A reason to be arrogant

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON  / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, October 21, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. – According to wide receiver Sean Dawkins, it’s far too early to put the Seattle Seahawks in the role of spoilers. A 2-5 start doesn’t mean the Seahawks are simply playing for pride.

When Seattle takes the field to face the first-place Oakland Raiders (5-1) this afternoon, Dawkins will have a much greater motivation on his mind. He just plain doesn’t like the Raiders.

“They’re very arrogant,” Dawkins said as the team prepared to head south for the game. “It’s an arrogant organization. They had success in the past, but it’s been a long time for them. They ride on that tradition they had, that success, the great players and all that crap.

“Plus, they’re in black and silver. That makes you look bad, but they’re not.”

Actually, the Raiders have been pretty “bad” this season. In a good way, of course. While the Seahawks have sunk to depths that bring back images of the early 1990s, Oakland has been one of the NFL’s most pleasant surprises this season.

Long mired in mediocrity, the Raiders may have finally gotten over the hump. The Raiders are unbeaten in games decided by four points or less this season after losing five of six such contests in 1999. They are the class of the AFC West, and have a chance to bury the defending division champions with a victory today.

“We need one bad,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair said. “It’s kind of dry around here. We need a little love, we need a little rain. We definitely need a win.

“We knew, looking at our schedule, that this was going to be the tough part of it. But we didn’t know we’d be sitting here at 2-5. That really makes it difficult.”

How far these teams have come in less than a year. The highlight for both teams last season came when Raiders kicker Joe Nedney nailed a 33-yarder in overtime of the season finale to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 41-38. That victory marked the first time Oakland had won a close game all season, and it also clinched a division title and playoff berth for the Seahawks.

Don’t expect Seattle to return any favors today. Although they don’t relish the spoiler role, the Seahawks will be trying to knock Oakland off its perch.

“Oakland’s always been a very talented team,” Seattle defensive tackle Riddick Parker said. “It’s not like they haven’t had the talent before. They’ve always had the talent. It’s just that they’re playing well and not making mistakes. They take advantage of the things that come.

“It will come down to who plays as close to error-free as possible and who executes the best. I don’t think their record or our record means much. It might mean something to the people in Vegas, but not either one of the teams.”

The Raiders have dominated only one team this season – the Cleveland Browns – but have kept winning by making big plays at the right time. All of the sudden, their 1999 problems seem a world away.

“I think we are a little bit better football team,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said, summing up his team’s sudden reversal of fortune.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren thinks it goes a little deeper than that.

“They making the play that they need to win a close ball game,” he said. “They’ve been in some close games now this year. They’re making the field goal. They’re making the play, whereas last year they might have had the same type of game, but it didn’t happen.”

The Seahawks are looking at the other side of the pigskin. Where every bounce went their way during an 8-2 start last season, Seattle has fumbled away its lucky charm and gone 3-10 since. In the process, Holmgren has replaced 11 starters and infused the team with youth, which invariably leads to some growing pains.

Three consecutive losses have put Seattle 3 1/2games behind the Raiders in the AFC West standings – quite a separation in a league that plays just 16 games over a season. But the Seahawks refuse to believe they are out of the race.

“You have to find a way to stay motivated and to continue to play,” Parker said. “Because if we win the next one and then the one after that and the one after that, we’re sitting nice. There’s not really time to be depressed or to worry about what’s happened in the past.”

The view Seattle has from the ground floor to Oakland’s penthouse might be more than an elevator away. But with a little motivation, perhaps it’s not an impossible climb.

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