Holmgren: 'I thought we'd have a good football team'

Updated: November 4, 2003, 1:42 PM ET

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Surprising? Not these Seattle Seahawks.

They're 6-2 and leading the NFC West at the season's midpoint. So while coach Mike Holmgren admits he's usually optimistic, he bristled Monday at the notion this is a surprise.

"I thought we'd have a good football team," he said.

He identified two big reasons for Seattle's solid start:

-- Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been consistent, throwing for 1,774 yards and completing 59 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Four times, Hasselbeck has directed key fourth-quarter drives.

"He's doing the right things most of the time, and that's what you have to have at that position," Holmgren said.

-- The defense under new coordinator Ray Rhodes has performed much better than the squad that ranked last in the NFL last year against the run and 28th overall. Seattle has allowed an average 311.6 yards and forced 16 turnovers.

"The defense, I think, has a lot of new people, young people," Holmgren said. "With every game they play, they're learning a little more, gaining more confidence."

Newcomers rookie kicker Josh Brown and punter Tom Rouen have stabilized the kicking game. Brown is 13-of-16 on field goals, including a franchise record 58-yarder, and the veteran Rouen is averaging a respectable 41 yards on each punt.

Back in training camp, Holmgren said he expected a talented young team to mature and perform well. The only surprise to the Seahawks, really, is they lost twice. Just ask any player.

"I thought we'd be 8-0," guard Steve Hutchinson said after Sunday's 23-16 win over Pittsburgh. "We lost two games, but I've got to hand it to the teams that beat us. They played hard for 60 minutes. We didn't make plays when we needed to."

The Seahawks haven't exactly overwhelmed opponents.

They're prone to lapses such as the dropped passes that plagued receiver Darrell Jackson through three quarters Sunday. They've had to deliver in the fourth quarter against teams with inferior records -- the Bears and Steelers.

Holmgren and his players, though, see nothing but positives. They believe the Seahawks have demonstrated they're good enough to play through mistakes, and they see a team poised to excel in the final eight games.

"Our best football is still ahead of us," Holmgren said. "There are a number of things we still are not doing as precisely as I'd like."

One of the biggest remaining challenges is proving they can win on the road. The losses came in Green Bay and Cincinnati, and five of Seattle's last eight games are away from home, starting Sunday at Washington (3-5).

"We need to keep our intensity and our focus on the road," receiver Bobby Engram said. "When you're on the road, you only need one or two mistakes to get the home crowd riled up. We need to learn to control that situation."

The Seahawks were 2-6 at this point last fall, and Holmgren plans to remind his players they've accomplished a lot so far. He'll also tell them it won't mean much if they can't keep the momentum going.

"It's only halfway," Holmgren said. "To make the first half of the season good for us, the second half of the season has to be good, as well."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index