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Moore: Seahawks’ loss in Denver creates both hope and skepticism for season ahead

Chris Carson had an impressive hurdle but just seven carries in the Seahawks' loss. (AP)

I don’t know how you felt about the Seahawks’ 27-24 loss to the Broncos Sunday in Denver. I’m guessing it depends on your expectation level for the team this season. If you think they’re going to win 10 or more games and return to the playoffs, you were undoubtedly disappointed. If you still hold on to the same expectations you had when the Seahawks were annual Super Bowl contenders this decade, you were REALLY disappointed.

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I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I don’t think they’re a Super Bowl-caliber team or even a playoff team this year, and the only good thing I can say about that – if you don’t make the playoffs for two consecutive years, you become a candidate to be on “Hard Knocks,” the HBO show that goes behind the curtain with NFL teams. I would really enjoy seeing what goes on behind those VMAC walls.

Seriously, do you honestly look at the Seahawks and feel like they’re going to represent the NFC at the Super Bowl this year? Maybe if they were in the AFC, I’d work with you on that, but in the NFC? Not a chance. Well, OK, there’s a chance. When you have Russell Wilson, you’re always going to have a chance, but the Seahawks are in a transitional season with new coaches and an assortment of new players in bigger roles.

As much as many people want to say the 2018 draft class is the best one since 2012, I would argue that a lot of these rookies made the team because the team isn’t as good as it used to be. And even if they’re stars of the future, they’re going to make mistakes in the present as they develop.

Throw in a new offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and offensive-line coach, and you’ve got what I think is a recipe for a so-so season at best. I also thought it was crazy to think the running game would suddenly transform itself from worst in the league to passable, and we saw evidence of not much improvement Sunday.

Chris Carson showed glimpses like he did last year, especially on the 24-yard run when he hurdled a Denver defensive back, but he was curiously given only seven carries in the game. Here’s a question for you – if you talk all offseason about wanting to be a running team and doing it in preseason games, why would you throw the ball on 3rd-and-1 in the third quarter and give your leading back seven carries in the game?

I’m sure the coaches would have explanations for that. They probably even gave some to reporters in Denver. Whatever they said wouldn’t make sense to me. The Seahawks were never behind by more than one score all day, so it wasn’t a case of having to throw to catch up. Plus the Seahawks didn’t run one single RPO, run-pass option, when you have a quarterback who might be the best in the league at doing it.

Lack of even a mediocre running game was the biggest surprise to me; lack of a pass rush was not. We knew going in that the pass rush would be a weak spot for the Seahawks, and one sack confirmed as much.

But the Seahawks were still in the game with a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Think about that for a second. They were on the road, which is hard enough in the NFL. They were three-point underdogs. They had two rookie fill-ins starting on defense, Shaquem Griffin and Tre Flowers. Griffin replaced the injured K.J. Wright at weak-side linebacker, and Flowers was basically a third-stringer at right cornerback, replacing Byron Maxwell, who is no longer on the team, and Dontae Johnson, who is now on injured reserve.

They also played without their No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin for most of the game after Baldwin hurt his knee in the first quarter. Throw in the 87-degree kickoff temperature and mile-high altitude, factors that have allowed Denver to win 28 of their last 32 home games in September.

When you consider all of those things and combine it with realistic expectations for the Seahawks, I came away from Sunday’s game thinking they played better than I thought they would. I thought they’d lose 31-13. I would also be more encouraged and optimistic about the rest of the season than I was before the game started.

This mostly sunny outlook could suddenly change just like the Seattle weather. We might find out that the Broncos aren’t very good. And we did find out that Case Keenum is an average quarterback at best, perhaps below average, and if you can’t beat a guy like that, you might even struggle against Mitch Trubisky next Monday night in Chicago.

I’ll admit that I’m equal parts hopeful and skeptical about the game against the Bears and the season ahead. Baldwin now has two sore knees, but there are signs that Tyler Lockett and Brandon Marshall can compensate at least in the short-term. I still don’t have a lot of faith in the offensive line, and from what I can tell of the defense, better get used to opponents scoring in the 20s and 30s every week.

It was terrific to see Will Dissly have such a fantastic debut, but when your blocking tight end is your best receiver, I’d call that a good sign but an ominous one as well.

Overall, I don’t know what I’m trying to say, and it’s probably because it’s hard to get a handle on the Seahawks this season. I want to be excited about their potential, but there are too many question marks to expect an exclamation-point kind of year.

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