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Seahawks just good enough to contend in NFC West – and miss out on Luck

by: MICHAEL WORKMAN Tavaris Jackson runs for the decisive touchdown as the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Arizona Cardinals.

SEATTLE - Before we decide the Seattle Seahawks are on their way after Sunday's 13-10 victory over NFC West Division rival Arizona at CenturyLink Field, let's pause for perspective.

The Seahawks are 1-2.

They have a chance to make the playoffs for the second straight year primarily because they are again playing in the weakest division in the NFL.

After three weeks, San Francisco is a shaky 2-1, Seattle and Arizona are 1-2 and St. Louis is a rather odious 0-3.

But at least nobody is still accusing the Seahawks of tanking games to become a player in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. Not if they are paying attention, anyway.

Seattle showed progress in its home opener, beating Arizona for the third straight time and going to 3-0 against the Cardinals in the Pete Carroll era.

Nobody will confuse Seattle's offense with New England's, but at least the Seahawks scored points in the first half - six - which they hadn't been able to do in losses to San Francisco (33-17) and Pittsburgh (24-0).

Tarvaris Jackson hasn't yet proved he is a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he had his best game as a Seahawk, throwing for 171 yards and scrambling for an 11-yard, third-quarter touchdown run that was the game's biggest play.

There was a semblance of a running game - Marshawn Lynch gained 73 yards on 19 carries and Leon Washington got loose for a 21-yard gainer - and Sidney Rice shined in his Seattle debut, catching eight passes for 109 yards.

The Seattle defense stuffed the run - Arizona was without injured tailback Beanie Wells - and kept the visitors out of the end zone after Larry Fitzgerald's leaping first-quarter touchdown catch.

'Very happy to get a win,' said Carroll, Seattle's second-year coach. 'We have a long way to go, a lot of work to do. But we got a little better today. We made enough plays to win.'

Seattle chose not to re-sign free agent Matt Hasselbeck, its quarterback for the previous decade, opting to bring on the mobile Jackson, who had started 20 games in his five years at Minnesota.

There are plenty who consider the Seahawks' decision to let Hasselbeck go a mistake, and some of them among the crowd of 66,199 sounded off in the early going as Jackson and the Seattle offense struggled.

The 6-2, 225-pound former Alabama State standout said the boos didn't surprise him. He heard a few in Minneapolis, too.

'Not at all,' said Jackson, 28. 'I've been through a lot, man. It don't really bother me anymore. You want to play for your fans, but I'm playing for the guys in that huddle, in that locker room.

'I knew it would be a hard situation (in Seattle). Matt was here for a long time and did some great things. A lot of people, I'll probably never win them over. I can try, but my thing here is to be the best I can be, be the leader and try to get this team some wins. If we keep going, if we keep winning, I don't care.'

Jackson completed 18 of 31 passes with one interception. He took some punishment on his third-quarter scoring scramble, which capped a 14-play, 72-yard drive that took six minutes off the clock.

'Tarvaris gave it up to get into the end zone,' Carroll said. 'That's who he is - a very tough competitor.

'He has taken way more (licks) than you'd like. He has proven to us that he is really tough. We haven't protected him the way we need to. We're going to improve there.'

Seattle boasts the NFL's youngest starting offensive line in 16 years, with a pair of rookies - guard John Moffitt and tackle James Carpenter - and second-year tackle Russell Okung. Max Unger, in his third year out of Oregon, starts at center. The veteran is a newcomer to the Seahawks, guard Paul McQuistan, in his sixth year out of Lebanon High and Weber State.

Unger was honest when asked if the Seattle O-line showed progress Sunday after the Seahawks managed one touchdown, 16 first downs - one in their final five possessions - and 261 yards total offense.

'We couldn't close the game out,' he said. 'It's great to win a game, but to be in position to close it out and not do it is disappointing. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

'Tarvaris took a big hit at the goal line to score. That's not a good thing. We have to be able to punch that thing in there before it comes down to that.'

Rice's presence was a good thing, though. The 6-4, 200-pound receiver - who missed the first two games with a shoulder injury - played four years with Jackson at Minnesota.

'Tarvaris knows Sidney better than any of us,' said Carroll, who spent almost as much time waving his arms, imploring the fans to make noise, as he did coaching. 'It's a big deal for us to get him on the field. He has a champion's mentality. He is going to make a difference for us.'

Seattle wore the look of a loser for a long time Sunday.

Jackson, whose wheels are more potent than his arm, was sacked four times in the first half. Punter Jon Ryan, who came into the game with a 48.6-yard average, shanked one 28 yards in the first quarter and sent one nine yards out of bounds on a coffin-corner mishit in the closing minutes.

Washington muffed one kickoff and wound up falling on the ball for a zero-yard return, then couldn't catch another kickoff as the ball bounced past him into the end zone for a touchback.

Late in the game, with Seattle clinging to a three-point lead, Unger's bad snap was mishandled by Jackson, launching a mad scramble for the ball. The Seahawks' Anthony McCoy recovered, but only after a 24-yard loss.

The Seahawks aren't bad defensively. Rice should help out the offense. But next up in the schedule are Atlanta at home and at the New York Giants. I'm just not sure all put together, it adds up to more than six or seven victories this season for the Northwest contingent.

Still, that's almost enough in the NFC Worst.

Whatever happens, I'm betting the Seahawks will be too good to qualify for the No. 1 pick in next April's draft. Stanford's Luck will wind up in another uniform - Cincinnati, perhaps? - in 2012.