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Updated Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 10:01 PM

Expect Seahawks to emerge as a contender in second half

By Jerry Brewer
Seattle Times staff columnist

The Seahawks are perception's chameleon. Stare at them, and they'll turn into almost anything you imagine them to be.

They finished the first half of this season with a 4-4 record. If you consider them fortunate they weren't 2-6, you can make that case with relative ease. If you consider them a team that should've been 6-2, you can make that case with relative ease. The Seahawks are a pessimist's nightmare — and an optimist's dream.

Really, though, they're an absurdly imbalanced football team. They have a top-five NFL defense and a bottom-five NFL offense, and the second half of the season will decide whether their good or bad side wins.

I'll take their good side.

If the Seahawks are the promising young team that many see, then they should make a huge jump over the final eight games. The Seahawks aren't a complete team, nor should they be only three seasons into a massive reconstruction under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

What they've built is a team with enough strengths to be highly competitive, which you see in a defense that has been dominant despite a few glitches and in a run game that serves as the offense's lifeline. What remains under construction is a passing game now led by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the general maturation of a talented young team, which requires patience. Still, in a parity-driven league that helps teams avoid long rebuilding processes, the Seahawks' time is suddenly now.

Their window to become a perennial playoff team with this core is open. Their imbalanced team is good enough. And anything less than a second-half surge to a winning record and a playoff appearance would be a disappointment.

"They know we can play football," Carroll said this past week, assessing his team at the midway mark. "They need to hang tough, be resilient, come back and get going and see if we can put together a second half that really makes this season feel like we're going in the right direction and making progress. There's no doubt in anybody's mind that we can. We just have to go do it."

It has been a wild, emotionally draining experience to watch the Seahawks thus far. Seven of their eight games have come down to the final possession. They're 3-4 in those games and have won or lost at the end in just about every way possible.

All the drama has left you frustrated the Seahawks haven't gotten more out of being so competitive. But inside a locker room filled with players learning how to handle expectations for the first time, the Seahawks have a measured perspective. With his Texas twang, defensive captain Red Bryant says the team looked at the first-half mediocrity as a necessarily evil.

"We had to focus on creating an identity," Bryant said. "We had our ups and downs, but we showed you that we have a clear identity. We know we can play great defense, run the ball and play smart football. Now, in the second half, it's about finishing. Those four losses very easily could've been four wins.

"You could also say we could've lost a few more, but when you're a good team going through something like this for the first time, you're probably going to come out about even."

Last season, the Seahawks learned the hard way in the first half, and it resulted in a 2-6 start. Then, they applied those lessons and improved dramatically, going 5-3 in the second half.

Looking at the Seahawks' home-heavy schedule and the average-to-awful quarterbacks they face in these last eight games, you don't have to create a wild scenario to predict success.

This is the lighter portion of their schedule. If the Seahawks maintain a high level on defense and in the run game, if they merely graduate from having the league's second-worst passing offense to just a plain bad one, a 6-2 finish is doable.

"All the mistakes we've made are correctable," Bryant said. "November and December — that's when you're really called upon to play tough football. And we don't have a problem with toughness."

It sounds like the Seahawks want to be more than just chameleons. How timely. Now is when the true contenders start to stand out.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JerryBrewer


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