Seahawks face moment of truth

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The Independent Online

The explosive Seattle Seahawks face their moment of truth on Sunday against defensive juggernaut Tampa Bay at the Kingdome.

The explosive Seattle Seahawks face their moment of truth on Sunday against defensive juggernaut Tampa Bay at the Kingdome.

The Seahawks, on a five-game winning streak and leading the AFC West by three games, are off to their best start since 1984 with eight wins in 10 games and need a triumph to stay in the hunt for homefield advantage for the conference play-offs.

AFC Central leaders Jacksonville have the best record in football with nine wins and only won defeat, but Seattle are hot on their heels.

Much of the credit goes to former NFL Europe quarterback Jon Kitna, who has thrown for 1,888 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"We're going to attack, we're not going to sit back and let you attack us any more," said Kitna, who is benefiting from the wisdom of first-year Seattle boss Mike Holmgren, the former Green Bay coach who took the Packers to a Super Bowl win in 1996 and runner-up finish a year later.

Running back Ricky Watters has benefited with the diversified attack, scoring five touchdowns in his last three games. When defences focus too much on the pass, Watters usually makes them pay.

Then there is the small matter of the Seahawks' defence, which leads the league with 21 interceptions, a worry for already shaky Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer whose 11 interception total equals the number of his touchdowns.

The Bucs, on a three-game winning streak of their own, share the NFC Central lead with Minnesota and Detroit because their defence has been shutting down teams.

They have held opponents to a mere 169 yards throwing and 82 yards rushing.

How good is the Tampa Bay defence?

First place and Buccaneers should be a contradiction in terms because of their offensive woes. They have turned only 22% of their possessions inside opponent's 20-yard-line into touchdowns, an appalling ratio.

Dilfer, benched three weeks ago because of his ineptitude, has done very little to justify his place as an NFL quarterback.

Argentina's Martin Gramatica, successful on 18 of his 22 field goal attempts, has been the biggest points producer. His 53-yard kick helped them beat Atlanta last week.

"I think our team really knows that they can do whatever it takes to win," said Bucs coach Tony Dungy. "It's not always going to be according to the game plan. But the thing I like about our guys, they don't panic.

"When everybody else is ready to throw in the towel and say maybe the season is over or the game is over, they're not going to do that. When you don't score touchdowns, it's not aesthetically pleasing. But they've played well on defence."

The New England Patriots, attempting to at least hold on to a wild-card place, travel to Buffalo.

Another AFC East team, the red hot Indianapolis Colts, try to bring a halt to the Jets' mini-revival when New York come to town. The Colts, with eight wins, face a club who have won three consecutive games.

In the AFC Central, leaders Jacksonville visit Baltimore while Pittsburgh host woeful Cincinnati. Tennessee can win for the ninth time at Cleveland, where the Browns have yet to win a game in their new stadium.

The New York Giants entertain revitalised Arizona who have just won tough games against the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Washington seek revenge at home against Philadelphia.

Other games: Minnesota v San Diego, St Louis v New Orleans, Oakland v Kansas City and Carolina v Atlanta.

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