Seahawks' middling history makes for underdog perception


Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
KIRKLAND, Wash. - Shaun Alexander was relaxing in front of his television when a face from the Seahawks' middling past appeared on the screen: Tim Brown, now retired after 16 seasons with the Raiders.
From 1988 to 2002, Brown and the Raiders owned Seattle, winning 17 of 29 games when the Seahawks were still in the AFC West. Brown is now a commentator for an NFL preview show on Fox Sports Net.
"He said, 'I love the Seahawks. I love what they do. But I have beaten them so many times, I just can't pick them,"' Alexander recalled.
That perception helps explains why Seattle (15-3), the NFC's top seed, is a 3-point underdog against the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-5), the AFC's sixth seed.
The apparent snub isn't unprecedented. Last season, NFC top seed Philadelphia was a 7-point underdog to AFC second seed New England. At the end of the 2000 season, the top-seeded New York Giants of the NFC were a 3-point underdog against fourth-seeded Baltimore.
After 1988, Cincinnati was the AFC top seed but was a 7-point underdog to NFC second seed San Francisco. And after 1982, top-seeded Washington was a 3-point 'dog to second-seeded Miami.
Those '82 Redskins were the only top-seeded underdog to win.
Yet every postseason, players rush to claim the underdog, under-appreciated status as if it was the Lombardi Trophy. This season, the Seahawks haven't had to seize the low ground. The nation has brought it to them.
Beyond Brown's comments, there is the belief that the NFC is weaker than the supposedly mighty AFC.
That spawns this corollary notion: Seattle's ridiculously inept division, the NFC West - where the combined records of the other three teams was 15-33 - gave the Seahawks their first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
Hence, they got their first postseason win since 1984 and then their first Super Bowl appearance.
The Seahawks have heard all this before - from their own coach, Mike Holmgren.
"Mike said from the very beginning, that we are always going to be the 'other' team," Alexander said. "We play against the Redskins and they talked about Joe Gibbs. Then we play against Carolina and had a team that really stuffs the run. And now we play against Pittsburgh. And even though they are a sixth seed, they are going to pick them over us.
"We win 11 games in a row. And they say it is our fault that the other teams weren't as good."
Seattle needed this season to get over the hump. Holmgren was 0-3 in the postseason with the Seahawks before his team broke through in his seventh season here. Before that, the Seahawks defined mediocrity by finishing within one game of .500 in eight of the previous 10 years.
Seattle had zero winning seasons from 1991-98. Before that, the lone playoff win was back in 1984. Before that, the Seahawks were never better than 9-7 in the regular season, with five losing seasons in their first eight years in the league.
Get the picture? These current Seahawks do.
"We've always had a chip on our shoulders," defensive tackle Chuck Darby said.
"All year long, we've heard we didn't have enough of that to do this, we didn't have enough of this to do that," Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson said. "Everyone inside the organization knows we've done enough to earn respect. You'd think by going 13-3, we'd earn respect.
"All we can do is win."

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