Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from CenturyLink Field, where the 2-6 Seahawks will play the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens on this chilly, but so far dry Sunday – with kickoff and TV coverage on CBS (channel 7 in Seattle) set for 1:05 p.m.

The disparity between these two teams that are meeting for only the fourth time – and first time since 2007 – goes much deeper than those mirror-image records. The Ravens rank 16th in the league in offense; the Seahawks 29th. The Ravens rank second in defense; the Seahawks 16th. The Ravens have 26 sacks; the Seahawks 13. The Ravens have forced 10 fumbles; the Seahawks 3.

Connect the dots between these contrasting numbers and it creates a picture of a game the Ravens are supposed to run away with.

But the Ravens have been in this situation two other times this season. After a 35-7 romp over the Steelers in their season opener, the Ravens tripped over the Titans in Tennessee 26-13 the following week. After a 29-14 win over the Texans in Week 5, the Ravens lost to the Jaguars in Jackson 12-7 the following week. Last week, the Ravens rallied to pull out a 23-20 victory over the Steelers, and now have made a cross-country trip to Seattle with a short week to prepare.

“I don’t like to say it was,” Ravens QB Joe Flacco offered this week when asked if an emotional letdown after the first Steelers game led to the Ravens’ first loss. “We just didn’t play well. We didn’t execute the right way. We’re usually a very good team at getting up for every game. That’s why at the end of the year, when you look at our win-loss record, we don’t have many losses because we have come ready to play every week.

“Having said that, I’m sure there was a little bit of that that went on. I wouldn’t like to admit that.”

In Flacco’s first three seasons as the Ravens’ QB, since being their first-round draft choice in 2008, they have gone 11-5, 9-7 and 12-4. That’s another comparison where the Seahawks come up short, as they have gone 7-9, 5-11 and 2-14 over that same stretch.

Today’s game also has a hard-hitting slice of nostalgia, in that it should be the last time the Seahawks will face Ray Lewis and the final time the Ravens’ all-everything linebacker will play in Seattle. Lewis is 36 and in his 16th season, so enjoy him while he’s here, even if he does play for the other team.

Few others in the history of the NFL have played the position as well, and even fewer have done it better. Lewis has the skins on the wall, as they say, to prove it: Two-time NFL defensive player of the year; 12-time Pro Bowl selection; and a member of the league’s all-decade team for the 2000s.

David Hawthorne, the Seahawks’ middle linebacker and leading tackler, admits that he’ll take a moment to take-in a player he patterned his game after while growing up in Texas.

“He’s definitely a special dude,” Hawthorne said Friday after practice. “You don’t see a lot of guys that can compete at his level and do the things he’s done over the course of his career and still be kicking. He’s one of those guys growing up that you model your game after at linebacker. I definitely modeled my game after him. You just put him down as one of the greats. You just hold him in that regard.

“He has a passion for the game that’s unmatched and unreal.”

A quick glance or two at the greatness that is Ray Lewis, and perhaps handshake, is all Hawthorne will allow himself, however.

“He’s still on the opposing team, so you can’t fantasize about him or nothing like that,” Hawthorne said. “You’ve still got to go out and do your job.”

Which on this day, will be to try and spoil Lewis’ final visit to Seattle.

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