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Originally published October 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM | Page modified October 20, 2014 at 8:30 PM

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Seahawks Morning After: Hawks say they’ll ‘come out swinging’

Larry Stone column: The Seahawks thought they’d avoid the Super Bowl hangover but are finding out just how tough it is in the NFL after winning a championship.


Seattle Times columnist

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The Seahawks thought they’d be immune from the fabled Super Bowl hangover, the one that has kept any team from repeating since the 2004 season and often made the year after an unexpected struggle.

And they still might be. It’s way too early to panic, with a full 10 games — and they hope even more — to recapture what Earl Thomas earlier termed the “championship spirit.”

But right now, the Seahawks are finding out why it’s so hard to defend a title in the NFL. Whatever were the intangible qualities that defined the 2013 Seahawks — grit, swagger, perseverance, brotherhood — have often been in hibernation this year.

When they won it all last season and seemed like such a tightknit unit (“We all we need, we all we got!”), did you ever think we’d hear about teammates scuffling and a contentious locker room?

Yet in the wake of Percy Harvin’s shocking trade on Friday, which had undeniable ripple effects into Sunday’s loss to the Rams, stories began to emerge of a team divided.

And on the field, the Seahawks have been a far cry from the dominating unit that sent shivers down the spine of their opponents. Thomas said after Sunday’s game that the Seahawks have had “successful moments” they need to build on. That’s quite a comedown from the sustained excellence the Seahawks had come to expect.

Speaking on NBC’s “Football Night in America,” on Sunday night, two-time Super Bowl champion Rodney Harrison said the Seahawks “have to get back to that cockiness that they had. They’re trying to be too perfect. They need to relax, start having fun and go back to the fundamentals.”

His colleague Cris Collinsworth added, “It’s possible that success is tearing this team apart more so than when they were trying to get to the Super Bowl.”

But perhaps now, humbled by two consecutive defeats and a .500 record that places them, for the moment, back among the NFL’s pedestrian teams, the Seahawks are in prime position to get their edge back. They like to think of themselves, after all, as a group of chip-on-their-shoulder overachievers that has thrived on being questioned.

Right now, the questions are coming fast and furious.

“The good thing about the Seahawks, we’re a resilient group,’’ offensive tackle Russell Okung said after Sunday’s loss. “Any time we have our backs against the wall, we have to come out swinging. And I know we’ll do that.”

There are certainly explanations for the Seahawks’ record. They fell to two torrid teams in San Diego and Dallas, and another, St. Louis, that always seems to make them sweat. The realities of the salary cap resulted in offseason departures that have cut into Seattle’s depth and leadership, and injuries have further thinned out the roster.

That’s on top of all the hidden obstacles that traditionally topple champions, the unseen but pernicious qualities like ego, chemistry, distractions and the dimming of the fire that drove them. Coach Pete Carroll believed he had found the formula to keep those issues at bay, but so did five of the past eight Super Bowl teams who failed to win their division the next year. Runaway success and the resulting adulation can have insidious repercussions.

Six games in, the Seahawks have a chance to fight back and redefine their season. There’s still time to show that they are the champions who can recapture their championship spirit. Maybe what it will take is looking ordinary to spark them to become extraordinary again.

“There’s nothing better than having your backs against the wall, and that’s where we are right now,’’ Russell Wilson said.

Spoken like a 2013 Seahawk.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry



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