2007: A last hurrah

Posted Dec 11, 2011

The 2011 Seahawks are "chasing ghosts," as linebacker Leroy Hill puts it. That's because 2007 was the last time the Seahawks had a winning record, which makes a repeat performance a goal worth pursuing.

It was 2007, and times were just better.

Especially for the Seahawks, who would win their fourth consecutive NFC West title with a 10-6 record and advance to the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.

No one realized just how long those memories would have to last.


Record: 10-6 (first in NFC West)

Playoffs: 1-1, beat Washington in wild-card game; lost at Green Bay in divisional game

Owner: Paul Allen

Coach: Mike Holmgren

Captains: QB Matt Hasselbeck and FB Mack Strong (offense); SS Deon Grant and MLB Lofa Tatupu (defense); K Josh Brown and LB Niko Koutouvides (special teams)

MVP: not awarded after 1998 season

Man of the Year: WR Bobby Engram

Largent Award: Engram

Leading passer: Hasselbeck (352 of 562 for 3,966 yards, with 28 TDs and 12 interceptions)

Leading rusher: Shaun Alexander (716 yards)

Leading receiver: Engram (94 receptions for 1,147 yards)

Leading tackler: Tatupu (109)

Special teams tackles: LB Niko Koutouvides (20)

Interception leader: CB Marcus Trufant (7)

Sack leader: DE Patrick Kerney (14½)

Leading scorer: K Josh Brown (127 points)

Pro Bowl selections: Hasselbeck, OT Walter Jones, Kerney, LB Julian Peterson, Tatupu, Trufant

All-Pro: Jones, Kerney, Tatupu (first team)

National honors: none

“From the year I came in, it was Super Bowl, it was second round of the playoffs and it was second round of the playoffs,” said Leroy Hill, a third-round draft choice in 2005 and a linebacker on the ’07 team as well as this season’s edition of the Seahawks.

“That was all I knew. I didn’t know anything else besides winning.”

The hard times that followed included the team going 4-12 in Mike Holmgren’s final season, which also was the worst record of Holmgren’s 17-year run as a head coach in the league; a 5-11 record in Jim Mora’s only season as coach, which included six road losses by an average score of 37-13 in 2008; and a NFC West title and thrilling playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in Pete Carroll’s first season as coach in 2010, but also a 7-9 record that made the Seahawks the first team to win a division title with a losing record.

“That first losing year, it was odd,” Hill said. “And that’s when the reality set it that it’s hard to win in this league.”

It has been the past three seasons, when the Seahawks’ combined 16 victories were one shy of the total from 2005, when the team went 13-3 during the regular season and then won two playoff games to reach the Super Bowl.

This is the last story in a series recapping the Seahawks’ first 35 seasons, and the 2007 season is relevant this week for a number of reasons.

First, the Seahawks are hosting the St. Louis Rams on “Monday Night Football” – their first MNF appearance since 2007. But this season’s team also has had some hadn’t-done-that-since-’07 accomplishments.

Like intercepting four passes in last week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, a first since the Seahawks picked off five and four in back-to-back games against the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles in Weeks 13-14 in ’07.

Like rushing for 100-plus yards in four consecutive games for the first time since Games 7-10 in ’07 – and the Seahawks now have five, for the first time 2005.

Like upsetting the New York Giants in Week 5, the Seahawks’ first victory on the East Coast since beating the Eagles in Philly in Week 13 of ’07.

Like Marshawn Lynch needing one touchdown to reach 10, which would make him the first Seahawk with double-digit scores since Nate Burleson had 11 (nine receiving and two on punt and kickoff returns) in ’07.

“Chasing ghosts,” Hill said with a laugh. “But hey, whatever works.”

But back to 2007, it was a continuation of the best of times, before the less-good times set in.

“The positives, I think, outweighed the negatives,” Holmgren said after the Seahawks were eliminated from the postseason with a 42-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff game – not to mention a snowstorm at Lambeau Field.

“We have to shore up a couple of things. I think the core of the football team is coming back, and it’s pretty solid. I believe that. I think we’re a pretty good team.”

The Seahawks were that in ’07, when they went 7-1 at home while winning double-digit games for the third time in their five-season run and only the fifth time in franchise history – but also the last time.

They sent six players to the Pro Bowl – quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, left tackle Walter Jones, defensive end Patrick Kerney, linebackers Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu and cornerback Marcus Trufant. Kerney, Tatupu and Jones were voted All-Pro.

Bobby Engram, at the age of 34, caught a franchise-record 94 passes for the first 1,000-yard season of his career (1,147). Kerney led the NFC with 14½ sacks. Hasselbeck passed for 3,966 yards and a career-high 28 touchdowns. Trufant had a career-high seven interceptions. Kicker Josh Brown scored a career-high 127 points.

“I came here in the offseason because I was investing, personally, in the long run in this team,” Kerney said after the season. “I saw the potential we had for this year. I also saw the potential we had for the future here.

“A lot of good players, a lot of great people in the organization. I’m just looking forward to great things for next year and beyond.”

Unfortunately, no one could see into the future, and how quickly things would take a dramatic turn for the worse.

Hasselbeck would not play another 16-game season for the Seahawks before signing with the Tennessee Titans in free agency in July. Brown jumped to the NFC West rival Rams in free agency after the ’07 season. Injuries would allow Kerney to play only a total of 12 games in 2008 and 2009. Shaun Alexander, the league MVP in 2005, made a final run (716 yards in ‘07) and was released during the 2008 offseason. Jones played his final game for the Seahawks in Week 13 of the ’08 season.

The unraveling was unnerving, as 10-6 in ’07 wilted to 4-12 in ’08.

“No one could see everything that was going to happen,” Hill said, shaking his head. “We all thought the good times would continue to roll. But then everyone started leaving and getting hurt. It’s just part of the game, but that didn’t make it any easier to go through.”