MY CONTACTS AT Amazon.com tell me it's official: Everyone in the world has read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, and publishers are considering looking for secondary buyer markets among the more erudite branches of the dolphin and chimpanzee families. Meanwhile, knowing that all readers are now adept at breaking arcane codes, I can easily describe the first quarter of the Seahawks' 35-14 laugher with the Lions Sunday as follows: 8, 80, 3:37, 7-0, 13, 87, 7:41, 14-0 . . . 1, 72, 0:14, 14-7.
OK, Dan, your 10 seconds are up. This code means it took the Seahawks 11 minutes and 18 seconds to move 167 yards and mount a 14-point lead, only to see Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington get half of it back with one 14-second play that covered 72 yards. And with that, the game pretty much came to an end. With 3:51 left in the second quarter, it was Hawks 35-7. Someone said University of Washington Athletic Director Barbara Hedges was seen on the Lions' sideline checking under the helmets to see if they might be the Huskies in disguise.
IT WAS THE one-sided game Hawks partisans had expected for a month of Sundays. Could've and should've (and, but for Shawn Springs and a few other problems, would've) happened against Cincinnati and Washington. Instead, Seattle found creative ways to lose those road games and now must wonder whether a 7-3 mark is enough of a pad to make it to the playoffs. Maybe not. Even by winning their final pair of home games (Nov. 30 against Cleveland, Dec. 21 vs. Arizona), the math looks like these guys need at least one good result on the road. If it happens in St. Louis (the NFC West division co-leader at 7-3) on Dec. 14, Seattle could settle its playoff agenda with holiday-shopping days to spare.
But back to the laugher: It had more than a little to do with the fact that Coach Mike Holmgren had reiterated all week his intention to take the straitjackets off the guys on offense. Playing with abandon (and looking slightly crazy at times with muffed punts, hand-offs to the opposition, etc.), the Seahawks put up an even 300 net yards during the greatest first-half start since Cal played the Huskies back in 2003.
The lopsided score afforded a swarm of sportswriters a chance to take a blow at halftime and scoop their Oklahoma colleagues. It happened when Steve Largent, now a cell-tech lobbyist after life as an Okie congressman and storied Seahawk wideout, showed up in the press box (yo, Largent, working press only, buddy). He announced that, no, he won't vie for the U.S. Senate spot Don Nickles is vacating next year ("I don't have the fire in the belly," Largent explained). Maybe after losing the gov race last year, he now knows that Oklahomans won't go for the one guy in the state who is actually more conservative than Nickles. In any case, the Largent moment provided welcome political reporting to fill a sports-booth news void left by recent former NFL pundit Rush Limbaugh, whose drug rehab lasted longer than his sports-broadcast career.
As for Springs, even on the rare occasion when he does something worthy of all the braying about him by out-of-town commentators, it goes for naught. No. 24 actually had a clean and timely pass defense early during the third quarter (some believe it was the first since his sophomore year at Ohio State), but a Ken Hamlin penalty nullified the effort. Later, Springs picked Harrington at the goal line to end an otherwise inconsequential drive.
BY THEN, NOTHING much mattered. Even though half of Portland and Eugene swam upstream along Interstate 5 to see ex-Duck darling Harrington, the Hawks' quick start drowned out any Lions support. Seahawk officialdom announced a "tickets-distributed" crowd of 65,865, but actual butts on seats for the televised game looked more like about 40,000. Fans figured the team's un-Wappler-like string of nonrainy local games finally would end; it did, but most of the contest was settled under dry skies. Masterful and commanding, Matt Hasselbeck passed and ran the offense like an all-pro, and Bobby Engram had a pair of touchdowns on a passel of all-purpose yards.
Seattle didn't match the prodigious early output after halftime, but Holmgren is generally happy. When this is the case, the region's collective blood pressure stabilizesat least for the few days that remain until Sunday's date with the Ravens. It doesn't take much imagination to envision the Rams over Arizona by about 40 points next Sunday, while the Hawks are sputtering in Baltimore. The Ravens' brain trust can break codes, too, and last Sunday's numerical sequence ended with an ominous 0: number of points the Seahawks scored during the second half.