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Larry Stone: In win over Cowboys, Seahawks show they can thrive amid the Earl Thomas chaos

It’s amazing how one game can alter the outlook of a Seahawks season that had been overflowing with doom piled on top of gloom.

Oh, sure, it was a victory Sunday achieved against a Cowboys team that appears to have severe offensive limitations – “disjointed” was the word owner Jerry Jones used to describe Dallas’ attack.

And, yeah, the Earl Thomas situation still has the potential to erupt into a cesspool of recrimination despite the ceasefire of hostilities once the whistle blows.

One game does not a breakthrough make. Yet if you squint hard enough, you certainly could see the framework of success for the Seahawks, built around a formula that once appeared depleted beyond recognition.

A balanced attack centered around a commitment to the running game that on Sunday, in their 24-13 victory, finally evolved past the theoretical into reality. A poised, decisive and mistake-free outing by quarterback Russell Wilson, aided and abetted by strong protection from the much-maligned offensive line.

A kicking game that controlled the field. A fierce pass rush that resulted in five sacks. And an opportunistic performance by the defense that produced two interceptions, both by Thomas, who may cause consternation all week but is fully engaged on game day.

Does it all sound vaguely familiar? The Seahawks built something of an empire built on that philosophy, only to watch many of their pillars depart or decline. It’s a valid question whether Seattle’s success was more dependent on the system, or the players that operated it. This season is something of a referendum on that topic.

The first two games, desultory losses at Denver and Chicago, certainly validated the camp that feels the Seahawks’ era of dominance has ended. But this game gave a glimmer of hope that they won’t go down meekly.

“This is how we want to play,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We couldn’t be more specific about it. … Now our job is to recreate it and do something again with it this week.”

Certainly, the return of linebacker Bobby Wagner provided a huge boost to the defense, with the prospect of K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin coming back to provide even more of a lift. Carroll said not to underestimate what D.J. Fluker’s debut at right guard meant as well.

“You guys don’t know a whole lot about D.J. yet,” he said, “but you’ll learn. He’s such a spirit on this club. He’s so tough, and he’s so mentally right about loving to play this game. We just missed him the first two weeks. He just has an energy about him that we’re really excited about.”

Thomas provides an energy as well. On game days it’s a positive force that provides a real-life nexus between the fabled Legion of Boom and the new version they are endeavoring to develop. But the rest of the week, the Seahawks have to put up with the spillover of Thomas’s contractual dissatisfaction, which this week manifested itself in two missed practices and a few days of drama over his availability Sunday.

“He had us confused, if anybody’s confused,” defensive end Frank Clark said. “But Earl is Earl. We knew Earl is going to do Earl, regardless. If he said he needed some time for family issues, he needed time for family issues. I respect that. At the end of the day, he came out here on Sunday and proved to be, continued to be, the greatest to play the game.”

It seems a precarious strategy to expect this tug of war between Thomas and management to work out so well for the next 13-plus weeks. He may well be gone long before that, for the good of all involved. But in the interim, the Seahawks’ best hope is to build up the disparate elements of their game into a symbiotic unit that can thrive amid the friction.

“We talk all week about preparing, and finally we get the chance to see our results flourish,” Clark said. “There’s no feeling better than seeing that. Seeing our offense, seeing (running back) Chris (Carson) get the carries he deserves, seeing Russ make the plays he’s always making, seeing our offense get that juice, and they pass it on to us. We keep applying our pressure and keep our foot on the opponents’ neck, and we’re going to keep getting the job done.”

It would be wise not to assume anything, even in the glow of victory, though the Seahawks have a very winnable game Sunday at 0-3 Arizona.

“This is where we want to be, so we’ve righted it, hopefully,” Carroll said. “It won’t mean anything unless we come back and do it next week. One week was good, though, and it’s a great illustration of what we can be like.”

Especially since the illustration they painted for two weeks was such an eyesore.



Larry Stone is a columnist for the Seattle Times

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Larry Stone is a sports columnist for the Seattle Times. (Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times/MCT)

Larry Stone is a sports columnist for the Seattle Times. (Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times/MCT)

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