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Seahawks’ loss wasn’t beatdown of the past

Team improved, though final score didn’t show it

Danny O’Neil Seattle Times

The 17-point loss in Denver was the latest in Seattle’s list of double-digit defeats on the road, 13 and counting now since the 2008 season began.

But there was a bright side to Sunday’s 31-14 loss in Denver.

A couple, actually, and you don’t need rose-colored glasses or a magnifying glass to see them. Just a willingness to disregard the ball for a few plays and look at the men built like refrigerators who wage a battle of strength and attrition over four quarters.

Seattle’s offensive and defensive lines did better than hold up at the line of scrimmage in Denver. They controlled it. This wasn’t another instance of Seattle getting flattened like roadkill.

Maybe that’s because Denver started two rookies on the offensive line and its defense features a relatively anonymous front seven. Or maybe – just maybe – it was a sign of progress for a team bullied so often the past two seasons.

The Seattle running game that has operated at a crawl for more than a year now showed improvement and the rush defense that held firmly against San Francisco was more formidable in Denver.

Sunday’s defeat should not be confused with the beatings Seattle was subjected to last season when the Seahawks suffered through their two lowest game rushing totals in franchise history.

Seattle ran for 109 yards against the Broncos, and while that is well short of extraordinary, it does constitute improvement.

Seattle is one of four teams in the league that has not had a 1,000-yard rusher in any of the previous four seasons. Detroit, New England and Tampa Bay are the others.

That might not change this season. Not with the way Seattle rotates its backs. Justin Forsett is the starter, but Julius Jones and Leon Washington have been getting carries, too, and Michael Robinson has been productive in his limited opportunities.

Now, don’t get carried away and pronounce the ground game healed. The Seahawks are No. 20 in the league in rushing yards after two weeks, and both of their rushing touchdowns have been scored by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who had not scored any the previous four seasons.

“Now that he’s a runner, too, we’ve decided that we’re going to install some other aspects of the offense to accentuate that,” coach Pete Carroll said.

Just like Michael Vick in Philadelphia, right?

“We have watched Philadelphia tape here today,” Carroll said.

So how about it, Hasselbeck?

“I don’t think you should continue to look for that,” he said. “That’s not something I know how to duplicate.”

The rushing defense, however, looks like something Seattle can begin to count on. In Week 1, the Seahawks held the 49ers’ Frank Gore to 38 yards rushing. This past week, the Broncos averaged fewer than 2 yards per carry.

It’s not a total surprise. The Seahawks allowed only two opposing players to gain 100 yards on the ground last season.

After moving Red Bryant to defensive end, the Seahawks have three starting defensive linemen who weigh more than 320 pounds, and they now have two games that show that this is a defense capable of digging its heels in and trading body blows between the tackles.

There was a big improvement, but it didn’t show up in the score.

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