've helped, but they don't dock you the win for that kind of thing.

I didn't exactly care for a lot of what I know I saw out there tonight -- mistakes, hesitations, erroneous judgement. But I really, really liked what I think I saw out there tonight -- heart, prudence, and some good ole Nietzschean "nuh-uh!" in the end. Forget all that stuff I said about linguistics and K?hler. I was just abusing Wikipedia. Everyone knows I'm a Wittgenstein man.

In the final analysis, I fervently restate, I much likey-likey.