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Rubber meets the road for Seattle

• Seahawks' true challenge will come when they leave the comforts of home

SEATTLE Ñ There's no question that this is the most promising Seahawks team in Mike Holmgren's five years as coach.

Seattle is 7-3 and tied with St. Louis for the NFC West lead. The Seahawks, who beat Detroit 35-14 on Sunday, are in position to post their best record since 1984, when they went 12-4 and reached the second round of the NFL playoffs.

But promise doesn't always result in production, and Holmgren is reserving judgment on the Seahawks as contenders at least until Sunday's visit to Baltimore. Losses in the last two road games to Cincinnati and Washington indicated to Holmgren that the Seahawks might offer Freud an interesting study.

'We have a chance to win most of the rest of our games, but we have a little bit of a Sybil-ish side to our personality,' Holmgren says. 'Our other personality crops up at times, and we make it tough on ourselves. We have to believe we can go out on the road and win a game.

'I believe this team is better (than last season), but what we do on the road will tell the tale at the end. Good teams, and the teams strong at the end (of a season), can win on the road. So, we'll see.'

Hasselbeck helps

Some things have changed from Holmgren's first four years at the helm, during which the Seahawks went 31-33 Ñ the exact record that got predecessor Dennis Erickson fired.

Holmgren, equipped with an eight-year, $32 million contract as both general manager and coach, gave up the former title, abdicating personnel responsibilities to Bob Ferguson. Ray Rhodes came in as defensive coordinator and provided at least a temporary breath of fresh air.

The biggest difference from the past, though, might be the performance and on-field leadership of Matt Hasselbeck, who has matured into one of the game's better quarterbacks in his third season with the Seahawks. The 28-year-old Hasselbeck was terrific against Detroit, avoiding the rush, making cool decisions and completing 21 of 28 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

During one stretch in the first half, as the Seahawks were building a 35-7 lead, Hasselbeck connected on 11 straight passes.

'After having gone through all the tough times his first two years with us, he is handling things very well,' Holmgren says. 'He is a good quarterback, and he's getting better.'

The other quarterback at Seahawks Stadium, Joey Harrington, put in a pretty decent performance, too. The second-year pro from Oregon and Central Catholic High completed a career-best 26 passes in 48 attempts for a season-best 285 yards and two TDs. He had a career-long 72-yard bomb to Scotty Anderson in the second quarter.

Harrington also threw two interceptions, running his season total to 15 against 11 TD passes, and he was on the short end of the scoreboard for the seventh time in 10 games this year. That made it difficult for the ex-Duck to fully enjoy the throng of several hundred family members, friends and Oregon fans who made the trip north to watch him play.

'It was very nice, very flattering to see all the people out there,' Harrington says. 'I saw all the green and yellow, all the jerseys, all the people who were with us when we won games at Oregon. Those are the diehards who drove all the way up here, five hours from Eugene and two-and-a-half from Portland.

'I'm not going to lie Ñ it's tough. There were a lot of emotions for me, coming back (to the Northwest) this week. When you see all those people coming out to support you, it would have been nice to give them a win. It's tough to smile.'

Unbeaten at home

The Seahawks were loaded up on happy face after extending their home record to 6-0. Only Cleveland and Arizona stand in the way of their first unbeaten home season.

Their 1-3 road record provides pause, however, to their aspirations of a playoff berth for the first time since 1999, and only the second time since 1989. Road games at Baltimore, Minnesota, St. Louis and San Francisco in the next six weeks offer a question only the Seahawks can answer.

'This is a playoff team,' says rookie cornerback Marcus Trufant, the former Washington State standout. 'That's our goal, and if we take things little by little, we will get it done.

'We are pleased with where we're at, and we still haven't played our best ball yet. But we have let a couple of games get away from us. We need to come out and play well on the road. Good teams win big on the road.'

Adds Seattle running back Maurice Morris, Harrington's former backfield mate at Oregon: 'We know we should have won a couple of games we lost on the road. Baltimore is going to be very important for us, and that's just for starters. We know it's going to be a real test for us, to see how we finish out the season on the road. We have a great chance for the playoffs, but not if we can't get it done in games away from this place.'

Contact Kerry Eggers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..